For several years… at least three… way back in the 80’s before you were born, global burden of disease I studied acting at a place called “The Loft Studio” on LaBrea. The instructors were Peggy Feury & William Traylor. It was work based on their time at The Actors Studio… the pedigree was Lee Strasberg, internist “The Method”, discount Stanislavski… all that cool stuff.
It was one of the three or four classes in town where “all the cool kids” went to learn about acting. It was a very competitive, heady, even pretentious time. But we were young, idealistic actors ready to change the world and become great actors.
There were loads of students, but the famous people were Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Nicolas Cage, Crispin Glover, Eric Stoltz, Meg Ryan and a bunch of other people who are in everything you’ve seen but you have no idea who they are. Lawrence “Lorenzo” Poindexter is one of several great friends I made at The Loft.
As with any creative endeavor, there were also a slew of people who sucked out loud who never went on to do anything.
Classes were at least two hours a day, four times a week. Tuesday – Friday.
The work was fairly intense. Two days of scene study and two days of “sensory” work. Sensory could be anything from doing improvisation… not the improv with the goal of being funny, but improvisation based on scenes we were working on. The sensory stuff was basic sense memory… work on a shower. Once you had the specifics of the shower going, try saying some lines from your scene. Maybe there’s a connection… maybe not.
Each session was eight weeks. They would pick an author/playwright for us to work on. So… everyone would be working on Pinter, Shepard, Shaw, Shakespeare… We’d watch everyone do the same scenes and make the same mistakes. Watching those scenes going on, we’d learn that authors voice; what made them great. We’d learn mistakes authors made, too. The things to watch out for.
Peggy’s goal was to make us able to function if we had no director or if the director was no good.
It was, for me (though others might argue), a safe place. I could suck there. I did. Often. But, I’d be able to do cool stuff. I run in to people every few years who mention my Hamlet. Pretty cool.
I was at the Loft when I began working as an actor. They were so proud and happy. They loved when their students worked. They loved having actors over to their house for Thanksgiving and would have great parties and it was a community. I remember (and I may be mistaken) being at a Thanksgiving dinner with Jack Nicholson, Burgess Meredith, Horton Foote & Angelica Huston. Plus some other starving actors whose names I don’t remember with no where to go…. And me. I was parking cars at the time. Peggy & Bill were so sweet and generous to me.
Bill “taught” the sensory classes. It’s more like he oversaw them. He was a guide, I suppose. He would get mad at actors for doing bullshit. It never seemed to be about the person, per se, but ultimately it was… if the actor didn’t have the ability to connect to something, Bill would try to get them there. At a certain point, he’d lose his patience and get mad. There was also alcoholism going on. It wasn’t all roses. Some days he was volatile and just mean. Being the son of an alcoholic, I knew how to navigate this, so it wasn’t really a “problem” for me. I mention this because I know that memory can get blurry and make things all lovey-dovey and sweet. I’m aware that it wasn’t always fun or safe for some people. They’d get scared and mad and split. Peggy and Bill would argue about it.
Peggy was a narcoleptic. During scenes, if she didn’t keep herself occupied, she would fall asleep. We’d keep doing the scene and often she would be able to talk about places in the scene where she had dozed off.
Ultimately, the narcolepsy killed Peggy. She was driving. She shouldn’t have been driving… she wrecked her car and died.
Bill died a few years after.
And, like the great poster “Nuclear War!? There goes my career!” I was left with no safe place to study acting.
At this time, I had a girlfriend who became involved with a very different acting teacher. They would leave the country on retreats for months at a time and do lots of stuff that made no sense to me at all. Talking to dreams. Jungian psychology. “Spiritual” work. Lots of crying and intense stuff. It seemed invasive and inappropriate. Many actors arrive a bit broken. Someone with an agenda or just no skills can easily do damage.
I acted a movie where one of the main characters was a cult leader. I’d done some research on cults and saw how the instructor of this other class used some of the principles that cult leaders use: removal of the person from their regular environment, lack of sleep, extended periods of dance/movement… it left the students with the feeling that their method was the “only way.” Much like a cult member will know that their cult is the only way to true enlightenment.
I’d heard the “C-Word” (cult) mentioned when referring to the Loft. I didn’t buy it, obviously. When you’re in a cult, you don’t think you’re in a cult… but… There was definitely devotion to Peggy & Bill, and as we were all young, we would be rather breathless and excited about our descriptions of “the work” and our experiences. Young people “know fucking everything” and we were no different. But… Bill & Peggy didn’t demand that we leave town with them or have class after dancing for two hours in the middle of the night.
At that point in my acting life, I began shutting down. I felt that if what I need to be a good actor was to give myself over to some “leader” who gets in to my personal shit, then I can’t be a good actor. The girlfriend’s class wasn’t the only one, either. There were others. It became a cool thing to be in an “acting cult.”
Simultaneously, at this point the career was in the toilet. I felt, irrationally or not, there was a sort of secret acting key that I was not going to be able to grasp. Because I liked reading Skeptic Magazine and going to Michael Shermer’s meetings at CalTech I’d been labeled by people I knew as “cut off” and “limited” even though I tried, poorly, to present my case as being curious and interested in how the world works. I’ve come to understand that it’s the same argument Christians use against atheists “Oh, you think you have all the answers and know everything” when it’s exactly the opposite. I believed I was cut off and limited.
I found Howard Fine’s class. It was great. None of the woo that I’d experienced in other classes. His class was a safe, nurturing place and I began doing good work again. Unfortunately, I was only doing that work in class. I couldn’t get arrested as an actor and my career, for all intents and porpoises, was fucking over.
I start working nine to five (more like 8am to 8pm) as a front end web developer. That went on for at least a decade.
Then, a couple of years ago, Coreyoke (my karaoke band) books a gig for someone who turns out to be an agent: Jay Schacter. He asks me what’s up with the acting. I ramble on about how I’d been going up on parts I didn’t care about so I would go in unprepared and suck because there were people going in on those who did care, so I’d stopped chasing the carrot. I worked when someone offered me something, which was few and far between.
“You don’t have an agent?”
“No. If I had an agent, I’d want someone who grew up watching me who would try to get me the career I should’ve had…”
“I grew up watching you…”
The rest is something like history.
Jay signs me and I start booking small parts. I get a cool gig killing myself on Southland and we have this plan to just get a bunch of new shows on my resume, as it’s pretty out of date. Will & Grace had been the most current show. So I go in on small parts and start booking them.
I turned 50 years old and my mom died a couple years ago and I realized I was ultra-miserable working in the real world. I’d come home and sleep all weekend and my son was seeing his dad as a person who hated his life. I’d tried remaining creative, but the ‘day job’ was demanding and my free time dwindled. Sleeping 18 hours each Saturday & Sunday was my hobby.
I’m now extremely fortunate to have a bride who supports us while I’m Mister Mom to our boy. I book enough day player gigs and voice overs to earn as much as a struggling 23 year old actor living with 3 roommates in Encino Adjacent. It buys groceries and gas in my car. My wife is a saint.
Last week, I was invited by a very cool casting director to participate as an actor in a workshop for film directors. It’s a few hours a day one day for three weekends. I’ve been saying yes to everything, so of course I said yes. I’m all for working with young directors. If they’re wanting to learn how to talk to actors besides “Stand over there. Louder.” I’m allllll for it! Happy to help.
I look up the class online and it seems a little crunchy, but the person leading it consults on a t.v. show with work I really like and the process seems really interesting and challenging.
I speak to the director who says the magic words “it’s really safe and non-judgmental.”
I bite my tongue. Everyone is judging everyone all the time. It’s what humans do. It’s how our ancestors kept from getting killed by enemies. I understand the ideal: as artists we want a place where we feel free to explore, but even the idea of a place to explore means that we may fail. And the only way you know that you’ve failed is by judging. Right?
Then I get an email with a document outlining all of the rules. “No flip-flops. No jeans. You must wear…” Non-judgmental indeed.
The director sends me the scene I’m going to be working on. I’m intimidated. It’s a really nice scene and a part that I would never get cast in… But… I’d never get cast like this in this stage of my life or career. In a parallel universe, where my career landed in the direction I would’ve liked, it’s definitely something I would be considered for.
I’ve been struggling with this idea of who I am vs. how people see me. It’s the struggle, I believe, everyone working in showbiz deals with. Perceptions vs. reality. Tom Hanks breaking out of wise-guy comedies to be the actor we all love. Matthew McConaughey stepping out of Rom-Com stud and astonishing everyone in True Detective.
My narrative is much different: Almost-ran relegated to under five lawyer gigs on episodic television and aspiring to do something before it’s all really over.
Those perceptions are almost as much as convincing other people to allow you do that work as convincing yourself to allow yourself do that kind of work. One must get out of their own fucking way. I have all of these voices in my head from “the bad old days” when it was all crashing and burning: “No one takes you seriously. You’re not viable. You’re not good looking enough. There’s a hair issue. You’re not a name. You’re not sexy. You’re not ‘fuckable.’ No one thinks of you in that way.”
The bride and I binge watch the first season of the show the instructor consults on. I’m intimidated but excited. I feel myself a bit resistant and curious. Is this going to be one of those culty things?
I dump my insecurities on the bride for a bit. I’d recently been asked to do a screenplay reading that was a big deal. I was one of several actors performing the reading, but all of the other actors are actually “names.” And they are all great. And then there was me. All of that imposter insecurity that had crept in the week of the screenplay reading was clouding in.
“Why me? Don’t they know that I’m not worthy of being part of something good?”
I worry that I don’t have the goods. That it’s all dried up.
But, because the bride is a genius, she talks me down and gets me to this place where I understand that it’s a class and supposed to be fun and artistic. She points out names of people who believe I’m a good actor and how this person wouldn’t have asked me to be involved unless they thought I’d fit in. There actually are enough actors in Los Angeles that it’s difficult to not be able to find one.
So I’m excited to go to this thing. Even if it’s crazy crazy crazy, it will be fun. I can learn from it. Plus, I get to work on a cool scene with new people. I get to do some work. Yay!
There are six directors and 10-12 actors. The first 2-hour sessions where one director works with two actors begin at 10am and go until Noon. Then there’s a discussion where we were asked to prepare to answer questions like: how we like to work, what we like in directors, how we prepare for a part, etc. Then another 2-hour session where the directors work with their actors from 1pm to 3pm. I’m scheduled to do the 1-3pm session but they ask me to show up for the noon panel. Cool beans.
I arrive around 11:45. There are two people lying on the side-walk holding potted plants. Standing above them are two people with phones “filming” them. I cross the street as I don’t want to bother them. There’s an ad agency and some other business. Maybe it’s the workshop. Maybe it’s the ad agency. Who knows?
I open the door to the studio and there is a scene going on so I close the door and wait on the sidewalk until noon. I’m 15 feet from the phone/plant people.
I hear someone say “Stop working. You’re in your head. Quit it.” It’s quite aggressive and loud. I look over to the plant/phone people. Yep. The person is lying down with the plant and the person with the phone is berating him. “You’re doing to much work. Stop it. Don’t work so much.”
I do what everyone in L.A. does when they have nothing to do: I check my phone. I want to see what time it is, and I want to check the map as maybe there’s another way in to the studio.
The talking gets louder. “Come on. Over here. Do it.” I look over. The person with the phone seems to be talking to me. I think. “You’ll want to watch this.” I realize that this is a group in the workshop. Cool. I put my phone in my pocket and turn and watch. I’m thinking to myself “that tone of voice doesn’t seem so safe and non-judgmental, but yeah…” The person says “Over here. Come over here.” I begin walking to the plant/phone people.
I’m ten feet away. No way am I going to run. I don’t think I was being yelled at, but this is certainly not how I talk to anyone unless I’m upset with them. I look at the person with the phone who then says “Run right now.” I reflexively slow down. Then “You have to make a decision: If you want to be in this workshop, you’re going to run over here.”
So I begin walking. Slowly. I pass the group.
“What’s your name? Are you in this workshop?” and then the kicker “Relax your jaw.”
I walk past them and head home.
I’m all for the creative process. I’m all for “getting in there” and shaking shit up.
But, unless I’m being paid a load of money to whore it out for abuse on a Joe Pytka commercial there has to be trust and respect and it must be mutual.
Of course now I’m certain that they had a long discussion about how I am closed off to the creative process and that’s why I will never do anything but 4 line day player roles and that casting director will never call me in again. Which is probably the case.
You know, I don’t talk to my son that way. When I see people telling their kids to run and hurry up, it only means they planned poorly. I came up with that opinion from being on film & t.v. sets. If people are running, someone fucked up.
There are friendships where it’s uneven, but there is a payoff that makes it worth it. But, because of that unevenness, it’s not a true friendship. Sure, sometimes those balance out, but if one person can make the other person “run right now” it’s not a friendship. It’s commerce.
If you’re doing me a favor, or I need something from you and you want to yell at me and make me jump or run or control me somehow, I bet I’d do it… but I’m going to make sure I never ask you for anything again.
If I trust, love, respect and admire you, I’ll run for you, I’ll jump through a ring of ebola-fire. I will. I am an open book. But… come on.
this also appears on rationaldad.com
One of the things I’ve said many times on my Tantrum/Art Installation/Political Theater Project, information pills http://www.securityedition.com is that we, tablets as adults, this know that being searched everywhere we go is wrong and is completely antithetical to what “Being American” means, and yet our children are growing up in a world where going somewhere and being searched is a given. They are being trained, if you will, to believe that something is odd if there isn’t a search.
They are being taught to play that game that’s so popular now. The “IF I WERE A TERRORIST” game.
HOW TO PLAY THE “IF I WERE A TERRORIST” GAME
You hear people saying it if they go somewhere with large crowds and minimal to no security. “A terrorist could just walk in here and blow this place up.” Most recently, the Edward Snowden “controversy” has seen talk radio guys playing “IF I WERE A TERRORIST”. It goes a little something like this – hit it: “All a terrorist has to do is go somewhere like wikileaks and they have all the information they need to blah blah blah blah blow up blah…”
Propaganda like this article is a great way to get people to start thinking like good citizens. In fact, the article from the Orlando Sentinel says that “A survey of travelers conducted by Valencia College this year found 96 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their TSA experience…”
Whoop De Frickin Do.
WE KNOW BEST, CITIZEN
Here’s a rockin logical fallacy from a JetBlue exec:
“…airport officials should not fool themselves into thinking that a switch to a private company would magically make all the lines go away…”
That’s right, citizen. Your overlords know best for you. There is no reason for you to concern yourself with this important business. After all, it’s merely a minor inconvenience when compared to the possibility of the type of evil those big bad terrorists want to perpetrate. Remember: They hate our freedom!
Whew… got that out of my system.
Okay. Here’s some more from the article:
“Officers have discovered an average of about a gun a week so far this year, while checking 37,000 bags. Nineteen guns have been picked up this year, compared with 40 last year. That’s the highest number of guns found at any airport in the state.
During 2011, TSA officers confiscated almost 18,000 prohibited items, not including liquids, and referred 481 passengers to law enforcement, resulting in 57 arrests.”
Those 19 guns are the ones they’ve found, right? If you are human and understand there’s absolutely no way the extremely competent TSA has prevented every gun from being taken on an airplane, you must understand what that means: Guns have been taken on airplanes and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED.
Do I think that guns should be allowed on airplanes? I don’t know. I’m just saying that guns have obviously been brought on airplanes and all is well. Even suggesting that guns should be allowed gives ME the shivers. And I’m a whackjob.
THE AUTHORITY SONG
We’re raising our son to be respectful of others. Navigating those who have no respect for anyone is a difficult prospect, especially when those people have the ultimate power.
As you were, citizen. As you were. There’s nothing to see here.
A couple o’ things:
http://www.rationaldad.com has launched.
It’s me rambling aboot stuff while navigating raising a kid as an atheist, heart freedom-loving dad. I try not to take myself too seriously, but sometimes I really ought to. I do that at RationalDad.com.
The bride and I took the lad to his first 4th Of July fireworks display yesterday. We had a wonderful day in general, having begun at a party at the home of some people from P.E.T. class. The bride has been slammed at work, so it was nice for her to just sit and chat with people.
Regarding fireworks displays though, this is how I think they should be done:
It would be sooooo much cooler!!!
Many things have lined up on the showbiz side of my life again and I’ve been taking some time to focus on that and see if I can make a living (and possibly support a bride and child) from the showbiz. My last two web dev job experiences had been rotten and though I try to keep up with that part of the world and my brain, abortion it seems less and less available to me than showbiz. How nutty is that? Stupid nutty. Only an actor would say that. Hmm.
So the bad news is that it got down to me and one other guy for a great part in a great pilot but I’m trying to think that the good news is that it got down to me and one other guy for a great part in a great pilot.
I’ve always remembered the general feeling of disappointment and frustration in the showbiz world, recipe but I’d forgotten about the specific feeling when one “misses it by this much”.
In other good news: Thursday, 3/21, I’m going to be on the Glee! show program. You can blink and I’ll still be on the screen, but don’t blink for too long. I think. Of course, my “scene” could be cut.
Today I received email propaganda from my local congressperson about the “Devastating Budget Cuts” regarding the latest sky is falling brouhaha that’s going on in the city that shall not be named.
In the very same email, asthma he talked about how he opened two new offices.
I wrote him back congratulating him on being able to open two new offices in the face of “devastating budget cuts”.
A couple years ago, nurse I read a good money saving tip:
Save any dollar bills acquired during the day’s activities. This will make you think twice about spending money as the method causes a pack of gum to cost a minimum of five bucks.
Here’s one of those lists that your grandmother sent you that first week she figured out email.
1. Without the USDA, Americans would be eating food laced with feces because farmers don’t know how to grow food, or “Big Agra” would force us to eat meat infested with the poop from genetically modified super-rats bred in a nuclear reactor.
2. Without the FAA, Boeing would have a monopoly on airplanes and all airlines would let drunken pilots fly rickety planes.
3. Without labor laws and labor unions, those planes would be manufactured in freezing (in winter) and sweltering (in summer) factories by 10 year child prostitutes earning fifty cents a week while their homeless, unemployed parents fought each other in the streets for coal and radiated rat meat.
4. Without the FCC, the lucky winner of a weekly child-porn-snuff-gameshow broadcast on a fundamentalist Christian pedophile network would be chosen to fly all of the nation’s airplanes.
5. Without the DOE, only the children of Wall Street and Wal-Mart executives would be allowed to attend schools where the curriculum would be crack-smoking, bible study and “non-whites are bad and lie about global warming” taught by anti-government Atheist Christian Islamic child molestors.
6. Without drug laws, labor laws and the FCC, Wal-Mart would force heroin and crack addicted children to compete in televised duels for the opportunity to be crack whores or pilot unsafe airplanes.
7. Without anti-trust laws, Wal-Mart would be the only store. Half of the year they would only sell products made from the skin, blood and hair of Pakistani children for 99 cents. The other six months prices would be raised so high, children would be forced to work as greeters. And prostitutes.
8. Wthout the FDA, “Big Pharma” would manufacture diseases and sell useless, treatments no one could afford at the Wal-Mart pharmacy.
9. Without welfare, “Big Business” will forbid charity and “the poor” would die on your doorstep while you sit in your mansion masturbating to the 24 hour Ayn Rand television channel.
10. Withouth the DOE and teacher’s unions, teachers would be unemployed. Any existing teachers would be shot at by all of the cancerous heroin addicted children issued guns by “big gun” at Wal-Mart.
11. Without the Department of the Interior, roads would only be availble to rich white people and would be paved over the poor using the bones of the aged as filler.
12. Without the TSA, planes would explode upon departure, or landing, depending on the in-flight movie.
13. Without the FAA, airlines would conspire to every plane that didn’t crash arrive 2 hours late. All meals would contain e-coli.
14. Without ‘the government’ there would be no firefighters or police. Only rich white men would have protection, mainly because they would be the only people with roads.
15. Without labor laws, women’s job interviews would consist of gang-rape conducted by Wall Street and Wal-Mart executives. The handicapped would be kicked in the teeth and mocked during skits at company picnics. Lots of general rape, no lunches and the term ‘work week’ would be replaced by ‘work month’.
16. Without minimum wage laws, employers (Wal-Mart) would throw a twenty dollar bill into a room every month and laugh as employees fought to the death for pay. The winning employee would then be fined twenty-five dollars for damages and raped if female.
17. Without a strong U.S. military presence in every country in the world, those countries without a strong U.S. military presence would be plagued by war.
18. Without Social Security, you will sit in your house watching snuff movies while your grandmother dies on your doorstep.
19. Without an enormous percentage of the budget going towards “defense” the word “defense” would mean “defense”.
20. Without tough, tough, tough, tough drug laws, everyone would be high all the time; especially children because of the forced prostitution to pay for their parents’ drugs.
21. Without the FDA, “big pharma” would never innovate and make bloated, unrealistic claims about their products and there would be not be one effective medication and we would die from eating radiation poop pork in exploding aircraft piloted by children, sick and dying from their bullet injuries and child porn rapes.
22. Without the FDA, shady supplement and quack medicine manufacturers could make bloated, unrealistic claims about their products. Oh. Wait.
I don’t know this Greta. I have a feeling we disagree on lots and lots and lots of stuff… But, she addresses any questions about living without a god that you might still have in this new millennium.
So, there were these people who had some money and they decided they wanted to start a new network. They had one show. A new program called Star Trek – The Next Generation, with a British guy as the captain of the enterprise. That was going to be their “flagship” show, but they needed content.
The plan was start in a couple markets on one night and then gradually take over. Fox was beginning to do well so…
The three shows that got the green light for this new network were:
Shades of L.A. – A cop in l.a. who can see through stuff or something.
She-Wolf of London – A girl in London is a Werewolf but has to move back to Los Angeles when the budgets get cut because the new network is tanking.
They Came From Outer Space – Two brothers… no real brothers, i mean… yeah.. two brothers from another planet.. no that comes later. They come to earth to meet girls. And, they feel each others feelings so when one guy is getting laid, the other guy can feel it. It’ll be great. It’ll be the only one hour comedy on television. Ever. (I think).
Stuart “the great” Fratkin and I had just come back from doing Ski School in Canaduh and had become buddies. We both got auditions for this “They Came From Outer Space” show. We aksed if we could go in and audition with each other. We ad-libbed a lot of the audition and we ended up getting the parts.
The show only aired in three cities: L.A., New York and Pittsburgh(!?). That’s why you’ve never seen it or heard of it. It’s now on DVD.
Soon, we will do an OddComment of some of the episodes.
It is definitely hit and miss. The last 10 episodes are “really good”. Yes, that’s in quotes. It’s hit and miss. There are some wildly funny scenes and there is some true crap, as well. That’s what happens when you’re shooting 11-12 pages a day for six months.
But. I had a lot of hair. Also, Stuart was in a committed relationship (he’s with her to this day!!) and I was single and trying to get over the girl who broke me. So you can watch it and see who I get along with. Wink.
The sad part of all of this is that they aired the show all of the time. So much so that when ever I ran into people who’d done guest starring roles, they’d say “Dude, you must be getting rich! I’m getting so many residuals!!! Oh, man!!!”
Well, no. We got royally and completely skrewwwwwed by someone. Not sure who did it. Maybe it was Universal. Maybe my manager. Maybe Finnegan-Pinchuk. Maybe Stuart’s manager. Maybe a combination of the above. Maybe it was just incompetence. But definitely SAG. It’s when SAG became my enemy. Ah well. Who needs a house at 30?
Yes, I’m still pissed about it. Sorry.
http://www.adventureclubpodcast.com/2012/06/sequence-39-dean-cameron.html is me talking about my favorite subject: Me!
There were some *minor* technical difficulties because I failed to let them know I had Skype so… whatever. It’s ME. What more would you possibly want?
Who thinks I should do my own podcast?