Happy Summer to you all! I hope you are staying cool and dry (or trying to, anyway).
The production of Save 2 Lives has received most of my attention this past month. When so many talented professionals offered their services, I knew this could not be treated as a hobby video any more. The day of the shoot, I was blessed with actors who were prompt and patient, as many scenes required only one or two at a time. The dogs were quite cooperative, considering there were over a dozen strangers on their property, and the weather could not be more pleasant (for a Florida July, that is).
We started with the interior shots so that our David Doerr could capture the required audio all at once and head to another gig. Most of the exterior shots would eventually be used with voiceover and music, so the sound for that video was not as vital. We interviewed Mike Vermette and Goldie Barrett, the sole operators of Mike's Dog House, about their unique mission to care for pit bulls that are turned out by other shelters, constantly advocating for the breed and responsible adopting practices.
We also shot two faux adoption interviews with Johnny Mac, Savannah LeNoble, Lauren Evans, and John Jewell and his family Vadie, Noah and Josh. Vadie and their other son Shawn recorded the soundtrack for Save 2 Lives at Motes Art Recording Studio. All the performers also handled the dogs at various locations on or near Mike's Dog House property for the needed footage used in this twelve-minute documentary. Some of these actors also provided voice-over recordings for the short film, in addition to Layla D. Smith, Rita Manyette, Rahman Johnson, Dave Anthony, Aaron Tucker, and Linda Bevilacqua, our narrator for the story.
Since then, Champ Kaufmann of Atlantic Video Productions and I have been piecing the work together on the editing station at his studio. As each element was added, trimmed and adjusted, the movie slowly started to take shape. Late in the process, I noticed two items that needed re-recording: a voiceover where I made a grammatical error in the script, and two music segments that needed to be longer. In both instances, the artists were very gracious to offer the additional time to make the short film the best it could possibly be.
As of right now, the video is nearly complete. Some transitions between scenes need to be smoothed, the 3-D animation is rendering as I type this, and Oscar Rabeiro of cre8ive pixel : design should have the title logo to me tomorrow. As the film is getting very close to completion, I began searching for venues to present this work. The conversations I had during my search reaffirmed my faith in humanity -- I received several positive responses from contacts who were very willing to help with the project in any way possible.
Blakely Ainsworth at the Jacksonville Landing worked to incorporate the showing of our film into the other entertainment options she already have planned for their "Yappy Hour" pet-friendly social event on Sunday, August 16th. From 4:00 to 7:00 PM, guests can visit the retail, restaurant and entertainment complex with their dogs for a pet expo, games, prizes, drink specials, and at 5:00 PM, the premiere of Save 2 Lives ! The progress of all the work related to the documentary has been regularly updated on the movie's Facebook and Twitter streams. Feel free to "Fan" and "Follow" them, and we'll see you at the Landing in a couple weeks!
I met with the new director of the Murder Mystery Players in Jacksonville, David Patton, and shared with him information about talent familiar with MMP's shows and products. We discussed directing styles, the acting community in Northeast Florida in general, and marketing opportunities and strategies. We loaded the costumes, scripts and other materials into his truck, and he has scheduled an open audition for new talent for this coming weekend, so I would say the transition is fully complete. I did offer to return as a performer after he's had a chance to direct a couple shows on his own, so we shall see.
Also during this time, I have been actively seeking employment, like the 970,079 others in the State of Florida. I fortunately have some savings "set aside for a rainy day," and the summer of 2009 qualifies figuratively and literally. This has allowed me to develop and market my "product" (myself) to talent agents throughout Florida and Georgia. I have since signed with The Diamond Agency and Azureé Talent Agency and have had my first audition as a result of these relationships. It was just this past week, so you'll have to wait a month, or "Follow" me on Twitterto find out if I got the job. I did feel very positive about my performance...a good first impression!I did work on the set of Criss Cross, a re-make of the 1949 film starring Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo. There, I met Marc Macaulay, Keith Hudson, Miranda Kahn, director Andy Hurst, and John Schneider of Smallville and The Dukes of Hazzard (the original, y'all) fame. My scene was one day, but what a day, working in a garage with several Ferraris and Maseratis as a backdrop! Although the paycheck after taxes covered not much more than the fuel to get me there and back, it did give me an opportunity to network with local talent...oh yeah, and I got to act, too!
Recently, Microsoft Windows Live, the resource that hosts www.ScottJSmith.com, added an "Embed Video" module to their website maintenance console. While most video hosting sites provide the HTML code to insert on any web page, this was a feature to enhance their offerings, and make embedding video somewhat easier. The module also promoted "SoapBox," the video sharing site on MSN Video. After uploading my content to that site (it used to be on Putfile.com...remember them?) and updating my Video Demo page, I get a notice from Microsoft stating they're discontinuing the SoapBox service.
I had three options at this point: Go with the commercially successful (and Google-backed) YouTube, try the new Microsoft Silverlight (which requires a plug-in to be downloaded before viewing the video), or OpenVideo (which is supposed to be the next-generation embeddable video format, but is currently only supported by Firefox 3.5).
Although Silverlight and OpenVideo appear to be more customizable and (at the moment) ad-free, the requirement to use proprietary software (plug-ins and browsers) might prevent part of my target audience from viewing the content. Although I am not crazy about YouTube integrating "related videos" that take the focus away from the content on my website, it is the most widely-used service, there is little chance of them shutting down any time soon, and...well...the price is right!
The videos have been uploaded to the website. Take a gander, and tell me what you think!
Scott J. Smith
Happy Independence Day, everyone! While we comemmorate our country's freedoms, thanks to the courage and selflessness of countless patriots, I am celebrating by producing an Independent film, working as an Independent contractor, and (for better or worse) becoming Independent from my "day job"...You know, that "real" job to which we artists feel we must dedicate ourselves, in order to support our career? The separation was involuntary, but fortunately, it gave me the flexibility to pursue various projects I would otherwise have had to decline. I haven't gotten much flying in lately (gotta watch the pennies and nickels for a while), but I am keeping up-to-date on my AOPA and Flying e-Newsletters, AV8RDan's blog, and flying approaches in a variety of conditions to different airports in Microsoft's Flight Simulator X. My concentration lately, thanks to a recent article in AOPA's Pilot Magazine, is Mountain Flying. Unfortunately, I have had to defer requests for donated flights from Animal Rescue Flights (ARF) and Pilots 'n' Paws, but look forward to participating again as soon as I can. The 48 Hour Film Project was, again, a blast! There is something inspiring about working with a group of creative minds to write, develop, shoot and edit a short in that period of time. Resourcefulness is key. On a regular shoot, if something goes wrong, you can always re-shoot another day. With the 48HFP, you have to improvise your way through the process. Our challenge: Develop a story about used car salesman Peter DuPree, using a disposable camera and the line, "What did you do that for?" Our genre was "Romance." We kicked around a few ideas beforehand (if we get "Horror," we could do this, or if we get "Suspense," we could do that). We weren't sure what we would have done if we had drawn "Romance," so it is only natural, according to the Law of Murphy, we would be awarded that genre. After the kick-off event Friday evening, we left it to our writers to put together a story, and the whole team met later that night for a read-through. Early Saturday morning, we began shooting. The largest obstacle for us (well, for all the teams, for that matter), was the rain. A word about the Florida climate: typically, you can set your watch to the timing of the afternoon thunder showers, which only last an hour or two. This rain started early in the day, and persisted until after dark. Most of our scenes, fortunately, were indoors, and we ran outside whenever the weather permitted, to get the exterior shots. Like most teams, we edited the work on the fly, so our team isn't forced to complete the work after all the footage is shot. That worked to our advantage in more ways than one: The boom microphone we were using had a loose connection, and we discovered the first scene we shot had absolutely no audio! Of course, it was an exterior shot, and with the weather as it was, we could not re-shoot for the rest of the day. We tried coming up with an alternate (interior) scene we could use to get the necessary dialogue. We had a tough time determining not only the scene, but also obtaining a location at the last minute. We decided to shoot at the same tennis courts where we were that morning, but this time, as is often the case after Florida rain showers, we were serenaded by thousands of frogs (which was apparrent on the final version of the film) ! Then again, all the teams were affected by the weather, and it was fun to watch the screenings to see how each coped with, or incorporated, the rain. Last month, I mentioned another shoot that was slated for the same weekend as the 48 Hour Film Project. When I returned from my grandmother's funeral, an email was awaiting, advising me it was rescheduled for the following week. Great, time to breathe! The project was in St. Mark's Conservation Area in Florida's panhandle, so I set out the night before and stayed at a nearby hotel. The morning of the shoot, a Water Safety PSA for the State of Florida, I made sure to "slather on" the sunscreen (SPF 30). I usually put a thin layer on, which typically lasts 1/2 day for me, no problem, but with the amount of time we would be spending on the water, I took a little extra precaution. Note to self: When filming a water scene, especially since you're the comic "fool" character, purchase a small tube of zinc oxide, just for effect. As I arrived on set, I was asked if I brought any blush. I have a limited array of cosmetics, including blush, but did not bring it this day. Second note to self: bring everything! You never know what will be needed. They wanted to use the blush to simulate a sunburn. By the end of the day, however, after hours of splashing and sweating, a full lobster-esque natural sunburn was quite evident! Also this month, Al Letson, a local poet, actor and playwright, premiered the "Jacksonville" episode of his radio program State of the Re:Union at WJCT studios. It was quite a gala event: many of his friends and local public radio supporters attended. I had the privilege of performing with Al in Theatre Jacksonville's Macbeth a few years ago. This premiere included a couple multimedia presentations, as well as live interviews of personalities featured during his radio program. To support his show, please visit: www.StateOfTheReUnion.com My wife also brought to my attention a local animal shelter facing serious financial distress. She has a friend who was moving into an apartment complex that refused her beloved pet because it was a pit bull terrier. Unfortunately, many companies (including insurance companies) unfairly discriminate against the breed because of irresponsible journalism and abusive practices by puppy mills and dog fighting organizations. Most people today are above racial stereotypes, but have no problem applying generalizations to an entire breed of animal. Mike's Dog House specializes in rescuing adoptable pit bulls and mixes. It is so great there are caring, rational people like Mike and Goldie at the dog house who give these gentle creatures a fair chance. Their mission is to educate the public on rescuing adoptable dogs, as well as advocate for the breed. It's a wonderful organization, but it is difficult to fight the stigma bestowed upon the breed by the irrational and the misinformed. While we were volunteering at Mike's this past month, I took a few pictures and some video with my personal camcorder. The following week, I took a look at it, not really thinking it was anything more than a "home movie," and decided to edit it together for a nice web video the organization could use on their website. I shared this thought on my Facebook and Twitter streams, and the project has evolved into something spectacular. A local film and television producer contacted me and offered to shoot footage of the dogs and the facility in high-definition, as well as edit the entire project. I was blown away. The entire concept was just in my head, and now with an offer of help from someone else, this has all-of-a-sudden become a team venture. Which means...I now had to get all of these ideas down on paper -- easier said than done. Writing a screenplay for a short film was a good practice in organizing thoughts. The more I wrote, the more questions I had about various details of the project. Considering every single shot beforehand gave you a better concept of the final product, and of course, made it much easier to communicate my ideas to others. During this time, actors, musicians and a recording studio stepped forward to donate their time. We begin shooting next week. I have been sharing the progress on the development of this project through a Facebook Fan Page, which gained over 100 "fans" in its first week. In addition to keeping the fans up-to-date on each step of the film-making process, my wife and I have also been sharing helpful information about animal shelters in general, as well as breed-specific pit bull rescues. Be sure to read the article about the United Kennel Club's designation "Super Dog" on the page: www.facebook.com/Save2Lives During the past couple weeks, I also made my way over to the Alhambra Dinner Theatre to audition for Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple." Although I was not cast in the show, I felt very good about the audition, received some positive feedback, and look forward to participating in future Alhambra productions. I also had the opportunity to meet Craig and Lisa Fincannon of Fincannon and Associates, Inc. They met with a few hundred Florida actors during a seminar hosted by the Florida Theatrical Association in Orlando and discussed the state of film-making in the Southeast United States, and what they look for in an audition as casting directors. I also attended an on-camera Auditioning for Film and Television workshop led by ARTIOS award-winning casting director, and author of The Organic Actor, Lori Wyman from Miami. The information in the two-day seminar is invaluable and a must for any actor -- where else can you get open and honest feedback about your performance from someone whose responsibility it is to present you to directors and producers of major film projects? Since the workshop, while putting together the short film "Save 2 Lives," I have been working feverishly on updating my acting resume and website. You may have noticed some formatting changes recently. Some more content, including video footage, will be added later this month. I am also seeking additional representation in Central and South Florida, and possibly also Georgia. The more I learn and practice my craft, the more I want to put it to use! I realize these messages tend to be longer than other blogs out there. I enjoy writing, and frankly, it takes about a month for me to pull my thoughts together, make it flow nicely, and ensure it reflects my personality and state of mind at the time of the writing. For those of you who would like more frequent updates in 140 characters or less, you are more than welcome to follow my "Tweets" at www.Twitter.com/ScottJSmithcom Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
Well, the weather in the Southeast United States this past month has been less than exemplary: it's either drought or flood around here, and the past couple weeks, it has been mostly flood. The first couple weeks of May, I didn't mow the lawn, because there wasn't enough rain to make the grass grow. The last half of the month, it has rained so much, the ground hasn't been dry enough to put the lawn mower to it (and boy, is the St. Augustine getting high!). I can draw a pretty strong analogy to the film industry here on Florida's First Coast: the phrase "feast or famine" rings a bell (and yes, I can already hear mentors screaming as they read this, "you can only be as busy as the effort you put into getting your name out there."). Granted, I can do plenty more to promote my personal "brand," and if this month can be used as a barometer, I am definitely moving in the right direction. On the second Monday in May, I was called to audition for a US Navy video to be shot later in the month. This audition had a panel of eight individuals, most of whom were looking for an actor who shared the most physical charactersitics with the actual person he will be portraying. Although it would be great to be cast in a role based on more than just my physical appearance, I appreciated the opportunity when offered the part. I had another audition on Tuesday. I have participated in auditions that were one or two days before the shoot, but never the same day. Each of the candidates received the script about a week before, then on the morning of the shoot while the crew was busy setting the scene, the director pulled us to the side, one-by-one for the audition. Although I was not cast, I received some very positive feedback, and the director expressed a genuine interest in casting me in a future project. I was impressed by the efficiency of this crew, and I look forward to working with them. On Wednesday, I received a notice for a regional commercial audition in Orlando Friday afternoon. The drive down was as relaxing as can be, knowing that the return trip would be during rush hour (blech!). Fortunately, the location was on the east side of town, which allowed me some time to wind down prior to the audition, and skip most of the traffic that clogs I-4 through the rest of Orlando on the way back. For the Navy Personnel Command shoot, I portrayed sailor John Crabtree who lost his sight due to an IED explosion in Iraq. The production focused on the Safe Harbor service, which "provide a lifetime of individually tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of our Shipmates' recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration activities." I had hoped to meet the real Chief John Crabtree and his wife Marshell; however a family emergency called them away, which initiated a few changes to the scenes shot that day. I have practiced acting with various disabilities in workshops before, and the most difficult, I believe, is blindness. Although with enough concentration, you can ignore certain sensory inputs, or not use a limb, it is another thing to prevent your eyes from tracking or locking onto any person or object. Fortunately, I was wearing sunglasses for half the scenes, which helped me to divert my focus. During other half of the scenes, my head was bandaged, so I was truly blind, for all intents and purposes. I am writing this month's blog on a flight to Columbus, Ohio for my maternal grandmother's funeral. My paternal grandmother passed away in December. I am glad they were such a significant part of my life, and helped shape me into the person I have become. It will be nice to see the family together again, even under these sad circumstances. Holidays will be difficult this year, and I am sure will make me appreciate my family even more. As I was packing for the flight, I checked my email one last time, and there was a message from my agent for a direct booking on Friday. Fortunately, I will be back in town to be able to do it. The challenge will be getting home around midnight Thursday night, then jumping right in my car, making a 3-hour trip to the location, and being ready to shoot at 6:00 Friday morning. I will see how much "quality" sleep I can get on the plane. This coming weekend is Jacksonville's turn at the 48 Hour Film Project...a competition where over 40 teams create, write, rehearse, shoot, edit and produce a 4- to 7-minute short film in under 48 hours. Friday night, the team leaders will receive the required elements, and we will shoot on Saturday (so be on the look out!). The final product is due at 7:00 PM on Sunday. Stop by the Jacksonville Landing Friday for the kick-off or Sunday for the drop-off, and see who makes the deadline, and who doesn't! You are welcome, and cordially invited, to attend the screenings of these films. A dozen or so films will be presented each night next week, Tuesday through Thursday, at the Florida Theater at 7:00 PM. This is a fun way to spend an evening -- seeing a variety of stories told from multiple perspectives, representing many genres. My team's project will be presented on Thursday, but if you are interested in seeing the films on all three nights, the festival is offering a discounted "All Access Pass" : http://www.48hourfilm.com/jacksonville If you happen to miss the screenings for whatever reason, you will have other opportunities to see all the action. On Wednesday, June 24th, the films voted "Best of Jacksonville 2009" will be presented at the Florida Theater at 7:00 PM. Last year, the "Best of" series was later broadcast on a local television channel, and I expect they will do the same this year. After that, all entries will be uploaded to the www.48.tv website, along with submissions from all over the world. Also, I plan to post the film on my website in the near future. Thanks to all of you who follow these posts. I appreciate the feedback, and I sincerely hope you find this blog of value. Often, the entries read like a journal, reflecting on my personal encounters and sharing plans and expectations. From time-to-time, you may also find a nugget of knowledge gleaned from an experience I had, that you may enjoy and wish to share with others. If you do, please let me know. The "Comments" feature on this blog is intentionally disabled, but the "Contact Me" feature on my website is available for your input. Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
Please excuse my tardiness, as this post is three weeks overdue. I will endeavor to return to my regularly monthly schedule in June.This past month, I made a decision I have been contemplating for a little over a year. Since 1999, I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement with America's largest interactive comedy theatre company: The Murder Mystery Players, expecially the past nine years as its Artistic Director for their Jacksonville, Florida operations. Casting and producing over 50 interactive comedy productions for the past nine years has been both challenging and rewarding, and I will always relish the successes my cast and I have achieved together. Over the past couple years, as other important aspects of my life have evolved, requiring more of my undivided attention, I have deduced that I could no longer commit the time and resources needed for MMP to remain an elite performance troupe on Florida's First Coast. So that the Murder Mystery Players can continue to achieve even greater successes, I am stepping aside so that new leadership can move the company forward. I shared my decision with those closest to me, including my family, as well as the spectacularly talented and professional actors with whom I have had the delight of performing this past decade. This "change of course" by no means indicates my withdrawal from acting on stage or screen...and the Murder Mystery Players will continue in Northeast Florida under new leadership. My Central Florida trip was a thrill-a-minute, and the weather cooperated perfectly! (Actually, it would have been great if there was a light rain Thursday night...the dust that blew around all day Friday got everywhere...even places on my body which, I swear, I left covered throughouth the event!) For my Facebook friends, I made my debut video "podcast," relaying various tid-bits through my mobile phone. Of course, I spent more time enjoying the sights than recording video for the folks back home, and the phone I have is, well, a few generations old, so the video is less than "first-rate." If there is a problem with the economy, it sure didn't show at Sun 'n' Fun - I understand they had record crowds, even with a parking fee charged for the first time ever during this event. Although I am not a morning person, I really appreciated getting to the airport right when the gates opened - I had more time to see displays and participate in forums, and I got to park up front, which meant it wasn't inconvenient to return to my car to secure items I collected throughout the day. The airshow was fantastic, and I made sure to spend some time on the East side of the field this year. In previous years, I would always head West, and never get over to the performer static displays, the ultralights and light sport aircraft, and campgrounds (in the picture in this blog, you can see how some attendees have learned to "rough it"!). I also was invited to an impromptu fish fry with some of my SAAPA friends staying on the premises. Friday night, the airport was alive with a rock concert, hot air balloon glow (tethered to the ground, they strike their burners, which illuminates the entire canopy...awesome!) and night-time airshow with pyrotechnics. I had planned on staying the night in Lakeland to catch the hot air balloon "Fox and Hound" race. Yes..."race"...it's more of a test of skill and accuracy than speed and endurance - one balloon, the "Fox," departs the airport and flies for a certain period of time, then lands in an open field to prepare a target. The remaining balloons, the "Hounds," then launch, and try to find the target. The winds have changed by now, so they have to do some fancy maneuvering to first find the target, then navigate their balloon (you can actually steer...just a little bit...through careful ascents and descents) over the target. The pilot who gets his marker closest to the center of the "X" wins a prize (usually pretty hefty...I don't know what it was for this event). Suffice it to say, I had important matters to attend to, and opted to return home for the night. Some airshow performers were checking into the hotel as I was trying to check-out. Although I was tired, there was no way I was going to pre-empt the US Air Force demonstration pilots from getting their accommodations. I did travel back to Orlando the next day for an excellent performance of Much Ado About Nothing. Darren Bridgett (Benedick) had terrific energy, great expressions, and spot-on comic timing and physicality this role demands - think a cross between Alan Alda and Jim Carrey. Marni Penning (Beatrice) also put forth a stellar performance, as did the rest of the cast, including Chris Mixon as "Dogberry", playing it like Mayberry Deputy Barney Fife!
Sunday's performance of Merchant of Venice was a perfect way to close the weekend. I enjoyed portraying "Shylock" several years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed the masterful interpretation by Joe Vincent. This repertory cast just eighteen hours earlier had performed one of Shakespeare's most produced comedies, were now escorting the audience through one of the greatest ethical dilemmas in The Bard's canon. Both shows were expertly performed and were a delight to see! I cannot wait until February, when the Orlando Shakespeare Theater performs Hamlet and All's Well That Ends Wellin repertory in 2010.Interested in my personal acting exploits? Stay tuned...the June blog entry is right around the corner!
Scott J. Smith
When I was first contacted regarding this project several years ago, I admit I was a bit hesitant. I have performed "childrens' theatre" before, and had several jobs in the past interacting with youth of various ages. Of course, young children (kindergarten through third grade) in large numbers can be, well...a handful. Added to that, the production was a half-hour, high-energy two-person show, where Ihad all the dialogue (mono-logue?) !I considered the booking carefully. This definitely would help me develop my acting "chops": Keeping a young audience engaged for thirty solid minutes has a certain appeal for those who enjoy a challenge...and boy, was I a perfect patsy! After thorough review, the only real "down side" to the deal was the scheduling. At the time, I also held a middle-management position for a financial services company, so leaving for a couple hours on practically a daily basis was something I would have to handle delicately. Shows late in the school year were definitely a workout. Of course, my scene partner is in a heavy costume without venthilation, so he's worse for wear by far. In May and June, the "gymnatorium" or "cafetorium" can be stifling just standing still, encouraging beads of sweat before the performance even begins...but we trudge on, giving it our all, to the delight of the kids, then throw back a few bottles of water before the next performance! It was also interesting to see how differently schools treat their performance space. Some schools have state-of-the-art equipment that is obviously well-maintained and frequently used, while others use the stage for "extra storage space." While it was a thrill to perform in spaces that rival area theatres, it was quite disconcerting to see other stages cluttered with broken chairs and last year's unwanted textbooks. These shows require you to summon your "inner child." Fortunately, mine resides relatively close to the surface, so it was little effort for me to jump and dance around like a kid for half an hour with my costumed counterpart on the stage! While interacting with the audience, I also had to prompt the show's mascot to carry out various tasks, handle anything the children would throw at us, and make sure the performance never ran short...and never ran over! The shows continue today, and I have been exposed to several scripts over the years. Keeping young audiences focused on the material for thirty minutes is definitely not to be taken lightly. Kudos to school teachers whose livelihood is to keep these children engaged and learning all day, every day! Later this month, I will be spending a long weekend in Central Florida. Now, what would be an ideal trip for a pilot and actor? On Friday, April 24th, I will be in Lakeland for Sun 'n' Fun, the largest airshow and aviation expo second only to AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. There will also be forums, a trade show, static displays from light-sport aircraft to business jets, broadcasts from FAA's Production Studios and day and night-time airshows! That takes care of the flying portion of the trip. Well, there might be a brief diversion to the Fantasy of Flight museum on the way to Orlando for Much Ado About Nothing Saturday night and The Merchant of Venice Sunday afternoon at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. They're currently offering a discount if you purchase tickets to both shows. Their performances are always a delight, and a great excuse for a road trip, any time! To cap-off the weekend, the London Symphony Orchestra is performing their "Brass Spectacular" Sunday night in Daytona Beach for free! The Daytona Beach International Festival is a biennial celebration of music and performance, featuring the LSO, and internationally famous Jazz, Celtic, Brazilian, Bluegrass and other musicians, as well as a magician and childrens' entertainers. This festival is a MUST for music-lovers anywhere! Although I will likely recap the trip in my next entry, I thought I would share with you some great events you might want to experience for yourself. If you have never been, you owe it to yourself to check out at least one of these this month. If not, Sun 'n' Fun will be back next April, the Daytona Beach International Festival in a couple years, and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater has a full season of excellent theater year-round! Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
Since the beginning of this year, I have been cautiously optimistic about acting opportunities in Northeast Florida. A few months ago, I declined several theatrical auditions when I made a commitment to a production that should have kept me busy through January, but factors unknown to me caused the production to "go in another direction."I did perform in a few single-day shoots, however, including an industrial film reinforcing safety concepts and protocols for CSX Transportation employees. But for the fact those beer bottles were empty and there were hardly enough burgers to go around, with the talent on this shoot, it very well could have turned into an actual barbecue! Thank you, CSX, for employing local talent and crew! Out West, the unions representing the actors continue to negotiate with the producers; and while very important to an actor's livelihood for the forseeable future, is having an impact on current levels of production. Also, the entertainment industry continues to address the challenge of this current global economic situation, as evidenced by a reduction in theatre audiences and DVD sales. The "silver lining" could possibly be the significant up-tick in motion picture box office revenue in the most recent quarter. Part of this could be the cost of going to the movies still rivals many other entertainment options. Another reason could be that during difficult economic and political times, people tend to seek a diversion or "escape" from reality. With slowed production, lower-budget films, like Academy Award sleeper Slumdog Millionaire, could be the norm until the industry recovers. Given the "green" nature of the film and television industry, and the fact that production budgets affect the local economy six-fold, most states across the nation have developed intricate incentive programs to draw productions to their state. The State of Florida saw its greatest impact in the 2007-2008 season, when $25 million was allocated to draw 53 major productions to the state, which generated over $170 million to the local economy. Since then, the incentive program has been slashed drastically, and the reduction in related jobs and revenue has been substantial, affecting all businesses across the entertainment spectrum: www.FilmInFlorida.com This past month, I attended a town hall meeting, where a panel consisting of Florida State Representative Audrey Gibson, Florida State Film Commissioner Lucia Fishburne and Jacksonville Film Commissioner Todd Roobin addressed the concerns of the entertainment professionals in attendance. It was noted that night that notable talent and crew were not present at the meeting because they had to go out-of-state to find work. The absence of a viable film incentive program in Florida has an effect everywhere. Since the panel offerred to answer all questions from the attendees, the town hall meeting ran over two hours, which meant I likely would not be home in time for a teleconference I had scheduled with an acting coach. The seminar was hosted in Los Angeles, so it was (fortunately for me) scheduled for a late hour for those of us on the East Coast. I dialled into the system while in the parking lot of the town hall meeting, and listened via speaker-phone while I drove home, where I could participate more directly. The seminar was the first in a five-part series. Since this was more of an introduction, most of the bullet-points covered are topics we all know quite well, but it is always beneficial to hear anecdotes and testimonies from a variety of perspectives. The entire seminar was very up-beat and motivational...kudos to Bob Fraser and David Breslow for their insight! I am sure my frame-of-mind at this past Thursday's audition was impacted by this very seminar. On Thursday, I auditioned for a video intended for regional church youth programs. When auditions are held at the agency, it can be quite difficult to keep one cardinal rule: Keep quiet, as not to disturb the audition, fellow actors preparing for the audition, or in this case, nearby businesses. Plus, one should be fully committed to the character, and not "catching up" with friends...but as luck would have it, you typically run into other professionals with whom you have worked, and it can be quite tempting to break into casual conversation. (I've commented on this before, haven't I? Yes, I'm still working on it!) I can not say much about the production just yet. Everything about the project, especially the script, is being kept confidential. I felt my performance on Thursday was very good. I did shave for the audition -- I have been sporting a groomed "three day beard" for a while now, but my headshot still shows me bare-faced. The role I was called for likely would work better with some facial hair, but until I update my headshots, I will offer what the casting director is expecting based on the photograph. Which reminds me...it is probably time to have another session with the new look.
Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
A few days before US Airways Flight 1549 grabbed headlines and the nation's attention when Captain Chesley Sullenberger masterfully landed the crippled Airbus A320, I too had a mechanical failure in my aircraft. Although hardly as newsworthy as what that flight crew had to go through, I did have to put my flight training to the test to deal with this operational interruption. I was invited to meet some friends in Brunswick, Georgia, a quick one-hour flight up the coast from St. Augustine, Florida, for a quick bite to eat. (In the aviation community, this is known as, "Going for the $100 hamburger," due to the associated fuel cost. Due to increased gas prices, the expense is usually much more, but then again, Motel 6 and Super 8 haven't updated their names to accommodate inflation, either.) I don't own an aircraft...yet, so I rented a two-seat, 125 horsepower Cessna 152 from a nearby flight school. While getting the flight bag, which contains the aircraft logs, checklists and keys, I noted that this would be the first flight since some preventative maintenance was performed. Although this is usually a good thing (the aircraft given a recent clean bill of health), it is best to approach the next flight with caution, much like someone would when their car is returned after being serviced. The external pre-fight inspection showed no adverse items, and the "run-up" (systems check just prior to take-off) also confirmed all systems were operating properly...at that time. The traffic pattern was busy that day, so after confirming all pre-flight checklists have been completed, I advised the control tower that I was ready for immediate departure (I would be able to work my take-off into the busy stream of incoming traffic, without imposing any unneccessary delays). While I was flying along the coastline to the north, I climbed to 3,000 feet. This allows flight over Mayport Naval Air Station's controlled airspace, and also offers excellent visibility for navigation (and scenery) during this short flight, as well as provide for an "out" should any mechanical issues occur. Since you can't simply "pull over" like you can with a car, it's good to know that every thousand feet of altitude gives you a good one- to two-miles of gliding distance. I hadn't quite reached NAS Mayport when the engine started running rough. Given the conditions, it is possible, though unlikely, that ice had formed in the carburetor. Fortunately, there's a system to apply heated air into the carburetor to correct that problem. As I did so, the engine performance did not improve. There are other troubleshooting steps one takes in a situation like this, but I first turned the aircraft back towards St. Augustine, just in case the rough running engine decided to stop altogether, and advised the control tower of the situation. I maintained my altitude for as long as possible and kept watch for possible landing sites while I continued to determine the source of the issue. (As a side note, in response to the self-proclaimed "experts" out there who chastised the flight crew for not returning to La Guardia or trying to stretch the glide to Teterboro, it's sad that hobbyists try to contradict the tens of thousands of flight hours' worth of knowledge, skill, professionalism. No doubt both airports were considered by the flight crew, and the Hudson River was determined to give the best probability of success. Although "the book" may show numbers that suggest the aircraft could possibly have made one of the landing sites, performance numbers are derived from specific test scenarios, and this situation was hardly in a controlled, test environment. It is best not to speculate on any situation like this, until a full investigation has been completed.) The engine on my Cessna 152 began running more smoothly, albeit at a lower power output, when I disabled one of the aircraft's two magnetos: these provide the electric pulse to the engine's spark plugs. Since this is a vital component, there are two, so the redundancy increases the probability of arriving at the airport safely. (Had the aircaft been equipped with only one magneto, a picture of the airplane and me on the stadium golf course in Sawgrass surely would have been on the front page of the Florida Times-Union!) Fortunately, during my return to the airport, I had two reliable "stand-bys" below: the hard-packed sandy beach and Highway A1A. Of course, neither are a sure thing, as both have pedestrian or automotive traffic, and power lines over the highway are difficult to discern at altitude. The control tower continued to give me traffic updates and check on my progress. They made sure the primary runway was available to me, and that I had priority to land once I arrived back at St. Augustine. I advised them I would maintain my altitude until very close. There are several techniques of losing altitude quickly and safely; I didn't want to sacrifice that valuable resource if I didn't have to. Once I was assured of a safe landing, I began a steep descent while maintaining a typical traffic pattern. Lots of things happen during a normal approach -- I made sure I did not miss a thing during my scan of the engine instruments or possible traffic conflicts in the sky. Although I was cleared to land, I still double-checked to make sure my landing path was clear. Because of the excess altitude, I did let my airspeed get a little bit higher than it should be, which makes the landing and rollout a bit long. Not a big deal for an aircraft that weighs only 1,500 pounds including fuel and its sole occupant, but I am sure the proper airspeed was more closely adhered to by the US Airways captain and first officer while on final approach to the Hudson River. My flight terminated without further incident. The aircraft and its crew are fine, and after taking a few minutes to perform a brief self-analysis of the flight, I requested "the bag" for another aircraft from the flight school's fleet, and launched back into the sky. Items that prevented this urgent situation from becoming an emergency:
  • I was familiar with the aircraft and its systems.
  • I was aware that the aircraft was recently serviced.
  • I consistently perform a thorough preflight inspection.
  • I regularly use checklists whenever possible.
  • I perform normal crew and passenger briefings aloud, even though I was the only person on board.
  • I constantly ask myself "what if" during flight, and keep an eye out for potential landing sites.
  • I maintained a safe altitude, which provided more options should the situation have deteriorated.
  • I turned towards the nearest landing site immediately.
  • I maintained an organized cockpit. Everything was in its place, and checklists were readily available.
  • I communicated with the control tower. They were a resource on the ground that was available to assist, and more importantly, would be able to contact emergency services immediately had they lost contact.
  • I made sure I got "the big picture," that I was fully aware of what was happening, the urgency of the matter, and how best to resolve it.
  • Most importantly, I remained calm, so I could focus on the matter at hand.
Items that were a learning experience for me, or areas for improvement:
  • While attending to the initial issue, I focused more on the issue than where I was at the time and descended a couple hundred feet. Had I been at a lower original altitude, in mountainous terrain or in "IMC" (the clouds), that loss of altitude could have been more detrimental.
  • I got a little fast on final approach due to the excess altitude. In different circumstances, I could have over-shot the runway, or forced to "go around" with the reduced performance of an engine running on just one magneto.
Another thing I did which I feel was a good decision was to get back into the air as soon as possible. I believe that, no matter what you do, if you love it, don't let your most recent memory be a negative one. My dad loves to play golf, and when he is at the driving range, if he hooks or slices the last couple balls, he'll buy one more bucket so he can have that "one good shot" before calling it a day. My flight in the school's Piper Warrior was short, but it offered me some time to focus on the thrill of flight, rather than what can go wrong. The same concept can be applied to acting. We've all been there: we feel we have "blown" an audition, that we "weren't what the director was looking for," or we just "didn't fit the part." One can't help but re-play that experience over and over. As professionals, we should never...ever...dwell on a bad experience, but taking time to rehearse a scene, perform a monologue, or attend a workshop will reinforce confidence while further developing our skills. Scott J. Smith www.ScottJSmith.com
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