Sunday, October 23, 2011

My First Gig

     I got my first gig this week. Let me say that again... I got my first PAID gig this week. Let's do it a third time. I got my first PAID GIG IN NEW YORK THIS WEEK. There... That feels great. Soooo much better. It's not that I'm really trying to brag here. It just feels like a tremendous weight has fallen off of my shoulders. Not many people understand that if you're an actor/actress living here in New York, you have to "prove yourself". You have to show people that you've "made it". You're a "success". Really this whole ordeal just validates you moving here in the first place. It tells you, "It's ok. You made the right choice to come here and chase a dream..." For me especially this rings true with my parents. You see, just booking this thing was a sign from the heavens to my parents that I should not have moved back to Texas. I am great right here where I am in the Big Apple. It also validates the two years I've spent auditioning so far with little success to agents, casting directors, etc. I have a "credit". I also find it especially funny that I got this thing in a field I have little experience in nor would I have ever guessed that I would be cast in: Print Advertising.
     I got the gig through this online talent agency I use called The Agency Online: What you do is pay a small monthly fee, and you get access to different castings, build a profile, etc. Sometimes they even submit for jobs they think you'd be appropriate for. To be honest, I'd been with them for about a year and a half with no success. I was ready to cancel my membership to save a few bucks that could go towards rent... Or beer. I got an email saying that I was submitted for a print ad for All-State Insurance. "Ok...," I thought. I'm not usually considered print material, but I figured I could go in for the audition. "What the Hell? Right?"
     The day of the audition, I was terribly sick. I had spent a week of late night drinking, improv shows, and just running myself ragged at work with gym time in-between. I had a singing audition that got out early, and made it over to the photo studio in Chelsea. It seems that the entire audition consisted of five photos. The client wanted you to be cheering at a football game, and the photographer would snap away in mid-action. I must have looked terrible, but then he called, "Action!" Something came to life in me, and I was screaming and yelling like a maniac. I didn't even think for a second I would get the job. Who casts a guy like me in print ads? Now some may say, "Andrew, you're racially ambiguous! People are always looking for you!" That's not always true... It's a reality/fantasy thing in terms of casting, but that's a whole other post. Honestly it just feels like a numbers game, but on that day I guess I hit the jackpot.
The "Heroes"
     I got an email a few days later saying I was on hold to be "The Hero Talent" with the celebrity talent Dean Winters. You know him... He's the current All-State spokesman, and he played the awesome Ryan O'Reilly on that HBO show OZ. A day later I got the confirmation. I had booked the job! I think I was in total shock the entire time... It was print advertising! I never get the job! I'm never the "hero"! Yet here I was... Wardrobe called me with details, I was given a call sheet with the time of the shoot, and yet as a cynical New Yorker, I still could not believe my luck. Here I was the "Hero Talent". I and three others would be in the primary shots with Dean, and we'd get paid a lot more. Score!
    The day of the shoot, I made my way to an empty garage/studio in Chelsea for our shoot. I was nervous as Hell. "Don't fuck this up, Fafoutakis!" There was catering, hair & make-up, and a full set. This was legit! I noticed one of the older extras I had seen in a few agent meet-up classes. We approached each other and introduced ourselves. He was one of those types of actors just scrambling and clawing for any crumb of recognition. You know the kind that tells you his resume before he says his name. He was the one in those classes that asks the question during the Q & A portion, "Why am I not getting work!?" He looked me over with a look of disappointment that I was here.

Jaded Extra: "Oh, are you an extra?"
Me: "No, I'm the 'Hero Talent'... I get paid more..."
Jaded Extra: "Oh... Well you know they were talking about promoting me to the "Hero" group too."
Me: "Great..."

I decided then and there not to let this guy get me down. I would have a great day with this, and nobody was going to take this from me or let the air out of my sails. We soon were put in football fan gear for the first half of the shoot. We did a big group scene in the stands cheering with Dean in the middle causing mayhem as the spokesman, Mayhem. I nearly lost my shit when I saw Dean enter for hair and make-up. I've been a big fan of his ever since I saw Oz, so to have him in the same room made this day so special and real. We took our shots in the stands with re-arranging various people in the stands. I was terrified of being cut out of the shot, but they moved me prominently in the stands close to Dean near the end of the shoot. It was finally time for the "Heroes" shot. We were taking the picture in the car with me, Dean, and Michael up in the front. Michael was supposed to be driving with Dean disrupting our trip. I was in the passenger seat supposed to look scared that we would crash. Dean was a total gentleman and very funny on-set. The car could be uncomfortable at times, but he handled it like a pro. He took the time to get to know Mike and me, even though he had to put Mike in a headlock for a few shots. It was probably the most fun job I've ever had.
On-set for All-State
     Afterwards, Mike and I went for frozen drinks at Dallas BBQ and talked shop. It was a terrific experience, and I could not be more grateful to everyone involved. I hope to have more days like that one. Short hours of work, being paid great money, catering, and frozen margaritas afterwards. It terrifies me that: "What if this is the only thing I'll ever do in my career?" Will I make it? Will I get another break? Who knows... What you have to tell yourself is to keep hustling, keep reaching, and keep striving for the great things you want to do. You have to tell yourself that you left some things behind to create a bright future. You wanted to start a new life in a new city, a new adventure. This adventure... This city...This whole thing was totally worth it. Thank you, The Agency. Thank you, All-State. Thank you, New York.

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