Saturday, April 27, 2013

"Every Role You Play is a Chance to Bury That Part of Yourself." -- Melanie Griffith

I'm going to be pretty wordy tonight. I feel like rambling and ranting. You have been forewarned; prepare to put your "skimming" skills to the test... or if you're really not feeling it, just immediately scroll all the way to the bottom and read the Summary...

Frankly, tonight's excessive verbiage all stems from my current focus on acting...

My acting classes are yielding frustrating fruit, mostly stemming from (I'm finding out) the difficulty I'm having in transitioning from my "stage acting" training to "film acting". Frankly, I'm finding it very difficult to keep the stage-trained actor in me out of the film setting.

On stage, you need to be big, and "act for the back row", which means all subtlety goes out the window. It's all about big, strong movements, and conveying emotion through vocals and whole-body movement. In film, the camera catches every subtle twitch and movement of the face, every slight body gesture, slight variations in vocal tone. Subtlety is key in film, to avoid over-doing it. It is very hard to "get" for me... especially when focusing on it once a week only. It makes the classes extremely frustrating. Compounding the frustration is the lack of quality one-on-one time with the instructor. There are about a dozen students, myself included, and the class is only 3 hours long, so the bulk of my time is spent watching others do stuff, and trying to learn from the spoken corrections of the instructor to other actor's mistakes... the time I spend getting actual hands-on acting experience is very limited. And there's no real connection between "how it feels" acting a scene and what the results are.

Of course, my expectation level for my own progress could be wildly out of balance as well. There's a good chance I'm expecting to progress at a much faster rate than is reasonable to expect.

So in an effort to continue my training outside the classroom, I'm refocusing on watching Inside the Actor's Studio episodes, only this time taking notes and really paying attention to what is being taught, rather than simply enjoying what is being said (if that makes sense). I made a complete episode checklist, and I'm going through them one at a time, starting with season one. Not all of them are on YouTube, unfortunately, but I have recently watched Paul Newman, Alec Baldwin and Dennis Hopper, each with some real gems.

In fact, Paul Newman said he never agreed to act in a movie unless he had at least two weeks of rehearsal time set aside, to explore the script with the cast. It was a stipulation for his agreeing to be in a film. He had to have his rehearsal time. Thank you, Mr. Newman! Finally! Someone who agrees with me that rehearsal is where you get into the head of the characters and explore variations and motives and try things and see what works. The alternative is so counter-intuitive to me; meaning the improvisation-heavy approach, whereby each actor prepares alone, learning the lines in a sort of internal monotone, and then coming to the actual filming of the scenes fresh, with zero expectations, and "seeing where the moment takes you," with cameras rolling. In theory, it sounds great. In reality, for me, it has yet to yield anything but rubbish, as far as I can see...

The stage actor in me is hampering my progress.

Alec Baldwin said that working with actors that actually respond to what you're saying as though they are hearing it for the first time is key. As opposed to being impervious to anything you say, showing on their faces instead the reality that they are preparing to say their own memorized lines, not listening to you. This I can understand and appreciate.

The last class I went to, we had short scenes from the TV show "24" that we were given the previous week, and had a week to memorize. So when I had my ten minutes to rehearse with my scene partner out in the hallway, it was awesome. We tried it different ways, discussed it, experimented a bit, played with reactions, etc. and when the instructor called everyone in to begin the scenes, we strolled down the hall, back toward the class, and rehearsed the scene one last time as we walked, in character. That stroll was the highlight of the whole class that night, for me. Just the act of walking and feeding off of one another. The moment was there, it was great. But 40 minutes later, when we performed our scene before the class and cameras, it was a disaster.

So I know there's a balance to find somewhere.

Dennis Hopper told a story about working with Marlon Brando on a film once. Before the scene was to be shot, Brando was chatting with his female co-actor (who had had little acting training), off to the side. They were just off-set, away from the camera, and Brando was chatting with the girl, toying with her hair, chuckling, whispering, etc. As they chatted, Brando skillfully led her out onto the set, still chatting, still toying with her hair, and then subtly segue'd into his lines for the scene, keeping the casual nature going, unbroken. The camera was rolling by that time. And he "led" the comparatively untrained actress right into a "method acted" scene, without her really even realizing it until it was happening.

Now that was cool - I can respect that. I want to learn that.

Clint Eastwood said something interesting in his episode - in fact, I quoted it a week or two ago in my Facebook status, so it might look familiar to some. He said, "Once you're in character, you can do anything."

Now, in the context of the interview, he was discussing doing stunts at a comparatively-advanced age. He was saying once when he was playing Dirty Harry and the character needed to leap off an overpass and onto a moving bus, he could do it, because he was in character... whereas if he'd just been Clint, there's no way. There's a certain feeling of invincibility that comes from inhabiting a character.

Of course, it immediately made me wonder if it could be a universal truth that could extend to everyday life. It ties into previous discussions we've had on this blog about being able to make changes to our own personalities if we wanted to. The things about me I don't like and wish I could change... can I just assume the character of a person without those traits and "play a role"? Behavior modification, right? Well, if you play the role long enough, are the changes legit?

I work out once a week. I go to acting class once a week. I go to church once a week. I write once a week. I'm a "once a week" kind of guy, in many respects, including writing on this blog. Yet I know I should be doing these things everyday. But I don't, and the excuses I offer for this vary widely, up to and including, "well, that's just the way I am."  Do I need to wait for some external force to come and knock me off my donkey (so to speak) and change me? Or can I simply decide to play the role of a person that exercises every day, acts every day, writes every day, focuses on God every day? Once you're in character, you can do anything, right Clint?

So is there any merit in self-imposed behavior modification as a route to real change? If I view my life as a role I want to play, and structure my behavior accordingly, is that nuts? Life as one big method acting training exercise... living in the moment... acting/reacting authentically... isn't that what we all do everyday anyway? Act/React?

Hey, I told you I was going to ramble tonight.

Summary: Acting is hard. I want to change myself in many ways. I'm thinking of trying to roleplay the version of me I want to be and seeing if it sticks. I still think "what we do" proclaims who we are much more loudly than what we say we believe... if I change what I do, will that change who I am?

That's it for now. If you actually read any of that, you have my thanks.

More goofiness next time.

Dave the Languid

Sunday, April 21, 2013

When In Rome, Do As the Actors Do...

Looks like that cloud right there is a boy... O_O

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! That was tonight's "Extremely-Mildly Risque Opening Line", back by popular demand! Oh, how my audience loves for me to push the limits of taste. Shame on you! I hope the FCC isn't paying attention!

So in world news, I think I'll mention the topic that has been on everyone's mind of late... yes, the news that Rome has celebrated it's 2,766th birthday! Did you all remember to wear your Ancient Roman costumes today? Participate in any battle reenactments or mock gladiator fights? Invade Germany, Egypt or Israel? No? Well, did you at least torch your own city and play the fiddle in the midst of the flames? Come on! Where's the Roman love!? At least name your feet "Romulus" and "Remus" for the day?

OK, this is either amazing, or stupid, or amazingly stupid....

So I was fortunate enough to meet, in a very surprising, serendipitous way, a Christian film maker named Bill Rahn this weekend. He came out to "our church" to help us set up our new video system (the old one broke down, oh, perhaps half a year ago), and I quickly discovered his love for film making. In fact, he had a copy of one of his films with him, called "Pendulum Swings", which he let me borrow, and I watched it. It is a mostly-autobiographic piece about a dark time in his life, in which he lost nearly everything, and hit bottom. The film was a great watch, not so much because it was flawless or highly-polished... but because there was a surprising amount of emotion just under the surface, plus lots of great moments, and a couple truly great parts (as far as the performances)... it's a "Christian" film, and made on a small budget, but the ideas are there, and for every moment that showed the lack of Grade-A Hollywood-level polish, there were other moments that I would gladly watch again with others, so that I could smile and watch them out of the corner of my eye, to see their response.

Anyway, Bill was involved in just about every aspect of the production, from writing, directing, casting to editing, producing and promotion. Very cool to meet him.

In other related news!

Had my first video chat meeting with Rick R. in reference to my initial foray into screenwriting. We talked today for about 2 hours about theme and story, and about the differences between telling a story in novel format versus screenplay format. Very informative. Rather than trying to write the script first, and then retroactively change it to make it structurally sound, I'm learning about theme and structure beforehand, so I can (hopefully) write a far better first draft, and be that much further along in the process by the time re-writes begin.

Promises to be a fun, interesting journey (and hard work too, no doubt).

And finally, if acting interests you, I've been tearing through the episodes of Inside the Actors Studio lately, and a few stand-outs are Harrison Ford, Ralph Fiennes, Robin Williams, and Steven Spielberg. There have been twice as many episodes that fail on certain levels, but those four definitely are both entertaining to watch and educational/enlightening.

This is funneh.

OK, well, I had other stuff to say, but I'm going to save it for the next post. I hope you shall forgive me...

Dave the Cracked

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Seven Slaps, One Punch and a Tickle

Hello, I say! Hello!

It's been about a week since last we spoke... have you missed my melodious voice? You have? Really? Well, if that was true, why haven't you called? You do remember how to use a phone, check?

OK, so if it wasn't the dulcet tones of my angelic voice you missed, was it my winning smile? Well, as of Thursday at about 2pm-ish, my winning smile will have braces on it. And then, from what I'm told, it will qualify as a painful smile. It should signal the beginning of an interesting 18 months in my dental history. Hopefully, I will have properly "braced" myself before my appointment! BUAHAHAHAHA!!!!

So, yeah.

I was planning on simply proceeding on to my acting class after my dental appointment... but people I know and trust, with experience in such matters, claim I am vastly underestimating the amount of pain and discomfort I will be in. Perhaps they are just trying to unnerve me - as retribution for some previous slight on my part, such as, say, passing wind on a certain unnamed person's toothbrush... but let's just say, I'm leaving my options open, as far as post-braces activities. I'd hate to go to the class and just sit there like a lump, unable to participate... I'm hoping it won't be anywhere as bad as they say. I mean, in each case, those advising me had braces put on as early teens (like NORMAL people do!). I'm an adult! I can take it!

So, yeah.

So I co-signed for another Sentra for my Eldest Daughter. I'm about 91% sure it was the right thing to do. Of course, we'll see what effect leasing three vehicles has on my credit score O_O!!! Well, she'll be paying for her car, I just used my credit to get her the deal. She's my sweetie, and she's having a rough go, life-wise, so I'm happy to help her in whatever way I can.

I love my new car... but between you, me, and the tree... it's kind of a wimp, under the hood. Maybe I'm just not used to driving an automatic... every car I've ever owned has been a stick shift. To me, that's driving. And I like being in control of what gear I'm in, and when. On my new car, it will decide to downshift and upshift using it's own little car brain... and sometimes, I'll admit... it's a bit frustrating. But, hey... sunroof and BOSE stereo system! Case closed!

But if that's the worst of my problems, I'm doing danged good.

So, yeah.

So there's an author named Mike Dellosso, who writes supernatural thrillers and things... anyway, he has an annual contest whereby the winner gets to co-write a short story with him, which will be digitally published and sold on Amazon, etc. People submit their idea summed up in one sentence, and he decides which one wins based purely on how intriguing he finds the idea. Anyway, I submitted an idea, and was chosen as one of the five finalists... the winner was revealed today, and I'd hoped to be able to announce to you here that I was the winner... but I was not. But it was cool to be considered.

On other writing news, I'm officially working with professional screenwriter Rick Rapier on my first legitimate screenplay. I'll have more info as events unfold. We've begun preliminary discussions. It promises to be awesome.

So, yeah.

Let's see... anything else? Well, I'm reading a good book called The Wretched of Muirwood, by author Jeff Wheeler. Started off great, then got bogged down (ironically enough) in a bog. More info when I finish the book. This one is worth a review, methinks.

I guess that's enough nonsense for now.


Dave the Nonsensical

Friday, April 12, 2013

Left Languishing In Limbo

Greetings, to my vast, mostly-imaginary crowd of fans! Hey, have I used this opening pic before? I'm so uncertain in my old age! I think I viciously and ruthlessly swiped it from All That Is Interesting a few months back... they have such terrific photos there, as you know, since I'm sure you check that site a few times per week like I, yes?

Well, last post, I joked about how eventful the previous week had been, but it had been Dullsville, as per usual. Well, it ain't no joke this time... check out the latest...

First, I got a new car.

Yep, a spanking new charcoal grey Sentra SV with all the upgrade packages... I traded in my '05 Elantra -- basically, the Elantra paid for all the upgrades. The push-button ignition/Intelligent Key(less) system is cool but more of a novelty... as is the GPS nav system and the camera that lets me see behind me when I'm backing up. But, man, I am IN LOVE with the moon roof and the Bose audio system... my radio in my Elantra was weak, to say the least... my new stereo absolutely BATHES me in music, as in, amazingly. Frank Sinatra never sounded so good. The car is a dream, in short, and for ~$200/month, heck, how can that be topped? Shoulda looked into leases years ago...

So, yeah, as petty and shallow as that may sound, I am seriously stoked about my new wheels. Only drawback, really, is that I wanted a stick-shift, but they don't make them anymore! Driving an automatic isn't really driving... it's cheating! But, hey, I'll take it.

Next, I finally did it... I'm getting braces on my snaggleteeth. Went to the dentist today to get a cleaning and check-up... man, it's been too long since I've been... I forgot how ruthless they are with the scraping and drilling and polishing... man, it felt like they were sawing my face in half... anyway, yeah, next Thursday, I'm getting the braces put on. If all goes well, in 18 months, I'll have a normal smile. As it is, I never show teeth when I smile...

Gads, listen to how shallow I sound? I guess it's just that time of my life when I'm dealing with long-term issues... the nice new car, the braces... I guess I should get a tattoo finally as well...

Of course, the biggest recent development involves my daughter and my soon-to-be-former son-in-law... but I won't elaborate here... it's a bummer of monumental proportions, but I wanted to bury it in the middle of this post, since I don't want to get all upset in this forum. I'd rather stick to coming across shallow...

Moving right along...

Who? Me, that's who, suckuh!

Next? I'm flying up to Oregon at the end of the month to help my dad move back down to San Diego. Going to spend a couple days driving back down here with him. Eldest Daughter has her birthday right before I leave, and then Wifey has her birthday the day I return... should be a busy weekend, indeed...

My acting class was amazing tonight. I think I learned more about acting in tonight's 3 hour class than I did the past decade together. Really, it was eye-opening in a way that absolutely will not convey into text here... I will summarize it for you, and you will say, "OK, so?" But really, I learned this: if I'm doing my job correctly as an actor, I make it easy for my co-actor(s) to do their job. So? Well, it's the (vast) difference between acting defensively and acting offensively. I never saw the distinction before tonight. I guess I was always a "reactor", having my lines memorized, and offering them, with my mind on what I was doing only, hoping I was doing a good enough job... defensive acting, in other words...

Now I see that I can be in the moment, and give the other actor something alive to react to... and then the moment builds on a series of "right nows"... I'm butchering the explanation, I'm sorry... my scope was broadened tonight, to include the other actor(s) in a way that I never pondered before. If I am genuine in what I am saying/doing, it gives the other players a chance to react genuinely to me, and then its easier for me to build upon it... bah, sorry... you really had to be there. It's the difference between two people fencing defensively, parrying, playing hesitantly... and two fencers attacking one another...

Wish I could explain it. Anyway, at the moment, my decision to take these classes was proven to me to be a supremely wise one. I look forward with no small eagerness to next week's class...

Another funny thing that happened this week was I got a comment on a long-dead two-year-old blog post from a person claiming to be the photographer who had snapped a photo I ruthlessly swiped and used in my blog post "without permission"... lol, we had a very amusing (to me, anyway) exchange of comments before I relented and took the pic down (after making several funny modifications to it first, lol)... as stupid as it is to me to think that someone could really feel offended by my using a photo of his/hers in this forum, bottom line, it's no big deal to remove the pic... it's not like anyone will ever go back and re-read the post anyway... so I had my fun, then gave him what he wanted. Let him feel like he accomplished something by squawking...

Good grief, 99% of the photos and videos I've posted in these 700+ posts I've made since '09 have been re-purposed (shall we say) from other sources, for simple transient amusement only... it's not like any of you think I took that "ship crashing into the wave" pic just above this text, for example. It's a cool photo, floating around online... I picked it up, put it down, and it had 2 seconds of airtime, then moved away... it's the nature of the internet! I don't make any money on this blog! Man, some people!

Here, watch this high res, full screen, and be amazed...

NO, I did not film any of it, or edit it... I just saw it, enjoyed it, and pasted the embed code into the blog post so you can enjoy it too! Is that copyright violation on my part? Really? Did I need to get permission from the people that filmed each individual clip used in that montage? Or the musician that created the music? Or the guy who edited it? Or the person that posted the clip to YouTube? Honestly?


My taxes are ready... If I read properly into the voice of my tax guy when he called, it appears I won't owe anywhere near what I feared I would this year... I'll find out for sure when I pick them up on Friday. Wish me luck.

So, yeah, a bunch of shallow nonsense in this post, sorry. Well, and one buried bombshell.

Adios for now. I hope your weekend is a great one.

Dave the Goof

Sunday, April 7, 2013

And That's the Honest Truth!

There once was a man named dave (lower case d). At least, I think he was a man. Not sure. Anyway, one night he was sitting in front of the big glowing square on his desk, pushing his fingers on those little square things that had letters on them, and watching to see what came out.



Man, what a week! So many amazing things happened, I don't even know where to start!!!1!

Bah, man, you can see right through me! You KNEW nothing amazing happened this week! And initially, you pitied me for it. But now that I tried to fool you, your pity has shifted into anger... and in about 30 seconds, that anger will transition into action. Basically, you will hunt me down and slap me into a coma.

Was it worth it, I ask myself (while hiding under my desk... makes it hard to type)? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.  I fabricated both the answer and the wind. I have hit rock bottom. My life lacks meaning and value... I am adrift, directionless, utterly alone...

OK, fine, I lied again. I'm doing fine. In fact, look how much I enjoy my new job!

So, yeah, I'm awesome like that. You know who else is awesome? My friend Grace. Actually, she's amazing (BUAHAHAH!!! I'm so punny!) She started a new blog. And here's the link! DUCK!!!

Amazing Grace

Give it a click, eh!

And here is a parody video for all my fellow conspiracy theorists out there...

Ah, geek humor at its finest... if you've seen "Loose Change" you'll enjoy it twice as much! See? A double portion! You are awesome/amazing too!!! Man, we should all form a club!

I'm thinking about getting a new car for m'self sooner rather than later... I'm looking at another Sentra, but also looking at Honda Civics. A friend at church works for Honda and has extended a great lease deal in my direction, much like I extend my heart out to you in this blog so routinely... and what do you do? You MOCK and SPIT ON my heart, mercilessly! You do this by enjoying the sweetness of my words, the depth of my dazzling wit, without leaving me a comment! That's like eating a fine meal and skipping out on the bill!!! How could you!? After all we've been through together!!!1!

Speaking of having a fine meal... check out my new inspirational T-Shirt...

Yeah, I've put on a few pounds over the cold, dark winter months...

OK, fine, that's not me. I lied again. Man, how do you put up with me? I'm so false, I don't even know who I am anymore! Heck, I could be anybody! I could be you... wouldn't that be weird? If you and I were the same person? We'd have to share clothing, and toothbrushes and dreams and everything!

OK, got a little weird there.

Well, since things are weird, I might as well post the latest from Kid Snippets...

So, yeah, I pushed my fingers on these little plastic lettered squares and all this nonsense came out. Really, I can't be held responsible. I just haven't been the same since the Beatles broke up... I'm sure you understand...

That's it! I've simply had enough of you of tonight! I am done! I am SOOO done!

Dave the Done

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

You Never Bring Me Chocolate Potatoes Anymore...

Greetings, and welcome to post 700! [cue the fanfare]

Thank you! Thank you all! 700 posts represents, according to my calculations, about 484 cubic yards of hot air in text form. Good thing I had the industrial-strength ventilation system installed in the blog back in '09...

So the pressure was on to come up with something special for this post, but I couldn't think of much ahead of time... so I figured I'd just do what comes naturally, and just start it and see where it goes...

Guess I'll start with Easter. The Easter program we performed at church was really strong, and well-received. The pastors felt God was well-honored by it. I was able to video record it using my iPad mini, from the aisle, so the picture is shaky, and the audio questionable, and really I was a bit too far away... but still, I think a portion of the strength carries through in the results, regardless. Of course, nothing like it was in person, but, hey, such is the nature of the medium... give it a bit to get rolling, it ramps up nicely.

You can watch it high-res full screen, if you wanted, if that window is too small to see. Love the song at the end. That's me with the big purple flag at the end. All in all, not bad for about 3.5 weeks' work, I think. A few things I'd tweak, given more time, but overall, I'm super-stoked with how it turned out.

Next, remember that audio drama I auditioned for a couple months back? The "5 Minute Classics" version of Pride and Prejudice? I got the notice from Glenn that it's live, and I gave it a listen today. It's as fun as cool as I thought it would be. I'm going to audition for more, I think.

Here's the link to the page where the audio is at, if you want to listen to it. I'm Mr. Bingley. He didn't use all the lines I recorded for it, but I'm sure that's due to time constraints (gotta keep it 5 minutes!). It was a fun experience. I look forward to trying more. He's prepping "Miracle on 34th Street," so I hope to sneak some audition files in before the deadline.

So my current fascination is acting. It's like playing Fascination Roulette. Round and round the wheel goes... whatever it stops on has my full attention. I'm really getting into the new classes I'm taking, plus I'm watching lots o' episodes of Inside the Actor's Studio on YouTube (thank you SirPsychoFlea!), for what that's worth. True, actors strike me as sort of overly self-important and self-congratulatory... I fear some of them might injure their arms patting themselves on the back. Of course, I've also been watching the City University of New York video series that focuses on theater actors (Broadway/Off-Broadway), and those guys are even worse... still, the acting bug has bitten me, and I'm all in at the moment...

That presents a fear, in a way... I know this is how I operate. I'm all in, and then one day I'm all out and onto something else. If I get neck-deep in some film/play/schooling project(s), and then wake up one morning and the fire is gone.... Well, I'll just have to face that if/when it happens.

My good friend Todd F. is interested in taking the acting classes too... that would be fun if he could join us. Although his focus is more from the angle of a director... he wants to learn the acting craft better so he can better understand actors, when he's working with them in a director's capacity. We'll see how that plays out (unintended pun, Beth!).

I haven't lost the reading bug quite yet... slowly heading toward the end of Rachel Aaron's book The Spirit Eater (Eli Monpress #3). Something about Books 2 and 3 in the series seems lacking, compared with the first. Maybe it's my imagination, I don't know... I mean, they're good reads... but still, the wonderment and joy that ran under the surface of the first volume must have been difficult to maintain... Still recommend the series highly, especially the first book.

Random Nonsense: Thinking of getting my teeth fixed. Tired of being a snaggletooth. Veneers, probably. Thinking of selling my Hyundai and using the $ to fund the lease of another Sentra. Still waiting to hear from my tax guy, as far as how much $ I have to fire off to Uncle Sam this year. Used some of the WRX $ to get the fam year-passes to the Zoo/Wild Animal Park (they are stoked). Pixar continues to ruin great movies by creating sequels. They've just announced a sequel to Finding Nemo... *sigh*

Well, I hoped that if I wrote long enough, I'd somehow create a fun post for 700. Swing and a miss, eh? Ah, well. This being April, I could have done the A-To-Z Challenge again, and blogged my way through the alphabet again... but I wasn't feeling it, sorry. I apologize to my legion of fans!!! All 3 of you! Hey, three can qualify as a legion, if they're spaced properly...

Here's to 700 more, eh?

Dave the Ambling Goof