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.

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.

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.