Monday, April 14, 2008

My First LA Gig!

I’ve been in LA for just over a week and today I worked as an extra on a TV show!

The less impressive part - it was a game show.

The cool part – It’s a brand new game show being produced by Ashton Kutcher’s company, Katalyst Films; it will air on CBS this summer.

The less impressive part – I was paid a measly, but standard, rate of $64 for 8 hours of work.

The coolest part – It was hosted by Joe Rogan (NewsRadio, Fear Factor, NFC Fight Night, The Man Show), for whom I have always had a huge crush!

So here’s the scoop…

Yes, with the exception of The Price is Right, I have discovered most game show audiences are hired. Why? Because filming is long, tedious, cold and exhausting… I heard Deal of No Deal is the worst!

How did I get this gig? No, I don’t have an agent yet, but I am on two online booking sites. Basically I submitted my headshot and resume (which I doubt they even glanced at) electronically and then I was sent a hotline to call with instructions.

I was told to arrive at Hollywood Center Studio’s 30 to 45 minutes prior to the 8 a.m. call time, and to dress to impress in a pant or skirt suit. Oh, and not to drink a lot of coffee, as there would be few breaks. My roommates warned me the street parking in the area was minimal, and indeed, all I could find was a spot that was restricted on Mondays from noon to 3 for freaking street cleaning. Not wanting to be late for my first gig, I took the spot in hopes that our lunch break would truly be a noon.

At the studio’s entrance I found lines of people from three different casting agencies. One of the “wranglers” asked an attractive, but unrefined woman, “Oh, did you see yourself? You were all over Don’t Forget the Lyrics...” They went on to describe the contestant for the particular episode, but the women didn’t seem to remember or care. When another woman walked up a wrangler said, “Hi! Are you with me today?” “No,” she said. “I signed up for this one with…”

At a quarter till 8 they came around to inform us that no cameras or cell phones would be allowed inside, both of which I had in my purse. Since the people around me had obviously done this before I watched for their reactions and everyone was surprised, but no one fought the issue or headed back to their cars. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I thought. This is LA- people live on their damn phones, and I was standing with 250 other actor-types, all of whom were likely waiting for THE call!

It reminded me of my days competing for a state pageant title, in which the powers that be treated adult women like children, also restricting us from carrying our phones. We all did anyway. I knew that was the case with all the other extras standing around me – they’d just turn them off and put them at the bottom of their bags. Was security really going to search us and our things that well? Not a chance in hell!

On the other hand, I had gotten my ass up at 6 a.m. for my first LA gig and all I’d be doing for the next 15 minutes was stand around… So I decided to put my cell and camera back in my car. Upon returning to line the woman behind me was bitching about the neighborhood we were in, how her car had been broken into and she refuses to leave any valuables in it… Great! Now I’m worried about a ticket and having my things stolen!

We entered the studio and went through a really pathetic security check point; they looked in our bags, but did not actually go through them. “Studios” are usually a collection of buildings inside concrete walls; once inside we sat on dirty wooden benches between two of the buildings. We were held there for another 20 to 30 minutes and instructed to go to the bathroom, as there would be minimal breaks.

Finally, they led us into the actual set, which was pretty impressive. I was seated in the second row behind the contestants’ friend and family, so yes, you’ll probably see me. Comedian, Frank Nicotero, the former host of Street Smarts was the audience warm-up person who gave us instructions and tried to keep us energized. Then there was also Alec, the tall British stage director who everyone liked but no one could understand.

Before Joe came out we did some fake reaction shots – clapping, gasping, laughing… It’s called Gameshow in my Head and it’s basically a hidden camera show. The contestant is given an earpiece and sent out to a public place. Via the earpiece they are given instructions for outlandish tasks they must complete in five minutes. They told us the show was originally not going to have a studio audience, as it really doesn’t need one, but CBS decided they wanted one to react to the video footage, sort of like on America’s Funniest Home Video’s.

So then Joe Rogan finally came out and he is every bit as hunky in person! He’s also a standup comedian and with every curse word I liked him more… “7:30 a.m… They’re fuckin’ paying you guys, right?” He asked.

In the shows concept Joe is giving the instructions, though I’m sure in actuality is was some production assistant… So we went though the show, pretty much straight through with him delivering his lines and us reacting to the footage. It really was some funny shit! The contestant, Seth somebody, who was originally from Columbus Ohio, had to stay within a foot of a stranger following Joe’s instructions to be in front, behind or beside them for a full minute. Then he had to sell “long stems” for $2. Once he took the buyers money he had to cut the rose blossom off the top and get them to buy it for an additional $4! In his final challenge they put him on a street corner wearing only a hat and boxers and he had to convince people to give the clothes off their backs!

Never mind my crush, Joe really is a great host. Most retakes were the fault of the production and not him. After going straight through the show we had to do each of his lines again as well as additional reaction shots, etc… They’re still not sure how many of the contestants tasks will be aired so various wording had to be used. Luckily the first show wrapped and we were released at 12:05.

I rushed back to my car wondering, will I have a ticket? What if they don’t give tickets and they towed it!?! Will my car have been broken into? If they took my cell phone, how do I call for help? I don’t know my roommates number. Thankfully all concerns were moot – LA has yet to initiate me with a love note from the parking authorities.

I did experience another wrath of this town though – it took me every second of my hour break to drive .7 miles to McDonalds and back, find another parking spot and walk several blocks to the studio. During the course of driving and walking I was only able to take two bites of my sandwich. Luckily I finished it while waiting again on the sidewalk outside of the studio doors for like 20 minutes. This time I smuggled my phone in by hiding it in the bottom of my McDonalds bag!

For the second episode I was on the opposite side, third row. It went a bit smoother, as the first episode was literally the first episode ever. However, the second contestant was not as good; she was not as successful and the task she was given were almost degrading. Ironically, she too was an Ohioan – Debbie something from Cleveland!

We wrapped a half hour early, around 4:30 and once again we stood on that damn sidewalk outside to fill out a form and receive our cash.

So, $64 and several painful blisters on my feet later, I’m chalking this one up to experience! I’m very glad I did it and I’m excited I can say I worked my first week in LA, but this type of extra work doesn’t make much sense.

Think about it- none of us could go on auditions or interviews today and evening jobs I’m finding start at 5 or 6 p.m., thus you’d be late. $64 doesn’t come close to tips you could make in a restaurant, and though it’s a TV show, it’s not doing shit for your career.

I felt like Butters on the “Freaks” episode of South Park! Ya know, the one in which the guys convince him to glue fake balls on his chin so he can go on the talk show circuit. He then meets other legitimate “freaks” who compare notes about the being on all the shows, the prizes they win and quality of the green rooms…

That’s how I felt being around these people who are regular extras on stupid game shows! There’s no way they’re doing all they can with their careers. I suppose if you honestly don’t have anything going on that day you may as well make some money, but the money almost isn’t worth the hassle, especially when you could be at home online trying to book something better. Another thing is that a lot of these people weren’t even put together well – I mean, if that’s how they choose to present themselves on national TV, it’s no wonder they haven’t impressed a good agent or manager!

There were moments today I thought “I’m better than this!’’ I have talent, training and experience! On the other hand, I’m pretty damn proud of myself that I got on the casting websites my first week and had a paying gig!

A paying gig!

In LA!

And you’ll probably even see me on TV.

Gameshow in my Head – check your local listings this summer. ;)


Jeff Mac said...

Congratulations, anonymous-friend-from-Ohio-and-now-in-L.A.! :)

Looking forward to checking it out soon!

Might try calling ya tonight...I have stuff to discuss!


Zaina Marie said...

I'll have to remember to tune into this. What an insightful post, didn't realize most audience members are hired. I'll keep my fingers crossed that you land the job of your dreams soon so you can make some real money!

Zaina Marie

Anonymous said...

I must remind you that a substitute teacher's pay for one seven hour day is $68 take-home without much lunch break and with a lot of frustration. You did very well considering that's what I would get if I went back to work!
Keep looking! I still think you'd make a great intern for Jay Leno and you could do things like Ross Matthews, host a red carpet event, go to the Kentucky Derby, etc. I think you should wear your 10" DreamQueen crown everywhere so you are undeniably unique!
Good luck and keep up the good work.
Nancy M.

-h. said...

OOOH! You should totally be Ross' sidekick. How cool would that be?

Seriously - so glad you're doing well. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone, thanks for checking out this blog too and for your comments!

Nancy, I think it is so sad that teachers are so underpaid! It’s awful!

And about wearing that crown... I think people would just think I was crazy! LOL!

~ Buckeye on a Palm Tree