Wednesday 31 March 2010

June 6th - A Short Story

I logged on to Facebook. I was kind of hoping that Sally would have messaged me back, but she hadn't. Although she did write on Paul's wall so she had been online. Aggh, I'm so depressed. Why won't she message me back? Should I write on her wall? Poke her?. Not only that, but my boss keeps giving me shit because I keep showing up late. Fucking idiot, doesn't he know I've got enough problems? I logged back on to Facebook, Sally has deleted me. OMG. How could she block me?.

He was in the middle of the sea. He was probably freezing cold, he was probably scared - but he didn't really notice because he was so focused on the task ahead. And what was ahead, he didn't really know. He wanted to look into the eyes of the men beside him but he couldn't, because he was in the darkness of night. The horrors that were only hours away were too big to think about. He took comfort in knowing that his best friend Timmy was on the same boat as him.

I messaged Jane and asked her why Sally deleted me. I didn't understand. I am also looking for new jobs but it's so hard with the recession on. I took comfort in my Xbox 360. But then midway through a game it FROZE! This is why I don't let my Brother play my Xbox. Obviously he's broken it somehow. I just about managed to stop myself going insane and throwing the console out of the window. Fuck it, I just need comfort food. I made myself a sandwich. Actually I didn't - because there was no chicken left in the fridge. How can there be no chicken left in the Fridge? I tried phoning my brother to find out if he'd stolen my chicken but I couldn't get a reception on my phone. My phone is crap, I need a new phone.

He couldn't help but notice the eerie silence around him. The only noises were the occasional cough, or some guy at the back being sick. Everybody felt sick. Most wouldn't admit it. The night was nearly over and the beaches were ever closer. He instinctively knew that what was to come was going to be a lot different to everything he had experienced before. He thought briefly about Mary. He wondered what she was doing right now. He hoped she was sleeping.

I did a google image search for Scarlet Johannson. Life was suddenly great again and all my stresses were gone. After about fifty pictures of her I moved on to Meagan Good. Maybe life wasn't such a drag after all. My friend Charlie came round and we ordered a pizza. Charlie's my mate but to be honest, he annoys me. For example, he blatantly always tries it on with Sally, right in front of me. And he always belittles the things I say. AND, the dude owes me £50 from like three months ago. I wanna smash his face in. I can't deal with a friend owing me money and hitting on my girl.

He didn't quite get time to have a thought pass through his head, because the bullet flew right into his helmet before he even saw the enemy. Luckily, his helmet managed to hold out. Little Bryan wasn't as lucky, it sliced right through his shoulder and took him down. Within seconds, they were all in the water, fighting to get to dry land. Not that dry land was any better-- the onslaught of German fire was non-stop. He saw a small dip in the sand that could be used as cover. He headed for it but another soldier got there first. Good job the other soldier got there first because his arm got blown off just as he touched the ground.

I was meant to go to JJ's party tonight but instead thought I'd stay at home. I logged onto facebook and looked at some pictures. Pictures of Sally that her friends had tagged. I had reached the point of official devastation. Maybe I should just kill myself. Nah, I think I'll just throw on a DVD and drown my sorrows.

He could almost burst due to the sheer pressure in his head. Everything was happening at once. The water behind him was a sickening red, and the beach before him was a sea of men falling. It was too many things to take in at once - the smells and sights were indescribable. He would have taken more time to be dazzled by all this but there were still Germans shooting at him. Suddenly, a soldier dived on top of him-- they both fell to the ground. "What was that?" he asked. The bald comrade who wasn't wearing a helmet said "Keep moving, you nearly got your head blown off". Before he could say thanks the bald guy was already saving another life. As for our hero, he never saw the bald guy again. He never saw Timmy again either, but he didn't have time to think about that.

I think the world is falling apart. Seriously. Apparently, they think that maybe too much coffee can now cause mental issues. So I'm fucked! And I've just found out they're thinking of making a new Back To The Future movie, why Lord, WHY? Nothing makes sense anymore. Even Ronaldo is thinking of signing for Real Madrid!. I left Sally a voicemail. I know I shouldn't, but I did.

His uniform was ripped on one side from shrapnel and the other side was covered in blood. Although it looked brown. He thought blood was meant to look red. They were shooting at him again. Everyone was exploding. One guy was on fire, he didn't know how that happened. It was at this point he realised he needed to kill some Germans. He nervously hovered behind some tall soldier he'd never seen before and another guy who might be Mikey J but he can't be sure because his face was half blown off.

I logged off of Facebook and I ignored JJ's missed calls. My life was becoming more than stressful, I'm too old to be dealing with this shit lol.

He turned to look at the boy who was giving him instructions. He really was a boy, he looked 14. The boy didn't get to finish giving instructions because his head got blown off. All around there were boys crying, boys screaming, boys dying. But more common than that, were boys coming together. Boys focused. Boys advancing on an enemy that had to be stopped. He suddenly felt a jolt of confidence, a reminder of his purpose. It was all he needed. He wasn't going to go down without a fight. He pointed his gun at the tower above and took aim.

I wrote this story on June 5th 2009, and posted it on June 6th (D-Day Anniversary) 2009. This is a RE-POST. I'm currently away and will be back at the weekend! Come back tomorrow for the final GUEST WRITER! (she's awesome!)

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Tuesday 30 March 2010

Comedic Short Stories.

Here are two short stories I wrote last year when nobody read this blog. Now that I have seven regulars, I thought I'd share them again.

A very serious and important analysis of the meaning of dreams.

Dreams are strange. People who like country music are also strange, but have been subject to less scientific research. My personal experiences on this matter have indeed been noteworthy. In fact, the content of my dreams were once planned to be the basis of a 20,000 word scientific study, but the scientist instead opted to do a Twitter update only. Dreams, we have long been told, are an absolute mystery. However, through my own studies, I can reveal they tend to happen at night and when sleeping.

I once fell asleep whilst wearing my glasses. This was unfortunate as for the next few hours I dreamt I was waiting for a consultation with my local optician. I only realized I was dreaming when a large gorilla walked in and praised me for being a great single Mother and an award winning acrobat. The amusement was short lived as he immediately charged me $50 for a contact lens examination.

Carl Jung, Freud and numerous other dead people believe dreams are the doorway to learning about our subconscious wants and desires. If this is true, why do I keep dreaming about Stephen Hawkins giving me foot massages? To get to the bottom of all this I enrolled in a three year psychology degree. This went great until three days before graduation when I woke up in a sweat; and realized it had all been a dream.

I have since learned that most of the time you can tell if you are in a dream because things seem completely unrealistic. For example, I can always tell I'm dreaming if people are polite, a girl remembers my name, or George Bush completes a full sentence.

In recent years there has been a distinct lack of research into what happens when people go to sleep at night, but Dr. Ralph Piffell from Oregon, USA, is determined to bring the matter into the public consciousness. The last heavily-funded study into the effects and meaning of inner dream life was in 1967 in Neuschwanstein, Germany. Unfortunately the study had to be called off as participants were found to be drowsy and close to nodding off. Dr. Piffell says that he dreams of the day they can do another in depth study. But he also admitted to dreaming of naked Albanian wind-surfers joining him for barbecues, so is fraught when it comes to deciding which dream to bring to life.

One of the main ways dreams are analysed is by looking closely at the meaning of symbols and objects within the visions witnessed during sleep. For example, if you dream about pasta, that is actually your subconscious desire for sexual activity in your life. However, if you find yourself dreaming about sex you are more than likely to wake up with an urge for penne pasta.

One of the most common concerns is that of the recurring nightmare. Throughout centuries the greatest minds have done their best to find ways to stop them. Only now are they realizing the simplest way of halting them, which is by not sleeping.

In summary, there is still much to learn about dreaming. The good news is that many myths are now being debunked. For many years people believed that to die in your dream meant that you would die in real life. It turns out this is true, but often the death does not happen until 50, sometimes 70 years later. Another key thing to remember when looking into dream interpretation, is that it is not completely accurate. For example, if you look up the meaning behind your dream about a piece of cheese; it is often difficult to tell exactly which type of cheese it was in the dream. This type of thing is of major importance, as dreaming of mature farmhouse cheddar cheese means you are coming to a new, positive stage in your life, whereas dreaming about moist blue cheese indicates you are likely to have limbs amputated if you ever travel to Scandinavia. It is for reasons like this that I strongly recommend only dreaming in supervised situations.

A complex study into the complicated issue that is: Tea Addiction

Tea addiction is generally classed as one of the least bothersome addictions. The main signs of tea addiction are headaches, brown teeth and dressing like your grandparents. Those who have been inflicted with tea obsession often feel helpless due to how unversed medical professionals are on the subject, as they normally say to patients, "let's have a cup of tea and discuss this."

Tea is the third most common reason for not sleeping, coming in slightly behind depression, and the main reason - that it is not yet bedtime. People often think that people addicted to the caffeine in tea don't sleep well as they drink too late at night, whereas actually it is usually because the person is laying awake anticipating the morning's first cup of tea. This can lead to problems, especially if you wake up to find you are all out of tea bags.

Tea can be drunk with sugar, with sweeteners, and with relatives, who will often complain, "this is too strong for me." Tea is also versatile as it can be consumed in any situation, although I rarely drink it during sex - but that's probably because I've never had it.

Tea is great in all situations. Often after good news people will say, "lets have a cup of tea." It has also been used over the years during arguments, mainly because a fresh cup of tea can cause major burns if poured directly onto a moaning partner. Tea has also been customary at funerals over the years, although in recent years there has been debate as to whether there is any justification for causing major burns to corpses.

After the success of the AA for alcoholics, many people who were addicted to tea joined the TA, but were left baffled when their first assignment was a 9 month stay in Afghanistan. Of course, after realizing the TA was actually the Territorial Army, they instead set up Teaholics Anonymous, a place where groups of people from all backgrounds can sit around discussing their experiences. Tea is strictly forbidden, so members tend to bring strong alcoholic beverages. Things get very confusing on every third Sunday of the month as the AA and TA have to share a hall, and members often claim to belong to a different group than they came in with.

Farmers in some parts of Africa have been blamed for the epidemic of tea addiction. Harold Frumbleby, Director of Purchases at Starbucks said, "Ethiopian farmers make their tea available for less than $0.02 per cup." He went on to claim, "this is why we charge $2.45 per cup, to stave off buyers from being driven to addiction by those careless Ethiopians." World Leaders praised Starbucks and other big coffee chains for continuing to extort prices by up to 7995%, and believed it would save the Western World from tea addiction. President Obama is rumored to be planning a "War On Caffeine," but he may cave on the decaf option.

In Summary - all I can really do is to advise caution and moderation. You also must not drink tea whilst operating heavy machinery, as this may lead to spillages. Tea can also cause staining of the teeth, which is why tea has been banned in Hollywood since the mid-nineties.

Kid In The Front Row is on holiday for a week and shall be back soon!

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Monday 29 March 2010

Why Struggling Actors Should Produce Their Own Work

If I hear one more actor say "there's just nothing out there at the moment" or "I don't have anything for my showreel" I am going to scream.

When you're starting out in the industry it's hard, I get it. But the industry doesn't owe you anything. And that can really frustrate me about young actors; they feel like they are owed acting roles, owed great showreels, owed everything. But the industry owes you nothing. And the thing most of you don't realise is that there are thousands of actors out there working harder than you. You need to catch up.

Acting, like Producing and Directing, is creating. Something didn't exist and now it does. If you do a short film TODAY, then you have put something out there into the world. It is a part of your legacy. Now it may suck, so you may not want to make it. But what's better, a film that sucks or a film that doesn't exist? To begin with, just by making something that sucks, you wipe out 50% of the competition, because the other half is sitting in offices and supermarkets saying "I want to be an actor".

Most actors get a bit scared when they get DVD's of their performances. It's usually "oh God, I wasn't as good as I thought". But imagine if before doing that film; you had made five of your own shorts and acted in them-- chances are your performance in the DVD you just received might be a bit better.

There is no need for an actor to wait for roles, CREATE the roles. If you want to play a nurse, make a film about a nurse. You want to be an astronaut, be an astronaut. You want to play a whore, play a whore. "But I have no money!" you say. Okay, well - how about you and two other struggling actors make a short film set in one location. 'An Astronaut misses his last day of training due to being caught with a whore by his girlfriend - who uses her nursing skills to help the whore who's struck down by a fever.' - there you go. Grab a camera, shoot it. You have a film.
Make a mockumentary about an out of work actor who has a fear of leaving his house. Make a film about a man who keeps watch over his garden as he's convinced the pigeons are Nazi's. Film a bunch of your acting friends talking about their fears and hopes and put it on YouTube, it's footage of YOU.

If you have showreel footage, you immediately overtake 80% of the actors currently doing the short film circuit.

Back to creating. Maybe you're scared by the term 'Producing'. A producer takes nothing and turns it into a product. He finds a story and finds the people needed to make it end up on the screen. You can do that. You can do it by borrowing your Aunt's camera, getting a friend to press record whilst you perform.
"But it doesn't look professional," you say. Casting Directors don't care. Whether it was Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous or Katie Holmes in Dawson's Creek; the industry is full of cases where some struggling nobody who lived in a farm in nowhere managed to win a role by showing Producers/Casting Directors who they are. Tom Hanks on 35mm is Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks on your Aunt's camera is still Tom Hanks. I was watching a behind the scenes video of 'Vanilla Sky' yesterday; it was just Cameron Crowe and the crew messing around-- but every time Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz are on screen; they steal the show. Why? Because they have that thing. In their eyes, in their movement, in who they are -- they are great personalities, great actors. It shines through. YOU WILL SHINE THROUGH if you create video content of yourself, being yourself, and showing the world your talents.

There is no need to be distraught if you are not getting roles, or if Directors everywhere are ignoring you or saying "I may be casting next month," who cares; a lot of their films will be terrible anyway.

Go watch 'Ellie Parker' - it's Naomi Watts in a horribly rough and cheaply shot feature film; but what she does in the film is show off every aspect of her acting skills. She proves to the world how great she is. You can do exactly that.

Some of the best short films I have seen have been terribly shot. But if you can act, you should show people. You want to know what is worse? Terrible acting with beautiful photography.
It will ruin you. If a casting director sees you on TV or in your showreel or, even worse, in the cinema and your performance is wooden and stagey - then you're screwed. So go pick up a camera; this is the most freedom you'll ever have as an actor. Go create, go and become the very characters you want to play. The ball is in your court - and you need to smash it right into the Casting Directors face so he can't miss you.

"I am getting my reel together soon" should not be a sentence you ever utter.

This was a REPOST from June 2009. The KITFW is currently on holiday, and will be returning very soon. Stick around this week though for some GREAT Guest Writers!

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The One Where Lisa Likes Animated Movies - Guest Writer Lisa Marie Fabrega

Lisa Marie Fabrega is an actor, musician, and blogger - currently dividing her time between film, theatre and commercials; whilst somehow finding the time to write a guest article for Kid In The Front Row. As it turns out; whilst everyone else is at work, or eating dinner - Lisa is in the front row, watching animated movies.

The One Where Lisa Likes Animated Movies.
By Lisa Fabrega

I’m about to admit something I don’t usually share with others. Only those closest to me know this: I am an animated movie/cartoon junkie.

This wouldn’t be so shocking if I was, perhaps, 7 years old. But I am a grown adult. This makes for some funny situations. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting in a movie theatre all by myself along with 200 screaming children and their parents. I’ve heard many a movie usher chuckle as I hand them my ticket for the latest Pixar release. I quickly run into the darkness of the movie theatre, so that no one else will know my silly little secret.

What is it about animated movies that I love so much? Perhaps it hearkens back to the earliest memory I have of watching a film—Disney’s "Snow White". I must have been extremely young when I first saw it, as the memory is so hazy, I only remember snapshots of the film--the creamy tone of Snow White’s skin, the Seven Dwarfs. I was so captured by the dwarfs that I was terrified of Grumpy as a child, so much so that I made my cousin move her Grumpy doll out of the room during a sleepover at her house because I swore I saw it moving in the dark.

Though the images might be hazy, I strongly remember the feelings I had as a small child taking in my first movie. I could enter a dark room and for two hours be transported to a magical world where things that only lived in my wildest imagination existed. Growing up in a dictatorship, animated films were one of the rare places where goodness always seemed to triumph.

Now as an adult, I recognize deeper aspects about animated films that I would have never consciously recognized as a child. For example--the extreme archetypes. They are amazing! In animated films, villains are fantastically over the top and possess powers that no human villain could possibly possess. Who can forget the utterly fantastic Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, morphing into a powerful dragon to fight the Prince? Or the Other Mother enticing Coraline into her world and turning into a large mechanical spider capable of stealing little girls’ eyes and replacing them with buttons? No human villain in a film can do what a cartoon villain can do! That alone is a reason to love animated films.

It is also these extreme characters that serve as wonderful, subconscious learning tools for both children and adults alike. As an actor, one of the things I love about the artistic medium of film (or theatre for that matter) is that it confronts the audience with a vision of their own humanity. During this confrontation we are forced to look within while observing the world being presented to us in the film or play. We see parts of ourselves in the characters in front of us.. The extreme archetypes of villains in animated films are fantastic ways for us to face the darkest parts of ourselves within a safer context. None of us can turn into a vicious dragon (if you can, call me) or a terrifying girl-eating spider, but we can certainly relate to feelings of anger, isolation and jealousy. Though most of us may be nothing like the Other Mother in Coraline, there are certain parts within us that feel a twinge of recognition when she screams to an escaping Coraline “I need you!!” in that wretchedly, co-dependent way. The beauty of the animated film is that the animation provides a thin veil of separation between ourselves and the extreme evil of villains. I may be angry, but at least I know I won’t turn into a cartoon villain named Maleficent. That makes me feel a bit better when the Irish/Spanish temper in me starts to rise!

Animation also makes serious themes easier to swallow. Some of us may bristle at a heavy hitting environmental docu-drama, but most of us can watch the staggeringly beautiful “Princess Mononoke” by Miyazake and feel deeply affected by the destruction of nature in that film. Once again, the veil of separation between our humanity and the animated world allows us to reflect upon ourselves without getting turned off by yet another human being telling us what to do.

Last but not least, most animated films have uplifting endings. We are bombarded every day with gritty indie films that portray the extremes of our human existence. Most of these films have endings that leave us feeling empty or unresolved. Now, don’t get me wrong-- I think it’s important to show life as it really is, and I myself love gritty “realist” films. But we live in a world full of depressing news and daily catastrophes. Sometimes after a rough week, I don’t want to watch another film that leaves me feeling sick to my stomach or that shows me “how bad things really are”. Sometimes I just want to be uplifted and told that somewhere out there a fish named Nemo is finding his Dad after being lost in the ocean for days.

So, there is my dirty little secret out for all to see. And actually, writing this made me realize, there is a lot to be proud of in my undying love for animated films. Not only can animated films serve as wonderful conduits for our imagination in a world that frequently under-rewards creativity, but animated films can also serve as wonderful tools for self-reflection. Best of all, animated films in general are uplifting and provide much needed escape from a world that increasingly grows complicated and nerve-wracking. Recently, a very, very dear friend of mine passed away. After feeling numb for hours and crying profusely, it dawned on me that I already knew what would make me feel better. So I popped in “Flushed Away”, let those singing slugs do their thing, and before long I was laughing and smiling at how much my friend would have loved that film.

The Kid In The Front Row is currently on holiday, eating lots of burgers. But if you're interested in eating healthily, head over to Lisa Fabrega's blog Whole Person, Balanced Life.

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Sunday 28 March 2010

Strange Currencies - By The Mad Hatter

The Mad Hatter is a film geek (his words, not mine) from Toronto, Canada - where I hear they also have movies. He writes a wonderful film blog called The Dark Of The Matinee. I always thought being a film reviewer would be quite a fun thing, but as Mad Hatter explains in his guest post, it's not as straight forward as you might think.

Strange Currencies
By The Mad Hatter

When and how did this happen?

One moment, I’m watching movie after movie and soaking each one in for all it’s worth. The movies I watched furthered my amusement and cultured my opinion – sometimes all at once. But then I had to go and do something to screw that blissful existence up. The days of watching for watching’s sake were gone, and the days of near compulsion had begun. The seismic shift that set this tremor of geekdom off was seemingly innocent: one day, I started a movie blog.

It all started innocently enough. I was bored of blogging of my day-to-day life, and thought I might get more of a creative spark – and likewise the potential for a wider audience – if I focused my writings on a particular passion. Movie watching seemed the natural fit, since beyond listening to music it was the only thing I did excessively (sidebar: what would life have turned into if I’d started a music blog instead?).

So with a clean slate and a new url, I began to chronicle my own cinemania, and for a while everything was just fine. Then after a year or so, I started to notice a slight change in how I watched movies and what I watched. I was no longer just watching for watching’s sake. Any new movie I saw was seen through the eyes of a studious wannabe critic. I’d ponder star ratings mid-film, burn quotes into my memory for soundbiting purposes, and even began (horrors!)…taking notes!

That was bad enough, but it all got worse during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. This is the time of year that I’m actually on vacation – yes, I take time away from work to watch movies nonstop. In ’08, this experience went from being nothing but fun, to actually becoming work. It wasn’t enough to watch three or four screenings a day, I started filling in the remaining free hours of the day writing about what I’d just seen.

The shift in my attitude was probably best exemplified the night I returned to my apartment at midnight, knowing full well I had to wake up at six a.m. the next morning. I thought to myself “I could write about one of the movies I’ve seen today, or I can hit the hay now and get a solid six hours sleep”. To paraphrase INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE: I chose….. poorly.

Am I now writing about the movies I watch, or am I watching movies in order to write about them? Have I become completely incapable of turning my analytical attitude off and quite simply be entertained by a movie I’ve never watched before. My nerdy movie obsession seemed bad enough with the fact that the “To See” list is literally never-ending. Soaking all of these titles in with half my brain focused on what I’m going to say about it later damn near takes that obsession and turns it into full on lunacy.

Now indeed, I realize, that the easy answer is to just “stop writing”. Believe me, this fact isn’t lost on me, and was actually underlined by a recent conversation with a pro blogger who reminded me that while I might not get paid to do what I do, I have the luxury of quite simply deciding not to do it. Unfortunately I fear that I can’t go back; that even if I was blocked from every port of access to the Internet, I could never again watch a movie “just for fun”. I’ll always be making mental notes just in case the movie comes up in conversation and someone asks me “what did you think?”

Sometimes, I think back to the first movie I saw. I remember being that wide-eyed five year old kid sitting next to his granddad and watching Pinocchio valiantly try to escape from Monstro the Whale in his tiny boat. I wonder if that kid would even recognize the hit-count junkie of a grown-up he’d turn into.

But before the shame can truly take over, I remind myself of one simple fact. That I’m writing about something I truly love. I’m doing it even though nobody is paying me to do it…I’m a champion of positivity in a very cynical community…and that I’ve met a lot of really great people, and had some truly exciting opportunities because of it.

So indeed, I might be past the point of just being able to “watch a movie”. I might have fed the figurative mogwai after midnight and now there’s no changing him back. But if that change affords that Monstro-fearing kid the opportunity to express his cinematic thoughts on a limitless scale…then indeed the Gizmo I once was is gone for good – I’m Stripe now, and watching movies just got a lot more interesting because of it.

Read more from The Mad Hatter over at The Dark Of The Matinee.

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