Boxing Helena

Finally just watched this film, as I’m working on a script that (I was told) might bear some resemblance to it (not this one).

I’m happy to say that it doesn’t.

What a terrible film, in so many ways. I don’t like to go on and on, but just truly dreadful writing, the performances are ham-fisted (but perhaps only because the players had so little to work with), the editing is clumsy.

A representative example: The guy is obsessed with the girl. He is excruciatingly boring to her. The girl has left her address book at the guy’s house. The guy is driving her to his house so she can retrieve the book. The two pull into the driveway. We must show that the drive has been miserable for the girl, and heaven for the guy. So the guy says:

Here we are at the house, Helena. I’m so glad I got to tell you that story… in such depth and detail. I’m really sorry, Helena. We’ll find your book.

Really. He really says that. Oh my God.*

There is simply no trust that the audience will give enough of a shit to even remember from moment to moment what is going on in the story, or who these people even are. So her name (Helena) is repeated every few seconds; we are told that we are arriving at the house (even though we are seeing a shot of them pulling up to the house); rather than hear the tail end of the story and trust her expression, he exposes to us that he told a long story (and in excruciating detail); and then they remind us why we’re at the house at all (to find the book). It’s a fucking radio play for alzheimer’s patients.

It is a good example, I suppose, of what was probably a terrific idea on paper (and a terrific logline – “An obsessed surgeon kidnaps the woman of his dreams, removes her arms and legs, and makes her his prize possession”), and could have been a terrifically twisted film, but clearly needed a rewrite. Someone needed to say “Hey, this has promise. The story’s all there. Let’s get someone in to polish the dialogue so the characters don’t play like shallow schoolchildren and then let’s make us a movie!”

But alas.

Oh well. Now I’ve checked it off my to-do list.**

*Yes. Verbatim. Can you believe it?
**Late I know. The film’s been out a long time, and already been universally panned. This isn’t news. It’s just news to me.
53 Views

Yes, I know what genre it is.

Success!

Acting class today. Had a scene from True Crime, in which I played Eastwood’s part, Steve Everett. Had the script for a week or more to work the lines, but only practiced with my partner Chelsea in the hallway for 20 minutes. Nevertheless, we (as Randy Jackson would say) “worked it out, dog.” Scene came off really well. Ralph said he was impressed with us and that he really believed my character lived in that bar… “no hobbies, no friends, just his car out front and drinkin’.”

It’s so nice to have real life experiences to draw on. ๐Ÿ™‚

And it’s a long way from doing that scene from “According to Jim” and having him ask “You do know this is a comedy, right?”

But it’s true… I felt the difference. This thing actors do (real actors, not me) is hard work. Till today I always felt self-conscious, not really listening to the other person between my lines… I was (cue John Lovitz) “ACTING!”

Today was cool. Now if I can only maintain. Next week, Jerry McGuire.

That’s a horror flick, right?

39 Views

I invented the integrated circuit.

Me as Kilby. The black gloves and neck thing are for the post guys, to aid in the animations.
Me as Kilby. The black gloves and neck thing are for the post guys, to aid in the animations.

Today was the video shoot for the Computer History Museum‘s new upcoming exhibits. In it, I play Jack Kilby, inventor of the integrated circuit. (I’d like to clarify that I play Kilby at the time he invented the circuit, not the more well seasoned Kilby shown on his wikipedia page.)

At left, me in wardrobe, with cigar and ill-fitting glasses.

The shoot was fun. The entire thing was shot out on a green screen stage in Pleasanton, California, at the LMA Productions Studio in partnership with Impact Media. After extensive post production, the thing will have the feel of the Mad Men title sequence … all silhouettes and animation. Should look way cool.

Since they will be compositing multiple assets in the final footage,ย  I had to repeat actions (simple stuff – writing, sketching circuits, etc) at a dressed desk, again at a green desk, all from several angles. No dialogue, and since it’ll all end up in animated silhouette, any subtle facial expression will likely not be seen… so it’s easy to understand why I got the part:ย  I look like an old computer geek from the 50’s, and it didn’t depend on my acting chops. ๐Ÿ™‚

LMA Studio green screen stage. We shot on the RED ONE. First time I've seen one out of the box. It's way cool.
LMA Studio green screen stage. We shot on the RED ONE. First time I've seen one out of the box. It's way cool.

There were five other guys in fifties garb as well, and a young woman playing a contemporary character using a piece of modern technology.

My understanding is that the video will premiere for IBM sometime in June of this year, and then will be playing constantly within the new exhibit for about a year starting in 2010. So if you’re in Silicon Valley next year, check it out. If not for me, then for the children.

Mad (Men) style.
Mad (Men) style.
71 Views

Quentin Tarantino on American Idol?

Yeah, I said that with a question mark when I first heard it. Quentin Tarantino was the guest mentor on this week’s American Idol, as the category was “songs from movies”. Of course, since AI mentors are generally professionals in the music industry, I thought to myself “what’s QT going to offer these kids? He’s no singer, not a songwriter or musician (of any note). WTF?”

Q himself explained it thus: That he would be “directing” the singers as he would an actor. He listened to their performance, gave them notes, and then asked them to make adjustments.

Again, though, I thought “what kind of notes can you offer that will be relevant?” And again, I was surprised.

Just as an example, his advice to Danny Gokey, who was so emotionally invested in his song that he was gesturing intently with his hands: [paraphrasing] “When you’re so emotionally invested, performers find lots of ways to dissipate the energy they’re feeling… through their hands, for instance. Put your hands in your pockets, and try again… channel that energy you were losing through gesture into your voice and your eyes.”

I walked away feeling a little humbled. His direction was about dramatic performance, about channeling the emotional content of your song/story/script in ways that will optimize its communication. It was insightful, intuitive and on point, and it was cool to see him play to his own strengths to find a way to offer valuable notes to the kids.

I may not love all his work — his first two or three films are by far his best stuff (Reservoir Dogs is still brilliant), I nearly walked out of Kill Bill and had to fast forward most of Death Proof — but there’s no denying that he’s an immensely talented guy. Just an immensely talented guy whose tastes have unfortunately parted far from mine in recent years.

It was neat to watch, and I bet I’m a little bit better a director for having seen it.

40 Views

You like me! You really like me!

I started taking acting classes every Sunday a few weeks ago. No plans to be an actor (it would be cool, but that’s not my goal). I’m doing it to inform my writing, and to make me a better actors’ director. The instructor, Ralph Peduto (site here), is a local pro, and a friend of mine. It’s been a lot of fun (and instantly humbling — so much more appreciation for my actors — not that I didn’t already appreciate).

Anyways, Ralph was kind enough to let me know about a local audition for an upcoming commercial. I was unsure, but decided the experience would be valuable (I find that most are). So I went for it just the other day.

Got the call today — landed the part! I play the inventor of the micro-chip, Jack Kilby. Not a speaking role, btw. Which is probably why I got it. ๐Ÿ˜›

I’m so stoked. Looking forward to the shoot next Friday. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks, Ralph!

62 Views

According to who?

Acting class today. Had a scene from According to Jim. I played the electronics store clerk.

The store was called “Lazy Al’s”. The script said I was wearing a bathrobe over my clothes, hands in pockets. My dialogue is clearly “scripted customer service” — stuff like “Welcome to Lazy Al’s where we’re too lazy to raise our prices.”

I figured the guy was lazy. Bored. Hated his job. So I played it lazy, slow, and understated.

Clearly I made the wrong choice.

Ralph asked me to try it again, with his notes. Play it up. Which I did.

Then we watched it back in front of the class. Both ways.

His comment?

“You do know this is a comedy, right?”

Um, ouch.

It’s tough enough if you don’t get the tone right. But shit, when you don’t even hit the right genre? How hard do you have to suck?

But then, I’ve seen a couple of minutes of According To Jim. I may not be the only one who doesn’t know it’s a comedy.

Ew, sour grapes. They’re tart.

39 Views

Last House On The Left (1972)

Just like with Night Of The Living Dead, I felt I had to see Last House cuz it gets such rave reviews from horror fans as an important genre film.

Just like with Night Of The Living Dead, I won’t spend too much time on it. In fact, I’ll spend less.

Lame.

Sorry. Yeah, I know, it broke new ground and opened creative doors yadda yadda yadda.

What a waste of time. No story. Badly directed. Laughable acting. God, was it edited by Helen Keller? It’s billed as the “story of what happens to bad guys when the victim’s parents trap them in their house” (to paraphrase), but that part comes in the last four or five minutes, after essentially watching a snuff film.

Whatever. Blegh. There’s 72 minutes that felt like 4 hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

39 Views

Arrangements: Director's Diary – auditions and other stuff

We held auditions at the Digital Media Factory (thanks, guys!). We had a pretty good turnout, though not as deep as I’d expected… but it was cool, cuz I got lots of time to just chat with each person. We just ran camera, and talked about the script, the character, and their thoughts on both.

Then, I had them read a scene. Our writer, Skot, got to read with our first actor, Kimberly Parrish (she read for the part of Cassandra, Bill’s wife). Skot was quite moved, as much by her performance as by hearing his words come to life.

I gotta say, we had some talented people show up. I was super impressed with everyone’s commitment to the material and their craft… good actors are a joy to watch. I had some tough decisions to make, and I have to say to those that weren’t chosen it wasn’t for lack of effort or talent… I had lots of great actors to choose from, and fell upon a combination ofย “look” and minor subtleties in performance.

Congrats to Chad Davies (Bill), Kimberly Parrish (Cassie), Gina Marie (Kayla), Ken Koenig (Doctor), Char Johnston (Sandy), Linda Pearson (Lou), Carlo Matteucci (Terry) and Dave Johnson (Huge Guy).

Now it’s on to more crazy making.

49 Views