Sunday, September 25, 2011

Creepy Film Locations

Abandoned Factory
Ken Arnold posted a notice to Facebook this week about Lovely Molly, a new horror film by Writer /Director Eduardo Sanchez in which he appears (and which just screened at the Toronto International Film Festival), and it reminded me to post these links to creepy, abandoned locations.  I came across the Web Urbanist site awhile back while researching another project.  If one could get the appropriate permission, these would make great locations for filming (especially horror movies) and many are on the East Coast.  (Web Urbanist also has lists of abandoned sites abroad.) There's a prison, a monastery, children's mental institution, tech office building, brewery and more.  All very creepy and I would think even more so after dark.  Just think of what locations like these would add to a production.  Wow.

p.s. By the way, if you know of more abandoned buildings/sites that would make good movie locations, please share.

p.p.s.  Here's another site referred by a friend: the abandoned Six Flags New Orleans... also known as the most terrifying place on earth (short of the children's mental institution):

Friday, September 23, 2011


The desk view (sigh)
Downtime.  Submitting for this.  Submitting for that.  Nothing yet lined up.  And it’s raining.  Which makes my hair frizz.  And I'm staring at the phone.  And it’s another three and a half hours until my husband supplies my Friday night glass of wine.

Things are going to be a whole lot different around here when I’m Empress of the World.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What to carry in Your Actor's Kit

Los Angeles actor and voiceover artist David H. Lawrence XVII has a wonderful online site called Acting Answers that is a wealth of practical information on everything from auditions to working with agents to how to format your résumé.  Plus, he’ll answer questions!  I’ve only just scratched the surface of what is there, but this jumped out at me: putting together an “Actor’s Kit” so you’re always prepared for an audition.  Here’s David’s take, and here’s the original post with links to some of the items he mentions.

David H. Lawrence:

"I imagine a day where iPads and iPhones will replace most of what’s in the kit with electronic versions of physical items, but for now, I keep these items in my actor’s kit:

"Headshots/resumes. My headshot photographer, Terence Heuston, is amazing. Our session yielded 8 or 9 looks, of which I use three to submit when I hand my headshot to a CD. One is harsher for villain stuff, one is sort of an everyman look, and one is for comedy. I have a few others of which I carry one each, but I carry 5 copies each of my main headshots. I print my resume directly on the back of my headshots with my trusty Epson Artisan 50 printer, and I immediately replace the shots in my actor’s kit with new versions should my resume significantly change.

"Highlighters. You get a script, you highlight your lines. I prefer yellow, but you might want to carry several if you’re an actor that goes highlighter crazy and highlights different characters in different colors. I carry the clickable Pentel Handy Lines highlighter because it doesn’t have a cap I can manage to lose, and it’s slimmer than most highlighters. It’s also refillable, but it’s so inexpensive, it’s hardly worth the effort.

"Business cards. Like any other business, you need to be able to take advantage of interactions with others that can provide you work, leads on work and general networking. That means carrying the worldwide accepted format of promoting yourself: the business card. I take it one step further to create a memorable moment of levity: I create and purchase a new business card whenever I get a new part, and when I offer someone a business card, I grab a handful from my actor’s kit and fan them out in a pick-a-card fashion. People love choosing their own, and it speaks very loudly (without being boastful) to the depth of my experience.

"Promotional postcards. Whether it’s a production I’m in, the voiceover demo service I offer or my iPhone app, Rehearsal, I carry an assortment of postcards that I can offer to people who express interest in those items when they meet me, or to spend time while waiting in offices and studios addressing and posting to promote them. Most of the time they are 4×6, but I can accommodate oversize postcards should I have something really powerful to promote. I also carry postage stamps should I want to put some stuff in the mail.

“An open-ended side-loading letter size hard-backed plastic folio with a clear, attached plastic zippered pouch. Here’s what it looks like, filled with everything I need to enter the audition room with speed and confidence:

Scripts. Obviously, I carry scripts for the auditions I am headed to, even though I use Rehearsal [IPhone app] to electronically prepare for my sessions. But, sometimes, you’re in a position to provide a scene for a casting person, one of your own choosing. Certainly, in most casting workshops, the casting director will be bringing scripts that she will dole out to the participants, and usually those scripts are from projects she has worked on or is currently casting. But, occasionally, you’ll be asked to pick one and bring it with you – and there are a couple of scenes that really highlight various facets of my acting skill set that I love performing. I carry two sets of those scripts, one highlighted with my lines, and one highlighted with the other character’s lines for the reader or CD to use.

Mints and gum. There is nothing more distracting when working with another actor, or talking in close quarters with a casting director, casting associate or casting assistant to experience bad breath, either theirs or yours. Carrying a flat pack of mints and gum has come in so handy, especially after a quick charge at Starbucks before the session. bar code. When attending a commercial casting session, I’m finding that instead of asking for headshots, casting session runners are relying on electronic means of identification in the form of bar codes. You can usually find workstations at the major casting centers that will both allow you to register with CastingFrontier, and print out your bar code should you forget it. As your the headshot you have uploaded to CastingFrontier will pop up for the runner, make sure you check every month or so that that headshot is up to date.

Thank you notes, envelopes and postage. Another way to spend productive time while in a waiting room (once you’re completely prepared, naturally) is to send out a thank you note or two. I actually take advantage of those few minutes before casting workshops begin by not only tapping the casting director’s current address into my iPhone’s Contacts app, but by hand-addressing the envelope that will, once the workshop ends, contain a short but memorable note from me. I also add postage, and drop it in the nearest mailbox on my way home.”

For women, for those last minute calls to audition when you might be hiking, at the beach, or otherwise away from home and closet, L.A. actress Alexandra Raines also suggests keeping a "Prep Box" in the trunk of your car with the following:

  • The exact matching makeup you used in your headshots, including foundation, concealer, lipstick/gloss, eye shadow, blush and brushes.
  • Deodorant
  • Hair brush, hair spray, curling iron, flat iron (most auditions offer a bathroom). 
  • Black slacks, black skirt, khakis, jeans, black low heels, clean tennis shoes, semi-casual flats, sweater set, casual top, dressy top – all neatly stacked and folded in a box. [Note from Kay: If you slide a short stack of folded clothing into those plastic bags from the grocery it will keep them from getting wrinkled.]
  • Extra headshots and resumes already cut to 8×10, but not yet stapled.
  • Stapler, pen, and several highlighters
  • A $10 roll of quarters (useful for parking and other needs.)
  • Acting music for meditation, inspiration, contemplation. As Raines puts it, if you’re at the beach having the time of your life and you get a call for a tragic mom scene you’ll need something that will focus you and bring you to your center.

It’s a lot to always have on hand, but worth it to make sure you’re always prepared when opportunity knocks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No politics please, we're actors!

Years ago when I put together my first clip reel, I ran it by a friend and former instructor who said he liked it but that he wouldn't have included one comedy clip that showed news footage of a former president. Well I thought long and hard before putting it in and even queried an on-line LA acting group about it. The consensus was that casting directors would see the clip for what it was – art. The clip stayed put.

Eventually it was rotated out of my reel and was no longer an issue, but I understood my friend's concern. We live in politically polarized times where a political viewpoint may be so wedded to a director's or casting person’s sense of self that someone who appears to take a different view must logically be seen as a “bad” person and therefore not worthy of being hired. There's also the possibility that a known political stance alienates half your audience.

Views differ on this, but I try to avoid mixing acting and politics in open discussions among those in the biz, not only because of the issues above but also because the rhetoric has become so casually over the top that genuine discussion seems no longer possible anyway. Politicians of all stripes are routinely described as “crazy, extremist, dangerous” and worse, and the only response that doesn’t risk a shouting match is “amen,” so what would be the point?

As a writer and producer, I worked among politicians and political appointees before getting into acting, and I can’t say as I’ve ever seen one who was certifiably crazy or dangerous, but I saw plenty who were arrogant, incompetent, corrupt, adulterous, alcoholic, self-serving and ignorant, especially those in districts gerrymandered as “safe” seats (a deplorable practice.) I vote religiously. I often have to hold my nose while doing so.

Getting into an argument with another acting professional over politics risks losing sight of the goal, which is to be a truly fine actor and to get as much opportunity as possible to learn and practice that craft. Any deviation breaks my concentration and makes that goal harder to attain. Since I no longer work in the political arena, I guess I could also say that arguing issues on which my information is limited and my influence nil is an exercise in futility.

Asked to comment on current political goings on, I usually just say "I've watched the sausage being made and it ain't pretty" or fall back on Rick's great line from Casablanca, "Gentlemen, you're business is politics, mine is running a saloon."