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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Three Songs

Not only is Tom Petty one of the great heroes of rock n' roll, but he's still out there doing it - and there's an energy and soul to his live songs that is so rare, especially for someone who's been doing it for so long. This song is amazing, and the way the crowd join in at the end is heavenly!



Music from New Orleans breaks my heart. Here is Davell Crawford, singing 'Louisiana 1927.' My heart is broken before he even begins singing!



This is a live version of a Counting Crows Song, 'Rain King' - filmed by an audience member at a concert a couple of weeks back. If the bad camera work bugs you - then just skip to 2:10.. when a 12 year old boy, Michael Weber, is handed an electric guitar and then goes on to steal the show. Incredible! This is what music is about! This is what life is about!! I could watch this again and again. This is a Kid In The Front Row if ever there was one. Wow wow wow.

Care to share?

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Beautiful Possibilities Of The Next Rental


Is there anything more exciting than 'Awaiting Allocation' ?

The next film could change my life.

Care to share?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

A Way To Shoot Anywhere With No Permission - For Free!

This always works! Whether you turn up with just a camera, or with an eight person crew. Here's what you do.

1) Shoot scenes ANYWHERE YOU WANT.

2) Cheerily begin conversation with the man who comes up to you demanding you stop filming.

3) Give him this PRECISE explanation. "This is actually a test shoot. We're thinking of filming here, and paying of course, so we just want to test how it looks."

Madly enough, this explanation works! The person thinks "oh, that makes sense; you need to check if the location is appropriate," and they let you carry on. I discovered this many years ago, and it has worked for me every time. If they say "So why do you have a make-up artist and sound guy?" you just tell them "Well we need to know if the sound here is viable, and we the make-up artist needs to get an idea of the lighting."

People always buy this! So when someone asks you what you're filming; tell them you're not, you're just location scouting with your crew. Perfect.

Care to share?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A Small Example Of Typecasting.

From an email conversation today.

Actor: "Looking forward to getting randomly killed. Again."

Me: "Hahahaha! I always make rom-coms but when I kill people I always call on you!"


I'm off to shoot some stuff. I'll be back after the weekend, when I will share the story of how everything went smoothly with absolutely no problems at all. That's the plan.

Care to share?

Freelancing - How Much Should You Charge?

"How much are you looking for?" says the scary person on the other end of the phone. You get into an absolute panic. Should I work for free? Maybe just charge a little, like 50? But wait, Bryan got paid 400 a day for his job. I think I'm worth at least 300. But maybe their whole budget is 300? I'm confused???

"Hello? Are you there? How much are you looking for?" repeats the scary woman.
"Well uh, y'know," you say, hoping she'll respond with "oooh, you want 600 a day? Sure!"

How much should you charge? How much are you worth? How much do they have? What is the most you could get? How much would others get? How much is too much? How much is so little that they assume you're an amateur?

Care to share?

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Let's All Remember The True Meaning Of Sunday

As most of you will know, Sunday is an important day for billions of people all around the world. That's right, Sunday is traditionally known through many cultures as the day of the movies. Whenever possible, it is important to rest on a Sunday and watch as many films as possible. This will make sure that you are adequately rested, refreshed and inspired for the week ahead.

Today I managed to watch four films. I have provided a screenshot of each film. If you think you can identify each film then email me your answers ASAP. On Monday morning I will be selecting a correct entrant at random - who will be sent SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION on DVD.

Please send your answers to the email address below. Even if you only recognize two or three of the films, feel free to enter; as people don't always get these things right.

Care to share?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

HANGING UP - Walter Matthau's Perfect Swansong

Angie, did l ever tell you about the time l got a gun from John Wayne?
No.
Pat and I wrote a picture for him called Luck Runs Out.
Oh.
Yeah, he was a very nice guy. They say that he had a very small pecker.... but that didn't keep him from being a real He-Man.

The trailer for 'Hanging Up' would have you believe that the film is a lightweight chick-flick; something for the girl's to sit around watching and laughing as Meg Ryan runs around comically whilst phoning her sisters. This is certainly an element of the movie, but it's only one element, and there is actually a lot more that the film has to offer.

I always think of 'Hanging Up' as a Nora Ephron film, but in fact; it was directed by Diane Keaton. Let's first begin by figuring out who did what:

Originally, it was a book, by Delia Ephron.
The screenplay is by Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron.
It's directed by Diane Keaton, who is also a star of the film.
It's produced by Nora Ephron.
And Executive Produced by Delia Ephron.

So who did what, exactly, and how? We'll never know. Anyway:

Eve (Meg Ryan) has to deal with her Father, Lou (Walter Matthau) who is in hospital, and dying. Her sister's Maddie (Lisa Kudrow) and Georgia (Diane Keaton) are too busy with their self-absorbed lives to deal with the fact their Father is coming to the end of his life. Everything is left to Eve to cope with.

Despite Meg Ryan's character taking the brunt of the responsibility, Lou is always asking after his other daughters; painfully unaware of how they are not there for him. To make things even more complex, Eve's husband is constantly insisting that she should have nothing to do with her Dad because he is a selfish drunk who's caused her a lot of pain.

The film is sad, yet hopeful, complex, yet simple, funny, yet sad again -- in fact; it's very real. It's something that a lot of people will relate to. Meg Ryan shines in the film in one of her best performances-- mixing the adorable comedic style she has made her own, along with some subtle, moving moments.

But the real magic comes from Walter Matthau. This film was released in 2000, the year he died-- which made and makes this film even more poignant. Matthau is absolutely delightful in the film --- playing a role that is hilariously funny, as he obsesses constantly over "John Wayne's pecker;" but is also tinged with sadness as it's clear the character is losing his memory. There are also some very emotional and dramatic scenes that show how capable Matthau was as an actor.

If you've ever had to take on a lot of responsibility when those around you won't take accountability for everything that's going on, then you'll relate to this film. Her sisters don't hear her, her Father keeps forgetting who she is, and her Mother doesn't want anything to do with the situation. This isn't a typical Meg Ryan film, and it isn't a typical Ephron film. It's something personal, a truthful roller-coaster about life, death, and siblings.

I strongly recommend it. There are not enough films like this.

Care to share?

charlie

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Friday, 20 August 2010

'HUKKLE' is a truly unique and mesmerizing movie.

HUKKLE (HICCUP in English) is a Hungarian movie, directed by György Pálfi that made virtually no sense to me - but I loved it. It's artistic, without being artsy-arthouse-bullshit, it's confusing without being pretentious or condescending, and it's simple and minimal without being.. well, without being pretentious artsy bullshit.
It was just extremely fascinating to watch. There is virtually no dialogue in the film, and no main character. The film follows the lives of a bunch of interesting looking people and a bunch of different animals in a small Hungarian village. The various animals and insects play as big a role as the human characters. HUKKLE is very short for a feature film, at only 78 minutes - and it flies by. Visually, it's extremely compelling. As a cinematic experience (well, DVDmatic) it was unique, exciting and um, unique again. I don't know how to explain it.

This film is definitely original, hugely captivating, oddly humorous and, ultimately, a real delight. Just don't ask me to explain what it was about. I recommend it, without being able to say exactly why.

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Acting Competition Winner - 'Get Out' by ERIC GEYNES and LAURA EVELYN

The competition was to create a scene, no longer than one minute in length, on the theme of 'leaving,' in only one shot. They were the rules; and it was down to actors to come together to create something original.

The winner is 'GET OUT' by Eric Geynes and Laura Evelyn. Please watch it before reading on:

Originally I had planned to get an established industry actor to judge which film is best -- but we only had a very very small amount of entries, far less than expected -- so I took on the judging responsibilities myself.

This film stood out far ahead of the rest. Here's why I think it was great:

First of all - doing anything in one single take is hard. A minute is a long time. Most of the films we watch barely go four seconds without cutting to another angle. These actors were able to hold my attention for the full minute. And although I'm judging based on acting, and not direction - it's worth mentioning how the scene was set-up because it aided the scene greatly. The way we're shoved into the corner of the room with only the door to look at really adds an element of humor.

There are two clear characters in this film. We really get to know them. This is hard to get right even when you're creating a ten minute short film. But here we clearly have a struggling actress who's annoying, desperate for a role, perhaps lightly insane - and we have a busy casting director who has no time for bad actresses/weird people. The scene is made interesting by two opposing character types who are both desperate to get something done: i.e. - she's desperate to keep getting back into the room, and he's desperate to get her the hell out of there.

Laura is hilarious in this: I love the smile she does eleven seconds into the film; and the physical humor of practically being crammed out of the door on the twenty three second mark.

The fact that Eric is so interesting on screen is actually quite surprising considering he has his back to camera for most of it. What I like about his performance is that he is always moving; always trying to get to the end of the meeting/scene/day -- it adds a real pace to the proceedings. He also moves swiftly, and naturally, between the subtle, small moments - like when he calls her a 'fucking nutter' and the bigger, crazier moments, when he is matching Laura's energy levels as he tries to kick her out of the room.

It's also worth mentioning the great writing. Well, I say writing but I imagine they improvised most of this. What I am getting at, is the structure. As a short scene, it raises the bar another level by the surprise at the end. First, he kicks her out for her terrible acting, secondly, he kicks her out after she comes back for her bag-- but it's the third moment that makes it hilarious; the hilarity of the fact she's left her shoes in there. Her shoes!? Even though this was down to a great concept, rather than the acting (although the acting was great throughout) it goes to show how actors look better when the time is taken to get good material.

ERIC GEYNES relocated from Toulouse to London in 2003 after a career in professional swimming. Eric has been busy; with roles in films such as CLASH OF THE TITANS and HEREAFTER. He is also a writer-director (which isn't surprising, given the elements that made up the film in this competition) and is currently in post-production on his second short film. You can view his spotlight here

LAURA EVELYN's recent theatre credits include A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and STIFFED!. Laura appeared in the feature films SCRATCH and POPULAR UNREST --- and she plays the lead role in the upcoming film WILBY PARK, which is a psychological-thriller due out later this year. You can view here spotlight details here

I recommend you visit their page's and watch their showreels. They are very talented and destined for great things. Exciting!

Care to share?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

SCREENWRITING Advice, Ideas and Inspiration

I am not one of those people who says "To write a successful screenplay, you need to follow a 17 point plan and you must have an incident with a dead chicken." For me, if I can give any advice - it's that you should do whatever you can to be YOU, and to get that onto the page. I am not telling you what to write; in fact, I honestly don't want to tell you anything, because I don't really know anything. I just want to share things that have helped me over the years. Below are links to things I have written that may, I hope, inspire.

To begin with; it's important to realize; even Aaron Sorkin has self-doubt. Self-doubt is a troubling thing; because if you're not careful in can make you become one of those writers who never actually writes. A lot of people quit screenwriting because of heartbreak, but not before they find many things to do instead of writing.

Sorry if you think it's a bad idea to talk about self-doubt and the lack of confidence. But it's best not to ignore things that are there (things that we all have to deal with.) But don't worry; there are things we can do about it. You need to remember: it's your screenplay, not anyone else's. If you listen to other people too much, you'll go insane. So stop listening to the critical people around you -- not only are they bad for you but pretty soon, every time you mess up or, worse-- don't write, you'll blame them-- them??? but who are THEY?

Don't be polarized by writer's block, INTERACT with it, dance with it, see what it has to say.
When you finally realize this is what you want to do with your life -- you make that decision; and you realize, truly, that this is your life. It's now or never.

I always find it helpful to realize why my work is important in the world. If you make a comedy, it's IMPORTANT, because we NEED to laugh and smile; if you're making a crazy horror film, we need to get more in touch with the parts of ourselves that feel the extremities of fear, and LIFE. IF you're writing an inspirational film about a marginalized section of society.. it's important because you could inspire millions to improve their lives. If you write a story for children, and it only ends up being half as good as you hoped.. you may inspire one child, you may make their life BETTER. How amazing! Never underestimate the importance of your writing in the wider world.

If you're a Kid In The Front Row like me; you should look back to your youth for inspiration. There's so much magic there. And if there's not magic, there's pain; and a lot of who you are and who you've become is from that place. Your memories and feelings from long ago will inspire your writing.

Why do you want to be a writer? So many reasons. Once you've figured that out -- I can only give one bit of advice. It has nothing to do with content or how to configure a scene or whatever, I'm not the guy for that. All I ask of you -- is that you write from the heart. And KEEP CREATING AGAIN AND AGAIN. The magic comes from turning up for work every day and getting the words down, because one day, the magic will strike. And that is why you write.

And lastly; listen to what SCOTT ROSENBERG has to say. That I insist on.

I am sincerely so excited and inspired by all of you -- I love it when you're writing and I am concerned when you tell me you're not writing. Keep going! Keep believing in yourself, keep me informed of your progress. Your ideas are needed in the world. Sure, writing is hard, making a script sale is hard, getting anything produced is hard. But right now, that's not your concern. Your concern is writing. Deep down, you know you were born to do it. I can't wait to hear from you that you've written FADE OUT some time soon.

Care to share?

Deadline Day For Acting Competition! It's Easy To Do..

Entries must be in TODAY. It's not too late to get involved. All you need to do is film a one minute scene on the theme of 'leaving' - and get it to me by midnight. Details Here.

If you're an actor, or have ever thought about being an actor, or are bored tonight; why not get involved!? Pick up a video camera, or a webcam, or a phone that has video -- what's stopping you?

Care to share?

Monday, 16 August 2010

New York State Of Mind

You ever leave a place and wonder if it really exists? You look back at the time you had and you wonder; "are those people really real? Do they exist when I'm gone?" -- you leave New York and you leave it with an exact picture, and you're certain the picture will never change. You leave with a feeling - a bittersweet feeling of love, hope, sadness and life. The feeling sticks-- you feel it and you feel it and you feel it. You capture New York in a very specific way.
But what about the people who remained there? For them, that moment was fleeting. Maybe they never really felt it at all. They carry on; meetings in Manhattan, brawls in Brooklyn and quitters in Queens; but the picture you have of New York on your wall doesn't change.

You remember getting lost on Canal Street thinking it was Grand Street, and there was a girl waiting for you by the Williamsburg Bridge but you were standing by Brooklyn bridge thinking, where the hell is she?

You dream of New York actors. In New York, they give it their best shot. Call time is 8am but they're there at 7.30 with a brain full of questions. You're shooting in Central Park in the middle of December and they're saying "I love movies!" whereas anywhere else in the world they say "It's cold outside."

I miss being alone in New York City. When you're alone in New York City, the whole world is with you. The big, screaming lights of Times Square tell you a thousand stories; and then you head downtown and you know exactly who you are. In New York, you're always going somewhere, meeting someone, leaving someone. You wanna go back, but you're desperate to know; New York, do you remember me? New York has seen so many people are they're all so friggin' interesting that you wonder how it could ever remember you. But you hope it does and you hope it does and you hope it does.

And this guy said "I love hanging out with you," and this girl said "you changed my life," and this crazyo said "I gotta tell you everything about what happened last night, because who else would I tell?" - but New York carries on, and now the crazyo is telling other crazy things to other crazy people. You remember the sound of sirens, the smell of coffee and the weird, crazy magic that only New York knows, and you hope and pray you'll be going back soon.

Care to share?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Magic Idea That Is So Great It Kills Creativity

Have you met the maniac who sweeps into your mind in the middle of the day when you're busy writing your script about a tax accountant who becomes an Olympic athlete? You're hard at work, throwing down words onto the page------ and then this maniac comes along and says in your ear "I have a great idea, you should write a film about two people who invent a flying car made out of chalk, and then they turn into zombies, yeah!"

All of a sudden, you get really excited about your genius idea-- and become convinced that it is going to be your masterpiece. You get out your notepad and throw down three pages of zombie gold before realizing it's terrible, godawful.

So you go back to your film about the tax accountant. But your energy is gone for the day. You feel depressed. You watch a re-run of Friends and quit writing for the next three weeks.

It is always good to get new ideas. But you need to be careful they are real ideas, and not just the maniac who is trying to stop you from doing the hard work. Generally, if you're focusing on one idea, you should really do everything to stay with it. If you're in the middle of writing a scene and you suddenly get an idea for a masterful sequel to 'Waterworld' then it's probably the maniac. Ignore him, or ask him to come back after the first draft of the tax accountant script is done.

Care to share?

Ten Random Film Things

1. I am in love.


2. Which got me to thinking about Marilyn Monroe -- so I watched this about six times in a row.


"Goodbye Norma Jean
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled
They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain
They set you on the treadmill
And they made you change your name

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

Loneliness was tough
The toughest role you ever played
Hollywood created a superstar
And pain was the price you paid
Even when you died
Oh the press still hounded you
All the papers had to say
Was that Marilyn was found in the nude

Goodbye Norma Jean
From the young man in the 22nd row
Who sees you as something as more than sexual
More than just our Marilyn Monroe"

3. I've been catching with the work of previous interviewees of KITFR. The film that Lawrence Sher shot; 'DUE DATE,' now has a trailer- which excites me GREATLY!


Joe Leonard's
debut feature 'HOT I GOT LOST' is now available on DVD. He also has been busy since our interview working as an editor on Glee; and he was also on the editing department for 'EAT, PREY, LOVE.'


4. One of my favorite books, 'ON THE ROAD' by Jack Kerouac is being made into a film, and I don't know how I feel about it. It stars an actor called Sam Riley as Sal and Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty. I am not familiar with either of the actors. The female parts are taken by more recognizable names and; if they HAVE to make this into a movie, then I think they are good names to have attached: Kirsten Dunst as Camille, Kristen Stewart as Marylou and Amy Adams as Jane.

5. A few days back I wrote about the lack of Ginger Rogers in modern film. I feel just as strongly about Katharine Hepburn. She was so powerful, so strong, so talented, so so beautiful -- and this was back in the 1940's -- where is Hepburn now? Where is the spirit of Katharine Hepburn? Where are the powerful roles? Where are the dynamic women? We're writing more roles for the 'sexy' woman and the 'Mother' and the 'girl next door' than ever before. Our films would be so much more original, diverse, truthful, and exciting -- if writers would do more than just write their girl next door fantasies. Women are as crazy, fucked up, nonsensical and capable as men; and that should be represented in film.

6. I was talking with an actress friend last night about how homosexuals are portrayed in cinema. Has there ever been a gay character who was gay but had a normal storyline? As far as I can see, if gay characters are in films they usually fall into these catagories: a) Their sexuality is a central point of their story, or b) They are camp and feminine (if male) and you can spot their sexuality merely by witnessing their first line of dialogue. In every film you watch; there will be numerous straight characters who are going about their lives and struggles; and of course, many smaller characters are assumed straight. But when a homosexual character is involved, it is always 'part of their story.' Therefore, films tend to suggest that all gay people have to deal with or care about, is being gay-- but surely as writers and filmmakers, we can do better than writing in this way?

7. The film 'SPEED' is insane. They spend over an hour saving these people on a bus; then after everyone gets off the bus, it plummets into an airplane which is moving towards the runway. There's a giant explosion and, I'd assume, hundreds of plane passengers dead. Even if there are no passengers; it still has a pilot and crew - so as many people will die as were on that bus. But nobody seems to give a shit and Keanu and Bullock just start flirting. What's that about?

8. Another thing about 'SPEED' - Jeff Daniel's character is called HARRY, which is also his name in 'DUMB AND DUMBER.' So whenever I watch Speed, I imagine that it's actually Harry from 'DUMB AND DUMBER' who has somehow managed to make people think he's a bomb expert. It makes the viewing experience HILARIOUS! Another hilarious thing is when Dennis Hopper says to Keanu Reeves "don't try and grow a brain!" Looking at Keanu's career recently; it looks like he took the advice to heart.

9. I am SO excited about upcoming interviews that will be here on Kid In The Front Row soon.

10. It's been six years since 'ELIZABETHTOWN.' Aside from a Pearl Jam documentary that he's currently shooting, I really don't know when we're going to see another feature film from Cameron Crowe. Whether you liked his last movie or not; this is the guy who brought us 'SAY ANYTHING,' 'JERRY MAGUIRE' and 'ALMOST FAMOUS.' He had numerous struggles trying to get his new flick 'DEEP TIKI' made and now that it's dead-- I don't know what's going to happen. I sincerely hope he gets to work on something new soon though.

I would love for you to take this 'Ten Random Film Things' idea over to your own blogs and run with it.....

Care to share?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Where Is The Spirit Of Ginger Rogers?

It's nothing but a little lamb steak with goo on it.
Oh i'm sorry Johnny, it isn't lamb - it's veal.
Don't tell me, I've been eating it for years.
Oh I ought to know, it's my favorite dish.
It's lamb
It's veal
Lamb
It's veal
I tell you it's..
It's.. for a buck..?
A buck
Okay.

I just watched 'It Had To Be You' starring Ginger Rogers and Cornel Wilde. I absolutely loved it. But I also felt a sadness, as I often do when I watch movies from this era.

Ginger Rogers really takes you on a ride in this film. She is full of boundless energy, a natural sparkle and comedic grace in a way rarely seen on screen. It was rare back then in the 40's, but even more so now. When I think of Jimmy Stewart, or Jack Lemmon; although we'll never replace them, we'll never get near them; occasionally we get someone like Tom Hanks who, on his better days, can carry the torch in some way.

But where is Ginger Rogers? Where is that essence that she brought so naturally and so perfectly to the silver screen. Where is it in modern movies? Where is it in the world? Where is it in your life? My fear is that it's missing, and I think we need to find it.

I must admit, I am partial to falling in love with the likes of Paulette Goddard, Jean Arthur, Ingrid Bergman; etc, but this isn't just that-- I'm not just crushing on another black and white movie star. I am concerned about the soul and spirit of Ginger Rogers; it's something we need, especially in the movies -- but I don't see it any more.

The innocence, the mischievousness, the joy, where is it? I think that's it, most of all, the JOY. Look at Ginger in 'It Had To Be You' - she is firing and bouncing and jumping and running and leaping her way all through the movie. It's beyond compelling, it's beyond having fun, it's beyond good acting. It's this intangible thing that you can't quite put your finger on. It's a magic that shined throughout her career; and tonight, I noticed it more than ever in 'It Had To Be You.'

What I am getting at is that feeling you get when you watch Ginger Rogers on screen. You can't help but be swept away in the moment; you're right there in 1947 with her character; and it is one giant sea of pure joy. The problem with films these days is, perhaps, not that they don't make them like they used to, but that they're not even trying.

Where Is The Spirit Of Ginger Rogers?

Care to share?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Don't Tell Me You Don't Remember Me, Because I Sure As Heckfire Remember You

"Ned.. RYERSON. "Needlenose Ned"? "Ned the Head"? C'mon, buddy. Case Western High. Ned Ryerson; I did the whistling belly-button trick at the high school talent show? Bing! Ned Ryerson; got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn't graduate? Bing, again. Ned Ryerson-- I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple times until you told me not to anymore? Well?"

What is your favorite 'Groundhog Day' quote?

Care to share?

ACTING COMPETITION - One Week Deadline!

Today marks the start of the KID IN THE FRONT ROW acting competition. All entries must be received by Tuesday 17th August 2010.

Here is the task:
  • The scene must be absolutely NO LONGER than one minute.
  • The theme of the competition is leaving.
  • Everything MUST take place in one single shot.
  • There must be at least two characters on screen.
Filming quality is not important. The script is not the most important thing, either. The most important thing is two characters, on screen, creating a moment, a scene; on the theme of leaving (you are open to interpret the theme in any way you wish.)

I was going to run this competition over a couple of months; but I realized that any actors who are serious about their craft, will easily be able to find a day, or a night, or one minute at 3am, to find a camera and shoot a scene.

To enter:
Upload your one minute scene to youtube, with Kid In The Front Row competition in the title, and email me the link:

I am looking for performances that feel real, that grab me, that I believe in, that show your talent and humanity. I will watch ALL the entries; and then I will shortlist FIVE FINALISTS.

I will then announce the name of the judge; who will be a professional industry actor. The judge will watch all five finalists and then choose a winner.

Good luck! Please pass this on to any actors you know, or any acting sites that might be interested.

THE DEADLINE IS TUESDAY 17th AUGUST, NO EXCEPTIONS!

Tip - Don't perform a monologue to the camera. Engage in a scene, a 'moment' with another actor.

"One really important character trait is confidence. So many actors lack it, but if you don't think you're good, why would you expect someone else to be taken with you? You have to believe in your own talent, and let that belief carry you through the avalanche of rejection that comes with pursuing a career in this field."

Care to share?

Monday, 9 August 2010

JB Glossinger - Interview With MORNING COACH Founder.

JB Glossinger, the founder of morningcoach.com, is an inspirational guy. He runs a podcast, every morning, which is all about giving people positivity, inspiration and ideas to go out into the day with. JB is the most dedicated person I know -- constantly working on new projects and helping people throughout the world. He never stops working and never stops improving himself and, in turn, helping other people turn their lives around and find focus. Although he doesn't work in film, I think his work is hugely relevant; which is why I interrupted his busy schedule and hurled some questions at him.

I'm always amazed by your commitment and perseverance. Dedication is a really difficult thing. How do you keep yourself focused?

By understanding that it doesn't happen overnight. I strive for 1% improvement a day. With that 1% daily goal, I gain clarity and am able to stay focused with a realistic goal. I also write a journal, which assists greatly in maintaining that clear mind.

A common thing with writers is, "I'm just waiting for the right idea," or for an actor, "I just need a bit more training," -- it's like we shelter ourselves for as long as we can from doing the actual work. What's that about?

Its a form of self sabotage. They are so comfortable in their world of lack, that they subconsciously hurt themselves by delaying actual hard work and staying safe in a fake comfort zone. Success is 99% perspiration and I can guarantee there is a less talented writer actually doing the work who will achieve greater results.

There is a big emphasis on having 'marketable' films or the right 'branding' as an actor. These things sit uncomfortably with me. It's a constant battle between trying to have integrity to my instincts and at the same time trying to survive in the industry. How should we facilitate these inner battles?

I would say trust your intuition and absolutely go with your instincts. If you are true to yourself, you will achieve the greatest level of success as you have retained your integrity and played to your strengths.

It's common for writers to have their best ideas when they're not expecting it, when they're busy doing other things, yet most of the time we're going crazy trying to force out ideas. Why is this? What can we do about it?

Because when we are not pushing, we are relaxed and as a result, our thoughts are pure and clear. Always carry a notebook or a journal.

A lot of actors, the minute they step into an audition, all their confidence and feelings of self worth go out of the window. Can you recommend anything for them to do prior to going into the room?

Conscious breathing and meditation. Take 5-10 minutes and practice deep, mindful breathing. Find a quiet place, sit comfortably and take long, deep breaths while mentally repeating a positive, powerful affirmation to yourself. For instance, "I am an amazing actor and I am a gift to the world."

You can find out more about MorningCoach by visiting the website here; and the podcast is also available through iTunes. You can also hear more from JB over at his blog.

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Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Forgotten Cinema

I gave them a lot of good times over the years. I gave them laughs, I gave them tears, I gave them hope. When I first opened my doors, people would wear their best suits, they would save them for the cinema. People would come from all over to see me. They'd sit down in the comfortable chairs with hundreds of their closest friends and I would invite Jimmy Stewart and Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn and many others over to tell them all stories. Reel after reel of wonderful stories, night after night.

I'd like to think I gave them hope, I'd make them dream. I'd take them on a brief encounter, I'd take them on the road to Bali, we'd visit Casablanca, get stories from Philadelphia and sometimes from as near as the shop around the corner.

As the years passed, it became less like an event and more like fun. It was hard to adapt but eventually I did. Popcorn was eaten, girls were kissed and sharks attacked. The new audience was younger, harder to please, and louder - but I loved them and they loved me. We went on a Space Odyssey, had Close Encounters and various other crimes & misdemeanors. Everyone knew me and everyone wanted to spend time with me. I always had a full house in the evenings, that's why I never got lonely and why everyone always had beaming smiles.

And then someone in the blackest suit I've ever seen said "why only show one film when you could show three?" He made plans to chop me up into three. Then he made plans to chop me up into seven. I stayed strong, no way; this is just me, on my own, with my friends.. my friends who have been with me since the beginning.

But then my friends started wanting more. More types of popcorn, more movies, bigger movies, bigger sound. I chased after my friends, trying to do what they wanted. Instead they got in their new cars and flew down the road to meet shiny new friends, who watched films on shiny new screens. Before I knew it, everyone had left me.

The nights were quiet. Occasionally old friends would visit. I tried taking them back to Casablanca, I tried giving them all the new pulp fiction but they didn't come anymore. Nobody wanted me.

And then more men in even darker suits came by and said maybe they would cut me up and reshape me and change who I am. They talked and talked and eventually they left and didn't come back anymore. Nobody came back anymore. I tried and I tried. I did everything I knew how to do -- I gave them funny people and gangsters and beautiful women and aliens, but nobody wanted my stories anymore.

I closed my doors, long before I wanted to. We locked up and bolted down. Nobody came by, nobody asked for me.

And now, some men with big smiling faces and tiny shiny devices they talk into have an idea about turning me into a supermarket or row of housing. I looked around one last time in the hope that someone would remember me. Maybe someone would rescue me. They didn't.

Stories were told, dreams were fed and life was lived, but that was a long, long time ago. The world has changed, as have the people.

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The Time I Met Jimmy Stewart

By Scott Michael

I had just attended an Alfred Hitchcock film festival at the Vista Theater in Hollywood. Within 48 hours I had seen at least three films with Stewart that were completely new to me. I was overwhelmed, just floored by his performances, but mostly by his amazing persona. It was a transcendent experience, and I felt at that time that I had - HAD - to meet him. This feeling was quite acute because I had recently seen him either give or receive a lifetime award with (or from) Cary Grant, so I thought I had better act quickly (Stewart was sturdier than I imagined, and would go on to live another decade, passing away at 89 in 1997).

So, in my youthful naivete, I embarked on the adventure of meeting him, and I was pretty sure I knew how to do it. I hit up one of those people who used to sit around Sunset Boulevard selling maps to the stars' homes. It was disturbingly easy to find his house, and moments later I was parked in front of his two-story Beverly Hills home. Unbelievable.

I realized I'd come unprepared with a picture for him to sign, but in my glove compartment had a novelty postcard with Alfred Hitchcock sporting a cigar in his mouth with a crow sitting at the end of the cigar. Typical of him, right? Perhaps a little strange to hand to Mr. Stewart, but maybe it would make for a conversation piece.

So I marched up his walk and knocked on the front door. Waited. Then the little wooden "security" door opened and a housekeeper peered out at me. I asked if he was there, she said no (she didn't speak much English) but I understood that he would be back soon. I slipped the postcard through the mini door, saying I hoped he could sign it - do you see what I was doing there? I said I'd be back.

Forty minutes later I returned, knocked, and he himself opened the little door this time. I quickly mentioned I was the one who dropped off the postcard, and he said, "Oh, okay, come in" in that familiar drawl. He swung open the door and was already walking toward a small table where my postcard was. I then walked into Jimmy Stewart's house.

I could see straight through the house to the back glass doors and see a lot of green grass beyond. It was one of those older, quite spacious houses in Beverly Hills with ample land. But I didn't notice much more, not with the legend standing in front of me.

Just to recap: I first saw his fairly luminous visage through the small opening when he casually opened the door. I then saw his crooked body casually walk over to the table. He was so matter-of-fact it was disquieting. I was so unprepared for how smooth and casual he was that I mentally kicked myself for not being better prepared with more stimulating conversation.

He looked up from the card to ask my name, signed it and handed it to me. All I could think to ask at that point to prolong the encounter was that old hoary standby, "So what advice would you give writers trying to break into the business?"

"Well, what I always tell actors is just work at your craft. You keep doing that and you'll get in." Or something very close to that.

Then I asked if I could use the restroom. I know, it's horrible, I was young and dumb and I thought it would be part of a good story later... I don't know. Anyway, he was gracious, and pointed to a door in the foyer (which we never left) that I hadn't noticed: a small bathroom was inside with nothing anyone would find value in stealing. Obviously I was not the only one who made this pilgrimage and asked the same rude question. He'd had the bathroom installed for folks like me, enabling him to be the eternal gentlemen without unnecessarily disturbing his life. I think I just washed my hands, came out. He was still there, so I thanked him profusely, we shook hands, and he saw me out.

He was frail, but there was no denying his spirit or his familiar charming manner. This was Jimmy Stewart, and he made me feel that my visit that day was okay by him. I'm glad to have the chance to reminisce about it, because it's great remembering such a special person. And of course, he keeps giving, in his immortal films that will live forever.

This article with written by guest Kid In The Front Row writer SCOTT MICHAEL, from LA.

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Friday, 6 August 2010

Gender, Male Privilege & The Movies

Women tend to care about issues of gender in film, and the men don't. As men, we get the privilege of doing blog posts with titles like 'The Best Breasts In Hollywood' without really thinking of what we're contributing to, or how we're objectifying women, or how we could be making the most talented smaller breasted/no breasted/three breasted upcoming actress feel completely marginalized. Worse yet, it's incredible to think that we would be talking about breasts at all. After all - when writing about Robert De Niro, I never mention his genitalia.

Having the privilege of being male, it's easy for me to ignore the fact that women don't direct many films. It's even easier for me to cleverly list hundreds of films directed by women to prove that gender inequality is a myth. The hardest thing is to listen, to care, to consider the mere fluke of being born male actually gives me an unearned privilege in this industry.

It's hard for anyone to achieve anything in the movie biz. I know hundreds of men who are struggling to get their 'foot in the door' so to speak, so why should I care that women, also, are struggling to succeed? A fact that us men rarely consider is that nobody will ever compliment us for being the 'first' male to win any kind of directing award. There will never be articles about how many men were lucky enough to be working screenwriters. There will never be a debate about whether or not men can direct action films. When you consider these things, you begin to see the wider problem. It's not that women can't do anything or aren't allowed to do anything-- luckily society has moved forward. But the structure of the film industry, the inner beliefs of most people (men and women) and the way films are marketed all make the problem worse.

I watched Juno today; and whilst many, many people love it and think it was an inspired piece of magic, not many people realize that a lot of it is down to wonderfully talented women. Diablo Cody's razor sharp dialogue and cliche-breaking scenes were proof of her an incredible talent. The characters were something we rarely get to see; a pregnant teenage girl with bundles of intelligence who decides against abortion, a step-Mother who is instantly supportive; who is on the one hand a typical homely woman who loves dogs--- yet who also is fiercely principled and strong.
Character development like this is rare with female roles. Too often, female characters are used to help the male protagonist's story along. It becomes such a default, so ingrained; that young screenwriters unconsciously and consistently write male leads; with women being love interests, or parents, or cute neighbors. That's why it was so refreshing and freeing to see Ellen Page as Juno. She was a woman, but she didn't fall into any stereotype. She was as unique and as interesting a character as you could find-- and she was beautiful and compelling without looking like a model or being made to throw her breasts into a close-up.

The film industry has silently marginalized women in a variety of ways. It has become so normalized that nobody ever seems to notice. It is also very easy for us men to say "the audience don't want loads of Sex & The City's," without seeing how that statement is wrong and prejudice and ignorant on a heap of different levels. As I've said before, there is a missing voice in film, and it's the voice of women.

A problem that occurs when these types of articles are written; is that men get very defensive. We say, 'well actually, there are lots of studio heads who are female,' and 'look, Angelina Jolie just starred in Salt,' but these facts prove the problem, nobody could ever say 'men aren't discriminated against or given less opportunities,' because it would sound ridiculous. This industry is harder for women than for men. We need to start by taking accountability for that. We need to start by being aware of it. That awareness could go a long way.

As men - we can start to look at how we are a part of the problem, and how we can begin to make positive changes. As screenwriters, are the women in our scripts as unique, complex, disturbing, as 'cool' as the male characters? As directors, will we be open to working with a female director of photography? Are we aware that the female make-up artist is an artist and not just someone who throws make-up on a face? As producers, are we aware of the variety of outstanding female directors who have unique talent and vision? As viewers, would we be more interested in seeing more complex, truthful and diverse females on a more consistent basis?

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LONDON SCREENWRITERS' FESTIVAL - 29-31 October 2010 - Buy Tickets Here

The London Screenwriters Festival is a brand new festival for screenwriters. Whether you're an experienced writer or just starting out, it promises to be a weekend full of inspiring speakers, innovative workshops and, of course, a great chance to network.

The most exciting speaker is TIM BEVAN, co-chairman and co-founder of Working Title Films, the company behind films such as 'Notting Hill,' 'Green Zone' and 'Frost/Nixon.'

As a rule, I don't recommend things without trying them. The London Screenwriters Festival 2010 is an exception, simply because; it's brand new. I can only go on instinct. With a variety of speakers; including Producers, Hollywood screenwriters, and British TV writers; there's going to be an incredible amount of knowledge, experience, and resources - all under one roof. Not only that, but writing can be lonely; getting out to rare events like these are wonderful opportunities to meet people like you.

Tickets to the event are £299, but if you order through this link and use the password 'frontrow' you will get a £37 discount. The organizers have been kind enough to make this offer to readers of KITFR.

http://www.eventbrite.com/event/730369555/scriptplusaffiliates/5457800027

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Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Touching End Of 'Katyń'

'Katyń' is a film about the Katyń disaster; the mass murder of thousands of Polish nationals by the Russian Secret Police, the NKVD, between April & May, 1940. Russia did not take any form of accountability for what happened until as late as 1990, and even now relationships are still strained. I previously wrote 'There are still things to be answered about Katyn. Bodies to be found, acts to be accounted for and compensation sought, more than 70 years later." It still cuts deep with the Polish people. Even more so after the heartbreaking death of the Polish Prime Minister, Lech Kaczynski, and many other politicians and military personnel, who died in a tragic plane accident when en route to Katyn, to commemorate the seventy years since their fellow countrymen were killed, in April this year. That event, and the investigation about the accident, has caused even more stress on the relationship between the two nations.

The truth about what happened in 1940, the magnitude of the cover-up by numerous nations in the years that followed, and the complexity of the event politically, and even more so for thousands of people, personally, could never be taken care of in one feature film. In fact; an event like this makes you realize the extreme limitations of the medium. 'Katyń' (the film) was an important film, it had to be made, and it has to be seen, but it is still just a small spec of dust in the vast sea of multi-layered complexity; that we will never know about.

We don't see the mass execution until the very end of the film. When it finally arrives on screen it is harrowing, fast-paced, and deeply upsetting.


'Katyń' ended in a way I've not seen in a film before. It faded to black, and then stayed on black, for exactly one minute - and then the credits rolled. The blackness was accompanied by a beautiful piece of music. Whether you'd call it a minute's silence, a minute's reflection, or a minute to recover yourself--- it was definitely needed.

When I say the touching end of Katyń, I'm just talking about the movie. Because for Poland, it looks like Katyń will never end. It is with them, and with us in the rest of the world, forever. And unfortunately, all that most of us can really do, is watch movies about it.

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Film Watching Guilt

The key to this business, aside from having a rich Uncle with a Jewish surname who lives in LA, is to watch a lot of movies. The more you watch, the more you understand storytelling. The more you watch, the more you get what it truly is to be a truthful actor. The more you watch, the more you understand what makes a truly great scene great. There is no end to this --- literally, if you watch three films today instead of two, you're going to learn more. We should be clambering to watch films all the time... waking up early to watch a DVD, glancing down at videos on your iPhone during long train journeys, and staying up two hours late to watch 'Shawshank Redemption' for the 9th time in two months. In fact, there was a time we were like this. But then, we started listening to this.

UNCLE FRED
Is that all you do, sit around watching movies all day?

GIRLFRIEND JENNY
Couldn't you do something more productive instead? Like WORK?

JED
You've seen that already.

MICHAEL THE FLORIST
How's it going sitting at home watching your little movies?

BERT WHO HATES HIS JOB
Stop watching movies and actually do something with your life.


Before you know it -- every time you watch a film, you hear a voice saying "get up! do something! write a script! earn some money! be productive!" Despite all of your youth being incredibly enlightening and productive and inspiring and driving you towards your SOLE GOAL in life - to CREATE, instead; you start smashing up against it--- building a giant wall the size of a giant wall which stops you from ever settling. You start to sneak past the wall late at night, when it's late enough to not be 'the time people do productive things' but not so late that you look like 'someone who can stay up late because they're a waster' and you sneakily watch a film. But even then, you struggle, because this voice in your head is saying "is that all you do, watch movies? you waster!"

So now your Uncle and the florist and the guy who hates his job and his life and his wife; they all are in your head and they're telling you to stop watching movies. So you have this big giant wall the size of a big giant wall and you keep climbing over it onto both sides... every time you're watching a movie the voice says "BE PRODUCTIVE! DO SOMETHING!" so you climb over to the other side. And every time you're on that side there's a part of you that says "I love movies! I need movies! Movies are my everything!" -- so you climb to the other side. But you keep climbing and you keep feeling TIRED because somehow you've got caught between who you are, where you're going, and where everyone thinks you need to be.

If you write, or direct, or produce, or act, or dream, or design, or want to take a different route in life; then watching movies is absolutely essential. We are here, precisely, to WATCH movies, LEARN from movies and then CREATE movies. That's why we're here. Stop denying it, celebrate it. To watch movies is to be productive. To watch movies is to jump fifty steps towards your ultimate goal in life. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

"It enters through a different opening in your body. For instance, in order to be a jazz musician, you have to listen and listen and listen to a lot of Jazz. And that's an act of love. You don't think, I'm listening to study it. You just listen because you love it. And you love it, and love it... and gradually you learn. You really learn everything valuable through osmosis. It's the same with play-writing or movie-directing or acting. You love either reading or watching films or plays or listening to music. And in some way, over the years, without making any attempt, it gets into your blood, into the fibre of your body or something. If you want to teach someone film-directing, you could almost say, 'just keep going to the movies, and it will pass into your body."

-Woody Allen

Writer/Director
Three Time Academy Award Winner.

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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

LARRY CROWNE - Written By, Directed By and starring TOM HANKS - Coming Soon

Over a year ago I wrote an article about Tom Hanks in which I broke down his career into what I felt were three distinct sections. The early comedies (The Burbs, Big,) his masterpieces (Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan,) and the average period (The Da Vinci Code, The Terminal.) At the end, I said, "Whatever happens, I feel that we are now approaching chapter four. His next few decisions will determine the rest of his career. I just hope he takes some risks."

While seeing him in yet another Da Vinci snore could be seen as an extension of his average period, I am extremely excited about 'LARRY CROWNE' a low-fi drama comedy which he wrote, directed and is also the star, along with 'Charlie Wilson's War' co-star Julia Roberts.

Tom Hanks the writer/director. This really excites me. 'THAT THING YOU DO' was a perfect little film - it was pure joy. Hanks has expressed disappointment with it on numerous occasions which is perhaps why it has taken him another fourteen years to direct a film, although I think his helming of the masterful 'Crossroads' episode in 'BAND OF BROTHERS' will have gone a long way to reassuring himself that he has the skill to be a great director.

I think Tom Hanks is a perfect role model. I've always admired his incredible mix of humor, curiosity, and passion -- it seeps into his work in a natural and believable way that few other people in the history of film have managed. I hope 'LARRY CROWNE' is a success. I hope this is what chapter four is going to be; the beginning of a long career as a writer, director and actor. I think the world of film needs more of this kind of Tom Hanks. 'LARRY CROWNE' is currently in post-production.

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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Discipline & Creativity - Am I Doing Everything I Can?

Am I getting up at a set time?

Do I have informative, fascinating and useful film podcasts on my iPod for while I'm travelling?


Do I Have Inspiring Music To Listen To?

Have I Set Goals For The Day?

Am I going to write today?

Am I going to keep full awareness of all the time I lose browsing on Facebook & refreshing Gmail?

Am I going to avoid negative people or at least cut down our conversations drastically?

Am I going to stand up for what I believe?

Am I going to be confident about my writing?

Am I certain of what I feel, before going into the meeting?

Am I eating well?

Am I hydrated?

Have I taken a moment to breath?

Am I wasting time watching bullshit on TV?

Am I going to ask if I need help?

Am I able to believe in myself?

Am I able to build awareness around my insecurities and the areas where I lack confidence?

Am I going to make that phone call I've been avoiding?

Am I going to reply to work-related emails immediately?

Am I just going to sit here or am I going to do the thing I said I'd do thirty minutes ago?

Am I going to go the extra mile when it comes to collaboration?

Am I going to support other people with their projects?

Am I going to be fearless?

Am I taking full responsibility for how good or bad my day is?

Am I wasting time moaning about someone, something, or someplace, when instead I could be taking action to improve the situation?

Am I Having A Good Day?

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Monday, 2 August 2010

"JURASSIC PARK" and "JAWS" on the big screen

Last night, at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, London, I watched JURASSIC PARK and JAWS back-to-back at a sellout screening. This is thirty five years after the release of 'Jaws,' and seventeen years after we first saw 'Jurassic Park' - and it left everyone in no doubt about the genius of Steven Spielberg. Not that there ever was any doubt.

For Jurassic Park, I was sitting in the front row, center. I was every bit of the 'Kid In The Front Row' I claim to be. It's funny because most of the time I claim my favourite films to be titles like 'Jerry Maguire' and 'The Apartment' -- but I think, when you come down to the essence of what it is to be a Kid In The Front Row, what you really mean is - someone who is down front and center during a Spielberg film, feeling every dull BOOM as the T-Rex gets nearer and nearer.

I have a theory; that films are always changing. I tried to explain this once before, and didn't really succeed. The thing that is amazing to me is how a film will never play the same way twice. 'Jaws' was different in '75 to how it is now. When we watch it today, we're aware that it is not modern day, and we're aware that the shark had problems during production, and we have 35 years more collective and individual life experience. What does this mean? I don't know. It just means-- the experience is different.

It's the same for every movie. Even when you watch them at home. 'Jurassic Park' will be different today to what it was two months ago. For one, you'll have the experience and knowledge that came from your last viewing. Also, the world will have changed a little. Maybe your cousin had a baby, and suddenly now, you find it a little more scary when the dinosaurs turn the kids upside down in the jeep, maybe two weeks ago you read an article in the New York Times about cloning animals, or about nearly extinct animals, and it changed your perspective slightly. Maybe you watched 'War Of The Worlds' and was disappointed, and that made you look closer at Spielberg's direction this time around. Maybe when you watched it two months ago you had a headache, and this time, instead, you have an annoying pain in your foot. The obvious thing to say is that we change. But also, the movies change. They grow older.

'Jaws' was always a funny film. But as it ages, it gets funnier. There are things that Quint says and does that wouldn't have raised laughs 35 years ago, but now his actions border on the hysterical for audiences. Scenes that were tense and dramatic when it originally screened still are, but in different ways. If you are in any doubt about the magic of Steven Spielberg - seeing these films in a packed out cinema with hundreds of adoring fans will soon put that to rest. The crowning moment, for me, was when a shocked Chief Brody delivered the immortal line "you're gonna need a bigger boat." The entire audience spontaneously cheered and applauded, and laughed. It was a wonderful, communal moment between strangers that, for those very few seconds, brought us much closer together. It was a moment of joy, a moment of magic and a moment that acknowledges the importance of what Spielberg, Schneider and co achieved with this film.

There is no guarantee that an audience will react in that way every time 'Jaws' is screened. It's the un-plannable magic of having the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Plus, you can't help but feel, 'Jaws' was having a good night, it was ready to perform. But then, 'Jaws' is always like that. Some films have good days and bad days, but not 'Jaws.'

All I'm really saying is: It was great to see these old friends again on the big screen. They really reminded me of what it is to be a true Kid In The Front Row.

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