Wednesday 29 February 2012

Word Of Mouth

It's the only currency that sells in the modern era. Used to be that you could put an A-Lister on a poster and it was guaranteed, but things are different now, we have the internet.

It's being sold as a great opportunity, that everyone can get their work seen. Truth is it's mostly a way to get NOT seen, because nobody cares about your work. If you look at the statistics, you see how little people are interested. I have 1,000 people on the Facebook fan page for this site. But when I post something new, only 21 follow through (on average).

It's not the fan pages or the tweets that do the work, its actually the precious few who follow through. If what they read/watch isn't great, then it won't get passed on and shared.

And that's what this is really all about, word of mouth. You have to be GREAT in this day and age. You can't cheat it. Even if you pay thousands of people to tweet your project, NOBODY CARES! Nobody is committed.

Facebook pages, Twitter, etc, they're great tools but they're not the answer. The answer is better material. I watched a TED talk the other day, and the guy was talking about viral comedy, and how we CAN'T WAIT to share a funny joke. You see it on YouTube, you see it from that friend who always texts you offensive jokes.

It's not just comedy, it's anything that reaches the heart, we can't help but share it.

A strong recommendation from someone who is personally trusted is worth more than a thousand random impressions. I was having a meal with friends on Monday night and I said "Oh my God, 'Chronicle' is so awesome, I had so much fun watching it!" My friend John immediately turned to his wife and said "we're definitely seeing it now!". They're going this weekend. We talked about heaps of new movies, and I mostly said "yeah it's alright", and they weren't sold. But my energy regarding 'Chronicle' sparked them into action.

You can repost your article or short film a hundred times but it doesn't mean anything. If the juice is there, people will connect. And if they do, they'll bring an audience to you!

We are in an age where greatness sells. It's just that no-one believes it, they think we still need to try and appeal to the masses. Do the best you can do, your personal vision, put your whole heart into it and people will respond, but only if it's GREAT.

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Tuesday 28 February 2012


I have an idea, let's pay money to go see a movie. While we're there, let's open up BlackBerry messenger on our phones. The little light will sparkle like magic.

Let's repeat this action every 19 seconds. We can BBM Barry about football and Sarah about her boobs. Let's do it again and again and again. Let's glance up at the screen only when there's a really loud noise.

And let's whisper things to each other. Or at least, let's do it in a whisper style but with the loudness of a drum kit. Let's giggle. Let's kick the seat in front.

Let's become a whole generation of people who sit in the cinema turning on phone screens. Let's check our Facebook. Let's pay the big cinema ticket fee and sit in the comfy chairs just so we can read "Thomas Milpert is bored lol" as we scroll the news feed. Let's tweet that the movie sucks, which we know because there hasn't been a loud sound effect in 4 minutes.

Let's wake up them boring weirdos who sit in the cinemas quietly. What is wrong with them?

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The Artist's Voice - Free E-Book

In case you missed this the first time around.... a few months ago I created an e-book, based mostly on articles from this site, called 'The Artist's Voice'. It's a free e-book, aimed at getting you off your ass and back into creative mode!

We all need help, we all need a push, we all need a reminder. That's what this book is about. It's totally free, and you can download it HERE.

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Monday 27 February 2012


You don't have to take over Hollywood tonight. Probably not tomorrow, either.

That's the downside of ambition, you beat yourself up every night for not being there yet.

Enjoy the ride. Because that's all it is. You can't force it. When was the last time you truly enjoyed yourself? That was probably the last time you did good work.

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Saturday 25 February 2012

JOHN WESLEY SHIPP - Actor Interview

JOHN WESLEY SHIPP is known to most international audiences for his heartwarming portrayal of Mitch Leery in the hit show 'DAWSON'S CREEK'. He has been working consistently as a screen actor for over thirty years, and when you get to know him, it's obvious to see why. The level of passion and commitment he has for his work is rare and inspiring. I hope you have the time to read the whole interview, because his views on creativity, rejection, and criticism are poignant. John's recent work includes playing 'Eddie Ford' on the show 'ONE LIFE TO LIVE', and you will soon be able to see him in the independent film 'HELL AND MR. FUDGE'. 

What advice can you give to upcoming actors, that can't be found in books and on courses?

I haven't read all of the books on acting, but for me, the only way I have managed to have any peace at all is to prize the WORK over THE BUSINESS. The business will make you crazy, and we have people who take care of that --agents and so forth-- but THE WORK is the reason to be an actor, love of the work.  Making it about that has kept me on target. And I have witnessed actors blown off target by getting it wrong.

Another bit of advice that my first acting teacher gave his class:  If you can be happy doing anything else, go do it;  the statistics are NOT in your favor. But if you have the fire in your belly, then you really have no other choice than to commit. That's why I love reading about the Impressionist's period in French art.... SO PASSIONATE about the work... the doing of which was everything.

And this is true whether you are doing a Tony Award Winning Drama on Broadway (Dancing at Lughnasa, which I was privileged to do) or soaps. I received one of the highest compliments of my career walking in LA shortly after completing my Douglas Cummings stint on 'As The World Turns':  a teacher from the Strasberg Institute stopped me and said, "We just used you, today, as an example of how The Work can be done anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances". You don't have to wait to be accommodated by atmosphere or medium to do The Work. This last gig on 'One Life To Live';  I worked as hard on that, and treated it with as much respect as any primetime or theatre piece or film I have ever done. And I have a film coming out in July, 'Hell and Mr. Fudge' -- a low budget indie, off of which I made very little money, but in which I believe will be some of my best work to date.  And I am very excited by that.

'Mitch Leery,' was the type of character who could have so easily been cheesy, or cliche; but you managed to find the perfect tone and keep him believable. What was it like playing Dawson's Dad?

I have been fortunate to work with good writers;  Douglas Marland in daytime, Kevin Williamson in Dawson's. At the time, the tone of that piece was unlike anything on TV. Later on, with so many rip-offs, etc, and this is true of anything that achieves that level of pop culture success, it became a bit of a joke for a while, didn't it?  I think we are coming through that now, and appreciation of especially the first couple of years, when we were the "critically acclaimed Dawson's Creek" is resurfacing.

You know, I have played superheros and psychopaths..  Mitch was something of an innocent in some ways, don't you think?

He was, definitely. But that's fascinating on screen, like in life, because it's so rare to come across right? It's who we wish we were and think we are, then every night we go to bed realising we are not Jimmy Stewart!

I mean, he left broadcasting to pursue his aquatic themed restaurant, loved his son, his wife, was blind-sided by her affair..... there was a degree of idealism in Mitch.

I mostly tried to find his heart, which was apparent most of the time..... all I had to do was be on set with Mary-Margaret and James --both of whom I adored-- and play the moments as simply and truthfully as I could. There was no artifice in Mitch. He was who he was. I think maybe --and this is very daring-- Mitch pretty much was who you saw. I mean by daring; critics want layers and don't trust sincerity. Well, the character was pretty damned sincere, and I tried to honor that by playing him with as much sincerity as I could muster, knowing that I was opening myself to criticism by those with a more cynical world viewpoint, the criticism of say, naivete, or over-simplification..... that Mitch's lack of artifice would somehow rub off on me, and I would be accused of one or two dimensional acting.

What I loved about Mitch was that I got to play this basically really good guy, with this good heart, making mistakes, adjustments, not immune to anger.... but who really loved his family and his life. In the penultimate episode in which Mitch and Gale are watching Dawson play with Lilly in the yard, Mitch displays  extraordinary self-understanding and acceptance which one might not think he had, but he says "I have this wonderful family" and goes on to say that he might never write a poem or make a movie that will change the world....but that that's okay with him, because he knows he has a son who 'some day WILL DO THAT." That scene for me sums up who Mitch Leery was. A disarming degree of self-awareness and acceptance of the circumstances of his life and his role in it at that moment, that I think the most complex among us wish we had.

I think it's interesting to ask about the rejection you face, as an actor, along with the criticism that you get for the work you do -which you've hinted at- how do you approach and handle it? Does it get easier with more experience?

To paraphrase a great singer on singing:  Handling rejection is never easy; it becomes possible! I have had a lot of affirmation in my career. Early on, a lot of it was because of my looks, specifically my body.... you know, Guiding Light, speedos and 'You Needed Me!'. But even then, I was digging, trying to get at something honest, something pure, something that would engage and communicate the inner world of the audience.

I think this urge was implanted in me as a young musician, learning to play piano at age five, then concert organ in my early teens.  I was fortunate to have Max Smith as my teacher in my early teens. He recognized in me a desire for meaning, and he fed that with the repertoire he chose for me to study and play.... always looking for the reason behind a phrase.... WHY were THESE NOTES put together IN THIS PHRASE, AT THIS POINT in the music..... what was the composer trying to get at? Always these were the questions.

It continued as an opera theatre major at Indiana University, where I studied voice with Jean Deis and Walter Cassel (who sang Scarpia to Callas' Tosca at the Met in 1958 and was Horace Tabor in the premier recording of THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE with Beverly Sills, and Wagner with Birgit Nilsson..), with a minor in piano, which meant I was working with grad students whose focus was art. In classical music, there was this knowledge that we were studying music that was, as Maurice Boyd once put it, too great to be played, or sung. Performed in other words. And it was this indoctrination into a feeling that what we were doing as performers had social significance. I'll never forget Kate Nelligan's performance in PLENTY on Broadway.... it was a life changing experience.... I saw it three times. THIS was what we were after.... and I think I carried that into whatever I did. Naively? Certainly. But I'm not sorry.

I recently received a Google alert about a little firestorm that resulted on a blog, about me having said that LA attacks my self-esteem in an interview. Well, I was pulled into seeing what the comments were... and I even broke the rule.... I commented. Well, when you go snooping around on the Internet to find out what people are saying about you, you better gird your loins so to speak, because a lot of it is going to be complimentary, gracious and kind, and some of it will be indifferent (the worst!). And some of it will be cruel. I suppose you learn to filter out the cruel, I respond to criticism in which people I think have misunderstood my intent. Like with Eddie Ford on 'One Life To Live'. One complaint was that I was not what was expected in a soap opera villain, that I was even at times "unintentionally funny", which is about the highest praise you can get I guess, when you are playing something for humor. Well, my instinct is to engage the criticism and the conversation --surprising to fans sometimes, they don't think it's me at first.    But I usually have a very strong reason for the choices I make and I don't mind --not defending them exactly-- but explaining them.

But, yes, when you do what you think is an awesome audition and you hear nothing, that's hard.  Also, my first manager in LA --Hank McCann-- gave me a very important piece of advice when I went to tackle the role of FLASH which was so physically demanding and the hours so long and days to nights and back.....he saw that I was really working too hard, and worrying too much about every little detail of my performance...

And he said, "John, in series television, if you score in 40% of the role, you will be considered a fine actor.  So pick your moments. A season is 22 episodes long; don't wear out by episode 3."  Ha! It kind of took the pressure off.  And I was pleased to see how well received the acting was by the critics.... I mean, for a superhero/sci fi show whose bread and butter was special effects, I was singled out for some high praise in my execution of Barry Allen.  So, you hold onto that and keep going.

What's really apparent to me, especially today with your answers; is how much passion you have for TV, theater, film, music-- and for me, that is such a key thing, because people think that success as an actor just comes by luck, or by chance. But I've always believed it's about doing the groundwork, putting the hours in, surviving through the struggle. I mean, this all started when you were playing the piano at age FIVE! That's when your curiosity began for the arts. This interview is for 'Kid In The Front Row' - so I guess my question at the end of all that is, do you see a link between who you are now as an actor, and where you were as a five year old learning to play the piano?

I mean, I was five, so obviously, knew nothing.... but the reason I was given piano lessons so early was because I was drawn to it. Whatever it is that is communicated through sound, as a child I wanted to make that sound. And I had to first learn my ABC's which my piano teacher taught me, so she could teach me the keys!

She took me on with some reservation, she had never had so young a student before, but she would give it a whirl, yes?

And I demonstrated an affinity for making music. Recently someone said to me, "You live out your life  between a fierce desire for independence -- of thought, expression, and an almost desperate desire to connect, to be understood." Another friend once observed after I said something, I guess, self-revealing--"You say what you really think and feel, even when it would be in your best interest if you didn't."Ha!

This connects somehow.  There is this wide-eyed boy at the piano on which he has previously only banged and made noise, submitting himself to the discipline of theory and practice, because he wants to be heard. Listen, I am suffering under no delusion that I am a GREAT actor--- I could have been, I believe, a great musician, but that is another story of how I diverged from that path (laughs)--nor am I the smartest person on the planet, but I try, as best I can, to be true to certain values of communication, what's important, why stand on a stage and expose yourself to all kinds of public judgement in the only career at which everyone is an expert haha!

John, I think you underestimate your wisdom and expertise when it comes to what you do.

I know I'm a good actor, at times even a fine actor. But GREAT is a category reserved for the very few.

I have tried to keep at the forefront the reason for doing it.... that if you are honest and do your work, you WILL in my experience sound a chord which will set up a sympathetic vibration in some others, and they respond by telling you ways in which you have influenced their lives, or given them hope, or made them understand something about themselves or their situation from an angle they hadn't previously considered, or simply made them laugh, or presented them with an object on which to vent their scorn ha!   Something... there will be a response. And I guess this is where the "almost desperate desire to connect" comes in.

You know, I appear at conventions from time to time. And it amazes me how mechanically some actors go through that process. There is this outpouring of support and gratitude and admiration..... there is even the occasional person who goes by you and says loud enough for you to hear, "I have NO idea who THAT is." Ha! In other words, there is this outpouring of human energy coming at you.  WHY would you sit there and not engage? I mean it's exhausting HAH! but sometimes it's like it's the only thing that makes sense. I don't know how to explain that.  And I don't mean just at conventions.

You know there is only ever a split second at a time of satisfaction.

Someone expresses interest in you for a role. Great. Maybe you have to audition, maybe you don't. If you do, you immediately engage the preparation with the accompanying anxiety that audition brings. Then you sweat that out, and you get the part...... there is one split second of joy, before the obligation of fulfilling the expectations of the job --mostly your own-- fill you with anxiety. Will I be good enough? Will I like what I do? You find your choices, you become invested in them. And you commit, this can bring you a lot of praise, but also cause conflict when what you've found doesn't match someone else's preconception. Then you balance the strength of your commitment to your choice against,  again, the desire to connect, to please, to win approval, and if it's important enough, you stick to your guns. Then you do it, you wait with anxiety for the reaction, your own reaction, and maybe you and others like it. A sigh of relief. And then you wonder what will be next and the process repeats itself. I know, right now, that I am being as honest in my answers to your thought-provoking questions as I can be. I also have a sense of dissatisfaction at my ability to communicate in this way what I think. I also know that some readers will read it and go, "Oh what a load of shit" or simply put it down and not read it. Others might find something to relate to. You know, it's the same in acting/singing. You show up. You do your work. You try, if you care, not to let the judgement and cynicism of others shut down your instrument, nor the praise too.

That is such an incredible answer which I relate to strongly.

I don't know how that relates to my being five, except... sophistication be damned... I choose to show up, wide open, and learn the friggin alphabet so I can play the instrument.

My wonderful voice teacher, Mahon Bishop, in NYC, we were working on a piece, Mahler I think, the first of the Kindertotenlieder.... at at one point he stopped and said the most amazing thing: "And that's why you labor and labor and labor to understand YOUR INSTRUMENT.  So that when I get to a phrase like (he sang, it could apply to the delivery of a line as well) I am free to do what I need to do.  You can like it?  Or not.  I am free to do what I need to do." That about sums it up, I think.

Care to share?

Friday 24 February 2012

Crazy Stars

I crave the rest, and the good times, because I hardly allow them at all. I'm too busy chasing the dream.

But how much of a dream is it if you're stuck in the editing room at 3am going crazy because an actor moved their eyebrow in a weird way?

You have to be stuck in the editing room at 3am, because working when everyone else has given up for the night is how you get things done.

But you can't do anything if you're exhausted. It's romantic to think of genius coming at 5am, but you need the sleep.

And come the day, you need to see your friends and you need to make new ones. And you need to make your wife happy or have an awkward conversation with someone you like (if you're single).

If you write, you have to live something. Me and my friend Jessica were talking the other night, tired of always meeting up in bars and coffee houses, because everything is planned as if it's a Facebook event. We realised we should be climbing things, and getting high, and staring up at the crazy stars in the black sky while wondering what the hell everything is about.

Because that's how writing gets good and how acting gets real -- when you focus on the inbetweens. It's not the party you remember, it's getting lost on the way there, or getting arrested on the way home.

You need that energy in your life. You need to get out of Starbucks and see the world.

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Kid On The Facebook Front Row (Terrible Title, I know)

I'd love it if you'd join the Facebook Fan Page for Kid In The Front Row. That's where half the action is happening! Sometimes I watch a film that I really love, but I don't have a whole blogs-worth of things to say about it, so we chat about it on the fan page.

If you like what I do here, and you love films, I'd hate for you to be missing out. Of course, there are a million places to talk about film, but on Kid In The Front Row we seem to like similar films and similar things about the films we love. We're not so much about box office and technical stuff -- we like talking about creativity, about movies with a bit of heart, and we love finding random intriguing films from the independents and from world cinema.

Kid In The Front Row

Promote Your Page Too

Join us for a chat!

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Wednesday 22 February 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

1. Thomas Horn (the kid) is fantastic. What an amazing role for him! I wonder how similar he is to the character. He's perfect in it. And it's his first movie! Astonishing!

2. You may cry when you watch this film. It may happen about six times, usually when you least expect it. When I saw it today, there was one particular, gut-wrenching moment, and the whole audience went SILENT. But REALLY silent. It hit everybody the same way. 

3. Max Von Sydow, wow. That is EXPERIENCE. You sense it and feel it, just by the way he looks or walks or stands or pulls a face, he's so compelling. He grabs your attention. It's like a super-power. He's a true elder, a legendary actor. 

4. Tom Hanks. Nice to see him doing something like this. Makes up a little for 'Larry Crowne'. Still feel like we've lost him in recent years though. Something's not the same. He was always my favourite actor, but in the last ten years I haven't liked his work. Keep trying to figure out how he's changed, but maybe it's me that has.
5. Jeffrey Wright, wow; he pretty much stole the show! He's only in it towards the end. This guy is fantastic. 

6. It felt like a big Hollywood film but at the same time, it didn't. It had maturity, it knew when to shove things in your face and when to be subtle. This is what 'War Horse' wasn't able to achieve.

7. I really loved the use of the U2 song in the trailer and was disappointed to not find it in the movie.

8. Sandra Bullock is incredible. The moments when she's on the phone to Thomas when he's in the tower, and at the end when she's on the bed with her son... wow, so powerful. She's fantastic.

9. This film, like '127 Hours' last year, just makes you want to ring up everyone you know and tell them you love them. Because they remind you how extremely and incredibly SHORT life is, and how we're all emotionally retarded muppets for not telling people how much they mean to us with every chance we get. 

10. It has a 'Best Picture Nomination'. Here's the thing: I enjoyed it more than 'The Artist' and 'The Descendants'. My favourites were 'Midnight In Paris' followed by 'Moneyball' - but I really got a lot from 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' both times I saw it. So, I'd have no problem with it winning 'Best Picture', but of course, it has no chance. 

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Tuesday 21 February 2012

The JUNO Soundtrack Mystery

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Robert Downey Jr is, without question, one of the finest actors of this or any other generation. His ascent to the top of the industry, currently heading up two huge franchises (IRON MAN & SHERLOCK HOLMES), is deserved and it has to be said, should have happened a long time ago.

In truth, I have  very little interest in either of those above mentioned movies. With most actors of great potential, I'd lament them focusing their talents solely on these types of blockbusters. Yet, with Robert Downey Jr, I can't help but feel he's earned it. He showed his brilliance in the 80's, showed genius in the 90's and wisdom and maturity in everything since. He put in the ground work a hundred times over. Not only this but, we get the fairytale story too -- a troubled man who overcame his personal demons and addictions to go on to be one of the greatest actors alive, complete with a lovely wife and kids. 

Yet his personal life and financial riches are not why I am writing about him. I am writing about him because of his remarkable ability and talent. He was able to not only 'portray' Charlie Chaplin but somehow channel him, to become him. His performance in "CHAPLIN" was nothing short of a masterpiece. 

Any young person who decides to become an actor can become good. With enough practice and hard work, they can even become great.  But to get to the level of RDJ, something else is at work. Whether it's God, or luck, or a neurological malfunction, who knows. What we do know is that he brings something to the screen that so few can.

His genius has often shined brightest in mostly forgotten movies and smaller roles. His character in the heartwarming "HEART AND SOULS" is one of his most memorable. His character, haunted by four disgruntled ghosts, has to deal with looking absurd in front of colleagues baffled by his behaviour; and then the ghosts actually take over his body --- meaning Downey had to become the other characters. Two particular moments stand out, and in both of these he is forced to become a woman. One is during a board meeting, when Kyra Sedgwick's character overtakes him, and the other is when Alfre Woodard's character inhabits his body, making him act like a strong black woman, arguing with a security guard. The moment was handled so beautifully and hysterically that it leaves you craving for more of the same. Little did we know that nearly two decades later he would do something similar in 'TROPIC THUNDER'.

In 'ONE NIGHT STAND' he played the role of Charlie, a gay man who is dying of AIDS. It is quite possible that this is his finest acting performance to date. Gay characters are still, for the most part, stereotypically and ignorantly portrayed on screen. Yet Downey was able to bring us a character so real and fascinating and heartbreaking, that he makes you relate to him and feel like him. It turns out that a gay man who is dying of AIDS is still exactly like you and me. Tom Hanks did it first with "PHILADELPHIA", yet somehow Downey's subtle and little known performance feels even more authentic.

When Guy Bellow's character, Billy Thomas, was killed off in "ALLY MCBEAL", it felt like the end of the show. The Ally and Billy storylines were the heart that kept everything else in place. And then Robert Downey Jr's 'Larry Paul' walked in, and gave the show such a outrageously huge lift that when he left, after only one season, the remaining episodes were uninspired and struggled to re-capture the audience. 

The thing about Larry Paul was that he was so ordinary. A good guy struggling to be a Dad and deal with his exes while falling for Ally. The show was always about delving into Ally McBeal's crazy imagination, yet Season 4 was able to delve delicately and truthfully into the relationship between Ally and Larry, focusing on their neurotic problems which made every little thing about their relationship so difficult. 

Even though we were watching a quick talking, witty lawyer in Boston, we somehow felt like we were staring directly at ourselves. When you watch Robert Downey Jr, you see a part of yourself staring back at you. Most actors may achieve this once, but Downey reaches this level time and time again.

"ALLY MCBEAL" was very much a comeback for him. He was sacked at the end of his first season on the show for drug related reasons, which was perhaps the last great downfall in his career. Somewhere in the proceeding years found the resolve and determination to finally overcome the addictions that were threatening to ruin his career and life. He cleaned up his act, met the woman he would marry, and suddenly things looked promising again, even though productions were finding him difficult to hire due to the astronomical costs of his insurance. He was initially cast in Woody Allen's "MELINDA & MELINDA", but they couldn't afford the insurance costs. Looking back at the film, which is one of Woody's more disappointing efforts, you can't help but wonder how much better it would have been. Perhaps, if Downey had got the role, we'd be referring to it now as one of the great Woody Allen masterpieces. 

"KISS KISS, BANG BANG" is filled with hilarious moments. Much credit undoubtedly belongs to the extremely talented writer/director Shane Black, along with co-star Val Kilmer, yet RDJ steals the show with a great performance where his acting and comedic skills were simply irresistible. Again, he somehow managed to elevate himself above 'good acting' to a level of expertise that is a pleasure to watch if only because it is so rare.

There are two scenes in "A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS" which demonstrate more than anything else in his career just how good an actor he is. It's surprising to say that, considering his role is only a supporting one. Then again, "ONE NIGHT STAND" and "NATURAL BORN KILLERS" showed how he doesn't need a lot of screen time to steal the show.

Both scenes are between him and Rosario Dawson's character. The first is a very sweet and beautiful moment where their characters meet again after twenty years apart. It's a simple, understated moment, where Downey appears on the street below Dawson's window, calling out, "wanna come out and play?" The scene is so simple and straightforward that it needn't be so interesting, but IT IS! RDJ manages to be entirely natural, yet still extremely 'Robert Downey Jr'. What I mean is that, Downey's acting is always extremely natural and truthful, yet he is always specific. He makes decisions about his characters. What we see is never incidental or luck. It exists because of how completely he understands his characters.

The second scene with Rosario is when they're on the rooftop and she's challenging him to go take care of his Father. He does something in this scene that I have hardly seen anywhere, at all. You know that deep horrible resistance that sits inside of you? It's when people force you out of your comfort zone, when they bring up your worst fears and make you lose yourself... well, in this scene, we see Downey go there. We see him pushed past the place his character is psychologically actually able to function in. The result is one of the more truthful moments I've ever witnessed on screen. I remember watching these scenes many years ago with a girlfriend, and she kept crying her eyes out and making me stop the movie. She kept being reminded of her self, her life, of problems she'd been through -- and it was all because of what RDJ was doing. The situations were different, yet the emotion was the same -- Downey had captured something universal, that takes on meaning far outweighing the story of the movie. How often can an actor achieve that?

In the years that followed "A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS", he appeared in some films which were not particularly great, yet his performances always shined. His consistent work in "A SCANNER DARKLY", "ZODIAC", "CHARLIE BARTLETT" and "TROPIC THUNDER", showed audiences and the industry that he had, finally, truly arrived and was here to stay. With a new stability to his life and his work; he was then ready to make the leap, to become the coolest and most sought after actor in Hollywood. 

Aside from the fun "DUE DATE" and the sadly misfiring "THE SOLOIST", his schedule has been taken up almost entirely by fronting the "IRON MAN" franchise, which has a third film shortly on the way, and "SHERLOCK HOLMES" which is also likely to yield a third movie. He undoubtedly is the perfect man to lead these popular movies -- and he has joked in many interviews that he's tired of doing independent films that nobody ever gets to see. He's a joy to watch in these big blockbusters, but the concern is that we will lose the subtle and nuanced performances that he has become such an expert at. Yet, I am wise enough to know that it would be silly for an internet blogger to question a man who is, as I stated at the beginning, one of the finest actors ever to grace the big screen. I believe that, if he continues to make bold and interesting choices, his best work is yet to come. 

Care to share?

Sunday 19 February 2012

Length Matters

Films are too long! They're so boring, don't you think!? Films should be 90 minutes. If it's great, 100 minutes. Anything longer makes me SNORE! I need to eat, and pee, and drink, and make phone calls, and check my Facebook to see if Julia has liked the picture of me snorkeling. 

When did films get so long!? Those early Chaplin ones were great, they were eleven minutes! 

Then again, most short films that people send me are too long. They're 11 minutes and you're snoring after thirty seconds! 

Here are my rules. 

1. Viral videos should be 30 seconds. 

2. Short films should be 4 minutes. 
3. Feature films should be between 89 and 93 minutes. Anything longer must be GENIUS. 
4. Scorsese is exempt from length rules, I can happily watch his lengthy movies. 
5. Kevin Costner MUST adhere to these rules. 

My problem with the longer movies is that they go on for absolutely no reason! They either drag out the bit where the police hunt down the killer, or they prolong the chase where the guy gets the girl, or worse; the killer gets caught and the guy and girl kiss and then they drag it on for another thirty four minutes! Did you ever see 'Hancock'? That film finished  and then they carried it on for another forty minutes so that Will Smith could put a heart on the moon or some nonsense. 

90 minutes, is my rule. Why? Because I've got other things to do! What do I mean by that? Yes --- I've got other movies to watch! 

Care to share?

Saturday 18 February 2012

Social Media Addiction

Social Media addiction is one of the biggest troubles facing modern society today, although it is rarely tweeted about. Many programs exist to rescue people from addiction, such as 'The Program To Rescue People From Social Media Addiction' (TPTRPFSMA), which has weekly meetings every Monday on the organization's Facebook Fan Page.

Max Loggon, the founder of TPTRPFSMA admitted to me in a recent interview that getting their message across can be difficult: "We want to be modern and relevant, so we reach people on Facebook and Twitter even though we are trying to help people to stay away from these sites, especially as addiction has been proven to lower brain cells lol. wot r u up 2 anyway?"

Many psychologists say that the key to getting people to stop being addicted to Social Media is to get them to go outside, although this has been challenged by many academics because the outside tends to be where "all the best WiFi is". It's been proven that Social Media is a lot more addictive than traditional cigarettes, even though it is far more difficult to smoke.

Much has been written about the similarities between Social Media Addiction and Sexual Addiction. I hired an assistant, Nancy Yespleese, to help me study this more closely. I wanted to find out what she'd be more addicted to - sex with me, or Twitter. Unexpectedly, we fell in love with each other while doing the experiment, but sadly, two months later she broke up with me. I pressed her for a reason, and she finally came clean and told me she'd been having affairs with 139 other characters.

Whether Social Media Addiction exists or not is hard to say. I asked this very question on Facebook today, and as of seven seconds ago, nobody has responded, although someone did like the picture of me next to a penguin from Greece in 2007. I think people miss the point when it comes to Social Media, it's actually a terrific way to meet people and, best of all, you don't even have to see them face to face.

If you have any opinions on this topic feel free to tweet me your Facebook details so I can get Linked In with your Skype account.

Care to share?

Top Five Self-Help Tips

1. To truly succeed with self-help, do what has worked for others.

2. Visualize what you want, unless you want visualization. In which case visualize visualization.

3. Follow The Bible (unless it takes a left when approaching Orlando).

4. If you believe it, you can have it, unless someone else believed they can have it, in which case toss a coin.

5. Be grateful, especially for the word grateful, which was originally going to be called Frackendoplleflaff (the K is silent, due to trauma).

Care to share?

The Mystery Of The Moon

Just discovered this short story I wrote when I was nine years old. Not all of it makes sense, but I thought you might like to read it. The writing in red is what my teacher wrote, and the red markings in the story are my teacher's corrections (as best as I can translate from page to print.)

One night Charlie was looking at the moon when suddenly he saw something moving on it. Charlie phoned Luke and Kenny and told them about the moon. They came to Charlie's house and looked at the moon. Kenny said it was just an astronaut but luke said "you ain't got a brain dude it's a man from Mars that's on the moon you stupid dummy!". Charlie was the youngest he was 7 (seven) and he said "It looks like an elephant".

Kenny had an idea of sending a rocket to explore the moon. Kenny phoned a metal company called Masters Of Metal. He bought some metal. The total cost was over 1,000 pounds. To get the metal Luke gave 200 pound, Charlie gave 400 pound and Kenny Gave 35 pound and they boroughed (borrowed) the rest off their Dad's. Some experts made it look like the moonlander. It took only three months to make. It was called the moonlander. Instead of sending astronauts they sent nobody. They sent up automatic cameras to photograph the thing that was moving. "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, take off". It launched off to space. 

Good so far but please finish. 

2 Weeks later they were preparying for the moonlander to land.  The moonlander was in the sky and in was Getting nearer and nearer to Earth. When it landed it looked dirty and old. Charlie, Luke and Kenny ran up to the moonlander took out the pictures and took them home to look at. "Look look I've found a picture with a big red body and it's got an orange head" said Luke. "No it's not you just spilt tomato ketchup and beans on the photograph". The next night Charlie saw the monster on the but there were no photographs of it. Charlie, Kenny and Luke didn't have photographs to prove there was a monster. Sadly for the rest of their lives before they died they could never prove there was a monster. 

Interesting ideas.

Coming soon, SPACE ADVENTURE, another short story I wrote when I was 9!

Care to share?

Friday 17 February 2012


The writers went all crazy mental trying to write a script that would sell, and then they gave up and tried to write something from the heart, but no-one cared so they tried to write a script that would sell, again. The actors were desperate to land the roles so they sent emails to all the casting directors and went to the networking parties and smiled and blurted out answers about all their 'current projects'. The producers told everyone how Colin Firth was attached to their projects, and they told all the people at the parties how they were nearing production, and they told investors they needed money for production, and they told everyone else how they had all the money and guaranteed distribution and a guaranteed amazing project.

People got crazy depressed about how their dreams rapidly disappeared into the night like specks of snow that never quite settled. They'd wake up in the mornings with a plan, and go to bed with an emptiness soaring through their hearts. The plan was to be accomplished by 17, by 21, by 30, by 50. People smashed their souls down on paper and on screen and on answering machines, begging for opportunities and together thousands of people at any one time fired forth, determined to create or be a part of the next masterpiece.

Some youngster got a lucky break, and someone slightly older stopped getting lucky breaks; and everyone danced a fine line between hearts filling and hearts breaking.

Everyone stayed mad crazy busy and fought fought fought to achieve something nearing anything, just so they could sleep sound at night. Just so they could feel it had all been worth it. They all kept getting closer and closer to getting somewhere near where they thought their lives would be. But when they got closer, it hurt more when it turned to dust right in front of their eyes. 

Care to share?

Tuesday 14 February 2012


I was thinking about how much of it comes from the heart. How much of it comes from needing to express something.

And how much of it comes from that nagging voice inside that cries "write write write!" like a broken record.

I write an astonishing amount, you have no idea. I am always working on scripts, articles, blogs, short stories, humorous status updates, lengthy email rants, and whatever else comes up. It's a constant. I have a group of friends who receive mini-fictional things from me on a near daily basis. I know it's not my best material, but they're very polite about it.

It's weird because those who know me think I just joyfully whip these pieces out of nowhere, just for fun. But so much of it is anything but.

I am writing this close to midnight. So many of my blogs come not out of creativity, but out of a constant voice in me that yells "write damnit write!". It's a constant pressure that, after years of being tweaked and improved, is able to force pretty good material out of me.

But it's not my best. The best comes when I let go, when I get away from my brain, when I experience new things, when genuinely new and unexpected insight comes.

Of course, this is very rare. I get too caught up in being 'the writer' and forget to live.

More often than not, these days, I have to talk myself out of writing; I write outwardly like I take caffeine inwardly -- it's an addiction. I force it out. So often I'm ten pages into a script or two paragraphs into a blog without even realising I've started them. It's like brushing my teeth, it just happens.

In many ways this helps me succeed as a writer.. I've put the hours of practice in. I got good. I can create material quick.

But pushing too much makes me lose the passion, it zaps the fun out of it, makes it harder to find the innocence and life in my words. Ambition, drive, work-rate, they're all great, but they can be destructive too.

I don't sleep. So much of that is because I think I've wasted the day and not created a masterpiece. So I stay up hatching some plan, which of course turns out to be terrible, because I'm so worn out by my crazy brain which screams "write, write, write" every moment of every second.

It takes discipline to write but it also takes discipline to not write.

I just wanted to share a bit about my crazy writer's issues, I hope you found it interesting.

Care to share?

Seven Pounds / Rails & Ties

It's impossible to just love the films you love. You think you do, but you don't, because there are constant reinforcements and demands placed on you from outside, from society, about what makes a good film. You spend most of your time watching the same crap that everyone else watches; and the questions are constantly demanded of you --- is 'The King's Speech' as great as they said? Is 'Pulp Fiction' a masterpiece? Is 'It's A Wonderful Life' a wonderful movie? 

There are some people who rebel against this. Spend their nights purposely watching Horror B-Movies, or obscure Japanese anime. But it's rarely organic, rarely just a natural interest -- more often, it's a reaction to everyone and everything else. There is a lot of watching films out of duty--- this gets even worse when you work in the industry; you watch 'The Artist' and 'Shame' regardless of whether they interest you. 

In the last two days I've watched "Rails & Ties", a small movie from 2007 starring Kevin Bacon and directed by Alison Eastwood, and I also re-watched "Seven Pounds" starring Will Smith, directed by Gabriele Muccino. 

I love both of these movies. They capture what I love about cinema. 

"Seven Pounds" made a lot of money, but it didn't win a lot of fans. The critics hated it and the public wanted the usual Will Smith they were getting accustomed to seeing every summer. This was not it. It was a risk, that didn't pay off critically, but it did artistically (in my opinion). 

"Rails & Ties" was Alison Eastwood's directorial debut, and yes; she is Clint's daughter. The film is about a train driver whose train collides with a car on the track; killing the woman in it. It was a suicide, but the question remained, could Tom (Kevin Bacon) have slowed down the train to avoid disaster? The woman's son Davey (Miles Heizer) certainly thought so -- and the 10 year old tracked down Tom to confront him about it. Tom's wife Megan (Marcia Gay Harden) is in the final stages of terminal cancer. It's a horrible situation for all; a boy with a dead Mother, a man with a dying wife, and the wife who never had a child, whose husband is pulling away from her. All of this is remarkably poignant. It's a film about three people for whom life has lost meaning. Through the unusual and bizarre circumstances, they find that they need each other. Tom and Megan begin caring for Davey, and hiding the fact from child services (because of course it would be illegal). 

The weirdest thing is that, as a viewer, we believe in what they're doing. It feels right, even though it's hugely against societal norms, and if we heard a case like this in real life, we'd demand they go to jail. That's the one great thing that movies teach us, we never know the real story, we never know people's true intentions, we just stick to societal rules and stereotypes. 

"Seven Pounds" is a beautiful and subtle movie, and shares some similarities with "Rails & Ties". Ben (Will Smith), like Tom, is responsible for some deaths (he got into a car accident while looking at his phone). He decides to heal this wrong by committing suicide, but in a way that helps save seven other lives with his extreme selfless generosity. It seems cheesy, preposterous; and, having seen all the critics reviews, perhaps it is, but it worked for me. 

It's so easy to moan about the film industry, about how good films don't get made any more. These films are evidence that this isn't true; because they're great movies. But then again, perhaps you think they're terrible movies -- which is an even more important answer. Because how can anyone try to make a great movie, when we all interpret them so differently? We all agree on "Casablanca" and "Shawshank Redemption", aside from those, it comes down to personal preference. 

My true honest preferences seem to be for subtle human stories that have integrity, authenticity, and heart, that average around 6.7/10 on IMDB. Can they make films for me? Not intentionally. 

You should watch "Rails & Ties". Even if you don't like it as much as I did, you'll see a great performance from Kevin Bacon. He has a knack for taking unusual and risky roles. I find him so much more interesting than the bigger box office draws. The film also has a wonderful and amazingly upbeat ending -- and it's all achieved by a few looks, a piece of music, and a final shot. Truthfulness and subtlety, such a rarity, but wonderful when you find it. 

Care to share?


i have this problem
i like you
can't get it out of town
can't kick it out the way

i have this trouble
I want you
can feel it in the room
can see there's no way out
you can't really wanna know

-you could look right up at me
got nothing left to hide
just can't get it out my mouth
what you could mean to me

i have this worry
i miss you
can't give you a whole day
can't feel which way to go

i have this nightmare
i love you
can see it fall right through
can give it all away
you don't really wanna know

-you could look right up at me
got nothing left to hide
just can't get it out my mouth
what you could mean to me

Care to share?

Saturday 11 February 2012

Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You

Strange that this was written by Dolly Parton, because it's always seemed like such a Whitney Houston song, don't you think? That happens sometimes. Neil Diamond wrote "Midnight Train To Georgia" but it's the version by Gladys Knight & The Pips that resonates.

I think Whitney Houston understood the song better than Dolly Parton did. "Bittersweet memories, that is all I'm taking with me." The whole song plays like a bittersweet memory. It feels like a love song at first until you realise how it's something far more complicated. The woman's jaded, the love is gone. All she can do is love something that isn't there anymore. She's serenading a guy who, it seems, isn't even listening.

"If I, should stay, I would only be in your way." Was there ever a sadder and more truthful opening line in the history of music? Whitney's heart seems to break on the opening word "If", and the way her voice swerves and bends on the word "way", it's as if you hear her heart faltering all inside one word.

We can write songs like this off as cheesy, but there's a reason you always hear it on the radio. Same with "Nothing compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor, they ring true. They capture the heart, breaking. Most artists are too scared to spill out their guts, just like people are in life.

Despite the drugs and controversy, people will mourn the loss of Whitney Houston in a big way, and it's largely down to this song. It's the one track of hers that everyone can name.

"We both know I'm not what you need, and I will always love you." Isn't it horrible!? I love you, you don't need me, goodbye. She's that loser who clings on, long after the love died. And we would ridicule her if the song didn't happen to be about every single one of us at one time or another.


Care to share?

Friday 10 February 2012

This Day In My Life Will Forever Be Recorded... a CD I made.

I've done it all my life. Probably since I was about 8. Then, of course, it was tapes. When I got into my teens, I began labelling them by date. When I was 17 or so, I'd make CD's pretty much every day, because music is so powerful at that age.

Now I don't really have the time or patience to make myself a CD that often, but occasionally I do. Today, I had a weird day -- one of those days when you can't be productive and you're just annoying yourself, and every thought in your head is just stupid and annoying and going nowhere.

I didn't know what was going on, or what I was meant to do with myself -- until it hit me suddenly. I want to listen to some music.
So I did. Recorded is an 80 minute track of the songs I listened to.

A good mix tells a story; a far bigger and more personal story than is often achieved in more traditional forms. I guess it's because you get to cheat and use other people's art. Bob Dylan is always going to be a lot more profound than I am.

Not that I meant to be profound. I just listened to music.

But you soon realize, nobody just listens to music. Your tastes, your choices, your decisions; they all come in to it. Maybe not so much when you hit shuffle. But when you sit down for an hour and a half with the sole intention of indulging in music -- the personal nature of it is undeniable.

Do you want to hear it? An 80 minute mp3, which I'll upload somewhere for you to download, if you're interested. Who knows, you might find a new favourite song, or reconnect with a song that you let go of some years back. Chances are, you'll learn something about me too.

Care to share?

Wednesday 8 February 2012

THE KID Versus MARIA: Rating The Acting Performances In Roman Polanski's 'CARNAGE'

I watched "CARNAGE" at 2.30pm. Thirty minutes before that, somewhere else in the country, my friend MARIA started watching it too. We promised to chat about it afterwards -- but instead, I called her up and said "Rate the acting performances from best to worst, and write a bit about them. I'll throw it on the blog." She wrote her views and I wrote mine. Coincidentally, our rankings were the same, and our views were pretty similar too. 


MARIA – is just cool, isn’t he? Every role he plays, he inhabits effortlessly. And in ‘Carnage’ his performance as Alan Cowan is just effortless. But perhaps this ease is simply the result of the writing, as his character is the only one who does not go on much of an emotional journey, if at all, throughout the course of the film. He is the constant. He knows who he is, and what he believes, and he’s ok with that. And for that reason, he comes across as the most believable and relatable of the four.

THE KID - Waltz was amazing in this - by far the best performance. May sound weird of me to say this -- but I even felt like he was channelling a bit of Woody Allen in his performance. It was comedic, yet subtle and nuanced -- and, yeah, he seemed like a subdued Woody Allen-esque character. Not sure anyone else will see that in the performance, but I did!

He was, for me, definitely the best actor in it -- he is definitely helped by the character that was written for him, as it's by far the most interesting.


THE KID - I think it's fair to say the material was skewed in favour of the men -- they got the funnier lines. When the two guys started siding with each other, drinking and smoking, it was hilarious -- probably because it was so realistic.

Reilly is often much better than the material he works with. Here, it fit him just right -- he could be down to Earth and normal one minute, and hilarious the next. He manages to be funny without being funny. What do I mean by that? When you see Sandler or Carrey doing comedy, it jumps out at you. Reilly is just kind of inherently funny. He coaxes the humour off the page without having to do too much.

MARIA - Ok, I may be biased here as I adore John C. Reilly as an actor and his performance in ‘Chicago’ will forever remain in my mind. But watching him turn from this lovable, peace maker into a somewhat unlikeable character was fantastic. The switch that was called for from the script is a hard one to pull off for most actors. He played the subtext so well that he pulled off the sudden switch in the dialogue with ease. The mask was dropped and the REAL Michael Longstreet was revealed. Well done John. Well done. (slow clap).


MARIA - I love watching this woman try to pull off an American accent. She does it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s always on the verge of slipping right back into RP and the anticipation keeps me on the edge of my seat. And watching her play drunk… Well, you can tell she’s a Brit. She does it so well you know she’s practised many a time. I found my focus rested mainly on her character, Nancy Cowan, because you knew eventually she was going to crack and when she did it was beautiful and believable.

THE KID - I was bored by her for many parts of the film and, in fact, there were times when I thought she wasn't very good at all -- I could see the acting. I guess she can't be incredible all the time. That being said, towards the end, when she was finally called upon to do something interesting, she excelled. Her drunken behaviour and shouting got the biggest laughs of the movie. When Winslet is great, I don't think there are many in her league. In 'Carnage', she's not great, at least not for all of it.


THE KID - This is probably the worst I've ever seen her. For one, the character was repugnant, but that wasn't even the problem. I just didn't believe what I was seeing whenever Foster did her thing. It wasn't real, I couldn't buy into it. You know who they should have cast? Helen Hunt. She'd have been PERFECT. She'd have pulled off the righteousness and the anger, while still being human. Foster was miscast, and as a result, struggled massively.

MARIA - I was not a fan. BUT…perhaps that’s because I hated her character so much I wanted to throw something at the screen at times. But all in all, I felt like she was trying WAY too hard. I couldn’t relate to or care about her character in the least. That said she did a good job of amping up the drama in a rather simple story. I’m sorry I can’t say more about her performance. Unfortunately that’s acting for you. If the audience doesn’t like your character they’re usually going to go away thinking you didn’t do a great job. But if all you try to do is play lovable characters you’re going to have a boring career and probably won’t ever become a great actor. So well done Jodie on not being afraid to be disliked.

Care to share?

Peas & Carrots

"I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known... I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like... magic."
-Sam Baldwin, 'Sleepless In Seattle'

Isn't it the most beautiful thing ever? Two people going off into the crazy world and always finding their way home. I don't even mean Greenbow, Alabama. I mean, finding their way home.. to each other. Forrest found Jenny in a seedy club singing Bob Dylan songs. Jenny found Forrest in Washington, D.C., during a rally.

Something always led them home.

The promise of films is an enticing one. It gives everything meaning. Our lives are often less poetic. We'd love to travel across the country to meet up with Andy Dufresne, to marvel in how meaningful life is -- but real life is rarely painted as magically.

I still find it strange how 'Forrest Gump' and 'Shawshank Redemption' were made in the same year. Reminds me of that beautiful TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, when she talks about how old cultures would chant "God" and "Allah" when they saw something magic.

"In Spain, when a performer has done something impossible and magic, (they would shout) "Allah, ole, ole, Allah, magnificent, bravo," incomprehensible, there it is -- a glimpse of God. Which is great, because we need that."
-Elizabeth Gilbert

I think those two movies embody that. And sure, there will be people reading this who hate those films, or think they're overrated, or whatever; and that's fine -- but the fact is, those films were a phenomenon. Every year they try to make the latest films sound like they've changed the world. Remember the hype for 'The King's Speech' last year? Now nobody gives a shit.

'Forrest Gump' and 'Shawshank Redemption' are in people's hearts. They're the reason why people love the cinema. Deep down we like to see our lives as meaning something, as leading in a certain direction, that there's an essence within us that is guiding us along. Did we think this before movies existed? I don't know. Either way; after a few illnesses, deaths, divorces and shattered dreams -- we lose that spark. Forrest and Jenny, Red and Andy, Rick and Ilsa, we look towards them, not because of how they reflect life, but because how they make up for everything it lacks.

What do we do in real life? How do we make it meaningful? The thing about life is that when you think you've met a Fran Kubelik, they often turn out to be an Elle Driver.

Just like when you think your best friend is Elwood P. Dowd and they turn out to be Frank Costello.

Me, I'm a movie guy. Can't help it. I'm not sure there's a magical essence pointing me through life -- but I do think we have the power, as people, to live the lives we want, to make it meaningful.

Care to share?