Sunday 27 February 2011

2011 OSCARS: Live Blog - 83rd Academy Awards

Time in EST. Press REFRESH For Updates.

00:01AM - A Whole New Day:
That's it from me, I'm signing off. And we'll see you all again next year!

11.58PM - Film Idea:
Queen Elizabeth II gets leg-braces, which makes her stutter -- so she enlists the help of her two secret children, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. Nothing original or particularly exciting happens, but everybody speaks in movie-English, saying words like "Gosh" and "Bugger." Firth looks sincere, and Michael Caine has a cameo as a wise old man. All the English people learn valuable life lessons and manage to overcome their unfortunate social status'.

I'll begin writing my acceptance speech. 

11.50PM -
Before the Best Film winner was announced, there was of course a montage of clips. The dialogue was all from 'The King's Speech' - as was the music. Now, if I'm one of the other nominees, and I'm sitting there awaiting the result-- I'm not going to be happy when the montage is over taken by the favorite, 'The King's Speech.' Don't you think neutrality is important in this moment? We all knew The King's Speech would win; but even so. I'd be offended. I am offended, for the other nominees. That isn't cool.

Or maybe I'm just ranting now, because the show was unbelievably boring. 

11.40PM -
PS22 are so inspiring. You should check them out on YouTube. But tonight they seem flat. We should be loving it because they're kids with beautiful voices; but it's flat. The whole night was flat. But if you want some magic; go look up PS22 now, because the stuff they sing and the way they sing it is amazing. 

Sometimes the Oscars are memorable. Sometimes they're like this. It's a good reminder though -- things can be better. There's room for more of the
inspiring. It has to come from somewhere. Whatever writers, directors, editors, make-up artists, sound mixers, etc, who may be reading --- there's room out there for you. Your work can make a difference. You can inspire people. 

The Best Film of the year is The King's Speech. Discuss.

- Who's here? Who's with us? Say hello in the comments! Also: the 2011 BLOGGIES were today. This very blog was nominated in Best Entertainment Category, and didn't win. 

- Best Actor. Colin Firth. 

English. Check.

Disability. Check. 
Crazy hype. Check.

-  Jeff Bridges is presenting. Don't you just love Jeff Bridges? They should let him present the whole thing. No script, no rules, just let the dude speak.

Best Actress:
Natalie Portman.

Natalie is an amazing talent. I don't think people realize. They see her as that pretty girl in 'Garden State.' This award proves she's really got game. And a baby.

11.05PM -
Best Director. Tom Hooper, 'The King's Speech'. I didn't expect that. Well, I kind of did. Did he deserve it? I'm going to say no.

I don't mean that in a horrible way. 'The King's Speech' is a great movie and the general public loved it. But it's just popcorn. 'The Social Network' was a masterpiece of direction in every single frame. And the ride Danny Boyle took us on with '127 Hours' was beyond anything else this year. 

But Hooper won. Maybe Best Film will go elsewhere. 

10.55PM -
That's the problem with movies. Everybody dies. Tony Curtis is dead. And now we can't ever talk to him or Jack Lemmon or Billy Wilder or Marylin Monroe about 'Some Like It Hot.' That's gone now. You think you get away with it and you think you're okay and then one day you're watching 'It's A Wonderful Life' and you're wondering where the HELL is James Stewart? You need him and you want him and you just need him to come back to visit, for like a day, but he won't do it. 

Dennis Hopper is dead. Pete Postlewaite is dead. We look up to these people to take as away from life when it gets too difficult --- and it works, but then one day, they're lost in the wind, and it leaves your heartbroken.

- Randy Newman won Best Song. It wasn't the greatest track, it wasn't as memorable as 'You've Got A Friend In Me,' but it's the voice. It's what he means. You hear Randy Newman and it resonates somewhere deep within you. Just like when he's accepting his speech. He's talking nonsense, but we're rooting for him. That's what happens when you stick around, you weather the storm, you keep working. After you have enough experience, you just burn your way into people's hearts. It's why we loved seeing Billy Crystal and why the image of Chaplin, or Bob Hope, just makes you want to cry with happiness.

10.37PM - "Sitting here for my 25th Oscar ceremony. It used to be champagne and rich food but now as I get older its a bowl of Ready-Brek and coffee to keep me awake!" - Netty123, ha!

Okay-- Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law are hilarious. Downey keeps interrupting Jude's intro to moan about special effects people. I wish I was fast enough to copy down the whole routine, but it's speeding by way too quick----- maybe Sorkin penned it. 

Inception won
Visual Effects.

But back to Sorkin. The Social Network won
Best Editing. This is an interesting one because - whilst I agree that the editing was wonderful -- it was guided very strongly by the blueprint set down by Aaron Sorkin's screenplay. The cross-cutting lawsuits, the sharp cuts, etc; they were on the page. 

The Social Network
 was my favorite film of the year. But I think best editing should have gone to 127 Hours.

- Bob Hope.

10.21PM -
Best Documentary: 
“Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs. I feel bad, I've not seen any of the nominees this year. The winner makes a big statement about bankers who should be in jail. I instantly like him. I'll be watching the documentary. 

I'm still bored though. 

- Best Documentary Short. Pee break time...
Winner: “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon.

Best Live Action Short Winner: 
“God of Love” Luke Matheny. First thing Luke says, "I should have got a haircut." It's the biggest laugh of the night, which shows you just how boring this is. Even worse, he'll probably get a three picture deal writing comedies for Warner Bros now. 

- Some scoop from an anonymous commenter: "Rumours backstage - Ricky Gervais has been seen breaking in through a backdoor. Actors are beginning to look uncomfortable in their seats...." --- no worries, Christian Bale is gonna take him down. 

10.04PM -
Randy Newman is a class act. He doesn't sound as good on TV as he does on CD, or in a concert. But he's a pro. His voice feels like home. Our journey with the three Toy Story films is forever intertwined with his voice. 

Isn't it just great seeing Woody and Buzz up there on the screen? 

Talking of class acts: Kevin Spacey is a pro. He knows how to present awards, even if his Bill Clinton impression at the BAFTA's was a bit bizarre. 

- Best Make-Up
“The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey. And I hope you guys don't mind me saying--- I'm really bored! James Franco and Anne Hathaway are lovely, but then them have a rest--- and bring on Ricky Gervais and Kirk Douglas. Whadd'ya say? 

Meanwhile, the Oscar for Costume Design goes to
 Colleen Atwood for  “Alice in Wonderland”

Unfortunately, Colleen also picked up a special award: Most Boring Acceptance Speech of All Time.

09:53PM - Sound Mixing: Inception. Sound Editing: Inception.

- Best Original Score: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, 'The Social Network' - VERY MUCH DESERVED.

- They just showed a clip of Chaplin. Now I'm loving these Oscars. Chaplin. Wow. They don't make 'em like that anymore do that? Charlie Chaplin was magic. As soon as these awards are over I'm watching some Chaplin, I don't care that it'll be 7am over here. 

Now we have an orchestra playing E.T. I missed the intro, I turn off when I hear Nicole Kidman speak -- so I don't know what's going on----- but a Chaplin clip followed by E.T. music? Magic. 

And now for
Best Original Score. I'm going to call this before it's announced. THE SOCIAL NETWORK. 

Let's see..

- Anyone else a bit bored? Maybe we need Ricky Gervais afterall. Any thoughts? 

- Best Supporting Actor - Christian Bale or Geoffrey Rush? 

Christian Bale. The Fighter.

A Christian Bale speech is like an Adam Sandler movie. Everything is going along fine, but you're waiting for him to get angry and go crazy. Well, Sandler didn't do it in his last movie, so Bale, in turn, stayed calm for this one. A deserved award. The King's Speech cast and team, however, are baffled. They bribed the wrong person. 

9.29PM - "In A Better World" wins Best Foreign Film. I've not seen it, have any of you? I love Danish films -- I'll be checking it out!

9.20PM - Best Original Screenplay. The Academy Award goes to 
David Seidler for 'The King's Speech.' So here it all begins. Let's hope some other films get a look in. Did he deserve this award? Who knows. It was an enjoyable screenplay but it wasn't a masterpiece.

But then again, it seems, 'The King's Speech' captured people's hearts, and that's a good thing.

YES! It had to be. Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network. His first academy award. Long overdue. One of the best screenplays I've ever read. This guy is close to a hero to me. He said "I'd do this for three," no you wouldn't, Aaron, but we like the sentiment. 

His speech was pretty good, although I wish Sam Seaborn and Toby Ziegler had penned a few lines...

9.08PM -
Best Animated Feature Film goes to TOY STORY 3. It had to be, right? Fully deserved. A wonderful movie. When a film gets my parents to visit the cinema, you know it's something special. TOY STORY 3 captured the hearts of all of us. "To my Grandmother who always insisted she'd see me up here one day."

9.05PM - Best Animated Short goes to “The Lost Thing”, by Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann. Nobody watching cares about this; but for these guys, it's the greatest moment of their lives. They seem like great guys; let's hope they have a big future in the industry. 

8.57PM - "She's gorgeous. Wow! Where were you when I was making pictures?" -Kirk Douglas, on Anne Hathaway. Wonderful. After the nominations for best supporting actress, Kirk puts on a bit of a show, ad-libbing some jokes and milking the moment. But it's wonderful. He has so much presence. You suddenly wish he was shooting more movies. 

He holds off announcing award... everyone is laughing, and the actresses look nervous.
Melissa Leo wins. She looks ready to have a heart-attack. She's overwhelmed. She's standing next to Kirk Fucking Douglas. Amazing moment. This is why we watch the Oscars.

8.48PM - Wally Pfister, Inception, Best Cinematography. It's deserved -- I didn't love the movie as much as everyone else, but it was shot beautifully, no-one can deny that. 

8.46PM - Tom Hanks is the Oscars. Tom Hanks is the movies. Even when he just says the names of films, I get excited. First Award: Art Direction, "Alice In Wonderland" - Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara. "The King's Speech" producers look at each other, confused. 

8.38PM - "Tell the Winklevoss' to stop giving me the stinkeye!" -- the opening sketch get's people laughing. Hathaway and Franco work their way through all the big movies of the year, with a perfect cameo by Morgan Freeman. This sketch alone is funnier than 'Cop Out' and 'Hot Tub Time Machine' combined.

8.31PM - Here we go. Before we get into it let me say, the movie I loved this year was The Social Network. The King's Speech was not a big deal for me but I do think Colin Firth was pretty solid. I'm just remembering though that it's 127 Hours that had the biggest effect on me. Anyways, awards time.

8.27PM "There's nothing like it." 
-Tom Hanks.
I like that guy. 

8.11pm - The Social Network or The King's Speech? Place your bets now in the comments or forever hold your peace. Of all the people who choose the right movie, I will choose one of you at random and send you............. *looks for film related thing*... I will send you, an Alan Alda autobiography. You know you want it. Answer quickly, the competition closes as soon as the next update comes..

8.04pm - Some actors love acting, and some actors love that they look like they love acting. It's interesting to spot the difference.

7.40pm - Scarlett is on the red carpet. I've always love this part of the Oscars.

7.36PM - I am here. Just not so into the red carpet thing. I hear there'll be awards at some point.

7.09PM - Jesse Eisenberg looks genuinely overwhelmed. I like him. Shame he won't win. His performance was great, but as Colin Firth knows too well - Stuttering outranks autistic.

6.56PM - I can't wait to hear this on the red carpet. "Um, Banksy, what -- errr, what are you wearing?"

6.43PM - The TV Presenters seem very interested in what everyone is wearing. Thanks for asking! I'm wearing Adidas tracksuit pants that I've had since I was 11 (they're small, but comfortable), and an old brown top that is as fashionable now as it was when I bought it which is not at all. What are you all wearing?

So, here we go. I'm going to be stuttering my way with true grit through the next 127 hours (that's how it feels) with the grace of a ballerina, bringing you updates of everything that happens. I'm in the UK, I'm going to be here until 6 or 7am (UK time) but I'm a fighter, I'll stick it out. If I do fall asleep, I'll continue blogging from my 4th of 5th level of dreaming. I am also developing a new website during the ceremony, called, where nominees can decide who looks better; Gervais or dead farmyard animals. 

Turn off your social networks and make sure your toys are asleep. Enjoy the show, it's going to be biutiful!

Care to share?

Friday 25 February 2011

Putting The Hours In

"I never write anything terrible, I'm too many miles in."
-Bob Lefsetz

Every single person you meet has an idea. Almost as many have talent. What I know is that all the successes I've had come not from some magical place of talent, but from working hard. When you're still writing three hours after you stopped writing, when you're rehearsing three weeks before rehearsals start and nine minutes before the first day of shooting, when you're writing ideas, or filming ideas, rather than telling people about them; that's when it comes together. Every time you share an idea in a pub, or coffee house, or on Facebook chat; ask yourself if your time could be better spent elsewhere. 

I wanted to be a professional footballer. But I hated being on the pitch every rainy-and-cold Sunday morning. David Beckham hated the cold too, but he loved the way it felt when his right-foot connected perfectly with the ball. He loved it so much he never left the training ground. He never noticed it raining. He moved to L.A. and married the pop star and won all the trophies, not because he was good looking or because he was a celebrity but because he stayed out in the rain every Sunday and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday. He still does now. If you're not out there in the pissing down rain on a freezing cold night, every single day of your life, then you're not going to make it. 

"My secret is practice."
-David Beckham

Care to share?

Trying To Order Sky Movies For The Oscars With The Help Of Valarian

Care to share?

Thursday 24 February 2011

Joey Potter Wisdom

I used to be afraid of so many things. That I'd never grow up, that I'd be trapped in the same place for all eternity, that my dreams would forever be shy of my reach. It's true what they say, time plays tricks on you. One day you're dreaming, the next your dream has become your reality.

Jen, Jack, Audrey, Andy, Pacey and Dawson. These people who contributed to who I am; they are with me wherever I go. And as history gets rewritten in small ways with each passing day, my love for them only grows. Because the truth is: it was the best of times. Mistakes were made, hearts were broken, harsh lessons learned. But all of that has receded into fond memory now. How does it happen? Why are we so quick to forget the bad and romanticize the good? Maybe it's because we need to believe that the time we spent together actually meant something. That we were there for each other in a time in our lives that defined us all. A time in our lives that we will never forget.

I can't swear this is exactly how it happened, but this is how it felt.

And now that this scared little girl no longer follows me wherever I go, I miss her; I do. Cause there are thinks I want to tell her-- to relax, to lighten up, that it is all going to be okay. I want her to know that meeting people who like you, who understand you, who actually accept you for who you are will become an increasingly rare occurrence.

Credit for the above text goes to Tom Kapinos. It's traditionally seen as uncool to like anything from Dawson's Creek. But bare in mind, Kapinos went on to create 'Californication' - and in the pilot episode he lifted half of this speech and had Hank Moody saying it.

Care to share?

Monday 21 February 2011

How Are You?

I'm a bit busy this week! Shooting one thing, casting another, and writing something else -- so not having much time to blog. 

So It's a good time to catch up. How are you? Are you feeling creative? Have you watched any great movies recently? I hope to hear from many of you.

Care to share?

Friday 18 February 2011

WILLIAM DUFFY - Actor Interview

After a long spell in this industry, actors tend to go one of two ways-- bitter and grumpy, or wise and inspiring. WILLAM DUFFY is one of those who took the latter path. This interview was originally going to be very short, but William's knowledge and wisdom on the industry and the craft of acting are as fascinating as anyone I've ever spoken to, and I know a lot of actors.  So we ended up talking at length about his career.

He's best known for his work as Larry on THE WEST WING; and has also worked on many other TV shows, which we talk about in this interview. 

You have been acting for over twenty years -- What do you know now that you didn't know when you started?

Wow. How much space to do you have ? Hmmm, … there are a ton of things you learn as an actor over such a long period of time – both about yourself and about the business. One of the most important for me is: Don’t let being an actor drive you crazy. Especially with auditions. The nutty thing you learn, is that our success in this business (whatever that’s defined as), is almost completely dependent upon what other people think of your work – not necessarily on how talented you are. It’s why everyone has a different favorite movie, or actor, or director, or genre, etc. There’s no “formula” to success, or even booking a job. 2 + 2 doesn’t always equal 4 in show business, so you must learn quickly not to look for any logic. When I walk out of an audition – for example, I just had one today for a series regular on a pilot – if I know in my mind that I did at least an 8 out of 10 – which I think I did today - I’m happy, and I realize it’s now completely out of my hands. I did my part. If I feel I did 7 out of 10 or worse, I know I have no one to look to but myself, and I need to be better the next audition. Regardless, good or bad, I mentally walk away from it after it’s over. I NEVER dwell on the “W’s”: “Why didn’t they cast me?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “What were they looking for?”, “What did they think of me”, and of course, “Was I any good?” and “Will I ever work again?”.

I learned early on in my career to avoid these paralyzing questions because I know, for a fact, that they’re really unanswerable. How? Because early in my career in New York City, I think I did a smart thing: I was a reader for many casting directors. By sitting in that room with the “powers that be” I learned first hand: 1) What many actors do wrong in an audition room, and 2) that many times, believe or not, the best actor does not get the job. This latter one is a hard one to swallow, but very true. There are so many factors – subjective and objective – one’s so stupid you could not possibly imagine - that go into a casting decision, that you just can’t worry about it after you leave an audition. Learn to just go in, do your best, and let the rest take its illogical course !

What was the worst audition you ever had?

Hah, there’s too many to count ! It happens. We’re human. We mess up. Let’s see, early in my career, I remember auditioning for a 3-line role … and I said 2 of them wrong ! I’ve had auditions where they changed the sides to be read … and I didn’t know it. Uhhh … I once auditioned for a musical … but didn’t know that it was a musical (and I don’t sing) ! That was bad. I’ve lost my place in auditions. You try to be off the page with the lines as much as possible, but sometimes you just go blank. It happens. Oh God, one audition - I can’t say it was my worst audition – but it was memorable – was with a casting director (who shall remain nameless) who, after I finished what I felt was a really good audition for them, said to me, “Well, you seem smart enough to know when it’ll be time to quit acting.” … I’m serious. They actually said that. I was floored. I actually cracked up right in front of them and walked out. Needless to say, I did not book that job. … But about three weeks later, I did get the call that I was going to be recurring on “The West Wing”. (see part about “logic” in question #1 above !!)

I loved your character in 'The West Wing' -- but I am curious about what the experience is like to be a regular on a show, but to be one of the guy's behind the other guys. Is it frustrating not having bigger storylines?

Hey, we’re actors – we love the sound of our own voice ! Of course, the more lines the merrier ! No, seriously, I would have loved having more to say on TWW, but with 9 extremely talented series regulars having to be serviced, it was amazing to just be a part of it in any capacity. Many people wrote in, or wrote me asking to have more “revealed” about my character, Larry. Many even wrote in online forums about what they felt my “storylines” were. But as Aaron (Sorkin) once said, he saw Larry as representing many different people in the White House, not just one. The unique advantage to this, especially for a recurring character, like Larry, was that because TWW was such an ensemble oriented show, it allowed me to be written into many of the larger characters’ storylines, rather than just associated with only one of them. As a result, over the seven years, I had many scenes with virtually every series regular on the show. It was amazing to work with all that incredible talent. You learn so much. Would I have liked a few storylines ? Absolutely. But I would never trade in a moment I was on that show. For me, it was one of – if not the – best experience of my acting career so far.

William with Martin Sheen, Mary McCormack, and Josh Malina (with Chris Misiano behind them)

What is it like coming onto an established show, like "Heroes" or "The Event" and being part of one or two episodes? Is it daunting, or just a lot of fun?

For me, it’s always fun. However, I don’t mean “fun” in a relaxed, kicked back, party time way. Make no mistake: it’s work. It’s my job. I can honestly state that I have enjoyed every day I have worked as an actor; regardless of the movie, television show, commercial or theater project. I mean that. I have NEVER woke up and dreaded heading to a set or rehearsal. Now, some projects have been easier than others, and I have to admit that TWW was the most professionally run set I have ever been on – especially given the extreme budgets and pressures we operated under – so I was spoiled for seven years. But it also showed me the importance of being prepared for other shows I might work on - so that it could be a fun experience. While I feel I’ve always had great work ethics, I did learn from my seven seasons on TWW to respect any show I work on. What I mean by that is, I rarely audition for a TV show without having seen at least one episode. Pilots and/or movies are different, but if I can watch something the director has done before, or read the entire script, I will. Too many times, on TWW, guest actors would not have done their homework and watched an episode of the show and/or become familiar with the rhythms of the show. It’s the same when I work on a different, established show. I want to know the feel of that show, so that when I walk onto that set, with actors - probably most of whom I’ve never met before, who already have that feel - I know I can jump right in, and know what role I play in that feel. THAT makes it fun. For me, it’s imperative. For some of my friend’s, they never watch TV, yet audition and/or work a lot. That would be daunting for me. To work on ”Heroes” was vastly different than working on “The Event” and I made sure I watched those shows before I even auditioned. (Thank God for the Internet ! ) I often relate it to sports: I like to know a bit about the stadium and teammates I’m playing with before I start. That way, I can have fun creating and doing my craft and feel at ease to even experiment a little. Again, I saw too many days where new actors had no idea how the specific rhythms of TWW operated – and it dragged the whole day down. I just can’t allow myself to even think that could happen because then the “fun” is gone.

Why do you think these people got hired? The style was so specific, I'm surprised these people slipped through the net. But then, I guess with so many episodes and storylines, you can't guarantee every actor is prepared?

Oh no, it wasn't a matter of slipping through any net. The casting directors did an amazing job of supplying incredible actors for each episode. Because don't forget, in an audition, you're 1) reading with one person - usually a non-actor - even if it's a multi-person scene, 2) you rarely read the entire role, and 3) if you're a big enough name ... you don't audition, you're just offered the role. No, casting had nothing to do with it. We, as actors, are responsible once we book a job to prepare as much as possible for the shooting. However, during the first couple seasons, while audiences (and actors) were getting to know this new "style" of show, it was a very different experience for any guest actor - regardless of their resume - to come play with us. I think most actors prepared, but they prepared like they would for other shows, and not for our show. It's kinda like, you may know how to drive your car really well around town, because you do it a lot, but you now put yourself behind the wheel on a five-lane highway in Los Angeles with everyone doing 70+ mph, and it's a whole new ballgame ! I was just always surprised when a guest actor really had no idea what was expected. And I'll admit, as the show gained it's immense popularity, and the style and expectations of Aaron's writing became more familiar to actors, there were less and less problems.

Also, going back to what you said earlier - how some actors don't watch TV or films at all. That's fascinating to me. I meet actors like that, and I don't get it. That's like working as a chef and not having eaten a meal in five years. For me it's everything. 

Me too. It's like a musician who doesn't listen to music ! But everyone works differently. Again, there's no formula, there's no prerequisites. For me, as an actor, I like knowing who the characters are on the show I'm going to work on ! That way I can have an idea of who's in the scene with me, a little bit about story lines, and how I'm fitting in. Also, it's nice when someone in the casting room asks "Have you seen the show?" you can say "yes" rather than "no, I don't watch TV." To me, that's kinda like, "Wow, you're standing in front of us, looking to be hired, but you don't even believe in what we all do for a living?" I can understand if you don't care for a show. We don't love every show on TV. Heck, I've auditioned for and/or worked on shows I wasn't crazy about. But I have to at least watch the show to know whether I like it or not ! Again, that's my way of working and researching. It gives me more confidence when I walk in the room or on the set. Conversely, I mean, c'mon, let's be real: Martin Sheen never said, "Hey folks, can we break early today, I forgot to DVR, "CSI" !" But, it wasn't unusual between scene set-ups or takes, to have discussions about some shows, actors or episodes that people had watched recently or recommended. Hey,... it's not for everyone. I'm just amazed and baffled by actors who don't watch TV shows AT ALL. I can't do it .... but it's a choice by many actors - of all levels - from new to well-established ones.

But I think those actors have their limits; in that, sure they may have great techniques and ideas and intuition; but if you're thrown into an Aaron Sorkin TV show, or a Woody Allen movie, for example -- I think knowing that world is so important. What do you think?

I agree. Absolutely. Like I said, I know it is for me. Techniques, ideas and intuition are essential to acting - all acting. They're what help us express ourselves. And some actors are terrific at one thing, one character, one "type". They do it well, and when you cast them, you know exactly what you will get. And they can be extremely successful - especially in TV where there is very little time to develop characters very far from ourselves. They'll work all the same types of shows. Many times casting or a director will say, "bring me Actor X - they do this type of role well, and I don't have to worry about them". So yes, there's definitely a need for actors who "have their limits" as you said. But, to paraphrase Stellar Adler: imagination is what separates all of us. So for me, and I can only speak for myself, I can't utilize my unique imagination unless I have a feel for how the project, director and even the network, operates. In TV, I don't audition for a drama like "Castle" the same as I do for a drama like "Southland", or a comedy like "The Office" the same as a comedy like "Two and Half Men". A show on TNT is different than a show on ABC. I don't prepare for a Quentin Tarantino movie audition the same as a Woody Allen movie audition. But I won't know the difference if I don't stay current or at least brief myself beforehand. So for me ... watching TV or movies - that's part of how I prepare and stimulate my imagination. ( Though, I'm not sure Stanislavski included watching "Two and Half Men" in "An Actor Prepares", but I'm sure the gist is in there ! )

And I feel it's even more crucial for a show like TWW. You take writers like Pinter, Mamet, Shepard, Shakespeare and Aaron Sorkin, who are detailed rhythmic language writers - where every word is chosen carefully .... if you don't know that going into an audition or onto a set .... you're screwed. See, I think the producers of TWW were smart. I think they chose our ensemble cast because 1) they knew we knew how to actually be an ensemble cast - because almost everyone of us was highly trained in the theater, and 2) they knew because of that theater training, we knew how to pace the dialogue. Many of us - from series regulars (Brad, Joshua) , to recurring (myself, Clark Gregg, Tim Busfield, Ron Ostrow), to guest actors (Noah Emmerich) - had all worked together with Aaron on previous theater projects, like "A Few Good Men" and knew exactly what was expected. Also - this may give you a little insight into Aaron's writing - he writes musically. Each scene of each episode is part of a concert, and each actor plays like an instrument. But for the music to work, you have to hit every note as written - or in this case - say every word as written. You don't ad lib Mozart ... you don't ad lib Sorkin. And if you don't know this going in, if you haven't memorized every word as written, your part - like any instrument played in an orchestra - stands out and throws everything off by a beat or so. And the piece as a whole falls short. Couldn't be more obvious then when you watch any of the now famous West Wing "Walk & Talks". The way each actor (instrument) flows down a hallway delivering their lines (music) with other actors (instruments) darting in and out of the scene adding their quick contributions. It may sound kooky, but if you've watched it and/or lived it ... it's true. In fact, I interviewed Aaron once - a la James Lipton - live, for a charity event for my theatre company for a couple hours, and we talked about this very thing. I told him I would sit at our table reads of each episode and watch him physically conduct with his hands many of the scenes as they were being read. He agreed. Hmmm ... I think I may have gotten a bit off point, but what I'm trying to say is that "knowing that world" as you put it, can only, in my opinion, better you as an actor; because it allows you to use your imagination with your other tools (technique, ideas, intuition) to be creative at a higher level.

A thing that happens a lot with actors I know, most of whom are very talented; is that they feel stuck. They're not getting roles, their confidence is dropping, and the keys to their careers seem outside of themselves. Have you been in that situation? And what advice do you give for getting out of it?

(Sigh) Yeah, the dreaded “business” side of “show business”. We ALL experience that “stuck” feeling at one time or another. And, many times, more than once. Earlier, I mentioned how we are at the mercy of “the powers that be” in this business and how crazy and frustrated it can make us. Consequently, we, as artists, will experience some of our biggest highs and biggest lows in life from this business. Professionally, personally, financially, emotionally. The trick is to somehow keep it in perspective. And to that, I really have no one answer.

I truly adore this profession, but I feel one key to surviving in this business is to not live in it with blinders on. Because when it comes right down to it: it is a business. And a harsh one. And as such, you must make your own definition of “success” and make it a realistic one. Otherwise, I feel you’ll never enjoy what you do. And realistically, this business tells us “no” a lot more than it tells us “yes”. Make peace with that. My ex-wife (a non-actor) once said that she couldn’t understand why anyone would become an actor just because they loved the acceptance and reward people give them for their work … when it’s a profession that gives you more rejection of your work than in any other profession ! … Kinda true.

I too have many friends who are far more talented than me and struggle or have left the business due to lack of “success”. Again, it goes back to: the best actor does not always get the role. It’s a very sad truth. And these days, it’s extremely difficult to make your sole living as an actor because available roles are decreasing. With more established movie actors doing TV shows, or being offered roles, many established TV actors are doing smaller TV roles, which in turn affects every level of TV actor below that. Combine that decrease in available roles, with pay rates decreasing and less shows being shot, and it’s no wonder many actors – especially those who look to TV as a main financial source are, as you put it, “feeling stuck” and experiencing “their confidence dropping”. Again, my advice is to realistically define “success”, and what “making a living as an actor” means to you. Why are you an actor?

I try to work on the “show” side of “show business” as much as I can. I train, take classes, work on small projects – all to keep my instrument tuned and my mind creatively active. I find as many ways to stay creative as I can as I strive toward my definitions. But I do it both inside AND outside of acting – because I know I’m usually unemployed as an actor more than I’m employed as one. For me, when I’m not acting, I tutor kids having trouble academically. It’s amazing how showing them how to creatively look at their homework keeps my creative acting side alive. I also have a financial background, so I utilize my creativity even in a mathematical lens. I also write and play music, I draw, and, … most importantly, I find as much theater to do as possible. I was trained on the stage in New York City, and I think ANY stage – from community theater to Broadway - is an invaluable venue to work on. I am fortunate to belong to an amazing theatre company here in Los Angeles. We are constantly doing readings, workshops and main stage productions. I find theater a terrific playground to work on roles, feel the excitement of creating with other artists, hone my memorization skills, and get jazzed performing live. I’m currently doing the world premiere of a provocative play by Academy Award Nominated writer, Nicholas Kazan, and I am loving every moment of the process. Making no money doing it, … but loving the feeling of being a creative actor !

I love your passion! And I love the honesty, too. "I’m usually unemployed as an actor more than I’m employed as one" -- that's not something you hear from actors, often. Most actors I know try to appear as if they are always employed! But then, I guess that is the hard part -- when someone says, "what are you working on right now?" How do you answer that when everything is slow? 

See, I think you have to be honest - especially to yourself. It goes back to my thoughts on being realistic about why you are or want to become an actor. If it's to be regularly employed ... choose again. I was an accountant - a CPA in fact. I could easily be regularly employed as a partner in a large firm or corporation by now. Making far more money than I make as an actor. But, I wasn't fulfilled creatively or happy. So I left and did what I found to be a new career that I love. But I know my happiness can't be dependent on being regularly employed because it's very VERY rare to be consistently employed as an actor year after year. The list of such people is tiny. In fact, I think I read that over 90% of SAG and AFTRA's membership is unemployed at any one time. So again, be realistic ! Look at my time on TWW. I recurred for all seven seasons - I worked on about 50 episodes - from the pilot to the final episode. I did roughly 1/3 of all the episodes in that series. Sounds amazing right ? But that means I didn't work on about 2/3 of them ! For the majority of the show's run ... I wasn't employed ! I was looking for other work until they wrote Larry back in.

Please, every actor knows that we are all always looking for a job - even when we have one. And every actor knows that times are slow. Actors trying to impress other actors makes me laugh - it's senseless; we all know what the business is like every day ! We ask each other all the time: "Are you auditioning a lot?", "Is it slow for you?", etc. And the answer is always the same: "I wish I was auditioning more". I just tell them I’m keeping busy in my other creative outlets – which is true. Looking for work is just as much a part of being an actor as the acting itself is. We have to face it, live with it or think about changing professions.

And I think that question is linked to the guy who says "you know when to give up acting," -- I think half of the work in this industry, especially for people starting out or going through a tough time, is convincing the non-industry people in their lives that they're not talentless and wasting their time. It shouldn't matter what your neighbour, or the-old-school-friend-you-see-in-the-mall thinks of your work, but it can often rankle. You can say "Hey, I was Larry in The West Wing," -- but how else can people fend off the naysayers and the negative people? 

Nah, you can't let what people outside of the industry say get to you. I'm not saying don't care about them - couldn't be further from the truth - some are huge parts of our lives. I'm just saying it's very difficult for many non-industry people to understand this profession - especially being an actor. Many people think we are ALL like the actors they see on TV or in the movies ... or that every actor works all the time. It's not their fault - they have no real frame of reference. To most, if you call acting your profession, then you should be employed and working in that profession, right ? They work in their profession - be it plumber, CEO, salesperson, cashier, insurance broker, whatever. They were trained, found a job and now work; you were trained ... where's your job ? Makes sense ... just not in "show-biz world." I really can’t spend the time convincing someone to believe in an illogical profession ! I’d lose ! The important thing I try to do is have a good support system around me – comprised of both industry and non-industry people. It keeps me sane. I’m fortunate: My immediate family is fantastic. They always support me. Do they actually approve of my choice of profession ? … Don’t know. But they support my decision 100%. And that’s more important. Same with my non-industry friends: couldn’t be more proud of me and supportive. They love that I’m doing what I want to do. Can’t ask for anything better.

There’s too much negativity and rejection in this business already, so why would I want more of it in my non-business life and friends. To your question: I don’t try to “fend off the naysayers and negative people”. I just nod and accept them. Hell, they’re right ! What I do IS crazy! But I love it.

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Wednesday 16 February 2011

She was crazy pretty

She was crazy pretty, and it only just occurred to me how big a role she may have played in my life.

I was in a job just north of Charing Cross and just south of interesting and everything was misery apart from lunch time and home time. Everything was nothing and then one day this crazy pretty girl landed on the reception desk.

She was wildly pretty and totally lovely so I confidently and calmly stumbled into the reception area and mumbled something about hello and some joke that backfired and made me walk out never to return again.

But I came back because she was magnificent and I said something closer to hello and before long I'd always sneak away from doing nothing and we'd sit in reception talking about everything.

She was an actress, and I was mad in love. I asked her everything and she liked me because she could see I was one of her kind. She was approaching thirty and I was still stalling at seventeen, and everything she said smelled like life. She had a big project coming out and I was excited because I was unexpectedly behind the curtain, in the know. Then, quicker than a Covent Garden mugging, she was gone. Apparently she had some acting job and life for me went back to nothing.

It was either a Tuesday or Friday or some other day when my life got great again. She was sitting there, so beautiful it was as if she knew she'd be blogged about years later. We talked and talked and they kept calling me back to do nothing but I was too busy in reception talking about everything.

At some point I mumbled something about wanting to be in movies and she said this thing I'd never heard that was like "you should" but far prettier. It was an instant permission slip to follow my big dreams and I may be exaggerating but maybe I left the job two weeks later and decided to be myself instead.

Do I make films because I love the cinema or because I'm in love with the movie star girl?

It doesn't matter. I just wanted to share this story because it was so close to the edge of forgotten until it suddenly and randomly popped up in my head about twenty five minutes ago. I wonder how she is. I wonder if she remembers me at all.

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Weblog Award Nomination: Last Chance To Vote!

As many of you will know, and in fact; many of you are responsible for------ For the second year in a row, Kid In The Front Row has been nominated for a Weblog 'Bloggie' Award. I am up for 'Best Entertainment Blog'.

If you could vote for me, at this site, - I'd be truly honoured. Winning it last year brought a lot of new readers here from all around the world. A blog like this is much like an independent film; the only way people find out about it is word of mouth. I celebrate cinema, writing and creativity in a way that is seldom given voice in the mainstream. The more you support blogs like this, the more we get into the consciousness of the wider artistic community. That's something to aim for. If you can take thirty seconds to vote for me on the site, I'd really appreciate it.


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Monday 14 February 2011

The Shoot

The director's in love with the lead actress, but the lead actress is secretly sleeping with her co star, whose ex-wife is the line producer. Nobody likes the line producer because she turns up in the middle of the day acting like the most important person in the world. The production assistant keeps messing up the coffee, and the other assistant keeps annoying the DOP with enhance-my-career questions. The sound guy is unhappy because no-one informed him there would be planes in the sky, and the make up girl is annoyed because the 2nd AD made a joke about her job being easy. The camera assistant ate all the chocolate biscuits and the executive producer is currently looking for the chocolate biscuits. The writer is angry because he's picked up the day's pages and doesn't recognise any of his dialogue and two of the extra's just broke the set because they were leaning on things to look-like-they-belong.

And then it wraps and these people will never be together again.

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Michael Caine explains the difference between stage and screen acting.

"The art of cinema acting is the exact opposite of stage acting. In the theatre you have to be as big and broad and loud as possible, even in the quiet scenes, which is a trick that only the best actors can pull off. Film acting, on the other hand, is about standing six feet from a camera in blazing light and not letting the tiniest bit of acting show. If you are doing it right you make it look very easy, but it takes a great deal of hard work to accomplish."

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HARRY POTTER - Outstanding British Contribution To Cinema 2011 BAFTA Award

J. K. Rowling  had an idea, and saw it through. When that first seed on an idea came; did she know it was a ten billion dollar idea? I'm guessing not. Did she know she'd have the most successful books ever and most successful films ever? Probably not. In fact; if we could take a trip back in an battered old DeLorean, I think we'd find the usual mix of inspiration and self-doubt that makes up every creative project. 

The Harry Potter films deserved the recognition. It's easy to be anti-Harry. It's easy to be cynical because of how much money it made. It's easy to moan about how it's one big franchise. But Harry Potter is something special. It got my little cousins into reading. Have you ever tried getting your little cousins into reading? The most they normally read is the back cover of an Xbox game. J. K. Rowling changed that. And the films were giant, epic fantasies, and they took millions of people along for the ride. They made stars out of unknown kids like Radcliffe and Watson; and they brought all the A-Listers together on screen too.

I just found this. "In 1990, my then boyfriend and I decided to get a flat and move to Manchester together. We would flat hunt every once in awhile. One weekend after flat hunting, I took the train back to London on my own and the idea for Harry Potter fell into my head. I had been writing since I was six, but I had never been as excited about an idea as I was for this book. Coincidentally, I didn't have a pen and was too shy to ask anyone for one on the train, which frustrated me at the time, but when I look back at it was the best thing for me. It gave me the full four hours on the train to think up all the ideas for the book. A scrawny, little black haired, bespectacled boy became more and more of a wizard to me. He became more real. I think if I might have slowed down on the ideas and began to write them down. I would've stifled some of those ideas."

The books got turned down. Harry Potter didn't get published right away. Those people out there saying Potter was not good enough are the same people telling you your script sucks, or you should give up acting, or your camera-work is all wobbly. HARRY POTTER GOT REJECTED. Remember that every time you feel down or low about your career. 

J. K. Rowling was just a woman on a train who had an idea and saw it through. She had a vision of writing seven books and she kept to that vision. Sure, now she's rich and we can be cynical - but she's just a creative woman who created magic. But it's not magic; it's just words on a page. 

Harry Potter was just a seed of an idea in a woman's head. THAT'S ALL. But now, we know more about Harry Potter than we do about our government. We can recognize Daniel Radcliffe but sometimes we forget the names of our relatives. Harry Potter is everywhere. It's not just a cash-cow, it's a real life example of dreams coming to life, in so many ways. And I can't get over the fact it was all created by a writer who sat on a train and had an idea.

If you had been J. K. Rowling, on that train, and you'd had an idea about a kid with glasses who goes to wizard school-- I wonder, would you have seen it through? Would you have completed it? Would you have believed in yourself? Whether the answer is yes or no it doesn't really matter. It's just worth remembering the story of how Potter came to be. All of the directors, producers, financiers, marketing executives, actors, red carpet premieres, toys, screenings, etc -- it is ALL because J. K. Rowling sat on a train and had an idea. 

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