Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hollywood in Chicago

Industrial video. That was my first 'extra' job.  It was exactly as boring as it sounds. Truth be told, most extra jobs involve hours of sitting around (they usually advise you to bring a book) and then about 30 minutes of 'walk from here to there.'

And repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

The director for this video was new at her job. (That's the excuse I'm making for her. I don't actually know if that's the case.)

We filmed the video in a warehouse-type place that was located next to an intersection of railroad track lines.

Why was this a problem? Well, the warehouse didn't have any soft surfaces that would absorb sound, so if an extra sitting in the far corner of the upper level (off set) so much as whispered, it was picked up by the microphone on set.


And if any of the three, count 'em, THREE trains went by, we couldn't record.


The building was old, so the heating system made noise. The solution? The director had it turned off!  Did I mention we were filming in DECEMBER in CHICAGO?! None of us could feel our feet when we wrapped for the day.

That was my introduction to being an extra.

Now I'm in a feature film. An actual Hollywood, big-budget, well-known actor-filled production.

When the extras arrived to sign in for the first day, we were greeted with a buffet HOT BREAKFAST complete with waiter who squeezed oranges for our juice!

Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore!

Monday, May 20, 2013

I'm back...sort of.

Sorry I've been away so long, but several changes have occurred in my life and I thought it's time I shared them.

First and foremost, I left the job I'd had for more than 12 years.


While at this job, I created most of the back-office procedures that they continue to follow to this day, moved the company's office three times in 12 years and saved them literally thousands of dollars by renegotiating vendor contracts?  When I left, they gave me a gift certificate for 50 bucks!

Are you feeling the love?

Needless to say, I don't miss it. And only ONE PERSON from the office has stayed in touch (despite so many of them expressing their shock and disappointment that I was leaving.)

Okay, enough of that.

Like so many around the world, I found myself unemployed.  (No, I didn't leave full-time employment without a backup plan. Simply put: the plan failed.)

But you know what?  Life doesn't least as much as I thought it would. Yes, I don't make NEARLY as much $$$, but here are some great things that exist now that didn't for more than 12 years:

  • I no longer have to wear a cordless phone on my hip when I go to the bathroom!
  • I can eat my lunch whenever and wherever I want (and I actually get to eat lunch
  • I learned how to cook and surprisingly enough, I'm a FABULOUS cook!
  • If I save and save and save, I can and do still get to do a tiny bit of traveling (mostly to Spring Training in Arizona.)
  • Working out has become a much bigger part of my life.  And for folks over 40, you KNOW that's critical because hey! that muffin top has a cute name but there's nothing cute about it.
  • Grocery shopping, laundry, housecleaning and all that mundane stuff that was always crammed into the few hours available on a weekend is now done on weekday afternoons and is followed by a walk along the lakefront or maybe (if I'm good) a gelato!
  • Since I'm working several part-time jobs, I control my own schedule! I haven't done that since I picked my courses in college.
  • With a little research, I've figured out the cheapest movie theatres, the TONS of free stuff to do in Chicago and where the best consignment shops are. (A girl's still gotta look good, ya know!)

But I have to say, the most interesting thing I've done lately is/was totally out of my comfort zone. I've been working as an extra in videos, TV shows and now a feature film!

It doesn't pay much and it does take a lot of time, but you know what?  Sitting on my butt at home doesn't pay ANYTHING. And I get to watch some interesting actors at work - - close up!

You never know what's gonna happen next, but I'm ready.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A tough crowd

A small local company recently held a 'meet and greet' at a local bar as a way to interview potential new employees. The company organizes social events for people of varying ages (or so they say).

Not sure why, but I attended this peculiar interviewing session. Okay, it was out of curiosity (and the fact that if someone wants to pay me to have fun with a ton of strangers, I'm in!)

One of the employees tried to get our small group chatting by asking weird questions like 'if you could be a food item, what would you be?' She didn't get much response with that, so I jumped in with another (hopefully) conversation-starter:

A while back, friends of mine used to hold 'come-as-your-favorite-celebrity parties. You could be anyone, alive or dead...even a character. So one of my friends came as...well, I'll let you guess.

He had dark hair with about a day's growth of beard. He wore a red velour bath robe, black cowboy boots and a straw cowboy hat. Can you guess who he was??

Hawkeye Pierce (from M*A*S*H)!!

Complete silence. Blank looks.

Oh, did I mention there wasn't a single person in the room over 30 years old!?!?! I've never felt so old in MY LIFE!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yes, Christmas specialty lights...but how many?

Many of our traditions unfortunately died with my father more than 20 years ago. One that didn't is the annual contest to count the number of lights on the Christmas tree.

When I was a kid, my father would put the lights on the tree (keeping track of the total on a small slip of paper) and my mother would finish decorating with the ornaments and garland.

The pictures here were taken from my tree. As you can see, the lights aren't your ordinary plain bulbs. No way!!! It's part of the tradition at my parent's house (mine too) to have only 'specialty' lights on the tree. My childhood included lights that were shaped like antique cars, gift boxes, icicles, lanterns, etc. I must admit, the unique shapes of the lights did add a different dimension to the job of counting the lights as it's easy to mistake a light for an ornament.

But I digress...

Starting on Christmas Eve and continuing through Christmas dinner, anyone and everyone could place their name and their guess on a tiny slip of paper, fold it up, and place it on the fireplace mantel.

After Christmas dinner, when everyone was sitting around the table drinking coffee and nibbling on one of at least five dessert options, my father would get up from the table and head to the fireplace. He'd flick his cigarette into the fireplace and collect all the scraps of paper from among the flock of porcelain angels my mother used to decorate the mantel.

My dad would read each name and number and, after the appropriate amount of ridicule was heaped on those whose guesses were WILDLY off the mark, he'd place each scrap in order on the tablecloth.

After taking out money for each of the third-, second-, and first-place guesses, my father would reach into his wallet for the magic number.

We all considered it a 'magic' number because even if it seemed that the strings of lights didn't change much (if at all) from year to year, the number DEFINITELY changed. I know this for a fact because at some point during my teen years, I got sick of NEVER even placing in the top three! and cheated. Yep, I kept my dad's list from the prior year. Still....NOTHING!

I never won.

Until this year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Voiceover artist...rookie

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everyone around you knows EXACTLY what they're doing and you DO NOT? Or at least, you don't THINK you know what you're doing?
That was me yesterday.
I've been told many times that studio time is very expensive, so you NEVER want to be late to a booking (to record in a studio). That's why I arrived at the studio location 90 minutes early.
No, I didn't go in.
Instead, I did what any city girl would do when faced with a potentially life-changing appointment...I found the nearest coffee shop to get some caffeine and try to settle my nerves (okay, don't lecture me about caffeine not being good for a person's with me!)
I was scheduled to record my first-ever paid voiceover spot (for a pharmaceutical company.) I was playing the role of a cancer patient who's become anemic. Not very cheerful, I know, but a very interesting role nonetheless.
Back to the coffee shop and jittery me. Who's sitting next to me at Dunkin Donuts? It was an older couple who was in town to visit their son who's being treated for cancer. As I spoke to them about their son, it occurred to me that no more perfect people could've been placed in my path to get me out of my own worries and focus on what's important. (And the coincidence of his diagnosis was not lost on me.)
45 minutes went by quickly and I headed to the studio. The engineer and producer and whoever else I met (5 people in total) were all very nice and professional. I, on the other hand, tried not to knock over the microphone or copy stand.
Entering the glass-enclosed studio, I put on the headphones and awaited instructions from the sound engineer and the producers of this spot.
Clear as anything, I heard a thump-thump, thump-thump in my headphones.
"Oh my God! Can they hear my heart pounding, too?" I thought.
Apparently not, because the engineer was ready to start recording.
Less than an hour (and about 50 'takes' later), we were done.
I have to say that I'm pretty proud of myself for one thing, at least. I covered up for a terrible rookie mistake (at least I think I covered up). The first page of my script listed my character's part as being paragraphs 2-9, so I only printed the first two pages of the 18-page script. (There was another character, an oncologist, who was recording after me.)
My guess was that my character only appeared at the beginning of this video, so I only needed to read from the first 2 pages (where paragraphs 2-9 appeared).
My character re-appeared in pages 14, 29-30 and 49-51!! So basically, I was performing some scripts that I had never seen before!!!
In this industry, this is called 'a cold read.'
Cold!?!?! For my first PAID job?!?!?
Since no one on the other side of the glass threatened to throw me out on my head, I guess I did okay.
And, they shouldn't call it 'a cold read' because I sure as hell was sweating!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shiny, new...

It's definitely autumn in Chicago now (with snow flurries shocking us yesterday), so I decided to don a few layers of fall-colored clothes and run some errands. I ran into a store-keeper acquaintance of mine and he noticed my metallic brown jacket.
"I love that color on you! You look like a penny!" he said as he headed into the stockroom.
And yes, with the economy as bad as it is, I took that as a compliment!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

How old is too old?

Driving around my neighborhood recently, I came across a peculiar sight rolling past me on a sidewalk nearby. The guy was wearing baggy jeans, gym shoes and a hoodie. Nothing particularly unusual there, right?
But still...
A question popped into my head, "If you are losing your hair, shouldn't you lose the skateboard, too?"