Archive for December, 2009

Middle of December

December 19, 2009

So, last weekend we filmed the short screenplay I wrote a few months ago which had been put off a couple times before….quite a learning experience.  We now know that if we are going to be using students to help us shoot these reel-building projects–and I can’t see any way that that would be changing–we need to assume that, no matter how big a game they might talk, they will have no idea how organized they must be to get 12 pages or more done/shot in a day or two.  I’m sure that is not the case with all students but we know now to be prepared for such a case.  We had gotten off work for Saturday and Sunday to shoot this thing because our guy told us that it would probably take a full two days to get it all done.  The night before we are supposed to shoot, I am told that the crew he had assembled is no longer available and asked if I know anyone with a car that could help pick up all the equipment in lower Manhattan and help transport it all to our apartment (where we were going to shoot)…because he didn’t realize just how much equipment there would be.  Eventually we work our way to the suggestion that we just shoot it at his apartment since the equipment is already there and get an assurance that we can shoot without a crew.  The next morning, we get there and rework the blocking because of the new space while he sets up the lights.  Just as we are about to start shooting a short while later, he realizes that he’s missing a necessary piece to be able to fit the camera on the tripod and some other apparently important piece.  It had managed to make its way into the afternoon by this time (late start due to subway delays and light set-up), so after some discussion, we decided that Jenn and I would just do the scene all the way through and he would watch and figure out a shot list for the new location and what the lighting set-up would be for each shot so that we could fly through the shoot without much thought the next day.  This seemed like a good idea but he didn’t want us to do it again after we did it once and I looked at his script and there were really just a few notes on each page.  I asked him what he needed from us and if he needed us to come up with the shot list–which was probably the 4th time since meeting him that I asked that question–but he said we had given him everything he needed and he knew exactly what he was going to do once we started shooting the next day.  I should know by now that, in New York, you just don’t take anybody at their word, but I did…wanting to trust him and believe that he knew what he was doing because I still don’t know anything about the other side of the camera.  Jenn and I arrived the next morning at exactly the time we all decided on the day before.  We woke him up.  So, we got costumed and ran through lines while he set up lights again.  An hour or so later, he was ready to start shooting and then realized that no sound was getting picked up by the boom mike or the microphone on the camera.  After 30 minutes of fiddling and experimenting, we got in a cab to run to his school and see if someone knew what was wrong.  The equipment person decided the camera was broken and took another 30 minutes to find a camera for us that actually worked.  We got back to the apartment and finally started shooting, but after finishing up the exterior/outdoor/set-up shots, and starting the actual scene, it became obvious that this guy had a very short attention span.  He started yelling cut at completely random times and then readjusting himself for a brand new shot and then asking us to start where we left off as if he had forgotten that editing is supposed to be a post-production task.  It was as if he was shooting the film as he saw the final version in his head.  Strange and a big waste of time is what that was and, after a few frustrating exchanges, it was suddenly apparent to Jenn and I that we would need to, quickly, come up with a shot list for the entire film and keep up a checklist of everything that could possibly be done with the lighting set up as it was because daylight was fading fast and we didn’t have another day to squeeze in any shooting.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal if we knew ahead of time that this would be needed but we had been assured that that wasn’t part of our job.  Anyway, eventually our guy relented to just doing what he was told and admitted that he had no idea where we were in the script or what was going on–which couldn’t have been helped by the fact that, by this time, he hadn’t eaten anything in at least 16 hours.  (He said he never eats while shooting because it slows him down…which obviously he decided some time ago that that would be his “thing” and people would talk about it and maybe it would become legendary–“I heard he never eats while shooting”  “yeah, he’s amazing.  We’ve been shooting for 22 hours so far today and he hasn’t even had like a fry or anything.”    “That’s amazing.  He looks like Ghandi.”    “Totally…and he’s definitely weakening too.  I saw him trip over a piece of tape a few minutes ago.”    “Plus, I think he’s losing it a little bit.  He keeps yelling at me and calling me Oprah…but I’m not…Oprah I mean.”    “Maybe that’s why he added the pink unicorns into this tense courtroom scene.”    “Talk about suffering for your art…”      “Amazing.”  )  With that system in place and him just trying to find interesting shots from where we told to him to be, we moved at a pretty quick pace and managed to finish up just as the sun was going down–though we did only get one take for almost every shot, which is dangerous…I mean what if Jenn picked her nose with both hands in one of the shots and we didn’t notice or what if I looked too incredibly handsome in multiple shots for the story to even be believeable?…..heee-yah…just kidding…but I’m sure you get the point.  Editing won’t start until January and I guess we’ll see how we did once that process begins.  There was a lot learned that day and editing will offer a whole lot more to learn.

Work has been good.  A lot of prayer has been put in to make sure that I’m working hard, keeping a good attitude, doing what I’m told, and not being effected by all the slight debauchery going on around me.  It’s really nice when Jenn and I get to go in or go home at the same time…it reinforces this whole team-first concept in everything we do.

But now we have the next week off because WE GET TO GO HOME!!  I am writing this around 1AM  EST and by 4am we will need to be at the subway station to take us a few stops so we can catch a 4:15am bus to take us to the airport to check in for our 6:30am flight out of LaGuardia and to Chicago then Bloomington.  We are praying that the severe snowstorms predicted to hit will come in after we have left and will not delay our visit at all and I am hoping that pure adrenaline will keep me going our first day back since, obviously, I will not be sleeping tonight.  Instead I will be thinking on how to most efficiently tackle all my nieces and nephews at the same time and how to show my friends how much I’ve missed them without licking their faces…which is what my current urge is…seriously…that’s how stinking excited I am.  I just hope we get a chance to see everyone we have missed and no one feels left out and that the days go by as slowly as days have ever gone…and in the midst of it all we manage to remember Jesus…entering this world through a back door sneak-attack to take on and wear first the filthy rags found in the barn and eventually all our sins so we could be seen blameless in the sight of the Lord.  I love Him so freaking much but it just never seems possible to give Him His due.  Merry CHRISTmas to everyone and thank you to those whom have blessed us with emotional, prayerful and, most recently, financial support.  I won’t name names because I don’t want to rob you of any rewards or blessings but please know that we are so very grateful.  Loooooove.

End of November/Beginning of December

December 11, 2009

So, Thanksgiving was nice.  We had Scott over, had way too much food for three people which meant there were lots of leftovers which made this Thanksgiving seem more real in some ways than the last couple.  When I was growing up I always lived in the house that hosted–whether that was as a kid in my mom’s house or during college in my dad’s house–which meant that when Thanksgiving was through, Thanksgiving dinner went on and on and on for days.  These last few years, since getting married and travelling around to houses not my own, Thanksgiving has meant only one day of eating so much I wanted to cry and sleep and puke and evaporate…and then that’s it.  Living in the host house means that day plus a seemingly endless stockpile of homemade food setting in your fridge just waiting to be microwaved that lasts for days and days.  We got that back this year…which was nice.  So even though we missed the crap out of our family and would’ve much preferred that option, we at least got to enjoy cold pumpkin pie for breakfast, cold turkey and mayo sandwiches for lunch and open-faced turkey and mashed potato sandwiches with dressing on the side for dinner and, to me, that’s the meaning of Thanksgiving.  You think that’s shallow?  Take it up with my mom’s fridge.  I only learned what I was taught and that’s what that fridge gave lessons on–eating Thanksgiving dinner for a week.

After that, I closed my first deal at work.  It was a decent enough commission but we were more excited about the idea that I had finally gotten off the snide and now it was going to get easier and easier to make money at this thing.  However, that one deal closed was followed by a series of last second frustrations and roadblocks that made closing another deal seem, once again, nearly impossible and put us right back into “worry mode”.

In the midst of that, I had my worst bout of self doubt in years after auditioning for that feature-length film.  I don’t know for sure what the director thought or the actress I read with thought of my reading/performance but I walked out of there knowing that I wouldn’t cast me.  It was just so surface-y and presentational and that was after the director gave a very extensive explanation of the story and the characters.  I knew that if I was cast and was given a script and time to get to know the character I would come up with something and do a kick-butt job…but the audition is all they know and the audition was incredibly mediocre.  Every other experience has made me feel like I belonged and deserved it just as much as anyone out here but, this time, I felt like I had no business being out here…that I just wasn’t good enough.  That started a very depressed few days and didn’t help at work either.

There was a bit of a pick-me-up when my dad called to tell that the one-act play that I wrote, that had been accepted into the Strawberry Festival (which is actually really well known out here), had also been accepted into the one-act night at Corn Stock Theatre back home in Peoria.  It was just nice to know that another small group of people appreciated my writing.  It’s also kind of cool that, around the same time of year, the play will be premiered in two different theatres hundreds of miles away from each other with totally different casts and director.  It’s also an exercise in becoming a “writer”, I think, to have absolutely no creative control after writing and putting it out there to have other people do it.  Here I wrote it as a play to get me and my wife onstage performing.  I’ll be directing it, starring in it and wrote all three parts specifically for the person who will now be playing the part.  Back home, I wrote it… and now my job is done.  That’s weird but pretty cool.

A big difference came when I started reading a book that Jenn had just finished, called “The Invisible War”.  I think the hardest part of being and living as a Christian is balancing the ever-present compulsion towards self-condemnation with the head-knowledge that you are a brand new person in Christ and the power to live a God-honoring, powerful, and sinless existence is already within you–the Holy Spirit.  I would screw up and spend all my energy admitting to God how worthless and sinful and terrible I was and asking for help and forgiveness and not take one step closer righteousness.  This book spells out as clear as can be, Biblically, that while God has already won and, in Christ, we have no need to fear….yep I’m gonna say it….Satan, we have to understand that he is powerful and clever and is constantly attacking all people to either keep them from accepting Jesus or to keep Jesus-followers from being fruitful and living in the power given them.  I have problem believing there are demons and angels and constant battle going on…it’s in the Bible over and over again.  But it was a massive help to have it explained that I’m contantly under attack and how those attacks might come.  This has made my prayers much more specific and…accurate…and the difference has been amazing.  Instead of praying for help and strength not to screw up in some way living in so much fear and defeat, I’ve been praying for protection from these attacks so that the power already in me could be fully realized in God’s plans for me each day.  You think this sounds hokey?  You think this sounds silly?  Well…I think your face sounds silly!  But, seriously, I will quote from one of my favorite movies Usual Suspects to point out one of the big points from the book…”the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.”  Two guys have to walk into a cage full of lions and bears, grab a steak on the other end of the cage and walk back:  one of them is told there many lions and bears in the cage and he believes; the other is told the same thing but then looks into the cage and doesn’t any lions or bears…just trees and bushes…and he doesn’t believe what he’s been told because he doesn’t believe in anything he can’t see.  The one who believes walks into the cage prepared and ready for what he is likely to come up against.  The other strolls in breezily, thinking he’s about to prove to everyone else just how silly this “myth” about lions and bears is.  It doesn’t take a smart person to know which one is most likely to come back out alive.  (especially if the one who believed took the shield and armor that was offered to him by the zookeeper…played beautifully in this production by God Himself)  I say it’s a must-read for believers and non-believers…”The Invisible War” by Chip Ingram.

Most recently, after a few days of real estate deals falling through for one reason or another but finally trusting that God would provide one way or another because I wasn’t being defeated by worry or doubt, I went to an audition for a short film and thought I was then heading to work.  However, I suddenly felt compelled to instead go looking for a job.  I went to a server/bartender open call that Jenn had casually passed on to me.  I found out about a few others that were going on and went to those after being rejected at the first one for not having enough experience.  It was a lot of up and down the subway line and a lot of walking but I got seen at quite a few restaurants that day and just as I thought I was about to go home, God made it very clear that I needed to go to Jenn’s work.  Jenn had told me that they were short servers lately with all the holiday parties going on but she had also told me that she had been shot down after mentioning that I was available to help out as a server to a few of the managers AND that there was a strict rule against spouses and family members being employed at the same location for the typical reasons.  I went anyway and filled out my application sporting all my serving experience (which consists of Bob Evans and Jonah’s Seafood from age 16 to 17….so a little bit from 9-10 years ago…not in New York City).  Jenn talked one of the regular managers into chatting with me and he seemed more interested in me helping him find an apartment than hiring me as a waiter.  But he said he would try to get the general manager to meet with me.  Instead the general manager walked by repeatedly without glancing at me for the next 40 minutes until I decided to leave.  Apparently, about ten minutes after I left, the gm went into the office to Jenn and said, “So, you’re husband’s looking for job as a server?”  uh, yeah  “Does he have any experience?”  yes  “Okay.  Have him come in tomorrow around 4pm to fill out paperwork and make sure he wears black pants and shoes so he can start training right away.”  uh okay.              So, unless God has something else planned, the jobs now are in place that could keep us here in NYC for as long as we can stand to chase this dream.  Aaaaaand, I have now completed the full process of becoming a cliche.  Struggling actor in New York working as a waiter.  Awesome.  I don’t think I’ve ever been a cliche before…maybe I’m wrong…but either way I’m kind of excited about it.

ONLY 8 MORE DAYS UNTIL WE GET TO GO HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!  WE’RE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT!!!  I’m going to have a really hard time not tackling every wonderful family member that goes for a hug.