Every month the Oracle selects entertainment professionals with established Hollywood careers to interview about their work, opinions and what advice they have for those wanting to make it in Hollywood. Today’s interview spotlight is on:

Vlad Peters: Post Production Operations Manager by day – DIY filmmaker by night.

1. Where are you originally from?

I grew up with an Army Lieutenant Colonel for a father, moving from post to post.  Once he left active duty for the private sector, we found ourselves in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California. So I generally tell folks I’m from Santa Cruz and suffer the obligatory, “surf’s up, dude. Hippies!”

2. What was your first job after moving to the Hollywood area? Was it in the entertainment industry, or did you start out doing something else to make ends meet?

My first job was at UCLA as a projectionist at Ackerman Grand Ballroom on campus.  We showed two movies three nights a week in the only ballroom that boasted a 35mm projector with platter system (a higher end fancy reel changer thingy), a 16mm projector, and an honest to goodness Dolby surround sound setup. It pretty much only paid for books,

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These days, the popular and slightly terrifying website Craigslist is one of the few ways for new actresses and actors that don’t have agents to get a job for free. Other sites usually involve some sort of upfront fee in order to gain access to casting calls and the like, but Craigslist is a place where broke actors can find smaller casting directors that are looking for talent to work on set. HOWEVER, it is a very hit and miss sort of place to find gigs, so I’m going to list a few tips and warnings here for any actors who want to use this site:

1. For actresses especially, make sure to respect your own comfort level. If an ad says ‘must be comfortable with nudity’ then you’d better be okay with it, otherwise you’re going to have a very irritated director on your hands. Also, even if you are okay with some nudity, you still need to be incredibly cautious, because an acting job that is asking for nude talent may not be as tasteful as you may be thinking, if you know what I mean.

Also, if the ad doesn’t explicitly say ‘no nudity’, then you absolutely need to ask, because I learned the hard way that sometimes these people will get you to come all the way to set only to surprise you with the fact that you’re supposed to be topless in the shot. So the lesson of the story is:

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You’re the new kid on the block at work? Looking to move up the Hollywood Job Ladder? You need more training!

Topp 10 Hollywood job tips

  1. Drop the cocky attitude and ask people what they are doing, then listen. Questions are good, listening is better.
  2. Make sure you are operating transparently. Make sure you work record is solid (no HR rap sheet is a good start) and then go talk to your boss. Check to see if there is a training policy.
  3. Know what you want to do. Asking for training without a plan is a recipe for failure.
  4. Plan your training in steps. Learn the jobs around your dream job so you develop some knowledge and credibility.
  5. While you are doing the best job you can in your current position, volunteer, for anything. If it gets you near the people you would like training from or close so you can glean some experience, be the first one to jump when the boss calls. Don’t forget the small stuff. If you are the only one who has learned to properly get the boss a chicken sandwich from her favorite diner. Consider it training (and an excuse to talk to your boss).

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Whenever I’m on set, I always hear people talking about this whole “crying on cue” thing as if it’s some highly sought after skill that only certain lucky actors are born possessing. The fact is, though, that crying on cue without any emotional fuel involved is actually incredibly rare, and when it does happen, it’s usually quite unsettling and doesn’t come off as genuine at all. Sure, being able to produce tears at the drop of a hat could be considered a genetic gift, but being able to cry with emotion and depth– now that is another skill entirely, and one that can most definitely be learned by anyone who has a heart and the ability to feel.

Crying on Cue

And…. ‘ACTION’

Many actors think that crying on cue means that they just have to start sobbing right then and there, with real tears streaming down their faces and no time to prepare for such a reaction. However, that is definitely a big misconception, because usually, when you’re on set, you have hours upon hours of wait time to get in the right state of mind for the scene in which you’re supposed to get emotional.

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When I least expected it this afternoon, one of our company PAs puffed out his chest and angled his way across the production floor and into my office. He has worked for the company about 6 weeks and, I gather, has the lay of the land. I have an open door policy and prefer to have straight conversation with all of the staff.

Job Training

Pick the Right Job at The Right Time

Our PA was on the hunt for some Technical Training as a Color Timer. To his credit, in his short time as a PA he had made acquaintance with one of our colorist, evidently made a good impression and he was ready to ask if he could start to spend time in the color timing bay and learn from the master.

Actually, this was not a bad experience for either of us. He had my attention, showed initiative and was asking for help/permission. He had missed a couple things as well as some behavior that stood out:

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These are a few tips from what I’ve learned so far as an Extra:

If you haven’t read Part 1 yet of this article CLICK HERE

Extra Casting– Arrive early. It makes a statement, and it also gets you inside faster (which, if you’re in Los Angeles in the summer and the line is held outside, you’ll definitely be glad you did.)

– Follow directions. Like I said before, attitude is everything, and you’ll get a lot more camera time if you’re bright-eyed, smiling, and obedient (even at 5 in the morning, if that’s your call time)

– BRING YOUR OWN FOOD AND WATER. A lot of the time, you’ll be taping for several hours in a row, with no allowances to get up and go to the restroom, get a drink, etc. This means that you’ll need to bring your own food and water, although you should definitely check with your agency or with security at the actual taping if it’s okay for you to have these items. Trust me, you’re gonna want to stay fed and hydrated, because it can get very hot under those lights and you don’t want to faint. Not a good impression.

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This post is going to be about the wonderful, glamorous life of being an extra.

Okay, no, it’s going to be a bit more honest than that. Let’s get real– being cast as an extra isn’t exactly the most respectable of roles that an actor wants on their resume (in fact, agents will typically tell you not to put any extra work on there, it’s that insignificant), but hey, it’s better than working a 9 to 5 office job or some other occupation that has nothing to do with your future just to make some money. Think of it that way, rather than in the pretentious, “I’m too good for this” way that many new actors come into the business believing. Movie Extra JobsSure, chances are, you probably are too good to be sitting in an audience giving the biggest “ooh”s and “ahh”s that you can muster, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, and if you start with an attitude like that, then you’ll never make it past the minimum wage / no pay roles regardless.

So that’s my first lesson. Have a good attitude, no matter what you’re doing, no matter how insufferably hot it is or how annoying that creepy cameraman is being. Trust me, at some point, someone will notice, and you’ll be glad that you pasted that cheesy smile on and had good energy from the get go. Being a positive influence on set can lead to great things, including getting a possible upgrade from background talent to a speaking role. Many times, directors will pick out happy faces and give you more camera time, and possibly even sign a document that will make you a part of the union (SAG or AFTRA) for that specific day so that you can have a line. Once you’ve done 3 union jobs, or received that document 3 different times, then you become eligible to join the union, which puts you in a whole different ball game. But we’ll get to that later, because right now, I’m not there yet– I’m still living the life of an extra, and so that’s what this post will be about. Hopefully I’ll be talking about my union jobs sometime in the near future!

In the mean time, these are a few tips from what I’ve learned so far:
Sorry out of time.. See ya tomorrow with my tips >>Read Part 2

Brooke –

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