We held auditions for the stage read of my pilot this weekend (it’s at 6:30 on April 17th at Second City Hollywood and you’ll see two shows for the low, low price of FREE!) and these auditions put me on the other side of throwing yourself at the mercy of someone else’s judgement.
It’s not easy being an actor. We had 39 people show up.
There are 8 people in my pilot.
One of them only exists off-stage. That’s right. I’ve cut the story down to the essentials (how many people are in an episode of The Big Bang Theory? You’ve gotta keep it tight). Now, there are a few non-speaking roles in there. The first scene takes place at the Hugo Awards, so you would presumably have a whole audience in there somewhere.
But, they don’t talk.
On top of that, I already had two of my characters cast from people I know from the show I write for at Second City.
It was a little ridiculous. Even I was getting nervous about auditions and all I had to do was sit at a table and watch. It’s hard to imagine how they feel. Worse, you’re throwing yourself at the mercy of someone’s highly subjective opinion, someone who has a look, a style, a character, in mind and you need to rock it. I only write down you’re name if you’re interesting. I only remember you if you impressed me. The first thing that goes out the window is “Nice.” I can’t waste too much time saying how wonderful everyone is. I have to get down to it.
There were a few people I saw that I thought, “It’s too bad that I don’t have a part for you.” Literally. Out of eight characters, three of them are male, and one of them can’t be half-assed or borderline. You have to rock it.
You have to either read my mind or change it.
Here’s what I learn from having to drop the gavel:
1.) Sometimes, it’s how you look.
I need a 15 year old boy. But, the character is so important, I didn’t want to cast a 15 year old (everyone on Glee is in their 20’s, so you can get away with it). If you look like you’ve walked a hard road to 30, it’s a hard sell, even when it’s just a read.
2.) Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you look.
One guy, clearly older than 25, read for the 15 year old character and nailed it. So, he didn’t perfectly fit the role as far as looks were concerned. He hit the important part, which was in the attitude and the speech pattern. He brought something to it. What I’m saying is you can change someone’s mind.
3.) Go all out.
I can’t imagine how nervous you are. Whenever I submit my stories to agents, it’s always from behind a computer screen where I can listen to Take A Chance On Me or Maybe This Time and dance around in my pajamas, because I’m a writer and that’s pretty much what we do. I’ve had pitches with agents in the past, but even those were one on one. It’s not as terrible as standing in a line with 7 other people. The person who ended up as my lead took the direction I gave her and made something out of it, even in a three page scene. I was able to look at her reading the role and think, “I never saw the character this way, but, damn, it works.”
4.) Don’t be cocky.
Sometimes, you have to psych yourself up. I get that. I’ve performed live before and ten minutes before every show, I had to sequester myself and talk myself into it. I had to amp up. I had to get ready. I’m an introvert, so I could keep that amping up in my head.
Don’t do it out loud.
If saying you’re going to fucking rock these auditions is what gets you into the room and gets you psyched, great. Don’t do it in front of the people in charge of the auditions. They don’t all think you’re psyching yourself up. Some of them think you’re just being a jerk.
If you are just being a jerk, stop. STAHP.
5.) Bring a headshot.
It’s LA. You should have one.
Even if they don’t ask you to bring one, you should bring one. A little professional can go a long way. If you single yourself out, maybe you don’t need one. But, you should have one. It’s like bringing a resume to a job interview. Yeah, you already sent one, but maybe they didn’t feel like printing it out. And, it’s easy to say, “Would you like a copy of my resume?” They can say no if they’ve got one. If they don’t, you’ve already set yourself apart from everyone who forgot theirs.
I know rejection sucks. I’ve been there about 120 times in the last 2 years, and those are the ones that bothered to answer.
You can do one of two things:
So, it’s up to you.
What’s the next step?
I finished writing a pilot.
It’s the first sitcom pilot I’ve written. My other scripts have all been either sci fi drama pilots or sitcom spec scripts. For those of you outside the TV writing sphere, a spec script is a script for a show that already exists.
It’s sort of weird to talk to writers about writing television shows. Some say it’s easier to write the spec, some say it’s easier to write original material. I don’t really see either as being particularly easier than the other. The hardest thing about writing a spec script (in my personal experience) is writing it for a show that will be relevant in two years. The shows I love (Up All Night, Community, Happy Endings) are all on the brink of death (don’t get me started). Or, they are overwhelming spec’d (everyone’s got their Modern Family script).
So, with this sitcom pilot out of the way, I find myself ready for a new project. More than ready. Chomping at the bit.
Since most of my experience is novel writing, that isn’t always the case. What normally happens is I start querying agents, then I sit around and wait for my rejection letters. But, that’s not really what happens in the screenwriting world. I mean, I could query agents, but that’s not the norm.
The norm is you make friends. Your friends introduce you to producers and agents or friends of producers and agents. Most people (though not all) sell something before they get an agent. So, basically, the answer is, save the file and move on. When you meet someone who can do something with it, whip it out.
It’s a body of work.
The next thing, though. It’s a sci fi drama. And it’s gonna be huge.
The pilot I completed was part of the Completing and Presenting Your Sitcom Pilot class at Second City. There will be an onstage reading of it on April 17th at 6:30pm at Second City Hollywood (there will be two shows read on that night).
What if JK Rowling got writer’s block after Harry Potter 4?
When Arthur Watkins, the main character from a wildly popular young adult series, appears to his author, M.L. Reeves, she has to figure out how to deal with her errant work of fiction while deadlines loom.
You know you’ve reached a weird point when you start Search Engining blog topics. I mean, what do I write about?
Part of my problem is overload. I’m writing four sketches a week, 10 jokes a week, two blog posts a week for work (why is that always easier?), and developing a sitcom pilot while keeping one eye open for work in the entertainment industry.
So, I guess I’ll update you on random things and you can talk amongst yourselves.
- Love, love, love Los Angeles. Go…Theater Nerds? (I’m not sure what team I’m supposed to cheer for here.)
- Still working two and a half jobs from home. Garbage disposal broke. Plumber came over to replace it. I awkwardly hovered over him and tried to talk about TV shows.
- I flirted with him a bit, but he turned me down. It’s cool. Those inter-office romances never work anyway.
- I’ve started referring to all my neighbors by their Native American names. Works On Car. Lets Dog Poop. Flirts With Kate. Has Loud Sex.
- Egg nog is a meal in and of itself.
- My Second City classes were lovely. They cost a lot of money. Those two things probably aren’t related, but whatever.
- I haven’t finished reading a book in two months.
- I’m reading Pride & Prejudice and I love it. Which makes me a stereotypical girl, but I’m dealing with that in my own way.
- I lost a friend and made two.
- I’ve been earning Adulthood badges like gangbusters.
Well, what have you been up to? I think you don’t realize how busy you are until you look at the date and think, “Hm. I should have my Christmas shopping done by now.”
Happy Hanukkah everybody!
Okay, so I had to write ten jokes. Here they are, in all their (non) glory. Let me know if you like any of them.
- A new button has surfaced at the Democratic National Convention, Hipsters for Obama. That’s a change from supporting that candidate you’ve never heard of.
- Canada has launched a new digital currency called the MintChip. No word yet on the other 31 flavors.
- The Democrats have brought in Kal Penn to do the rebuttal to Clint Eastwood’s RNC speech. Penn aimed his remarks at an empty bong.
- This week was the first annual cat video film festival. Everything was going great until the closing ceremony, when someone snuck in a laser pointer.
- Wyoming has taken its grey wolf population off the endangered list which is terrible news for the Wyoming Lannister population.
- Last year, Obama ran on the Change campaign slogan. This year it’s “Change. Spare change?”
- Hurricane Isaac washes up 18,000 dead swamp rats. Honey Boo Boo commented with “Them good eatin’ right thur.”
- Snooki released her first photos with her newborn son, Lorenzo. You can find his new cologne at Babys R’ Us and Macy’s.
- Turns out the speakers at the Democratic National Convention mischaracterized on their speeches. That’s what you get when you use Joe Biden as your factchecker.
- Fantasy Football season has started. It’s a perfect time for fantasy football players to pretend they aren’t roleplaying.