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FROM THE BRIDGE: Earning My SAG Card

If you are not open to the twists and surprises life throws your way, you will not enjoy some of the greatest delights of being a Human.

Last fall I received a letter from the Screen Actors Guild, informing me that I am now qualified to become a member. I have many friends here in Hollywood who are making feature films and TV shows and web series. Frequently, in the last couple of years, I’ve been asked to play a role in one of their productions. Apparently, I’m unable to utter the word “NO,” so I have worked in enough productions to make me “SAG-qualified.”

Of course, there’s a hefty fee to join SAG, plus annuals dues, to enjoy the benefits. Since acting is not my professional goal here in Hollywood, and I already have good health insurance, I have not coughed up the $2,300 needed to get my SAG card. But I’ve earned the right.

I played an experienced-but-retired Vampire hunter in the web series FEM-VAMPS (FemVamp.com), teaching a young boy how to deal with the ever-present threat of smoking-hot Vampire girls, hell-bent on sucking the life out of every good-looking man (and woman) they meet. As director G.R. Claveria explained to me, “You are the Obi Wan of this series, training young Luke.” Check out Episode One to see my best bud, actor Derek Nelson, totally getting off watching vamp-videos -- until something horrible happens.

I did a one-day shoot for a movie called MEGA SPIDER (link), playing a patient in a hospital, doped up, tubes stuck in me, more or less helpless – as a giant spider crawled up on my face and executed it’s first hideous death (link). The movie features Ray Wise (LOVE OF LIFE, TWIN PEAKS, POWDER, CHILLERAMA, ATLAS SHRUGGED, Part 2), Lin Shaye (2001 MANIACS) and Lloyd Kaufman (Troma). Eventually the spider grows so big it threatens the city from atop skyscrapers. Director Mike Mendez, is a big FANGORIA fan, and during a break, DP Benji Bakshi quietly informed me, “I have issue #1 of CINEMAGIC, sealed in plastic.”

I met Christina Fernandez when she worked at Paramount, and we became friends, because she’s lovely and from Austin. Christina has now moved back there, married Andrew Shapter, and is making movies with her husband. I flew to Austin in January to appear in a most unusual film project they’re doing, THE TELLER AND THE TRUTH (link). The movie is unusual in that it has no script. The night before shooting, I had dinner with Christina and Andrew, and they told me the detailed backstory, encouraging me to improvise dialogue in answer to questions I would be asked on-camera the next day. Apparently I came through (give me a mike, and I improvise), and they are using much more of my character than originally planned.

I met another lovely lady named Ripley Rader, at a big New Year’s Eve bash one memorable night. She teamed up with her friend Ellen Etten to create a web series about web dating in LA, with a double-meaning title: L.A.’d (ellensdatinglife.com). Ripley asked me to do a brief cameo in the opening episode. Although she didn’t describe it this way, the role was a “creepy old man” who tries to pick up a young girl on a street corner. I didn’t even have to rehearse, to deliver a performance that William Macy (FARGO, MAGNOLIA and several dozen other movies and TV shows) complimented at the premiere party, saying “You nailed it, man.”

Joey Weisman is directing a new web series called ZOMBIE FAMILY (link), a twisted comedy about the strange walking dead folks who move into a respectable neighborhood. Joey asked me to play Grandpa Zombie, another creepy old geezer who spends his days watching TV, growling and drooling.

And this morning Justin Bowman asked me to appear in SHADOW WAR, a sci-fi film he’s making about a fatal extraterrestrial virus that threatens to infect Earth with a deadly plague.

Now, acting is not my career goal. True, I enrolled in Drama at U.T. eons ago, dedicated to acting, but after two years (see BACKSTORY, University of Texas) I left the Drama Department and since then, acting has not been my prime passion. But I guess once that bug is in your blood, it’s there forever. I really enjoy taking on a strange role, and delivering a performance that works. And that’s what I’m doing these days – plus all my other projects.

Several months ago I told some friends that I seem to be turning into Stan Lee, the amazing creator of so many Marvel superheroes. Stan is one of the few humans who is actually older than I am in official years, but younger than everyone in spirit. He makes cameo appearances in all kinds of movies that deal with his genre world. My ex-roomie Brian Edan smiled sarcastically and remarked, “Kerry, it’s more like you’re becoming Betty White.”

That’s fine with me! When Betty enters a room, the girl gets a standing ovation. I’ll take that kind of reaction, any day. So here I am in Hollywood, writing and producing, with way too many projects, too many friends, too many meetings and commitments every single day – and yet, somehow I make time to act for my friends in their projects.

It’s ironic that the majority of my young pals here in LaLaLand are actors, desperately seeking work that will yield a SAG card. They would do anything to land the productions I get. Of course, the advantage of hiring me is that I’m not SAG – I work for free. Acting is just one of many activities I enjoy here in Hollywood, where every day is all about entertainment.

Recently I turned a line from Shakespeare into a song for my musical, THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD (see TODAY, Stage). That line sums up not only the one life I live, but also the days of our lives for so many involved in show business: “All the world’s a stage.”

Unexpected twists and surprises offer delicious treats in the banquet of life. I encourage you to keep your doors, and your arms, ever open. Don’t utter the word “NO.” Things you do just for fun, are things that keep you young and happy.

Kerry O'Quinn, April 2012