Monday, 10 February 2014

Right Now

When someone dies, you look back at the text messages, the emails, the tweets, the everything. You get wrapped up in this fight to find out -- did you get it right? Did you respond to messages? Did you initiate messages? Did you turn up or did you constantly reschedule?

When it comes down to it, all that matters are the things that mattered -- and you either succeeded or you failed.

And if you failed, you failed. It happens. Life is busy and work is hard and you gotta do what you gotta do, but a feeling will always eat away at you.

But if you passed, it fills you up with a good feeling. Because despite everything you lost, you're comforted by all you found, everything you was present for.

We have this habit of thinking we'll be better further down the line. When we have more time, or more money, or less stress, it'll be easier to make time, to see loved ones, to find space for those people you cherish.

But that time is undoubtedly this very second. Whoever you're thinking about right now, if they were gone, how would you feel? Did you give that person the right amount of your time? Did you appreciate them for who they are? Did you know the problems they're going through or was you far too focused on yourself?

If your answers are mostly no's, then you only have yourself to blame. Take comfort in the fact that, so far as you know, they're still breathing. You can be a better you.

Little else matters. We can chase money, careers and beaches but ultimately, there's someone out there you love who isn't feeling it right now. And that's because either they're a draining nuisance you need to cut loose from or, more likely, they're gold and you're lazy.

Next month won't do, next week might not even come. You will be taught this lesson eventually, but in the harshest of ways. Instead, be a better you, and start right this moment.

Care to share?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Conversation with a Ghost

Suddenly, floating into my head, came the lyrics 'where have you been have you been to the races' and 'is your sister in braces' -- and I felt the urge to listen to the song again. 

Only problem was - I had no idea what the track was or who sang it (sung it? someone please teach me English), just a memory of that part of a song, about going to the races and the sister in braces. I wasn't even sure if I had the lyrics right. 

So I googled it. 

And there it was. The song 'Conversation with a Ghost' by Ellis Paul. 

But I thought the only song I knew of his was 'The World Ain't Slowing Down', but I KNEW this song! I vaguely vaguely recognized the title 'Conversation with a Ghost' -- was it the Ellis Paul version I knew, or a cover version? 

I'm not sure, but I think I knew it as an Ellis Paul version but maybe as an acoustic version I got from napster or some place back in the day. I have no idea. 

But I do know I haven't heard this song in years, maybe ten years. 

Yet the lyrics flowed into my mind today. It was so familiar, as if it's a song I listen to all the time. 

Except that it's not. I didn't remember that I remembered this song. If you'd said to me yesterday, 'do you know the song 'Conversation with a Ghost' by Ellis Paul? I'd probably have said no. Or maybe there would be some vague vague vague recollection. 

And now I've listened to the song five times in a row. I'm not really sure what it's about, or what it means to me - but it's right there in my mind, and all because it came swimming back to me for a hello after so many years at sea.  

I don't know much about Ellis Paul. I don't know what kind of career he has, or even if he's making a living from it (people like me potentially discovering him on Napster probably didn't help). But his music reached me somehow, through the silence of a Sunday afternoon, by flowing into my mind a decade after I last heard it. There's something magic about that - and it's a credit to Ellis for creating such a great track. 

Care to share?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Social Media Basics

1. You have to be authentic. Be yourself. Everybody is being marketed at all the time, but now with so many choices, people look for what's real.

2. You have to be specific. Nobody wants to hire someone who can do everything, they want someone who can do one thing really well.

And you need to be able to prove it. Everyone speaks a good game, but how is your track record? 

3. Blog. Give away your expertise. How do people know to trust you? When you give everything away. Your unique insight makes you appealing.

4. Don't register a 'Facebook Page', we were duped! We thought it was a way to build an audience, but it's not. If you have 1000 'fans' on your Facebook page, only around 30 of them will see your posts. If a social media guru is telling you to get a Facebook Page, they're not a guru at all.

Facebook gave us the Pages function for free but then took away everything they're good for. Now you have to pay to reach your own 'fans' through promoted posts. 

5. Don't be automated. If I'm getting the same tweets or emails as other people, I know you're not giving me any of your personal time. So why should I give you mine?

6. It's too easy to be against a new platform. Most people waste years berating Google+, Instagram and Vine, and then... they join them.

7. Don't read too much into the numbers. Someone may not have many Twitter followers, but maybe the 50 people who do follow them are industry insiders. Likewise, they could have 30,000 Instagram followers, but none of them are paying attention. The numbers rarely mean what you think they mean. 

8. Nobody is listening on Twitter. You can have a million followers, but they probably won't care about your latest project. People are reluctant to click through. And it's virtually impossible to know what your followers want.

9. Quit while you're behind. If no-one is interested in your project or product, quit badgering them. Make a better product. Get better at your art. 

10. Don't waste your time trying to go viral. If you can't make something that connects with 10 people, how will you connect with 10 million?

Greatness spreads. If your content isn't being shared, it isn't good enough. Period.

Care to share?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Have you seen the latest Richard Curtis movie, 'About Time'? It's beautiful. It got slagged off in the press a fair bit. I remember skimming through some bad reviews and also a piece in The Guardian or somewhere where some feminist was annoyed that Rachel McAdams was in another time-travel movie where she didn't get to time travel, or something like that.

It's a wonderful movie. Richard Curtis movies usually are. Especially when his movies are about the human heart. I can understand why he's tried other stuff, it's that syndrome all great artists have; where they want to be seen for something other than what they are. But what Richard Curtis is, is a master of showing us how we love each other. He reminds us how important it is. You think we'd know that right? But watching 'About Time' I was reminded of how much I love my family, and of how much I haven't taken risks with the opposite sex in about a million years because I've been focusing on work and a whole bunch of other excuses too much.

And that seems a personal thing to share but then, if we're not sharing something personal then what are we sharing? What's the point?

'About Time' begins with an instrumental version of 'The Luckiest' by Ben Folds, one of my all time favourite songs. And it ends on the proper song. Strange for me because 'The Luckiest' has a big personal history for me. I once did a video-footage compilation for a girl, with 'The Luckiest' playing over the top. It was a video of all our time together; the clips of us laughing and being silly and me thinking I was, y'know 'The Luckiest'.

Turns out I was dillusional. In a cloud. She was not deserving of this song at all. But because of that and a few other things along the way, I stopped being a guy who tried. Stopped putting myself into positions where, come the end of the day, 'The Luckiest' might be a fitting song for where we were at. I just closed off, focused on the other stuff.

But what else is there? You can achieve everything you want to achieve with your career, or earning money, but where does that leave you? Your money doesn't give you a hug at the end of a shit week and your career won't make you a tea when you're old.

This film reminded me that my grandparents (the ones that are left), won't be around forever. Neither will my parents or my siblings or me or my friends. The days dash by again and again and every moment is gone gone gone forever.

I'm so often guilting of just WAITING. Ever done that? Wait for things to happen. Wait for the film idea to come. Wait for the girl to text back. Wait for the shit friend to be a good friend. Passively ignoring the good and waiting on the bad. And where does it leave you?

Richard Curtis fascinates me. I tried writing to him once, I got an impersonal response from an assistant. And a friend of mine sent him some short films, they were returned with a letter saying Richard wouldn't watch them. And I saw him give a talk once - he was so removed from the realities of the industry, of the struggle, of all that. It's weird how your interactions with your artistic heroes are so disappointing. But then why do we try so hard to reach them? I had an interview scheduled with Stephen Merchant for this blog. He pushed it back for a year. It got delayed and delayed until, you guessed it, the release of his TV show. He answered it along with all the other press, through his assistant, I never got that personal connection (here's the interview, it's not one of my best).

I'm on a tangent now. I guess my point is: the great artists, their kindness is in their work. Curtis has given us important gifts like 'Four Weddings and a Funeral', 'Notting Hill' and 'Love, Actually'. Why should I want MORE from him? He's given so much. 'About Time' is the best film I've seen in ages. I know you disagree with that choice of 'best film in ages', but who gives a shit? It resonated. That's all that matters.

The things that resonate. The movies. The people. The connections. We are so good at pushing those aside. Why am I generalising? I am so good at pushing those things aside.

'About Time' reminded me to be human. It reminded me to be me. To be awake. To partake. 

"Next door there's an old man,    
Who lived to his nineties and one day,
Passed away, in his sleep.     
And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days,
And passed away.      
I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you,
That I know we belong."

Care to share?

Sunday, 5 January 2014


I love Jenna Elfman. What an amazing actress! She's typically described as energetic, funny and quirky, and while she is all of those things, it's important to not dismiss the fact that this is an extremely hard-working and talented actress (and mother of 2!) at the absolute top of her craft. 

Like many of the characters she has portrayed, Jenna is an breath of fresh air, even when doing an interview by email in the midst of a hectic work schedule. 

Jenna is one of my favourite actors, and to get the chance to ask her questions was a blast. Here goes. 

How's it going? What are you working on? 

It's going great! Just finished filming the movie Big Stone Gap with Ashley Judd, Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Wilson, Jane Krakowski and John Benjamin Hickey.  Now I'm busy filming a new comedy series for NBC called Growing Up Fisher, with J.K. Simmons.

Busy as always! I first got to know you, as I'm sure many did, through the wonderful 'Dharma and Greg', but you were acting for a long time before that. What were some of the most important moments for you in your career in the years leading up to Dharma?  

The TV show I was on right before I got Dharma and Greg, which was an ABC comedy called Townies, which starred Molly Ringwald, Lauren Graham and myself. It only lasted one season, but was my first series regular role and and because of it, I got to be able to have Dharma and Greg created for me.

You've zig-zagged between TV and film over the years -- when you were starting out, movies were the cool place to be, now, arguably, it's TV. How have things changed for you personally? 

The shift in the entertainment industry and media platforms for entertainment over the last 10-15 years has been mega and it's still calibrating and finding itself.  So, for me as an actress, I've had to also be creative to keep relevant and on top of all the possibilities and adjustments in my own industry.

I love your podcast. That's a form that has really taken off in recent years. What do you get from podcasting that you don't get from your other work? 

Thanks, glad you like it! Doing our podcast is really liberating for me.  It is just my husband, Bodhi Elfman, and I sitting down and chatting about our marriage, marriage politics and funny stories from our 22 years together, unscripted and unedited.  Not careful, not conservative— just us. R-rated comedy chatter. Nothing withheld.

You can find Jenna and Bodhi's podcast on iTunes by clicking HERE

Going back to 'Dharma and Greg'; there were a lot of great sitcoms at the time, it was the days of 'Friends', 'Frasier' and so many more. I don't know what it was like in the US, but here in the UK; it had a much smaller audience, but the fans were loyal, it had a real cult following -- what is it about the show that connected with people in a way that I think is often different to those other shows? 

I think our show was truly based on joy.  Dharma was a unique character, Greg's voice was more the one of the "sensible" audience watching— and Dharma inspired people and gave them relief and let them laugh and imagine.  I think most women characters on TV at that time had been worried about love, their careers, their friends.  Dharma was not neurotic or worried.  She was genuinely happy and it was well-written, and I think it was just a burst of light into the television landscape.

I think what a lot of people love about you and your work is your great energy, your personality. I can imagine when it's late at night, you've got a headache and you're out for groceries, people want you to be the Jenna Elfman they see on TV. Do you ever find that difficult, or are you always bursting with energy?  

Well, I AM energetic, however I AM human and a working mother of 2 young, energetic boys and I'm married to Bodhi, which, if you've listened to the podcasts, well you can imagine what that's like!  (And SO GLAD I'm married to him, don't get me wrong.)  But ya, I get tired, cranky and frustrated just like anybody else.  But MOST of the time, I'm pleased with the great gifts I am fortunate to have in my life and I am grateful for all of it everyday.  Unless I'm tired and cranky.

Your career has gone through a great deal of changes - as is the same for any actor -  how do you maintain a sense of control throughout it all? 

Who said I had any sense of control?! (Bursting out laughing!) I maintain my sense of humor and that gives me tolerance for all the other craziness around me. And my husband helps me a lot, too. He's my best friend and comrade-in-chaos!

'Accidentally on Purpose' was a really fun show - it was great to see you take the lead in a sitcom format again. Like so many great shows, it didn't make it past the first season. Do you think that was just the case of networks being networks, or is there something about the show that didn't quite work?

Well, that's always hard to say- there are so many factors that go into making a show, let alone one that goes on to become a hit and many of those factors are beyond any one person's immediate control.... But I hear lots of people are enjoying it on Netflix, so that makes me happy!!

A few questions about how you go about your craft --- How are you with auditions? And how often do you have to do them compared with just getting offered a role based on your work? 

I hate auditions.  I RARELY have actually gotten hired from an audition (for films.)  All the films I got were not from auditions, but some other meeting, chance luck, offer, etc.  I used to like auditions early in my career, because I actually GOT JOBS by doing auditions.  But now that I have a career, I haven't gotten a single job from an audition.  They are a real buzz kill for me.  Argh. Need to solve that one! LOL

How do you maintain your craft? Although I of course think you are fabulous already, I always find that the top actors continue to learn and improve their craft-- I'm interested in how! 

Well, I am a people-watcher! I just always have been.  That to me, staying present in life, aware of human behavior, not removing yourself from people, but instead staying involved in the world around you, paying attention, watching how people look, carry themselves, react, dress, hide, pretend, dodge, etc. is the best acting lessons ever.  We are, as actors, playing people,  after all.

Is there anything you have not yet achieved with your career that you hope to in the coming years? 

I just want to continue to try new kinds of comedy and roles and tones that I have not explored yet.  I just want to keep expanding, in whatever , various, interesting ways that manifests itself, I'm IN!

Care to share?