Doritos Crash the Super Bowl and SAG Membership

I’ve been asked by several actors about the SAG membership that comes along with winning the Crash the Super Bowl contest, so I wanted to take a few minutes to explain what that means.

Disclaimer:  Now before you take what I say as gospel truth, please know that I have never produced a SAG project.  I’ve only done non-union up to this date (but do have plans to produce SAG projects down the road), so please do your own homework if you absolutely have to know the exact details of how this contest and SAG work.  I’ve done some research, but I’m not going to claim to be an authority on this subject.

First off, here’s what Doritos says in their official rules:

Each person whose image, likeness and/or voice appears in a Finalist video must agree that he/she will execute a contract with Sponsor (“Option Contract”), in which Sponsor has the sole option to elect to use the Finalist videos for marketing purposes and under the terms of such agreement, if elected, Finalist shall be bound by the standard terms of the Screen Actors Guild Commercials Contract, will accept minimum scale compensation and talent residuals and will be bound by the terms and conditions of such contract, including exclusivity.

What this means is that if our commercial is chosen as one of the Finalists and if it is aired, all actors, including extras, must sign an agreement with Doritos, which will require you as a principal or extra to sign a SAG Commercial Contract.

This means SAG membership for principal roles, which include getting paid scale (on top of what Sandra will be paying you if we become a Finalist), and residuals.  If Doritos requires exclusivity, it would also mean you get paid holding fees.  For more information on holding fees please see the SAG-AFTRA Commercial Contract FAQ page.

For extras, this could count as one voucher toward getting your SAG membership.  You need three vouchers to join SAG.  In addition, you would, also, get paid SAG rates for background work (in addition to the amount Sandra will be paying you if we become a Finalist).

If you’re an actor looking to join SAG, this could be the opportunity that pays off for you…not to mention that being seen during the Super Bowl would give you incredible exposure.  Of course, there is a catch:  We have to win!


Countdown: One Week!

We’re in the final stretch, folks!  Less than a week till Round 1 ends!  Now Dockers gave the impression that they were going to post the vote leaders, but they never did.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands and find out where we stand in this contest.  I risked carpal tunnel syndrome and went through all 3,000 entries!  Whew!  And I have the sore neck, shoulder, arm, and wrist to prove it!  So what’s the verdict?

Well, it’s good news and bad news.  The good news is that we are definitely in the top 50!  Out of 3,000  or so entries that’s something to be very proud of!  And it’s because of all of you voting every day and trying to help spread the word, and, heck, even recruiting your family to vote!  So where are we?  Currently, we are number 32.  That’s the bad news, because as I went through each entry, I found more entries that had more votes than we have and it pushed us down the list.  But it’s not terrible news and I’m certainly not going to complain about where we are in this contest.  Do I wish we were in the top five?  Of course.  But considering all the problems we’ve had trying to get the word out to other fans (with the broken fan club mailing list and Facebook blocking me from friending other I-Man fans), I’d say we’re doing pretty good.

But this last week is especially dangerous for us.  The most motivated contestants and their supporters are in this top 50 and they are pushing very hard, so we need to keep pushing just as hard lest we keep dropping and fall out of the top 50.  I’m afraid to say it could happen.  Behind us there are contestants who have more voters than we have and could theoretically pass us by.  One contestant, another filmmaker no less, has been right on our tail for several days now.  Today he passed us up…not because he has a better project or a loyal established fan base, he doesn’t; but because he’s been vote trading with other contestants.  In fact, a lot of contestants have been vote trading. 

It’s not against the rules (I checked), but it is a flawed strategy because they are voting for the very people they are competing against.  Also, the way the app is designed, someone could vote once for someone just to get their picture on their page and then come back every day and leave a message on their page saying they voted again when they really didn’t.  The contestant would really have no way of knowing for sure.  I’d like to think that all the contestants are honorable, but I live in the real world and wouldn’t be surprised if some honorable contestants are being suckered by less honorable contestants.  So I’m not playing the vote trading game. 

Besides, when I contact the cast and tell them we made it into the top 50, I’ll be able to proudly say that it was the I-Man fans who got us there and not because I was trading votes with the competition.  And I do have to, also, give a shout out of thanks to all my family members, friends, and fellow filmmakers who have also been tirelessly voting every day.  All of you have been wonderful in your support!  Thank you so much!

Contest Submissions Progress

Friday, my director and I sat down and hammered out the cast list, which is basically a list of all the roles in the video and what type of actor we were looking to cast in each role.  The next day I posted the roles on SF Casting and, after being approved, they went live on Monday morning.  Within hours I literally had hundreds of submissions from actors!  So I’ve been combing through them trying to find actors who fit what we are looking for.  Tomorrow I’m going to finish that up and then contact the chosen actors and invite them to the audition, which is being held in Pleasanton, California, this Saturday.

Monday afternoon, my director and I visited the studio we are planning on using.  It’s also located in Pleasanton and run by some really nice people.  We’re shooting in a studio because I wanted a plain white backdrop for the video.  This will put the focus on the actors without the distraction of any background and give the video a clean uncluttered look.  To get that kind of background you need to use a studio with a cyclorama, which is basically a wall with rounded corners, so you don’t see any hard edges.  Another advantage of using a studio is that we won’t have to move from location to location.  We’ll be able to do all the scenes on one sound stage and just change a few props, actors, and lights. 

With a small low-budget production like this, I’m doing much more than just producing.  I’m also playing financier, accountant, casting director, costumer, and prop master; and I’m sure my roles will expand even more in the days to come.  Today I ran around to various businesses looking for the costumes and props that we will need.  I struck out at a few places, but managed to find a couple of places that can give me just what I am looking for.

It’s getting late and I need to sign off now but, remember, keep voting!

“Should’ve Been Romeo” in Post Production

I’ve been so busy with getting the NAME THE MOVIE CHARACTERS CONTEST under way that I really haven’t been telling you much about another cool project in the works. That project is Paul Ben-Victor’s Should’ve Been RomeoShould’ve Been Romeo wrapped shooting a few months ago, which means that it is now in post-production.  According to IMDb, it is scheduled to be released on April 7, 2011!

Originally, I thought that Eddie Jones was going to be in this movie because he participated in the reading but, unfortunately, his name does not appear in the credits.  However, there is another I-Man alum whose name does appear in the credits and that is Vincent Ventresca!  He plays the role of Actor #1.

Check out the second from the last name on this cast list.

Look at the third row of cast photos.  Doesn’t the seventh picture from the left look familiar?

More Should’ve Been Romeo news coming in the future!

Acting Workshop with Paul Ben-Victor

Attention actors!  Paul Ben-Victor will be teaching his second acting workshop held by the International Academy of Film and Television.  The workshop is entitled Character/Chameleon and it will be held this Saturday, July 17, in Venice, California, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  It’s $99 for this workshop, and $89 for students.  Well worth it, if you ask me, because you’re learning from one of the best.

To reserve your place, call 310-593-4444 or visit  A year’s subscription to Moviemaker Magazine is included with the price.

Filmmaking Co-ops

If I seem to be a bit quiet lately, it’s for good reason.  Last month I was in a seven-car pileup on the freeway.  Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, but I did end up with a mild case of whiplash.  I can only imagine how painful a serious case of whiplash must be, but I can tell you that a mild case isn’t much fun either.  Sleeping, or I should say trying to get sleep, has been a challenge because I wake up several times a night with something hurting and then I have to try to find a position that is more comfortable, which isn’t always possible.   The past month have been filled with numerous visits to the chiropractor and massage therapist.  Happily, the treatments are paying off because I am in pain less frequently than before and I’m not waking up quite as much in the middle of the night.

All of this has, of course, effected the film project because I haven’t had the time or energy to work on it.  The reference guide is still sitting there waiting to be finished, but I am hoping to get back to working on it soon.  Recently, however, I did manage to attend a couple of events and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.  

Making Movies Throughout the Bay Area (MMTB)

Saturday before last, I spent the day at Goal Line Productions’ studio.  Goal Line is owned by football legend John Madden and operated by his son Joe.  The filmmaking event was put on by a filmmaking co-op group called Making Movies Throughout the Bay Area (MMTB). 

If you’re not familiar with filmmaking co-ops, let me explain what they are.  Briefly, they are groups of people interested in filmmaking who come together and share their time, talent, equipment, ideas, etc. to make short films.  For people who are interested in filmmaking but never had a chance to go to film school, this is a great low-cost way to get involved in filmmaking and learn how it is done guerrilla style.  For those who have or are currently going to film school, co-ops help you to get that much needed practice.  Here is where you can learn and practice the art without worrying about mistakes derailing your career.  People aren’t expecting perfection at this point in the game.  That comes later.

MMTB is a very new co-op.  This was only the second meeting.  They have a few bugs to work out yet in how they operate, but I’m sure they will iron those out over time and turn into a smoother running organization.  What I like about MMTB is the low time commitment and cost of joining.  Joining is basically free.  Just go to their Facebook page and join the group.  If you want to attend one of their filmmaking events, however, there is a small fee that is reduced if you bring  a food or drink item for the potluck lunch.  Events are one day per month and they run the entire day.  By the end of the day each group has finished shooting a short film and can take it with them for editing.  Edited films are due by a certain date and shown at the next event where everyone who attends gets to vote on which film they like best.  This is the film that won this month.

Perfect?  No, but can you believe they only had two hours to come up with that concept and write and shoot it?  Not bad considering the constraints.  MMTB rules require directors to have their own camera equipment.  If you’re a director, you’re a team leader.  There are two boxes filled with slips of paper.  One contains the names of the writers in the group, the other contains the names of the actors.  The director chooses one writer and two actors.  It’s the luck of the draw and you have no idea which group you’ll be assigned to until your name is drawn.  At that point it’s a mad dash to come up with a concept that fits your group and get it shot within the allotted time.  This month the teams were given four hours to shoot their films.

As a producer, I wasn’t sure what exactly I could contribute to an event such as this so I joined a sort of miscellaneous group that makes the behind-the-scenes video.  I was assigned to watch the various groups and take notes for the video.  I can’t say I was very successful at first.  It wasn’t until I was able to watch the video for last month’s gathering that I was really able to understand what they were looking for.  My note taking then improved a little bit, although I can’t say it was near as clever as what had been done before.  But it was fun to watch the various filmmaking teams in action.  Most of the teams did “talking heads” stories, although I did see one group shooting an action film.  One advantage of shooting at a studio is getting to use some of the equipment that they have.  One team was able to use some of the studio’s green screen for their indoor scenes.  I’m curious as to what those scenes will look like.

For a producer, the main reason to attend an event such as this is for the contacts.  You just never know if you’ll find local talent that you may wish to hire or collaborate with later.  I was able to find a few contacts that day that could be promising. 

Scary Cow Productions

Monday before last, I took a class on location management that was hosted by another film co-op called Scary Cow Productions.  Their motto is “Make Movies.  Be Scary.”  If MMTB is for those who want to dip their toe into filmmaking, Scary Cow is taking it to the next level.  There’s a bit more of a commitment involved to become a Scary Cow member.  The membership fee is $50 per month.  Participants are given four months to complete their projects, which gives them more control over the creative elements of their projects.  It works like this:  Once every four months members meet together for a pitching meeting.  Anybody can pitch an idea.  Members decide which projects will go forward by choosing the project they want to work on.  At the end of the four months, films are screened in a theater which has been rented for the occasion.  Members and a panel of judges vote for the best films.  The winners receive a budget for their next film.

Scary Cow also hires professionals to teach classes for its members.  Occasionally, they open their classes to the general public.  I’ve had the privilege of taking two of their classes already.  Back in December I took a casting class taught by a local casting agent; and last Monday I took a class in location management taught by a local location scout.  Both were excellent classes that gave me a real feel for what their job entails; and I was able to make contact with two local professionals in their respective fields that may come in useful down the road.

Acting Master Class With Paul Ben-Victor

Paul Ben-Victor

Attention any actors or aspiring actors!  Paul Ben-Victor will be teaching an acting master class workshop this Saturday, November 21, 2009, from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Hayworth Theatre in Los Angeles, California. 

Here’s a chance to learn from someone who has worked consistently in TV and film for over 20 years.  Currently, Paul appears in the hit TV series In Plain Sight, but his career boasts a long list of roles in various films and TV series including our own beloved The Invisible Man for which he won an audience award for his role as Bobby Hobbes.  Paul has had the kind of career that many actors only dream about, so it would behoove you to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from one of the best! 

This workshop is sponsored by the International Academy of Film and Television.  The cost is $179 or $49 to audit.   Click on the link below to reserve your place in the class. Space is limited!

Acting Class Master Workshop

Casting Class

Last weekend I drove into San Francisco to attend a casting seminar taught by casting director Kim Hardin.  Kim has 20 years of experience as a casting director and is known for films such as 2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers, and the award-winning Indie film Hustle & Flow

The class was geared toward actors, but directors and producers were also invited to attend.  It didn’t surprise me that we were greatly outnumbered by the actors. 

Even though it is still very early in the development process and we don’t know what, if any, other roles we’ll be needing to fill, this was a great opportunity to learn a little about the casting process ahead of time from someone who has been doing it for a long time.  It also gave me a great excuse to go into the city on a beautiful day.  I was delighted to find out that the hotel where the seminar was held was next to the cable car route.

The fun part of the class was the “cold read” (auditions performed without memorizing the script) audition practice at the end.  Kim gave all the actors “sides” (a portion of a script to be read at an audition) and sent them out into the hotel hallway to practice for a bit.  Some actors were teamed with another actor, and some were sent out by themselves because they would be doing their scene with Kim herself. 

After a short practice period, Kim called everyone back into the room.  It was fascinating to watch their performances.  Some were obvious beginners, while others had much more experience under their belt.  Nerves got to some of them and the sometimes long periods of silence betrayed the fact that they forgot their lines.  In an effort to be understated, some gave performances that could best be described as bland, while others went too far the other way with their over-the-top performances.

As I-Man fans, we often brag about the incredible chemistry of our cast so, of course, I closely watched the actors who were paired up in teams.  One couple really caught my attention.  They came across as though they had known each other for years.  The chemistry was there and it was very obvious.  Others just weren’t clicking.

During the instruction part of the class there was one young man, looked to be in his teens, that kept asking questions about things that Kim had already covered just minutes before.  It was apparent that he wasn’t paying attention, but Kim was very patient and answered all his questions.  I was curious how he would do.  When his turn came, he read opposite Kim.  And when I say read, I mean, literally, read.  He didn’t act the part at all, he just read it.  I’ve got to give him kudos for having the courage to do the practice audition.  He must have been incredibly nervous.  He has a marketable look, but he definitely needs training.

An older gentleman, who used to do a lot of theatre work and was just getting back into acting after a long stretch off, absolutely nailed the part of a pastor.  He was quite convincing.

Kim gave some of the same sides to more than one actor in order to give us the opportunity to see how different actors interpret the same scenes differently.  It was fascinating to watch each actor bringing something different to their roles.

After attending this class, I have to say that I have a renewed respect for actors and what they do for a living.  The majority of us only do a small number of job interviews in our lifetime before settling into our respective jobs for at least several years.  But can you imagine spending most of your career going to job interviews (which is basically what an audition is) all the time?  Well, the majority of actors do exactly that.  Getting an acting job takes a special kind of fortitude that, dare I say, the majority of earthlings wouldn’t want to deal with.

I tip my hat to actors everywhere who are chasing and living their dreams.

Lights, Camera, Action!

So last night finished up a directing class that I’ve been taking at a local community college.  We got together and had a screening where we got to watch our work and, afterward, a guest speaker, who is a local production coordinator, talked about budgeting.

During the course of the class each of us had to choose a scene from a script, break it down, create a shot list, and storyboard it.  Let me tell you, I couldn’t draw if my life depended upon it, so it was stick figures for me!  We learned about casting calls, but I missed the day they talked about acting and working with actors. 

Then each of us got to play director and shoot our chosen scenes.  We were running short on time so I opted out of directing my scene.  I don’t have any plans to be a director, but my classmates do so I figured they would need the experience more than me.

But, low and behold, we were short on actors, so guess who got recruited into the job?  Now, the only thing I’ve ever done in front of an audience is public speaking and dancing.  Acting was a totally new experience for me.  But it was interesting to get a small taste of what an actor does:  memorizing lines, repeating the same lines and actions over and over again for each take, taking direction from the director, keeping my movements smaller for closeups.  Actually, when I think about it, there are some similarities to public speaking and dancing.  So would I ever want to be an actor?  Heck, no.  Even though I got compliments on my acting, it was downright painful watching myself at that screening last night.  Nope, no acting for me.  I’ll do the world a favor and remain behind the scenes.

Getting past the pain of watching myself, it was a good learning experience to watch the scenes that we shot.  The teacher pointed out mistakes that are typical for a beginner director.  A few that I can remember off the top of my head are: 

  • In one shot the framing was off and there was too much air space above the actors’ heads.
  • Another time, the actors weren’t blocked properly and it looked like the actress was on the head of one of the actors.  Also, there was no continuity and sometimes the actress was in the shot and sometimes she wasn’t.  It not only looked strange, but the whole reason for the shot lost its meaning without her.
  • The funniest was seeing the fuzzy fur-covered microphone at the top of the shot and one of the lights over to the side.  Oops…another framing mistake.

So maybe by now you’re wondering why I took a directing class even though I have no plans to be a director.  Well, producers have been described as generalists.  They need to know a little about each job, but they don’t have to be experts in those jobs.  But they need to know enough to be able to hire the right people and budget for those jobs. 

So far I’ve taken classes in scriptwriting, lighting and cinematography, directing, film production, and early film history, among others.  Since I’m new to this, I’ve got the double job of keeping the project moving forward while I keep my education moving forward.  I’m always in the middle of reading of a book or two and when one class finishes, I start looking for my next class.  Fortunately for me, I love learning, and this is a job where the learning never stops.