SHECKYmagazine.com HOME   BACK to the Columnist INDEX JAN-FEB 2003 ISSUE

"Are you going to lose some weight so you look better on camera?"
The Big Move
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TOMMY JAMES made the Big Move to Los Angeles.





#8 IN A SERIES . . . . . NEW BIG MOVE EVERY MONTH! Happy New Year. I hope that Santa and/or Hanukah Harry brought you everything you wanted. I recently read that more people are murdered on New Yearís Day than any other day of the year. And I thought no one really followed through with their resolutions.

Whatís your resolution? Are you going to lose some weight so you look better on camera? Are you going to write a spec script, a screenplay, a one man show, or 30 new minutes for your act? 2003 is here and itís time to make some improvements. So what are you going to do? If nothing else, maybe you too should kill somebody-- like a hack or a joke thief.

Two things Iíd like to do this year are obtain my Screen Actorís Guild (SAG) Card and get on Premium Blend as well as a network TV spot on a show like Letterman, Conan or Kilborn. Iíve got my manager, Chris DiPetta, working on getting me on TV and Iíve been trying to get into the Screen Actorís Guild (SAG) and obtain my SAG card. I also want to start paying my bills online and get more organized but thatís not really comedy related.

There are three ways you can earn a SAG card. The first way is to simply blow a director. This method can prove to be both the easiest and the most difficult, depending on your self-esteem. Before following through with this, make sure that you are in fact blowing the director and not some gopher or grip. Check and then check again. It would be awful learn that just gave a hummer to the guy who fetches coffee for the crew. But perform felatio on the right people and youíd be surprised at the doors that will open for you-- or so Iíve heard.

The second way to earn a SAG card, which many feel is almost impossible, is to have a speaking role in a film, television show or commercial. After filming the role, you can Taft-Hartley yourself in. The dilemma here is that unless you have incredible representation, powerful friends, or a whole lot of luck, nobody is going to cast you in a speaking role without your already having a SAG card. You could be the best actor going, but you probably wonít even get an audition without being in SAG. Trust me, youíll have more success robbing a bank with a ping pong ball gun than you will landing a speaking role without already having a SAG card.

The third and final way to get your SAG card is to work as an extra and hopefully someone in the Guild wonít show up. You see, as part of the unionís most recent labor negotiations, all projects must use a certain number of SAG extras. If a union extra doesnít show up, then a non-union person can acquire the higher paying SAG voucher of the absent extra. This happens more often than you might think and after attaining three SAG vouchers, you too can apply for membership-- so long as you can fork over the $1100+ membership fee. Just remember, everyone there is looking for the same vouchers and donít get too down on yourself if they donít come quickly. Iíve met some people who got all three of their vouchers within a month and others who are still looking for their first after doing extra work for eight months.

So you say working as an extra is the way you want to go huh? Well, for those of you who donít know, working as an extra is like pledging a fraternity-- without the girls, the beer, and the camaraderie. It has all the hazing of hell week crammed into one incredibly tedious day. Iím certain that the Taliban down at camp X-ray in Cuba are treated better than I was on several sets last month. I wonít get into specifics, but I would sooner cut the tendons behind my knees with a bread knife and then sit on hot coals to watch a Murder She Wrote marathon before Iíd I ever accept extra work on The Gilmore Girls again. And my new TiVo, a Christmas gift from my parents, will never ever, be programmed to record it, so help me God.

I also had a horrendous experience as an extra on a new Dominoís Pizza commercial. First of all, the call time was 3:30 AM. Hey, I got into comedy so I wouldnít have to wake up before ten, what gives? Arriving at 3:30 AM wouldnít have been so bad had I known about it more that eight hours ahead of time, but thatís the other shitty part about being an extra. You almost never know when you are going to get called with a job. So I get the call and have almost no time to sleep. Since I had no gin in the house, I decided to down about six Bug Lights in the hopes of falling asleep earlier than usual. It was either that or run to Blockbuster and rent a Yahoo Serious movie.

Not only did I have to arrive at some mall parking lot in Sherman Oaks at 3:30 AM, but then I had to put red and blue clown makeup on my face, dress as a Dominoís driver and then get in a bus for a two hour ride with 100 strangers up to the mountains North of Los Angeles-- or so we thought. It was mountainous yes, but the part of the job description that was never told to us was that we were going to be spending thirteen ours on our feet in a cow pasture. There is nothing worse than the smell of rotting dung, well except for a bad guitar act and the rednecks who love them. It was horrible. Thereís only so long you can attempt to avoid stepping on cow chips before you simply give up. At the end of the 13-hour day, when I earned all of $120, my Nikes looked and smelled repulsive. They were in such bad shape that Iím pretty sure the 8 year-olds in Nikeís Thai sweatshop wouldnít have been able to recognize their handy work.

Not all of my experience as an extra has been terrible. A few weeks back I had to shake Martin Sheenís hand 75 times for a scene on The West Wing. Martin was surprisingly friendly and his hair is impeccable. At one point he asked me if he could get me anything. I was a little intimidated and simply said no, but in retrospect, I wish I had told him to make me a sandwich. "Yeah Marty, get me a turkey on wheat with mustard. Iíll take a Diet Coke too. And make it snappy." I probably would have been fired, but it would have made for a good story.

Iíve also enjoyed my experiences on shows like Hidden Hills and 7th Heaven as well as the upcoming Jim Carey feature Bruce Almighty and Charlieís Angels 2.

Some of you may be wondering how to get extra work. The first thing you must do is go down to Central Casting and register. It costs $20 and the registration process, which is only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings can be hectic. If you plan on going, GET THERE EARLY. The doors are open for registration from 10:30 AM until 11:30 AM and by 11:00 AM there are hundreds of people there. It would be quite beneficial to get there an hour early-- trust me. There are so many starving artists there by ten, youíd think you were on a free cheese line in the former Soviet Union.

After registering, you can then call the Central Hotline in an attempt to book work, but it is nearly impossible to get through as thousands of other props with pulses like yourself are calling in. The number is always busy. It's like trying to win a radio contest where the 99th caller gets to be treated like an schmuck for $54. So the best way to get work is to hire yourself and extra calling service. For a fee (usually $55-$70 a month) an extra calling service will do all the leg work and call you when there is an opening for a breathing prop matching your size, sex, and color attributes. I tried to book myself as an extra and literally couldnít do it. The moment I signed on with a firm called Extraís Management for $65 a month, they had me working every day I was available. But make sure you tell your firm when you are unavailable. Because if they book you for a job, and you donít show up theyíll never book you again and youíll lose the monthly fee you paid.

Well thatís it from me this month. I hope you had a Happy Holiday Season and would like to thank all of you who e-mailed me after my last column. I have to get going now because I have to get up early and I donít have any beer or access to Yahoo Serious films. Iíll just watch The Anna Nicole Smith Show on E!. Did that last sentence need a period or is the exclamation point after the "E" enough? Microsoft Word seems to think no period is necessary, but it doesnít realize that the "!" is part of the logo. Then again, Microsoft also suggested that "felatio" was spelled wrong both here and in the fourth paragraph. Needless to say, computer geeks never get any action, and wouldnít know felatio if they spent three months in Vegas. No matter, itís time for bed. Happy New Year, once again. See you soon.



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