Thursday, May 19, 2011

I quit

I've been extremely busy with house painting, working on the Quarter Rat publication and website plus graphic design work. I have to quit something so I am ending may career as a background actor. Please don't try to talk me out of it, my mind is made up. Here are the reasons that made me decide to drop that vocation.
• The pay. Right now the average rate is $80 for ten hours of time. Just about minimum wage. In those same ten hours I can make much more as a house painter. My graphic design fee is $400 for ten hours. Not a hard choice.

• The co-workers. This is the main reason, the recent production that I have worked on and from what I hear from friends who are background actors is that the casting companies are desperate to fill space with anyone they can. One buddy was working a shoot a few weeks ago and said the van ride to the location was unbearable. The van was packed with extras most of which hadn't bathed in weeks. "You know those guys we see under the over pass holding the cardboard signs asking for money? THEY were hired as background. I thought I was going to vomit from the odor. Every other word out of their mouths was a profanity."

• Food. One of the perks that compensated for the low wage was that they used to feed you pretty good. PROFESSIONAL background actors would take reasonable helpings and be happy. The barrel scrapings that have been getting hired lately, they pile the food onto their plates like they haven't eaton in weeks and go back for seconds. I have witnesses an obese old lady stuffing food into her purse from the crafty table. Gee, and I wonder why the next day all we get served is red beans and rice with a slice of watermelon.

• Double standard. Those of us who treat this as a profession and try to do our best dress as we were instructed, stand where instructed and conduct ourselves professionally. However the casting companies just want to meet the numbers required and bring in anyone who answers an E-mail. 

If the scene being shot requires "Casual dinning" street thugs come in with logo em-blazed t-shirts and jeans hanging off of their asses. The wardrobe people don't say shit because they are too scared to. Those extras are placed in deep background out of focus or frame just because no one wants to be the one to tell them to go home because they obviously can't read or don't bother to read the requirements. Meanwhile I just lugged 40 pounds of clothing with me to the holding tent just in case they didn't like my first choice. For $80.

I'll be standing on my mark doing exactly what I am told in the hot sun to look over and see a group of guys sitting in the shade enjoying the bounty they just looted from the crafty table. The Production Assistants eyeball them, but say nothing. 

Now the casting companies whine that they can't get background actors to come in to work. How about this, next time you need bodies, just go down to Poydras and Claiborne with the van, wake up the people sleeping with the cardboard signs and say "Want to be in a movie?"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No place like home...

Back in New Jersey, the number one thing people like to complain about is New Jersey. Too crowded, too expensive, too corrupt, too hectic. If you interrupt their tirade about how Jersey sucks to ask them why don't they move they respond "What?? Leave Jersey?" Residents there have a dysfunctional relation ship with their abusive state spouse. Don't let another state make a joke about it, no matter how true it may be.

When I first moved down here a year ago, I was pretty much jobless, penniless and homeless. Still I felt more at home, more at ease and happier in New Orleans than if I had been given a mansion back in the Garden State.  I have yet to hear a resident here bad mouth the Bid Easy, instead you hear everyone rave about their love of the city like newlywed on a honeymoon.

A new Facebook friend who is serving in the military overseas has been sharing his love story with New Orleans with me. He sent me this Mark Twain quote:
It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans.
- Letter to Pamela Moffett, 9 and 11 March 1859 

Well I hope I don't make him too homesick, but I'll send him a little Dr. John in return. Stay safe Franklin, I'll treat you to a beer when you get back home.

Monday, May 2, 2011

he's dead

Back in the late 1990's I drove commuter bus for Academy Bus Lines up the route 9 corridor to Wall Street. Two of my stops every morning and in the evening was the World Trade Center. In the morning after my run, we parked the buses a few blocks away on a pier literally in the shadows of the twins. I spent many an afternoon in the plaza beneath them, listening to classical musicians play as I downed a dirt water dog for lunch.

My older brother took me up to the top of the towers back in the late 70's after they were constructed.  I never failed to be in awe of them regardless of how many times a day I looked up at them.  When driving charter buses in and out of the five boros of New York City, I could always find my way back to New Jersey by using the towers as a navigation landmark. Magnificent to see at night.

In September of 2001 I was working in north Jersey for a sign company. Driving to the job site on Route 18 we listened dumbstruck to the radio news reports. From the job site, we could see the smoke on the horizon, by mid afternoon a sickening electrical fire smell filled the air. On the ride back to the shop, I tried to remember the faces of my passengers that got on and off of my bus years before.

Things changed for the entire world that day. In the years since bickering has taken place over conspiracies and motives. Does it really matter? Innocents are dead, soldier have died, billions have been wasted. I don't think anyone wears a white hat in this world anymore. No soldiers are coming home today, billions more will be spent and new theories are popping up on the internet.

It's an "US or THEM" world today, I'm happy to be an us.