Friday, February 22, 2013


As far as being a working actor, my best year in years was August 2012.

The truth is, the lion’s share of the work I did actually spanned over two summer months and I wrote about … none of it.

Part of the reason for that was that my on-set experiences were unremarkable as far as the theme of this Blog; you've heard it all before, folks. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy myself; I did. And there are things to write about, so I offer them up in this year-in-review kind of post.

Three of my working days were as Background on the set of Mr. D. It was a pleasure to watch the different cast members at work, doing their scenes, riffing off lines and moments. I spent a single day on set last year where filming took place at the new Citadel High School in Halifax. This year, the school was recreated in an improvised soundstage inside the ice shed of one of the local curling rinks. This was pretty cool. I spent a few days as a teacher – reading in the staff room, going for a coffee, walking down the halls. All of this was unremarkable stuff. The sets were cool and the crew was great and it was fun to watch the actors create. Beyond that it was a lot of sitting around. So I didn’t write it up.

But three days BG on a project, the SAME project, that’s a new personal best!

The month also included an evening shoot for an industrial video. I played a business man coming in a store to buy lottery tickets, seemingly a little desperate for a win (TYPECAST!). The video was part of a series being filmed for the Nova Scotia Gaming Commission to help retailers do their bit to prevent gambling addiction. We shot it in a store downtown, just off the pedway that connects into the casino (little irony there). There was a concert going on that night and a few groups of people wandered by on their way to it. I was doing my bit int he store and overheard someone comment "looks like they’re doing some sort of James Bond thing."

Instant highlight of the night.

I knew the director from ALL THOSE YEARS AGO "when I was Dale Throbbins on “Liography”. "

When I was younger, I wanted to grow up and be a DJ. Ah, the dreams of youth! See, I never really had the voice or the talent, I guess. But I have done some professional voice work, although there's been none of that for a long time. This year, this magic summer, I got TWO voice-over sessions. One was a PSA for the National Day of Mourning. The other was a few lines in a radio spot for Bell. Each of them only took a few minutes to record and for whatever reason, I was paid double scale for the second spot. Lots of fun. In fact, I auditioned for several different spots at two different production houses and I don’t think I went on an audition that I didn’t enjoy … once I actually got into the room (... wait for it).

Another part of why I didn’t get to writing this stuff up is Facebook. There is a group of us actors that hang out and collectively, they are a bigger audience than anyone else out there that will read my blog. So they know all this stuff already. And they’ve had fun with it, especially my tales of accidentally awkward auditions.

Tales. More than one.

The Day of Mourning audition was, I think, the first audition of the summer season. I was happy to go; since I became a Dad it’s been difficult to make myself available so who knows exactly how many months/years had gone by since I was last at this studio. When I was called to go in, I remembered the booth was farther in the back. So I didn’t go through that door on the left where I could see the mixing board, I carried on farther down the hall and went through the door at the end leading me to ... an empty space. Oh, and another door in the back. I reached for that knob and I heard the first door close behind me. With a dreadful kind of certainty I knew even before I tried them that both doors would be locked.


You know, when you go on an audition, there's already a certain amount of nerves that comes into play. You have a jangly level of nervousness from wanting to do well and make a good impression. When your first impression is locking yourself in a closet? This in no way will reduce your feelings of anxiety. You are listening to the voice of experience.

I tapped meekly on the first door I came through. “Uh… help?”

“Happens all the time,” the engineer told me as he let me out of the closet.

“Happens all the time,” posted a member from my Facebook group.

Neither assertion made me feel any less silly. But you know what? I won the audition. Pure logic leads me to conclude that I attributed the win role to locking myself in the closet. (That logic's called Post hoc, ergo propter hoc for those of you playing at home.)

Assorted other smartypantses have said it due to me coming OUT of the closet.

Whatever the reason, now it's weeks later and I'm on an audition at Filmworks, a casting agency that's recently moved locations. They’re on the third floor in an older building in the heart of downtown. If you’re standing directly in front of their office door, there’s a men's room on your right. Now, follow along closely:

I went into the men's room first and washed my hands.

Came back outside, closed the bathroom door behind me.

Reached to my right and opened the outward-swinging Filmworks office door.

Stepped over the threshold and reached behind me to close that door.

Never heard or saw the guy who came up behind me.

When I blindly reached for it, it wasn’t the doorknob I grabbed. In fact, even in the shock of the moment, I’m pretty sure I said out loud, “Hey, THAT’S not the doorknob…”

I sat in a waiting chair and did my best to ignore I’d just grabbed a guy by his junk.

Oh, did I say I was reading for the part of a minister?

Yeah. I won that role too.

(Months afterward, someone suggested I be invited as a guest speaker for a local workshop on audition techniques. I'm reasonably certain the suggestion was made in fun.)

I had a fantastic day on set. It was a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie called “Christmas With Holly”. It was interesting and amusing how I became some sort of minor sex symbol, dressed like a priest. I really should have saved the costume.

I hung out with some people I knew. They were background performers there to play wedding guests (dressed up and looking FINE) and I was an ACTOR and so we teased and kidded each other about this not-so invisible dividing line. Occasionally I got to chat breezily with the director. I spent some hilarious moments in the front pew improvising a different priest character for Tracy, the script supervisor. She immediately figured that he should get his own movie, this priest I was doing. Back at work, my REAL job, I started to refer to him as "Father Dick".

When we got around to shooting, the director set up a shot to feature me and my big move as we all react to the suspicion that the GROOM HAS FINALLY ARRIVED! It resulted in the most specific kind of acting I’ve done so far, not in terms of acting really, more technical in terms of timing, camera tracking and tilting, marks to hit and body position. Oh, and also act. About a second of it showed up in the final cut.

I really didn’t have much more to do than the wedding guests. I felt a little guilty about that since I was there getting paid and credited as an actor and they were getting paid as background. Yes, but in spite of my guilt, I finished the day pleased, happy with how I did, the people I’d met and spent time with, the fun we’d all had. It took the whole day to shoot the scene. The director shot coverage from everywhere. And I do remember being curious about the result; how would all this film he shot look in the final edit?

So that was my year. There were a few other projects that came my way and some I missed out on. One was for “Haven” which has somehow now completed its third season without me in it (I’m looking at YOU Haven, for next year! And Fitz!). I spent a day as background on a new series called “Seed” where I was on set as a doctor whose eye was caught by an incredibly sexy girl leaving the waiting room. It was my acting choice to be startled and briefly ogle her as she went by, thank you, it's a practiced skill. As a background performer though, in my room over there, I worked very hard at trying not to notice her while in Holding.

Summer ended and so did work as an actor. On the personal front, I was looking forward to a vacation I’d planned with my son; we were going to go to Arizona. About a month before we were to leave, an invitation appeared in my inbox from the producers of “Christmas With Holly”. They sent one to all of their cast and crew to attend the premiere of movie. The date for the premiere was to be THE DAY BEFORE Ian and I arrived in Arizona.

The premiere screening was to happen in Hollywood. I may not be a smart man, but I know where Hollywood is and when you live in Halifax, Hollywood's not too far from Arizona. We changed our vacation plans a little to leave a few days earlier and flew to L.A. instead of Phoenix.

On the day we drove up to the studio lot at 20th Century Fox. A security guard and a elegant looking woman in an evening gown cleared us to go through the gate. We enjoyed drinks and snacks at the reception under the Hallmark banner, admired the Emmys and Academy Awards on display, walked over to the Daryl Zanuck Theater and inspected another array of Oscars, met some lovely women in our row (including Tracy and her friend Sharon), came back to the reception for dinner and drinks. Mingled and chatted. One young woman came up to me to ask if she could take a picture of me with her mom. "Sure!" I said, all the while thinking how completely ridiculous that was, a picture with me? Ridiculous! And then immediately wondering, "Is there anyone else who wants to take a picture with me?" (Ridiculous!)

A lot of really fun things happened last year. I got to work on a lot (for me) of projects with a lot of cool people. I got to write my first cheque to my new agent.

But it’s going to be hard to top the coolest thing of all: taking my son to 20th Century Fox Studios in Century City, California for his dad’s very first (and probably only) movie premiere.

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