Whoopsie!

So, I missed the February entry entirely. Suffice it to say, I have been rather busy, and taking some time to jot down my thoughts usually was superceded by other things, which you can now read in the treacherously overdue posting that now appears prior to this one. I almost let March get away from me, too. If you can only take Scott in small doses, and have already sated yourself with the February note, come back in a few days - this March entry will still be here!

Something tells me, I should take up the game of golf...again. This used to be a past-time I looked forward to spending with my dad, grandfather and sometimes uncle. I even tried out for the high school golf team one year. While my skill was not competition-level (directly proportional to the amount of time spent practicing, I am sure), I have been told my swing is very good, technically-speaking. Lately, I have been called on several auditions asking me to demonstrate that swing. On the first, I asked to borrow my dad's clubs for the audition. The swing still felt natural, and the movement fluid. My intention was to get to Orlando an hour or so early, so I could get to the driving range, to fine-tune the delivery. The rain...came down...in sheets! It took me over half an hour to get through the I-95/I-295 interchange in Jacksonville, and I still had almost two hours to go (if the highway was dry, that is). Although I wasn't late to the audition, I didn't have time to practice my drive, except outside the country club where the audition was being held. The next golf audition came a couple weeks later. Since this started looking like a trend, I purchased some equipment...not a full set (yet), but enough to get proficient on my own time. A last-minute self-tape audition came in the day I was planning on going out to the range, so again, I planned on arriving at the audition at least an hour beforehand to work on my swing. This time, there was not a cloud in the sky, but a traffic accident in the opposite direction on I-4 affected my lanes of traffic, and again, I went into the audition with a good...but not great swing. The third time, I finally had a chance to get to the driving range. I spent some time just getting back into the swing of things (take that pun, for what it's worth!), then taped my drive and fairway iron shots from various angles. I have to admit, I am quite pleased with where the swing is right now. It felt good to get back on the range. I noticed that, while the distance and direction were consistent throughout the session, my accuracy was off by the same amount on every shot, though you couldn't tell on the video. I had my swing analyzed, and am currently applying corrections to nail that next audition. Thanks, Dad! Also, this month saw our nephew's 2nd birthday. We had a huge bash at a nearby park with a gaggle of other two-year-olds. It was a blast. We explored the hiking trails with the dogs, and enjoyed some fantastic barbecue and cookie-CAKE! Trey was the perfect guest-of-honor, and had a treasure-trove for his daddy to load into the van for the trip home. http://cdn.livestream.com/grid/LSPlayer.swf?channel=orlandoshakes&clip=flv_cec5c315-384f-42b6-9c87-5bc6a9c6978f&autoPlay=false The Friday before Valentine's Day, the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre hosted their First Annual Sonnet-a-Thon: All 154 Sonnets read by actors, volunteers and local celebrities. It was cold and rainy that day, so most of the audience consisted of the participants, but we all had a fantastic time. Occasionally, some walkers-by would stop and take in the action. Too bad it wasn't sunny and warm. Mine was Sonnett 129, from the "Dark Lady" series. The topic was "Lust:" don't read anything into that! The following weekend, Heinz Casting sponsored the Florida Addy Awards at the Orlando Science Center. This was really cool -- I got to work my "interactive theater" chops with some other talented improvisers! We were mad scientists who were trying to start our own "Mad Men"-type advertising agency. We greeted and networked with the attendees, and invited them to our "showcase" at a cocktail reception prior to the awards ceremony. This was a blast, and the night seemed to fly by. Layla and I also had lunch with the Jacksonville Roadster club for the first time in a long time. Their monthly events always seemed to fall on a date when we had something else going on (go figure!). In February, they met at Clark's Fish Camp, a wonderful local seafood establishment, not far from our home -- we couldn't pass this one up. There wasn't a scheduled ride for this event...just some time to relax and chat with each other...though some folks had a scenic trip on the way to Clark's. For us, it was just a couple miles of top-down bliss! Rita Manyette and I teamed up again for a Saint Augustine Alligator Farm commercial. She played my wife and we had two pre-teen "children." These young actors were great. We had a wonderful time taking in the sights...er, um, I mean working. We checked out "Maximo," the 15-foot Saltwater Crocodile, who has a nearly 10-foot vertical leap. No joke -- we thought he was going to eat the camera overhead! Wait until you see the ad. We finished the month with a screening of Daniel's Lot in Altamonte Springs. Everyone who participated on the film was invited to the AMC Theatres there, where we attended a brief church service, got our drink and popcorn, and enjoyed the latest offering from Faith and Power Pictures. It was great to see the whole story of Daniel Carr and the challenges he faced come to life on the big screen. Congratulations, everybody, especially De and Sue Miller. Be proud! Scott J. Smith

www.ScottJSmith.com

Since this February edition of this blog comes in a couple months overdue, you have been awarded with a bonus entry to read this month! After catching up with Scott from the beginning of the year, continue with the March posting that immediately follows! (...and, of course, April is not far behind!)The year started with an open house for friends Vicki Palombo and Michael Elliott, whose house burned down nearly a year ago. From this tragedy, a blessing was born, with the family being able to design the house to perfectly complement their lifestyle, and Photographic Memoriesnow has a full studio and office on location. I am glad to see their home...and business...is back.I n January (remember January? It was REALLY cold...even in Florida!), I started traveling the state more, looking for work. It seems like the advertisers' new fiscal year has begun, and quite a few more commercial projects are in production. This required several trips to South Florida, and it appears in order to break into that market, an actor could really benefit by being bilingual. Eight hours of Spanish lessons are currently loaded on my phone, which is a start. I exercised my acting muscle with an evening workshop taught by Shauna Bartel. This successful actor and coach offers several on-camera workshops for adults and children. During one exercise, where she was illustrating the importance of developing relationships among characters, I was paired with RJ Stallman, whom I just met at an audition earlier that same day, who was now playing my "funny girlfriend." I also learned RJ knew Doug Bows, who worked on the "Civilians on the Battlefield" project with me last fall. Small World, eh?I met television production director Stacy Bick, who was visiting from Rochester, NY. While she was in town catching up with her brother, she also spent some time with various local film and televison professionals, learning about the industry in the North Florida market. Since I missed the First Coast Film Society happy hour, she and I met for lunch at Seven Bridges Restaurant the next day, and had a wonderful conversation that spanned many topics. The Backlight Theatre Group, under the leadership of Devlin Mann, started an actor's lab for stage and film actors, including one with an emphasis on performing Shakespeare's works (BONUS!). The labs are an "actor's playground:" they provide a safe environment where actors can hone techniques, experiment with a piece, and learn from each other's experiences. I have really enjoyed my participation with this group of performers! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljj2XtzPewA] For a while, we had considered selling our current home and moving into the smaller townhouse we still own as rental property in Orange Park. I spent most of the month, performing maintenance and landscaping around the house, including resurfacing a bathtub, painting the office, master bathroom and kitchen nice, marketable, neutral (read "blah") colors. The intention was to continue to the hallway, foyer, living room and master bedroom, but that got put on hold when work opportunities were presented to me. We still live in this house, and our townhouse tenants renewed their lease. I was on "Cloud 9" when I was on set four consecutive days in January. I portrayed a criminal (yes, again) for a Federal agency. One thing about casting actual police officers for an arrest scene: they don't mess around (youch)! I also shot eight scenes over two days for a CSX training film, where I had my second "Small World" encounter this month: New York actress Carly Churchey went to school with Tim Kompanchenko, with whom I have performed, and who also attends Backlight's actors lab. The CSX shoot was a learning experience for me: The eight scenes consisted of four scenarios, each performed "the right way" and "the wrong way." These scripts were very similar, and two scenarios were almost identical. Late in the day, I had a tough time discriminating one script from another. I would hesitate on my responses, because the alternate lines would also apply. I learned that, when you have a situation like this, be even more confident with your memorization of the script than you usually are, and make notes how such scenes differ, to make it easy to "switch gears" when the time comes. Layla's best friend and maid-of-honor Anne Gilkey visited us from Texas while on a business trip, attending seminars and workshops that focus on the benefits of utilizing horses in therapeutic environments. We didn't feel like cooking on her first night in town, so we made our way to Dick's Wings. We didn't know it was Trivia Night, but the "regulars" helped us get situated, and hey, it was free. The three of us made an excellent team, missing only one question: "Name the four years the Buffalo Bills went to the Super Bowl." I forgot they were consecutive. Sorry, Layla and Ann! We were asked by the regulars not to come back. We had to, though, to use the gift certificate we won that night! The month ended with a number of self-tape auditions. Some were completely taped and produced by myself; not the ideal setup, but still works in a pinch. The others were recorded by friends of mine, who also read the scenes with me, and I returned the favor. I was concerned about the "phantom earthquake" that seemed to appear on all self-tape recordings. The background in each audition would appear to shake, as if I was recording on an unstable surface. I have since learned that, when using a tri-pod, one must disable the "EIS," or Electronic Image Stabilization feature of the camera. While this makes handheld shooting appear much more fluid, it over-compensates as it tries to steady any moving object on a tri-pod shot scene. Note to casting directors: You won't see any more of that from me! Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
Really. Looking back, 2009 was very turbulent for many of us. How did you weather the storm?Last year, I shared my intentions for the year. I said I was going to push myself harder as an actor. I attended several workshops, including two led by Miami casting director Lori Wyman, to hone my audition and performance technique, I signed with a couple new agents, and I added my resume to a few premiere online casting directories. As a result, I am seeing an increase in auditions and bookings. I know I cannot rest on my laurels...a fire will only die, unless you continue to add fuel to it, which I plan to do throughout 2010.I also mentioned I was going to obtain at least one new aircraft rating for my commercial pilot's certificate. On this task, I was rather unsuccessful. Since I had to strongly invest in my career without the financial support of a "survival job," the seaplane and glider training has temporarily been postponed. I continue to fly as often as I can, which is not nearly as much as I would like, and look forward to improving my aeronautical aptitude this coming year. The website design business is continuing to bear fruit. One obstacle that was mentioned during a professional consultation at the end of last year, is that my "creative" company name might be impeding progress. I always thought "WebMage" was kind of a cool name, but now is the time to put aside personal preferences in order for the company to grow. If you have any geographically-neutral suggestions (please, no "JACKSONVILLE Web Masters" or the like), please let me know. In the mean-time, feel free to review the website I created for Valiant Aviation Maintenance, a full-service shop found at Saint Augustine / St. John's County Airport. I have noticed that many people actively disengage from social contact (Yes, even we "social butterflies" are guilty of this, too!). We have allowed modern technology to become a proxy for actual human interaction. While email, texting and social networks have facilitated our ability to connect with more people in more places more frequently, it has unfortunately trivialized the notion of real human interaction. No "LOL," "BFF" or "IMHO" can come close to the power of a simple handshake, hug or direct eye contact. Watching people pass each other on the street, most suddenly become fascinated by an inanimate object rather than interact with the approaching human being; we stare at a receipt, rather than look in the eyes of the hospitality associate or cashier who provided a service to us; and eye contact on the road is practically extinct. Shamefully, I have caught myself doing this on occasion, and am currently making an active attempt at correcting this unwelcome behaviour, and hopefully, this will become a growing trend. I certainly hope the world will also consider eliminating the phrase "in these...times" from their lexicon. This term is used excessively to acknowledge the challenging state of the economy, joblessness, foreclosures and the like. Everyone in the world today is well aware of how the current state of the world affects us personally, as well as our community as a whole. Not only is stating "in these...times" redundant, it is reminding people of a condition we are all trying hard to correct. Let's stop reiterating where we are, economically and culturally, and start focusing on how we will improve the world! Last month, I was asked to return to shoot a second commercial for the League of American Voters, a conservative political group whose intent was to sway the vote concerning the National Health Care plan. According to polls, the television campaign made a significant impact in the states where it was shown, but the overall effort "missed it by THAT much!" I hope that there are more opportunities for that character (similar to "PC" from the Mac commercials), that possibly I will be "recalled" again. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB4H4GqnpgM&hl=en_US&fs=1&]I currently appear in a Lifestyle Family Fitness ad. Yes, you read that correctly. Don't laugh. I know it is being shown in North and Central Florida. I am not sure if it is being played in their other markets or not. I also performed as the victim for Murder Mystery Players' Engaged to Die; it was great to finally perform in one of their shows, after having spent ten years directing them. I finished the year as a "human statue" for the Gator Bowl / New Year's Eve party. Thank you, PRI Productions! In addition to furthering my career, I have also been blessed with the prospect of becoming a father later this year. We surprised our families by sharing this announcement on Christmas Day, which required a trip to the Florida Panhandle over the weekend, so we could share the news in person to everyone. Mark Floyd, the photographer who shot our bridal session and wedding, took a few pictures for the occasion. Prints were included with Christmas gifts, letters and cards this year. As they say, the best offense is a good defense. Although our current house was purchased with the intent of sheltering a growing family, we have decided that much of the space, along with typical landscaping and maintenance, are really unnecessary. I am spending some time each week making improvements to the house, which should aid in the sale of the home to help guard us from getting into "dire straits" as many families found themselves last year. ...and speaking of finances... A friend of mine referred me to Abundance Bound: It gears money management concepts towards the life of an actor, artist or any creative professional. If you get the chance, sign up for the free teleconference when offerred. I didn't have time to participate live, but was emailed a link to the archived teleconference, and the 90-minute MP3 is chock-full of very valuable information (Not like other teleconferences out there, which are just sales pitches). Thanks, everyone, who has visited ScottJSmith.com in 2009. We finished December with the second highest number of visitors ever! (Missed the June 2009 count by only three visits!) I hope you find the information of value, and if you have any suggestions how I can improve the layout, design or features, please let me know. I am open to your input. Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
For those of you who do not celebrate the holiday, Merry Christmas to you, too. Please forgive us Christians for sharing peace, love and goodwill with the world. 'Tis but our nature, and though we share this custom year-round, it is especially important we outwardly show our love during this very significant season.
It is rather curious that there is a rigorous debate over how retailers should greet their customers for the "Holidays." As I mentioned at the beginning of this month: Retailers: There would not be a "Black Friday" without Christmas. Thank the customers who keep you in business by saying, "Merry Christmas!" When stores exploit religious and secular holiday icons in advertising, decorations and in-store music, and profit from the sale of related merchandise, it is unacceptable to establish a policy forbidding the utterance of either holiday's name.Fortunately, the debate in my local community seems to have been minimal this year, and probably would be non-existent, except for the various media outlets who reserve a certain amount of column-inches or air-time each year provoking the discussion (and, of course, this blog post, which will no doubt stir up some peripheral chatter). In fact, there seems to be more Christmas-related programming on the radio (or maybe, I am just paying more attention to it this year), which provides for a more diverse range of music than the "Official" Christmas radio stations provide. While I'm glad we have at least one station dedicated to Christmas music 24 hours per day, there are only so many times anybody feels comfortable hearing "Feliz Navidad" and "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer."
So, are you staying motivated? Depending on where you direct the focus, there are plenty of negative reports about employment and the economy that can distract you from your goal of being a success in your specialty. Ignore them! I am amazed at the number of "motivational seminars" that have cropped up recently. While some provide very worthwhile and important information, there are quite a few that seem to prey on the desperate.
I have attended both types recently, and it only affirms what I learned in management courses years ago: the only one who can motivate a person is himself. While speakers can share stories, concepts and strategies for you to leverage your ambition, the drive to reach your goal can only come from within. Nobody can make you want to succeed more than yourself. I was reminded of that while I listened to various speakers.
One such speaker had a lengthy and impressive resume, and "dropped names" frequently. His emphasis was encouraging the audience to say "Yes" often, and take action without thinking. He over-played "the early bird gets the worm" adage to the point people were purchasing a $2,000 DVD course "for only $495" before they realized what hit them. Which brings me to something else I have often heard and strongly believe: "If it's selling for $495...it's worth $495."
The next experience was widely publicized throughout the area, and the "Get Motivated" series tours the United States, so many of you across the country will have an opportunity to attend. This seminar brought in such heavy-hitters as Steve Forbes, Laura Bush, Zig Ziglar, Terry Bradshaw, Rudy Giuliani and Colin Powell. Each speaker shared personal anecdotes that were both entertaining and encouraging to a crowd of thousands.
There were also other speakers, while not celebrities, were also experts in their fields. One spoke of a scientifically-proven system to work the stock market, and even included real-life examples of HUGE returns...though most examples on his PowerPoint demonstration were dated prior to the downturn beginning in 2006. This must-have system was touted to be $3,200 that they were offering for a "mere $99," which prompted me to think, "If it's selling for $99..."
It was also uncomfortable watching Mr. Ziegler speak. If you have not heard of this world-renowned motivational speaker, he suffered an incident in 2007 that affected his mental and physical functioning. Eventually, remembering the outline for his speech that day was too much for him, and the event resorted to a backup video recording of a previous speech he made. I first thought of my relatives who, also in their eighties, have had "good days" and "bad days," but then those thoughts turned to feelings against Zig's family who seems to be sacrificing this man's dignity in exchange for his speaking fee.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pkSAPLZKzM&hl=en_US&fs=1&]
I returned to Camp Blanding for additional training experiences with Allied Container Services and the National Guard. This series of exercises was more compressed. Since most of us worked the October rotation, there was less orientation time, and more practical iterations. This time, I was assigned to a "village," which has different logistics from the "IED Lanes" I was assigned to the previous month. More focus was given to interactions between the soldiers and the key citizens (imam, mayor, sheik, etc.), but with a greater population, the exercise has different challenges.
I also accompanied my wife to the national "Business of Brides" conference presented by the Association of Bridal Consultants, where she learned tips and trends to help her build her own wedding-planning business here on Florida's First Coast. She met face-to-face with various other professionals with whom she has already developed strong relationships via the Internet, and is fiercely motivated to make 2010 a benchmark year for her company.
During the trip, we flew AirTran for the first time in years...not that we have any personal gripes about the company, but our finances and schedule typically steer us towards one of the competitors. While the airline industry is still experiencing hard times (like the rest of us), I found the crew of each flight to be very positive, helpful and cheerful, which made the cramped quarters on the over-booked flights more tolerable.
AirTran also was experimenting with a new boarding procedure at the Jacksonville terminal. Due to the previous flight arriving late, they loaded the aircraft starting with the back rows first, after the business-class passengers were on board. You might remember my suggesting this exact process on September's post. While the flow of passengers onto the aircraft seemed relatively efficient, the overall time savings was rather negligible. I presume it would take collecting data from numerous flights to see whether this technique is a time (and cost) savings. I am just glad there is a company out there that has given consideration to non-traditional boarding methods.
I have received plenty of compliments on my redesign of WedWithEase.com, and as a result, have received referrals from other local companies seeking either a redesign of their current website, or a new online presence entirely. I have been working with April Murdaugh of The Economic Empowerment Center on her site this month. I enjoyed collaborating with her, and bringing her brand's established image from her printed materials onto the Internet. My goal for companies is to provide a consistent message between their website and existing advertising materials.
...and if you haven't heard...
The Alhambra Dinner Theatre has reopened! Renamed the Alhambra Theatre & Dining, new owner Craig Smith has given the facility a fresh new appearance, inside and out, and completely renovated the forty-two year-old performance venue's menu, with the help of renowned chef Matthew Medure. Last month, Alhambra alumni performed in front of a crowd of nearly one-thousand members of the community, who also had an opportunity to sample items from the new menu. The Alhambra Dinner Theatre has been a cultural icon in the Southeast United States, and I am very pleased to see its return!
Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
Are you ready? Are you looking forward to what lies ahead? Are you waiting for something to happen, leaving your success and livelihood in the hands of someone (or everyone else), or are you one of those people who are making plans for your own future?While I have been persistently going through the rigamarole of job hunting in this depressed market, I am also leveraging my own skills and talents to generate a modest cash flow. I have recently completed the redesign of a website for Wed With Ease, a full-service wedding coordinator, and have a half-dozen or so potential clients currently evaluating their website needs. I designed my own website, ScottJSmith.com, and plan to offer the same service to others for a fee affordable to "starving artists." The homestead required some more urgent attention this past month: Our neighbor pointed out to me a pine tree along our property line was leaning at a precarious angle. After evaluating removal options, we learned that the likely cause was a lighting-strike, meaning portions of the trunk were probably hollow, and very little was supporting the weight of the tree, the top of which was directly over our neighbor's back yard. Watching the landscaping team handle the towering pine was nerve-wracking: If it was unlikely the tree could support its own weight, how could it possibly support a 200+ pound technician (plus equipment) climbing to the very top? The best way to handle such concerns is simple: I closed the curtains on the back screen door and listened to a podcast. Out of sight, out of mind. I did peek from time-to-time. I had to make sure the fence was still standing, and a 12-foot trunk section didn't crash through my brand new deck. This same company removed four trees from the property last November, two growing within a couple feet of the house and would nearly scrape the roof on windy days. AAffordable Sonshine State Tree Service is a quick and professional company, and leave the property void of any debris. Last month, the Advent Lutheran Church held its second annual Heritage Day. You might remember my blog entry last November about the "Special Music" video I produced after last year's Heritage Day talent exhibition. This year, more acts participated in a competition, and I was invited to be the master of ceremonies. There were plenty of vocal acts and a martial arts exhibition, and the talent competition was followed by a presentation from the Clay County Community Band Swing Ensemble and Full Orchestra. I also was thrilled to audition for the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre for the first time. Each year, I am either unavailable on the audition date, or unsure whether I would be able to participate in the upcoming season. In fact, for this season's audition this past April, I deferred because my availability for this season also was uncertain. I learned about a fall audition held at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center two days prior to the audition date. While I would have preferred more advance notice (Equity actors received notices a month prior), I fortunately had several monologues, any one of which I could polish by that Saturday. I was not entirely off-book as I had hoped (shame on me). Although a memorized piece was not required for this audition, I perform best when my monologue or scene has been fully rehearsed. I thought the performance I gave was sufficient for a role, though the director side of me would have preferred to see a monologue flow with a bit more fluidity. I shall remain optimistic that I have earned a role in Hamlet and All's Well That Ends Well (to be performed in repertory January through March). During the last half of October, I had the privilege of working with Allied Container Services during their pre-deployment battlefield simulation training for the National Guard. I nearly missed the opportunity, altogether. The casting call was scheduled at 2:00 PM on a Monday. I had offered to carpool with another performer, and by the time we connected and arrived at the casting, although it was scheduled for several more hours, most of the roles were already assigned. For this project, over one hundred actors joined Iraqi nationals to develop realistic scenarios that evaluate the troops' skills and judgment. Each day, we would arrive in wardrobe and don special electronic gear that tracks all participants' movements and vital statistics. Since all weaponry was armed with blank ammunition, these units collected data to determine how many soldiers, insurgents and civilians were injured or killed by snipers, friendly fire or improvised explosive devices. Hollywood special effects crews provided explosions and New York make-up artists applied wounds, blood and burns to victims to make each iteration as true-to-life as possible. Between iterations, the Iraqi role players would share their experiences and teach Arabic phrases to the actors, which made each successive turn more and more authentic. This was an excellent exercise at improvisation and character development, as well as a truly rewarding experience, knowing how my participation contributed to the preparation and safety of our troops overseas. The greatest compliments came from soldiers who have already served at least one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, who confirmed the authenticity of the simulations, and personally thanked our efforts. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qHIE4KkEZ4&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]On my day off from the ACS Villager project, I was cast as a character in a political ad for the League of American Voters. This organization was concerned about content in the current health care bill that has not been widely publicized. Given the accelerated time-line of political advertisements, I had one day with the script, which I read into my voice recorder and listened to during my drive to and from Camp Blanding for the above project, as well as the drive from Jacksonville to Tallahassee for the taping itself. This spot was shot on a green screen set with a Red One camera (an ultra high-definition camera), in the style of the popular "Mac vs. PC" commercials. I met my co-star Jannie Adriano at the studio that morning, we had a couple read-throughs while make-up was being applied, and spent four hours recording about four different scripts. One example is embedded in this blog post. If you do not see it to the right, it can also be seen on the Video page of my website at www.ScottJSmith.com. I will upload the other versions when I obtain copies. Before I close, I wanted to share some very exciting news: Some of you might remember Patch from the Save 2 Lives film I created this past summer. He was the one who only appeared briefly from within his cage. Although he has such a pleasant personality, he has been unbelievably shy when around strangers. Well, over the past several weeks, he has been working with a trainer who specializes in abnormal animal behaviour, and I am thrilled to say that Patch is a new man! Now, he romps around with other dogs and snuggles with his trainer, as if he's been like that his entire life! If you would like to take him home, please contact Mike's Dog House. I also want to congratulate my friends in the cast and crew of KillaCozzy Production's Chiaroscuro, Baby, which premiered this month at the Florida Theatre. You can still catch showings of the film at Five Points Theatre. Also, I would like to share with you a really fun, themed event coming up this month: The St. Augustine Airport Pilots Association is hosting a World War II-style Hangar Dance on Saturday, November 21st. Authentic aircraft and equipment will be on display, and the Clay County Community Swing Band will play old standards for your dancing delight! It's open to the public, but tickets must be purchased in advance: www.SAAPA.org. Everybody have a FANTASTIC Thanksgiving! Scott J. Smith
Last week, the air conditioner broke. Well, it didn't break, but something was causing a puddle underneath the air handler. I make it a regular practice to make sure the drain is clear, but went ahead and checked the pipe as far as I could (even using a plumber's snake), and found no obstructions...at least from the inside. So, I inspected the exterior of my home, and could not find the drain anywhere. After a little digging, it was revealed that the drain was completely covered with dirt! But wait, it gets even better...As I cleared a space for the drain to work properly, I discovered that...get this...a tree root had grown up against the foundation of my home, and pinched the drain line shut! It took over an hour of cutting and drilling to open up the line, while being careful not to puncture the refrigerant tubing, which had also been enveloped by the root. The question comes to mind, "Why was this not discovered during the pre-purchase home inspection, or when the compressor was replaced three years ago?" Of course, now that the drain is working properly, temperatures have been such that the heat pump has been switched off ever since. September was a hot one, though. I am glad there were no hurricanes nor tropical storms to add to the mix. Actually, this year's tropical season was rather mild, for which, I am certain, we can all appreciate. If you missed it, on September 1st, Florida Film professionals attended a town hall meeting with several legislators to discuss the state's film incentive...a program that brought lots of business for many industries in the State of Florida over the past decade, but also a program which has been enhanced by other states, now drawing the same business away from Florida. I had an audition for a home improvement direct buying club, and the president of the company sat in on the auditions. Although I was "familiar" with the product, I wasn't prepared to discuss his service in much detail. After-the-fact, I noticed most of what we talked about can be found on his company's website. Usually, I do a much better job of knowing about the product or service. Murphy's Law is still upheld: "When you don't prepare..." There were several chances throughout the month for me to redeem myself, as there were auditions for an Orlando attraction, a couple major motion pictures, as well as a general audition for this year's film students at Florida State College. I took extra care to know as much detail about each project while also learning the scene, including searching for a period costume piece for one, and felt much more confident before and after each audition. Although we completed shooting my character John Grable for Daniel's Lot, I was called upon a couple times to stand-in for Father Mahoney. Interesting concept: Since some of the scenes were shot in Connecticut, and it would be financially prohibitive for a low-budget independent production to transport the entire cast between locations, we used stand-in/doubles at each location, and backdrops were duplicated for a consistent look from scene to scene. Football season has started, and my beloved Jacksonville Jaguars got off to a slow start. Well, when you put it into perspective, they lost to 2008's AFC Southern Division Champions by only two points, and the NFC Conference Champions with the aid from a referee error. Fortunately, a serious team showed up ready to play in Houston this past weekend, which (I think) has brought back confidence in some fans. Half-way through the month, I found myself pulling double-duty: I had scheduled a taping of First Coast Journal with Goldie from Mike's Dog House (the animal rescue I made the short film Save 2 Lives about over the summer), and was also cast in a PGA Tour Charities commercial for the same day. Fortunately, my wife is also involved with Mike's Dog House and volunteered to participate in the Comcast Local Access program, while I fed her information for the interview via text message between takes from the PGA Tour green screen set. As I "Tweet"ed a couple weeks ago, "With all the trips I make to Orlando for auditions, the one time I'm in Orlando for personal reasons, I get an audition in Jacksonville!" I was accompanying my wife to the Orlando launch of a new business for which she is a provider, when I learned that an independent film was seeking Jacksonville talent. I had hoped to audition prior to the trip, but due to their busy pre-production schedule, that was not possible. I found myself driving back to North Florida while the conference was ongoing, and returning to bring Layla home that night (I think I can do I-95/I-4 with my eyes closed now!). Qivana is described as "a practical health regimen created with world-class natural products." It is a pro-biotic supplement, composed of no synthetic substances, but natural roots and herbs used for centuries in Eastern countries where good health and longevity are the norm. Layla is very excited about this new business opportunity. Qivana has chosen to distribute through a network marketing program, and is backed by a Dream Team of executives and scientists. As with anything that is new, we were cautiously optimistic about this product, but after only a few months of taking this regimen with no other changes in diet or activity, my diabetic wife has reduced her dependence on insulin by almost 20%, and her A1C dropped from 6.6 to 6.1 for that same period (may be "gobblety-gook" for most of you, but other diabetics know that is huge!). I also took some time to update my website. I noticed that the pages with the highest traffic were the Videos page and the Blog page. Rather than requiring visitors to "click through" to their destination, I decided to place my demo reel and blog on my home page for quick access, and moved the image slide-show to the About Me page. Although the Social Networks page still exists, it is no longer in the main navigation, and is replaced by icons that appear alongside my most recent "Tweet" at the top of each page. This is work that I can also offer to other artists, small businesses and non-profits from YourWebMage.com. I finished the month with a wonderful learning experience: Casting directors Richard Futch (Army Wives) and Kathy Laughlin (Independent Casting) welcomed a couple hundred Florida actors during a forum hosted by the Florida Theatrical Association. The first half of the evening was an open question-and-answer session, followed by cold-read auditions, with feedback provided by this fantastic duo. I almost didn't make it. Looking back on it, this has all the makings of a sit-com plot (...and if you use it, be sure to give me creative credit!). At the time, I wasn't laughing, as it made me late...something you never want to do when meeting a casting director. It started early that morning: I was concerned that my car had been running a little rough, so I took it to the dealership, and advised them that if they could not complete the work by 5:00 PM, not to start, as I was leaving for Orlando no later than 5:00 PM. As I arrived that evening, my car was not ready, even though I called the dealership several times during the day, and was reassured each time I had nothing to worry about. My service adviser apologized profusely, and offered a complimentary rental car. Given no alternative, I accepted; however, the rental agency is not on-site, so I had to wait for a ride to the location a couple miles away, and, of course, the process of renting a car is never expedient. As the associate prepared my rental car for departure, he just then noticed the air conditioner didn't work, and insisted he process a different one. At this point, I was already twenty-five minutes behind my personal schedule, and I declined the offer. After all, the temperature had dropped below eighty degrees by this time, and there was no higher temperature forecast over the next twenty-four hours. Not five miles down the road, the on-ramp to I-95 was backed up. Although this was rush hour, the traffic was considerably worse than expected. Twenty minutes and one mile later, I discovered the problem was a building had become detached from the trailer upon which it was perched, blocking two lanes of the five-lane highway. I had plenty of time to consider turning back home, but since the last meet-and-greet with Craig and Lisa Fincannon was so good, I did not want to pass up an opportunity to meet other casting directors in this setting. Forty-five minutes late departing Jacksonville in no way can be made up before Orlando. I had only planned to be early by about twenty minutes, so I could stop by an ATM or grocery store to get "cash back" for the cash-only event. When I finally arrived at my destination, I had to drive four miles, and visit three banks, before I could find a drive-through (or even walk-up) ATM. At last, as I arrived at the venue (about a half-hour late...made up "some" time), I was so distracted by the impression I was about to make walking in, exacerbatedby the fact that the entrance into the room had me walk directly in front of the speakers, that I had forgotten to turn off the ringer to my cell phone. Murphy's Law strikes again...I received a call! Despite all the heartache of the trip, I learned a great deal, and had some very valuable face time with both Richard and Kathy. I certainly hope the tardy faux pas doesn't come back to haunt me. Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
August started on a cheerful, personal note. My cousin got married in Pittsburgh's Heinz Chapel, a stunning work of architecture! I am glad the family had another chance to gather (from all corners of the country), since Grandma's funeral in June. We arranged our flight from Jacksonville to Columbus to spend some time with Grandpa and drive him to Pittsburgh, if he was physically able to travel. The day before the wedding, he opted out of what would have been a long, uncomfortable drive, which made the brief time with him prior to the wedding that much more precious.
While I enjoy traveling, the trip was an unbelievably miserable experience. We hadn't left Jacksonville when I tried to resolve some conflicting information between an in-terminal announcement and a flight status text message I received. Rather than calmly explaining the situation, the gate agent decided to address the impatient crowd by saying, "Evidently someone wasn't paying attention!" Really? We're insubordinate grade-school students, now?...and we pay for this level service?
When the aircraft arrived, travelers were advised to board the aircraft as quickly as possible, which ultimately only made everybody angrier...200 people can only load their luggage in the overhead bins so fast. Of course, in seventy years, the airlines haven't figured out if you load the back of the plane FIRST...then nobody trips over anybody. Say what you will about European carrier RyanAir -- it is marvelous how they will load the plane using fore AND aft aircraft doors. Talk about efficiency!
During this circus, a gentleman in the row behind me kindly offered a suggestion regarding an ill-fitting case. The flight attendant snapped, "You wanna get out here and do this, you're more than welcome." She was completely unaware (or didn't care) that we paid as much for our tickets as the people she might have been nice to at the beginning of her shift, and if she couldn't handle the stress of the career, there are plenty of unemployed people who are more than willing to perform her duties with smiles on their faces! At least the planes all have a fresh coat of paint, so they're spending their money in the right place...right?
Upon my return to Jacksonville, I had plenty of work to do. On Tuesday, my wife and I attended the Florida Motion Picture and Television Association's Jacksonville Chapter meeting to hear producer Kent Lindsey speak on "The Eight Secrets to Becoming a Professional Actor." It could easily have been retitled "The Eight Secrets to Becoming a Professional" -- the same tips that make actors successful are required in any professional position in any industry. Actors should take extra care exercising these guidelines.
Wednesday, Champ and I completed editing the Save 2 Lives documentary. On Thursday, I auditioned in Tampa for a Beef O'Brady's commercial, and Friday, I had two auditions, a film shoot, and I delivered the final version of Save 2 Lives to the Jacksonville Landing for the upcoming premiere. Friday's first audition was for a new energy drink. From there, I went to WJXT Channel 4 to audition for a spot promoting the 10 O'Clock News, which was shot the following week. Be on the lookout for it in the next week or so.
As I settled in at home, the first email I read had to do with a scene that was being shot that night in Mount Dora. I went through other emails (and my spam folder) to see if I missed any previous notices. I tried calling to verify, and could not reach anyone. I had just enough time to drive the two hours to the set. My main concern was that maybe the information was incorrect (a typographical error, perhaps?), and the long drive could be in vain.
The weather was not cooperative, and traffic along I-95 was at a standstill. I attempted more calls to various contacts on the set, to no avail. When I arrived, I was quickly advised that my role was re-cast, because I was a "no show" at the initial read-through. The director had forgotten that the read-through fell on the same night as my flight up north, but fortunately, I was asked to stay, and my "replacement" was offered a different role, so I could perform the character I had prepared.
The movie is called Daniel's Lot. It is the story about a man who faces many challenges, and decides to take a "leap of faith" with a piece of property he owns, which not only enriches his life, but the lives of the people in his home town. It has a Field of Dreams meets Fireproof feel to it. The story is quite original and compelling, and has an appearance by Gary Burghoff of M*A*S*H fame. I returned to shoot a couple additional scenes later in the month.
Sunday's premiere of Save 2 Lives was fantastic! Hundreds of people filled the Jacksonville Landing courtyard, and children and dogs played in the fountain while the band played. The Jacksonville Landing awarded many prizes during the event, some of which were donated directly to Mike's Dog House. It was great to see the film on the big screen, and we received plenty of positive feedback. Save 2 Lives will be uploaded to YouTube shortly. To see the film, follow the production's Twitter account or fan the Facebook page to learn when the film can be viewed online.
The weekend saw a quick out-and-back trip to the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Earlier this year, Layla and I learned about a new supergroup called Chickenfoot. When we heard Joe Satriani was joining forces with Van Halen's Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Chad Smith, we knew this was the start of something good. The concert itself was more of a jam session than overly-planned cookie-cutter performance. The quartet looked very relaxed, and couldn't be more happy doing what they do best. It was a wonderful night.
The return trip Sunday afternoon gave us just enough time to pick up our dogs, thank our friend who cared for them over the weekend, and take them to the Jacksonville Suns' "Bark-in-the-Park" baseball game. The weather couldn't be more perfect, there was plenty of food and drink on hand for the people and dogs, and Rufus and Domino got to "run the bases" after the Suns' loss to the Chattanooga Lookouts.
I finished the month with one more audition -- this one was for the CW television series One Tree Hill. I felt very confident with my level of performance, and hope to hear some good news very soon. I have two more auditions this week: One is for an internal video to be used by a home improvement club, and the other is for a motion picture to be filmed in Atlanta. I am glad to be given these opportunities to audition -- now I need to do "whatever it takes" to convert more of these auditions into actual work!
Sadly, this past month lost two prominent figures in local theatre: Edward Kramer passed away suddenly at the age of 33 on August 19th. He was one-of-a-kind and loved by many. I have had the privilege of performing with him, directing him, and calling him "friend."
Also, I was shocked to learn the Alhambra Dinner Theatreis the latest casualty of the global economic crisis. I have enjoyed attending their shows for over twenty years, and I am disheartened I will never have the opportunity to perform there myself. "Hats off" to all the actors, singers and dancers who performed in their quality productions over past 41 years. Thank you, Tod Booth, for entertaining thousands on the First Coast. Bravo! *Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
* - As I was writing this entry, I came across a news report that an investor might just save the Alhambra Dinner Theatre, update the menu offerings, and improve the facility. The shows at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre have always been first-rate, but there have been complaints about the decor and cuisine. Bringing in a renowned chef to update the buffet is a win for the community!
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