Dear Acting Diary: TV Shoot

Me and the wife I murdered, on TV.

Dear Acting Diary,

A couple weeks ago I was cast in featured role for a pilot TV show. I don’t know if the title has been settled on but I think they were calling it “Celebrity Ghost Stories.” It should air on the A&E Biography Channel in November. It was a fun. I played a man in the 1800s who murders his wife then haunts a hotel. Around 90% of the 15 hour day was spent waiting for my scenes but it wasn’t bad. The shoot was at a snazzy bed and breakfast in New Jersey by the beach. I spent most of the time on the porch. I was on vacation.

A lot of the shots were done with still photography. The set had two units, a video unit and a still photography unit and the producers did a good job of juggling both. When the video unit was in one room shooting a scene, the photography unit would be in another part of the bed and breakfast taking still shots. They crammed a lot into the day. They were filming around three separate stories. Another thing that was different than other shoots I’ve been on, but similar to my own videos, is that there wasn’t any script and all the shots were set up by the director. This made some actors feel a little uneasy because there was nothing to prepare but I liked it because I felt it took the pressure off. I could just sit on the porch and wait to be called.

A lot of my shots were creepy. We took tons of still shots that ran the spectrum of my character carrying his new (probably mail order) bride over the threshold to my strangling her on the bed. I also had to do some shots with a noose around my neck. I got a little nervous when they were adjusting the loop, but I’m still here (and wasn’t ever at risk of death–besides the barbecue pizza I inhaled at lunch).

It was great meeting the other actors too. I’m always curious about people’s day jobs. One was a real estate agent who kept inquiring if anyone wanted by a house. One was a pharmacist. One was a former film commissioner for the state of Michigan.

Things I learned from being on this TV shoot:

  • Always confirm if you are being paid and how much when you accept a role. A lot of actors are nervous about doing this. And a lot of the actors on this shoot weren’t sure. I used to be nervous about confirming rates, as if I were asking for money from a friend. But its a job. Its good to know these things rather than wondering the whole day. Some jobs pay better than others, some only offer free food, but some shoots are worth it for your reel and the experience.
  • Costumes never fit. A lot of projects have tight costuming budgets and tighter pants. Or maybe I lie about my waistline.
  • When packing for a shoot bring a book, a drawing pad, laptop, or list of conversation topics that will last 12 hours plus. Also bring some “actor war stories.” That acting class you wasted money on, that shoot where your allergies exploded, that crazy audition, etc.
  • Bed and Breakfast rates really soar in the summer.


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