September 27, 2002
Pimpin' the Studio Lots
You guys, I did the coolest thing. OK, so, I get the breakdowns. See the definition below if you don’t know what the breakdowns are. I usually only submit myself for middle eastern stuff off the breakdowns, since for everything else they’re going to get a ton of submissions from agents, submissions they’ll take more seriously. OK yeah, I know it’s illegal for me to get the breakdowns. Oooooh, I’m so f---ing scared.
So a breakdown came out Friday for a great role for me: Farhad Payami – high-class drug dealer with a neo-Zen aura. Must speak fluent Farsi. The show is a new version of the classic police drama Dragnet. But, I didn’t check email until Monday. It was too late to mail them my headshot. I’d have to drop it off. But, the casting office is on the Universal Studio lot. Drop-offs are easy when the casting office is at some random office, but studio security, if you didn’t know, is mega-tight. And we’re all told, don’t even try to get on a lot unless you have prior clearance. And if you get on a lot, then you are lucky, and you are special. What the f---, I thought, I’ll give it a try – it’s a great part.
So I drive up to the lot and the first guard is like “why are you here?” in a Persian accent. This might be easier than I suspected.
“I’m dropping off a headshot for Amazon Talent. I need to go to, um, let me see here, Gilmore / McConnell Casting, Building… 5166” Of course I know exactly where I’m going, I’ve memorized it ‘cause I needed directions and I’ve heard of these casting directors before, I mean they cast The Practice for God’s sake. I don’t need to read off my “sheet”, but I figure if I read off a sheet like I don’t really care, like hey, I’m just dropping this off ‘cause this manager needs it done, they won’t see me as a needy, doe-eyed actor. I should mention too that Amazon Talent is my made up manager, inspired by the name of the management company that my friend Kathy supposedly ran for like 2 months. Kathy’s an amazon by the way. I don’t think she’d mind me saying that. Also by the way, I’m working on being more authoritative in acting class. So here, each time I am met with a situation in which I don’t know what to do, I act like I’m supposed to be there. Like if they turn me away, the only person it’s gonna matter to is maybe my boss. I could not care less.
“You have a pass?”
“No I don’t.” Not a hint of apology in my voice, baby.
“Pop your terunk.” Done. He checks it out. Nothing but a 49ers blanket and some pillows (you know, in case a picnic suddenly breaks out) “OK, talk to de second guard.”
In Persian: “Thank you very much.”
An appreciative look. Now he’s my friend. In Persian: “No problem.”
Second guard. Big fat white guy with a shaved head and glasses. His name tag says George. Seems like a nice enough guy. “Where are you going?”
According to this work order, “Um, Gilmore / McConnell Casting. Bldg… 5166.”
“Are they expecting you?”
Here’s where I could have said, “Nooo, I’m so sorry, I know I shouldn’t really be here, can you please make an exception and let me just drop this off?” Instead: “No, my manager just wanted me to drop this.”
Pause. “Can I see some ID?”
I open my wallet. Very few times in my life has the following happened: My driver’s license is not there. It’s usually right on top, but instead of my smirky face, my favorite shirt, and a bunch of holograms, I see just black leather. I don’t miss a beat. I dig out and hand him my UC Berkeley Student ID card, issued in 1994. You know how most ID pictures are about the same size? Not here. My shaved head takes up about half the card. It can be a little jarring at first.
“Don’t you have a driver’s license on you?”
“No, man. I don’t know what I did with it.” Then I realize I’m losing ground and that sounds stupid, so I’m gonna come back with the truth and just own the heck out of it. “Actually, I know exactly where it is. It’s in my other pants. I know that sounds retarded, but that’s where it is.” It strikes me that I’m getting good at maintaining eye contact with people who hold authority over me and who can instantly make me feel 2 feet tall by just saying get-the-f-out.
Now Guard One comes over. He’s got nothing to do, so he’s gonna check out how his Persian amigo is making out. George looks at him. I don’t know what happened, but suddenly George is my buddy too. In my imagination, they have an elaborately detailed relationship that is so full of backstory that they can now communicate huge amounts of information with subtle looks and gestures. Or maybe Persian guy smells like chelo kabob, and George wants to get rid of me and thereby Persian guy with his smell of beef, onion, and saffron.
So George says, “Come in, pull over, then go to Rosa (guard 3!) to get your pass.”
I do that.
I go to Rosa the cute Latina. “You need a pass? Are they expecting you?” Persian Guy has followed, by the way.
“Yeah, no, I’m just dropping this off for my manager.” Maintaining eye contact. “He told me to come down, so you know.”
Persian guy, in Persian: “You didn’t call before, did you.”
Persian: “Yeah, next time call ahead, we can get you through faster.”
Rosa has finished messing around on her computer. “OK, you’re gonna need to call 72212 to get them to authorize this.”
Scared out of my mind: “Sure. Whatever.” By the way: That’s one of the longest extensions I’ve ever heard.
72212: “This is Cynthia.”
“Is this Gilmore / McConnell?”
“This is Cynthia.”
“I need to talk to Gimore / McConnell to authorize a pass. I’m dropping something off.”
“Who are you with? What’s your name?”
“Amazon Talent. Amir Talai. T-A-L-A-I.”
“OK, get your pass from Rosa.”
What? What the f--- is going on? That was so easy!
Suddenly, I am Mr. VIP, even though my pass has the dubious label “UNANNOUNCED”. Go ahead, over there, right this way. Leave your car, it’s in walking distance.
Come to find out, the pass only gives me access to the mail drop off, but that’s all I need. I find the drop box for Gilmore / McConnell, slip my headshot in with the agent submissions, and I’m out the door.
Two days later, I find out I got the audition!!! I drive up. Persian guy isn’t there, but I spot George’s booth. “Hey there. Amir Talai, I should be on the list. I have an audition.”
“Hey! You got that audition huh? All right!” Here’s your pass, Go down here, Here’s a map, Park over there, “Good luck, man!”
Had a great audition. Turns out Janet Gilmore went to Cal as well. I feel really good about the meeting. If I get the job, you’ll see the credit on my resume by like November. If not, at least I have a good journal entry.
(Explanation of “the breakdowns”: Casting directors need to cast roles. They contact Breakdown Svcs with the specifics. Breakdown Svcs sends an email/fax [the “Breakdowns”] to the agents and managers. The agents submit headshots to the casting directors. The CDs pick the headshots of the actors they want to see audition. If you get the breakdowns, you can submit your headshot to the CDs without an agent.)