Another calendar tossed in the trash means only one thing...New Beginnings! What will 2009 hold? Well, according to last year's election, we're in for some "Change." Hopefully, that change benefits all of us. I wish you all health and prosperity in the ninth year of this millenium.Sorry, folks. I'm not one for "Resolutions." This is one tradition I have never been able to embrace. It has nothing to do with disappointing myself if I don't succeed; rather, I consistently accept new challenges year-round, so the date January 1st really is nothing more than a turn of the page. I just don't understand the rationale behind making a ceremony out of improving my life or the world around me. January just seems to be a bad time to start anything, anyway. The gyms are packed with well-meaning band-waggoners reciting their annual mantra: "This will be the year..." I have no addictions, so I have no use for the 12-step programs that are popular at the beginning of every year, though I do encourage those of you struggling with addiction to invite your friends and family to support you in your attempt to overcome it. Like most people, I, too, have concerns about personal health and prosperity. I continue to gain and lose the same ten pounds annually. My intent is to break that cycle and shed an additional ten before I renew my headshot. Although my current "figure" is ideal for character roles, I feel I stand a greater chance at other roles with a slimmer (but not scrawny) version of my current self. I also expect to return to the stage after last year's hiatus. Aside from directing interactive comedies and performing educational shows at area schools, my participation in the theatre in 2008 was mostly as a spectator. I plan on changing that in 2009, and I will continue to pursue more film and television opportunities in the region. I will also take a more active role seeking opportunities to perform on film. The film and television industry is not immune to current economic pressures; however, living in an area where various resources are less expensive may persuade some productions to choose the Southeast United States this coming year. Regardless, I must take necessary measures (education, fitness, marketing) to remain competitive. As you may have determined from several personal photos on my site (as well as the clip-art at the top of my home page), I also have a strong attachment to the aviation world. If my personal budget continues as planned, I should be able to afford additional flight training this year. Although I have no immediate use for them, I would like to append my pilot certificate with at least one rating (specialty) this year, and am considering seaplane, tailwheel and glider. Of course, the house still has two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and kitchen in dire need of fresh paint. I look up at the dreadful "popcorn" ceiling and try to convince myself that it's "not that ugly." Anticipating the prospect of balancing myself on a 16-foot ladder to scrape that crud (and subsequently priming and painting overhead) is not pleasant, has to be done. That should keep me rather busy for the next twelve months (or so). Stay tuned, and keep in touch! Scott J. Smith
I have been working on a small video project of my own. Although my film production experience (aside from acting) is limited to home videos, I decided to "take the plunge" and develop a special music compilation for my church. Every year around Thanksgiving, the church holds a "Craft Fair," where members sell quilts, baskets and other home-made items as a fund raiser for the church. Well, I don't know the first thing how to fashion such down-home products, but something prodded me to give this a try.As with any other church, Advent Lutheran in Orange Park is blessed with many members with musical talents. At first, I had hoped to provide a "musical calendar" with selections from each of the liturgical seasons throughout the year. Since I just started in June, this meant obtaining third-party footage of prior performances. Well, converting the performances captured on VHS video tapes presented a greater challenge than I was willing to accept, so I decided to only use the videos shot on MiniDV from June forward. I was concerned that I would not have enough footage to provide for a complete product. Fortunately, a talent exhibition was scheduled for late in the year. This is the second year Advent Lutheran has held "Heritage Day," a festival to celebrate our ancestry and culture. At this event were pianists, singers, and even a bagpipe player! This helped immensely. I used two cameras, but discovered after-the-fact that one camera had either a bad microphone or bad recording heads, as the audio was completely unusable. I salvaged what video I could, and layered audio from elsewhere to complete the project. The same camera that had the audio problem also "gave up the ghost" during this project. While capturing the video to my computer for editing, the camera lost power, and would not turn on, whether I used the battery or A/C power. This also prevented me from ejecting the MiniDV tape that had the most recent material. I'm sure it's a fuse hard-wired to the camera's motherboard, but diagnosing and fixing are two different things.
I had no time to wait for a professional technician to troubleshoot the issue, so I channelled MacGyver and did a little old-school slice and splice: I cut the tape and forced the cartridge from the housing of the dead camera, then applied good ol' Scotch tape to the back of the MiniDV where it was cut. I manually tightened the tape and inserted it into the good camera. With all fingers crossed, I was able to import the remaining video. That was a one-shot deal though; that MiniDV has been retired.I spent the next week editing all the performances. After listening to the music for such a long time, I thought to myself that some people might appreciate an audio CD of the performances, so I created MP3's of each song. To give the final product a professional look, I contacted several local reproduction companies that could create copies of the final DVD and Audio CD, but the prices were so expensive, there would be very little money made on this project to be an effective fund raiser. I thought my hopes were dashed and all this work was in vain, until I discovered a company in Pennsylvania that had unbelievable prices. I spoke to an account representative at the Christian-based reproduction company (read "Kingdom Come") to verify they could provide everything I needed. One small hurdle was added: Since the company is based in Pennsylvania, shipping time of the master, proof and final product meant I was suddenly out of time. I worked long, LONG nights to finish the product, burn the master, watch and listen to it in its entirety for quality control, and finally overnight it to the production company. The clock was ticking. Although I could just "take orders" of the DVD/CD at my church's Craft Fair, I was determined to have a final product I could hand to anyone who wanted one. Then I got the call that truly tested my patience:'s reproduction machines couldn't read my masters! I'll chalk this up to inexperience, for sure. Like I said, this was a new venture for me, and evidently just burning a video on your computer like you do for DVDs created for personal viewing is not the same thing as creating a "master." (I never said I went to school for movie production, you know.) Completely out of time, I asked the account representative to ship me the cases and the blank disks, and for the last several days, I have been burning them I hope this all works out. The absolutely crazy thing is...I'm actually thinking of diving in and doing another. The Advent season is upon us, and what better follow-up to this project, than to have a second video for next year's Craft Fair featuring music of the Advent season at Advent church? At least this time, I'll have much more time, this learning experience behind me, and just maybe I can properly create a reproducable master so somebody else can take the final steps! Anyway, here is a condensed look at the project titled simply, "Special Music by Advent Lutheran Church" : the video is converted to Flash, I will embed it in this post.
Scott J. Smith
I recently afforded myself the opportunity to audition for a stage play for the first time in over a year. I declined invitations to audition for a couple season-opening shows, as I already had committed to other obligations which would have conflicted with those productions.A show scheduled for later in the season was of particular interest to me, and I began making plans to keep my calendar free, so I would be available to participate should I get cast. I read the play several times and developed a new audition piece, partly to try something different, and also because none of my prepared monologues exhibited characteristics that matched my desired role in this play. Thankfully, I was awarded a supporting role in the show. Although it was my second choice, I was excited at the prospect of performing this character and working with such a talented cast. Shortly after I learned the part, the actor originally cast as the lead apparently had a conflict, and I was offered the lead role I had originally hoped to perform. I was thrilled to be trusted with such an important role and looked forward to developing this multi-faceted character. Over the next two weeks, I devoted a great deal of time to learning the script: putting in an extra hour each night, taking a day off from work, and even sequestering myself from family who visited from out of town during this period. Although I am not a proponent of playing back audio recordings of lines as a memorization method, I also engaged in this practice; in part, because others have found it to be an effective tool, and also because the amount of time I needed to spend in my car was unavoidable, and I did not want that time to go to waste. My next step was to start calling my cast-mates to have some informal scene studies and character discussions. The director discussed with me the rehearsal time requirement. I acknowledged I was already fully dedicated to the production. I would not have auditioned for the show if I would not have been able to fully focus throughout the rehearsal period. After clearing a few potential conflicts, I re-affirmed my promise to fully honor the director's scheduling request. The very next day, I was asked to leave the production due to a "lack of commitment." Challenging an artist's dedication to his craft is tantamount to slander. The Bard said it best: He that filches from me my good name, robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed. As I have given no indication for anyone to doubt my commitment, I am lead to believe there may have been some outside influence. As The Poet would say: I will be hang'd, if some eternal Villain, some busy and insinuating rogue, some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office, have not devis'd this slander. If that is the case, the true reason for my departure may never be known. Although I am more than a little disappointed at having this opportunity stripped from me, I completely understand and fully support the fact that the director's vision for a production must be upheld, and I realize I was not the first choice for this role. However, I do not understand why a director would rather assassinate someone's character than admit to making a mistake. I am left with no choice but to take my lumps and move on. Fortunately, as one door closes, another opens; I have been contracted to perform over a dozen live performances of a different production throughout the Northeast Florida area this Fall. I will share the details of that later. For the remaining cast, I am so terribly sorry I cannot share the stage with such excellent talent. Should you need someone to help run lines or assist your preparation in any other way, I am here for you. You have my best wishes, hopes and prayers for a successful production, and I look forward to the next moment we can perform together.
Break a Leg!
Scott J. Smith
This post could have come a couple weeks earlier, as I was cast as the villain in an upcoming episode of Discovery Channel's "The REAL NCIS." I was on call to shoot for two days in a given week. I was asked for my wardrobe sizes (standard operating procedure), and was asked by the casting director if I could look "scuzzier" than I appear in my headshot -- obviously someone not accustomed to my work! While my appearance progressed towards the paleolithic, I would follow-up daily for an update on my call time and location. Each day, I was told to check in the next, until the entire week had passed. I then contacted my agent for an update, but little more information was available. Maybe I was not scrawny enough to pull off the role of Mayport murderer John Edward Brewer, but to my knowledge, no other local talent was called in for this part, either. Another lesson learned at a recent audition...well, something we all know, but don't always put into always clarify with the director or casting director if there are any doubts about how to deliver a line. There's a fine line there, since the actor should also rely on his own creativity and character development to determine the proper delivery. I erred on the wrong side, which led to a somewhat comic event. The audition scene was set in a courtroom, and as the defendant, I had the line, "Yes,'am." While preparing for the audition, I assumed (ack!) this was a sarcastic retort delivered towards a female judge. In actuality, the role of the judge had not been cast, so the line was written to accommodate either a "Yes, sir" or "Yes, ma'am" response. To compound matters, I read against a male actor portraying the judge; however, I have already decided in my own mind that the judge would eventually be a woman, so I proceded to perform the scene according to my original assumption. When I got to the, "Yes, sir -- er, ma'am," the gentleman I read with responded with, "What?...Are you confused?" We all had a good laugh at that one, and the director added, "Funny, but we can't use it." So, I need to remind myself, even if I am absolutely positive about a line read, to make a note on the script and ask before the actual audition. Needless to say, I did not get that part, but was later offered the role of a police officer for the same project. The shoot was for a local charity to use at an upcoming fund raiser, and all resources, including cast and crew, were donated. Hey, I have worked for free before, but this was different: it was a philanthropic endeavor. Although everyone volunteered their time for this micro-budget independent film, all departments operated with the same professionalism as they would on any other project. The biggest challenge during shooting had to do with the location itself. It was decided that, rather than find an alternate site to double as the non-profit organization's facility, that the actual venue would be used. We were shooting while the operation was active, so we had to accommodate multiple unscheduled breaks as the client's members were given priority use of the space. Children were also major contributors to the piece, and with most young actors, patience is not only a virtue, but an absolute operating requirement. Fortunately, all were well-behaved, and their parents were on hand to calm them during any anxious moments. All-in-all, the project ran smoothly, we all enjoyed collaborating on the film, and, as with any other shoot, we also got in a little networking on the side. Scott J. Smith
This past month has been a bit more "relaxed" as far as auditions and shoots go. This has given me time to fine-tune various useful skills, touch base with industry professionals, and get my video demo and resume updated to include my recent work for the online real estate sales tool N-Play and HBO's Recount,which was filmed in Jacksonville last year and nominated for eleven Emmy awards.There have been a few independent productions working in the area this summer. The script for one such film was presented to me last month. I read with delight the character "Richard," who faces a domino-effect of bad decisions while dealing with his sexual addiction, until it takes him too far. I relished the prospect of constructing this multi-layered character, but ultimately declined the audition due to one specific activity, though vital to the character, I felt I was not prepared to perform with the required zeal. Another call I received was for "hand models." Although I do not have such work in my current portfolio, I captured a few images for submission. I typically do not get such requests, but the work is obviously out there. Well, you know what they say: "There's a first time for everything." Right? Anyway, in this business, when you are asked, "Can you..." or "Do you...," the answer is always, "Yes"...and then you do whatever it takes so that you can. Even though this is not the peak time of year for film and television, there are still moments that keep you on your toes: This past Saturday, after videotaping footage at a Florida Antique Aircraft Collectors Association in St. Augustine, I proceeded to Dave and Buster's Restaurant on Jacksonville's Southside to facilitate the initial read-through of the upcoming show A Vote for Murder, running August through November. I also had a last-minute request for a performance of a "YouDunnit," an interactive comedy mystery product where members of the audience play suspects in the crime. As luck would have it, the YouDunnit was scheduled at the same time as the read-through, also at Dave and Buster's. An hour later, I had a call time for an audition downtown for a Coggin Auto / Jacksonville Jaguars commercial. I felt very good about that audition. (I usually do when I can call upon my physicality and my ability to improvise.) I had the chance to meet with Phil Ramirez, a colleague of mine, who praised my "professionalism"; however, as a professional, the most appropriate course of action for me would have been to simply leave after auditioning, and promise to touch base with him at another time. (Auditions are no place for chit-chat, even if it is industry-related.) This is something I constantly have to remind myself...I tend to embrace occasions to socialize, especially with friends and fellow professionals. Later that night, we celebrated my wife's birthday with friends at Sticky Fingers for dinner, then a showing of The Dark Knight, starring Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger. Despite all the posthumous praise focused solely on "The Joker," the entire cast put on solid performances, the story was a refreshing departure from the typical superhero formula, and the score, cinematography and special effects were first rate. Especially exceptional were the fight scenes. With so many films using impractical movements (like the trapeze-assisted fantasy martial arts "rotisserie kick"), computer graphics (slow-motion / freeze-frame 360's) and strobe-light visual effects to disguise poor fighting techniques, The Dark Knight showed dedication to the art and skill of hand-to-hand combat training and choreography. The motions were fluid, efficient and fast-paced; a feast for the audience rather than a distraction. I try not to nitpick when at the movies, but often I can not help it. (Likely an occupational hazard.) This movie had incredibly little to nitpick about. There are no major spoilers in the below paragraph, but if you plan on seeing the film for the first time soon, you might want to skip to the next. For makeup (and apologies to comic-book enthusiasts if these were intended nuances for each character), the mayor's eyeliner and Officer Gordon's moustache color were rather distracting. The only other item of note was a line that could have been written differently: near the climax, "Rachel Dawes" (Maggie Gyllenhaal, who looks too much like Spiderman's "Mary Jane," played by Kirsten Dunst) is urged to go to a location identified as "the safest place," but this is a location where she was recently attacked by "The Joker." ...but I digress. This blog is not intended to be chock-full of movie reviews. I made an exception this time, because (a) this capped off a very busy and fun-filled day, and (b) once mentioned, I can't close this entry without adding my thoughts about the film that has attained such success in record time. Scott J. Smith
Last month, I was called to audition for a commercial promoting WJXT Channel 4 News ("THE Local Station"). The audition was scheduled on the same day as my brother-in-law's high school graduation in the Florida Panhandle...a six hour drive. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I asked my agent if I could be seen earlier or if I could submit a videotaped audition.
The client wanted to try different combinations of actors, so neither of these options would afford that; however, in order to have any chance of being considered, I planned to submit my recorded performance burned to a DVD. I have "self-taped" auditions before, but only at the request of the director.
Fortunately, the other actors with whom I was scheduled to audition, Nick DeCastro and Ava Gardner, agreed to meet me Sunday evening to help. We discovered this was beneficial to them as well, as they have not performed together before. Maybe this "rehearsal" will give them a leg up during their actual audition.
This was also the first time I used a "wide angle" lens adapter on my camera. I chose to use it hoping to place the camera closer to the subjects, so the audio would be picked up better without the need for external or wireless microphones. As you can see by the screen capture, the lens distorts images close-up. Tip: ALWAYS practice with your equipment before using fora professional audition or shoot!
I immediately went home to capture the video, edit out the coverage between takes (I just left the camera running steadily while recording, instead of pausing after each take), and burn the footage to DVD. On Wednesday evening, I dropped off the DVD and a couple headshots, and Thursday morning, headed out of town.
On Thursday evening, I got a call from my agent about an audition on Friday. I guess I picked a bad weekend to be out of town...but then again, it's not every day when a family member graduates high school! I confirmed I would be available for the shoot dates, and asked that my headshot and online demo video be submitted for this project, a promotion for the Poker Rooms in our area.
Unfortunately, but understandably, since I could not be present at the auditions, I was not cast for either shoot. However, as one door closes, another one opens; I was recently contacted by the casting director for an independent film, and I received an email from my agent for another potential opportunity. Not too bad for what is considered to be a slow time in this industry!Scott J. Smith
So, this past week has been quite active. A couple days after the 48-Hour Film Project concluded, hundreds of viewers descended upon the Florida Theatre to screen all 26 short films over two nights.
On Tuesday night, Rita Manyette, Linda Bevilacqua and I drove to Georgia and shot various scenarios for a "decision making" training video. The script was very similar to a shoot we had in February, but the director wanted to add a few night-time scenes to the product.
This client is always fun to work with because actors can call upon their improvisational skills to add to each scene. The director approaches us with various points that are required for each scene, and we are given the opportunity to explore different ways to communicate those points.
There was one scene that did not include me; this is a good thing, because Linda and I also had a shoot scheduled for Wednesday, and I just received the script. I had about an hour with the material, before we started our drive home. I also had a little bit of time to learn my lines during the ride home, since we car-pooled.
Wednesday's shoot was for instructional videos that will appear on various real estate websites. The videos will demonstrate how buyers, sellers and agents can use a new online application called N-Play. N-Play is designed to automate the bidding process, keeping buyers, sellers and agents up-to-date by comparing multiple anonymous offers.
Linda and I worked with Cindy Hogan in a marvelous riverfront home with a picturesque view out of every room. Digital Video Arts provided a detailed itinerary, which we were able to maintain throughout the day. In fact, we were released early, thanks to the professionalism of the cast and crew. This was especially appreciated, since several of us were expected to attend the premiere of HBO's motion picture "Recount" that night at the Florida Theatre.
"Recount" was shot in Jacksonville during the Fall of 2007, and stars Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern and Denis Leary. Most of the day players, and nearly all the extras were cast from the North Florida area, so the auditorium was filled with many familiar faces. Director Jay Roach, writer Danny Strong, producer Michael Hausman and several of the stars also attended.
Also in the audience was Bruce McGill. Earlier in my acting career, I was "background" (an extra) in "The Legend of Bagger Vance," a movie filmed in South Georgia, where I share the screen with Mr. McGill for a few precious seconds. I had intended on getting a photograph taken with him to add to this site, but with all the activity after the screening, I missed the opportunity.
"Recount" premieres on HBO this weekend, and will be shown through the end of June. My scene is about one hour into the film, during the hand recount of ballots in West Palm Beach County:
Thursday saw the "official" kick-off of the Sixth Annual Jacksonville Film Festival. With everything that was going on in recent weeks, the festival launched during an exciting time for the film industry in Florida. Instead of attending the launch party, which screened "The Year of Getting to Know Us" starring Jimmy Fallon, for whom I was a stand-in during the Spring of 2007, we attended a showing of the classic "The Maltese Falcon" with Humphrey Bogart at the Mandarin Library.
This past Sunday, I attended a screening of "Student Shorts" at Fuel Coffeehouse in Five Points. The festival organizers chose a broad range of films that showcased eight film-makers, all of whom I believer were from Florida (a couple from Jacksonville, two from the FSU film school, and another from the University of CentralFlorida). It was delightfully inspring to see the creativity, passion and dedication to this art form.Scott J. Smith
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