For several years… at least three… way back in the 80’s before you were born, 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, “The Method”, 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.
A couple o’ things:
http://www.rationaldad.com has launched.
It’s me rambling aboot stuff while navigating raising a kid as an atheist, 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!!!
I actually didn’t write this book on account of i’m lazy and incoherent… but, if I weren’t lazy and incoherent, this is the book I would write:
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.
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?
So, I’m looking around on iTunes and I locate a Libertarian podcast that seems really cool. As a matter of fact, it is. It is deeply cool. I will try to be general. A guy who spent some time in showbiz and a friend of his. One of them is close to my age and the other is quite a bit younger.
Both of them are reallllllly well spoken and can get to the heart of an issue so beautifully and succinctly. Truly impressive. It’s on the level of Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe (before the political correctness ruined it) and, like SGTU, is mainly positive in the approach. Many Libertarian podcasts are negative and whiny or just plain combative. I understand why. It’s fun to whine and complain sometimes, but it’s tiresome and doesn’t win any new ears. These guys are funny and cool and it was really great to hear.
So, I fire off an email to one of ’em saying how much I enjoyed it and the positive spin, etc. I briefly explain my Bill of Rights – Security Edition cards and aks for a mailing address as I figure they might appreciate the cards.
I get an email back saying… and I block quote:
I appreciate the offer of some Bill of Rights cards, but we are into Natural Rights, have kind of passed beyond being Constitutionalists, so wouldn’t hand them out. I also don’t fly, so won’t be going through any airport metal detectors.
He did say it was “a good idea” and signed off with the internet version of “have a nice day” which is “thanks!”. (I think I’ve written about that somewhere else. “Thanks!” with the exclamation point generally means “FUCK OFF” and specifically means “I don’t want to appear aggressive with you, but I don’t want you to think we’re friends, but I don’t want to get into any sort of argument with you as you are not worth my time so I will write “thanks” with an exclamation point to appear nice.” It’s a big emoticon for FORCED ANGRY SMILE.)
Before ending the letter, he said, and I block quote:
Please turn some folks onto [our podcast]. If you’re into handing things out, we have some printable handbills, here: ]
and was nice enough to give me the url to the handbills I would be lucky enough to hand out. Because that’s what I’m into.
Then he pitched me some online SEO course he wrote.
I wrote back something equally condescending and sent further correspondence to spam.
This is why the people who are so intimidated by Ron Paul and freedom lovers like us have nothing to worry about: We are complete social retards.
Definition of a “sweat act” in the showbiz.
I received an email by mistake… well maybe it WASN’T A MISTAKE!!! MAYBE IT WAS THE GAZE!?!?!
What the hell am I talking about?
I’m talking about a genius, people. I’m talking about a charlatan who doesn’t even fucking talk. He “gazes”. People pay to stare.
Here, you’ll get to see an actress getting an opportunity to cry on camera:
He’s a genius.
Since he says nothing, he makes no claims. All of the claims are made by his followers. He just stands there while other people collect the cash.
Holy fucking shit, people. Holy, fucking genius fucking charlatan shit.
I can’t stop!!!
WARNING: DO NOT PIRATE BRACO! 7 SECOND RULE IN EFFECT! DO NOT PIRATE BRACO!!!
One of the best qualities of being human is empathy. We feel empathy for the people affected by the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan, but, other than write a check, we are unable to actually do anything to help out over there. Jamy Ian Swiss has a great presentation about empathy and its place in effective advertising and, of all things, good magic.
The “situation in Japan” is terrifying and confusing, especially because of the nutty bias against all things nuclear. Digression: I had an episode this past weekend listening to a reporter from CNN actually say “There’s nothing happening now, but some believe there could be a meltdown!” Last night, as I was torturing myself with Rachel Maddow, she was (condescendingly… go figure!) ‘splaining how nuclear reactors work – “…instead of an explosion, the rods create heat, which creates steam…” Because, as we all know, nukes are only capable of those two things.
Instead of being able to DO something – Instead of being in a position to help, we scare ourselves with stories that big bad radiation is coming and that we need to stock up on iodine or iodide or kelp or kelp iodine or… SOMETHING… ANYTHING… from Whole Foods. It can only be from Whole Foods because, well, it’s Whole Foods. After discovering that, OH, SLUG ME IN THE CUNT! WHOLE FOODS HAS BEEN SOLD OUT OF KELP IODINE SINCE SATURDAY AFTERNOON!!!!, we too, can now be (big sigh of relief) victims of the earthquake and tsunami. We can take part. We can suffer, too. “Hey, Japanese people! Lookie here… I’m in peril, too! See, I can’t get kelp iodine!!!” It’s also a way to inject some order into a weird, random event. Instead of not knowing what is going to happen. Instead of uncomfortably drifting in the wind of wait and see, we now have a task: GET ME SOME FUCKING IODINE!! STAT!!!!
It happened after 9/11 – An actress on a t.v. show hired private security guards because “they hate our media”. For weeks after the attacks, a Jewish community center down the street from where we were living at the time, used pylons to block off a lane of traffic in front of their building because they felt they were a possible target. People wouldn’t go to work in tall buildings across the country because, not only did they work in the tallest building in their city, there was a reason for terrorists to fly planes into their business, too. The movie studios “got tough” about identity and made actors miss auditions. Everyone began playing “If I were a terrorist…” You can tell when there’s a game of “If I Were A Terrorist” being played: Someone says “A terrorist could just…”
My most excellent acting teacher, Howard Fine (not the stooge, no) used to harangue us with “comfort is a false god: don’t pray to it!” (I suggest adding “don’t pray to anything” for good measure, but…) It’s a great thing to remember when we are made aware of random events. I say “made aware” because random events are happening so often that referring to them as random may be a mistake. We have literally awesome technology that allows us to be aware of things that are happening anywhere and everywhere in the world. There are always nutty, horrible, unexplainable and scary events going down. It’s a great tool, but we often forget that there was 24 hour news before 24 hour news channels. Plus, because we are now used to receiving immediate and accurate information, as Tom Petty once told me: The waiting is the hardest part. If there is no resolution within my attention span, I’m going to create some resolution, by gum!
Me and my SAG member buddies are especially self-centered. Not necessarily a bad thing. Along with chiseled abs for guys and, um, chiseled abs for the ladies, being aware of feelings is one of the main job requirements. We have to self-examine and figure out where we are emotionally, not only because it’s good for the “art” but because everyone around us lies. (Great job… Fat? You? No… That was your best work… We are behind you 100%… The guys at network are talking another season… etc.) Also, since we’re never working, we create these little tiger blood dramas for ourselves to star in. Convincing yourself that you can only eat a type of chicken sold at one store keeps oneself distracted from the fact that you haven’t been on a set in 10 months. This is all yet another episode to convince me that things were easier when religion and the religious were clearly defined. The downside to fewer people believing in that stuff is figuring out who is doing something because of “faith”.
(rad, get it?)
I just read another article about another person who did something horrible in the name of god. She killed her child* because she thought he was possessed by the devil.
Of course she’s insane, probably schizophrenic as they often have lots of wacky god stuff and voices going on, and the bible really only helped her get the idea to kill her child but….
Imagine if she’d done something “good” for the kid or something positive and then said it was the jesus who made her do it. We wouldn’t stop hearing about it. There would be feel-good pieces on the news and in the papers all about the sweet woman with the two kids who feed all the stray cats and horses on her block because the jesus is telling her to do it.
We can’t have it both ways, can we?
“There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.”
*the three year old was murdered slowly and painfully, over many days.
My old friend, Penn Jillette, was featured in this article in Vanity Fair. Which puts a cap on a few weeks of really fascinating “Glenn Beck is Evil” conversations I’ve been having.
Apparently, if you don’t HATE GLENN BECK BECAUSE HE IS THE DEBIL!!!! it means you are some kind of right-wing-evil-type-person.
A guy at work sneers at me because I mentioned that I actually LISTENED TO AN AUDIO BOOK BY THE EVIL GLENN BECK!!! And, since I didn’t listen to it to confirm to myself that GLENN BECK IS THE DEBIL AND EATS CHILDREN!!!! it means that I want to LOVE GLENN BECK AND THE JUNK BENEATH HIS FUNNY UNDERWEARSS!!!!
Butt seriassly. I don’t care about glenn beck at all. I think that he has become shorthand for “right wing wacko reactionary nutjob” and was, until BP took over, “two minutes of hate” for many people. I wrote about him once before and I find the whole thing truly fascinating.
I don’t get it, really. A friend has sent me clips of Beck’s tv show where he cries. There are also clips of him contradicting himself and also saying outrageous things. It’s not like he promised to end the war or close gitmo and then backed off on that, but I guess he says really outrageous stuff. A guy on t.v. saying outrageous stuff?!? No way!!!
But, because I don’t really care enough to watch his show, I um… don’t watch his show. The guy loves the jebus and I don’t care for that so much, so if I’m going to watch the child killing network (fox) I’m going to watch the John Stossel show, because he’s not a republicrat… he’s a Libertarian and that’s how I roll.
I listened to a Glenn Beck audio book (which I downloaded illegally by the way) because I wanted to hear the evil that everyone was talking about. I didn’t hear any evil stuff. It was written a few years ago, I think, so maybe it was pre-evil. There was a bit of religion, yep, and I have gotten used to replacing any talk of religion with a droning Gmaj chord. Mainly, it was limited government stuff with your basic republican fucking up of the concept of limited government. “Keep government out of our lives… except for gay people and immigrants!!!” which is not limited government. It’s the republican line.
I don’t have enough time to watch the glenn beck t.v. show. But, I do have XM radio and I do have my 10-15 minute drive to the subway each morning on my way to work so… this week, I’m devoting 10 minutes in the morning to listening to the grandmother-eating-nazi you know as Glenn Beck and I’m going to write up a brief summary each day of what he talked about and how evil it was.
There is a point on the way where I stop at 7-11 to get the greatest coffee ever made.
Monday, June 21
I tuned in to the middle of an interview with a senate candidate from Utah… I think. Beck didn’t seem to agree with him about a prescription drug bill that had been passed. I think the candidate was a republican. The candidate said that the system was broken and small steps need to be implemented. Beck’s position was that the small steps were just making it worse. As I was heading in to 7-ll, I think I missed some talk about religion but it was over by the time I got back in to my car. As was the interview.
After the interview, Beck said that he didn’t want to have any more candidates on his show because he felt like some of his listeners might consider his opinion an endorsement and he didn’t want that to happen as the interviews were short and that was usually the only information he had about the candidate.
Then, he and his co-hosts talked about the enumerated powers of the united states constitution.
Then, I was confronted with about 20 bazillion people heading downtown for a parade. That seemed worse than anything glenn beck said on his show WHILE I WAS LISTENING.
Maybe tomorrow, he’ll say something racist and horrible. Today, it was a lot of enumerated powers. I guess, if you hate him, you could say that he was being arrogant about how much power he had over his listeners, but it seemed to me that he was aware of that and was trying to not come off as someone who has a lot of power over his listeners, which I’m sure he does.