Sometimes I feel as if I may need to make friends with the chicken that keeps making its way to my front yard.
I have an actor friend who is MIA. People often go MIA here, in Hollywood, and elsewhere. The significant thing about my friend going MIA is that he posted a pretty disturbing video on Facebook before he went missing. He was clearly in a dark place when he posted it. I’ve been in a dark place myself, here and there, so I can relate. Hollywood can be a cold and lonely place. It’s not always sunny and bright out here.
“Oh, my God! Did you hear the news about __________?”
“No, what happened? Tell it.”
“They found __________’s body on the Metro 534 bus out in Malibu.”
“Oh, no. That’s so sad.”
“Yeah, he liked the water, so he took a ride and …”
“No, that’s not right. I heard they found him in a bathtub. He’d slashed his wrists and bled out into the water.”
“Uh-uh, I heard he was depressed, got drunk and choked later while he was drinking a glass of water.”
“He should have reached out to someone.”
Maybe he did.
“Can we grab a cup of coffee? I need a friend’s ear.”
“I’d love to, but I need to hurry back. Traffic is going to be murder as it is. Raincheck?”
“That sounds good, but my friend’s cousin’s sister’s brother-in-law’s old classmate’s brother’s friend is having a birthday party for his and his baby's mama’s 1-year-old, and I have to be there. Raincheck?”
"I would, but the person I’ve been hoping will call me might call, so I need to be there IF they do call. Raincheck?”
"Awww, I'm sorry. I can't. I'm heading out of town and I need to pack. Raincheck?"
You never know what is going on between a person’s ears. Sometimes, it just takes little bit of time spent with them to find out. There are several people, some among the actors with whom I work, might need someone sometime. Sure, mentioning what we’re working on or what we’ve been seen in is great, but sometimes we need to go deeper than that. Face to face is more than the name of a calling service out here.
Sometimes, we need to reach out. And sometimes we need to be available when someone does reach out. Take the call. Answer the text. Grab the cup of Joe or the bite to eat. I’m going to try to do better with this. We all should.
What harm can it do? Yours might be the lifeline somebody needs. You never know.
And to my friend who is MIA: Brother, when you surface, call me … anytime. You are not alone in this world. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee …
Stay tuned … and don’t blink.
I watched a fantastic movie this weekend, “Meet Joe Black.”
It’s the story of Death, in the form of a young man, who asks a media mogul to act as a guide to teach him about life on Earth. Brad Pitt plays Death. Anthony Hopkins plays the media mogul. The movie, released in 1998, is based on the 1937 film “Death Takes a Holiday.” Watching the three-hour-long, 19-year-old film, I found myself being drawn into it. And having worked as a background performer in movies, commercials, music videos and on television, I found myself watching the film with a more critical eye than I had before I came to Hollywood.
The one thing that bothered me with this movie: I didn’t see one person of color, no-one who looked anything like ME!
Before some of you begin to rationalize, the thing is this: DON’T!
I get the whole “It’s Hollywood, so get over it” thing, and I’m OK with it to a point when it comes to older entertainment offerings, possibly the film on which “Meet Joe Black” is based. Nowadays, however, it is almost a shame to see — especially now that I know how the sausages are made.
And it completely chaps my ass to listen to people, many who have absolutely no clue, question my efforts when I try to explain why things might be a little slow — on the work front — from time to time.
“Well, why don’t you just get an agent?”
“What are you NOT doing to get more work?”
“I have a friend who went to Hollywood a few years ago, and now they’re working on (fill in the name of the TV show). “Why can’t YOU do that?”
“You MUST not be doing SOMETHING right!”
No matter how you slice it, there is — and always has been — more work in Hollywood for people who do not look like me. I get it. But don't try to tell me that if I am not working as much as I'd like, there is something I am not doing ... especially if you are melanin-challenged … and privileged. I won’t be listening.
I am encouraged, however, by the preponderance of independent projects, on and off the web, where the lack of diversity is not as huge an issue as it is with mainstream Hollywood projects. I recently completed an independent short film in which I play a major role, and I’m excited. The film is in the post-production stages, and as soon as it is released, I will keep you posted. I’m also the writer and co-producer of a web series — “Cucamonga!” — which my partners and I are looking to fine-tune and to distribute. I'll keep you posted on that one, too.
We have to produce our reality, in and out of Hollywood.
Stay tuned … and don’t blink.
I’ve been spending a lot of time near the Pacific Ocean of late.
Things have been on the slow side for me, (especially last month) where work is concerned. The last time I worked was last week, portraying a formally dressed patron of the arts. There were quite a few of us there, so naturally, the talk among many of us went to the looming writers’ strike. With members of Writers Guild of America calling off a strike that would have created havoc.
I’ve read a lengthy work stoppage could be a repeat of the writers’ strike in 2007 that lasted 100 days. That strike yielded important gains for writers working in digital media, but also took a toll on California’s economy. The strike cost nearly 38,000 jobs and $2.1 billion in lost output in California, according to some experts. I’m seeing terms like “devastating impact”
One hundred days.
That being said, some of us have started scrambling to come up with alternative ways to finance our day-to-day living expenses. There’s unemployment compensation, focus groups, independent projects, donation of body fluids, even conventional jobs.
I’ve been getting my tackle box, rods, reels and other fishing equipment ready. I'm going to be spending more time at the ocean.
A person’s gotta eat.
See you on the trail.
Years ago, I ran a 5K race.
I was in pretty good shape back then, running miles every day in the Gulf Coast. I ran on pavement, on sand, I even ran across the Escambia Bay Bridge. The day of the race, I positioned myself with the leaders in the pack and I made a mistake: I tried to keep up with the pack leaders. For a while, I was OK. But as the distance passed, I fell farther and farther behind. I finished in the top 500, “slogging” across the finish line and received my T-shirt. I learned a valuable lesson that day: Run my race.
Since I have become SAG-AFTRA-eligible, I am asked REPEATEDLY why I haven’t joined the union.
Without going into intricate detail, I am not ready to join SAG-AFTRA yet. First, for those of you who’ve only heard the term “SAG card,” but have no real idea: There is a process. You first have to get three union vouchers, by working on projects at the union rate, and there is no clear-cut avenue for this, in spite of what you may have heard. Then, after you have gotten the vouchers and are union-eligible to join, you must pay the $3,100.00 to do so. After you are carrying your card, you can then get into the pool of working actors at a higher rate. And, believe me, this is competitive. Quite competitive.
It is easy to judge, from a distance, what others should be doing … but you never know what might be going on in someone else’s life. Reminding them of your opinion about what you think they SHOULD be doing might not be the right thing to do. Being union is not the path to the holy grail, in my humble opinion, not for everyone.
Even when you attain the “holy grail,” nothing resembling “happily ever after” is guaranteed. Lee Thomas Young shot himself to death. I was at Paramount, waiting with the rest of the “detectives” to work on “Rizzoli and Isles,” when he didn’t show up for work from that day on. He was union. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Robin Williams. He took his own life as well. He was union. Not that there is a correlation between suicide and being a member of SAG-AFTRA …
(Now, here’s where it gets deep, so strap in.)
I’ve been telling some of my colleagues, “If you are THAT concerned about ME joining the union, part of the reason — a big part — is financial. If you are STILL concerned about why I am not a member of SAG-AFTRA, let me say this: You can give me the money I need, lend me the money I need or visit www.gofundme.com/cliffredding.
“Short of that,” I feel, “I have nothing else to say on the matter. I don’t need any ‘advice.’”
In the meantime, I’m staying in my lane. And I’m running my race.
But if you WANT to help me out, I have started a GoFundMe campaign: www.gofundme.com/cliffredding. Anything you want to contribute would be greatly appreciated, and I’ll keep you posted.
Stay tuned … and don’t blink.
A few days ago, I worked on Day 2 of what was initially a “possible two-day call” on the TV show “Big Bang Theory” at my favorite studio, Warner Bros. We filmed the scene I was working on in front of a live, studio audience yesterday evening. Then, a day later — with an early call time — I worked on "State of Affairs," so it was somewhat of a sleepless stretch for me. I didn’t mind, though.
Let’s be real. I don’t do this completely for the fun of it, but …
It shouldn’t, but it amazes me how many dummies (Yes, I said it — “dummies”) and divas that I run across on set as I do background work. Oh, and if this doesn’t apply to you, keep reading and don’t take offense by the words that are coming out at you from this page. If this DOES apply to you, then … well, I really don’t care whether you DO take offense. You started this. Yes, you did!)
The thing is, we are all used to being put into categories. It’s part of the job.
From where I sit, I can make out two major categories in this thing that we do: dummies and divas. There are others, but I want to focus on these — for now.
PA: When you get through wardrobe, gather all of your belongings. We will not be returning to this spot once we have left.
D: Do we take ALL of our stuff?
PA: Where are you going?
D2: I’m going back to base camp.
PA: “Base camp”? They want all background to set in about 10 minutes. I told everyone that we would not be returning to base camp once we left.
D2: I didn’t think you were talking to ME. I need to go get my stuff.
D2: I can’t read the labels on these sandwiches. Are they veggie? I have dietary concerns. Can someone read them out to me?
PA/AD: Please remember to be extra careful with your drinks. The owners of this house are very particular.
D: I’m sorry, but I spilled my drink. Should I grab another one?
D2: I usually drink champagne when I’m at these functions. There’s only wine and mixed drinks at the table. Can somebody get me a champagne glass?
PA: Remember to turn off your cellphones before you go to set.
D: (After realizing their cellphone is ringing — during a take). Oops! My bad.
AD: Everyone, please remove your jewelry — if you haven’t already done so.
D2: But I ALWAYS wear my rings, all of them. Do I have to take them off, all of them?
AD: Yes, all of them.
PA/AD: Are there any questions? You, ma'am, you have a question?
D2: Yes. What's my motivation?
D: What am I supposed to be doing on this take? I was in the bathroom. I didn’t hear you.
PA/AD: What were you doing in the bathroom? Everybody was supposed to be on set 10 minutes ago.
D: I didn't hear you.
D2: I didn’t hear you either. I was at crafty. By the way, can you get us some more of the sparkling water that I saw earlier? And when do you think we’ll be done? I know they told us that this was supposed to be a night shoot, but I need to be back home by six; I’ve got a hair appointment at seven.
Pretty much everyone has had at least one "dooficitious" moment. It's natural. But when this happens over and over again, it's a problem.
I’m re-reading Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” … and, after doing background work, I can better see what the man was talking about.
See you on the trail.
Yesterday, Oct. 29, was a good day, a special one. And I’m not talking about the San Francisco Giants taking down the Kansas City Royals to win the World Series. I’m not a die-hard baseball fan, but I’m getting a new Giants cap to add to my collection.
My mother’s birthday was yesterday. Lucille Redding, who lives near Atlanta, is — and has always been — my biggest fan and supporter.
I called her yesterday evening to make sure she’d received what I’d sent and to verbally wish her a happy birthday, and during our conversation, I told her that I was working on the TV show “Stalker.”
“Wow!” she told me, “I love that show. It’s coming on in about 15 minutes. You’re working on that one?”
“Well, I’ll have to start looking for you on that show, too, then,” she said.
“OK,” I told her, “but you can’t blink. If you do, you’ll miss me. You know the drill.”
“Yes, I do,” she replied. I could hear her laughing.
“Well, I have to go now. They’re calling for us to head to set. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
With that, I headed back into Stage 17 and took my position to do my crosses, wipes and whatnot.
Later, as we were wrapping for the night, Dylan McDermott, a star of the show, and I ended up at a doorway leaving the set. He motioned for me to go first. “After you,” he told me. “No, you,” I replied, and he proceeded, chuckling. “Thank you,” he told me as we proceeded to head down the stairs pretty much side-by-side.
“You know,” I told him, “today is my mother’s birthday and when I told her I was working on the show today, she got excited. She said she loves this show. It was good working with you.”
“Well, happy birthday to your mother,” the principal said. “Let’s take a picture! We’ll do a selfie.”
I was shocked to a point. For a quick second, after my mother told me that “Stalker,” the show I was working on as a "detective" — on her birthday — was one of her new favorites, I thought about how cool it would be if I could get her something show-related. After all, this is the woman who walked me as a tyke to the point to where I grew up with the legs and stamina to do all the walking I usually do on camera. I don't think I had a stroller, and my Nike Fuelband told me that I'd hit about 12,000-plus steps yesterday. This is also the woman who handed me my first dictionary and told me to “look it up.”
Background performers aren’t supposed to engage with principals. Even if they are just two guys getting off work and happen to be walking down a flight of stairs together.
We got to the bottom of the stairs.
“You got a camera?”
I was already pulling my iPhone from my suit pants pocket when a woman from wardrobe — who witnessed part of the exchange — said she’d take the picture. Afterward, I thanked the wardrobe staffer and McDermott.
“My mother is going to get a kick out of this,” I said. “Thank you so much.”
“My pleasure. She’s a Scorpio. I’m a Scorpio. Take care.”
With that, I walked out of the structure, Stage 17, the same place where movies like “The Maltese Falcon,” “Mildred Pierce,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and TV shows like “77 Sunset Strip” and “Fantasy Island” were filmed … and now where I worked and interacted with a Golden Globe winner, Emmy nominee and nice guy. I walked out of the structure, across the Warner Bros. lot and into the night.
This one is for you, Mom.
Stay tuned … and don’t blink.
It's almost always a good thing when you get a call from Central Casting in the morning. It means you're on their radar (and, hopefully, it's all good) and they want you to work.
Don't mess with the Gallaghers.
This morning Michelle called me and asked if I was available to work on "Shameless." Uh, hell-to-the-yeah! LOL! "Shameless" is one of my favorite shows. This has been the case even before I got into background acting. Every episode that I watch where the patriarch, Frank (William H. Macy) is on, I'm wondering what low-life, unscrupulous trick he is going to display next. The main premise of the show that I particularly like is the concept of family: Dysfunctional as they may be, the Gallaghers stick together … and you don't mess with the Gallaghers.
The first background acting job that I did, a little more than a year ago, I was waiting to get into the stage where "2 Broke Girls" is taped when I saw Macy emerge from a trailer parked just outside the adjacent stage, where "Shameless" was being taped. Macy was strumming a ukelele and singing. He saw me and the other people queued up in line and he walked over and said "Good morning. How's it going?" I thought that was pretty cool of him to do.
Today, in Episode 404 of "Shameless," I'm playing a "downscale bar patron" in Chicago ... in the winter. And, according to the info tape, I need to be "blue-collar." Being from Gary, Ind., which is about an hour from Chicago, I can relate. I'm not crazy about Midwest winters, though, which is one of the reasons I headed West. I wanted to go outside and play. Here I am ... out West, playing as if I am back in the Midwest ... in the winter.
Michelle at Central was appreciative of my willingness to cooperate with the rush call. I have to be there by noon, which means I'm shooting for 11:00, an hour earlier. I'm replacing "No. 1, nonunion" today, so that means it's going to be a good one. In order to get a rush call from Central Casting, you have to be on their radar. … Each evening, at about 7 you can email Central to let them know that you are "available" to work, at a moment's notice (and presumably, wherever you're needed). If someone who has been booked on a show cancels, then Central will call people on the availability list. Usually, these people are "go-to" folks, individuals who have established a relatively good work record with the agency, the motherlode of people who are ready to roll.
I guess I've made the cut.
I've been called four times or so in the time that I've been associated with Central Casting. Today makes my fifth. I had to turn down two of these such calls because I had been booked on something else, and was no longer available by the time I'd gotten the call. It all balances out, though.
Right now, I'm sitting inside Stage 16 on the Warner Bros. lot … in holding, having been "blessed" by the people in the wardrobe department. They liked what I brought with me, so I didn't have to give up my voucher, which is the document that is used to get paid with for the day's work. It amounts to a time sheet. When props or wardrobe department gives you an item, they take your voucher. At the end of the shoot, you return their stuff and they return your voucher, which ends up going to the payroll department ... and you get a check for your work. No voucher, no pay. At the end of a long shoot, the last thing you want to be doing is standing in a long line to return clothing, then have to stand in another long line to get your voucher signed before you can head home.
I guess I'm learning what works when it comes to "downscale."
Some of the principal cast members have been passing through: "Carl," "Lip" and "Debbie Gallagher."
The background actors who have been here already, some since 6:30 a.m., are sitting around, reading, munching on Sloppy Joes, whispering, looking around, looking around for something to complain about, munching on … whatever, sleeping, counting down the time before it is time for lunch. (You'd think some people hadn't eaten in days, the way they carry on when it comes to food.)
And I try not to trip over anything or make too much noise.
Stay tuned ... but don't blink!
Within the hour, I'll be on the Disney Studios lot in Burbank to work on the TV show "The Neighbors." I've never watched the show, but I'll be in the background as a "hospital visitor."
I'll be checking in at the gate off Buena Vista Street, going to base camp, having someone check me over to see if I am wearing (or have with me) the correct wardrobe for the job and shuttled to location. This one is pretty easy, though. Casual. Jeans. Layers.
I think I've got it covered. I'm wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a jacket and some street shoes to the studio ... but, in my garment bag, I'm taking my go-to suit, four long-sleeved collard shirts, a Gap T, two ties, dress shoes, change of underwear, toiletry kit ... (You never know WHAT may happen when you go on a shoot.) Having served in the military, I'm pretty much a well-prepared kind of a person, especially when I'm in motion. Usually, the wardrobe people like my selections and, so I'm told, they report back to Central Casting. Maybe this is one of the reasons I get booked a lot. Whatever works.
I heard of one background performer who arrived on a set wearing a dress. She took no other options. When the wardrobe people told her that they needed to change her, she told them that she was "union" and she shouldn't have to wear what they'd picked out for her. She didn't like it. Not a good way to start the day.
Folks like me, on the other hand, take a BUNCH of stuff. Some might consider it too much. I keep it to two bags, though. My garment bag and my messenger bag, which contains my laptop, phone, glasses and other personal items I'll need for the remote "office" of "Redd Zone Productions," wherever that may be. A background player has to be ready to move.
Have a great day!
And stay tuned ...
In a little while, I'm going to a fitting.
I'm going to the fitting because I was booked to work on the film "Jersey Boys," directed by Clint Eastwood.
After about a year of doing background work, NOW I am tripping. Clint Eastwood. Does it show that I am a fan? I mean, I used to call my alter ego "Cliff Eastwood." When I'd wear my jeans and my cowboy boots and head into the office of the newspaper where I was working at the time, the co-workers who knew about "Cliff Eastwood" would know that THAT day was not THE day to go "there" with me. About anything. I even remember watching Rowdy Yates ride across my family's black-and-white TV and thinking that he was so cool. Head 'em up, move 'em out! I don't even WANT to talk about Inspector Harry Callahan ...
And I've heard from several people that Eastwood is way cool on set. I'm looking forward to seeing this first-hand. One fellow background performer told me how during a scene a friend of his who was working on an Eastwood-directed film ad-libbed a line as he did his action (something that is normally frowned upon). Eastwood reportedly heard the line and called "Cut!" An assistant director was getting ready to chastise the poor background performer, who had gotten caught up in the moment, when Eastwood walked over to the guy and told him to repeat what he had said. After the background player complied, Eastwood said something to the effect of "I like it. Let's keep it in." The background performer was "bumped up" and got a speaking part in the film.
Yours truly is getting his A-game together. Who knows?
I'll keep you posted.
Stay tuned ... and don't blink!