Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Year's Revolutions

Yes, reVolutions, not resolutions.  I have never been known as a half-attacker.  I'm talking all cylinders, my friends.  I got to thinking last night when I was trying to fall asleep.  Perhaps it was the chilequiles I consumed that was keeping me up, or perhaps it was a nagging feeling that I wasn't attacking life as much as I could.

I remember when I was a junior in high school and my English teacher asked us to write a one page paper on what we thought the meaning of life was.  Yes, my high school education was a bit of a joke.  Most of the time, this teacher would read the local sports section and we'd all tell jokes and wrestle each other, throw spitballs etc.  Oh, we also read Siddhartha.  But that was about it.

Anyway, I went home and I put the pen to the paper and I drew a blank.  Of course, this was extremely frustrating at the time, but looking back on it, it's pretty funny.  What does a 16 year old kid know about life, let alone its meaning?  What a crap assignment!  I finally asked my Dad what he thought the meaning of life was.  Without a split second of hesitation he looked up from his desk and blurted, "To attack each day and task with vigor and enthusiasm."  He almost gave me a look as to say "What the heck did you think it was?" Then he turned back to his desk and continued to plug away.  Wow.  All this time, I thought I would put down some bull about "peacefully coexisting with others" or "love", or something that would be sure to get me a B+ or A-. 

I ended up mailing it in and saying "peacefully coexisting with others" and extrapolating from that point*.  But I didn't believe it.  I knew I didn't, but I also didn't feel like pushing myself.  2011 will be the year of me pushing myself. 

I will continue to exercise with vigor and lose more weight.  I've already lost 50 pounds or so, so the next 30 pounds could be tough. 

I will enthusiastically work on my acting technique, specifically cold reading, and rate/inflection/pitch dynamic. 

I will pick 4 other guideposts to work on and master them.  This way, I can attain a specific acting "style" if you will, with the hopes of being more marketable etc. 

I will stop swearing.  I swear way too much.  It's uncouth and makes me look dumb.

I will land a national commercial, and 4 principle roles this coming year. 

I will qualify for the high end SAG based health insurance.

* as much as you can in 250 words.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"You have good punch speed."

I heard that on Monday after a sparring session and swelled with pride.  I was also swelling because of body shots I took from the guy as well.  I've come a long long way with boxing since I started last February.  That body shot sparring session was one of the best workouts I've had in a while.

Usually, when people hear "body shot" they think of Panama City Beach or the E! Channel.  I suppose there was a time in my life where I would think the same way too.  Nowadays, when I hear "body shot" I just wince. 

Anyway, back to the body shot only sparring session.  Most of the people in my boxing class are "headhunters".  The term is self explanatory, so when we were faced with the challenge to only land body shots I was at first concerned that I would be terrible, but also relieved to not get hit in the nose.  (Note: being hit in the nose never becomes palatable) First, one guy would be on defense...cover up, move around etc and basically just take it.  The other guy was on the offensive and would work combos.  We did this for two different three minute rounds.  One minute rest in between.  Even when you are on defense it's a great work out, because you see a punch coming, tighten up your abs and shift your body to protect the blow.  Obviously, throwing punches is a tough workout on your back, elbows, wrists, legs......your whole body. 

I prefer to go second.  Sometimes people want to go full speed if they have a fight approaching, and sometimes they want to go 1/2 speed or 3/4 speed because they are coming off of a fight.  Don't think for a second that 1/2 speed is slow to these's not.  It's still pretty terrible.  Anyway, I prefer to go second so I can match the guys power/speed etc.  I have no desire to be a "practice hero" and I also have no desire to enrage a professional boxer or high ranking amateur boxer. 

Any boxer will tell you, body shots hurt more than head shots.  It's true that you can "shake off" a head shot, but a punch the rattles your intestines is impossible to get past.  You feel things move that you didn't know existed much less existed and were movable.  Then you feel like you have to use the bathroom, and you know that is just not the case, so it's weird as heck.  Sometimes, you get a tin can taste in your mouth after you belch.  Not good things.  Whereas with a head shot, you can shake your head and make a "wuhwuhwuhwuh" sound at that usually does the trick.  I'm just concerned about head shots, because raccoon eyes are bad for the acting business. 

After the three minute one way rounds were over, it was time to spar for another two sets of three minute rounds.  My focus was to protect myself and try to land a few one handed combos here and there and explore the uppercut.  I found some success with the jab/left hook combo and right/right upper combos.  I even landed a left hook/right hook/left hook combo.  The guy I went against is really quick and has been boxing for quite some time.  He has a boxers body.  Long, lean muscular arms with emphasis on forearms and shoulders and a short torso.  This means not a lot of target space and a lot of reach.  He is maybe 4 inches shorter than me, but I wouldn't be surprised if his reach is close to mine.  So he got me pretty good a few times as well.  I learned that I need to keep my forearms more parallel and closer when I am defending myself, I have a tendency to splay my elbows out.  This could also be a product of me needing to lose more weight, we'll see. 

"You have good punch speed."
"Thanks man (spitting out tin can taste)"
"For real, though."
"Like, for a big man?"
"No, just in general, you have good punch speed"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Audition recap

I feel very positive about yesterday's audition. 

The script was about two friends buying electronics throughout their lives.  The role of "guy" is always the first to buy a certain item and the role of "friend" always buys a similar but better item second and busts his friends chops about his missive.  Desktop vs laptop, HD TV vs 3D TV get the gist.  We see the friends in the 80's, 90's, present day and distant future continuing the joke.  It's a funny script and I enjoyed swinging the bat on this one. 

People were going in pairs.  This can either be really great or really bad, as you are paired at random.  I would feel extremely comfortable going in with say, my friend Mark.  We did a lot of improv comedy together over the years and are great friends to this day.  I would not feel comfortable going in there with just anyone.

Yesterday, I lucked out.  The guy I went in with was really funny actually.  His name was Dominic and we worked well together I think.  The discrepancy in size was hilarious and he saw it as soon as I did and went for it.  The guy came up somewhere between my elbow and shoulder.  I have lightish hair and a goatee, he has dark hair and a scruffy beard.  I am a bigger guy and he is trim.  Our appearances were quite different obviously and it worked to our advantage. 

We ran through the script twice and were allowed to improvise a bit with the text.....always a pleasure doing that.  We each had a crack at "guy" and a crack at "friend".  We would work well in either role too.  I would either be the larger bully guy who always rags on his friends purchases, or the big dumb oaf who makes poor purchases.  He would either be the weaselly insulter type or he would play the nebbish kind of role. 

Callbacks are scheduled for the 28th.  Please Santa, all I want for Christmas is a national commercial.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Commercial Audition tomorrow! [UPDATE]

Yippy kay-yay....

I have an audition tomorrow for a national commercial.  I am quite enthused.  It's for a national electronics store.  I am also set to audition for a brand new CD - it's going to be fun to meet some new people in the business.  This shoots in LA the first week or so of January.  I've never been to Lala land and I would love to check it out. 

And I gotta tell ya, the description sounds a lot like me...actually it sounds like they wrote it about me.  Here it is:

Friend -  Loud and outspoken, but very likable.  He always likes to be the center of attention and usually is.  He's a jokester and likes busting peoples balls.  He's the type of person that always seems to have things go his way most of the time, but he doesn't realize how lucky he is. 

So yeah, that's me in a nutshell.  There's no script to work on, so I assume it's either an improvisation (yay) or a cold read/quick study (double yay). 

I feel really great about this audition.  I just have to be me.  They will love me, because that's what they want!

UPDATE:  turns's not a new CD, I just momentarily forgot that this is the same CD I auditioned for for the Chobani Yogurt spot.  I remember the CD laughing hysterically at my takes, when I didn't get the call back I figured they went for someone older looking.  Glad they like me over there!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

H&R Block Audition

There I was, at my real estate desk....feeling sorry for myself.  My nose hurt from sparring the evening before and I took 1/2 of my daily dose of Lovazza (a prescription strength fish oil* (I know, I know)).  Suddenly my cell told me (via a blinking red light) that I had a new e-mail.

It was my commercial agency, I had an audition for the next day.  H&R Block, national usage, broadcast, Internet, the whole kit and caboodle.  Big job.  COOL!  There were no sides sent as an attachment, just where to be, when and who to play.  I was to audition for the role of "Construction Worker".  The notes said "blue collar" and "casual" and "very real".  The shooting dates are pretty soon, December 13th to the 15th. 

So this morning, when I was getting dressed for a day of real estate work and this audition, I put on an outfit that could look blue collar, but also acceptable for RE work.  I put on a light blue collar dress shirt, rolled up the sleeves and went out the door.  I don't want to be one of those people with a roller bag filled with 10 changes of clothing.  CD's either like you or they don't.  And besides, one of my really great friends works in construction management, and every day he wears khakis, a collared shirt with a pair of boots.  So, there!

When I arrived there, everyone was in Carhart coats, thick flannels etc.  One guy even had on a hard hat.  Ha!  Oh well.  It didn't say "dress like a construction worker" it said "casual".  I believe I was casual. 

Anyway, I can't go too into the script, but it was an improv between 2 other construction worker types and I. We just joshed back and forth about our current project and how long it would take.  I felt good about my "very real" and "casual performance".  There wasn't so much to do, in the ad copy, we don't have any words.  There is a VO and a few characters talking about how bad we are at working construction.  Basically, I just said a lot of "yes boss" and "on it, boss man" and "sure thing".

So I suppose this commercial casting is all about "the look", even more so than the usual. 

We'll see, but I believe I am DUE for a little luck.  :-)

*Does the idea of "prescription strength fish oil" spook you a bit?  It spooks me for sure.  What makes it prescription strength?  Is it really pungent? The oil of many more fish than what you usually find?  Or is it a high potent fish, like a mackerel?  Or, is it a rare fish?  Like the black sea unicorn bass?  If you ever catch one of those, release it immediately, they are really really really (really) endangered. 

"You love me, you really love me!"

This feels good. Really good, actually. "Persakis Towers" was chosen in the "Top 10 of 2010" for  I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 

Vimeo as I've mentioned before, is a video hosting and sharing website of the utmost quality.  Gut Punch's fearless director, Crandall Miller says that it "looks how directors want things to look."  I'd have to agree with the experts on that one.  They have a great business model as the quality of the productions tend to be higher than what you'd see on  This is due to the fact that it costs money to be on vimeo (above a certain data usage).  It separates the wheat from the chaff.

It feel great to be one of the wheatiest bits of wheat.

Friday, December 3, 2010

An Actors tool: Charming the pants off the viewer.

Dean Winters is absolutely killing it with these All-State "Mayhem" commercials.  He is charming and irresistable in them.  Winters employs many tools during these spots, but his charm is the strongest move I see him make.  He also employs mystery/secret/confidentiality, relationship, opposite, game-play and importance.  This one is my favorite:

 "My scent? Like making love to a lumberjack."  That kills me every time.  This guy must be raking it in right now, it's a series of national commercials.  A conservative estimate is $250k this year.

Here is one excellent example of Winters mixing it up with the rate, inflection, pitch and dynamic and the line...."Because that's what I do" is especially nailed.  Check it out:

Oh and one more thing, see how he works the frame starting at the :22 mark? Ha!  This guy is excellent.

Curly = PhillyRay's Hamlet

This is for real.  I have not been this excited since I booked The Onion Sports Network gig back in September.  Fresh off the interwebs, the "Three Stooges Movie" has received a greenlight after a long time of various castings, red tape etc.  For a while the rumored cast consisted of: Jim Carrey, Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Paul Giamatti (in various blends) 

The Farrelly brothers are directing the piece and have said:

"The script is ready to go, and we are opening up these roles to the world right now," Peter Farrelly told me. "We'll make it with the best possible people. Our feeling is that no star is too big to audition and no matter who it is, we're going to have to see him in the role. This is not The Flinstones. You've got to be Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard, and that could be a major movie star or an unknown."

Did you read that?  Are you picking up what I am putting down????? A major movie star I am not.  An unknown, I am!  Ha!  I should also note that filming is slated to start on March 14th, which is my birthday.  I believe this to be a sign.  I truly do.  Here is the article of which I speak.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Typical Dr. Phil answer/response/comment

Hey, Dr. Phil - I'm just wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.

And what is your response?

Oh, really?

Future Projects, boxing update etc

There is a Shakespearean monologue in Henry IV, in which Falstaff sings the virtues of sherry.  Of course, in his time, it was known as "sherrisack".  Nonetheless, this monologue is essentially a commercial, touting the benefits of drinking fortified wines, and pinpointing the fine qualities of a well made sherrisack. 

I want to film this monologue as a commercial in black and white and use these videos/clips as reference points:

I suppose the product will be a fake one, called "Sherrisack".
One of my acting heroes, Orson Welles, tackled this monologue on the "Dean Martin" show.  Here is that video, fast fwd to 3:52 to see the actual piece (before that he waxes poetic about Falstaff, and you will also see an excellent example of old school stage makeup application)


As much as I'd love to do the whole piece as a faux commercial, it would simply be too long. So I have to make cuts and shorten the length to 60 seconds. 

So that's what is down the pike for me.

Additionally, boxing is going really well.  I am finally able to throw a jab, right cross combo without lunging forward on the cross when I spar.  "Lunging forward" can just mean an inch or two.  If you expose your face just a little bit for a split second, that can means lights out, taking a canvas nap etc.

Of course, when you are just hitting the heavy bag or hand pads, it's easy not to lunge....but in the heat of a sparring session it's a challenge to keep cool and maintain solid technique.  I attribute keeping cool to years of playing football and the fact that I don't freak out when I take a hit.  I attribute the technique to improved foot work/coordination and I attribute this to jump rope.  I'm a skipping machine these days.  I can skip 5 different ways interchangeably.  It's fun to do 100 one way and then switch back and forth.  Man oh man, skipping rope can be an exhausting workout when done right and long enough.

I can now see some abs poking through my belly.  At first I assumed it was smaller rolls, as opposed to larger belly rolls, but upon further inspection, they are indeed abs.  So that's cool.  It has definitely inspired me to put boxing and fitness in high gear.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Four Loko does not make a good night cap

Last night the Gut Punch gentlemen met up to discuss some potential new business and catch up.  It was a lot of fun, perhaps too much fun for at least two people. 

After a bar, a party and a cabbie who told 3 of us that we were too "big for the cab", we went to one of our apartments for further discussion etc.  I cracked a Four Loko open.  Big mistake.....huge mistake.  For those of you who don't know, Four Loko is a caffeinated alcoholic beverage.  People say, and I take them at their word, that it is essentially like having 6 beers and 2 cups of coffee.  I have to agree.

It was the last drink of the night, a nightcap of sorts.  A nightcap that I will never have again.  I'm getting too old for this kind of shenanigans.  I had the watermelon flavor, and it is because of the loko, that I totally mailed in this post today.

You reader(s) deserve better than this.  Have a great weekend and stay away from Four Loko

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My office is strange

We have a weekly meeting at my real estate job.  It's usually a mix of pep rally and fire and brimstone speeches.....and breakfast!  Usually, the office manager will walk across the street to Dunkin Donuts and get a box of joe or two and some bagels and call it a day.  No one really complains.  Its bagels and decent coffee.   Well.  Today, we ordered kosher food from a woman essentially operating out of her apartment kitchen.  Sounds gross and skeevy right?  Right.  But its KOSHER AND THEREFORE DEVOID OF BACON AND HAS BEEN BLESSED BY A RABBI! (So it must be good, right?)  Keep in mind this is 930 in the morning. 

Tartar sauce as a salad dressing killed me.  Murdered me.  It makes sense though......clams are not kosher, so how would they know that tartar sauce and fried clams are a match made in Goy heaven?  They would not.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Honestly, let's clean it up a bit - shall we?

This happens to me a few times a week.  The old world meets the new world, and in doing so, the goat carcass meets the shopping cart. 

Performers should not have a backup plan...

...well, unless you are a tightrope walker and your metaphorical backup plan is literally a safety net; that, I am all for.  Let me be clear here, I, PhillyRay am vehemently against splattered guts.  Now that that's out of the way.....

I had a lot of friends from my college days who said that they were going to pursue acting after graduation.  Perhaps 2 other people besides me are still actually doing so.  It's not like I'm old, I'm only 27.7 years old.  Did they just quit?  Did they become weary of the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle?  One gentlemen confessed to me that he "...just freaked out and wanted more money and a higher degree of [women]". 

The uniting factor in all of these people is that they had a backup plan.  David Mamet talks about this in his book True and False.  Most of the actors that I talked to about this book do not agree with most of the author's points....and I get that.  But......I totally back him up on the whole backup plan point.  Bottom line is, if you have a backup plan to acting, invariably that backup plan is what you end up ditching acting for. 

Backup plans are not survival jobs.  I'm not stupid, you should have a survival job....unless you are one of the privileged few people who are independently wealthy.  My survival job is real estate in NYC.  It's terrible...I hate it.  Hate.  Hate.  Hate.  But I love the flexibility.  Love. Love. Love. 

Take today for instance.  It's raining.  So I posted ads from home and fielded calls.  I went on 2 appointments and showed apartments to clients.  I didn't have to get to my desk at 9am.  That is a huge relief....if I have a big audition (or a last minute one at that), I can work on the material at home. 

What do I mean as a backup plan?  I mean people set deadlines for themselves.  Such as...."Well, I'll try it for 5 years and if I don't earn a comfortable living, I'll apply to law school."  Or, "I will try to get an agent right out of college and if I don't succeed, I'll go into the family business."  If people say such things, I guarantee you that they will have given up on their dreams of being an actor.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.  There is nothing wrong with making as much money as you can however you want to do it.  Yes, I said however you want to do it,  I'm a libertarian. 

I also have a huge beef with the word "try" in peoples sentences.  If you say "try" you are setting yourself up for failure.  Did you know that the ancient Spartans did not have word for defeat?  There was "winning" and there was "not winning"?  Did you know that I completely made that up?

Sometimes things just aren't right for people.  I've had two desk jobs in my life.  I got fired from both of them.  One lasted 3 months and the other lasted 2 months.  I'd have an audition and I'd go.  Screw them.  I'd just go.  I'd come back and finish whatever I had to do that day, stay late etc.  After a while they became weary and fired me.  It's all good.  They shouldn't have hired me in the first place, ha! 

So here I am, walking that tight rope and pretending the cold hard cement floor isn't 50 feet below me. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Real Estate is funny.

Funny weird, not funny ha ha. 

There are many doorman buildings in the Murray Hill section and Midtown East section of Manhattan.  To make their properties seem more exclusive, landlords give the buildings a name.  Seriously.  I know it sounds stupid, I know it is basically, how does the saying go?  Ah yes, "putting lipstick on a pig".  Or was is "Polishing the turd"?  Anyway, it must work because when I tell people that they are going to see an apartment in "Dorchester Towers" I hear a little "Ooh" as opposed to we are going to 236 E 36th Street. 

Here is an example of names of buildings, and I will provide those names with a weird contrast.....

On E 46th Street, there is a building called "The Ambassador".  This building is located 25 yards away from the UN, but the management does not allow diplomats.  Huh?

On Lexington Avenue in the 30's there is a 20 story building called "Lexington Towers".  20 stories is kind of tall, I guess.....but across the street are twin buildings that are 35+ stories tall.  Suddenly "Lexington Towers" seems to be compensating for something.  I suppose that something is a diminutive Indonesian doorman who can not speak English. 

On E 52nd street there is a building called "Rivercourt".  There are no clear river views and the building is 2 avenues and a quasi-highway away from the East River. 

On E 47th street there is a building called "Embassy House".  The problem?  You guessed it.  No diplomats allowed.  Well, unless they pay the year up front and sign away their immunity status.  Ha, like that'll ever happen.

Yesterday I saw a building called "The Mango".  Ha.  I'm serious about that one.  I decided to preview it and take pictures because I found the name to be in the very least humorous and in the very most refreshing and almost self deprecating.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

AT&T audition today and dramatic video reenactment

This was a lot of fun,  I am not sure how well I did so here is the rundown....

I arrived at the audition location and signed in, filled out a size card and had a digital picture taken.  I looked at the script and the commercial went down like this:

Extreme close-up: We see a man in a dentist chair with various tubes, tools and other apparati in his mouth. His mouth is wide open and his speech is impaired.  He gives distressed looks as the tools file, zing and gurgle.  He looks more and more distressed until his general rage gives way to tears of joy and it is revealed that he is not in pain at all (!), but rather he was watching a movie on his smart phone on the AT&T network.  The storyboard specified "offbeat is OK, but keep it natural." I saw this as a carte-blanche of sorts for my expressive face. 

So we had to mimic this for the camera.  I went in, slated my name, opened my mouth to the point of pain and gave the CD my most distressed and pained looks and gave way to tears of joy.  Yes folks, real honest to goodness tears.

"That was excellent." The CD said..."I could really sense that you were in pain there, and then at one point it could have gone another do it again but with more tears of joy.  Go."

My ducts were tapped.  I couldn't bring anymore tears, it didn't matter how I breathed or for how long, they just weren't coming on the second take. 

Will this matter in the end?  No one knows.  I'd like to think that my first take should be adequate enough for a call-back.  But like my coach says "If you are what they need, they will call you.  If you aren't they won't."

And that's that. But honestly, I do not envy this CD at all, because he now has to sift through hours of people doing this....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Audition a-la minute! [UPDATED]

Earlier today, I mentioned how my work ethic and unflappable good faith got me a commercial audition.  Well, I just came back from it and I feel very good.  Here is a recap.

The audition was for "Chobani" a Greek style yogurt sold here in the states.  Whenever I shop and pass by the dairy section, the product catches my eye because it is very similar to my last name, Chorba.  BTW, there is a Bulgarian woman who sits next to me at work; she has a working knowledge of Turkish and tells me that Chobani is Turkish for shepherd.  Makes sense...anywho. 

The storyboard went like this...Stephanie, a real Chobani enjoyer brings them to her work so she can enjoy them during the day time, but someone pilfers her yogurt.  OH, THE HUMANITY! She launches an investigation around the workplace and questions a "large man by the copier".  Guess which role I went out for. 

If you guessed Stephanie, you are wrong. 

Stephanie says "You look like you eat a lot of protein." I was supposed to give two reactions of the CD's choosing.  We were told to first react in a positive way and say something back, almost thanking her for the compliment.  Then on the other take I was supposed to be really confused and walk away.  Almost as if to be like "I don't know you or what your angle is, but I am leaving" But do this only through movements etc. 

I improvised my first take like this......

"Hey Phillip, you look like you eat a lot of protein."

(look up from copier, facial change from confused to delighted/confident)

 "200 grams a day."

The CD howled with laughter, and then told me to take it again but not as confident, same line in a different way.  This is when my acting coach's training is paying dividends.  I chose to use: relationship, location and mischief.  BOOM!  Nailed that.

Now time for the second take.....the confused-and-walk-away-sans-words take.....

"Hey Phillip, you look like you eat a lot of protein."

(look up from copier, facial change from confused to a bit angry about this slight...take one pace away and turn again back to Stephanie for a quick "button" on the take if you will.)

She chuckled this time ever so slightly and told me it was OK, but she wanted to see me not angry "It's like you are the nice guy in the office, so you wouldn't get mad."  I can do that, totally.  I AM THE NICE GUY IN THE OFFICE, I thought.

This time my reaction was....look up from copier, eyes widened a bit then I pursed my lips, by bringing them in, sucked in my belly slightly, silently nodded and walked away. This whole reaction was 4 seconds long, tops. 

She howled again.  It feels really good to use techniques that I practice day in and day out.  It feels excellent to receive a positive reaction to choices that you make during an audition.  I really enjoyed auditioning for this particular CD and the office itself was clean, and finely tuned in its operation. 

It is also a nice feeling when you look at the character you are auditioning for and you look exactly like it.  I know its' hard to tell, but trust me it's legit.  Yes, I unbuttoned my tie like the guy in the storyboard.  :-)

[UPDATE:  I have another audition tomorrow, for AT&T.  2 auditions in 2 days hasn't happened since.......ever?]

Keep chugging, keep plugging. [UPDATE]

As an actor, you are up against thousands of other people who want to do exactly what you want to do. We've all heard various "success stories" and have been regaled with tales of big breaks etc etc.  I have debunked the myth of the big break and I will continue to do so.  You don't get a "big break" - you get a thousand little breaks over your whole career.  I forgot who said that first, but it certainly was not me. 

So what's going to separate you from other actors?  The only things that I can control that I also believe can separate me from the rest of the pack are:

1) Effort - no one will out work me.  Ever.  This doesn't only mean working on technique, monologues or what-have-you.  It also means checking in with your agents if you have them.  Before I started working with agents, I saw them as a magic bullet of sorts.  Sign with them and you are off to the races.  Well what really happens is you sign with them or freelance with them and they don't send you out so much.  Who knows why.....maybe there isn't enough work?  Maybe they have 5 other actors exactly like you?  Maybe they straight up don't think about you enough.

2) Punctuality - practicing the art of showing up.  Always.  I am proud to say that I have NEVER been late for a single event in my entire life.  In fact, I am almost always 15+ plus early.  It's show BUSINESS, and the business world runs on time.  I forgot who said that first, but it wasn't me (yet again).  UPS maybe?

3) Unflappable faith.  If you are easily discouraged, or have thin skin, get out of this business right now.  No one will "out-guts" me for lack of a better term.  Besides, I'm 27.7 years old and it is now officially too late to start some other career. 

4) Pleasant Demeanor.  I heard that you have a .500 batting average when it comes to people liking you when they first meet you.  I like to think that my BA is a bit higher than that.  If producers/directors don't like you - they don't want to see you at 4am on set 5 days a week.  Of course, there is a thin line between likability* and being plain old annoying and artificial.  I hope that I am never those things....annoying and artificial that is. 

So basically, this business is a funny funny thing.  You can only control what you do when you walk in the audition room, the rest is up to other people.  You have to be the best possible actor/professional  you can be, and everything will fall together. 

*I will be the Bud Light of NYC actors: Phillip's difference is likability.

[UPDATE: I shit you not, 15 minutes after I posted this I got an audition for later today, a yogurt commercial......see what happens when you check in regularly?]

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Slow week

So I am back at my real estate desk just straight up chillin'.  And by "chillin'" I mean, previewing aparmtents and making nifty videos that I advertise with.....don't believe me?  There is one below.  CAUTION: Prepare to at the same time, hear excellent acting and diction as well as just a subtle, subtle hint of "Wow, I really don't want to do this with my life."  But hey, I have to flex the acting muscles anyway. 

BTW, if you know someone who makes over $80,000 per annum and wants to rent a one room apartment, be sure to send them my way, because I juuuuust might know of  a place.

Work as a broker
Flexibility is great!
Don't strangle clients

Monday, November 1, 2010


When the going gets tough (and trust me, it has been getting tough) the tough write funny Haiku potery to get themselves through the day.  It's cheaper than plastic bottle vodka and it's good to flex the mind muscle. 

Rafiqi's Halal
Lamb Jalfrezi and a coke
OMG the pain!
Magic Johnson: AIDS
Landed a nighttime talk show!
(The key to success)
Work as a broker
Flexibility is great
Don't strangle clients
Cowboy schadenfreude
Giants? Ok, but Jaguars?
That is pathetic
Astoria life:
Greeks, Balkans and Muslims can...
All agree on lamb
"Whiskey bar" is like...
Disneyland for drunks, truly.
Depressing at lunch
Old Women, cougars
There is a difference, babe
Cougars: 1%
Hey you on the bus
You talk way too loud, for real
No one cares you twit!
Auto Mechanics
Either call you "chief", "big man"
Or "pal" then bill you
This isn't for school
Buy some M&M peanuts
Keep me off the streets

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Actor's Familiar Feeling: Waiting it out

So I had that audition yesterday for "Dark Fields".  I can't tell how it went to tell you the truth.  Which could be a bad sign.  Then again, I (uncharacteristically so) felt that I did a crummy job for The Onion callback - and I landed the job.  My coach's words rang true: you either match their needs or you don't.  Hmm.  So so true.  I'm also waiting to hear the final word on that modeling job for Gold's.  Oh yeah, turns out my agent spoke too soon, read the update about 3 posts ago.  Hey, people make mistakes and I am not angry in any way. 

So now I just have to chill out and think of other things.  I've found that acting is a lot like renting apartments here in NYC.  You can do everything exactly right technique wise, but if they don't "like the apartment" you aren't renting to them and if they don't "like your look or what-have-you" you aren't cast.

All that you can do is be prepared and do your best. 

Loyal reader(s): what do you do to relax or to get the focus off of uncertainty?  I exercise, or read a scene or work on a new monologue. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Audition today at 5:10pm

I received the sides yesterday around 6pm and took them to class.  Where am I in my process now?  I'm getting there, I just have to stick to my guideposts and prepare multiple variations.  Here I am about 1/4 of the way through my process to nail this audition :-)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Actors need to have a "bullcrap meter" and a video demonstration

You need to know when you are faking it and when the emotion is real.  One of the biggest things I continue to struggle with is the realization that I am already good enough.  I don't have to create an emotion.  I don't have to make an extra this or an extra that.  If the emotion is there, great, just walk into it - so to speak.  But it's been a challenge for me not to conjure up some kind of an emotion when  I believe the scene calls for it.   When you've been trained so long in a certain thought, it becomes hard to break such old habits.

Boo hoo, woe is me and all that bunk.

And frankly, casting directors know when you are faking it; they see acting all day and there is no fooling them.  So don't fake it!  That way, at least they can call you an honest performer. 

One of the things that helps me rid this nasty habit is a recently installed "bullcrap meter".  Whenever the needle moves, I stop and start over again from a few lines before.  It's been hard to install said meter, because I naturally want to make progress and blast through the piece - but my coach has made it obvious when his needle moves.  There I am, in the middle of a piece,  in front of the intimate acting class.  I'm just chillin', siting in a metal folding chair and then......

"Nope!  Start again." says Steve

Ok, I'll start again, I think.... 

"Ap! Ap! Ap! Ap! Ap!" instructs Steve

Oh boy, I guess I'll take that again.

"No Phillip, again." Steve rebukes

Ok man, just breathe you can do this, just speak! 

"Hot Damn!  One more time just like that." Steve encourages (!)

Focus....and here it goes...

"Ha!  You son-of-a-bitch you!" 

So here is my bullcrap meter hard at work as I wrestle a Iago monologue from "Othello".  Obviously, ones bullcrap meter is always subject to calibration. [UPDATE: I now realize that I left out a line '....mere prattle without practice is all his soldiership.  but he sir, had the election] followed by: and i, whose eyes had seen the proof....  Oh well, I'm not embarassed, it's not like it's on the internet for the whole world to see.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm too sexy for this blog: Right Said Fred video at the end.

[Update: Apparently my agent, (honest mistakes happen) may have spoken too soon.  I am not YET cast, but the CD is in final stages of casting, and I am a "first choice"....we shall see]

Because I booked a model job.  BWAHHAHAHHAHHAHA.  I shit you not.  It's for Gold's Gym.  The gym wants to rid its image of musclehead central and make it more accessible to the average guy.  To the fitness enthusiast and not a body builder.  So they are having a new campaign called "Real Gym Heroes" and they liked my story of weight loss after getting attacked. 

Oh yeah, maybe you don't know about that.  Well here is the story that I told the casting director:

On June 16th, 2008 I was jumped in Manhattan, and the assailant broke my right elbow and fractured my right scaphoid.  I also blew out my right hamstring during the altercation.  My wedding day was 60 days away.  As soon as I healed, and came back from my honeymoon, I decided that I was never going to let something like that happen again.  I started weight training again, running and taking boxing lessons. On the night in question I was 315 pounds and stood six foot three.  Today I am 245 pounds and my strength has increased dramatically. In the same day I am able to have a full bench and squat workout, run 5 miles in 45 minutes and have a full hour boxing workout including a sparring session.  The gym has helped me overcome my fear of another attack.  While I realize that an attack could theoretically still happen, I also know that I can knock-out a would be mugger with a swift right hook to the jaw. 

I am stronger than my fears. 

So as you read, last year I was 315 lbs of mostly mush.  Today I am 245 of mostly muscle with a solid right hook and a punishing jab.  If you had told me that I was going to book a modeling job I would have either tackled you to the ground and slapped you or thought 'Maybe its a 'before' model....ya know, like 'before' and 'after'."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Boxing has made me a better actor

I believe that boxing has made me a better person, a more well rounded person and in doing so, it has made me a better actor.

In the world of professional acting, you'll see a lot of ups and downs.  Also, I have noticed that the "downs" can last a long time, months even in between jobs etc.  Hey man, it happens.   I've found that when I focus on the negative things, like say not getting work, it all begins to spiral out of control.  I become my own worst enemy.  First comes the doubt, then confusion, then anger towards everyone else and then the anger turns on yourself.  It's a nasty nasty cycle that helps nothing and hurts everything and everyone.

But when you focus on something else and are happy about your position in life, things just seem to fall into place.  I wasn't able to focus like that on my real estate job, I wasn't able to focus like that on weight loss, but I was able to focus that much on boxing.  Maybe because I come from an athletic background (football and competitive powerlifting) I am able to lose myself in boxing.  Who knows.  All I know is I am hooked and it has made me a better actor.

Just because you are getting better at boxing doesn't mean that you can beat someone in a bout.  Just because you are getting more technically sound as an actor, doesn't mean that you will land that day player role.  You either match the producers needs or you don't.  You either react properly to the jab, execute a proper slip and counter with a right hook to the jaw or you dont see the jab coming and your nose is bloody.  On the one hand the execution is up to you, but on the other hand the opportunity is Lord given.

And I am surprised that boxing taught me that lesson about acting and finding success.  Another thing that actors need to posses is a feeling of confidence but also the knowledge that if you don't match the producers needs, you simply won't get the job.  It doesn't matter how talented you are.  Boxing has given me a similar mind set.  I feel a heightened sense of virility for sure.  I know that I can beat up most people in a street fight, and I'd be remiss to say it isn't a manly and comforting thought.  But I also feel way more humble. I am humble because if I fight someone who is 135 lbs, they could theoretically destroy me in the ring.  They could have been training for 10 years and have found amateur success and are about to embark on a professional career.  Me and my 8 or so months can not compete with that

You just never know.  Sometimes you just don't have the goods, sometimes you just can't match up; sometimes you aren't what the producers are looking for.   All you can do is your personal best - and in a perfect world that is all that matters.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Actors should never judge their character; embracing my inner Iago.

That what my sensei told me, and it is very helpful.  He also said to eliminate all "fluffernutters", meaning all the unneccssary embellishments when you act, e.g. don't comment on the line with your face after saying the line.  Got it?  OK.

A few days ago I took one of those silly quizzes on facebook.  This one was "Which Shakespearian Character are you?"  I would have bet a gajillion dollars mine would have been Falstaff.  Jocular, lighthearted, quick witted, slow footed and all around party animal.  But noooooooooooooooooooooooo, I had to be "Iago."  Iago!  What?

Then after a while I realized that I was judging the character.  Yes, it's true; Iago is a bloodthirsty, calculating sociopath.  But at least he isn't this junk!  I swear to God, they must only sell that stuff to sorority girls or tertiary level alcoholics.

So I chose to prepare a Iago monologue from "Othello" tonight for class.  I also decided to find personality traits that I, a decidedly non-sociopath would have in common with Iago.  And wouldn't you know, I found something. 

Sociopaths (and I admit I am painting with broad brush strokes here) will do whatever they can to get what the want, even if it casues harm to others.  I admitted to myself that I hate it when I move out of the way of physically smaller people on the street.  Why do I accommodate those turdwads?  Why do I always sway and bob and weave through foot traffic?  I am a 6-3, 255 pound man with a working knowledge of boxing.   So if you don't want to get out of the way, hey man, suit yourself. 

I tested this out last night when Mrs. PhillyRay and I went to MoMA to see an exhibit and some of the mainstay pieces, Jackson Pollacks, AD Reinhardt etc.  We met on 57th and 5th and walked down 5th Avenue, it was around 6pm.  It was crowded, predictably so.  My conscience told me to budge.  Budge not, say I.  "Stay the course, PhillyRay" I thought.  U-oh here comes someone,  steady, steady...wait for it.  THWAP!  BOOM!  OOF!  (Shout out to Edward Ruscha)  I even saw people about 15 yards away and thought "Oh man, this is going to feel great!"  That's right, I even started to look forward to these shoulder knocks.  (Side note:  my friend Mark is the king of not moving out of the way. It's such a treat to walk down the street with him, in all honesty.  It's hysterical.)

I had embraced my inner-sociopath, my inner Iago, if you will.  It felt great. 

Even just a little step like that can make you connect with a character you would normally struggle with.  You're not willing to do that?  Well, then...despise me if I do not.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Actors need to let it rip, proverbially speaking of course. Also, boxing class recap.

I love empty subway cars.  There, I said it.  For those of you who live in NYC, you know how rare those cars are.  Usually when I walk into what I think is an empty subway car, there is a stinky bum or vomit or something less than stellar in existence.  "Fooled again!" I think as I quickly walk between cars. 

But not last night, this was an honest to goodness empty subway car and you know what I did?  I let it rip.  I worked on 2 monologues and really explored rate, inflection, pitch and dynamic.  I went totally ape shit.  It was exhilarating.  It felt oh so good, and I even got to the point where I discovered things about the monologue that I hadn't noticed  before.  It was a great experience.  Not only did I find things that I could do that I had never thought of, but I also left that train feeling energized.  I should admit that if someone came into the car I would have kept going.....not in the interest of progress, but because I was so wrapped up in it, there's no way I would have noticed. 

Actors, if you find yourself on an empty subway car......let it rip.  I implore you.

After missing 2 out my last 3 boxing sessions due to acting and real estate work, I made my triumphant return to class last night from 630-730.  Although I had not been to class for a while, I have been running about 10 miles a week and I do 500 jump ropes before and after a workout.  I feel much much quicker out there.  I'm able to execute a jab, jab and left hook combo and then quickly get out of harms way.  That wasn't always the case.  I used to execute the combo and then catch a counter hook to my cheek.  Contrary to popular belief, getting hit in the face isn't fun.  Thank you, jump rope!  You're the best. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Acting, writing and producing; SUCCESS!!!!

Joe Bastianich, a very successful restauranteur and entrepeneur said in his NY Times profile "Art without commerce is a hobby." 

Ouch!  It stings!  But that's because it is oh-so true. 

I am proud to admit that Gut Punch is now, technically speaking, a boutique ad agency with real clients.  I love our current client.  I love their idea; I think it's genius.  I gotta tell you, it feels really effing great.  Here is what we made.  And now a word about Gut Punch's sponsor: Pongr.

The major problem I have with applications like Four Square is that there isn't any real world recognition, that, and the fact that if people know you are somewhere else, they could in theory, rob your home.  On to the real world recognition part, you "check in" at a bar enough times and you become the mayor of that bar.  That's cool.......I suppose.

But wouldn't you like to take pictures of you enjoying your favorite brand, such as Brooks Brothers?  You take a picture of you wearing brooks brothers, or a picture of the golden fleece logo etc, you get the idea here and you send it out to the Pongr universe.  Eventually, your rank in the company grows and  you can get free stuff.

Who wouldn't want a crisp, sharp Brooks Brothers tie?  I would love one.

So check it out people, it's fun! 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I am a bit smitten with my legit agent.

As many of my loyal reader(s) know, two weeks ago today, I booked a day player role on Comedy Central for the upcoming "Onion Sports Network".  I did this through my legit agency.  I love them over there.  They are so kind and accessible, additionally I feel as if, and have always felt, that they "get me." 

They don't just see a large white guy, they see who I really am in real life and submit me for work accordingly.  Any agent can see a 6-3 245 pound large framed dude and think "Great!  I can submit him for cop roles!"  Not this agency, here is what they submitted me for yesterday - I think it seems like a great role that I can blow the top off of. 

[CHARLIE] (late 20s-early 30s) Paul's best buddy. Jocular, funny, overbearing, seething. Ostensibly smart and lovable, but with an undercurrent of malignancy and anger. Enjoys a bit of danger, and feeds his best friend's paranoia. (LEAD/ STRONG SUPPORTING)



Feature Film
Shoot/Start Date: 10/25
Location: NY
SYNOPSIS: PAUL is a young, gifted, aimless PhD candidate at Yale University. He's just moved in with his competent, pragmatic girlfriend, Jen, and is struggling to complete his dissertation. There's just one snag: as Paul is unpacking his belongings, he discovers that something has been left behind - a battered old book that contains the notes he needs to complete his writing. He will have to retrieve it from his former roommate - the obstinate, casually sinister NANCY. What should be a simple errand becomes intolerably difficult, and egged on by his best friend CHARLIE, Paul soon becomes increasingly consumed with the retrieval of his book. Caught up in a web of perceived injustice, Paul's relationship and career begin to unravel, and he finds himself rushing headlong into a thresher of emotional torment and physical punishment.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NYC: confusing signage of the week

There are many confusing signs in NYC. Most are parking related, but occasionally one runs into a sign of a different sort. What does "White Moves" mean? Is it the electric slide? The tootsie roll? Or is it the "shopping cart"?  Loyal reader(s), do chime in. 

In PhillyRay news: no auditions scheduled for this week so far.  Just real estate and a lot of it.  I walked around for 2 hours today in the rain showing apartments.  I will not have time to go to the gym tonight, and no, a case of atheletes foot does not count as exercise. But if it did..............

Friday, September 24, 2010

An actor should establish "Relationship" to get the focus off them

Before I get into how to establish relationship, a quick tale.  Wednesday, during a 10 minute break from acting class I went to get a bag of chips. I saw a Dorito bag with cool graphics all over it. It was an advertisement for the latest version of "Halo" an awesome video game that people go nuts over. I snagged that bag because I didn't realize that it was promotional advertising, I thought that Doritos now came in a new flavor, a "Halo" inspired flavor. Perhaps they are remarketing my beloved and ne'er to be seen again spicy sweet chili?  Nope. It was nacho cheesier. Damnit!  Watch out consumers, those bags are tricky. 

There are a few ways to establish relationship and by doing so, get the focus of of yourself.  I will talk about two ways: one is more suited for rehearsal and one is more suited for performance. 

For the rehearsal tip, taken an object and stare at it, play with it, manipulate that object in your hand.  When you're doing that, run your lines and you'll see how much better you will sound.  Your rate, inflection, pitch and dynamic will become greatly varied.  Don't just pick up the "Papermate" brand blue ball point pen and go about your lines.  Study that bitch.  Notice how the prong from the cap eventually pulls away from the pen when it is sheated?  Notice how there are two hearts on top of each other in between the words paper and mate?  Notice how the end of the cap is thinner than at the beginning of the cap, where the pen first enters?  This is how specific I needed to get to get the focus off of myself.  You may not need to get this specific, but you'll only know by trying.

Watch an old Marlon Brando flick and notice how he constantly plays with objects.  He was a very tactile actor.  He was doing that to get the focus off of himself and put the focus back into the scene, and it works wonders. 

For the performance tip, I suggest focusing all of your gaze onto your scene partner.  This will put the focus on the other actor and will therefore give you less to worry about.  When you have less to worry about, your work will succeed.  Often times, a film director will tell the actors to take the scene again "just as a throw-away, this one doesn't count."  And wouldn't ya know, that is usually the best take.  Why?  Because the actors are relaxed and therefore have all the focus off of them. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You can lead a _____ to water, but you can't make him drink.

You thought that the "______" was horse, right?  Wrong, it's "the client who employs the casting director".  A few days ago I mentioned that I had a commercial audition for Guinness beer, and I even gave my loyal reader(s) a dramatic reenactment. 

Today I received a call from the on-camera faction of my commercial agency notifying me of a call-back for said Guinness commercial.  It was a call-back for a national spot PLUS internet.  This could be a 6 figure job.  HOLY POTATOES! I thought.  I breathed a sigh of relief because at that time my career was on the right track.  Day player role on Comedy Central last week, call back for national spot tomorrow. 

5 minutes later my phone rang again.  My call-back had been cancelled.  The air left the room and I took a seat.  The rest of the conversation I can't really recall, but I am sure I was cordial and understanding.  After all, my agency didn't fubar on the call-back, the client, Guinness, did.  Clients often don't know what they want or what they are looking for and change their minds all the time.  When I auditioned, the hero was to be a celebrity, now it's a basketball player.

What was the specific reason for my call-back cancellation? I am too tall.  The Guinness drinking heroes of the spot will be professional basketball players, and they want the bland beer drinkers to be shorter.  I am six foot three.

Everyone is short compared to Patrick fucking Ewing.  I am now drinking whiskey. 

Sad?  Yes.  Broken?  No.  Half in the bag?  Hell yeah.

But I can now rejoice in the fact that two casting directors in NYC would hire me based on my acting skills.  Now it's just a question of intangibles falling into place.

An actor should utilize all 88 keys of the piano

Not literally, unless you are a quadruple threat actor like Jason Segel.  Gets me every time.  Honestly, I do indeed tear every time he mutters "how I love youuuuu" at the end.  That and the end of Adam Sandler's "Wedding Singer", when he serenades Drew Barrymore on the airplane.  Those are the two times I cried during movies - the only times.  When funny guys get all vulnerable and pour their guts out over serio-comic love songs. 


Schindlers List?  Nope.  When Haley Joel Osment's parents leave him in the woods in A.I.?  Not once.  When Bambi's mother died?  Surely, you jest.  "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "The Wedding Singer"?  Yup, every time.  Like a schoolgirl with a skinned knee.  Oh my sweet savior, I literally just got misty eyed thinking about Adam Sandler singing "I wanna grow old with you." 

Anyway, by utilizing all the keys of the piano I mean using all of your tools in a monologue, using all of your training all the time, being the best possible actor you can be at any given time.  One way you can do this is by varying up your speech patterns by tweaking a combination of four things.  I've mentioned rate, inflection, pitch and dynamic before on this blog.  I've even given a video demonstration.  Varying RIPD is so important.  Sure, you can have a hamburger on a cold potato bun and it would be, OK I suppose.  Maybe even passable.  But if you toast that bun, add some fresh lettuce, tomato and raw red onion and some Heinz, its ethereal. 

Additionally there are 16 ways to say a line.  You can even combine those ways to utilize your skill sets. 

Next blog I will talk about exploring "Relationship: getting the focus off of you".  That's one of the sixteen ways.  We'll talk about how I use that to free up my RIPD.  I spoke about entering "the matrix" a few posts ago, I used "relationship" to get to that point - read it if you haven't yet.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Audition for Guinness Beer Commercial

Whew I am spent.  I just woke up from a 30+ minute power nap at my real estate desk.  Actors and Actresses: stop messing around with temping, catering or whatever side job you have and get in real estate.  What other job is 100% flexible, has an uncapped earning potential and allows desk naps?  It's a trick question, it's only real estate.

Anyway.  I worked late yeterday, until around 8pm showing apartments around Hells Kitchen, and I was thinking about the next day (which is now earlier today).  What did I have today, you ask.  I answer: a commercial audition for Guinness.  That beer is friggen delicious.

The CD was the same one who gave me a call back for the Kraft mayonnaisse gig.  My slot was 11:55am and they were recording in groups of three.  The CD told us that they are casting 9 regular guys and one hero.  The hero will be someone famous.  The premise is that 9 out of 10 drinkers order boring beer at a bar.  Are you that tenth drinker?  You are indeed if you order Guinness. 

"Ok guys, this will be the best audition of your whole week" said the CD "First we slate our names, then we talk about whatever, then I will film each of you one by one standing at a bar drinking a beer and waiting for your friends.  Don't be interesting, just stand there, it's impossible for actors to nothing, but try.  After a while just walk off camera."

The CD recognized me from the Kraft callback and asked me if I was getting tanner.  I told her yes.  It's funny, I've gotten a little tanner, but she probably noticed the weightloss and wasn't sure what the difference was.  So the CD had us improvise back and forth and just talk with each other about whatever.  My conversation with the other two actors ranged from my tan, to what the middle guy did (he taught) to what the other guy does.  He doesn't have a day job and just does push-ups the whole day. 

It was actually a very fun audition.  The other two guys did a lot of stuff when they were up there, they looked pretty interesting to me.  Which is cool, but also the opposite of what the CD specified.  They would stand there, mime sipping their beers, mime burping, whistle and then mime order another beer.  That was very interesting.  They also stood there for 20+ seconds.

I stood there for maybe 10+ seconds with my beer in my right hand and my arms down by my pockets and stared off into space.  A specific point in space, nontheless.  After that time I gave a slight nod, as I would if I saw my friends enter the bar and walked off camera.  YOU CAN NOT POSSIBLY BE MORE BORING THAN THAT!  Here is basically what I did:

When I walked out of the audition I saw my great friend Mark.  I hadn't seen Mark in I don't know how long, even though we talk via phone frequently.  It's funny, when I walked into the audition holding room I thought "I wonder if Mark will be in the waiting room."  When he wasn't I was a bit deflated, and when I re-entered the room after my camera time, there he was.  When he was done we had a cigar.  It was great to see him again.  It'll be awesome when we both book the job and hang out September 30th :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Becoming a working actor: Real jobs vs. "Reel" jobs

A talented director I have worked with many times before once said, "As the saying goes 'we either do it for the pay check or we do it for the reel.'"  Truth, such truth.  As a struggling actor focused on becoming a working actor, I find myself in the middle of a balancing routine.  What am I balancing?  I am balancing paid work with work for my acting reel. 

Yes, of course we would all love to be in constant demand for juicy character roles on the stage and voice overs and day player roles in movies and recurring roles in TV, but before that happens, people have to know about you.  You get yourself known by networking.  You network by acting with people and having a great reel. 

Remember actors, just because producers can't always pay you with cash, they can usually figure out another way to hook you up.  Is the project edited by a professional?  If so, ask them to put together your reel for you.  Is the sound mixed by a pro?  If so, as them to put together your VO reel for you.  Does the director work for a big office of some sort?  Ask her about temping by the hour so you can leave for auditions when you have them.  A reel can cost $1,000.00 - so having someone make the reel for you gratis, is a really good thing.  Good survival jobs are hard to find, so a flexible temp job in a friendly environment would be very beneficial.

I hate to use this phrase but.....think outside the box.  Think about what you need and use your free acting work to get it.  Does one of the producers work as  a personal trainer?  Have him give you 5 free sessions.  Who knows?  Just ask.

And by all means, get it in writing (email is fine) that you will get the footage when the project is done.  You can't have a reel without footage?  Am I right, or an I right?  Right?  right!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Actors need to have momentum

A working actor in my class told me that while there is no such thing as a big break, most of his work can be traced back to one original job.  Hmmm, that is a very interesting thought.  You do one job, and the DP likes what you did, or you caught the producers eye and he remembers you for a future project.  I can see how this can be true.  I can actually trace back my securing of a ultra-spacious rent stabilized one bedroom in Astoria Queens to an off-off Broadway production of "Merchant of Venice" in June 2005.  That was 5 years ago, we moved into the aforementioned apartment last year.  I am not shitting you.  I am so not shitting you. 

In June 2005, a mere 2 weeks after I graduated from Union College with a theater degree I saw in Backstage an audition notice for a non-union (but paying) production of Merchant.  Great, I will audition for this I thought.  I went to the audition on Manhattan's lower east side.  It was held in a former middle school turned performance center on Suffolk Street.  It was about 100 degrees outside and around 110 inside the waiting hall, and man oh man there were many many people there to audition.  Merchant boasts many male roles and three EXCELLENT female roles, including the highly coveted role of Portia. 

I came in with my "tennis balls" speech from "Henry V".  I had a callback about a week later, and bombed on the cold read for Graziano.  Either other people previously offered the role of Solanio turned it down, or Tim saw something in me.  I was cast.  I was elated.  From the audition I met an excellent actor, Ben Curns.  Turns out I saw Ben in a play the year before.  I thought he was awesome then, and I still think that today. 

Through Ben, I met his friend Mike Burdick.  Mike is an excellent playwright.  I did a bunch of shows with/for Mike.  Through Ben I also met his girlfriend at the time Synge.  Synge directed me in a show written by Mike.  Then Mike put on a showcase of a few of his plays.  One of the actors was a talented gent named Skid, he is Synge's sister. 

The next year when I helped start up Fire Island Shakespeare company, we ended up firing our director and an actor quit due to this.  We needed a third actor and a director.  We brought in Mike Burdick and Mike recommended Skid.  I saw Skid act, and thought he would be great.  So the cast was myself, Rob Brown and Skid Maher for "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged".  The three of us enjoyed about 50 performances together and the next year we continued the trend with "I Hate Hamlet!"

The next winter, Skid was in a show that an actor dropped out of.  The show was to go up in less than 2 weeks and they needed someone who was a quick read and not a quitter.  That's me.  On that show I met Laura Jo Schuster and Dee Beider, two very talented comedic actresses. 

The next summer I brought in Dee and LJ to act in "I Hate Hamlet".  LJ, Dee and I needed to run lines, and we went to LJ's apartment, which was only 3+ blocks away from where I lived.  I walked in the apartment and totally went apeshit.  I loved the place, I needed to live there.  It was HUGE. 

I hounded the super and  management company with phone calls until a one bedroom came available.  It was a mirror image of LJ's place and just one floor higher.  Our old apartment could fit in the living room of this place.  It was also 200 less than our old place and with laundry in the building. 


I hope that in 5 years, I can post something like this that traces back big money to Tuesday's Onion job. :-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Orson Welles, so so very excellent.

Notice how quickly he leaps into character once he steps away from the makeup station.  It's a really thrilling piece and a fine tutorial on old style stage makeup. 

I was once compared to a young Orson Welles in a review and it made me swell with pride.  It also made me want to buy the reviewer a steak dinner.  I see this video and shed a single tear looking at his greatness. 
So check out this stellar video of Orson Welles at the Dean Martin show.  When it's over take a few moments to soak up what you just saw and then take a few moments to fathom how much those two boozed after the show was done filming. 

Audition for the 39 Steps

I worked on the sides last night in acting class.  Steve asked "How do you think you did?"
"This is a really hard piece." I non-answered. 
"Well I hated it, and I rarely say that, but I truly did hate it.  When is the audition?"
"Tomorrow at ten thirty in the morning."
Steve chuckled "OK you're pretty much fucked."

I went up again later in the night after Steve gave me some pointers and ideas/tips etc.  The class laughed, Steve laughed.  It was a grand ole time. 

The piece requires a Scottish accent and I spent yesterday before class and last night after class and the wee hours of this morning working on said accent.  I used a technique that Steve taught me.  You say a line in your regular voice, repeat it in an accent, repeat it in your regular voice, then back in the accent.  You get the point, here.  You can't have the piece be about the accent, the piece has to be about whatever the lines are, the intentions are etc.  So I did a lot of that.  And I gotta tell ya, the audition went ok.  Not amazingly well.  But I don't think that I bombed either.  I think I saw the CD crack a smile, which is promising.  This theater is based in Sarasota, Florida and they put up about 16 shows a year.  This would be a good group to get in with. 

If I am what they need, then they will cast me.  If not, they won't.  It's as simple and as cold as that.  That is a mantra that all thick skinned actors should repeat over and over again. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SAG AFTRA and AEA: To join or not to join?

Sometimes you don't even have a choice.  Look, I am a union guy.  I believe that actors should earn fair wages.  After all, coming up, we are the most ripped off profession in the world.  Just do a quick google search and you will see "networking seminars" on sale for $500+!  These seminars make outrageous claims like "You will have a huge career jump" or "You will brush shoulders with the who's who of the casting world." 

Lies I tell you, lies!

If these seminars were marketed towards any other profession they would be shut down and the organizers would be incarcerated.  I'm serious.  You can't charge money for an interview!  That is essentially what they are doing, too.  They call is "networking" - bullshit!  It's a friggen interview.  End rant.

The point of the above rant is that, by joining an acting union, you are making a stand for fair wages for fair work.  You are making a stand that employers should not only pay you for the day, but they should allocate a portion of that cost to your pension.  By joining a union you are effectively shoving your middle finger in the face of clip joints like "The Network" and "Actors Connection." 

Monday night, when I was on the phone with The Onion CD's and being offered a role, I was asked if I belonged to AFTRA.  I told them no, I belong to SAG.  They asked me if I was a "must join".  I told them "I don't think so." "If you were a must join, would you join?" 

Of course I would.  This would be the first job landed with my legit agency and I needed to get the ball rolling with them and I'd like to get in good with The Onion, as I love their sense of humor and they seem to bring actors back for repeat work.  What is a "must join?" You ask.  I answer: when an actor does an AFTRA job, he/she has 30 days to do as much AFTRA work as possible, then starting on the 31st day, if you want to work AFTRA jobs again you must join their cause, you must join AFTRA.  It's totally fair and I agree with it.  It also costs $1600.00 - so the good news is that I can now join AFTRA because I forgot that 2-3 years ago a JVC commercial I did was AFTRA.  Check it out here, it's the first clip on my comedic reel.  So unbeknownst to me, as of 31 days after March whatever 2008, I was an AFTRA must join. 

Since I was cast late Monday night, well after AFTRA was closed, The Onion was not able to get a definitive answer and I was unable to give them the correct answer.  That was my bad.  Either way I would have done the job and assured them that I would join AFTRA.  I hope they didn't get too much of a scare when they were notified that they had indeed cast a "must join" actor and was already on set.  Geeze, woe is me. 

So I will join AFTRA this week.  Mrs PhillyRay and I talked about this and she had a funny remark.  "Do you have anymore acting clubs to join or is that it?"  Ha, no worries Dawn, this is it. 

PhillyRay actor and card carrying member of SAG since 2005, AEA since 2009, AFTRA since 2010. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I was a professional actor today.

Well, that was fast.  Yesterday as I was leaving my boxing class, I heard my cell ringing.  It was the casting office for the onion.  What I auditioned for earlier in the day had been pushed up to tomorrow and I was being offered the role.  I took it in a heartbeat of course!

Within an hour I had a finalized script emailed to me in addition to two alternate lines.  I also received my call time, I was to get in a 6:15am van at 14th and Broadway the very next morning.  Mrs. PhillyRay and I went out for a bite to eat to celebrate.

I felt joyous, at peace and relaxed.  It felt totally calm. I felt like I did on my wedding day.  Everything was falling into place, if only for a little bit.  It felt great.  I barely slept at all last night I was so excited.  Today was pure adrenaline and the shooting itself took about 2-3 minutes.  We filmed in Long Island, and it was supposed to be Cleveland.  I arrived around 7am, had breakfast at the truck, went on a van back to holding, filled out 4 identical contracts, had wardrobe check me and sat until it was time to go.  Go-time was around 12 noon. 

I will recap more for everyone tomorrow, as I have to memorize an audition piece that I'm gonna use on Thursday. 

Tomorrow's recap: a must-join AFTRA saga and learning to take a little sour with your sweet. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Callback for The Onion Sports Network

"Are you a Cleveland Browns fan?" asked the Casting Director

"No," I answered "but I am a Mets fan; I can relate."

"Ha" grunted both casting associates.

"Would you like this read with a Cleveland accent?  A hard 'a' perhaps.?" I mused

"Yeah.....we're trying to avoid that." The CD said "Just slate your name."

That's how the callback started today at The Onion's corporate offices in SoHo.  I went there to read for a role called "Clevelander #1" and "Clevelander #2".  The idea was that Cleveland decided to move all of their professional athletes out of town and shut down their beloved and scrappy teams, the Cavaliers, Browns and Indians.

Each time I read they would say "Great!  Now do it like (additional direction)."  This happened a few times.  I like when that happens because it accomplishes two things.  One: they tell you EXACTLY what they want and two: you show them that you are able to take direction.  For those who don't know, a lot of actors can not take direction.  You tell them what to do, and they repeat exactly what they did before.  I can not imagine how frustrating that is. 

The Onion is very funny, loyal readers will know that I read it every day.  Like I have mentioned before, The Onion is launching two television shows at the moment.  Onion Sports Network is slated for Comedy Cental and The Onion News Network will get its air on IFC.  I am really excited about those shows. 

Another thing happened during the call back that got me thinking.  On my initial read, I decided to play an opposite.  The line was inherently sad and depressing, so I played it with a bit of a chuckle.  I arbitrarily made a decision.  I was told to try the line again, without doing the chuckle.  "It looks like you are in on the joke." he told me.  Obviously, I do understand that joke, but I was not indeed, playing it like I was "in on the joke".  Understand the difference?  To me there is a difference, but the CD's perception is the reality, and that is that. 

Actors, have you ever made a decision when auditioning and it was misunderstood?  If so, how did you bounce back?  I didn't argue with the guy or be like "Oh, actually.....I was playing an opposite there."  Ha!  Could you imagine?  Of couse that line would be delivered as snootlily as possible.  I'd be out that door so fast, ha.  I bounced back by following the direction and applying the best technique I possibly could. 

Now, I have to show apartments to hyper privileged people in NYC and I have to work on an audition for Thursday for the "39 Steps".  Fun!!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Acting Class, a breakthrough of sorts. Another Dr Phil video too.

So last night in acting class I had a bit of a breakthrough.  I put up my "Breaking Bad" monologue again, loyal readers will know which one I am talking about here.  It went pretty well, better than last time even.  But Steve told me that he could tell that I was still acting.  He could see the technique being applied and he could tell that I was processing information and putting it to work etc.  Normally this is a good thing, it shows that I am applying my craft, that I am doing my homework so to speak.  For someone at my level, it's not really that good of a thing.  I need to get past that threshold and enter the realm where no one...not even me, knows where I am going next.

Got it?

Think about it for a second, when you talk to your friends you don't know where the conversation will lead or what your reaction will be, your friend's reactions will be etc.  You just talk.  It's so natural, its the most natural.  Ubernatural.  Au Naturale.  It's almost like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix when he finally sees how he can manipulate the system, and he sees nothing but code.  The  breakthrough is equally dramatic.

In many ways I am very close to acting in the matrix, to put it crudely.  We did a simple exercise where I performed my monologue but played with a pen and studied the pen and put all of my focus on the pen.  The trick here, is getting the focus off of yourself.  By doing so, I was completely surprised by where I went vocally and physically.....and I gotta tell ya, I wasn't even thinking about doing those things.  Like the first kiss in a romantic comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr, it just happened. 

But how can I achieve this?  How?  All actors want to get to this level.  The only way is through technique.  Steve tells us that there are only 16 ways to say a line.  You just have to work on those ways.  It's practice.  Do you think that Michael Jordan practiced dribbling and free throws?  You bet your ass he did.  Do you think that Nadal practices his serve?  Damn straight he does.  Do you think that the guy from Bravo's "Flipping Out" practices being sassy and botoxed out of his grill?  Yes, he does.  Without question.

This is a a good thing.  In many ways, I.AM.RIGHT.THERE.  And I also have a lot of work to do, but each time that you practice working on technique, the session time gets shorter and shorter because it's deeper into your bones.

End piece.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Acting is slow this week, so I shift focus

When acting slows down there are two things to do.  One is, you pine and sob that things aren't going your way.  That works, if you consider "working" crying into a glass of Canadian Club.  You are quite tasty Canadian Club, but you are a terrible psychiatrist. Another way is, you focus on other things that will have a positive effect on you, your life, your relationships or your career. 

I have my Wednesday acting class with Beauchamp, that's great.  It's a great place to focus on sharpening my skills and working on other skills that I have yet to acquire. 

I also focus on getting better at boxing.  It's a lot of fun, boxing.  I also enjoy that I can kick a little ass, if need be.  I find that when rehearsing a monologue or a scene and I do something physical, even if it's just walking around the apartment - its really beneficial.  I learn the text faster and for some reason, the time flies by.  I also focus on general exercise.  Like yesterday, I went for a 5+ mile run around 11102.  Surprisingly, I am not sore today and I finished the run in just under an hour.  Hopefully, everything will fall into place.

After all, John Lennon once said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."  That's cool, I can get behind that. 

He also said that he was a walrus.  Goo goo ga joo. 

What about you, loyal reader(s) - What do you do to ease tension and stress when things aren't going how you want them to?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I believe in Dennis Dixon

Not much going on with acting this week aside from me having class tomorrow.  Gut Punch has two projects in post production, so we're just waiting for those to get wrapped up before moving on to the next thing. 

If you've read my bio on this site, you will note that I am a Pittsburgh Steeler fan.  Next Sunday is week one of the NFL season and I am chomping at the bit.  The Steelers ne'er do well QB Ben "You can do whatever you want with it" Roethlisberger is suspended for the first 4 games, and Dennis Dixon has to step in at the helm.  He was the front runner for the Heisman Trophy his Sr year before blowing out his knee mid-season.  Many sportswriters and Oregon Ducks enthusiasts agree, he would have won the award had he not gotten injured. 

Still, he is 0-1 as a starter.  Last year he took on the Baltimore Ravens on the road (a formidable challenge even for Ben Rapelispenis.  He showed flashes of competence here and there, including a boot-leg play that turned into a 30 yd scamper to the end zone.  However, he did also throw a late pick in, yeah.  Although, the late pick was not the straw that broke the camels back.  He had the Steelers up with 2+ minutes left in the game and the Steelers usually stalwart defense gave up a touchdown to the Ravens.  This drive was highlighted by a frustrating 3rd and long conversion by Ray Rice, courtesy of a flagged tackle by James Farrior. 

The Steelers face the Falcons at home, then the Titans away, then the Bucaneers away then the Ravens at  home.  Since the first few games of the season are typically won/lost by defense (as offenses have yet to find their rhythm) I can see the Steelers starting the season 3-1. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Monologue from Acting Class

Here it is with the mischief/charm, confidentiality and R.I.P.D. and game play role play.  It's come a long way I think.  I'm still struggling with moving too quickly on to the next point before I take enough time with a current point/thought/idea/notion.  That'll come around though.  Here it is.  Leave contract negotiations in the comments

Monologue from "Breaking Bad" on AMC from Phillip Chorba on Vimeo.

So that's that. 

Acting class recap and production tonight

Happy 90210 everyone.  I am blogging from the Peach Pit today.  For the past 2 weeks or so I have been growing sideburns in an ode to Dylan.

Something tells me that Luke Perry pulled them off a tad better when he was my age.  But can YOU PULL IT OFF BETTER THAN LUKE PERRY?  Post your pictures in the comments.  The winner get a paisley necktie!  I'm tots serious. 

Anyway.....acting class went well last night.  Really well, in fact.  I feel as if Steve and I have figured out what I have to do.  I have to attack each scene with a sense of mischief, confidentiality and it wouldn't hurt to add in some game-play role-play and vary up my rate, inflection, pitch and dynamic.  I know that I mentioned the mischief revelation a few posts ago, but it came as a huge relief to hear Steve say so as well.  Steve said that if I employ these tactics, I will attain a certain amount of "societal acceptability" with my work.  If I am too big, too broad, too.......cartoonish, I won't get cast.  (Unless the scene specifically calls for that.)  I've only had one part that required me to be cartoonish, and that was for an actual cartoon on - ha.

What do I mean by rate, inflection, pitch and dynamic?  Rate is the speed at which you deliver your lines.  Inflection is what word you choose to highlight.  Pitch means is your voice low like a bass or high like a heavy guitar solo "whaaaaaa!!!!"  Dynamic means the volume, like on a stereo.  Hint: stereos are what people used to listen to their music on before iPods.  Here is a demonstration:
So that's that.

Gut Punch is filming tonight for a new client.  We are still figuring out all the nuts and bolts etc, this will be great.  Filming from 7-12, so it'll be another long night.  Last night I didn't get home till around 1130 and I was out the door at 845am.  Class is back in session now, so I have to get used to peeling and pulling myself out of bed at 8am.  If I put water on the stove to boil for coffee and hop in the shower, it forces me to get going, and I am generally fine.  Besides, it's not like we have kids now, so I could theoretically sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays.

Speaking of Sundays, I am SO GLAD that football has returned.  Nay, ELATED, BEJOYED.  Bejoyed?  I think I just made up a new word.  I'm down with that.  Like loved, beloved.  Joy, bejoyed.

Coming soon: a re-creation of last nights monologue.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Gut Punch Pre-Production: Actors, Directors, Producers all have to roll with the punches

Our initial top location choice looks like it's a big no-no.  The insurance has not come through, heaven forbid something should happen.  There will only be 8 of us or so, but just takes one light to fall on someones head and all of a sudden Arnold Diaz has us on "Shame on you!".  So as a well connected and well oiled comedy production teams are known to do, we fired off a few e-mails to each other and came up with another location.  We are now going to film in the penthouse of an advertising agency.  Supposedly, its all red and white in there, very mod.  This should go pretty well. 

Gut Punch is excited to earn actual money as a creative agency.  Ha.  This is life imitating art, and not the other way around.  I cast three background actors and I suppose I'll offer my services as a grip for the production.  I might even do the VO, this remains to be solidfied.  "Grip" for those of you who don't know are part of the production crew.  They are on the other side of the camera.  They carry things around: sandbags, lights, stands etc.  Hence the term, "grip". 

No auditions this week, but as always I have to perform, so I resumed making video tours with witty commentary for apartment ads on craigslist.  Here is the video:

If you are looking for a 2 bed that can convert to a three bed in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, oh I have a deal for you!