Posts Tagged ‘acting’

January ’11

January 10, 2011

I got some news last night that I’ve been waiting on for awhile but before I get to that I want to revisit how this tiny portion of our story even got there.

Something like 5 or 6 months ago (I can’t remember) I was looking in to getting ‘extra’ roles and getting the attention of agents.  I found a website that promised to connect talent with opportunities (don’t they all?) and joined their site on a free trial which was right after sending out a ton of headshots and resumes to agents.  I got a call from an agent (this was the first one to call me) that wanted me to come in for a meeting.  Then, right after, I started looking through this website I mentioned and got a message from a casting director inviting anyone and everyone to come to some bar in Brooklyn for an open casting call for a TV pilot.  Now, I hate going to Brooklyn.  Hate it.  It takes forever to get there from where we live and, if you’re not in the rich parts, then it’s run-down and crummy-looking.  However, the meeting with the agent was in lower Manhattan and the timing worked out so I decided if I felt up to it after the meeting I would go to the audition.  I prayed hard about that day and felt God telling me this would be a blessing…that this day would be a step forward.

The meeting was awful.  I didn’t get to do any acting.  It was just talking and she tore me to pieces when I didn’t read her mind and say whatever it was she wanted me to say.  She told me to get a scene together though, with another actor and come back when I was ready…which still hasn’t happened, for various reasons.  I felt like garbage after that meeting but was itching to actually act for somebody afterwards so I went ahead to the audition.  The director cast me on the spot for a project that sounded ridiculous at the time.  I had no hope for this project at that point but it was nice to hear some kind words that day. 

A week later, I recorded a couple songs for the project and the director and I started talking more about it on the long drive back and forth from the studio.  He said he did a lot of volunteering and fundraising for a few certain organizations and, because of gratitude for his work, important people in those organizations gave him a grant to make this project he had told them about into a full 2-episode pilot.  They also introduced him to a professional crew that could shoot it for him.  That crew was headed by Latch (just a nickname) and the director told me that Latch was really headed somewhere and had already had a lot of success with music videos and was now working his way into other things and was starting to make a name for himself.

This made it obvious then that Latch was the guy I needed to look out for and try to impress.  A few days later I joined the shooting and Latch had zero interest in who I was or what I was doing there.  I went into a corner somewhere and prayed that God would help me to do the best job I could do but I felt God telling me to be more bold.  So, I prayed that Latch would notice my work and see something in me that made no sense for what I actually did or what he actually saw–that he would see beyond the silly role I was playing and that God would show him everything I could do in a way that was beyond my own abilities.  This was a prayer that I repeated many times before every day of shooting.

That first day of shooting I got to do something that got people’s attention because it was just physical comedy.  I’m good at throwing my body around and making faces and that was all it was so everyone on the crew at least wanted to know my name after that.  The next day was a scene with actual dialogue.  I know I brought a lot of energy and acted the part for what it was supposed to be but it wasn’t award-winning stuff.  Latch was really complementary and said he had a few things going on and asked me for my headshot and contact information.  Then he started comparing me to Johnny Depp (I’m not joking).  I laughed at him but he said my ability to just turn it on and be something completely different was rare and reminded him of some of the greats.  He said I was easily one of the most talented people he’s ever worked with (remember that prayer?).  There was then a few weeks where nothing was going on with that project and I was focused elsewhere.

The next shoot date I walked in the room and was greeted with Latch saying, “I’ve got some good news for you my friend.  You have an an audition in two weeks for a Universal Studios movie for the main serial killer.  How do you feel about that?”  I was a bit confused and stunned and didn’t know whether to believe him or not.  He explained he had a friend that wrote a freaky thriller screenplay, that Universal Studios had bought it and that, after first just being Director of Photography, he had been moved up to a Producer.  Since now he had some creative control, he had gotten rid of some of the cast and was calling for another round of auditions.  One of those roles was that of the main serial killer (yes, there’s more than one…I guess it’s a cult sort of thing) and he wanted me.  He told me I still had to convince others ( the director, other producers) and if it was up to him solely, the role would already be mine (this after seeing me play a clumsy secret agent that’s working undercover as a high school janitor– a part described to me during original auditions as a mix between Maxwell Smart and George Costanza….yeah, remember that prayer?).  We locked down the date and time and went on shooting for the day.  I just prayed that I wouldn’t do anything that would make him second-guess his belief in me.

The night of the audition, I prayed the same prayer as before and went in having been told to learn a Russian accent 6 hours earlier (Latch called to tell me he forgot about that part).  I really didn’t think I did a good job on the audition.  But we got to talking and I really got along with everyone there and then they asked me to do a monologue and I had one ready that really works for me.  Overall, it went well but I had no idea what to expect.

The next day Latch called to say it was down to me and one other guy and that I should be happy because overall they had seen close to 100 guys for the part.  He said that he and the executive producer preferred me but the director had the casting control and the director preferred the other guy.  There was supposed to be a final audition just a few days later.  I prayed that I would act beyond my talent and would leave no doubt in their minds.  The audition got pushed back a week.  I kept praying but God told me again to be more bold.  So, I prayed that no audition would be needed–that I would get the part without ever having to walk in and audition for that part again. 

Then came the waiting.  Shooting got pushed back because the script kept changing so scenes they thought they needed to shoot immediately didn’t exist anymore.  The audition would get scheduled and then the studio would call the producers in for a meeting so I would hear things like, “sorry about the delay but it’s set now that if you get the part you’re working on a $20 million movie.”  It was frustrating and impossible to move on emotionally to anything else.

Christmas came and it was amazing to see family and friends back home.  It was reviving and refreshing and everything we prayed it would be.  We got back the first of the year and it didn’t take long to feel like I was right back in this depressing, debilitating waiting game.  God gave me a push though and I remembered to keep on praying, and keep on praying.  Also, I emailed Latch and called him and didn’t hear back from him.  I wasn’t sure what to think but felt like God was reminding me of all the prayers he had answered to even get to that point.

Last night Latch called me back.  He said he knew I was probably mad at him and he was sorry that he hadn’t kept in touch but there had been a lot going on and it had been crazy.  Then he said, “There’s been a bunch of issues with the director.  We’ve had some creative issues with him and the studio has had some issues with him.  It got pretty bad with this guy and so now the director has been removed…and now I’m the director….and guess who I’m casting as my serial killer?….You baby!” 

No audition required (remember that other prayer?).  There is still much that could go wrong and I won’t be signing a contract for about 2 weeks.  I have no idea what the money will be or if the movie will be any good or how the shooting will go.  However, the very least I can expect is that studio executives will have to watch this to decide whether it gets in theatres or gets put out on a DVD sale rack…which means they’ll have to see me, doing what God gifted me to do.  That is a foot in the door…which is all I’ve been hoping for for so long.

All those uncertainties about this project just mean that there’s a lot to pray about.  I will be and I ask for any of you willing to pray as well.  A friend of mine that usually is the most unsentimental person I know recently commented on one of our blogs:

“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

I appreciated seeing someone remind us of that but I’m not sure if I always believe it in regards to general effort.  However, in regards to prayer…I know it’s true.  God is so good.  Not because He gave me a part in a movie…but because He is the creator of this entire universe, every cell on this earth is his handiwork, and He heard my prayers.  He cared about the yearnings of my heart and could see the lessons I needed to learn before giving yet another gift of love.  I pray to a God that answers prayers, a God that is able and willing and I will serve Him whether I’m collecting an Oscar in two years or never even get on another set and am home trying to pick up the pieces in a year.  He gives mercy, He gives grace and He hears my prayers.  The creator of all hears my prayers.

Tide Turning?

September 22, 2010

A couple weeks ago, I did “featured extra” parts in one short film and one feature-length film.  The short film was done by a production company that apparently has a movie in select theaters right now and is tearing up some of the festivals.  The feature length movie is done by a guy who has already put something out there on DVD that is well-liked enough that the Chinese ladies who walk around to every open door in the city saying, “DVDs?  DVDs? $5!  $5!”, have his movie…which means you’re moving up in this city.  The part I did in the short film was total crap:  10 hours of sitting around for about 30 seconds of work that didn’t include my face (on the upside I got to meet and have about an hour conversation with Cindy Cheung from Lady in the Water.  She’s the young Asian girl that interprets the old myths for Paul Giamatti’s character…which means I’m only one degree from M. Night and Giamatti in the Kevin Bacon game.)  The feature film ended up being great.  I got to do a pretty cool fight scene with the main character that went on for quite awhile and then we had a couple minutes of dialogue before he shot me.  The director was really excited about what I did and said I impressed him and that he’d remember that for the future.  I think being an assassin and stunt person would be a pretty cool subordinate to my big picture dreams…if I had to settle.  While I was waiting around at that gig I finally got a call from an agent, which is something I had been waiting on for awhile.  We set up a meeting and today was that day.

So, when the day started, I knew I had that meeting and I thought I might go to an open casting call for some TV pilot.  The agent meeting was mostly crummy because she could tell right away that I have no idea how to play the game and she is just FULL of the game.  However, she must have seen something in me because she said she wanted me to get another actor (which will be Scott, decided I, because she said it could not be my wife) and do a 5-minute scene that I didn’t write and show her what I can do.  If she likes Scott, then she’ll rep him as well.  We’re just supposed to call her when we’re ready to rock it.  Then I went to the open call for the TV pilot and got cast on the spot.  The show involves undercover secret agents and singing and is being shopped to Nickolodeon and the Disney Channel.  I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks and, yes, I know how ridiculous it sounds.  I will be recording a couple songs tomorrow for it in some studio.  I got home to learn the songs and, after getting a call for an interview tomorrow for the NBA Store, I got a call from another agent that wants to set up a meeting for the end of the month.  So, that’s cool.  Then I got a call from the director of an Alfred Hitchcock remake project and we set up an audition time for Thursday.  It was all in a very short amount of time which was strange and sort of felt like a prank.  God is good and I will continue to praise Him no matter what happens.  None of this means anything awesome yet but it seems as though things are starting to go my way a little.  We’ll see.

thoughts from a seminar

August 17, 2010

So there are these seminars for actors here in New York City.  They’re always listed as a “free seminar” but they’re really just teasers and advertisements for something that is not even close to being free.  Typically the free part lasts about an hour where they start off diving into some of the problems actors face and then they suddenly become very vague and discuss how they know how to get around these problems and the results that others have gotten by listening to this wonderful advice.  Then they tell you that for only $500-$800 you can learn all of these secrets in an intense 3-5 day seminar that will change your life.  It’s not at all unlike an infomercial.

I went to one of the free portions a little while ago.  Beforehand, I prayed that God would help me get something helpful out of what they would talk about before asking for money.  It was a married couple that apparently understands how the brain works better than anyone else in the world which is helped by their dabbling in “Eastern mysticism” and “quantum psychology”.  They began by urging all of us to rattle off obstacles standing between us and acting success.  Age, looks, and audition anxiety were among the couple-dozen issues brought up by the crowd.  Then the hosts said something I hadn’t thought of much.  They said that all of these perceived obstacles were just symptoms.  They were symptoms of a deeper, root problem or belief.  God then worked his magic in the form of a hyper-speedy self-analyses and I thought about what belief would be the cause of the things holding me back.  “I’m not in control” popped into my head.  I don’t think I’m in control.

This caused a bit of a conflict internally.  The reason I don’t think I’m in control is because I have faith that God is in control.  The strength of my faith is one of the biggest blessings God has given me.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if it was God’s plan to give me a career in acting, He could do it in the most unlikely, miraculous way possible.  Steven Spielberg could dial my number by mistake and like the sound of my voice for a big part in a movie he’s about to do…whatever ridiculous story you could come up with, God could do it.  I also know that if God did not have a career in acting planned for me then it wouldn’t matter if I gave the performance of a lifetime in a play tailor-made for me with 20 Hollywood directors and 65 agents in the crowd…it wouldn’t happen.  That faith in God’s power in my life and in this world is an absolute gift.  So, how could it be a bad thing?  It isn’t, but it was leading to bad things.  God showed me clearly that my belief that I am not in control was leading me to inaction. 

Jenn and I have gotten so discouraged out here and are, at times, wishing we just didn’t have any ambitions in this field.  We try to help each other fight that desire to quit but  I was being double-teamed by the thought that what I did didn’t matter anyway because God was in control…so I wasn’t doing anything.  This part had to change.  I still believe God is in control but He had made it obvious that sitting on the couch wasn’t going to cut it.  I still don’t know what He has planned but this revelation has spurred me on to activity that I now just wish I had been doing for the last 10 months.  There have been A LOT of mailed out headshots and resumes to agents matched with a lot of phone calls to those same agents.  There have been searches for jobs as an extra.  There have been films and other paying jobs submitted for.  There have been classes signed up for with big casting agents with extra money made from little side projects (another low-paying fight choreographer gig).  There has been real research and work done to finally do this stinking voice-over demo reel.  All of it is pretty darn ordinary but, unfortunately, all of it is a whole lot more than I’ve done in the last 6 months combined. 

Now, the Census job is finally finished (thank you Jesus that it lasted this long).  Jenn and I have discussed it and have decided that I will take the next two weeks off to work as hard as I can at this business side of acting without the interruption of a job.  After that, I will need to start looking for another survival job and hope that some (please…any) of this work pays off somehow.  I know I’m not in control of much of anything in the big picture of my life… but I guess I have to work like I am… and remember to give Him all the praise if any of it bears fruit.  Sounds simple enough.  Please pray that I can actually pull it off.

1 Year Anniversary

June 2, 2010

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of Jenn and I arriving in New York City to stay.  We are no more accomplished today than we were the day we came.  We are quite a bit more knowledgeable but that’s simply because we have been here for 12 months and don’t have any learning disabilities.  If I spent any time at all recounting the little that we’ve done and accomplished in this last year,  it would make me very sad…so I won’t.  Instead, in order to keep things light and not ruin my day, I will discuss some of the differences between Peoria, IL and New York City as I now see them.

In Peoria, if you see a woman that you think looks like a man, you perhaps scold yourself for being so shallow and judgemental just because she happened to have a square jaw or broad shoulders or an odd fashion sense.

In NYC, if you see a woman that you think looks like a man, you’re right…because it is…always….it’s a freakin’ dude….and that’s it.

In Peoria, if you see a woman you think is dressed like a hooker, or at least a stripper, you’re probably right.   She is most likely a hooker, or at least a stripper.

In NYC, if you see a woman you think is dressed like a hooker, or at least a stripper, you’re probably wrong.  It’s most likely just an actress on her way to an audition or, if it’s evening, just a regular girl on her way out to a club or a bar knowing that, if she is to have any chance of getting ogled or shuffled to the front of the line, she must be dressed like a trapeze artist in Amsterdam.  The one time I have been propositioned by a hooker since being out here, she was the most modestly dressed girl I had seen all night…I would’ve felt comfortable introducing her to my grandmother as my friend Angela (or whatever).

In Peoria, when people have something they realize they will never use again or do not need at all, they typically just stuff it in their basement or  their garage or their 6th closet.

In NYC, when people have something  they realize they will never use again or do not need at all, they stick it out on the sidewalk with a “FREE” handwritten sign taped to the pile.  Sometimes neighbors walk by and find something they want but usually the pile is cleared by people that make their livings by putting out a few tables on a street corner and selling things they didn’t have to pay for for one reason or another.  These tables should have a sign above them that reads “MOST RANDOM GARAGE SALE OF ALL  TIME” because they’ll typically have something like 65 cell phone covers, 25 belts, 3 childrens board games, 10 unopened kung fu dvds, 14 packaged t-shirts, a watermelon and a unicycle.

In Peoria, if someone is yelling on the street nearly everyone stops and listens to see what is going on because it must be important or possibly even cool.

In NYC,  if someone is yelling on the street no one stops or listens because seemingly eveyone else is yelling on the street and it’s almost never important….or coherent.

In Peoria, if it’s summer and a girl isn’t wearing a bra, she kinda stands out.

In NYC, if it’s summer and a girl is wearing a bra, she kinda stands out.

In Peoria, the crazy people are in some sort of facility.

In NYC, the crazy people are outside your apartment.

In Peoria, there’s a church on every block.

In NYC, there’s a bar, cafe, and pizza joint on every block.

In Peoria, if you hear the people across the street yelling at 3 in the morning, someone calls the cops.

In NYC, if you hear the people across the street yelling at 3 in the morning, someone yells at them to stop yelling and then they yell at each other until they get sleepy.

In Peoria, it’s understood that you don’t use really foul language in public places loud enough for those around you to hear.

In NYC, it’s understood that you’re supposed to use really foul language at any time, in any place, in any setting, loud enough for everyone around you to hear.

In Peoria, if you have an audition to go to, plan on staying about 2-3 hours with 45 minutes to an hour of that being you actually auditioning.

In NYC, if you have an audition to go to, plan on staying 2-6 hours, with 45 seconds of that being you actually auditioning.

In Peoria, being racially ambiguous gets you a lot of questions.

In NYC, being racially ambiguous gets you a lot of roles/jobs.

In Peoria, “not being able to find a parking spot” means you couldn’t find a parking spot within a 30-second walk to the front door of your destination.

In NYC, “not being able to find a parking spot” means a vacant, legal parking spot literally does not exist within a 2-square-mile radius.

In Peoria, professional opportunity usually involves CAT.

In NYC, professional opportunity, unfortunately, involves everything that we dream of…..(sigh).

12 months down…..who-knows-how-many-more to go.

Later in April

April 28, 2010

This week, I started my 4th different job since coming to New York.  this job will take me throught the 1 year anniversary of being in NYC–which is about a month away.  So, in this past year, I have had as many different jobs as in the previous 4 years combined–or something like that.  This one is with the Census Bureau.  So, in 8 weeks, this job will most likely finish and I will have to find another waitering job.  I’m okay with that and I’m also discovering that sitting through training classes for (at least kinda) lame jobs has become almost like a 2nd home to me…or at least like a mediocre action film (or romantic comedy for the ladies)–comfortable and very predictable.               

There is always one or more persons that act like they know more than everyone else (instructor included).  This time we have both types:  the kind that laugh by themselves everytime something is said they think is stupid, correct minor details within examples–taking the conversation to the galaxy of Pointless–just to show off knowledge they assume no one else is blessed with, and make rude comments and observations just loud enough for people around them to hear but not quite loud enough for the instructor to make out…and the type that angrily corrects anything said or done that they KNOW will RUIN minds and lives if it is simply let go while consistently sounding as if they might kill someone at any moment (both types immediately turn incredibly sweet and charming if given the spotlight and seem to be festering in the hope that the rest of the class will rise as one and revolt to place THEM as the new instructor…which they obviously deserve).

There is also always the person that really took it to heart when one of their grade-school teachers said “there is no such thing as a stupid question” while also managing to either be partially deaf or incapable of listening and thinking at the same time. 

The instructors are always either unqualified to teach anything and uninterested or incapable of attempting to show otherwise or unqualified to teach anything and dead-set on proving that they know more than any human that has ever walked the earth and can make people weep with the sheer power and viciousness of knowledge.  This week’s training has the former.

We have some funny people though.  During the obligatory “now let’s take a few moments to get to know each other” time we were supposed to stand up and state our name and why we wanted to work for the census.  The second guy to go looked about as apathetic as a person can and said as boldly as he could muster “My name is Phillip and I want to SERVE MY COUNTRY.”  Everyone laughed.  He offered a half-smile as he sat down.  Another guy said he thought it would be a good way to pick up chicks.  Another young man said “counting people has always been a passion of mine.”  A cute, petite lady who looked to be around 40 said, “I’m just looking forward to getting raped and murdered by the man that asks me to come into his apartment” and the instructor smiled and said, “Very good.  Very good.”

Also, having gone through this sort of thing before, I knew the first day would be a bit of a train wreck and there would be a lot of dead time.  So, I brought some reading material and came mentally prepared.  This led to the best part of all.  While instructors were scrambling and fumbling around endlessly for something or other, I was getting more and more into a book that was leading me to think about God and what I believe about certain things and all that.  Lately, I’ve been wishing and praying for freedom and no fear.  I’ve been so bogged down by this feeling of never getting over the same sins that have had their hooks in me for so long, and always feeling trapped in this worthless version of a person, and feeling like nothing will ever change so there is no reason to hope.  Then (and it didn’t really have anything to do with the book), the most wonderful thing that has happened to me in a long time…uh, happened.  God spoke in me and truth rang in my chest like it hasn’t in a long while…and the words “I AM free” started repeating over and over again in my heart.  I’ve read that Jesus Christ has freed us from sin with his death on the cross so many times but it wasn’t until that moment that it all…just hit me.  I am free.  I am not chained to any sin, or bad decision from the past, or fruitless habit.  I am free.  Meaning sin cannot touch me.  I could swim in it for a week and it can’t touch me.  Jesus’ blood covers me like a shield of armor.  So all those things that I constantly think I can’t do and shouldn’t think or feel…I CAN…which completely demolishes any power that sin has over me.  My nature (I think all of our’s) is to want to do whatever I’m not supposed to do, whatever I’m told or I know I CAN’T do, I long to do it.  That is the nature of the sin inside us.  But my sins are forgiven.  My stains are washed away.  Every turn from God has been forgotten…past, present, and future.  So, I can do anything.  So, I don’t feel the tugging pull to any of those things I thought enslaved me.  I am free.  The beautiful part is that God has been working on me so much–like He’s refining silver–that He gave me this truth at a time when I have no interest in displeasing Him.  I love Him.  I want to obey.  I genuinely desire to please my Heavenly Father.  It brings me joy…and sin does not.  All those things that grabbed at me and led to the whispers “you know what you could do”…those things used to lead to guilt just by popping up in my head and immediately led to a battle that I rarely won…now I say “yeah, you could do that”…and the suffocation stops.  Then I ask, “but do you really want to do that?”  The answer is no.  I want to do things that bring me joy.  Those things do not bring me joy.  They never did.

Now I know that freedom of any kind does not guarantee against attacks.  Nor does it always protect against slander and prejudice…and more attacks.  But I have hope now.  For the first time in a long time, I have hope.  I’m writing again.  I believe there is a plan again.  I believe that He will lead and I am capable of following.  I have joy.  I have Jesus.

April 13, 2010

April 13, 2010

Most of the time, being out here makes me feel like I am in a barely-lit conference room with a small movie screen taking up one entire wall.  The screen plays on it specific excerpts from my life.  All my goals, all my dreams, all my potential…every single thing I went after wholeheartedly and attempted to accomplish is right there.  Then, me coming up short and eventually quitting the pursuit and letting the gifts and potential given me fall limply to the side until it is almost forgotten.  This goes on for a little while and then a 50-year old Julie Andrews turns from the screen to face me and says, “By all practical accounts, a complete failure.”  Well, gee thanks.  How about screw you Julie Andrews!  “Well, my dear, if you really look at it, there can be no other conclusion.”  Oh yeah?  Princess Diaries 2!!  Huh?!  Huh?!  How does that make you feel?!  Princess Diaries 2!!  “Well of course before that bit of rubbish, there was the world-loved jewel:  The Sound of Music and my Oscar-winning turn as Mary Poppins.”  Psssshh.  Your Oscar was nothing more than a sympathy win because people felt bad that you got passed over to take the role you originated on Broadway in My Fair Lady for the already screen-savvy Audrey Hepburn.  You were just weird and she deserved the win even if she didn’t sing a note of it!  And I saw part of Sound of Music and I wasn’t at all impressed.  The supposedly-German soldiers sounded like they were from a New Jersey-based barbershop quartet.  I could’ve made a better version of it when I was 19!  “Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve…but didn’t…and won’t….right Mr. Gordon?”  Grrrrrrrr.  I hate you fake Julie Andrews!

January and February

February 27, 2010

It’s getting really annoying  writing on here without some sort of triumph to report.  Sigh.  That’s why entries are getting spaced out like vacuum supply stores.  We spent a lot of our heart and free time on this play I wrote out here.  Rehearsing was quite the process and pretty darn expensive once we moved out of our kitchen.  We had some pretty cool breakthroughs the last week of rehearsal and went in to our first performance without a tech rehearsal but with a lot of excitement and hope in what we had.  The first performance went well considering the lack of tech rehearsal but there were some nerves and minor issues that only we knew about.  We had about 7 people there for us out of the 60 or so total audience members.  It was a small theater by Peoria standards–probably would fit about 80 which is pretty big by NYC standards–and it was mostly filled.  At this point I was still under the impression judges were involved in deciding the winners all the way through the process so we were confident we would be moving on even though it wasn’t our best performance and we had relatively low audience representation.  We saw the other two shows–one was pretty good the other was terrible–and knew we had a better show.  Pretty easy round because only 3 shows were in each session and two of the three would move on to the next round…which we did.  The second round was also the semifinals and this is when I discovered that I was mislead by the bumbling artistic director of the festival.  This is when I found out that judges did not come into play until the finals…so the first and second rounds were completely decided by audience votes.  At this point–5 minutes before the first show started–I looked out at the audience and saw that, despite our best promotional efforts, we had 5 friends in the audience (afterwards we found out that three of them had to leave right after our show and, therefore, were not allowed to vote since they wouldn’t be seeing all the shows…even though we watched  as 15 people showed up right after our show pledging their allegiance for the last of the four shows–we were 2nd–and saw them being handed ballots and given instructions on how and when to vote before they were ushered into the theater).  Our show went great.  It was the best we had ever done it, the audience was cracking up and responding the way I had hoped an audience would back when I first wrote it.  I was really proud of us and, for the first time, absolutely, wholeheartedly believed in it.  I knew we had put together a fantastic play.  Then the next morning we looked on the appropriate website and saw that we were done.  No judges would ever see it and we would never get a chance to put it up against others on a level playing field.  Only one show from each session moved on and–guess who–it was the last show from our session that would be advancing.  This was just to punctuate what a popularity contest the first two rounds really were.  We had watched it.  It was well done.  It was…cute.  We didn’t think it was even in the same league as what we had just done….didn’t matter.  So, the competitive side of me felt unjustly ripped off and led me smoothly into a solidly depressive hopelessness that lasted for a good week…which was great.  My writing has come to a standstill because I’m usually spending my energy battling myself on whether or not there’s even a point to it.  Obviously, my persistence sucks.  My discipline sucks.  My sense of “creating for the sake of creating” sucks.  I’m really not cut out for this battle…..but God is and He’s saying “stay”.  The last couple weeks have been spent trying to figure out what our next step is and the only thing that gets us excited is the idea of performing our show for the artists in our church followed by a call to arms for all of the creatively gifted people in our church to come together in collaboration in an attempt to find purpose and to glorify God as directly as possible with our gifts…and see what happens.  First steps still need to be made on that.  We’ll see.

Other stuff:

So, it’s starting to get to that point where it is hard to remember what it was like not living in New York (I don’t think it is a coincidence that that sounds like something a prison inmate would write.)  The big picture and the major stuff is still there in my head but the details and the feeling of living in the Midwest is becoming harder to conjure up in the ol’ memory bank.  No, that does not mean living here is starting to grow on us…I think it means that 8 months is a lot longer than it sounds.  Anyway…

I know it is unwise to draw broad conclusions from singular events but, until shown otherwise, I am very uncomfortable with the mindset of rich Jewish people in New York City.  I worked my very first Bat Mitzvah a couple weeks ago and the experience was strange.  Even if I had Bill Gates-type money I have a hard time imagining dropping $80,000 (minimum) on my daughter’s birthday party.  Now I know that turning 13 is a bigger deal than any other age according to Jewish customs but I’m pretty sure that it’s because of  religion-based reasons that that is the case…and it’s difficult to take the relgious ceremony aspect of the whole thing seriously when you have someone with a microphone screaming to a room full of 12, 13, and 14-year olds (while the appropriately inappropriate rap song from 5 years ago thumps loudly from the speakers) “Where’s the sweat dropping?!!!” and the children respond along with the music, “Sweat drip down my balls!  Aaaall these b****es crawl!  Aww skeet skeet motherf—“….and on it goes from there.  This while all the parents look on smirkingly and the two adults paying for the party smile wider because the company they paid to come in to scream at and dance with these tweens are, in fact, making this party more lively.  I suppose it’s no different than families who celebrate Christmas with all the gusto and flair one could imagine and never pay one ounce of attention to Jesus (the Christ in Christmas) through the holiday.  Whatever the case, it made me uncomforable…but I did take home a lot of mints that had dear Molly’s name and birthday all over them.

Met some b-list celebrities at work recently.  It wasn’t really that cool and I didn’t have anything to slip to them so they could give it to their agents or any other cliched act like that.  The most exciting for me was meeting Devin Harris and Bobby Simmons of the New Jersey Nets.  If I were running a gossip column, I would tell you that Bobby Simmons ordered a Grey Goose and tonic and Devin Harris ordered a Shirley Temple because he was taking cold medication and I looked like a giddy school child getting to chat with NBA players…but I’m not, so don’t even ask.

I want “Up” to win Best Picture.  It featured the most beautiful montage in cinema history at the beginning of the film and it’s easily the best movie I’ve seen this year.  “Avatar” was visually amazing in 3-D but it doesn’t stand up as just a movie against Pixar’s latest gem.  Speaking of which…Pixar:  greatest production studio ever?  I think so.  Aaaaaaand bleh.

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.

Most of the fall…from Eric

November 25, 2009

This is Eric:

I was really hoping that if I held off long enough from posting a blog I would have some sort of big triumph or victory to report.  However, any victories have been small and have been difficult to dwell in for more than a moment.  I have acted in 3 short films that are being edited now and I’m simply waiting on copies.  That means I’m 2 or 3 away from being able to realistically put together a reel of some sort.  I have a cinematography student with a crew that will be shooting the film that I wrote for Jenn and I in a little over a week so I’m please that that will finally get shot–though I won’t have time to sit and edit it with him until after Christmas most likely.  I have an audition in a week for a feature length movie that would actually take two weeks to film by way of a production company that has a real name and a real website–woo hoo.  I also wrote a one act play, that I’m pretty proud of, that I submitted for a festival/competition and we just got word that it was accepted so we’ll be doing that (with our good friend Scott acting with us)  in February.  So, I know that I have potential as a writer.  I know that my headshot is good enough to get me appointments for auditions.  I also know that I’m pretty darn good at my job.  There is a downside to all of it, though.  I don’t have enough time or ideas to be a prolific writer and really stretch where that might lead.  While I’ve been getting auditions, I haven’t felt like myself at a single one of them in the last month.  There is weird, conflicting swirl going on in my head–a bit of “oh crap, oh crap, you better get this, you better get this!” and a dash of “what difference does it make?” which leads to me resting solely on natural abilities and on-the-spot script interpretation which just isn’t enough here.  I haven’t felt completely confident about anything I’ve done or am doing in what feels like a very long time.  The job thing…well, at least for me, in this field being good at your job does not necessarily translate into making any money.  I have yet to close one deal….not a single one.  So, I’ve been working for free for about a month now…which means stirring up motivation to actually go into work has been…oh…gee…what’s the opposite of easy?….uh…right–like Rush Limbaugh selling suits and BMWs on the rough side of Harlem.  If it weren’t for Jenn’s evil eye, I probably would have given up and moved into a box by now.  Every time it feels like I nailed an appointment or have a senior agent give me some sort of approving hand gesture (not nearly as often a thumbs up as I would like…usually a point and a wink) after a “successful” phone call, I am then blindsided by some outside factor or mild form of neurosis on the part of the client and they decide that it would be better for everyone if they moved to suburban New Jersey and commuted 2 hours (1 way) into work every day—which is awesome.  It definitely feels as if God is withholding blessings…teaching me/us to trust in a way we’ve never had to before.  I didn’t realize that oh-so-subtlely began to trust, and take heart in, the number on my monthly bank statement more than God, Himself.  But I do.  After that was pointed out to me, it’s been an seemingly tireless battle to stop worrying about our funds quickly melting away and trust that He brought us out here for a reason and will take care of us beyond what we could hope for (while accepting failure if that is in His plans instead).  Thinking about as often I do and trying NOT to think about it as often as I do leads to very little progress.  At this point, I don’t even know we’ll have enough money to still be living here in February to do our play.  Right now, in this journey, the quest to quiet the potential “what if”s has led to countless “if only”s.  Mostly, if only we had made this much progress two months into our time here–instead of five–can you imagine how hopeful…how taken care of…how destined.. we would feel right now?  As it stands, it now feels like, after taking two stinking hours to figure out this whole “building a snowman” thing, it’s getting dark and Mom’s calling us in for dinner.  I guess we’ll see.

Some Randoms:

I saw this Hasidic Jew dude on the subway the other day with the most disorderly facial hair I’ve ever seen.  Instead of one beard, it looked like 635,000 individual hairs–each with their own personality.  It reminded me of an ear of corn after just peeling down (shucking?) the outer layer and then seeing all those wispy, wrangly strands hanging about.  Then I thought about how much I like corn-on-the-cob.  Then I thought about how gross it would be to eat corn that was just covered in that guy’s beard hair.  Then I thought about how unpleasant it would be to kiss that guy.  Then I realized it would be impossible because I literally could not see his mouth.  Then I saw that he didn’t have a wedding ring on so he was, most likely, not getting kissed by anyone.  Then I felt sad that he wasn’t kissing anyone.  Then I looked at his beard again and thought it was probably for the best.

So, New Yorkers talk about racism quite a bit.  But being from such a white vs. black area, I never really thought it was that much of a problem since I was witnessing so many different ethnicities intermingling and co-existing all the time.  My job though has introduced me to an unexpected source of racist attitudes:  the Greeks (is it racist to say that Greeks are racist?….hmmm).  The most obvious case was when I took a black couple out on an appointment and our last apartment of the night brought us to a neighborhood called Bay Ridge.  Apparently, nearly all of the owners and landlords in Bay Ridge are old Greek guys.  The landlord called to say he was stuck in traffic and was running about 10 minutes late.  So, we waited in front of the building and, about 20 minutes later, a older guy drove slowly past the property–his eyes searching the front of the building.  I noticed his behavior and stepped forward and tried to match his eyes.  He saw me, he waved big and pointed at my clients and made question marks with his eye brows.  I nodded and circled the three of us with my finger.  He waved again and kept driving slowly forward.  I presumed he was looking for a parking space…but he just kept going.  About two minutes later, he called me and said, “hello, Eric, I thought I was going to be there by now but it looks like now it will be like an hour…maybe two hours..uh…because something happened on the expressway…so…yeah.  If you and your clients want to wait, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts close by.”  I tried to pin him down but he warbled his way out of the conversation and my clients decided our appointment was over.  I explained to them what he said and they immediately knew what really happened.  I knew they were right.  After finding out from the other agents that Bay Ridge/Greek landlords are known for that, I thought back to Jenn and I’s first conversation with our Greek landlord.  We admitted that we didn’t have jobs yet and were moving here to become actors.  He said, “eh, I’m not worried about that.  So, you like place?”  I really like our landlord.  He’s a great guy…but we are white….so he’s probably a racist.  Which reminds me that David Mamet is debuting a new play here soon called “Race” and it’s co-starring David Alan Grier.  Not only do I think that Grier is a poor choice for just about any role but I think Mamet is extremely overrated.  There, that’s a less awkward note to end a paragraph on.

Nearly all the film students here are freaking snobs.  They all defend Citizen Kane–which is horrible (any time you use the spinning newspaper headline trick more than five times in one hour, I think you deserve an F) and they all love Raging Bull (which is about like, I imagine, watching a step-by-step movie on how a cow in the field become the burger in your mouth).  They all completely disrespect anything that has any commercial success or is actually enjoyable to watch or can move a person to tears.  Which means I really like starting conversations that make them wish they had never cast me in their film…but then I’ll listen to the looong story about their pilgrimmage from Italy to New York City and make a funny joke and then they like me again.  But their opinions still suck…and they take too long setting up lights.  Also, I’m jealous that they’re going to classes about how to make movies.  Uhhhh, Thanksgiving should be nice.

Weeks 13 and 14

September 9, 2009

So I know I have lost out on parts in the past because of some reason other than the other guy being better for the part.  For some reason, though, this one was the most annoying and is taking the longest to get over.  Auditions for that play that were only open to showcase troop members were a week or two ago.  Pretty quickly it got narrowed down to me and one other guy for the one guy role in the show.  It was also quickly obvious (like…within the first ten minutes) that he was favoring this one particular girl for the lead girl role.  This girl happened to be about 5’5” without heels and also happened to be wearing 3-inch heels.  He read us together once and apparently decided that no audience could possibly settle into a story where the girl either doesn’t wear heels or is a couple inches taller than the guy.  From then on, I was matched up with all the other outside-looking-in-girls…some of  whom did a great job…but,for whatever reason, he kept going back to this one girl.  The other guy that was left happened to be 6’3”.  I would be okay and would understand if it was a tiebreaker situation.  However, this was far from a tie…far, far, far from a tie.  I do not want to be the guy badmouthing other actors putting it all on the line out here so I will simply say that, right now, this guy–in his abilities–has a very LOW ceiling and basically has one level at which he plays everything.  So, it felt more like I was ahead 93-68 in the final seconds and then the other guy grabbed a magic ball that read “height” and shot it in at the buzzer which reminded the referee to inform everyone that making a shot with that ball is worth 30 points.  Bitter?  Unfortunately, yeah…a bit.

The Monologue Challenge came and went.  I thought, after watching everyone, that I had a decent chance at getting in the top five which would make me a finalist and put me in the running to be voted by the audience as the winner.  I did not make it into the final five and was a bit surprised to see who did…which I guess gave the failure less of a sting but…eh.  The guy that won gave about 15 seconds of mediocre monologue and then sang ABBA and danced around the stage for the rest of it.  Jenn said it was like a dance contest where one competitor gets out there, does a jazz square and then backflips across the stage for the rest of the routine.  Sure, it stands out–and everyone loves backflips–but does it really count as dance?  It kind of felt like cheating…but whatever.

The last thing in this short run of opportunities was auditions for the sketch and skit troop within the showcase troop.  There are 4 separate and completely different showcases in October.  The monologue challenge winner gets to perform his monologue in every showcase but everyone else only gets to perform his/her monologue in one of the showcases.  The skits and sketches, however, are performed in every showcase…which means, since I made it into that troop, I’ll get to be seen by a lot more agents and the like than if I was just doing my monologue.  If I don’t get called in by an agent by the end of October then this long run of focussing on this showcase and the musical and really not auditioning for much of anything else will have been nothing more than a slight resume builder..and otherwise a total waste of time.  So…starting to get a little freaked out. 

The other annoyance is that after these last few months of watching and auditioning and contesting, etc. I know I belong out here.  Not only do I know that but I know that I was gifted with the talent to “make it” here…or, at least, in this business.  Why is that an annoyance?  Well, for starters I also have seen the fact that talent doesn’t usually even come into play and even when it does, there are enough other factors to make talent not matter.  So, if our year-and-a-half passes by and we take a look at our situation and realize that we are not getting any closer and no doors are opening and we are miserable…it’s going to be that much harder to close this door.  If I thought I/we were out of our league out here…it would make it a lot easier.  But that’s not the case…so I really hope something big changes in the next 15 months.

The musical I was in finally closed.  It ended up being pretty decent and we got some decent-sized crowds in there to finish things up.  There was just a bit of drama but nothing too bad.  It added zero dollars to our bank account and it was a whole heckuva lotta work and headache for one Off-Broadway theatre credit for the ol’ resume but some real friendships were forged and some networking opportunities arose.  My best guy-friend from the show sends me links for film opportunities and film agents all the time and encourages the crap out of me…he’s just a really nice guy and he talks like he “believes in me” and no we haven’t been making out.  My best gal-friend from the show had a birthday party the other day and introduced me to a friend of her’s that has made 3 or 4 documentaries and is trying to build her resume and reel from behind the camera.  This girl is, therefore, very interested in putting my write ’em and star in ’em idea to work.  She has access to all the necessary equipment and is just waiting for me to submit some scripts and start figuring out how and where we want to shoot.  I’m pretty excited and it sounds like she works as fast as I could possibly hope for…as far as let’s meet to talk about logistics, let’s meet to discuss camera angles, let’s shoot, let’s edit and now let’s do it again.  I have high hopes that this partnership will rock it.

Jenn is finally getting over the worst of her physical roadblocks.  She’s started getting out there to auditions again which is great to see.  Nothing is sticking yet but she’s getting back into the swing of things and looking like she’s getting her mojo working again.  Plus, she’s still really hot.

Some Randoms:  The fingernail test says that this is a really dirty place.  No matter how short I keep my fingernails out here and no matter how normal or sterile my activities are on a daily basis, my nails have crud under them all the time.  This isn’t from playing in the dirt or searching for loose change in the gutter.  This is walk from home, get on subway, walk to rehearsal, sit in rehearsal, walk back to subway, walk back home, look down at hands…DIRTIEST FINGERNAILS EVER!  I don’t understand it and it kind of scares me.

Just got to go to a Yankee game for the first time.  Stinkin’ gorgeous stadium…I would like to live there…in the stadium.  I guess I still hate the Yankees but it’s getting harder…dang it.

I’m looking into getting my realty license…which would get me pretty close to being a genuine New Yorker…having my security license and realtor license both and working whatever pays the most…total New York thing.

From dressing room time before the musical would start each day, I now know that a group of girls singing Michael Jackson at the top of their lungs is one of my biggest pet peaves.  I love Michael Jackson’s music and I really like his songs being appreciated and sung by others and I’m all for singing your guts out in public but I know now that I don’t want to be around the next time that specific combination is blooming…ever.

Also a new addition to the pet peaves list is girls with sassy ridiculous attitude problems that never grow out of their sassy ridiculous attitude problems.  On Saturday and Sunday, my relief from my security post is a “grown a** woman”–as she would put it.  In the five minutes after she got there and before I left on Saturday morning, she managed to talk about one of the other guard’s horrible body odor (which doesn’t exist), talk about how the poop-smell coming out of the bathroom was going to make her go home and we better take care of it or something bad was gonna happen (there was no poop-smell because there had been no poop), how she knew she was late but we better not say anything because she got “crunked” the night before and we were lucky she even showed up, AND how one of our supervisors better stop talking and watch himself because “I’m a black belt!  He’s like 23 and I’m 45-years old…he’s young enough to be my son and I will whoop him.  I brought him my card to show him I’m a black belt and he ain’t no competition to me.  I’m 45-years old!  He ain’t no competition to me!  I’ll stick my foot up his a** if he talks to me like that again.”  I was unaware of the disagreement that preceded this particular rant but I’m sure it involved this supervisor talking to this woman like he was her boss…which he is…so..yeah.  I don’t think grown-ups should behave this way.  Is it me?  It’s probably me, isn’t it?  Yeah, it’s me.  Wait a second…no it’s not…riiight.