LETTER FROM L.A.: Valley of the Turkeys; Propping up production
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier
this at the end of Thanksgiving weekend. Thanksgiving in the San Fernando
Valley is pretty morose for those without a dinner planned. A few cafes are
open in the morning and early afternoon, and then the very unlovely streets of
Burbank and North Hollywood mostly close down. Though Pasadena, it turns out,
is pretty lively. Lots of places open on Colorado Avenue and several
restaurants downright full.
tradition we have out here is uncharacteristically compassionate for this town:
a comedy club on Sunset serves a steady flow of free meals – and comedy – to
actors with nowhere else to go. Not that they check for SAG cards. The line
outside is a great place to bond with a colorful assortment of our less
advantaged local citizenry…
time I went to check this out, a hip coffeehouse down the block tried to horn
in on this tradition. Whether from civic spirit or desire for TV coverage, I
don’t know. Whatever the intent, they
had a terrible time getting people to go the short distance to their place.
Even the street people insisted on sticking with what they knew.
where everybody sticks to known quantities.
A woman who rents props says not only has she been renting them regularly
lately, but some are renting them on Fridays – meaning they’ll be shooting
through the weekend. On the other hand, an entertainment lawyer says her
director clients are still being sent out of the country to shoot. And yet
another set designer is seeking alternate sources of income.
locally, it’s the same story as nationally: signs of a recovery, but shaky.
Ever so shaky.
does this matter to you, the New York actor? Possibly not at all, especially if
your focus is theatre. If it’s film, a bit more. I don’t think it’s arrogant of
us transplanted Angelenos to suggest that, as goes Hollywood, so goes the
American film business. So along with the national news items on Los Angeles
trends, you probably want to keep an eye cocked for such small (if
you’re one of those optimistic souls who’s planning on ‘coming out for pilot
season’, then you REALLY want to pay attention.
presuming there’s no use in telling you it’s a really bad idea right? First of
all, if you were going to look for an agent, the time to do that was just this
last month or so. Once pilot season is upon us, few agents have time to be
interviewing new clients. And those who do probably couldn’t help you much
very unlikely that you’ll get in many doors at such a high-pressure time if you
haven’t been in town for a while. Not impossible of course – maybe you’re that
particular type that’s in short supply this year. But note I said ‘type’. Just
being good-looking or talented or – well, whatever makes you think you’re a bit
above the crowd -, most likely won’t be enough. This town’s category-driven at
the best of times. What’s that mean? That means that if someone wants mineral
water, the fact that you’re offering the best champagne really won’t help
you. With a few exceptions, you have to
first be what they’re looking for – quirky, heavy, Latino, whatever -, then
be the best of that type (because, this being Hollywood, there’s always lots of
others in the same category).
Also, given that everybody up and
down the line – actors, casting directors, directors, producers – is dependent
on someone else’s approval, no one wants to make a mistake. During pilot
season, casting directors – like homeless people lined up for turkeys - look
for known quantities; i.e., actors whose work they already know.
All this is
true at the best of times. But last pilot season, lots of people who were known
quantities – and used to working – didn’t get out at all. And it’s not at all
sure things will be better this year.
Not sure at
So, if you
haven’t bought that ticket yet…
see how many props are being rented come January.