Prelude to a Big Break

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Posts Tagged ‘pilot season

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.


Written by Stephen Amell

December 1, 2010 at 10:05 am

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Things are humming along in Hollywood.  Canadian Project tentative test deal / US Project Work Session / Same day audition / Subsequent Producer Session / Producer Session inspired by Work Session / Coaching somewhere in there.

Both producer sessions are lining up nicely for a test.  I’ve still got to make it happen, but these are warm leads, as they say.  The first one – in 90 minutes – was in my hands for two hours prior to my audition last night.  Read the script, found a lane, got my licks in.  I love Pilot Season.

The most important part of this equation is, undoubtedly, the 9 hours of sleep I got last night.  I still look like Ed Norton in Fight Club… whatever, I don’t care.  High times.

Written by Stephen Amell

March 3, 2010 at 10:05 am

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Screen test results. (Sort of.) — Update!

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Not dead yet.  Not even close.

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Interesting day today.  For starters, there is a glitch with the Pilot that I tested for Wednesday.  ”Glitch” is a polite way of saying huge f*cking problem.

Going into details would be redundant and potentially damaging.  In lieu, I’ll say that I did a great job and I know there are people who want me to get the job.  The aforementioned problem has nothing to do with the actors.  It’s an executive thing that is effecting every actor for every role they tested.  Thus, I’m assuming that it’s over until I’m told otherwise.

I suppose this is the bad news.

The good news has a higher word count.

Auditioned this afternoon for another pilot and smoked it.  There was an ease and confidence before I walked into the room.  Some combination of repetition, subsequent comfort and the “test experience” had me feeling spry.  Fully expect a producer session next week.

The second section of good news relates to how I digested my bad news.
My reaction: “Okay.  Sure thing.  Next one.”

Finally, I got internet installed and a kitchen table from Target for $22.99 today.  If you don’t think this is a big deal, I think you’re an asshole.

Control what you can control.  In the case of the Pilot, that list looks like this:

  1. Pre-read: (Excellent.)
  2. Producer session: (Excellent.)
  3. Screen test: (Great / professional.)

Once the discussion centers around the executive structure as it relates to the show, I’m off in the wilderness.  You have to make this distinction; otherwise you’re no different than the retarded dog who barks at waves in Venice Beach.

Second full week here.  Second great week here.

EDIT: Very nice person named Shada did a “digital painting” of my headshot and sent it to me.  

Written by Stephen Amell

February 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm

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How the hell is everybody? Good? Good. I’m great.

It’s been a lovely, welcoming transition to life as a resident of Hollywood; since I don’t know where to begin, I wont begin anywhere.

My hood: I’m three blocks east and two blocks north of the most touristy intersection in Hollywood. And yet, I live in a quiet, unassuming building that feels like some combination of a dorm and an ashram. The that I popped up here last week wasn’t that far off the mark. My local watering hole couldn’t possibly be better. My first night there I got into a long conversation with Jim, the bartender, about Maple Leaf Gardens (!) while enjoying $3 pints (!!) and listening to the as deemed by The Great Hank Moody (!!!).

“Thanks for the conversation Jim.”
“Welcome to the neighborhood Steve.”

As a tribute to Hank Moody I just threw a little Warren Zevon on. Watch me go.

No TV / TV like you’ve never seen it before: Once I get a kitchen table and my couch is delivered (on eBay from Culver City at a whopping price of $140 that includes delivery and two side tables) I will be done decorating for the time being. That means no TV. It’s an exciting advantage, that plays out like this: It’s Pilot Season and I have auditions flying at me from every conceivable direction. Scripts need to read, lines need to be learned and every audition deserves as much attention as is humanly possible. Something about realizing that any of these jobs could fundamentally change your life keeps you motivated. Not getting a television is sort of like putting blinders on a horse. What choice do I have but to do all my work? It’s awesome. That’s the philosophical.

The practical: I’ve decorated my apartment for less than most people pay for a dresser. Frugal doesn’t even begin to cover it; maniacal’s better. And yet, I can’t go cheaply on a television. Impossible. When I book a show I’ll get proper televisions.

(Yes, plural. I’m going to put three televisions in my living room. A 52′ in the center and two 32′s on each side. That way I can watch three sporting contests at once. It’s a man-cave in my living room. I’m going to do it and I don’t care what anybody thinks… Unless you think it’s sensational.)

Screen testing: I’m testing tomorrow for a pilot. When I wrote yesterday that there are four levels to most auditions during Pilot Season I bungled the order. It actually goes like this:

  1. Pre-read with casting director.
  2. Producer session.
  3. Contract negotiations / Pilot Deal.
  4. Screen test.

The Producer session yesterday was super interesting. I’m not going to get into particulars about it or give away any details to do with the Pilot. I’ll just say that it’s an amazing opportunity and I’m ready. Feels nice.

Pictures through the day. And GOOD music below.

Believe me: No celebrities stay here.

Sun tan lotion for scalp = Necessary.

Written by Stephen Amell

February 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm

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EDIT: Booked a screen test for this Wednesday!

Heading up to Burbank in an hour or so for my first “producer session” of pilot season. Pilot season auditions – and auditions in general – have four levels:

1. Pre-read with casting director.
2. Producer session.
3. Screen test.
4. Offer.

Sometimes you will start with #2, and every once and a while you jump from #1 to #3. I’m expecting a couple of producer sessions this week. If those go like my pre-reads went, then I should start testing.

Meanwhile, it is so beautiful here today that I thought I might snap some photos. Stay tuned.

Sent from my iPhone.

Seriously considering getting a table.


The idea of Arnold walking into this studio as “Mr. Freeze” gives me great joy.

Written by Stephen Amell

February 15, 2010 at 10:09 am

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What a week!! (Wait a minute. What’s that? It’s only Wednesday?)

Had two great auditions today, one of which yielded an immediate callback. My apartment has a bed, Season 3 of “Mad Men”, coffee and scripts. It’s perfect.

I’d say more but I’m trying to eat chicken wings before I fall asleep.

Sent from my iPhone.

Written by Stephen Amell

February 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm

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Had an audition today for a comedy where I couldn’t find the funny.  This is peculiar because I love comedy and I think I’m an acute miner of it’s treasures.  Not this time.

When I first taped for this part (in Toronto), I was unaware it was a half-hour, single camera comedy.  The scene – to me alone – read like a drama.  For that reason, I couldn’t view it through any other prism.

There are three interesting things to consider:

  1. Labeling something one way and then not finding a way to be flexible is an excellent argument against stereotyping based on appearance.  (Just saying.)
  2. My audition was excellent from an acting standpoint and poor from a genre standpoint.  I know this because…
  3. THE CASTING DIRECTOR TOLD ME!  Right after we finished the audition he told me exactly what I did right, “You’ve got chops young man.”, and exactly what I did wrong, “You need to do a better job of understanding exactly what you’re reading for.”

That was a laser like assessment.  My counter – that I accidentally got stuck in the “drama lane” and couldn’t switch back – is irrelevant.  Which is why I listened to everything he said.  This casting director, a big casting director, will see me again.  He’ll cast me, eventually.

There was value in today.

Written by Stephen Amell

February 8, 2010 at 5:41 pm

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Written by Stephen Amell

February 5, 2010 at 6:23 pm

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