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!!!
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, 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, 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.
Last night, we were late getting home and had to get Duncan into his bath right after we got in. He was pissed and started to whine and cry. After trying to reason with my 3 year old, I said “Hey, come outside with me, I want to show you something.”
It has been so hot here in Burbank, but I love the heat because it makes the nights beautiful.
We sat on the steps and I told him about how I love summer nights. How I always felt like nights in the summertime were a reward for the cold and hard times people go through the rest of the year. Even a break from the heat of the summer days. He didn’t really get it much, but it sort of distracted him from having his quick transition from a great day with mom and dad to bath and bedtime.
He loathes sleeping. We think he might feel like he’s missing something. He will kick his legs or move his arms just to keep himself awake.
Back to the matter at hand:
I aksed him to listen to the sounds because they were specifically summer night sounds.
“What can you hear, Duncan?”
“Crickets, a car, rollee pollees…”
On cue, a train whistle blew. Perfect.
“You hear that?”
We were whispering by now.
I aksed him if he heard the cars on the freeway. He nodded.
He leaned into me and I put my arm over his shoulder. We sat there for a while. Some more crickets began chirping. I told him they were singing to each other so they could sleep.
Duncan said “I like the night because it makes everything glow in the dark.”
I got teary because I’m a wuss like that.
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?
I’m in at the one hour mark.
(somehow, seek this got posted as a comment to another post a few hundred years ago.)
Ralphs grocery store in Los Angeles, purchase does not have an apostrophe. Just wanted to get that out of the way.
I got a new Ralphs Cult Member card today because I realized that my millions of points are going to an old phone number that the card is linked to and I have no way of… who cares? I got a new card.
9/24/2011 sad sad
9/23/2011 sad sad
These are the only people who talk to me.
I write this with the complete understanding that I was in a movie called Ski School II.
In Atlas Shrugged, there is a section where the head of the science institute sells himself out and murders what science means to people. From that point on, science means anything anyone wants it to mean. Anything can be claimed to be science and anything can be done in the name of science.
It ruins the man who does it. He had been respected by the population who didn’t know anything about science yet despised by those who knew enough about science to know that it made their jobs difficult if not impossible. His acceptance of the terms makes the “new science” legitimate. The point being made is that it’s not so much that the concept of science was destroyed, but the real tragedy is when one is part of doing such a thing.
Getting a movie made can be said to be impossible. Getting a movie made and then into theaters in wide release is even more difficult. Getting a movie made, into wide theatrical release and then having people go see it is so difficult that, statistically, we might as well say it is impossible. A “movie” is now only made unless it is a “sure thing”. A sure thing contains one of these elements.
- the project is a sequel
- the project is a remake
- the content previously existed as some other media; preferably a television show or comic book
- it is animated
- the project can spin off a toy
- a combination of any of the above
The fine folks who are bringing you movies are finally realizing that having a “name” in the movie doesn’t even matter, though if you do have a “name” attached to your movie, you will have a better chance of getting it made. Not much, though. It’s not on that list anymore.
Let’s say that at least $100 million dollars will be spent on the movie that fulfills one of those requirements. After marketing and all the other crap, it will cost even more. Easily. (I did some actor math (bad math) and your payments on a $100million dollar home [30 year fixed] would be about $300,000 a month.)
That may be the tail wagging the dog. It might be because movies cost this much that they must have all of those elements, but maybe not.
An actor who is “single card, main title” in a “movie” will easily make at least a month’s mortgage payment on that house but more likely negotiations start at a cool million. If you’re one of the people in the end crawl credits, you’re probably hovering around SAG scale. Maybe more, but…
And that’s not the point. Lots of money is spent on movies, why shouldn’t actors who are recognized in them make a boatload? No reason not to. It’s a very good thing. More people should make more money. If you’re starting out and get to work for one day on the latest Michael Bay crap-a-thon, making 600 bucks for the day is plenty. It’s a trade-off. Them’s the rules.
I understand, deeply, that actors like John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, John Turturro and Patrick Dempsey need to make money. They used to be able to do a couple movies a year and make a few hundred grand. Maybe a million bucks or more with a back-end deal. The type of movies that made them stars are not being made and distributed the way they used to. If they are being made, they’re being made for a relatively small amount of money. So, John Malkovich makes an okay amount of money doing what we call an “indie” film once every couple of years instead of a couple times a year.
On the other hand, Malkovich accepts the offer for TransformersIII and pays off every mortgage his family has ever thought of.
John Turturro tells himself “Hey, I do this Transformers diarrhea flow, they pay me 5 million bucks, I can go off and make that Strindberg bio-pic with my friends that I’ve been wanting to do since I got into this crazy game.”
Frances McDormand, who is a national treasure, can just work. Seen any interesting roles for women over 30 lately? ‘Nuff said.
Patrick Dempsey gets to play a bad guy. He probably got to drive one of the cars shown in his “office”.
They are actors and actors act. They can then do stuff they want to do. TransformersIII is just a money job.
We can forgive them.
Here’s the problem. It’s not that great actors have jumped, smiling and tap-dancing, through flaming hoops of anal vomit. Not really… probably.
This is the problem: Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg can go to bed telling themselves that they have the approval of John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, John Turturro and Patrick Dempsey.
Michael Bay believes he has directed John Malkovich. He believes he has had some creative input into John Turturro’s world. Spielberg feels a kinship to the Coen Brothers because McDormand and her husband came over for dinner and they talked lenses.
The fact that those actors are in it, make TransformersIII an even more reprehensible piece of cunt-snot than it already is. Their presence makes TransformersIII legitimate. (A fine word – legitimate). They legitimize Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg. They have been let into the club of artists. They bought their way in.
After the bride and I “saw” it, I told her that I’d rather our toddler son, Duncan, watch Japanese fist porn. In Japanese fist porn, there are consequences for behavior. He would learn that someone shoving a fist up someone’s anus causes the other human being to feel something.
There’s nothing even close to that in Transformers. Actions that are possible dangerous or pleasureable cause nothing but posing. It’s not even porn. It’s people who hate themselves playing with toys.
And, you know, I find taking offense at things to be tedious. If you are offended, you should leave. Leave it to the people who are not offended. I will. I will leave TransformersIII alone. But I would simply like to point out a few things, beginning with this: The new Steppin-Fetchit is now the Asian-Guy-Who-Acts-Gangsta.
I think it’s very soon where most movies are computer animated and actors simply provide the voices. That’s fine. I’m not whining “ah why can’t we return to the era of Canon films and art like Alien from L.A.!! I’m just pointing out that the only thing that is going to draw us out of our homes and into a theater is pure spectacle. We are in a world where all that is demanded by audience is spectacle. The Cirque Du Solielification of entertainment. Fireworks. No story necessary.
And, truly, that’s fine. I work 9-5. There is enough story in my life. There really is enough drama and comedy every day in the news. My son is a story. My wife and I laugh and play and have drama. Going to see fireworks on the 4th of July is fun. I love watching things explode.
But, an hour of fireworks isn’t a one act play. Cirque Du Soleil isn’t an evening at the theater. TransformersIII isn’t a movie.
If we can dismiss the amorality of massive anonymous bodycounts, using the memory of a national disaster to force emotion into a fireworks display and excusing hyper violence because “it’s only a toy”, TransformersIII is simply an evening of fireworks with great actors slumming and paying off some bills.
On the other hand, if there’s a shred of idealism left in us then, by our attendance and refusal to hold people who know better accountable, we are letting Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg shove Hasbro Toys right up there where the poop comes out of us.
Hey good people of earth… I have a project for you. I know I’m not supposed to question these things but…
As a new parent, I’ve heard many horror stories about how kids die. Specifically, these two:
1) Drowing in the toilet and
B) Smothered by a sleeping parent.
I’ve done extensive google-ing and the only toilet drownings are parents murdering their kids by drowning them in the toilet. I’ve located one article about a parent smothering their child (this is really tough to write… sheesh). But not one article about accidental toilet drowning or parental smothering.
One woman who way into Facebook neglected a kid in the bathtub, but I don’t find a child drowning in the bathtub to be much of an extraordinary claim.
There are plenty of articles about kids being killed by the family dog or falling down stairs, but that’s it.
If you search you will find many articles with people saying that these things happen but with not one source attribution.
Regarding the smothering, a friend online said “it happens every day” and someone closely associated with the baby cult we’re in said something similar regarding toilet drownings. “It happens all the time. It’s horrible.”
I think it’s a myth. As parents, we have plenty of horrible crap to worry about. I’d like to reduce the millions of things to worry about by two. It’s the “Big Toilet Seat Lock” industry perpetrating their evil corporatism upon us!!! Either that or just well-meaning people wanting to protect children.