Prelude to a Big Break

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Posts Tagged ‘audition

Notes from a Well-Fed-Artist.

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Getting a job is important. Revelatory, I know. Nevertheless, feel free to indulge my analytical riff. Like any type of analysis, there’s the practical side and the (I’m not sure exactly what to call it which is why I’m going to spill 800 words on it) side. Practical first:

Talk about putting the button on a great year. Saturday night I was toasting 2010 (almost post-script, which is odd since there’s a month left) with at the Kings game. Most of our chatter centered around pilot season (due late January – late March) and how we were going to approach it. There was also a lively exchange on the merits of chili. (We’re both in favour.) On the subject of professional accomplishment, we were both reflecting on a progressive year. Rob wrapped a second season of his television show and a sequel to a very popular prequel — dig it. I moved to the American market, became a resident and notched a few jobs to go with an overgrown pile of moral victories. Cool beans. December was supposed to fall somewhere between preparatory and reflective. Now I’m preparing for the most intensive on-camera action of my career that doesn’t involve a boatload of sand. (Quick aside: Don’t think for a second that I wasn’t snapping photographs throughout my Spartacus screen-test. When I can share them without jeopardizing my ability to make a living… well, that’ll be neat.) December did an about face and I couldn’t be happier.

When you get a job, you make money. I welcome the opportunity to make money because all that’s missing from California’s preliminary tax structure for actors who generate revenue in chunks is Governor Schwarzenegger beating the shit out of you right when you examine what’s left of your pay cheque. (Most of it is retrievable with a good accountant… but still. Money > No Money.)

I’ve flirted with the network I’m going to work for — aggressively — throughout the year. I’m glad we’re finally doing some business together, so to speak. (I’ll stop being dickishly vague about what show I’m doing once filming begins. That’ll be soon.)

Now for the non-practical side: This blog still exists for a variety of reasons, but it began for one: I wanted to chart the journey of a professional actor. Why? Because I wanted to prove that the career arc has the same sort of connective tissue that binds all professional endeavours. The way we measure success for artists (finance-centric) is ridiculous. I can handle that, because what other people think of your career is usually just a reflection of their own professional insecurities. But the characterization that acting is a barren field followed by a transformative star-making “break” or a switch to some sort of grown-up job — with no middle ground — steps past being ridiculous and becomes something I can’t tolerate: irresponsible.

Two weeks ago I had the privilege to speak at Branksome Hall in Toronto. The audience: A film studies class and a Drama class comprised of 40 young women. (Talk about nerves… this guy was terrified.) I was given just shy of an hour to take them through a practical approach to professional acting and then we had a fun Q & A session littered with thoughtful questions. (At some point, I’ll try and reprint two of them and the reasoning behind my answers. The first was a question about why Canadian television doesn’t resonate with, you know, Canadians (!) the same way American shows do. And the second was a really interesting query on whether or not the private persona of an actor can effect the way people interpret their public persona. Fascinating stuff to consider.) The former part of the class was the first time that I’d ever really vocalized the chronology of my first six years in the business. The narrative made one thing abundantly clear: Everything matters. I got this job because I was super-prepared for three other auditions on the same show that I wasn’t totally right for. When it came time for them to make another decision, my work resonated. I believed in these principles before, but now… I have proof. The same strategy that primes a promotion in your office will secure you a three-episode arc on a hit tv-show. These are the facts.

(And to Branksome: Thank you for the gift. It’s keeping me hydrated at 35,000 feet… right now!)


Couple of things before I wrap this up: November was the busiest month in the site’s history: 6,691 hits. Thank you to everyone who visited.

(Here’s where you stop reading if a Toronto-centric rant isn’t for you.)

Toronto: Get over yourself. Apparently there’s a new policy at the “hip” restaurants in the city where you can only sit for two hours at a time. I mean… (hang on, I’m getting mad) TO, you’re a lovely city. Really, you are. So stop doing things that make me think you’re an asshole. Sitting down for a 3.5 hour dinner is one of the ways a city generates culture. Limiting the dine-time for patrons paying (WAY TOO MUCH) money to begin with doesn’t make your restaurant cooler. It makes you narrow-minded and greedy; not to mention the fact it wreaks of posturing. Let people sit and eat and then let them sit and talk. And while we’re here… When did a pint of beer start costing $8? When did taxi’s kick off at $4.25 before you’ve even rolled an inch? When did the subway start costing $3 a ticket? Seriously… when did that last thing happen? I want to like the city I grew up in. Stop making it difficult.

The following transmission was written closer to space than sea-level. Wi-Fi on flights!!! Feels like the future.


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December 1, 2010 at 10:05 am

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The “” (which could also be referred to as, “The Most Rewarding Six Weeks of My Professional Life.”) has given way to something new. It’s the dream role. My goal, for today, is to become a serious contender; I’m in that room 70 minutes from now. Yes!!

Written by Stephen Amell

November 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm

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11 Days!

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Hello friends. Late last night I had an email exchange with my friend Christian. (That’s Christian, for short, and Christian Lander: Author of , and , for long. Did you enjoy that name drop as much as me? I’m considering perusing his Wikipedia page for more tidbits.) Christian told me that he’s been keeping track of my blog, but protested over the amount of “vaguery.” (Great word.) To this I say: Sorry. I can’t share as much as I’d like for fear that I’d jeopardize my standing with this project. So, to disspel some of the vaguery…

I auditioned for a show as part of a worldwide search. These searches are something that I participated in often while I was in Toronto; always seemed like a far-fetched idea that wouldn’t lead anywhere meaningful. My perspective has now shifted. The first audition was October 7th. I did my homework… and THEN SOME. Great audition. My manager gave me notice later that day they liked me. Six days later my agent called me with news that I was a “serious contender.” In the beginning, this was my goal. I even wrote as much. (The 5th thing, in “5 Things.”) Seven days ago my agent & manager delivered the news that I would be screen testing for this show on another continent. The screen test was contingent on a “work-session” with the shows creator. That work-session was this morning. Man! Did it ever feel f*cking great! Now we wait for more news.

This is multi-purpose platform I’ve got here. Part cathartic, part ego, part exhibition, part practice… It’s original inception was to give aspiring actors a window into the industry from somebody with a modicum of success. In that spirit, I’ll share a story from the work-session today: Auditioning for someone who created the material you’re reciting is a special, special treat. You don’t need to speculate as to what a certain line means, you can just ask them. They know. For our session this morning there were 3 scenes. After my initial reading, he had notes. So I grabbed my audition sides and wrote each of them down as he dictated. I studied them. I asked follow-up questions. When what he meant was perfectly clear to me, then, and only then, did I proceed. On the surface this seems logical, so lets dig deeper. Casting directors, directors, producers and creators want you to be successful. If you’re what they’re looking for, they don’t need to look any further. This seems logical too. Lets dig deeper. You have to know (can’t believe I’m saying this…) in your heart that people genuinely want to help you succeed. So before you worry about memorizing the lines or how you’re going to stand, there must be a moment of emotional commitment. I will put my best foot forward, this effort will be recognized and coached towards its zenith. This commitment is paramount because failing is so goddamn easy. All that failure needs is a person frightened of realizing their potential. Trying takes guts. So let other people help you. And when they do… listen to them. Don’t rush. Don’t nervously mutter “yeah” after everything they say. Listen. Take your time. Leave the room without any regrets.

Today was the most nerve-wracking, pressure-packed audition of my life. It was also my best.

Written by Stephen Amell

October 26, 2010 at 2:06 pm

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Hello Blog Readers. By any irrational measurement, I had a horrible day. Nonetheless, I remain happy and enthused. Allow me to explain.

For starters, LA looks like your dentists office looked through your 6-year-old eyes when it’s gloomy. It’s been gloomy since Sunday. Bah. As noted in my post yesterday, I’m in day two of my conversion to inappropriately healthy eating. Hungry. Did Bikram Yoga this morning at 7 am. 65 minutes into the class a 5’8 hipster with too many tattoos farted loudly; this was, without question, the mental and emotional summit of my Thursday. (He even said “sorry” whilst the toot was still mid-echo. Steve was illicitly happy.) At 11 am I had my first work session for the thingie that begat this countdown. A “work session”, to the best of my understanding, is sort of an informal audition where the casting director preps you. In this instance, the casting director was readying me for another work-session with an Executive Producer that will precede the screen test. It was technical and helpful and exhilarating and discouraging and utterly necessary.  Next time I do one of these I’m going to bring a family member with me so I can hug them and eat cookies afterwards. Of course, my worst fears (namely that the casting director would think I’m a fraud and persuade the shows producers to cross me off the screen test list) were soothed through a series of (very) complimentary emails between their office and my teams offices. Still, I felt like I was going to do a poop right in my jeans for most of the afternoon. Now, I also mentioned that I had an audition yesterday afternoon. It went swimmingly. My manager even went so far as to say he liked the look of things. (This is slightly out of character. Normally he plays his cards pretty close to the proverbial vest until there’s news.) Didn’t get it. I could tell you that I was the first choice of casting (which I was) and that the casting office seemed somewhere between confused and flabbergasted that I wasn’t approved (they were), but you don’t want to hear that. And I’m not going to write it. Seriously… whatever. Them the breaks and I can take it. Hollywood is a numbers game and I’m winning. What’s funny is that my manager told me this right as I realized my housekeys were lost. Neato.

Up for Yoga at 6 am. Worth it. / Guy tooted. Terrific. / Work session tore me apart. Nothing can faze me now. / Almost job. / No job. Next one. / Lost my keys. Picked up my spare copy from friends. / 16 days, 15 on the east coast and 14 where I’m going. Exciting!

(This post was dictated to Louis The Dog while I ate my dinner.)


Written by Stephen Amell

October 21, 2010 at 8:32 pm

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I always keep it on the ready.

Written by Stephen Amell

October 6, 2010 at 4:08 pm

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LA reacted remarkably to my first few days off in a couple of weeks. Overcast skies (perfect). Smattering of rain (doubly perfect). The Great Tom Brady on Monday Night Football (handsome and perfect). Even my sinuses, which lay dormant for the vast majority of my 29 years, acted up and gave me an excuse to do absolutely nothing. Seriously. Outside of walking my dog and grocery shopping I haven’t done a thing. Didn’t even shower. Probably smell like Vince Wilfork’s jock-strap right now. And… I’m done relaxing. Just got the biggest audition of my life. It’s 44 hours away and I’ve got a shit ton of work to do.

Written by Stephen Amell

October 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

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From “Miami” to “LA” this Fall on CBS.

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Good morning. What a fun stretch of activity. I’m going to chronicle it for posterity.

When my Visa was approved and, as a result, I started auditioning for episodic television, my manager told me to be patient. His reasoning (in PG-13 language): Casting directors have a little more autonomy when they’re auditioning actors for guest star roles. That means they want to be more familiar with you before really being in your corner. Guest starring is a specific skill set, you’re going to need to earn their trust. So… do good work, and by the 3rd time you audition for a show, we’ll start expecting to get booked.

That was early June. Now that I can see a small piece of the endgame, I’ve come to realize what prescient advice it was. Before September 10th, it gave off a faint whiff of poop. The three month stretch of episodic-craziness had so many near-misses, that I was dangerously close to Buffalo-Bill-fan-after-four-straight-Super-Bowl-losses-level frustrated. Second choice for a really smart A&E show; screen testing for a regular on an NBC show that should run 7-9 years and put me in the market for a time-share on a jet; final choice for a CW show that was then offered to a “name” actor. Callbacks on everything. Enough generous feedback to build a metaphorical castle. The way my team was talking to me, you’d think I was destroying the town. It didn’t seem like they could be any happier.

Quick Aside: Can’t even get a callback in Canada. Special. I’m not angry… I just don’t have a lot of faith in the Canadian industry operating as a meritocracy. Seems more like a sheltered, overly politicized segment of the industry that repeatedly cuts off its nose to spite its face. This isn’t specific to me not being able to get a job. It’s an overall commentary that’s reflected both in the prevailing opinion of its citizens (“Oh… It’s Canadian television…”) and the penetration of our product throughout the rest of the world. Moreover, it does seem counterintuitive (or at least, less likely) for me to have more success south of the border than north. It’d be amazing if I was wrong, but I’m not. Do you know why that’s a shame? Because Canadian’s are really, really talented. At a certain point, the companies that shape our industry should realize it. End Quick Aside.

September 7th: My phone buzzed that afternoon at the beginning of a 90 minute walk with Louis The Dog. I glanced quickly and realized that I had two auditions the next day. In both cases, it was the third time I’d be seen for those shows. So… do good work, and by the 3rd time you audition for a show, we’ll start expecting to get booked.

September 8th: The first audition will remain nameless, the second was for CSI: Miami. After a sterling audition for (the show that will not be named because I still want to work on it…) I trudged into the valley for number two. Went great. There wasn’t any time to reflect, or look ahead, because my agency had sent me two more auditions for the next day.

September 9th: Sometime between my first and second audition I got an email from my agency telling me not to shave or cut my hair. Enroute to my second audition I got a call from my manager’s office imploring me not to shave or cut my hair. As it turned out, the requests were from two different casting offices and I was being put on hold for both shows. Well… You’ve never seen a white guy in a Smart Car sing / rap along to a Kid Cudi song with more enthusiasm than this fella. It was somethin’.

September 10th: Both offers came in. CSI: Miami was the obvious choice for approximately 6 reasons. Wow. Had dinner that night with my friend Trina and her husband Ross. They were visiting from Toronto and it was the second time I had seen them that day. The first? I ran past their hotel at 8:15 in the morning, sweating profusely with hives all over my body because I was so bloody nervous. Meanwhile, they’re freshly showered, holding a coffee and waiting for a cab. I looked a little like Sloth from the Goonies. What are you going to do?

September 17th: Can’t write more about this until November 8th. It airs November 7th. 9pm on CBS. While on set I got an audition for NCIS: LA that looked tasty.

September 21st:

There’s an audition this week that I should book. All the factors that are out of my control (age, look and likeness to other members of the show) are still – totally – out of my control. So, maybe the first sentence is foolish. Then again, the fountain tipped over. I’ve gone to work, I’m still working and it’s time to take this thing to the next level.

There’s an audition this week that I should book.

September 22nd: Wrapped on CSI: Miami. For both shows, the vast majority of my work was on the first day. Came home later and self-taped for a project that I’ll post on the blog soon.

September 23rd: My manager called. If your manager calls you solo, that’s nice. If your agent calls you solo, that’s nice too. If your manager calls you and then says, “I’m conferencing in your agent”, something exceptional is about to happen. It was my third time in for NCIS: LA. Never in my life have I been happier with an audition. They hired me. I’m infatuated with how simple that sounds. And I wore my Blue Jays hat. And some guy from Philadelphia stumbled up to me and muttered, Yes, it was a wonderful, wonderful night.

September 24th: You think you’ve seen happy people before? I’ve seen a group of actors and executives sitting on a show with 16,000,000 viewers, and 58 episodes until everyone looks at a syndication cheque larger than the GNP of Kenya. That was the vibe at the table read. I’m just reporting the facts.

September 28th & 30th: Great fun! I’m 99% positive that my episode will be airing on November 9th. 10 pm on CBS.

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And here we are. My hope was that there’d be a quick reset, a reality check, so to speak. It’s already happened. Had a screen test last Thursday morning that didn’t go as well as I thought. Whoops. I did a little ad-libbing in the audition because the script that I read was different from the audition material we were given. More importantly, the script was a later draft, so I surmised that they weren’t totally married to the dialogue. Well, the writer was in the room. Double Whoops. This past Friday, I got caught up running errands and forgot (seriously… I forgot!!!) to eat dinner before a friends 30th birthday. Hello, alcohol poisoning. Two days later, the inside of my mouth feels like I tried to swallow helmet and I had to skip a USC football game with tickets on the 50 yard line because I was curled up on my couch like a sissy. On the plus side, I sort of have a moustache. Now, it’s October! Woke up this morning to the sound of rain. After a week-long heat wave it was go-time for Louis The Dog. We hit Runyon with a certain type of ferocity. It’s back to the grind, as they say. Couldn’t be happier.

Written by Stephen Amell

October 4, 2010 at 9:02 am

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Written by Stephen Amell

September 29, 2010 at 10:59 am

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My alarm clock went off at 5:30 this morning. It was the theme from Top Gun, which is lovely. From 6-7, I walked my dog, Lou. Lou needs to be walked from 6-7 because it’s what the kids are calling “stupid hot” in Southern California. From 7-8 I prepared for two auditions that I have today. Both projects are interesting and I would like to book both projects. In the case of my first audition, I believe that I should book the role if I execute properly for the casting director. At 10, I have a fitting on the Paramount lot. The first audition is at 12 and the second audition is at 3… in The Valley. Wearing jeans today will not be pleasant, but I have to wear jeans. When I arrive home at (approximately) 4:15, I’m going attempt a run in and around the streets of Hollywood. As a result, I will be watching the Monday Night Football game on a slight delay. The Bears are my pick for reasons that I can’t really explain. Tomorrow is the most important shooting day that I’ve ever had as an actor, so I’m going to sleep early. My energy today is bankrolled by coffee that’s almost the consistency of tomato soup and a six-inch Meatball sub that I saved from yesterday. Happy Monday.

Written by Stephen Amell

September 27, 2010 at 7:22 am

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Thanks to Johnny Keltz for his superb reading skills. (Can’t pop the tape online yet.)

Here’s a self-tape for a role I didn’t get. (Mind the language…)

Written by Stephen Amell

September 22, 2010 at 9:49 pm

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