I have been laying low for a little while now and that’s because I have been working on a new and exciting documentary about… well, I am not at liberty to say quite yet but I can tell you it’s a hot topic and hopefully it’ll make some waves. More later.
But for now, acting.
DISCLAIMER: Alright, first and foremost I am not writing this to give anyone any advices or tips of any kind. I do not consider myself qualified to do so, therefore I am NOT going to tell you, you should do this or you shouldn’t do that. Not my place. I’ll be sharing some stories that happened to me in order to shine a little light for those of you who care or wonder about the glamorous life of a struggling foreign actor in Texas. That’s it. Nothing more.
Okay, so here we go…
I fell in love with acting at an early age, (11 or 12 years old, maybe even younger, I can’t remember.) when I portrayed in a summer camp play, a Native American Chief who fought Christopher Columbus.
I really doubt that Columbus actually fought mano-a-mano a Native American Chief. Would that have been the case, I’m pretty sure he would have gotten his ass handed to him, but that’s besides the point. Let’s get back to acting.
I grew up watching, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Robert Redford, Paul Newman in classics such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, The Great Escape, Le Samouraï, Peur sur la Ville, The Towering Inferno, Death Wish, Dirty Harry, Buffet Froid, and the list goes on and on…
Trailer for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Trailer for Le Samouraï
Trailer for The Great Escape
Later, I became a fan of the work of Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel, Martin Sheen, Eddie Murphy, Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Bruce Willis, Jeff Bridges, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Denzel Washington, Sean Penn, Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Benicio Del Toro, Matt Dillon, Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Antonio Banderas and last but not least, Mickey Rourke (who I got to work with, but I think that story alone needs its own chapter.) Their work on screen was absolutely mesmerizing, powerful, inspiring.
Trailer for Angel Heart
We ended the last year of Junior High with a short play, Edouard et Agrippine by René de Obaldia, Small cast, three characters. One location, a bedroom. It was no David Mamet nor Tennessee Williams, but it was enough for the acting bug to really sink its teeth into me. Once again, I was bit.
I was lucky to have found a group in the little town I grew up in, who took a few kids under their wings and gave us proper training in video production and post-production. When they weren’t using it, they let us borrow their gear and taught us how to work a U-Matic editing bench (yeah, that’s 3/4″ for you geeks out there!) So we started writing and making short movies. Kept us out of trouble.
So when I moved to Texas, in 1993 it was inevitable that I would eventually pursue acting and look for representation. A couple of years later I signed on with a small agency but nothing was really happening. I want to remind you, this was a time when the internet and HD did not exist. No emails. No Facebook. No Linkedin. No Twitter, etc…
We shot on 35mm film (if we were lucky), 16mm film (short ends) most of the time or video. You found out about film festivals reading about them in magazines, submit your 1/2″ (VHS) screener by mail and if your movie was accepted you would show up to the screening with your master on Beta SP. and when it came to acting all you had was a black and white 8×10 headshot with a resume stapled to the back of it.
On the right, old headshot circa 1999
The only way to meet people was to go out and hope to meet the right folks. I had a gig at the time working for a marketing company who put me in the heart of the Dallas nightlife and eventually I got introduced to an independent filmmaker who was casting an ultra-low budget comedy and he brought me in to read for a small role. I got the part. It was fun and I was hooked again. My current agent was at the screening. After the show we were introduced and that was the beginning of a journey paved with interesting and mostly absurd encounters. From auditioning for a Hollywood director who at the time had the #1 movie at the box office to unprofessional amateurs (I know, that’s a pleonasm, but that’s how unprofessional those amateurs really were!) asking you to read for the role of a Mexican gangster, since, obviously there is a shortage of talented Mexican actors in Texas!
Trailer for Touch of Evil
OTHER DISCLAIMER: This is a true story. The event depicted below took place in Texas, in 2008. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.
What? The disclaimer from Fargo? Just kidding, nobody dies in my true story.
So here’s the first anecdote:
It’s 2008 and I am asked to go in and read for a big budget movie that is shooting in New Orleans. I’m sitting in the waiting area, going over my lines. It’s just me and another actor. He’s actually auditioning for a different movie with a different casting director. I know him. We have crossed path several times and he ends up getting (almost) all the latino roles I read for. Olè!
My casting director walks in, calls out my name and notices the other actor who she recognizes. She says hi to him. He says hi back.
I go in and on her cue, I start my scene. Half way through the read, in the middle of a sentence, she interrupts me: “Oh, I forgot to push record on the camera.” Then she proceeds to hit the record button. ” Keep going.” she says. “Should I start over?” I asked. “Nah, That’s okay…just keep going.” she replied.
Now, that’s a way to really boost one’s confidence if you ask me. She might as well just said: “Actually, we’re done. You suck. Get out of here!”
Anyways, as I’m signing the call sheet on my way out she pops in the waiting room and asks the other guy, my latino nemesis, if he’s interested in reading for the part I just read for.
See where I am going with this? Yup, you got it, he got the part.
Good for him and I mean it.