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Local casting call for new sitcom

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Around mid-May, members of beer-themed fraternity Tapakegaday will stand outside the Sacramento Convention Center holding signs in protest of an authoritarian events coordinator.

But that’s just an act – and May 7, Sacramentans will get the chance to play those roles and others at a casting call for the pilot episode of a new comedy show, “Better than Unemployed?”

Sacramento resident Michele Smith, 36, wrote “Better than Unemployed?” and said it is designed to appeal to anyone who has worked in a corporate setting, had a terrible boss or attended trade shows.

“Basically, what it’s about is a woman named Sam, and every episode is a different trade show,” Smith said, explaining that Sam takes a position as events coordinator for the Sacramento Convention Center and, on day one, hosts a beer trade show that goes disastrously wrong.

With a boss who is more interested in his stripper girlfriend than work and an assistant who spends more time with her Valium bottle than assisting, Smith said the problems presented in the office cause as much angst as the problems at the trade show.

And the problems at the show are many. A fraternity – Tapakegadaya – has a booth at the show, but the members spend their time stealing kegs and being obnoxious, forcing Sam to kick them out.

Angered over being kicked out of the show, Tapakegadaya members protest, drawing the attention of police, and Sam is faced with the problem of not having proper licensing from the Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Smith, who owns public relations and marketing firm M Communications as well as M Com Publishing, said the storylines and characters in the show are taken from her past work experience.

“I’ve had the bad boss, and I’ve had assistants that were MIA, and I’ve been to a ton of trade shows where you just see these things fall apart,” she said, describing the show as a side project that is slowly taking over her time.

The May 7 casting call will be held from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Hyatt Place Sacramento/Roseville, located at 220 Conference Center Drive in Roseville.

“We’re casting for all characters,” Smith said, adding that headshots and reels are being accepted through an email address on the show website.

The main characters will be paid at a rate to be determined, but extras will receive compensation in both exposure – and beer.

“The last day of shooting, everyone will be walking around and drinking beer, so that’s a form of compensation,” Smith said.

The plan is to begin shooting next month, then pitch the show to TV networks.

If it’s picked up, Smith said she plans to shoot the show in Sacramento.

Executive Producer Al Gonzalez of the local Quad Air Communications video production company, said Thursday that doing the production locally will showcase Sacramento’s talent when it comes to video production.

“People here should get excited,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to remind the public and city officials that we have just as much production personnel as any other major international or domestic city that can handle not just the production of a pilot but of a whole series.”

Mike Testa, spokesman for the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau – a different entity than the Sacramento Convention Center – said quite a bit of filming is done in Sacramento.

“The most recent big one is ‘Big Love,’ which HBO filmed here for about 10 days a couple of years ago,” Testa said. “We also had John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow film ‘Lucky Numbers’ here, and we have quite a few commercials and other first-run movies.”

He added that some scenes from “Memoirs of a Geisha” were shot in the city, and a few HGTV shows make the rounds to Sacramento.

“We love it when they’re set here,” he said. “It certainly helps people learn about Sacramento, and we hope they go online and Google the city, and it helps us market the city.”

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

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