the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area

mostly the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also the home of the Counting Actors Project

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hand Model Adventures

Out there at the end of my slashes - actor/teaching artist/voiceover/on-camera/hand model - is the one that provokes a lot of giggles. At least for me anyway.

I'm a hand model.

Genetics plays into this tremendously.  I've got long thin fingers, strong fingernails that don't break, and that are so white at the tips, that manicurists have thought I was already seen by someone else who gave me a french manicure.

Hustle plays into this too.  Before I had a hand modeling portfolio, I had a 3 quarter headshot with my hands in frame.  This photo was enough to book me my first hand modeling job - which was for an instruction manual for a medical device that was kind of like an asthma inhaler, but had these removable parts that needed to be cleaned in a very specific way.  I found that job on Craigslist, and I made sure I kept the photographer's contact info so that I could get a copy of the finished product.

I used those photos to start a 'portfolio' and booked another hand modeling job, also from Craigslist.  This time, my hands stood in for the hands of some fictive super hero character, and I pointed at the 2 DVD's you'd get for free if you bought a certain video game.  Again, I made sure I got copy.

Around this time, I signed with an agency in San Francisco.  Although I initially went in for their on-camera and voiceover divisions, I let the print division know that I'd done what I've learned is called 'parts modeling' and gave them the photos I'd collected so far.

After taking a look at other peoples' portfolios on my agent's website, I realized that I could ask a photographer friend to shoot some additional photos and round out my portfolio.  I brought some props - a camera, a bowl of fruit, a notebook and pen, and we took some additional shots of my hands holding things.

Throughout this time, I've got on auditions/modeling calls for my hands.  The basic formula of these calls goes like this: show up in the right place at the right time, hold something, someone takes some photos of it.  Sometimes, there's video involved.  For one audition, I was shown how to work a fancy-schmancy juicer and filmed doing that.    Doing hand model auditions has really helped me get over a lot of audition baggage.  You either book it or you don't.  There's not a lot involved beyond that for the auditioner.  It's entirely about the client making a choice between the available options.

When I book hand model work and I'm not the only talent for the project, it's always a weird experience.  For most of the people on site, I don't look like the talent (who are in wardrobe and makeup), and I'm not crew because those folks have all been there for hours.  Someone will inevitably want to introduce themselves and reach for my hand, and I usually can't shake because I've got makeup on. "I'm the hand model" I say, and hold up my hands for them to look at. "Oh, right" is the typical response, and they've get a satisfied look on their faces because they've figured it all out.

A few other goofy hand model things: since hand modeling is rather far down my list of slashes, I'm not in elbow length gloves all the time, like this woman is.  But I do think about sunscreen and hand tan lines, use a fairly high end hand cream on a regular basis, and wear gloves when I ride my bike.  When I schedule a job, I usually don't do any dishes for the few days before I do it, and get really paranoid about cooking burns and paper cuts.

On the day of the booking, I spend as much time as possible with my forearms vertical, elbows down, hands up, to minimize the size of the veins in the back of my hands.  This used to mean funny looks on public transit as I sat like a surgeon about to go into the OR, until I realized I could just stand and hold the rail or strap.

In the end though, I get paid for the work I do, and getting paid for a few hours of holding things while someone shoots photos or video keeps the roof over my head and food on the table so that I can take on the acting projects that may not compensate me as well financially, but feed me artistically.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Counting Actors February 2013

Since I started asking for show stats in June 2011, this project has now logged 236.  The Counting Actors Info Page has info on how to submit show stats yourself, as well as links to past posts in this series.

Theatre Bay Area magazine staff have let me know that they'll be running my article with analysis of and reactions to the Counting Actors data in their May/June issue of the magazine.  In the twitter-verse, I've seen a few folks use the hashtag #countingactors to share this information, and some great discussions about gender parity and season planning are happening with the hashtag #femtheatre

8 shows counted:
Word for Word/You Know When the Men are Gone (this company presents short fiction as theater, so the F writer represented here is actually a fiction writer, not a playwright)
Tanya Shaeffer/The Fourth Messenger (not sure if I'm accurately representing the producer /company here - I believe this is self-produced by the playwright, with crowdfunding help - can't find a production company name in any of the materials.  Project has 2 women writers - one book/lyrics, one lyrics music. Director and Music Director both male.)
Magic Theatre/Se Llama Cristina 
Altarena Playhouse/God of Carnage
Impact/As You Like It (in this production a male actor plays Celia as male, and characters of LeBeau, Jacques and both Dukes are played by women as female characters)
SFPlayhouse/MotherF)*%er with the Hat
African-American Shakespeare Festival/Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (this production features an all African-American/multi-racial cast)
CenterREP/Old Wicked Songs

The Stats:
5 male directors, 5 female directors
5 male writers, 4 female writers
58 total actors
32 men, 26 women
17 equity actors, 41 non-equity actors
11 union men, 6 union women
57 local actors, 1 non-local actor

Many many thanks to the cast members, audience members, and directors who reported statistics, who include: Arwen Andersen, Anne Hallinan, Amy Clare Tasker, Melissa Hillman, Jeanette Harrison, Phoebe Moyer, Sharon Huff and Karen Thomson Hall.

If you've seen a show or are working on a show with March performances that hasn't already been reported here, please share the stats.  And I'm hoping you'll continue to talk about the numbers with your colleagues at rehearsal, the staff meeting, in the dressing room, the post-show hangout, and using whatever social media you frequent.