27 April 2011

Row Butts

Photos by Andrew Bellware.
A couple of weekends ago was my first experience on a real film set.

Now, some will argue that what I was experiencing was not by any stretch a real film set. Craft services consisted of Chinese take-out and a stunning abundance of snack foods and sodas. We were filming in the warehouse space of a railing-design workshop (right next to the bundled set of the recent tragically short-run Les Miserables). And, believe it or not, I worked without a trailer. That's as may be, but it's the closest I have yet to come to a real film set, and I think all the major elements were there. For example: A crew of really smart and funny people (myself excluded, naturally) got together, played pretend, and someone recorded the whole experience.

Mercs + android.
It's one I rather stumbled into myself. One night I went to see Friend Nat's one-man Lovecraft show at Manhattan Theatre Source, the which the charming Ms. Laura Schlachtmeyer happened to be stage managing. We sat for a bit after the show, she asked me if I was SAG, I said no-with-sad-face, she cheered me up by offering to send me a script. It looked like it wasn't going to work out schedule-wise for a while. And then it did, just like that. So I'm playing the ambitious, arrogant ex-space-mercenary Rathbone. I have two more weekends of filming after Easter weekend in which to live some of my favorite tropes.

Said android.
The movie is probably best described in the current parlance as a mock-buster, but I don't like thinking of it that way. Sure: It is Predator meets Aliens (with more than a dash or two of Whedon-istic glee/feminism) and yes: we have no money. I resist the term, though, because everyone knows what they're doing, and everyone takes it just seriously enough. That is to say, we have a ball and laugh as much as possible at ourselves, but on-camera everyone's in the same high-stakes movie. If this were ever to get picked up by, let's say, Syfy (ARE YOU LISTENING, SYFY?!), you would turn to it in the early-morning hours and most likely think, Huh. This looks like it would go nicely with this pint of Americone Dream I have here. I wonder if there will be much gore...

To be a bit more succinct: It's good fun, done well, and I can't complain at all about getting to play around in a genre and process that I've enjoyed since I was about eleven years old.

It's made even easier by enjoying all the folks whom I've thus far met. In no particular order, there's:
  • Nat Cassidy, as a medic a bit out of his depth.
  • Virginia Logan, as the hard-scrabble, near-invincible leader of the merc crew.
  • Juanita Arias, as a scrappy merc.
  • Sarah-Doe Osborne, as an elite prototype android.
  • Tom Rowen, as a cocky, quasi-rock-a-billy merc.
  • Joe Chapman, as the heavily-armed, bulldog merc - also the set designer.
  • Libby Csulik, amazing do-it-all-er.
  • David Ian Lee, as the maniacally handsome Colonel (David also co-wrote the first draft of the script with Mr. Cassidy).
  • And Mr. Andrew Bellware, as a maniacally maniacal director who occasionally seems to be having even more fun than I am (and the aforementioned Ms. Laura Schlachtmeyer, keeping him in check).
In our little tale, we venture into a suddenly radio-silent robot factory to extract a special new prototype of android from what appears to be a situation wherein the artificial intelligence has taken over and slaughtered all the human faculty. I essentially play the dubious jerk of the crew - think Predator's Carl Weathers meets Aliens' Paul Reiser (by which I of course mean Weathers' muscle tone and Reiser's razor wit). It's delightful, made all the more fun by the implication of a storied past with Virginia's character and some blatant animosity with Joe's. So far I've mostly gotten to trade what are hopefully telling looks with folks, and say a few lines; but I've also been kicked over by a giant robot.


"It's quiet...TOO quiet..."
I'm back this weekend for what are likely to be much longer shoot days, and I'm very much looking forward to it. It's difficult for me to imagine enjoying the product nearly as much as the process, but it might be pretty cool to finally see some actual robots incorporated. For now I'm more than content to let the enormous gnashing things be played out in my imagination.

26 April 2011

Subterranean Design Post: Underground as Unintentional Archive

Yet another new post at Subterranean Design! This one is just as link-heavy as the last, but explores some of the ways in which underground areas tend to preserve our history - intentionally or no. Accidental records are the best kind...

20 April 2011

Why Study Theatre (follow up narrative on "The Younce Meme" [from the Facebook])

Found here.
It's entirely possible to pursue acting "on the side," and you don't have to be James freakin' Franco to make it work, either. In fact, when it comes to acting, plenty of people will tell you that classes - much less higher education - are bunk. Personally, I have mixed emotions about my college education. I'll never regret it, but in hindsight I believe I could have made more honest (and thereby daring) choices.

But what made me do it? That inspired idiocy of our teenage years that makes our choices just a little more instinctual than is conventionally wise, I think.

I was not, to put it mildly, a good student in high school. I was largely distracted by the usual things, and maybe one or two more-unique ones. So my freshman and sophomore years were a relative wash, academically speaking. I played in band and did one play - Midsummer's - finally, in my sophomore year, and I loved it and was utterly terrified and pretty much spent the entire time I wasn't on stage reading gay-themed sword-and-sorcery novels crouched in a corner next to the door of the dressing room. And then I quit band, and then Kara Schiffner cast me in her play, and then I fell ridonkulously head-over-heels for her, and I suddenly lost 40 pounds, and . . . well, life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you might suddenly find yourself being asked to choose a college.

At least my work went way up in quality for those last two years of high school, and I discovered for the first time just how much I enjoyed being hopelessly busy, so long as it was with projects to which I could make a unique contribution. When I started visiting schools, I figured the most memorable and significant aspects I could market (already I was concerned with advertising myself) were things I had done at the theatre conferences we attended. So I called myself an actor, and visited the theatre departments. At the same time, I was geeking out like nobody's business over writing of all sorts, and kept an eye on a double major. It is totally possible that I never gave a practical thought to my future. Money? Psh. Security? What is that, exactly?

My driving principle was that I didn't want to live with any major regrets. I didn't want to take the easy way, follow a set path. I had to at least try to make a life out of the things I loved to do. If I failed, I should at least be able to look back and say I failed honestly and had my answers.

So VCU it was for a BFA with nominal minor in creative writing (nominal because the theatre department at the time wouldn't recognize a minor in anything). It was urban, relatively speaking, which would prepare me for my culturally adventurous future. It had an English department (Shenandoah did not) and it didn't intimidate me the way Virginia Tech did with its vast Jeffersonian persona. (I didn't get into William & Mary, presumably because of my wastrel years.) And, yes, okay - there was a certain person I was seeing at the time on her way to the same school. Instinct over convention.

I was a person who needed that experience, so I'll always treasure it. Some actors can excel without technique or training, but I'm way too analytical for that and I quickly discovered in college that I had never known how to act, to be an actor. Personally, I don't think I would have figured that out if I had simply tried out for plays while pursuing a major in business, or skipped college altogether to live in Chicago. Maybe - who knows - but I doubt it. So it became a mission, to learn as much as I could about my "chosen" major, and my obsessiveness had a good excuse to flourish.

I've always been a little tunnel-visioned. It's interesting to realize that my dearest friends have all at one time or another had to decide to just trust and/or forgive me for that, and the way it makes me socially awkward or altogether absent. Even the woman who ended up marrying my silly ass was someone I knew in high school who was still interested in knowing me after I essentially vanished into my first professional theatre jobs for a year. The mixed emotions about my college education stem from looking back - free from tunnel-vision - and realizing I should have left after two years. I had learned everything I was going to by then. Maybe it was just an allegiance to the path I had set, but I stayed, and got a degree in the fine arts (as they say).

Going to school for those wacky liberal arts was the right choice for me; staying may not have been the best. But one more thing: There is value in committing oneself whole-heartedly to just about anything for a time. It can be a period of great discovery, as mine was, and we don't always have that luxury as we grow older and more encumbered with (in many cases welcome) duties. Does one have to pay tuition to do that? I think that all depends on one's personality in terms of a need for structure. I need structure, but in part as something to be a contrarian against. Let's not even try to analyze what freakin' Franko needs...

15 April 2011


Why do I have trouble imagining French people riding the bus? I'm sure it happens all the time. Still and all...

13 April 2011

April Showers

Oh, United States Postal Service! Shall we begin our usual annual tryst? And just how is it that I am talked into visiting you every mid-April?

06 April 2011

Testy, Testy

This right here is a test, is what this is. This is only a test. If it were more than a test, it would contain my inimitable style of rambling, excess verbiage.

So, uh... maybe this is a LITTLE more than a test...