Monday, November 29, 2004

Which Media Conglomerate Won the First Week of November Sweeps:
The easy winner, predictably, was Viacom, owner of CBS and UPN as well as the MTV cable networks. But other high finishers, like Time Warner and Liberty Media, may be names that television viewers don't normally think of while cruising channels.
  1. Viacom (29,762,000)
  2. Walt Disney Company (18,656,000)
  3. General Electric (17,750,000)
  4. Time Warner (12,120,000)
  5. News Corporation (10,752,000)
  6. Liberty Media (4,144,000)
  7. E. W. Scripps (1,705,000)
  8. Hearst (1,422,000)
  9. Cablevision (1,297,000)
(from The New York Times). You can learn more about which major media companies owns what at Columbia Journalism Review's Who Owns What site (e.g., it says that Disney has a partial interest in Sid R. Bass, a crude petroleum and natural gas production company, which is unexpected).

Afgan National Theatre Festival:
Barely three years ago, at a time when women in Afghanistan were not permitted even to leave their homes, the idea of a woman performing on stage - and in mixed company! - seemed inconceivable. Any woman who did so risked life and limb.
All the more astonishing, then, that a theater festival opening in Kabul will include a play written by a woman (a teenage schoolgirl, to be precise), with real actresses, about the brutal suppression of women under the country's now-ousted Taliban government.
Many plays at the national festival have themes that are daring in Afghanistan - star-crossed lovers, hypocritical mullahs, corrupt provincial governors, smugglers of ancient cultural artifacts, and drug lords. But Afghans have not forgotten how to laugh - several plays take digs at doctors, policemen, and busybodies
(from The Christian Science Monitor).

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Talking to Agents - It Helps If You Know the Answer
by Bob Fraser (reposted with permission)
One of the questions I get asked frequently relates to something that most actors face in their interviews with agents and casting directors.
Here's how a typical letter reads;
Dear Bob,
I met with an agent yesterday & the first thing she said was Tell me about yourself. So I told her what my credits were, where I went to school, people I knew in the business and so on. She didn't really listen. She said she'd let me know. I already know. She's not interested. What did I do wrong?
Q: What do I say when they say, Tell me about yourself.
Me: Whatever you do, DO NOT recite your resume, where you went to school and so on. Always keep in mind the kind of work you are trying to get ... story telling.
In the case of an agent, you are interviewing a prospective salesperson for your business. It's your job to convince a thoroughly professional salesperson (an agent) that representing your product (you) is going to produce a lot of income.
The agent's income depends on finding, representing and selling the best story tellers he can find. An agent learns quickly how to spot the 'comers' and ignore the 'wannabes.' The sole criteria is this: Is this actor a good story teller?
The observable reality? No agent can tell if you are a good story teller unless she sees you telling a story. That opening gambit – tell me about yourself – is an agent's (or casting director's) way of saying; tell me a story.
If you do not comply with this request, agents become like five year olds;Tell me a story. Tell me a story. Tell me a story!
These repetetive requests come in the guise of: I see you went to Carnegie Tech. So, you're from Connecticut. Oh, you worked with Burt Reynolds.
When you hear this kind of thing it's just the agent trying to get the 'test drive' started. They want you to tell them a story.
Okay, now that you know what's really going on, it's time to discover what your response should be – the next time you hear those words; Tell me about yourself.
What you should do is – (surprise) – TELL A STORY.
Go through your real life experiences and start creating narratives about yourself. If you have to bend the truth a bit to keep the interest up, then so be it. Fiction is our business. (Just don't make up credits or relationships.)
For instance, let us suppose that you have only one credit in a community theater production of Sally Of The Sawdust – and you only had two lines as Cannonball Bill. The beginning of your story might be something along these lines:
Well, my first entrance in the theatre was unusual – I was shot from a cannon. (This is what we in the fiction business call a grabber.)
Now spin out a story where there's a little suspense, a little joke, a little pay-off of some kind;
One night we had an understudy who was supposed to say one line after I got shot onto the stage. He was supposed to say. Hark I hear the cannon roar! He was pretty nervous because he'd never been on stage before. Anyway, when I got shot out of the cannon with a large bang, the understudy was startled and he said, What the hell was that?
Don't forget the drama! This is a scene you are painting for the agent. Play it.
Tell a story. A beginning. (The grabber) A middle. (An interesting thing happened) And then the end.
So I thought to myself, someone of my caliber could go far in show business. (Groan)
Alright, not the best joke – but the point is this; tell a story that keeps the agent interested in the outcome and you'll go a long ways toward convincing the agent that you are a 'comer.'
By the way, when I say create a narrative, I'm not talking about lying – I'm talking about taking the stories in your own experiences and make them memorable. Dramatic! Hilarious! Exciting! Suspenseful!
Now practice telling your stories in such a way that the agent can't wait for the next line. Believe me, once you "hook" an agent with a well-told story, you will get what you came for; representation. In other words, sell the salesman.
The same advice goes for casting directors. They are the personnel department of the company you hope to work for. The same idea applies.
Tell a story.
  • Get several good stories in your repertoire
  • Practice telling them.
This is basic, bottom-line preparation. If you don't have stories to tell, you are going to suffer through a lot of needless rejection.
So the next time you hear, Tell me about yourself. you know all you have to do is be prepared to tell a story. Make it a good story, practice telling it, listen for the cue line and go. Your positive results will soar.
One more thing – you can observe how other actors and performers tell stories by tuning in to the celebrity interview shows. Some are good at it and some are not so good. (I'm sure you'll see the difference.) But they're all trying ... to 'tell me a story.'
Bob Fraser is an actor, writer, producer, director and author of You Must Act!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Labor Peace on Broadway through 2007:
After an all-night negotiating session, Broadway's stagehands and producers reached an agreement early yesterday on a new three-year contract. The deal is the latest between producers and the theater industry's three major unions, effectively assuring labor peace on Broadway at least through the spring of 2007
(from The New York Times). I imagine this may partly apply to some Chicago shows; perhaps tours won't have contract disputes for a few years.

If you work on any film shooting outdoors, there is a good weather site for checking how the weather will be hour to hour for the next couple days. Might be good for deciding whether or not to were long-underwear under your costume.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A somewhat amusing forward from an actor friend who now lives in LA:
You live in Chicago when:
  1. You think parking is good if it only takes 45 minutes to find a spot within 4 blocks of your house.
  2. You chose your apartment based on its proximity to public transportation.
  3. You think paying $3.50 for a glass of Miller Lite is perfectly acceptable.
  4. Every year another building in your neighborhood gets “rehabbed” into luxury condos.
  5. You have a collection of parking tickets you’re not worried about.
  6. You’re not afraid to ride in a taxi.
  7. You wear gym shoes with your work clothes.
  8. You have ever parked your car by tapping the cars in front and back of you to fit into a spot.
  9. The four seasons have become so confusing you have ceased to define them by name.
  10. You know someone who has off on Casmir Pulaski Day.

Monday, November 22, 2004

While I believe Derailed finishes shooting in Chicago today, you can go to Joan Philo's web site to find out how to register to be an extra for upcoming projects she is casting.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Actors working in comedy may like this:
Humor is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.
-Edward De Bono

Friday, November 19, 2004

Combating Cell Phone Rings in Theatres:
A New York theater is trying a new technique to get audience members to turn off their rage-inducing cell phones. Staffers at the Brooks Atkinson Theater noticed that the public had become fairly immune to a simple prerecorded announcement asking for the phones to be shut down, so just before curtain, they've begun playing an obnoxious recording of cell phone rings so realistic that people all over the house dive for their phones in horror. And so a new front may have been opened in the long, hard war against the rude and the clueless... With some of those people, polite appeals are a waste of time
(from The New York Times, via ArtsJournal).

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Office Assistant Day-Job

Office Assistant Day-Job Opprotunity:

An office assistant job has just opened up at my office. It is a decent job with a good company. I used to occupy this position. The schedule is very compatible with the improvisers lifestyle. Here's the job description...
  • Renaissance Main Office
  • We are looking for a savvy individual to provide administrative support - assist our executive staff of three, handle the phones, mail and fax/copy. This job can expand to cover assistance with IT issues, marketing and more. Good typing skills, Word and Excel experience are required.
  • We require previous office experience.
  • Please send your resume, complete with a cover letter and salary history to
If you want more information, go to or e-mail me at and I can give you the inside scoop.

This is all I know about this, caveat actor.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Boston may have over built theatres relative to demand (from Boston and Chicago are very different cities, but it should be interesting to see if Boston ends up with some of the same issues the Chicago Theatre District is facing, like dark spaces.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Lauren Strejc has created Chicago Talents, a website of resources for Chicago area actors and models. Among other things, the site includes message boards, job listings and a directory of actors and models.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Derailed Update: I believe they plan to be shooting in Joliet on November 22 (perhaps for scenes set in Attica Prison?). Writer (though not for this film) and Extras Casting Director Joan Philo seems to be the Extras Casting Director for Derailed (you can read an essay that may have been written by her here). The Extras Casting office may be reachable at: 312-829-1657 (that phone may be answered by Donna Watts or Peter). My previous posts about Derailed are here and here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Perhaps Why Musicals Continue to Thrive:
If you stop to think about it, the survival of the musical as an art form is one of the miracles of the 21st century. Musicals are expensive, complicated and old-fashioned in their unreal mingling of song, dance and theatre. They are also incredibly hard to pull off successfully.
By changing, the musical has remained a truly popular form because it has shown itself capable of speaking to new generations. They grow up on Gene Kelly, but end up loving Velma and Roxie
(from Telegraph).

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

PerformInk now confirms that the film Derailed will be shooting for a couple of weeks here this month. I know local actors have been getting calls to work as extras; I haven't heard about local casting for small speaking roles. I think they will be shooting at the following locations (or places dressed to look like these places):I originally posted in July about the film; it is being produced by Miramax, directed by Mikael Hafstrom, stars Jennifer Aniston (as a bad girl, a very bad girl) and Clive Owen (as the protagonist) and is co-written by Stuart Beattie and novelist James Siegal. The novel, like the film, is about the unexpected turn a businessman's life takes after he misses his morning train; it's a good book.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

London critics banned from opening nights:
West End theatre producers are to make radical attempts to fireproof new shows against the critics as they survey the smouldering wreckage of productions closed following bad reviews.
Producers believe the opening night combination of nervous relatives and anxious financial backers can destabilise performances. The experimental move, which has been cautiously welcomed by several critics as well as by theatre owners, is a response to the growing power of the London critics
(from Guardian Unlimited).

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Producer Consortiums:
Huge producer consortiums are now the norm for modern stage musicals. The single, all-powerful producer exerting full artistic and financial control has become exceptionally rare - Cameron Mackintosh being the notable exception. But most big shows, particularly those that transfer internationally, are financed and packaged like films
(from Guardian Unlimited).

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

2003-2004 Jeff Awards were awarded yesterday. Chicago Shakespeare Theater won for best play (Rose Rage, Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3) and lead the pack, winning 7 awards. The Goodman Theatre in association with The Intiman Theatre won for best musical (The Light in the Piazza) and won 5 awards, the second highest number of awards.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Chicago Community Cinema, a networking event for independent film in Chicago, meets Tuesday, November 2nd, at 6:00 PM at Excalibur, 632 N. Dearborn St. (Yahoo map).