The past few weeks have been a little unnerving in producing and casting my webseries, Dixiewood. The thing that irks me about this is the same thing that has gotten under my skin for years both in and outside of the entertainment industry. The sense of entitlement. I CANNOT abide a diva. I don’t care who it is. I also cannot tolerate someone in this industry who talks the talk but does not walk the walk.
For about 94% of actors, whether union or non-union, work is scarce. Especially work on a quality project that allows you to showcase your skills and truly cares about you as an actor. A project that allows you to spread your wings and truly act. These projects should never be taken for granted whether they are my project or Steven Spielberg’s project. They are a blessing to a REAL actor. A REAL actor is someone who acts because it’s as necessary to him as his next breath, not someone who’s in it for stardom or money. If that’s why you’re in this business, you best quit now because once you’re not young enough, skinny enough, or pretty enough, you’re outta there. For people who want that, the end is always looming because there is a dozen gorgeous, skinny, young wannabe’s on every street corner in LA to replace you. And replace you they will. REAL actors want longevity and they’re willing to put the work into it to attain that.
It is not cliche when I say Dixiewood is a labor of love. It truly is. Every single person attached to this project is completely committed. We give it our all because we are passionate about acting, writing, directing, producing and about the show itself. We make the sacrifices necessary to make it work. The show is growing. It’s growing in every direction – from our audience, to our amazing production quality, the writing, the directing, editing and the incredible performances by our cast and guest stars. This is no accident. This is passion come to life. We feed off each other’s passion and energy. THIS is commitment. I know that I can count on every single person in the cast and crew 100% and they know the same about me. What a blessing in this business.
Recently I have had some actors come to me and ask to be cast in an episode in any capacity. They are out of work, want the exposure, want the experience, want the opportunity and “will take any part.” I agreed, was happy to have them and had even written scripts that are literally based around their character. The emails and messages fly between us trying to set up what the episode will be about, starting a script, when it will be filmed. All is agreed and their word is given. Then I begin to put the episode together. It’s all very time consuming and after you have committed yourself, your show and your cast – you are counting on these people to hold up their end. Then when the time comes to contact them to set up rehearsals, they do not reply, have this issue or that issue or this ridiculous demand or that ridiculous demand and I am put in a position to make a decision. Think people, you came to me asking to participate. People tend to underestimate me. They think because I’m laid back that I don’t have the cajones to do what is best for my show and my cast and crew. WRONG. I will do my best to work things out with anyone, but when you become demanding or divaish – I’m done.
No actor can tell me that they are committed when they can’t even respond to a message about a role they sought out when I have regular cast members like I have. Take Wes Robertson, who plays Mikey, for instance. Wes is an amazing actor. He not only acts, but works two jobs, has a wife and two little girls with a new baby on the way in April. An example of his commitment to his acting and this show is our rehearsal this Wednesday. Wes has to work so he is going to take his lunch hour and come to rehearsal that night then go back to work which means he will not be able to even have dinner until after 11 or midnight that night. But his commitment means enough to him that he will make that sacrifice among the many others he has made for us. Or our director, Ryan Ball. Ryan too has a wife and child and a full time job. The other night he came to a read through straight from the train from work having had no dinner and no chance to even get out of his suit from work. Yet he was there and fully participated until 9 p.m. (I fed him two cookies though.) He also does all of our camera and sound work and all of our amazing editing.
Or Brian Ecker who plays Elvin who comes 20 miles to rehearsal and also who has to be up at 4:30 -5:00 a.m. for work on rehearsal days, yet still shows to rehearsal no matter how exhausted he is and stays until 9:00-10:00 p.m. On top of all this our cast also crews for the filming. They help provide props, costumes, make-up. Then on filming days are with us for 8 or 10 hours of constant filming and crewing for every episode.
Christa Woomer who plays Lynn Ette works a full time job, has her other acting jobs and also helps to produce Dixiewood as well as being our props manager. I also work a full time job, write and produce the show and cook all the meals provided as Craft Services for the cast. Also Christa and I use our home as our set. And what do we get paid for this in dollars? Nothing. We all volunteer our time because we are passionate about our work and committed to Dixiewood and each other. They do it because they are REAL actors. They walk the walk and talk the talk.
These are the actors and directors who will have longevity in this business. They are worker bees. They are movers and shakers. They are consumate professionals. This is Hollywood and unless you are Meryl Streep, you are in no position to make ridiculous demands or be undependable. It’s like any job. I can honestly say that it comes as no surprise to me that some actors have no work. They just don’t get it. You don’t come into this business being a “star”, you earn it. If you haven’t done anything to earn it, then get down, get dirty and earn your stripes with the pros. If it really means that much to you then be dependable and honorable. Cherish, take care of and nourish your career. No one is going to hand it to you. Be grateful for every role because that is how you will grow and get the exposure you need to take it to the next rung. You must be a team player. You must be thoughtful of the entire cast. And realize that people like me are much gentler with you than the big boys. On a big picture you’d be treated like cattle unless you are one of the 6% who make it to the top. So be realistic. Earn the respect. And for the love of God be grounded. I have the greatest regular cast and crew in the business. I adore these brilliant people. They’ve earned my respect. And, the time will never take place where I will allow an episode or my cast and crew to be held hostage to the whims or behavior of another actor.
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John Richard Petersen and Michael Arturo
Anyone can “call” themselves as actor. It takes a very special, passionate, talented person to actually “be” an actor. It is these REAL actors, these worker bees, these amazing, giving, people who make me love my work. Who give me the strength, passion and energy to go on. It’s not only my regular cast of “Dixiewood Angels”, but people like Antonio Brown who takes time from his very busy schedule or John Richard Petersen who travels all the way from Orange County or the amazing director, Terry Gilliam, who records his role in London just to be a guest star on Dixiewood. It’s the wonderful Holly Collins who will be guest starring via audio recording from Western Australia and the brilliant Michael Arturo who will join us and has supported me and Dixiewood from day one. Then there is the incredible support from my beloved friend, celebrity photographer, Alan Mercer. What an amazing human being he is. How can I not love what I do when I am surrounded with these incredible people? And how can I not be humbled by their support and participation in the show. THIS is what it’s all about! THIS is commitment! God I love my job! Life is good!