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April 22, 2009

The Anatomy of a Showcase

It was January 2007. I had just come home from a network diversity showcase and lunch with my intern and an actor friend. We spent the whole post-showcase meal talking about how the acting was good, the material was played out, and the overall production value was less than you'd expect from a network. Cheap, cold sandwiches and lukewarm coffee. Folders with actors' headshots crammed in all out of order. Resumés with typos and formatting errors that anyone at the producer level of this showcase could've and should've noticed. I noticed. I sat in the audience with the intention of shopping for actors, learning the work of actors not yet on my radar, enjoying an afternoon of laughs... and came away with more notes about how the showcase could've been better than about how much the actors rocked.

I knew it was time.

I had danced around the idea of producing a showcase for several years. Had even met with several different potential producing partners to brainstorm about how and where and when and with whom and for how much and... then that would be it. Three years of meetings and sharing ideas and starting then stopping. I just couldn't produce the showcase I wanted to produce by myself. And I hadn't met the right producing partner.

Actually, I had. I just didn't know it until that afternoon.

I came home from that network showcase and posted to a thread in a MySpace Group discussion board saying how I really wanted to produce showcases. Eitan Loewenstein, an actor I had first met back in 2003, at a book signing for Self-Management for Actors (after having known him online for a year or more before that), said, "Let's do it!" And we did what we do in Hollywood. We did lunch.

And the Cricket Feet Casting Actors Showcase was born.

That was January 2007 and here we are just 27 months later and the showcase has grown beyond our wildest dreams. In a few hours, 39 amazing actors will take the stage in front of a standing-room-only industry crowd, do two original comedic scenes each, and then schmooze with more heavy-hitters than I've ever seen turn out at a single showcase. Even at the network level.

Thanks to the initiative of showcase participant Cristina Cimellaro, we have potential buyers checking out our showcase. Yep. We're hoping to sell this puppy off. Our five-year goal was to create the best showcase in Hollywood, and make it free for actors. Under Cristina's guidance, we have a corporate proposal that's simply stunning. If I had a few grand laying around, I'd invest in us! And if next year we become "Coca-Cola presents the Cricket Feet Showcase," so be it! Every actor will sip a tasty beverage during his or her scene. Done. If it makes it free for the actors, we'll park a Buick on stage and act all over it. Whatever!

Keith Johnson is my partner in all things, as most folks know. His unwavering support has made my efficiency in producing this showcase outstandingly sharp. When Keith and Eitan and I first met Chil Kong, we knew we had our showcase's director for the long-term. He had directed a few network diversity showcases in the years before we met him, and his ability to bring comedic material to its highest potential is simply astounding. I get thank-you notes every showcase from actors who feel privileged to have worked under his direction. That's impressive!

This year, Alex Collins joined our team, which includes the amazing Tamika Simpkins and the brilliantly creative Shelley Delayne. We're growing! And that's what feels both exhilarating and terrifying. As Keith and I walked home from dinner last night, I said, "It's almost over." He said, "I know." "This might be our last showcase," I said. "I know," he replied. And it's not because we are feeling done. It's because we've taken some very big risks this time out.

Each actor is doing two scenes. Could be brilliant. Could be a trainwreck.

We're doing the most offensive material we've ever done. Could be brave. Could be a career-killer.

We've invited press to cover arrivals. Could be festive. Could be sad.

We have nearly 900 RSVPs for two nights of shows in a 268-seat venue. Could be an amazing, standing-room-only, industry-buzzing-for-the-rest-of-the-year experience. Could be a logistical clusterfuck.

And at the end of this whole production term, we could either sell our showcase off to the highest bidder and be asked to remove ourselves from the production process or we're no closer to corporate sponsorship and right back at this again in 2010, producing it ourselves.

But how is that possible? We've gone so big this time that it's either the end of the showcase as we know it or the end of the showcase. And I think we all feel that, which is why it's been so incredible a process these past few weeks, bringing everything together.

There is now nothing to do but to do it.

And I couldn't be more proud, more excited, more terrified, more gratified, and more grateful than I am right now. I have the most amazing team and I am so lucky to have had the experience of building this showcase from the ground up in such a short period of time with the help of the most wonderful people I know!

211 actors doing the original material of 71 writers under the direction of 4 amazingly talented directors. Growing from a 68-seat venue to a 268-seat venue (and outgrowing that one in just over a year). Actors refining their marketing materials, learning their most castable type, taking meetings, signing with new representation, booking studio feature films, developing pet projects, winning awards, building international fanbases, getting married, starting families... living LIFE. And calling the showcase family a part of that life.

I am truly humbled. And proud of all of us. Thank you, everyone, for having walked with me upon this road. I will never forget you.

Posted by bonnie at 1:10 AM | Comments (3)

April 12, 2009

12 of 12 April 09

Hello the end of April 12th. :) I'm sooo ready to sleep. Today's 12 of 12 is an all in-house version, but a busy day, nonetheless. Not sure what 12 of 12 might be? Please stop by Chad Darnell's site for all the info. He created it and he's a badass. Please consider joining us next month! It's ever so much fun to see what's going on all over the world on a single day. :)

6:23am: Why am I up so early after having been up so late? Ridiculously long weekend, and today was no exception. Not complaining! I love my life. Lots of work, and work is always good. :)

8:19am: How Thwok helps with the clean towels. She also helps like this with papers. She keeps things from floating away. I appreciate that about her.

8:48am: Redoing show order for the Cricket Feet Showcase based on yesterday's Last Looks. A giant logic puzzle! Thank you, graphics goddess, Shelley Delayne, for redoing the program... again!

1:10pm: Catching up on TiVoed 90210 while outlining tomorrow's column. Showcase show order is now locked, and I'm just so dang glad that they finally did a rerun of the 90210 that came before all of the other episodes I had stashed in the TiVo. Finally! I could catch up. Man, this show is dripping with... 90210-ocity.

2:56pm: Lunch! Gluten-free vegan pumpkin tortellini w/ beet purée from Planet RAW. I love that there's not a single thing on their menu I can't have! Deeeelish!

4:03pm: I did a workshop with Osbrink for a visiting group of young actors. This lovely bottle of Marilyn Merlot (LOL, right?) is a gift from the Atlanta Workshop Players. I was an AWP kid. So much fun to connect with them on "the other side" now. I'll open this after the column is turned in. Heh!

5:31pm: Going through email at my Showfax account for tomorrow's "Self-Produced Clip of the Week." Lots to choose from!

6:59pm: Now Keith takes a break from online house hunting to hear me read tomorrow's column before I turn it in. I like to run everything past someone, out loud, to be sure I'm saying what I want to say. ;) Yes, this is why the most common feedback I get about my writing is that it "sounds" like me. It's workshopped aloud.

8:22pm: Time to sample the post-column Marilyn Merlot and 175 calories of pistachios. Excellent snack!

8:47pm: Ooh, hurry back, awesome intern. Mail overflows! (Plus, we miss you.)

9:41pm: Free to a good home: Panasonic KX-FPG391 phone/fax/copier/talking caller ID thingy. Seriously. We've been liberated of landline living (and have made Nancy--my original iPhone--our forever home phone, wherever we live) and that means this contraption is FREE to a good home! The talking caller ID is my favorite part. :) C'mon... want it? It's yours. Or it's out in the alley for some tinkerer to pick up.

10:27pm: The end of my 12of12, but not the end of my day. A nice, hot shower. Yum! Long day tomorrow that ends with a fun speaking engagement to actors and filmmakers. I'm feeling bed soon. But there's still work to do... so...

As always, thanks, everyone, for stopping by. And thank you, Chad, for another lovely 12 of 12 experience. Keep on rockin', everyone! :)

Posted by bonnie at 11:21 PM | Comments (7)