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Thursday, February 08, 2007

the triumphant return to normalcy

Ah life...with all its ups and downs, somehow the balance of the universe levels me out. After spending much of 2006 freelancing, I decided to make a change in 2007. And its tough too, going from Arrested Development, pilot to pilot, then to a series, and finally acrewing about 5 months worth of unemployment in 2006. Now, for those of you outside the business, do not fear. I am not a hobo, and unemployment merely bridges the gap for people like me who hop from show to show. And really, I can blame you...cause if you all watched less reality TV and more scripted comedy, I might work more. But nooooo, you all want your beauties and your geeks, your projects that take place on runways, your worlds that Ellis-Bunim calls 'real.'

Well, all that just changed. I made a major leap here people. And I don't want to spend this whole post talking about me, but for christ sake- its been a while, I deserve it!

A few weeks back I applied to work as an assistant to a very prominent writer/producer here in Hollywoodland. As it so happens, there were already a lot of nice natural mutual connections between us, so that made our initial meeting that much easier and comfortable. Friday night of last week rolled around, and I was elated to get a call from him offering me a job.

Now, I won't bore you with the contract end of this desk, but let me just say that my days of freelancing are over, at least for a year or 2. And that gives me so much peace, I can't even begin to explain it. Sure, I did move here to act, but I learned, as any of you would if you came here with that intention, that most low level actors in this town suck. And not suck at acting, but suck at life.

They all think they know everything, they claim they know more on set than the people actually making the show. They're shallow, self centered, and for all intensive purposes, worthless. So, suffice it to say, it was a major turn off for me, spending the last year doing extra work, mindlessly making crosses through the background of shows like The Ghost Whisperer, Shark, The O.C., Crossing Jordan, Brothers and Sisters, Til Death, The Dead Zone, Rules of Engagement, etc. None of it matters, and virtually none of it was all that noteworthy. Now, that's not me being a self loathing actor, rather that's me realizing that I can't sit there and keep up appearnces with someone I loathe.

See, doing extra work is a unique trade. First of all, there's no background check when you become an extra. In fact, its one of the #1 reccomended jobs for ex-cons to rehabilitate them with society. Secondly, extra work is for extras, NOT ACTORS. I happen to be the latter, and I know there's the whole 'paying your dues' thing...but I've been here for 2 and a half years. Sure, all my dues aren't paid yet, but I'm not gonna work for minimum wage getting cattle prodded around a set until they decide they don't need me after all. Many people who do extra work (or backround performing as the pompus ones call it), are there for life. Its no better than someone being a secretary for 40 years and never climbing the ladder. What's the point?

Now, I got my SAG vouchers from doing it, that is one plus. But that's about it. And if you really want to know the truth, I got my vouchers because I knew enough people behind the camera to ask for a few favors, and get them asap. In fact, I had them before I did the majority of the extra work I've done. Seems crazy right? Where does one go from there? Between the astronomical price of joining SAG, and then what little work comes after it for someone who looks like me (again, not bashing myself, but I get cast as 3 things mainly: bodyguard, football player, cop...so really the same thing 3 times over.). And yeah, that may seem like I am down in the dumps...quite the contrary. I am a good looking guy. If I got off my ass and did something every now and again, I'd be a damn good looking guy. But I am NOT a pretty boy. And that seems to be all they want. So again, I wondered...what's the point.

Well, the point I realized, was really just to get me to where I am now. I have a real passion for writing. Much more so than I did years ago, and much stronger than I do for acting right now. That's not to say I'll never act again, after all my master plan is to write a show I can cast myself in. We'll see how that goes (it will, and you can all come stay at my version of Skywalker Ranch, tentatively dubbed ScottTowler Ranch...yeah, that didn't take much), but I am fine with it.

Cause its like this...I love acting. Fucking love it. I lived for it at one point. That was the same period in my life when I said 'those who can ACT, those who can't TEACH." That is the biggest load of shit ever, and I backhandedly disrespected a lot of people by saying that. To them, I am sorry. But remember when I was in high school and I had that band- we were huge. Played on the radio, sked to open for G Love and Special Sauce, all that shit. I mean, as far as small town musical dreams go...I lived them all. I'm convinced that's where the success came from, simply enjoying it and not actually persuing it for what it is in the real world, as was doing with acting.

Call it long term ADD, but after doing music for 6 years, I had basically fulfilled every goal I had set for myself: have fun, make friends, write music. That was it. The success, money, and notariety came organically because I was having a good time doing it.

Flash forward to college, where acting was the only reason I graduated. In 4 short years at Denison, I managed to do 10 some odd plays, 4 films, and a brief period of the theatre community there knowing exactly who I was, and what I was capable of. That lead to my first professional work, a production of Burn This, the play by Lanford Wilson. Sure, we opened and closed the same weekend...but since that day in June of 2004, I haven't done a play, haven't set foot on a stage, haven't even auditioned to do so. So what the fuck would I be doing in Hollywood for all that time if not that?

Well, its just me replacing music from high school with what acting was in college. I had a ball, I did some great work, and I look back on it with fondness. I know that's not the end of the line, just like music hasn't left me, but its time to take this writing thing for what its worth, and shelve this acting thing for a bit, persue my new passion of writing, and watch acting manifest the same way music did in years past.

Its 2007, I've got a new job, I feel happy, and for once, I think my ulcer is shrinking.

"Things change Octavia...life is water, not stone."
Attia, from the HBO series ROME

2 comments:

Josh said...

Keep fighting the good fight Scott. This place is a jungle but also is a mecca for entertainment and I believe that is where you belong. Whatever its medium and how it changes for you, keep at it and keep writing. I enjoy stopping in here to see where you are and the parallels of perils that steer you in certain directions.

Scott Allen said...

Talk about synchronicity!

I wrote a post today entitled "Triumphant Normalcy" about my remembrance of 9/11. When I was thinking about how I remembered those events, that was the phrase that immediately popped into my head.

Just out of curiosity, I just Googled the phrase "triumphant normalcy", and guess what came up as the #2 result? :-)

And then...
- My name's Scott, too, and throughout my life, people have used "Great Scott" as a nickname.
- I also have "long-term ADD" and have often referred to it as that.
- I too have a real passion for writing, that I just discovered in the past few years. And I HATED to write in school - never would have guessed I'd become a professional writer.
- I too have recently gone through the dilemma of freelancing (since 2002) vs. full-time work.
- I too am writing music again for the first time in years... and loving it.

I know it's an old post, and some of these things aren't current, but still, I had to at least leave a comment. :-)