Monday, November 14, 2011

We're Back, Baby!

Okay, I know I was away for almost two months. But those two months have been very busy for me. I'm getting my life in order up here in NYC, working in the e-book division for a major book publishing house. But don't worry, I've been collecting comics, watching TV, going to the movies, reading books, and having many loud opinions about things that very few people care about. Opinions that I've been dying to share, but no one is interested in hearing me rant.

Then I remembered I had a blog!

So this is it! We're back! I'm back!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Echoes

I'm sorry, actor-friends. You might not like this entry. For you see, something happened to me a few weeks ago that would have been cause for celebration if I were still an actor in Philadelphia. But in my new career in NYC publishing, the email was a non-issue.

I got an email and a phone call from a casting associate at one of the larger Philly theatres, asking if I was interested in being an understudy for an upcoming show that would open their season. This was on a Friday, and I even got a follow-up call on the next Monday before I could sneak out of the office to give a call back with my answer, saying that I was no longer in Philadelphia and could not be considered for the opportunity. He thanked me for an answer, and (I assume) went to call the next person on his list. 

My casual attitude toward the whole thing surprised me a little. Such an offer would be a relatively huge deal in the Philly theatre scene, the chance to get my food in the door and make connections at one of the big theatres. Since all of life is networking, the foot in the door could lead to larger roles, union membership, and eventually the prospect of continuous work. A year ago this would have been cause for celebration.

But as casually as I may have rejected the offer, I found that I did not have the heart (or guts) to tell them that I had quit acting. I've been feeling the lure of the stage lately, and I want to find a way to get involved with that side of me again. I want to find a project that seems like fun. There are a few prospects coming up, actually, so I might be coming back to performing, since I couldn't break the link completely. But I don't think that's a bad thing - acting is a big part of my life, and I'm excited to re-integrate it back into my life in NYC. However and whenever it happens. Til then, I'll be at my desk.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Justice League #1

Justice League #1
Geoff Johns, writer & Jim Lee, artist
DC Comics

The big event is here, and the new DCUniverse has now hit the shelves. I picked it up and I flipped through it a few times before I sat down to read it. And I read it a few times before writing these comments. I wanted to love it. I went into this whole reboot with my arms wide open, but the book didn't make it easy for me.

Don't get me wrong: there are things to like here. There are things not to like here. But ultimately, the issue falls squarely in the middle of both. It's not just average, it's aggressively average, as if Johns and Lee came out and said "Let's make the safest, best, safest, most dynamic, safest, and safest comic that we can." And, as far as I'm concerned, they hit that mediocre nail right on the head.

Things to like:
  • First meetings. It's always fun to see characters meet each other for the "first" time. Green Lantern doesn't believe Batman is real, Batman deduces the source of GL's powers, and none of them have any idea what Superman is all about.
  • Mystery plotline. There is a little mystery developing about who is behind the attacks that Batman is investigating. Of course the ultimate answer is revealed to the audience (although the heroes don't recognize the bad guy's name), it seems that Johns might be setting up a mystery among the fist-pounding heroics.
  • Final splash. The final splash page is excellent. Sure it sets up a scene that we've seen thousands and thousands of times in the last six years of comics, but it's a great page. I'd hang the poster on my wall.
Things not to like:
  • Set-ups. And nothing but set-ups. The whole book is setting up a long story arc that will play out over the next six months, if not longer. And this is the first part of that story, so characters and plot points are being set-up for the future. As a result, not a whole lot happens that doesn't make me wish I had the next issue (or the trade) in my hands so I could keep reading.
  • Most of Jim Lee's art. Jim Lee has great character designs, and I might be screamed at by the comics community for saying this, but: I don't care for his art in this issue. It's all a little busy, a little hyper, and more than a little unclear. His characters always look great, but sometimes it's hard to tell what they are doing. But the Green Lantern constructs are fun, as is a single panel of GL half-changing back to Hal Jordan. And I already mentioned that final splash.
  • (Too) Familiar ground. A friend of mine mentioned this to me, and my next read really brought it out for me. This book relies on my previous knowledge of the DC Universe, as much as Johns and Lee want to pretend it's a fresh start for new readers. It's not. It's actually a terrible way to introduce characters we've never met before (like my experience with Vic Stone), but it's a standard way to introduce characters we haven't seen in a while (think: Casino Royale or Batman Begins). I can't help but feel that the issue's content is not well-matched to the relaunch's intention.
Things in the middle:
  • Everything else. Okay, maybe that's a little snarky, but seriously, there weren't many things that stood out about this book, either good or bad. A lot of it felt very... functional.
Ultimately, it's a solid issue. Is it exciting enough that I'll pick up the next one? Sure, I guess... And that's the biggest problem. I wanted that answer to be a resounding "HELL YES!" but it isn't. At the moment, I'm committing myself to the first story arc. But if it keeps going like this, I'll have to play it by ear for the second. Good? Yes. Great? No.

NEXT TIME: Superman in "Action Comics #1..."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thoughts on the DCnU

Sitting on the couch next to me is a signed copy of Justice League #1, the first comic book released by DC Comics as a part of their company-wide relaunch. If you haven't heard, DC has completely re-branded their line of comic books, starting every series over with a new #1 issue. Many characters (Superman included) are getting an all-new backstory, history, costume, everything. They are hoping to reinvigorate their comics, as well as grab new readers. And in a post in May, I laid out the circumstances that would bring me back to monthly comics. In that post, I challenged DC to put out something that I wanted to buy, and now they have. So I am there. I subscribed to my books today at my local LCS.

And now, with the first step of the DCnU in my hands but still unread, I'm still excited. Are there some press releases that make me nervous? Yes. Do I think I might be switching to the trade paperbacks in a year? Maybe. But do I think they have "ruined" Superman with this move? Not at all. Comics are a fluid medium, and the Superman from two years ago bears almost no resemblance to the Superman from the 1940s. So the changes don't really scare me. I'm ready for them. Hell, I'll even buy the action figure! (That costume is growing on me...)

What I'm worried about are the stories. If they are good stories, well-told and captivating, then I will be a part of the series. If the stories aren't compelling, then this will seem like a publicity stunt to attract attention. If the writers and creators use this opportunity to capture a new spirit of adventure, it will be perfect. But with Geoff Johns involved, I'm afraid that the "new" universe is going to be largely derivative of the old one. But if these stories and books keep the feel of the characters while giving them a whole new coat of paint, I'm in. To me, at this point in DC history, the worst thing for these books would be if they merely recycle the old material and try to pass it off as something new.

Well, time to break the book out and see which way the nU goes....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Carte Blanche: The new James Bond novel

Carte Blanche: 007
Jeffery Deaver
Simon and Schuster, 2011

Since I now work for a publishing house, I want to start including books reviews and discussions on this blog as well as movie and theatre reviews. Those posts will continue for sure, but I'm also branching out and tackling fiction, non-fiction, comic books, and whatever else I get around to reading and writing about. First up, a recent release that I received while I was studying at NYU. I didn't get a chance to read it until the program ended, but I'm glad I made the time to sit on the couch, drink a beer, and read this new Bond novel. "Reboot" has become a dirty word when referring to recent films, but this is an excellent "reboot" of the literary James Bond.

Things that worked perfectly:
  • Echoes of Film Bond. Deaver's story would fit perfectly into the list of James Bond films. The story takes Bond to exotic locations, involves three beautiful Bond women, a diabolical villain with a real-world plot, and a psychotic henchmen. Action sequences were drawn right from the second unit team, and even John Barry's scores were running through my head as I read them. In fact, Deaver draws so much from the film Bond tradition that he even includes the next bullet point.
  • A pre-title sequence! The book actually starts focused on other characters, including the engineer of a locomotive through the countryside. We're introduced to Bond a few short chapters in, when he is involved in a shootout, the destruction of the aforementioned locomotive, and a car chase across the countryside. I could almost hear the title song kick up, and I loved it.
  • Echoes of Book Bond. As much as Deaver connects to the cinematic Bond history, he also has his feet planted in Fleming's tradition as well. From the description of Bond's eyes and the lock of hair that falls over his eyes to Bond's occasional melancholy and genuine sadness, Deaver knows his Fleming history. It's great to see such a wonderful blend of the two elements of Bond's history.
Things that worked out okay:
  • Bond's new backstory. Drawing on the backstory of the literary Bond, Deaver brings back the idea that Bond is an orphan whose parents were killed in a ski accident when he was a boy. I thought it was going to originally stay as backstory, but Deaver expands on it and starts creating an intrigue-laden story for Bond's parents that is more than Fleming ever intended. It is an interesting idea, and I like the attempt to make this more of a modern thriller than Fleming's books. It comes off as a little obvious, although Deaver does include a twist on it that makes it more interesting that just the cliche.
  • Pacing. I love books with short chapters. I don't know why, but the chapters come across like popcorn and it's almost impossible to stop reading. Deaver uses this technique really well during the action scenes, but it's one of the those styles that can't help but call attention to itself. In short, it works really well, but there are small places where it feels forced.
Things that didn't work so well:
  • Nothing. Literally, nothing. There are some pieces that don't work as well as others, but no element fell flat on its face. That surprised me, but my standards for books are much more flexible than for films.
Overall:

This is a very enjoyable book. I grew up watching the Bond films, and I read all of Ian Fleming's original novels. "Carte Blanche" is a great way to update the Bond series and bring 007 into the 21st century, and there are even rumors that this book might form the basis of the next Daniel Craig film. I'd be all about that, especially since this book is a lot better than Quantum of Solace. Ultimately, I was up late at night reading as much of the book as I could, and that is the best recommendation I can give it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Captain America: The First Avenger"

"Captain America"
A review, in bullet-points

Before I headed into the theatre, the only thing I knew about Captain America was that there would be trouble when Captain America throws his mighty shield. I didn't know exactly what that trouble was, but anyone who throws a shield at me is going to get me to yield rather quickly. I'm a little late to the party where this movie is concerned, but since it was directed by Joe Johnston, who also directed The Rocketeer, I was on board for some old-fashioned action adventure fun. And I didn't know how right I would be!

Things I loved:
  • The action. The action sequences were amazing. They were realistic (for the most part), exciting, and seeing Cap throw his shield was worth the price of admission. The first sequence after he becomes the super soldier is incredible, and he's not even wearing the uniform yet.
  • Chris Evans. I wasn't sure that Evans was a good choice for Cap, but he won me over almost immediately. I quickly forgot that I was watching the star of other films, and I only saw him as Captain America. The haircut and the overall styling helped a lot as well. The computer effects to make him smaller were mostly convincing, too, and although it sometimes looked like a strange bobblehead, it always felt like the same character.
  • The script. For the most part, the pacing of this movie was dead-on. There was enough character development that made it clear why Steve becomes Captain America, and there were good comedy beats exactly where we needed them. And perhaps most importantly, there were no characters that existed only to be ciphers and provide backstory or plot development. Very well structured, very well written.
  • The old-fashioned style of film-making. Aside from the visual effects, this film felt like it could have been made twenty-years ago. There is no shaky-cam, no lens-flare, no quick-cuts, all elements of modern cinema that drive me crazy. Instead, Johnston uses long tracking shots, wide pans, giving the film the feeling of a much older, more "classic" Hollywood. Not only does it mirror the 1940s setting, but it makes it that much more exciting for me.
Things I liked less than I expected:
  • The costume. When the first few photos of the movie costume came out, I was really excited. I thought it was really cool. I liked how it combined the comic book design with the reality of WWII-era uniforms. But unfortunately, it didn't look as good in motion due to bizarrely padded shoulders and a strange helmet that didn't look as good as his USO look.
  • Hugo Weaving as Red Skull. In the opening scenes of the movie, Weaving is understated, subtle, and truly creepy. But as the the film continues, not only does his performance become downright mustache-twirling, but his accent starts approaching "moose and squirrel" territory. Maybe it was the Halloween mask they made him wear.
The less-would-have-been-more file:
  • Montage, times two. It's strange to see a montage in a film these days. And this movie has two of them. Both of them fit the story, do a good job of showing the passage of time, and contain a lot of exciting imagery. However, both of the montages were a little long and they robbed the film of some momentum.
  • The love story. I don't know why every superhero movie needs to have a love story, especially when it feels tacked-on in movies like this, Thor, Iron Man 2, and The Dark Knight. It gives the opportunity for some jokes, some intentionally tender script moments, but overall it felt tacked-on by the marketing and publicity department.
Things that seemed on-loan from another movie:
  • The timeline. Captain America is a hero from WWII. And according to the comic books, he somehow winds up in the present day, as a part of the team that includes Hulk and Iron Man. But the pieces of this story are thrown into this movie is such a strange way that I don't see how you could understand it unless you already knew the character's comic history. It felt like they should have saved it for The Avengers movie next summer.
  • Samuel L. Jackson. I'm sorry, fans of Marvel Comics, The Avengers, and Mr. Jackson in general. He is completely out of place in these movies. He's there just for fan service, and when it comes to acting, he's not even trying. Reminds me of his comically awkward turns in the Star Wars prequels. This movie (and maybe the entire Marvel movie universe) would be better if they deleted Nick Fury and replaced him with the wonderful Agent Coulson.
Overall:

I loved this movie. Loved, loved, loved this movie. I wish that all movies were this good. Does it have some problems? Sure, of course it does. Almost every movie does. There are places where the film bogs down in the love story, or where the pace feels a little off. But if more movies were made like this, I would not complain.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Guilt

Now that I am an aspiring professional in the publishing industry, I receive several newsletters discussing the state and future of the business. The recent issue of one of them contained a link to this story, in which Bethanne Patrick discusses her recent guilt over vulturing the sale tables at Borders liquidation sales. I know that I'm guilty of this as well, as I've been wandering past those stores much too often looking to see if they've offered any new discounts since I was there two days ago. (Usually not.)

Patrick questions how much we can possibly value books, if we are willing to do so much to avoid paying for them. I know I am also guilty of this little problem, choosing to purchase books online or in used condition rather than pay full-price for them. I have shelves and shelves of books that I bought a library book sale (3/$1) that I've never read, nor never plan to read. And so reading this article made me think about my own book-buying habits. Maybe I can take her advice and give up the latte to buy a trade paperback. I know I'll make the sacrifice necessary to pick up some comic books in September, so I'm sure magazines and new books are worth my money too. Once I have the income to spread around, I'm looking forward to using that money to support the things I enjoy. The hosts of the very entertaining movie podcast "Better in the Dark" always encourage people to vote with their dollars, and I will do the same. As soon as I have some dollars.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A luxury item after all

Okay, so I posted a few days ago about the emergence of books as a new luxury item. I shared the fact that I grew up in a household that was covered in books. I literally have boxes and boxes of books in my childhood bedroom and my parent's attic, including a box each for Star Wars novels and Star Trek novels. My book collection has expanded over several bookshelves, and I never thought of books as luxury items. Sure, I would buy every book in certain series, and I always loved it when the series had a consistent design so that all the books look the same. I have that borderline OCD that wants everything to fit together on my shelf. (I have a huge love/hate relationship with the snapcase vs keepcase issue in my DVD collection.)
But now this post takes a left-hand turn; I might even backtrack over my old position. I just read Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver, the newest James Bond novel. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to backtrack and find a copy of the previous Bond novel, Devil May Care. I had it in my head that I would go pick up a paperback copy of the book, but then I saw the hardcover for sale. And it looked like this:
Now, that is an attractive book design. And when I saw it, I appreciated the cover, the image, the logos, and even the way that the black-clad figure (presumably James Bond) wraps around the spine and continues onto the back cover. The back cover (not pictured) has a large quote from the novel, in which M welcomes 007 back to active duty. It's such an attractive book, especially with the dust jacket over the black book, and it will look great on the bookshelves. I specifically chose to buy the book in hardcover, so I guess that books might be a luxury item after all.

Of course, since I'm still unemployed, I did not drop the money on this pretty hardcover.
I'll wait for the paperback to show up on the sale shelf.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Books - The New Luxury Item

A recent guest speaker talked about the love of physical objects as it related to books. The printed, bound book is a work of art, and people like having them on their shelves. And this particular industry expert does not believe that print books are going to disappear anytime soon. In fact, no one is really expecting the printed book to completely vanish and be replaced by ebooks, but this speaker was very optimistic. "People will always want books," he said, "they are the next big luxury item."

Um.....excuse me? Luxury item? .....books?
Books!? I grew up in a house that has piles of books in every room. Even the kitchen was usually overrun by books that us kids were carrying around and leaving all over the place, usually leading my father to innocently pick them up and ask a series of questions instead of reading the cover copy. My parents were also one of the first people to jump on this new online retailer called Amazon.com, and we still have a magnet on our fridge that features the first logo for the online giant. So for someone who grew up surrounded by piles and piles of books of all different shapes, sizes, and colors, the idea of the book becoming a luxury item is a strange one. It's just as strange as thinking that the mass market paperback is doomed, or that Borders Bookstore is going to close forever. But both of them are probably just as true, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

"X-Men: First Class"

X-Men: First Class
A review, done in bullet-points

I'll confess - I'm not a huge fan of the X-Men comic book properties. My first real exposure to the mutants was with the first Bryan Singer film, and I moved outward from there, picking up the classic 90s animated series and some trade paperbacks which collected some of the major storylines. I was also a fan of the uncanny series written for a time by Joss Whedon, and I saw the rest of the films in the theatre. So I'm not as fully versed in the X-canon as I am with the Super-canon, so these comments will reflect that quote-unquote bias. I'm also not going to attempt to post a comprehensive review of the film. That territory has already been well-covered by Superhero Hype, The Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, Pajiba.com, and the New York Times, and I don't really have the time to say all of their comments again. So instead I will focus my thoughts in convenient bullet point format and run quickly through some of my major thoughts on this film.


What I loved:
  • The design and style. It was like a 1960s James Bond movie done with a budget and scale to rival modern blockbusters. It was a period piece, and they even replicated some of the filmmaking styles of the 60s. A training montage halfway through the film is amazing.
  • Professor X and Magneto. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender steal the show. They are great together, and they steal the scenes they are in. Fassbender has a little more to do and a much broader arc, but both of them knock it out of the park.
  • Flight effects. As a Superman-fan, I am a sharp critic of flying on film. I never think it looks realistic. But the scenes of Banshee flying in this movie are some of the best that have ever been done. Very realistic, yet without obvious use of computer generated imagery.
  • The scope, but without the "origin-sickness." This one will take a second to explain. In many superhero franchises, the first film suffers from "origin sickness," taking a lot of time to develop and explain the backstory of the hero, showing the process by which the hero develops. But that often means that the first hour of the movie is dedicated to slow-moving development before the more interesting part begins. And First Class avoids that problem really well. I don't know if it's the genius of the screenwriting or the fact that the script banks on knowledge of previous X-films, but it works really well.
What I didn't love as much:
  • Emma Frost, and to some extent, Mystique. This film continues the tradition of the X-men film franchise of having excellent leading men and adequate leading women. Much has already been written about January Jones, but even Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique isn't compelling. Maybe it's because the majority of her scenes
  • Comic book tropes. The characters at one point come up with their own code names. Without missing a beat, they automatically pick the ones established by the comic books, including esoteric names like "Professor X." Where did that name come from, other than the fact that the comic books said so? When Hugh Jackman called him "Wheels" in the first movie, that felt authentic. These "code names" just felt forced.
  • Cameos. Well, one cameo in particular that was set in a bar, featuring a certain mutant that we all know from the previous films. He was played by the same actor as the original films, and I know I am in the minority that this cameo actually took me out of the movie. It was distracting to see the original actor in the new franchise films. It would be like having Leonard Nimoy is a Star Trek movie featuring a brand-new crew. Oh wait...
  • Confusion over the next step. Is this film a stand-alone prequel, or is it the first step in another trilogy to link up with the original film? If it was the first, then things weren't complex enough for me to jump over the 35-year-gap to get to the next film. Aside from the main characters aging, it seems like it should happen tomorrow. But if we're being set up for a sequel, then things were wrapped up a little too neatly
Overall:

This is one of the best superhero films I've ever seen. Despite having some problems here and there with continuity, it makes me want to see another one. Now I'm just hoping that Captain America is that good.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Big Day!

So last Friday was the big day! Eight hours of presentations while all ten groups gave not-so-brief overviews of their magazine proposals, including cover, content, business model, advertising plans, website, facebook, twitter feed, etc. And these are all projects that we put together in only three weeks. Wowzers. A lot of them were very strong overall, and there were some elements of specific pitches that were really genius. But there could be only three winners (apparently), and my magazine was unfortunately not among them. We were told by the judges that they loved our funny content, but they couldn't see how we were going to make any money through advertising. "Perhaps," they suggested, "this would be a great product to launch as a stand-alone book." (Ironic, considering the next section of the course is one labeled - "book publishing.") But this time around, it was all about magazines, so we were sorta forced by the definition of the course to work on a magazine.

However, I am very excited to get to the book section. Book publishing has been my main focus and interest since I first thought of this career change, so I'm looking forward to meeting the people for this second section. Also, I've been assigned the role of publisher for our next set of group projects, which I think is going to be an excellent thing to talk about in my future cover letters for job applications. The publisher is essentially the book company's executive producer, in charge of making sure that all of the teams work together and all the pieces come together in the end. I'm also pretty sure that the publisher is the major spokesperson for the brand, so I think I'll be doing a lot of presenting in front of people. I'll have to balance this project workload with the job hunting and networking that I need to do while I'm here, in order to stay in NYC after the program is over.

But putting aside anything like that, and on a material-for-future-posts note, I'm seeing X-Men: First Class tonight. A review will follow in the next few days.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

(The Night Before) The Big Day

It's hard to believe that I've been here for three weeks already. Three weeks of lectures, classes, stress, homework, and projects. And I feel a little behind the eight-ball that I've only applied for two jobs, but the book section is coming up next, and I'm ready to dive into that one full-tilt. These first three magazine weeks have been a warm-up for the program that I'm really interested in, and it makes me wonder what the curriculum is like at the University of Denver. I have actually really enjoyed working on this pseudo-magazine launch, and after our project got the green light for launch at the end of the first week, it has been an interesting ride.

For the launch, I worked as the advertising sales director, which meant that I was in charge of figuring out how we were going to get companies to buy advertisements in our magazine. We're doing a magazine that makes it a little hard for those sorts of things, but we came up with some good angles and some good sales pitches, and I feel confident about my part in the magazine. And even more than that, I'm really excited about our overall product. We had some amazingly talented people working on this project, and I am literally awed by some of their talent.

Anyway, we present our work to the panel of judges tomorrow, and they will be evaluating our project based on the reports we turn in and our answers to their questions. There are prizes given out, awards to be issued, but I don't think that any of them come with big cash advances or job offers. Sadly. But I will try to post another entry tomorrow after the presentation day and before I go to see "X-Men: First Class" this weekend. And you better believe that I'll be blogging about that one!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Week Two, although a little late

This posting comes in a few days late, as we ended our second week of classes up here last week. And during a media talk last week, essentially a big networking event for the students to meet as many industry professionals as we could, one of our industry advisers made a comment that filled me both with hope and anxiety. He said that every one of us will have a job within a year, maybe a year and a half. But the challenge is to find the job that we will enjoy. That is the sort of thing that makes me feel a little better about what I'm doing right now. After all, he's the one who has been speaking to the program for six years, so he is in a good position to speak to the graduation rates.

I go back and forth on how I feel about ending this program and entering the work force. Some days, I am completely psyched up and chomping at the bit to apply for jobs at book publishers and rock out the job as an editorial assistant. And on other days, I'm hit with waves of panic about being 30 and trying to break into a completely new industry where I have little experience and only very loose connections. And in moments like that, I wonder if I made a mistake by leaving my city and abandoning my career. When the panic from these moments subsides, I try to reexamine the decisions that led me to this point. Do I wish I could go back to my former life? In some ways, yes. But do I have faith that my new life is going to be more satisfying? In many ways, yes. And that faith is the scariest part, since I have no actual evidence that things will be any different on the other side of this program. All I can do is do the best I can, and have faith that things will work out in my favor. I try to maintain that confidence, and it is only in small ways that I lose that faith.

So I remember to breathe, I listen to the music from Superman, and I try to make the next day even more productive. I have faith, and I have confidence, and I'll bring them both forward with me. One step at a time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Week One

Okay, so I know that I am a few days to really make this one even seem to be "on time," but this last weekend marked the end of my first week in New York City at NYU. And I do apologize for that. Lots of exciting, terrible, and frustrating things have been going on, but one thing is for sure: it's been one heck of a busy week. Monday and Tuesday were easily 13 hour days, and I felt as if I wasn't going to have any time for anything other than class, work, and sleep. But after the crazy schedules calmed down a bit (and we got our final project approved by our course administrator), those days shortened to only 11 hours and we managed to find time to enjoy the city and find some drinking spots near our dorm. And we found a lot of drinking spots.

Our typical day involves getting down to our school building around 8:30 or 9am, and then we sit in panel discussions and hear lecture presentations until 5pm. Then we are expected to work in our 10-person groups on our group project, preparing to launch a new magazine upon the unsuspecting world. We went through about a dozen ideas before one of them was approved by our instructor, and we were sorta at our wit's end when it came to ideas. A half-assed joke turned into a full-fledged idea, and now we're working out way through the business plan and the advertising strategy for a bi-monthly magazine. We've been challenged so far by the assignments, and our judges for the presentations have been a whole slew of industry professionals. We've met some people who are literally rock stars in their profession, and they have been very willing to "open their brains" to us and give us all the advice that we can ask for. It's been a lot of fun to work on this project, but it has also been a lot of work.

In the coming weeks, I'll try to keep the postings up-to-date. I'll also try to get some New York photos to share with those playing along at home. They are keeping us quite busy here; so much so that even when we have a night with nothing due the next day, we're all sitting at our computers wondering if there is something else we are supposed to be doing. It's a sickness.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Looking and Moving Forward, but Peeking Back

A week from now, I will be finished with two days of class at NYU. I'm working on my pre-program research assignments (i.e. homework) right now, wishing I had started writing these answers two weeks ago. But until Doc Brown comes through, it's impossible to change the past. But unfortunately, our brains are only set up to look into the past. We haven't yet mastered the art of looking into future, and, as you all know, my name is not Ms. Cleo.

I am very excited about many aspects of going to NYU. I know that I can pull my weight in an academic setting, I'm excited to live in New York City fox six weeks*, and I am excited to take a bold first step on a new journey in my life. The idea of this career change is also an exciting on, as I was not interested in my old career any longer. When it came to acting, I was slacking off too much and not taking steps to ensure my own success; I was setting myself

But there are many aspects about going to NYU that scare me, or at least fill me with apprehension. For the first time since 2003 at Hedgerow Theatre, I will actually be living in the same room as another student.** I'm a tough cookie who can handle anything for six weeks, but this is certainly a wrinkle in the plan. Then of course, I have to finish my homework before the course starts, and it's lack-of-completion freaks me out. (I have no right to complain; I'm the one who has been putting it off.) I'm also concerned that I will spend a lot of money for this education, and then I won't be able to find a job in the field. That at the end of this experience I will be right back where I am now, temping at a series of disappointing jobs.

But I know I'm smarter than that.*** Even if the New York publishing job doesn't come through right as the program is complete, hopefully NYU or my temp agency will be able to help me find something satisfying as well as lucrative. My future after the program is perhaps the biggest source of anxiety for me; I'm very excited to see what is in the future come mid-July, but I'm also very worried that there won't be anything there at all. I need to stop, breathe, and have more confidence in myself.

It is at times like this when I find myself falling into Doc Brown's white wig and lab coat, and trying not to wish about the job I didn't get in Philadelphia. I would like the stability, the money, the security, but I'm looking forward to working in NYC instead of Philly. I would really like to work in the big city, at DC Comics or elsewhere, and I'm reminding myself that the first step is often the scariest. Especially when you're not entirely sure where the road leads.

But I've taken enough time writing this blog (i.e. avoiding my homework), so I'm going to finish my endnotes for this entry and then head back to work. Rest assured that you'll be hearing from an over-stressed me again this week.


*- perhaps, and hopefully, much longer after completion of the program
** - the other program I applied for guaranteed single-occupancy rooms
**** - Statistically speaking...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Irony. It can be pretty ironic sometimes.

As I try to move into another career, I am still hooked into my old one. Most of my friends are actors (or at the very least directors and writers), so I'm still very much plugged into the performing world. As a result, I am still on the books for my agent, and I've had a crazy amount of auditions in the last few weeks. Sometimes I would go for weeks or weeks without any auditions, and suddenly I found myself having more than one a week. Two friends have given me the names of their agents, or the casting director that just got them a great gig, and they told me to drop their names when I sent in my headshot. I, of course, hesitated and resisted for a few days before getting my acting materials in order and shipping them on their merry digital way.

I know what you're thinking... "He's not quitting! I knew he couldn't stay away! I was right all along! Damn that Nick is sexy! He loves acting too much to leave!" And you are right, all of you. Especially random voice number four. But as a very good friend recently said, "I'm tired of acting for money that I need." If the acting becomes a sideline career, all for the best. And if I book so much full-time (i.e. full-pay) acting work that I just never get the chance to work for a publishing house, then that is the cross I am willing to bear. It would be ironic, though, if the success I've always looked for comes my way because of my retirement.

Of course, I haven't booked any of my auditions, (although I came really close on one of them), so I'm not thinking of this as a sign from above. But at the moment, acting is one of the few things that I am legitimately qualified to do, and so it seems silly to turn my back on it completely. And if irony holds true, maybe I'll hold myself over as an actor until I find something new. That would be ironic, indeed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Mental Issues

There is an expression about standing in the way of your own success. I'm sure that a little Internet searching can reveal a few more details about the specific quote I'm remembering, but the idea is one that isn't connected to one quotation alone. And while I do not exactly think that I am literally standing in the way of my own success, I do think that I have certain mental issues that make things much harder on myself than they need to be. I would like to drop some of these terrible habits. I think I would have a much happier life if could shut off my brain at certain moments and just relax more. But instead, I think far too much and don't take care of myself.

Case in point:
I spent six weeks being considered for a job in the early part of this year. As I shared in a blog post in February, I did not get the job. But I did spend those six weeks hoping and wishing for the job. I talked about what I would do in the job, and I even talked about the things I was doing in case I didn't get it. Of course, I did not do any of the things I had been planning to do, and so when the job offer did not come, I felt like I was left up the creek without a paddle. And the only person responsible was me, since I had willingly thrown the paddle into the river.

Another case in point:
I am a well-educated, articulate person. I have a variety of work experience, with different interests that span disciplines, and I work very well both on my own and in a team. However, I am at heart a very insecure person. One moment is enough to throw my whole universe out of whack. One lost job that I thought was in the bank. One stray comment after a night of drinking. One facebook status change that seems to contain a hidden message, one rejected job application, one perfect plan that falls though last minute, and I'm suddenly a quivering mess of self-dout. One moment calls everything else into question, and I'm left grinding my jaw and developing ulcers.

What I am doing:
Billboards everywhere are saying that "Self worth beats net worth." I have been trying to keep things in perspective, and I've been trying to remember that life is long and there are no checkpoints along the way. The only pressure on me is the pressure that I put on myself. To that end, I have been trying to put less pressure on myself. I often compare myself to other people, either in their career, their finance, their relationship, and I never think that I match up. I've been trying not to do that, but it's not easy to stop. So instead, I try to remember that other people compare themselves to me. Or that I can compare myself to others and come out on top.

What I need to do:
Somehow, I need to figure out how to be much happier with myself. I have been talking about finding a new hobby tha I can put some time into, something solitary unlike radio production. I've been looking into things like yoga or tai chi, and I do know that my NYC dorm is outfitted with a gym. I plan to dedicate some time to the gym on a regular basis, trying to generate some healthy habits. Because as far as I can tell, worrying is not a healthy habit.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Averagely-but-not-Excessively Mighty Thor

A week ago or so, I went to see "Thor" with a friend of mine. Unfortunately, we were unable to avoid the 3D screenings, so we ended up seeing the film through those crazy color-diluting sunglasses. I had been looking forward to seeing the film, although it only ranked third-of-four in the list of comic books movies I was excited about this summer. I was looking forward to Hemsworth's portrayal of Thor, and I thought that director Kenneth Branagh would handle the mystical elements well. Well, to make the long story short, I was right on both of those counts. However, it was the other elements in the film that didn't work for me.

As Thor, Chris Hemsworth was right on the money. He had the swagger, the confidence, and the charm that the character needed. He played very well with all of the other actors, especially Anthony Hopkins as his father, and Hemsworth also had the massive physical presence that is required of an actor playing a Norse God. The sequences in the mythic realm were beautiful and epic, with the rainbow bridge from the comic mythology stealing the show. And what's even more important, I thought that Thor as a character fit very comfortably into his larger-than-life mythic realm.

However, the sequences here on Earth seemed forced and/or phoned in. Natalie Portman plays a plucky scientist with a plucky assistant and a plucky advisor. And it's a good thing that she was working with people; otherwise she would have had no one to talk to in order to deliver exposition. After Thor is banished to Earth, loses his powers, and it taken down like a chump by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (spoilers!), he spends approximately six minutes of screen time "learning" his lesson and going on the hero's journey. He comes back, says he loves Natalie Portman, which doesn't really seem all that likely.

The other problem with the film involved the action sequences. A lot of them were blindingly blurry, incredibly quick, and I'm prepared to lay some of that at the foot of the the post-production 3D effects. But even without those 3D effects, the over-reliance on CGI landscapes and CGI cannon-fodder made the shots a little difficult to process. It's a running trend in films nowadays, but it is one that doesn't seem to be going away.

Overall, I liked the film. Don't get me wrong. But it felt like a prequel to Thor's appearance in "The Avengers," much more than it felt like a film designed to start a Thor series. I'm not the biggest fan of the Marvel comic universe, but I like watching how their film universe is developing. I just wonder if they are putting the cart before the horse, though. These films need to stand on their own first, and encourage the overall universe second. If they only serve as prologues to the massive team-up film, then that puts an awful lot of eggs in one big-budget basket.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Look, Up in the Sky

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman! I'm sure I didn't have to finish that phrase. Just as I'm equally sure that I didn't have to hyperlink his name. If you don't recognize the name, then this blog post is not aimed at you. But what I do want to address, briefly, is one of the reasons that I love the Man of Steel - what he represents. Sure, I like his powers, his cape, the fact that he wears glasses in his secret identity. But in a much larger sense, Superman is the ultimate symbol of hope. And that's why I love him. He's not a hero because of a deep secret or because of a hidden trauma; he's a hero because it is literally the right thing to do. It's how his parents raised him, and he is a living example of what everyone could be if they chose to.

To illustrate this point, I will share a recent moment on Smallville that really worked for me. It showed how the writers of the show really understand the character, and I have complete confidence in their season finale when Clark puts on the suit. The following exchange is between Clark Kent and his mother Martha, when Clark is wondering if he should reveal his face as a hero.

Martha: What's real is your strength and integrity and compassion. As long as you remain honest to those things, it doesn't matter what you wear or what name you go by.

Clark: So, you're saying I should become that hero and step into the light?

Martha: Clark, you are the light.

This exchange perfectly illustrates the true nature of Superman. He is not one standing at the head of the path, the man who has stepped into the light and allow others to line up behind him. He is the light in which all the others are bathed, and the other characters of the DC Universe

There is a reason that Superman's intro starts with the hopeful phrase "Look, Up in the Sky!" We look up to him, we aspire to be like him, and we know that if we had powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, we hope we would use them in the service of good. There is no reason for him to be a hero, and yet he is one. He does the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do.

Podcaster Michael Bailey expressed the opinion that Superman is like religion. You either understand him and you get him, or you don't; and if you don't understand the appeal of Superman, it can't be explained to you. And it is something that I completely understand. And not just because I wear glasses.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Open Letter to Steven Moffat

Dear Mr. Moffat,

First of all, let me say that I am huge fan. I love the episodes you wrote of Doctor Who with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, and I am in awe of any writer who is responsible for both Coupling and Jekyll. The differences between them astound me, each one brilliant in their own way, and my hat is off to you. Much has been made of the genius behind the episode "Blink," and I will throw my weight behind all of that praise. It's a beautiful scifi story, combining time travel, character moments, and some of the scariest villains ever created. I was very excited to learn that you had been put in charge of the new season of Doctor Who, and I enjoyed the season-long journey you took us on with Matt Smith.

Today, I am writing to you because I just watched the episodes of your new BBC series, Sherlock. I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, and it was with an equal mix of excitement and nervousness that I approached your new series. The idea of bringing Holmes into the modern age was one that I didn't completely agree with, but I was keeping my mind open to the possibilities. Also, I was willing to follow your name to the project. And you, sir, did not disappoint. The series is one of the best interpretations of the character that has ever been put on film, and Benedict Cumberbatch has the potential to be one of the iconic images of Sherlock. Martin Freeman's Watson is pitch-perfect, and your vision of Lestrade is quite possibly an improvement over Conan Doyle's. In short, the series is very strong, and I'm looking forward to season two.

However, it would be remiss of me not to point out the one fault that I see developing in the series. In fact, it is now a running them in all of your writing. One might call it a variation on the Aaron Sorkin effect. In Sorkin's shows, all of his characters inevitably end up sounding the same. They speak in similar rhythms, similar styles, have similar styles of humor and similar levels of intelligence. This is not your problem, sir. Instead, you constantly have one single character (the Doctor, Jekyll, Sherlock) who is much smarter and speaks much faster than everyone else in the room. And that character sounds the same, no matter which series I'm watching. Sherlock Holmes should sound different than the Doctor, and they should both sound different than Mr. Hyde (no matter how hyper-intelligent he is.) This may seem like a very small detail in the face of the overwhelming awesome that are these shows, but the measure of genius is often in those small details. It's not the sort of thing that would make me stop watching either show, but it is the thing that reduces the originality of both programs.

Also, and while not directly related to this matter, I would also like to take a moment to talk about cliffhangers. A good cliffhanger leaves the action in a tense beat, from which action can proceed in many directions, and we have to tune in next week(season) for the resolution. A good cliffhanger is not what happens that the end of Episode 3 of Sherlock. That was done so poorly, with such little regard for dramatic pacing, that I literally thought my DVR had missed the final act of the show.

Sincerely,
Script in Hand

ps. Who the f@&k is River Song? Seriously. The mystery is getting tedious.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Strangest Places

Yesterday I worked another promo gig, handing out flyers and engaging prospective customers in aggressive yet friendly banter. I'm starting to learn that the defining characteristic of all these promo gigs is this - great money for a boring job. I was on my feet most of the pounding the proverbial pavement, eating my snacks from home and waiting for the quitting time. That time came soon enough, and a quick pizza dinner before the train trip home soothed my spirit for the time being. And the paycheck for a single day's work will also sooth my spirit.

But this blog post isn't about the varied and unusual jobs that I've had to take as a working/struggling actor. Instead, it's just a brief comment about how I am looking forward to the day when I will only have one job instead of fifteen. Filing my taxes every year is an adventure in mathematics, as I have a lot of columns to add up from all the different jobs over the year. Now that I'm moving away from a career as a jobbing actor, I am more and more excited about the idea of working for a single company and getting a single W-2 at the end of the year. Working so many jobs is stressful, because I literally never know where my next paycheck is coming from. That was a fine way to live my life for a long time, but now I want something else. Something better.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

SERUM - Official trailer

I'd like to invite you all to check out this trailer for a short film I was in last year. Actually, to be honest, I don't remember when I filmed this. I was an extra for a day, getting killed by the serial killer in the film. I mostly remember hanging around in the holding area, eating Papa John's pizza, and talking comic books with some of the other folks working on the movie.

I also remember that the director was using an ipad (which was brand new at the time), to show the storyboards to the crew and the actors so we knew that the shots should look like. It was such a great way to incorporate the technology into filmmaking.

In any case, enjoy the trailer for the short film. You can't see me in it. But watch it anyway.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Taste of the Other Side

In my career as a temp, I've had some positions that have been easy, a few that have been interesting, but none that have required me to wear a full suit and interact with heads of finance companies. Until today, that is. I worked as the concierge/event support host for a financial symposium, interacting with directors and CEOs of companies that specialize in retirement investing and 401(k) accounts. The dress code for the job was my formal suit, and I spent all morning with people who were dressed just as well as I. There were about 40-50 execs in the room for financial presentations, all learning about new regulations, new strategies, and new tools in the financial game. The amounts of money and income they were discussing for "hypothetical clients" was in the low-to-mid six figures, and those were the "small-business" owners.

A year ago, I would have looked around at the group of people assembled in this room and been glad that I was an actor. I would have liked the freedom, the possibility, and I would have seen all of the execs as being strangled by their expensive neckties. But how strange to see how things have changed in a year. I now wanted to be a part of this group, make a salary (plus benefits), and have a corporate job where I get to attend symposiums and seminars.

Plus, it doesn't hurt that I came home with three or four days worth of leftovers, including delicious desserts. I love the temp jobs that come with perks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Open Letter to DC Comics

Dear DC Comics,

I have been reading comic books since I was 7 years old, picking up some of the John Byrne Superman issues when they came out in the mid-1980s. And to quote Bibbo, Superman was always my fav'rit. I was never much of a collector as a kid, even though I picked up the odd issue here and there when the covers interested me. Oh, sure, I was there for the death of Superman and his marriage to Lois Lane, but I tuned out a lot on the individual issues as I went to high school, college, and the work force. But even though I didn't follow the comics, I have always been a fan of the characters in the DC Universe, from Superman to The Spectre, Batman to Booster Gold. I followed them through the various animated adventures, feature films, and even the paperback books that were released over the last decade.

But please understand that I love comic books. I like the way the story-telling them employ, I like the unique marriage of words and art, I like the feel of holding them in my hand, and I like the cliff-hanger based pacing within the larger context of world-building and long-running subplots. A single splash page from Action Comics capture my imagination for over twenty years before I could find the issue that continued the story. The issues were exciting, each one feeding into the ones before it, and the title marched forward with one continuing story.

However, this brings me to my problems with the way you present your comic book titles. In the last five years, I've tried to jump onto the DC Superman titles a total of three times. I waited for major events to finish/end/disappear, and then I started picking up the Superman titles. I like the crossover between Superman and Action Comics, and I'm willing to purchase both titles to follow the story. But within mere months of me re-joining the comic-book-buying community, another major event came along that required me to buy tie-in titles, a miniseries, as well as other crossover titles just to get the full story that started (and sometimes ends) in Superman. I don't have the money or the patience to collect half a dozen titles just to get a single story.

And so, DC Comics, in order to get this comic book reader back to the monthly schedule, please lay off the major crossover storylines that take place across multiple books. At least two years. If I have a story that runs through only the Superman title, or only in Action Comics, then I am far more likely to become invested in the larger universe and follow multiple characters. The Black Ring storyline in Action was a great start, but it's been undermined by the entire Doomsday story that I have no interest in. Following Superman from book-to-book is not a burden I am willing to take up. One title, one story.

I enjoy the stories. I enjoy comic books. But I no longer buy them. I want to. I really want to find a monthly book that I can pick up, purchase, and love. So the burden is on you to give me something I want to buy. And I promise, I'll be there when you do.

Sincerely,
Script in Hand

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Next Step

Okay, so I supposed sufficient time has passed since I teased my future plans in my last post. I was bursting with excitement when I first received this news, but I wanted to hold onto the news for a little bit until I was sure that everything was finalized. Not that I thought that things would change, but I was secretly holding out for another possibility. But that second possibility didn't pan out, and now I'm trying to embrace the one that has been offered to me. In short, I will be attending the 2011 Summer Publishing Institute at New York University.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been actively pursing a career in publishing. I think I want to work in the editorial department of a book publisher, although I've recently been thinking about either the publicity or the promotional divisions as well. Or even production or sales... Basically I've been focusing on a shift into a different industry entirely, and I have enrolled in the NYU SPI in an attempt to get a crash course in the industry, learn some skills, make some connections, and get a job in NYC publishing when the course is over.

So please congratulate me, raise a glass to my NYC adventure, and stay tuned for more information, news, rumors, reports, worries, concerns, fears (irrational and otherwise), regrets (real and imagined), and general musings on the next step in my life. Exciting step, but a scary one.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

April, and the first week of May

No clever title this time. No witty word play about where I've been, what I've been doing, or why I haven't been blogging. The long and the short of it is this - I've been very busy with a temp gig working a promotion in a local mall, I've been stressing out over my future and some upcoming career changes, and that stressing has also extended into the realm of finance, money, and all the things that go with that.

So as all of that is going on inside my head (stupid over-thinking head!), I was driving out to a local mall a few times a week to work as a brand ambassador for a promo gig. I was a member of a team promoting the new Nintendo 3DS, a handheld gaming system that features a 3D screen that does not require 3D glasses. The feature doesn't come across in any photo or video ads, so Nintendo put the demo pod in local malls so that people could get the game in their hands and see the effect for themselves.

The job was easy, occasionally fun, and it paid me very well to essentially play video games all day. It was my first encounter with promo work, and I liked it. It was a lot of work to stand on my feet for that long, and I have always hated shift-based work from my time as a deli clerk in a supermarket, but the money and the convenience of the job more than made up for it. It's the sort of gig that I am glad is over, but the money was so nice that I wish it could have lasted for a few more weeks before another gig starts.

But what's this, Nick? Another gig, you say? What is it?

That answer and more to follow.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Addendum

A few nights ago, I went out with a friend of mine who is also leaving the business of acting. And he laid out a series of three exceptions to his retirement. His three points were so well-presented and well-articulated that I knew immediately that I had to steal them. And so, here they are, in no particular order.

The three things that will lure me out of retirement are:

1) A project that interests me and that I really believe in.
2) A project where I can make a lot of money very quickly.
3) A project where I can work with close friends, or when a friend needs a favor.

Any project I do from now on will have to be one of these. Preferably, two of these. Ideally, three of these. It's been a while since I've found joy in my performing, and these three bullet points will help me find the joy again.

Monday, March 28, 2011

For Immediate Release

So, there have been a lot of rumors and stories floating around the Internet lately that I have retired from acting. I'm here to tell you today that most of them are, in fact, true. In addition, I have started most of them. But now, with the retirement policy firmly in effect as of last Friday, I am here to address some of what it means to me and what exactly I am hoping to do with my life now.

First of all, let me address the biggest question that I am asked. Yes, I will still continue to act. Acting was and remains one of the biggest passions in my life, and I receive more pure joy from it than I do from many other things. My retirement from the profession does not mean that I will never again be seen onstage or in a movie, so please don't call me a hypocrite when I next appear in a short film or the latest installment of "Super Heroes Who Are Super." Acting is fun, and I plan to continue to work on projects that interest me.

That brings us to what the retirement involves, exactly. For the last year as I have moved from performing into producing, the work I have done onstage has become less and less "fun." It's started to feel like work. And I don't mean the "boy, aren't I lucky because I get to do this every day!" sort of work. I'm talking about the "well, damn, here it is Monday morning again and I have to go to that stupid office and do the thing that I don't enjoy just so I have money coming in but I'd much rather be somewhere else" sort of work. Simply put, I lost my joy. Acting is not something that one does for the money, so to continue in a profession that I don't enjoy doesn't seem like a smart idea to me.

And, of course, let's not forget about the money. Acting can sometimes pay enough to "get by," if you are going to take into account all the side jobs, teaching jobs, freelance jobs, temp jobs, and crap jobs that you have to do in order to supplement a Philadelphia-approved rate of $75/week for your performance. For many people, this works out just fine. And I'm not trying to knock the people for whom that life works well. It worked fine for me for many years, but not any more. I had a lot of fun bouncing from one job to another, but I now recognize that I want a stable job, a reliable source of income, and an enjoyable workplace. And that's not always to be found in acting.

Essentially, I'll boil it down to this: I used to work 9-5 at a job I didn't enjoy in order to be able to find my happiness by performing on the side. But now, I want to find a 9-5 job that I enjoy and that makes me happy, and I will fill the time on the side with other hobbies and interest that make me just as happy as my profession. Some of them will, no doubt, include acting. They will also include writing, producing, reading, playing mini golf, bowling, making plastic model kits, owning a cat, collecting comic books, etc. I'm ready for my permanent, full-time career to be my primary one, my stable one, and my financially supportive one. And I know that I am not going to find any of those things as a professional actor.

However, I do enjoy the creative process and the creative arts, but now I want to be a part of the production side of them. I am seeking employment in publishing, either in the publicity, production, or editorial departments of book-publishing companies. It's a hard field to break into, and the challenges fill me with dread some nights when I can't sleep, but it's the sort of thing that I think will make me happy. I've been a freelancer for a long time, and I'm looking for a full-time, salaried position where I have to wear a tie to work.

If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer them. You can post them here or you can email me directly, and I will be forthright and honest about my current decision, my reasons, and my intentions.

###

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Headshots?

As I have been making very clear and very public in the last few weeks, I am no longer interested in being a professional actor. My reasons are constantly in a state of flux, and I am hoping to craft an intelligent and insightful blog post that can explain them to you, the readers, and you, my friends. But until then, I'm still running out the clock on a few more projects, and am still pursuing theatre jobs that interest and excite me. But to do that, I think I might need to use new headshots. Here are some that I'm considering:This is for all those time when I'd be considered to play characters who are smug, full-of-themselves, or entirely convinced of their own good forture, future, and well-being. The complete opposite for me. (Except for the smug part. I've got that part nailed.)



This one will be my new commerical headshot, used for things like toothpaste adverts, billboards, and potential starring roles on daytime television. Just look at my hands. Don't they scream "I could play a doctor who is also someone's long-lost twin and sleeps with every woman around looking for my own sister who was brutually murdered before I was born but who has been reincarnated and is hunting for me as well?" Don't they!


This headshot seems to suggest that I'm a little quirky but still serious. The face says I can run your Fortune 500 company, but the body language says I wouldn't enjoy cashing those five-figure paychecks. (The body language is a lie; I'd love to cash the five figure paycheck.)

Quite frankly, I just liked this picture. And I'm still stuck on the plot I suggested two captions back. This is when I learned that my long-thought-dead-and-then-reincarnated-but-now-lives-a-double-life-as-a-nanny-and-an-exotic-dancer sister is also my next-door-neighbor. Spooky.


For a potential headshot, this photo is inappropriate on several different levels. First, there is entirely too much brown of the wood. Second, I have some dirt under my fingernails. And third, it cuts off some of my hair at the top. Complete inappropriate.



By this point in the post, everyone should realize that I'm not being serious. About considering these as new headshots, I mean. But out of this comedy comes a photo that I am going to use as my new headshot. This one:

It's not professionally done by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a good photo that looks like me. My old photos were a little out of date, so I did need a little update. But I also didn't want to spend upwards of 400 bucks on new headshots, since I want to switch careers completely anyway. So this will do for now. Hopefully the next promotional photo I have taken of myself will feature me in a suit and tie, and I'll be listed in the "staff" section of a publishing company's website.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hamlet in the schools

My touring production of Hamlet has been making the rounds through Philly and the surrounding counties for about two weeks now. We have two more weeks on the tour, and most of those days are booked with performances. We even have a day next week where we get to do the show twice. Which suits me fine, since we'll only have to set up and get ready once. The show itself is pretty easy for me.

I've been on enough educational tours to know that the tempers and moods of the audience will change drastically from school to school. It's part of the deal when you sign up for a tour like this, and I've never really let it bother me. When I was in a touring company with Romeo and Juliet, our Juliet was always annoyed when the students would laugh during her dramatic scenes at the end of the play. But for me, I knew it was par for the course - after all, we were performing for kids aged 14-18.

So far on this tour, we've been lucky with some good groups of students. The first audience was really into it, even cheering for Hamlet during the swordfight. The second crowd was a little more subdued at first, but we won them over eventually. The third crowd was with us right from the first moment of the play, and we were getting cheers of encouragement throughout the play. The show has enough flash to attract even the most hostile of audiences, and we have a show that really connects with the young crowds we are playing to.

We are coming up to the end of our third week, with only one more week to go. This week has been booked pretty solid, and next week we do 6 shows over 5 days. I'll post some more updates as we go along through the next week and I try to squeeze auditions and other projects around the touring schedule.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Courage Too Late" now online!

And now... the short film I've been writing about for the last few days, "Courage Too Late," is now available online. The video is embedded below, and I'd encourage you to visit the filmmaker's website at www.JKiltsFilms.com to find out more information about them, and to see some of their other projects. Backtrack through the last few posts on this blog and you can read some of the backstage stories and see a photo gallery.

But now.... the film itself... "Courage Too Late"


I'm pretty happy with the way it all turned out. The first time I watched the film, I was pretty impressed with the work I did in the very first scene where I'm eating bread. Tom and Eugene had written a very simple scene with a lot of subtext churning away underneath, and I'm actually pretty pleased with the work that Amanda and I did to bring that subtext out. I talked in the previous post about how pleased the filmmakers were about our work, and I'm glad to see the finished product.

When I watched the film, I kept remembering how much fun it was to work on the film. I remembered freezing my toes almost off in the leather boots, trying to struggle through the deep snow wearing all of that extra equipment, chipping away at the ice covering the set, trying to make Ted laugh every time he had to be serious on camera, having the director of photography march us all over our little corner of the woods... In short, I was remembering the joy that I found while making the film. It's been so long since an acting job offered me that real sense of joy, it's great to watch this film and remember how much fun I had making it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Photo Gallery from "Courage Too Late"

After the last two (intermittent) posts regarding filming the short film "Courage Too Late," I wanted to finish it off with a photo gallery of the film. So let's get this (peep) show on the road.

(The opening image of the film, shot at the very end of the first day.)

(The Russians, posing for our period-photo.)

(As Gregory, ready for action. Note the leather pouch holding maps and papers.)

(Amanda and I wait in the trees for the camera crew to arrive. So we can shoot them.)
(Between takes, we also killed a lot of time having thumb wars. This scene does not appear in the final film.)

(Donuts provide energy. Russian energy. Russian, sprinkle-based energy.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Russian film shoot, Part II

So, it was almost a month ago, but the second day of shooting CTL started with trekking out to the location that had been built. The most fun part was taking all of the equipment through a foot and a half of tightly-packed snow. And by "most fun part," I mean, of course, I'm joking. When we got the location, we learned that the small layer of snow on the ground had turned into a fine coating of ice. So the first step of the day was to take shovels and hammers to the ice so we could shoot the movie without hurting ourselves.

(Christopher works on the ice a little harder than the rest of us.)

The second day involved shooting the hand-to-hand combat that is the center of the film, as well as a final ambush that involved a lot of pretend gunfire. I was looking forward to shooting some blanks from my gun, but then the production team announced they would be adding the gunfire in during post-production. Bummer. But I still got to knife a few soldiers. Score.

The shoot also involved a lot of filming with the German soldiers, so the Russians had a chance to sit around, smoke, and hang out freezing our toes off before we were called over to the set. At least we had donuts to keep us warm. Well, we weren't actually eating the donuts while freezing, but
(The Russian army, slightly relaxed.)

After filming the fight scene, the German scenes, and some scenes of the Russians sneaking through the trees, it came time to film the major scene of dialogue that opens the movie. My costar/scene partner Amanda and I had been running the scene all day, so we were ready for our close-ups. When the scene was up next, the director asked if we wanted to take a minute to look over the scene. We informed him that it wasn't necessary because we had memorize the scene and had been working it all day. He seemed genuinely impressed (and slightly surprised) that we were off-book for the scene, and we went to shoot.

After the first two takes, the director and the script supervisor were very complimentary on the work we were doing. The writer even commented that he liked actors who could take the "not-so-good" words he had written and make them sound great coming out of our mouths. It was great to have the filmmakers praising our work right there on the set while we were filming. We wrapped the scene up, did a few more coverage shots, and then we had to schlep all the equipment back to the cars so we could get back on the road and back to Kurt's house so we could return all our issued army gear.

For two days of moviemaking, it was a lot of fun. I know I've recently come out and said that I'm not interested in continuing my career as an actor - (all the details can be found right here) - but I am all about the short-term, single-day, projects that excite me as a performer. It's not that I'm not interested in acting anymore, it's just that I'm only interested in acting when it is on my terms.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Vill Crush You

Two weekends ago, just after I found out this news (for those of you keeping score at home), I headed up to Bucks County for two days to play a young Russian soldier in a short film set on the Russian front during WWII. I had been looking forward to it as a little project on the side, but when the shoot days finally arrived, I was ready for some fun to take my mind off other things.

The first hour of the first day was spent collecting our gear and our uniforms from the weapons master/production manager, who I'd previously worked with on both The Chrononauts and Rendezvous. His basement is full of all sorts of WWII uniforms, and he can tell the difference between Nazi uniforms from 1941 and 1945. And he also has them both. As well as everything in between. It's quite extraordinary. After we were all geared up, we were given our weapons, and the entire look was finally starting to come together. Here's a picture of me as the Russian soldier Gregory:

When we all headed out to the location, knee-deep in snow, we started shooting. I had never worked with the filmmaker before, but we fell into a nice rhythm. I liked how fast he tried to shoot things, and I liked that he was letting us be very relaxed and very conversational with our lines. He even encouraged us to improvise some of the lines, but I stuck pretty much to what I had already memorized. It's just easier that way.

On this first day of the two-day shoot, we did a lot of the middle of the film, and then the final pieces as well. We worked straight up until sunset, and I literally watched the sun set while I was on camera. It's going to be a very cool shot to end the film. The day was a lot of fun, even if it was freezing cold by the time we were done. My leather boots (while really cool!) didn't provide a whole lot of insulation against the cold, but they were also the only part of my body that was cold. This is a picture of me trying to keep my toes warm, through willpower alone.

Also, please note that I did not get to fire my weapon. I had to pretend. But my costar Amanda got to fire off several rounds with her sniper rifle. I was pretty jealous of that, and she wanted to keep doing take after take of that scene. She was a little disappointed when they told her they had the shot, so she celebrated by firing off a few more rounds. Okay, maybe she didn't, but that's certainly something that I would have done. It's the easiest way to empty the clip!

Our shoot day ended at dusk, we got out of costume, and we got ready to come back for another day on Sunday. I'll post again about the next day of filming, the day that involved the hand-to-hand combat, lots of slipping on the ice, and actually acting an entire page and a half of dialogue as we raced to beat the setting sun yet again.

Okay, well, that's a lot of the stories in fact. But in more detail... NEXT TIME!

More fun that I remembered

I am going to be busy for the next few days - rehearsals, travel, film-making. So in order to hit my deadline for the next episode of The Stray Dogs Project, I sat down last night and tried to do as much as I could. I wasn't sure how much I was going to do, or how much I really felt like doing, but the focused effort and the amazing vocal tracks inspired me to push forward. I ended up finishing the entire vocal track, and I was just about to start layering in some sound effects before a friend called on the phone and I lost my momentum entirely.

But until that happened, I was really grooving on the project, and I was really enjoying the editing work I was doing. In another blog post not long ago, I talked about how I wasn't feeling the work for RHP anymore, about how it felt like just another job and my heart wasn't in it. Well, now I'd like to recant that position almost entirely. It just took the first episode to get the energy and momentum building again, but with that one online and behind us, I'm feeling the fun again.

It might be a passing thing, as I'm already feeling a little overwhelmed again on this Thursday afternoon, and tomorrow will be a challenging day at work. But for last night, everything was going great. I'll hold onto that feeling, and take it with me through the darker times. Which are sure to return. But I feel like I might have a torch now, which can make all the difference in the darkness.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Disappointment(s)

Since the end of December, I have been in the running for a position in Philadelphia that would have suited me very well. The position was for a science-based non-profit organization, and I would have been working with their magazine and their podcast. It would have combined my long-time interest in writing and editing, and my newly-discovered interest in producing and creative directing. Salary, benefits, and the sort of job that I would have loved going to every day.

By now, you've probably noticed I am using the past perfect tense. "Would have.." So it's no surprise for me to tell you now that I wasn't offered the job. I found out on the Friday before the Valentine's day weekend, when I was booked to shoot a short film with a young filmmaker. (More information on that movie will be coming to this blog soon. Stay tuned...) So I did have something to take my mind off the bad news at first, when I headed out to Bucks county and had a great time shooting a short film. But when that film was over, I went right back to my somewhat exhausting, temp-jobbing life.

On one hand, nothing has changed. But on the other hand, the only change is that a possible "yes" has now become a definitive "no." I have to go out again and find a new job opening, apply, interview, etc, and hope to make it far enough to be considered for the position. And that's a daunting task, especially when I have to return to my temp-jobbing weeks. I am applying for some summer courses as well to help me realize my goals, so there is a long-term plan in place that I'm running toward. But that still doesn't make the day-to-day any easier.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

From the vaults

Over the weekend, I was talking with a friend about horror movies. Specifically, bad horror movies. And that got me thinking again about a very old script that I had been working on with my writing partner Rob. We came up with a story that played with the idea of a group of ghost hunters (like the guys on the SyFy show "Ghost Hunters"), and in the course of their investigation on an haunted prison/jail/hotel, they would stir up some less-than-friendly spirits and a horror movie would break out. We had plot turns, jokes, great horror bits, and a twist to the film that is something you never saw before.

We had originally written the script a few years ago, working with a producer who had worked with Rob on a WWII documentary. She was interested in his idea for the horror film, so he and I spent a feverish ten days writing most of a screenplay so we could read it at a meeting at the producer's house. We finished most of it, outlined the rest in an exciting paragraph of action, and then pitched it. Everyone involved liked the idea, including our own twists. We talked about the next steps to take to make the film, but ultimately the project fell through. And, true to form, Rob and I never went back to work on it, since we were no longer planning to make the movie.

And, unfortunately, that has emerged as a habit for me. I dedicate a lot of energy into a project, and then when that project takes a downward turn, or when another project replaces it in the front of my mind, the older one simply falls by the wayside. As a result, I have a whole pile of never-finished scripts as opposed to a pile of finished-but-not-edited scripts. I'd like to be better about following up on these projects; you never know when an old completed script will come in handy for a new project or as a writing sample. But we worked hard for that week, and we don't have a finished screenplay to show for it. I've actually been thinking about dusting off those old notes, seeing if I can give it some shape again and try to write the ending. Just for fun.

If I do, I'll tackle it next week. This week is a busy one with RHP work and temp work, and I barely have enough time to cook, learn my lines, or have a social life. So next week... Perhaps...