Sunday, July 20, 2014

Let the water hold me up (How Did I Get Here? Act Two)

So I got my SAG card in 2003 and then what?  Before I had "accepted" the stand-in gig (read, opened the door Opportunity knocked on and walked through), I had also "accepted" a small role at the local theatre company, which rehearsed things "workshop style," which meant, until The Board gave it a "green light" for a short run, it was just a project to keep everyone's acting chops honed.  The Board said "go," and we were slated to perform around Thanksgiving/Christmas (I have long since forgotten our actual run dates).  This meant at least one full week of tech rehearsals nightly, where everyone needed to BE THERE no later than 7 p.m.  Which meant that I needed to make arrangements with my "real job," which was standing-in on "24."

Remember what I said about 2nd ADs having very little power but wielding what little they had?  I was given permission to be "taillights to the wind" by 6 p.m. any evening I worked, to make it across "The Valley" from Encino to Studio City by my theatre call time, for tech week as well as any performances.  I handed out flyers trying to get folks to come see the show.  I was still bright green.

Got through our entire run, and then "24" broke for Christmas hiatus.  When the show started up again in January, everyone went back to work.  Everyone except me.  I kept NOT getting called to stand-in.  The 2nd AD had decided that I was "unreliable" (despite the fact that the play was now closed and there was nothing left for me to commit to but "24") and essentially fired me.  Not that Central Casting received any kind of notice to that effect.  She didn't want to burn that bridge with them or me, just in case her career may founder, and mine may surpass hers.  She knew how the business works.  Don't fire someone or even ever treat that person remotely badly (she didn't, I promise you).  Just don't ever ask for that person back.  So one of my friends in the background spied out the situation for me and let my green become just a little more "earthy" - I was finished on "24."  The stand-in/PA who had trained me was picking up the slack by wearing a wig.  The only real loss to "24" was that they no longer had a photo-double, which meant they'd have to shoot Elisha's inserts using ELISHA.  Oh, well.

So I found work as a Personal Assistant (still didn't know how to book Production Assistant gigs, nor did I understand the joys of Background Acting), and started looking for principal acting work again.  Only now, I was in the Union, and I was prohibited from working for low-paying, non-union gigs.

But a casting call for a non-union low-budget horror flick crossed my path, and I was perfect for the lead role, and I let the producers know it, and I booked an audition.  They scheduled me to read for a minor part, but as luck would have it, one or both of the actors who were scheduled to read before and/or after me were no-shows, so I got to really "wow" 'em... and then I reduced my SAG status to "Financial Core" so that I could star in a non-union production... and then I learned that I could make a living doing union background work.  What a delicious, delightful mess!

So with a Financial Core status, I went back to Central with dues payment receipts and started working as a union background actor.  And I worked enough to get SAG health insurance, and keep it for three years!  Hello, healthcare!  And no longer "green" about the industry, although there was still plenty to learn.

Then there was the Writers' Strike... and the Directors Guild got the contract they wanted right away... and SAG held out for something better... for a year.  In the year that SAG should have either accepted the contract offered or gone on strike, production either shut down, or switched contracts to AFTRA (the "video" union, considered at the time to be "okay" but not as "legit" as SAG).  I'd been booking the show "Mad Men" on a regular basis (check out the first three seasons and look for the secretary that looks an awful lot like Marilyn Monroe - that's ME!), and they had an agreement to shoot no matter what; if SAG called a strike or came to an agreement in the contract, "Mad Men" was allowed to continue shooting at the previous rates.  But after "Mad Men," where was all the work?  Over at AFTRA...

So I joined AFTRA, and even though there was still sufficient work, my time was now split between two unions, which meant I was going to lose my health insurance.  Not the biggest of deals, being healthy, but it was the harbinger of change...
Letting the days go by...

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