Tenspeed & Brownshoe: March 2006

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Theres this forward going around about all the stuff Dick Cheney wants when he travels, like all the lights on in his hotel room and all the TVs turned to Fox news and a few reasonable dietary needs.
I don't get the lights thing, and I dont watch FOX, not because of any political affiliation, but because it is (In New York anyway,) The most dumbed down news out there.
I picture Spongebob writing the cue cards with a pink crayon.

But Cheney could rock it if he wanted to.
If I was the vice president ...
Shit, I'd be like,
I'd wear brand new, blindingly white basketball sneakers- even with a suit- everywhere I went. I want all the windows wide open in my hotel room and Duke Ellingtons "It don't mean a thing" playing everytime I walk in the room and a perky Mid Western cheerleader to serve me a Macallan, 18 year old single malt scotch with one ice cube and I would only sit in leather arm chairs and I would never touch any paper products and the tv would be tuned to TV Land so I could watch Sanford and Son with the sound off because it is not as funny as you remember it.

Then we'd be chillin'.
Brownshoe baby... thanks for listening.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I dunno man... the worst thing I've ever written - depends who you ask.
Worst line ..? I probably scratched it out as soon as I wrote it. Nothing like the Papi Chulo scene from Devil Inside.
Worst Advice? "Dude, Devil Inside is pretty cool. You should keep at it."
MY worst pitch meeting was as Apostle Pictures - When we got to the part where Kevin and I were the hosts of the show, that dude was SO done with us. We were like Beavis and Butthead sitting on that couch trying to be funny.
The worst thing about being on set is ninety percent of the time- everyone is pissed off, has been working too long, has NO idea what is taking so long on this scene; hates the director and/or the script and is going to quit or get fired today or tomorrow.
And no matter how softly I talk, SOMEBODY has to 'shush' me.
My worst working habit is that I get bored easily and want to move on to a fresh new idea instead of polishing the old one.
My worst script idea was Kissing Winnie Cooper. At least I had the good sense not to write it.
Worst mistake I ever made was going to college.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

One of the greatest things to do is talk about how other people really suck.

I mean, really suck.

Bad movies, bad music, bad television, it's all fodder for us to disseminate and destroy.

But what about us? Let's try something a little different. I want to hear how bad we are. I want to know the dumbest, most embarrassing, hackiest things we've ever created. And while we're at it, let's a dish a bit...

Here we go:


That would be an unproduced screenplay entitled Devil Inside. It had something to do with demons taking over New York City. Sound cool?
It wasn't.


It was from Devil Inside. One of the main characters, a bike messenger named "Papi Chulo", accuses the female EMT character of being a lesbian. She responds:

"Yes! I am a lesbian! And my wife is out there somewhere!"


Speaker 1: "Summerland? What the hell is that?"
Speaker 2: "It's this new show from Aaron Spelling. Lori Loughlin's in it."
Speaker 1: "Sounds horrible. You should try and get out of it. It will only hurt your career"

Speaker 1 is me. Speaker 2 is Jesse McCartney.


I was at Sundance with my old boss. He conducted the entire meeting with his white terry cloth robe WIDE OPEN...and he wasn't wearing anything underneath. We all just kind of sat there and acted as if nothing was wrong. But all I kept on thinking was, Flaccid Penis to your right, Flaccid Penis to your right, Flaccid Penis to your left....


It was at New Line Cinema. Pitching Devil Inside. Till this day I still swear that I saw the exec's soul leaving his body.


Foxy Brown. We sold a show to MTV and the next day she wanted to cut me out. That was the first time I went through something like that. It hurts more than I'd like to admit.


No, it wasn't Devil Inside. I wanted to make a foreign romantic comedy. But the twist was that I wanted the actors to speak in gibberish opposed to an actual real language. I think I was trying to prove that intent can be more coherent than words. Yeah...I don't know what I was thinking.


If something funny is happening in the scene I tend to laugh out loud and blow the entire take. I wish this was an isolated incident. It's not. It happens all the time.


I tend to not outline my scripts. When I'm writing alone, it's fine. But if I'm writing with my partner, it's a disaster. I know I should do it. But it's just so much fun to just write without it.


5 years ago I hired Abel Ferrara to direct a film. The studio said in no uncertain terms that they would not work with him. I kind of thought, Well fuck you then. It wasn't until Abel and I started talking about the script that I understood why. During the meeting he fell asleep. In mid-sentence. In his mid-sentence. And let's just say that I don't think it was due to exhaustion...

Okay, now it's your turn.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Seriously though, fuck The DaVinci Code.

The book was without a doubt the best selling screenplay treatment since Bridges of Madison County, (Oh yes, remember that one?) but it was in the fiction section last time I looked - Can we drop it Catholic Church?
What I loved about the DaVinci Code madness was people who hadn't read a book since they scanned the Cliff Notes to Sound and the Fury in high school coming up to me like, "Dude this is a great book!" Bridges of Madison County wasn't a great book and neither is DaVinci Code.
Millions of people disagree with me. And that's cool.
You can't take away from the best seller status... and I don't mean to - I am glad people who NEVER read bought a book still in hard cover after over a years worth of printing - what I'm saying is this... If it hadn't been for word of mouth, you might have never read it. Imagine how many other great books you might be missing out on.
I know, we'll start a Tenspeed and Brownshoe book club.
Let's all read Motherless Brooklyn before thr Ed Norton movie comes out!
I did not sit down to write this, but now here it is.
This is Brownshoe, switching to decaf.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Is that a rat, a gerbil, or a hamster? I have no idea but I just really liked the picture.

Last Night I just had my first brush with fame. No, it wasn't seeing my mug on America's Most Wanted; I was actually recognized.

My directing and producing partner Larry Strong and I went out to play pool on Long Island because well...that's where we live. When we walked up to the counter to get our balls (please, too easy), this young kid does a double take and actually says, "Hey! I know you!"

Things that immediately entered my mind:
  • He had me confused with another black guy. It's amazing how often that happens.
  • Somewhere out here on the Internet, there's a place where the government posts pictures of people who download a ridiculous amount of porn.
  • I had sex with his girlfriend.
  • I had sex with his sister.
  • I had sex with his mother (happened).
  • I had sex with his grandmother (never happened but considering how young some mothers have been...)

So I kind of made a face and responded, "Oh yeah?" He then shakes my hand at the same time the counter girl gives us our rack--which was great because I desperately wanted to get the fuck outta there. When we get to the table Larry looks at me and says, "I bet you had sex with his grandmother".

He was wrong.

Because then the kid walks up to us and says, "Aren't you guys Directors?" How the hell did he know that? Then he says,"I saw your pictures in Newsday" which means a lot more in Long Island then it does in New York City. People in the city only read 3 things. The Post. The Daily News. Or The New York Times. Some people read Am New York but only on the 2 train from 23rd St. to 72nd St.

This could have been great story about being recognized but it isn't. Because that kid, who turned out to be an aspiring actor, talked our ears off for 20 minutes before I got the balls to say something like, Great. It was nice meeting you but we're gonna play now. When I got home I couldn't stop thinking how weird that was. But then I came to a frightening realization.

This happens to celebrities all the time. All day. Every day.

So do I now feel sorry for what celebrities go through with the pictures and the "who are you fucking" and the "are you gonna get a divorce" and "are you really gay" questions?

Hell no.

Why? Because if you believe for a second that these celebrities don't ask for it--no, don't want it, you're sadly mistaken. For celebrities (mostly actors but we have a few Paris Hiltons and Reality Stars too), FAME is the ultimate goal. Why do you think they even go to Robertson Blvd.? If you're unfamiliar with Robertson Blvd, it's a long street in Los Angeles that is probably the biggest paparazzi hangout in the world. It has the Ivy, New Line Cinema, and a bunch of expensive clothing places. And if celebrities are hounded by the paparazzi on this street then you must believe this: They want to be hounded. They need to be hounded. Why else would you go there? John Cusack has been a celebrity for 3 decades now. But he doesn't go the Ivy, or Wolfgang Puck's, or Fred Segal's. He exists just like the rest of us.

I personally hated being recognized. Not because I'm some weird hermit. I just didn't like the attention considering he doesn't even know what kind of shit that I produce or direct. The fact that I was on the cover of a newspaper was good enough for him. And that's just...weird. And unsettling. But if I want a larger career, I have to do more press and take more pictures. And if I complain, tell me to shut the fuck up. Because that's the business. And we're compensated very well for the public intrusion.

So to all those celebrities that complain about the big bad paparazzi:

Shut The Fuck Up.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why Chef? Why?

I learned something today.
I learned that you will never, ever know where the self deluding arrogance that only blind faith in ones own religion can foster is lurking.
And you will never see it coming.

Isaac Hayes, one of the coolest of the cool – is a scientologist (?) and is quitting his long time gig as the voice of Chef- the sexy singing school cafeteria cook on South Park, because of an episode that lampoons Scientology saying:
"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends, and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," He went on to say, "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."
Is he talking about the show where Jesus wrestles Santa in a shopping mall?
Where crippled kids in wheel chairs who can only speak their own names are held up to ridicule? Or one of the characters pretends to be retarded so he can win the special Olympics?
It’s South Park dude.
There is an episode called Chicken Fucker.
The only religious beliefs Isaac Hayes wants respected are his own. And that makes him a fucking hypocrite.

So long Chocolate Salty Balls. It will never be Salisbury steak day again.
Show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone released this statement:
"In 10 years and more than 150 episodes Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons and Jews. He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show.”

And a fifty year old religion that comes in paperback at that.
- This is Brownshoe, and I'm not gonna take it anymore.

Signs of the apocalypse:
Ice Tea on Regis and Kelly being guest hosted by Pat Sajak.
And the Sun turned as black as sac cloth.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Day at The Gym
I was at the gym this morning and I found out the hard way what it would be like if Jerry Lewis had never gotten famous. In the middle of my set, this old guy came up to me and startled babbling along about...well, I have no clue. He was one of those guys who laughed when he spoke so it sounded something like this:
"And then (hahahaha---)...she (hooohaaaa)....culo (haaahhaha; uhhhh)"
I don't know what the hell he was talking about but I did catch the word, Culo. Which is spanish for "Ass". I think I smiled a bit and then moved my culo to another machine. As I started a new set, I could see him walking back and forth, waiting for me to finish so he could finish his Spanish Ass story. It was like watching the behind the scenes footage of Jaws 14. I knew that when I finished my set he would walk over and do more of that talky-laughy stuff. Usually I do between 10-15 reps.
This time I did 74 reps.
It worked, sort of. He got tired of waiting for me to finish so he went off to bother someone else. The only problem was that when I was done with my set, my arms were stuck in this perpetual Kung Fu Grip. I didn't have a choice. It was either do the quantative centennial set or duck into the disease infested pool.
And I was not going in there.
The water is a crayola brown-green and it's the closest thing I've ever seen to a full sized petrie dish. Last Sunday, a young girl jumped in, did 2 laps, and came out pregnant with twins.
True story.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Interesting about the Blair Witch Project though… Yes, technology has created a monster. Any TOOL with a camera is now a film maker- and they are gumming up the works for the rest of us and creating what I call The Slushpile.
Imagine if everybody with a computer wrote a screenplay.
Oh, wait.
They do.
Welcome to our world, oh yes.
What is it about show business that causes people to DELUDE themselves into thinking they are better than they are? Or any good at all? Do you watch the first few episodes of American Idol? These people auditioning for this show… people who are SO BAD that the producers put them on because they are SO bad it’s entertainment- truly and deeply believe that they are something special. And they vow with venom on their lips that they will return and be glorious.

If you try to draw or paint and it sucks you look at it and go, “Dude that sucks.” And that is where your career as an artists ends… but the lure of fame and riches combined with these “Cinderella Stories” (most of which are fabricated by publicists after the fact) – are a drug to many people. That drug is called,
“Hey you never know.” That is all the rational that people need to send their mediocrity out into the universe and hope that no one notices.
Because sometimes, no one does.

The Blair With guys got lucky, they did something no one had dared do before and the right people packaged it brilliantly and some people got rich. But who has ever watched that film twice? Those guys turned out not to have the goods anyway and that is simply that.

The real problem with “independent film” is it has gotten too big.
It is like Off Broadway.
Broadway is of course an untouchable unachievable multimillion-dollar proposition.
Off Broadway is like independent film today . . . it still takes an army of producers and about a half a million dollars to open a show OFF Broadway.
Off Off is what OFF was twenty years ago. Scrappy, hungry, trying new shit. Yeah, a lot of it’s crap.
FILM needs to acknowledge it’s Off Off Broadway. It’s twenty to fifty thousand dollar films.
There need to be whole festivals for just those films. Because somewhere in all that crap the future lies in wait.
Oh, and by the way just because a play was never ON Broadway doesn’t mean it was OFF Broadway. Have a little respect for the people who manage to get there. Off BWY means 99 seats and you paid everyone an equity wage etc… You know what I am talking about.
--- I am Brownshoe.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Is Independent Film Dead?
And no.
But mostly, yes.
The Blair Witch Project is probably the last independent film to hit theatres. That was in 1999. Now it's 2006. Let's take a look at the slate of films that were competing in the Dramatic Competition at the last Sundance Film Festival, the bastion of independent cinema.
  • Come Early Morning- (D) Joey Lauren Adams. Starring Ashley Judd & Tim Blake Nelson
  • A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints- (D) Dito Montiel. Starring Chazz Palminteri, Robert Downey Jr., Shia La Boeuf, Rosario Dawson
  • Half Nelson- (D) Ryan Fleck- Starring Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie
  • The Hawk is Dying- (D) Julian Goldberger- Starring Paul Giamatti, Michelle Williams, Michael Pitt
  • Puccini For Beginners- (D) Maria Maggenti- Starring Justin Kirk, Gretchen Mol
  • Sherrybaby- (D) Laurie Collyer- Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal (isn't she in Sundance every fucking year?!)
  • Stephanie Daley- (D) Hilary Brougher- Starring Tilda Swinton, Amber Tamblyn, Melissa Leo (she's also in my movie--Holla!)

I think you get the idea. This however, does not include the movies that were shown out of competition. You know, the movies that were actually sold. There was a Steve Carrell movie that sold for 10 million, two Bruce Willis movies, and Paris Hilton came...again.

So what happened to Independent Cinema? What happened to the film starring a bunch of undiscovered talent (read: nobody's) and created a huge commercial and critical splash? Do they even make these movies anymore?

Again--yes and no.

With the advent of camera technology, virtually anyone can became a filmmaker. Literally. There's no more expensive film stock or outrageous processing fees. You just point the camera and hit that little red button. Which is actually part of the demise of independent cinema.

And The Blair Witch Project is totally to blame.

After TBWP came out and made some mucho dinero, people ran out to Circuit City, bought the latest (and cheapest) camera, and started shooting. Mostly...shit. And this is what festivals have had to wade through for the last 6 years. Thousands of films were made, everything jiggly hand-held, virtually no discrernible story line, starring--I don't know, the next door neighbor. And then it's sent off to a butt load of film festivals. Now here's the dirty little secret that you're not supposed to know.

The Festival Directors don't watch them.

What an incidenary thing to say. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it's the truth. Do you really think that they sit through thousands of VHS tapes that have the title of the film written in black sharpe? No, sir. It gets tossed to the side. Those DVD's with press kits and pictures of any Gyllenhaal or any Deschanel...they go straight to the top, baby.

So now we're supposed to believe that BrokeBack Mountain is an independent film? I don't think so. Is Crash an independent film? Don't make me laugh. Just because your budget is under 20 million dollars, doesn't mean it's an independent film. Especially if it stars Bruce Willis, or Jennifer Aniston, or any other NBC former Friend.

I think the real problem here is that independent film has the propensity to be, well...chintzy. The acting usually stinks, the camera work is non-existent, and nobody truly cares about the outcome. The goal is to make a quick buck. Guess what, folks? This ain't filmmaking. So can we really blame the festivals? Not really. Not until filmmakers really start caring about what they're putting on screen. Lack of money is supposed to make you more creative, not more apathetic.

Take your time and do your best. Otherwise, you have no business complaining about those summer blockbusters. At least they care.



Thursday, March 09, 2006

Male underwear models get no respect.
And most of them are packing mad heat. I was picking out a fresh pair of boxer briefs the other day and didn't even know where to look in the men’s underwear aisle. This is one of the only times men get a small taste of how women must feel every damn time a beer commercial comes on television. HUGE bulging packages snarled out at me from beneath hairless six pack abs everywhere I looked. Ball sacks the size grapefruit and thick, ropey, man sausage were burned onto my retina.
Was I in the gay men’s underwear aisle? I wished I were born blind. There was a guy next to me. I felt like we were both shopping for porn. I briefly toyed with the idea of making a wise crack, but feared it could go awry and observed the men’s urinal cone of silence instead. I told my wife later I understood if she wanted to see other men.

Speaking of wishing I were born blind, lets not forget Oliver Stone's World Trade Center!! (Another uninspired title see: JFK) He could have called it WALL STREET 2: Stock Market... CRASH! Thank God Mr. Stone is dramatizing the events of that day. What could be more necessary? On behalf of most all New Yorkers, I'll take a pass.
I caught the live show.
On second thought, maybe we need Nicholas covered in prop ash crawling around the iconic twisted metal of the wreckage. His surviving that day on screen in one hour and fifty minutes will let the nation finally heal. I remember watching it on the news thinking, GOD If they had just changed film stock more, it would have I dunno... made it more real I guess.
If I don't want to see it I don't have to go see it though right?
But I am going to have to be aware of it ... the controversy... the chatter, the widows protesting it - Stone on Larry King defending it, flanked with the Real Life Firemen who support the film. Some editorial in the Post slamming it. The studio taking out a full page ad in the trades calling Oliver Stone a patriot.
What I’d like to know is, will Guilliani love or hate? Support the film or banish it like a manure covered Madonna? Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I just got a message from a guy wants me to write a script, I haven't heard if he is offering any money yet, but - It's an "Urban contemporary version of the Oedipus story."
This is not a joke.
Funny thing is, I'll do it.
But only if I can call it "MuthaFucka!"
... Brownshoe out.

About Crash...
Yeah, it did feel like the early nineties "Grand Canyon" days had returned. Back when LA was supposed to be all deadly and racist and shit. Like if I went to LA Ice Cube was gonna just shoot me right there right when I got off the plane.
If we hate the movie so much, why the big picture?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Best Picture winner at the 78th Academy Awards.

Man, do I HATE this movie.

Before this picture was released in the theatres, my publicist wanted me to attend a screening of a movie directed by the screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby. I loved Million Dollar Baby and I was excited to see the film.

I arrived at the Universal Screening room with 5 other friends and waited for the film to start.

Well, the film started.

Then it ended.

And I wanted to kill myself. No, I wanted to kill the filmmaker. Between the 6 of us that saw the movie, half of us absolutely hated the film. The other half absolutely loved the film.

This is what I thought then:

What an insanely amateurish attempt to portray the race relations in contemporary America.

This is what I think now:

What an insanely amateurish attempt to portray the race relations in contemporary America...that's about 10 years too late.

Now don't think for a second that I don't know that I'm in a tremendous minority for my distaste for this film. In fact, in the past year I've only met one other person who didn't like this film and he was my Sound Guy and he just might've been trying to secure his next job. But I've never felt like I saw a completely different film than the rest of the world quite like this. Not because I didn't like the film but because I hated the film. I looooathed the film. I felt that it was "wrought with stinkiousity" (That was for you Mallory!).

First off, let's discuss the genre that this film falls into. If you think Crash is a Drama, you're wrong. Crash is as far from a drama as The Forty Year Old Virgin. Point in fact, Crash is a Melodrama. You don't really find many melodramas in cinema. For very good reason. But there are 2 outlets that they still exist:

1. Lifetime Television


2. Afterschool Specials

Guess which category Crash falls into...mmm-hmm. AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL.

Anyone ever see A Body To Die For: The Aaron Henry Story? It stars a very young Ben Affleck (with quite the receding hairline--hmmmm) who starts using steroids to achieve, Yep, you guessed it, A Body To Die For. It's one of the lazier afterschool specials but it stuck in my mind even before I knew that Affleck would turn into Save The World From The Incoming Asteriod Affleck. Let me describe for you the most amazing last ten minutes of an afterschool special that I've ever seen. In the last ten minutes of this afterschool special, Young Affleck starts bleeding from the nose, gets kicked off the football team, curses out his mother (well, television cursing), and beats up his girlfriend. Actually, he didn't beat her up.

He put her through a fucking wall. Literally.

Sounds dramatic and intense, don't it? Maybe on paper but by the time it was shot it was something else. It was HILARIOUS. Now here's the most amazing thing of all:

That was mild compared to Crash.

Every single character in a melodrama has but one purpose. To perpetuate the theme of the movie. That's a problem. Because that's not a character. It's a robot. In a melodrama no one does anything except portray the most intense stereotype ever written. That's pretty lazy.

And amateurish.

And just dead wrong.

Why wrong? Because human beings don't act that way. Even the stupid ones. Or the sneaky ones. Or especially the racist ones. In the year 2006, racism is not that overt. It's subtle. That's why racism still exists. If racism was that overt it would've been stamped out by now. But it's not. It's here to stay. Not because everyone in power is a racist but because racism is much like a mosquito flying around your ankle: You don't know it's there until it bites you.

So there. I hate this movie. Me and the other 4 people in the world.

Monday, March 06, 2006

One of the nice things about working on a film is that most days, one way or another, you see the sun rise. Posted by Picasa

I just got done sending Benderspink a hate email after seeing Red Eye this weekend. I have come to hate movies and it saddens me. I would gladly pay half price to eat a little popcorn and watch a few previews of movies that are also going to suck, and then go hang out with some friends. Went to see Firewall last night and have only myself to blame. Actually prefer the Bruce Willis Version from a few years back called Hostage. Glad to see Virginia Madsen back where she belongs back playing The Wife. Where was the guy with the duct tape on the set of Sideways? For some fucken reason my wife and I decided to try to sit through Assault on Precinct 13 - in the spirit of daring someone to see how long they can hold their breath underwater or leave their hand on something hot. And I have to say she outlasted me. Ethan Hawke is haunted by failing to save his two partners in an undercover hand-held sting gone bad. Now he drinks and has a desk job; STOP me when Maria Bello shows us her tits and you think you have seen this before. I don't know if he unholsters and confronts his demons in time to stop the bad guy from killing Drea DeMatteo or maybe whatisname from Die Hard does it for him.
In any case I am going to the fucken bookstore.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


In an earlier column I stated a fact about the number of Creatives. The number was 4 million. For the sake of this article I’m just going to include ACTORS so I’ll be conservative and lower that number to 3 million. If I excluded your particular profession, don’t be angry. You’re just being spared my wrath. Why wrath? Because that number, 3 million, is the one of the very things that is wrong with this industry. Put it this way, on the last Oscar telecast do you remember seeing 3 million people? Of course not. Otherwise Mann’s Chinese Theatre would actually have to be located in China. No, 3 million there was not. But then why is that number so high?

Because Acting is self professed.

That’s the big problem. I don’t know who started this but there’s this bizarre dictum that if you want to be an actor, all you have to do is say it out loud. Really? Is that it? All you have to do is say it out loud? If I say it three time can I conjure up Michael Keaton and watch his head spin? It is this ridiculous way of thinking that has bloated the number of actors in the US, just the US, to 3 million weak. Acting is the only profession in the world that can be anointed simply by proclamation. Sure, there are other self proclaimed Creatives. Lord knows I’ve met my share of self-proclaimed writers who’ve never written a thing.
But it’s nowhere near the same.
Because eventually, writers have to deliver a tangible product. They may not be famous; they may never even sell a thing. But you can hold it in your hands. It may be crap but it is real.
Directors deliver a tangible product. It may be crap but it is real.
Actors can’t do that. Acting is beholden to another entity. Actors can not exist without the product of others. I know what you’re thinking. Directors need actors just as much as actors need directors. Directors are beholden to actors. Not true. The Kid Stays in the Picture was one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in recent years and there wasn’t one actor in the flick. Truth is, actors are people who need people.

“Just because I’m not famous doesn’t mean I’m not an actor.” A friend of mine said that to me when he was just starting out as an actor. He’s a lawyer now, a damn good one by the way. But he was right. There truly is no correlation between “good” acting and fame. Freddie Prinze Jr. was famous, although I’ve never read a single review or article that ever described him of being a good actor. But big BUT, that doesn’t excuse actors from being (as my friend Larry puts it)…UNgood. Most actors are pretty horrible. Some of them even have a career. Of course I realize that good is subjective. My good is different from your good. You might even say that your good can beat up my good but I think we can generally agree on what excites us in a performance and what disappoints us. Put it this way, I’ll bet two years salary that Paris Hilton will never win an acting award; MTV excluded.
So if we can all agree on that then we can all agree on this: Bad is bad.
What makes me an authority? Nothing. There is no such thing and you should be aware of people that claim to be an authority and don’t have a uniform and a badge to back it up. The only things I can tell you, however, are the experiences I’ve had as an agent and a manager.
One of the ways an agent or manager finds his talent is from attending acting workshops, or seminars, or conservatories, which is all pretty much the same thing. Basically, a ten percenter will sit in a room and actors will stroll in, one by one, and perform a monologue. Actors pay good money for this so accompanying the monologue is usually some chitchat, like where they were born or how they just discovered yoga as if it hasn’t been around for centuries. Sometimes these actors were born in the 80’s, sometimes these actors are in their 80’s, but the most interesting thing is that they all say the exact same thing. I just know I’m gonna make it! I can’t begin to tell you how bad I want to say, No…you’re not.
Hey, optimism is a good trait. It can also be a dangerous trait. Especially if you’re dangerously optimistic. I’ve sat through literally thousands of what is supposed to be sad monologues. Dreadful, dreadful soliloquies about people having cancer, or people having AIDS, or people having cancer then AIDS. These monologues have less to do with acting and more to do with actors wanting to say, Hey, look at me! I’m crying! Some of these workshops are a little on the scammy side but there are others that are truly reputable. Susan Batson, working on the side of good repute is an amazing acting teacher who’s coached celebrities from Nicole Kidman to Chris Rock. Batson, a woman who is delightfully from another planet is incredibly tough on her students and only wants the very best and actor can give. *As shown in the first five minutes of the film, Girl 6 and in my opinion, the only watchable part of that film. I had the pleasure of being invited to her beautiful space to hear these Best of the Best thespians deliver what was supposed to be, great performances. Supposed to be. The reality was that they were terrible. Every last one of them. But this wasn’t Susan’s fault. The blame lies in a completely different area. It’s called reality. And the reality is…not everyone can be an actor. And why do I believe this to be true? God help me if this sounds mystical or wishy-washy but I believe that acting is special. It’s not a trade. It’s a talent. Not just anybody can learn it. Sure, coaches are essential to honing an actor’s skill but you have to born with it. That’s why I come down so hard on these self-professed actors. The sully the very notion that people like me hold true in our hearts.

Actors are magical.

How else do you explain what they do to us? Forget about laughing and/or crying. That’s a given. I’m talking about power. Actors have power over us. They can make a good day better of a bad day worse. They can make us scream—out loud—in fear or in anger. They make us believe the impossible. I’m not insane so I know that a man can’t fly but whenever I see Christopher Reeve in that skintight red and blue, I can’t help but look out the window. Actors can even drive us to make changes in our lives. This may sound cheesy but when I saw Jerry Maguire on a Friday, I quit the fashion industry the following Monday. I had forgotten how important it was to be inspired by the work that you do. Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. reminded me. I know, I know, I’d roll my eyes too if I just read that previous statement. But didn’t you believe that it really was Ray Charles up on that screen, singing Hit the Road Jack? Or that Indiana Jones really could outrun a fifty-ton speeding boulder.? Actors, good actors, make you believe in things that are unbelievable. Magical dramatists that use their talent as a magic wand. Bad actors are charlatans who promise greatness but deliver cheap tricks with exaggerated eye movements. There’s just no reason for there to be 3 million actors in the US. Never mind the fact that there is only 120,000 SAG members in the entire nation. However, there is another reason why that number is so high:

Extras are the people who appear in the background of a film or television show. That way when the main characters enter a diner, it doesn’t look like an episode of the Twilight Zone. In recent years I’ve actually become quite obsessed with checking out the extras in a film. Sometimes it’s even funnier than the film I’m watching. In Braveheart, during a battle sequence, I spied two extras that were supposed to be fighting each other to the death, laughing and playing what looked to be a rousing game of leapfrog. In Teen Wolf, during a basketball scene, an extra actually pulled out his, uh…reproductive material. And that in itself poses a question. Are extras really actors? Well…yes and no. The only people that I would be inclined to give the mantle of Actor to are what I call Career Extras. Career Extras are actors that do one and one thing only. Appear as background performers. They’re very professional, eerily serious about each project they do, and they work constantly. Career Extras can rack up more than 20 films and television shows in a single year. That even beats Jude Law who was in every single film last year. I just love watching Law & Order and finding my favorite Career Extras. Every once in awhile when I don’t see one of them, I’ll be like, “Hey, where’s Guy who likes to pretend he’s on the phone?” Although pretending to be on the phone may not be Macbeth, it is sort of acting. The television show, 24, has the best extras in the business. I don’t know why but they do. Extras in real time. There’s even a new show premiering on HBO entitled, “Extras” starring Ricky Gervais (star of the original and funnier UK version of The Office) so there must be something to them.

This all falls on deaf ears of course. The glutton of actors will continue to rise and the expected level of talent will continue to plummet. Half of the working actors today would’ve been unemployable in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Gone are the days of Pacino, Streep, and Newman. Redford pretty much retired, Bancroft just passed, and De Niro has now relegated to appearing in silly comedies and hokey thrillers. So now the door is open to any Tim, Rick, or Larry who watches waaaaay to much Entertainment Tonight and thinks fame is right around the corner. And that’s how I weed them out. When I hear an actor talk about money and grosses rather than craft and technique, red flags all around. These people think that the entertainment industry is like a gas station where they can just stroll up to the Self-Serve island and help themselves. But like the gas station, there’s a price. And that price is talent. Sure, some people have made it without paying; Lord knows Pauly Shore is on fumes.
For some, like Marlon Brando, talent is like solar energy. It can run forever or you can you can squander it away. But we know he had it. And his was as bright as the sun.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Brief Opening:
I guess I’m obligated to give you a quick introduction and explanation as to how and why I know about all the little pseudo facts that I spew. Well, I have been in "the business" now for a little over 10 years now. I can honestly say that I have worked within most, if not all gametes of the entertainment industry. I’ve been (unfortunately, this is in order) a stuntman, turned model booker, turned agent, turned manager, turned commercial producer, turned television producer, turned film producer, and finally turned director but never ever an actor. I’ve never even attempted to act (which is a complete lie—turns out I’m horrible).

So if you can tell by that previous longest run on sentence in the history of the English language…I’ve been around. This allows me to talk semi-intelligently about the real facts of this business. So with that said, let’s get started. And how do we start? With a little experiment of course.

"You Mean I Gotta Get a Real Job?!"

It will happen or has happened to us all. It doesn’t matter if you’re an actor, director, producer, writer, or even a cinematographer. It has Death and Taxes beat hands down. It’s more of a sure thing than Papa’s Moustache in the third. It’s as inevitable as that big Texas-sized asteroid that’s gonna smash into the Earth and destroy us all (or something like that). It’s a scary, scary truth that is more of a reality than all those things combined. Ready for it?

So here it is…

At some point in your career you’re going to have to get a real job. You know, a real job just like your parents used to say when you first decided to get into this depraved, rejection filled, damned industry. I know it’s depressing but it’s the truth. An awful truth that plagues most Creatives as our numbers have soared to more than 4 million! That means you’re not alone so stop crying, get it together, and figure out what you’re gonna do. According to the trade paper, BACKSTAGE, the "real" job of choice is of course…a waiter. But what if you don’t have the patience to stand over a small rickety table while a 75-year-old woman decides if she wants the Potato Latkes or the Rigatoni Martino? There are alternatives. What are they? Well, I decided to use myself as a guinea pig and see what’s out there. I decided that my mission would be to work at two totally different places for two weeks each. The following is a positively true and positively frightening experience at both employment locations.

The first job I applied to was for a certain well-known 3-letter overnight delivery service. Getting the job was easy. From what I understand they’ll hire just about anyone. And I was just about anyone. So with the interview being just a technicality, I was ordered to work the following Monday. As I parked in that huge parking lot and stumbled out of the car (stumbled because my shift was 4am-9am) on the first day of my employment, I noticed a funny thing. Fences. Long sprawling metal spokes trimmed with barbwire on the top, sort of like an S&M Christmas tree. Upon my walk towards the security booth entrance, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this place reminded me of something. And as I emptied my pockets, walked through a metal detector, and had a magic wand trace the outline of my incredibly sleepy body, I quickly realized what it was. Prison. This place reminded me of a prison. So for $8.50 an hour I got to go to prison. This may seem like an exaggeration but the parallels can not be ignored.

First off all, no one talks to you. Wait, let me amend that. No one even looks at you, is more accurate. When I walked through the huge emptiness of this building of at least 900 employees, not one person made eye contact with me. I couldn’t even get that customary "Negro nod" from the other brothers that worked there. So the 2nd thing I came to realize was that I definitely wasn’t going to make any friends and that anonymity would be my modus operandi. We were to report to a designated section of the building where our assignments were to be handed out. For instance, one day I would have to unload a truck, another I would have to scan in hundreds of pieces of inventory. It became clear, however, that whatever I’d be doing would require heavy lifting. Which was strange considering I was hired for a data entry position. But when they noticed that I work out quite regularly, major labor became part of the equation. It was like having 1000 friends and you had to help them move all day, every day.

The 3rd and most shocking thing I noticed was how people would talk to each other. Now let me clarify something. I myself have a pretty horrible mouth. My parents and my son are the only people I don’t curse around. But this was different. Much different. Cool Hand Luke different. The supervisors (who I’ll now refer to as "guards") treated everyone like crap whether you did a good job or a bad job. Of course I realize that there are a lot of less than nice guards out there but do they scream in your ear? Do they berate you? Do they throw things at you? I myself witnessed one of the guards calling another one of the "inmates" a black retard who couldn’t read.

Wow. EOE my ass.

Being a fly on the wall in this type of environment was fascinating but I wasn’t going to learn anything unless I started asking some questions. I was really interested in knowing how long some of these people of have been there, guards and inmates alike. Within a week I was able to talk to about 85 people. Can you guess what the average length of employment (or jail sentence, whatever) was? Now I’m talking about the mathematical average here. Can you guess?


That’s right, days. Not months, not weeks, but days. 4 days, 7 days, 13 days. The truth is, I didn’t meet anyone who had served there more than 2 months. That’s an insanely high turnover. I couldn’t exactly blame them. I had agreed to work there for 2 weeks and it was 14 days too long. Were there other reasons for such a high rate of attempted escapes? I asked my senior guard if he had any idea why people quit so often and he replied, "When you’ve been here as long as I have, you get used to it". "How long have you been here", I asked. "3 weeks", he replied. It was honestly just too sad to be funny…but I laughed anyway.

A quick aside: Break time was surreal. At 6am on the dot a whistle would blow and everyone would literally drop what they’re doing and disappear like a strange Terry Gilliam movie. Ten minutes was all you got and you weren’t allowed to bring in any water or food from the outside; you had to buy it on site. Unfortunately, there was only one vending machine in the entire complex and it would take you 10 minutes just to get there. As I watched everyone try and scurry back in time from their break, it made me wonder if perhaps WE were part of some grand experiment. I don’t know, it was just a thought.

So after two weeks I escaped, collected my dough (I never broke the $100 barrier, by the way), and thanked God that this was just an experiment.

On to the next job.

I wanted to try something a little different this time. The 1st job really didn’t have any discretion in their hiring process so I wanted to try something that wasn’t such a gimme. I immediately ruled out retail and fast food joints. Telemarketing was also out. I wanted to try and get a job in a more controlled environment. Kind of like an office job. No, exactly like an office job. I scoured my local paper for jobs and found three categories that I could possibly work within. Clerical, Receptionist, and Administrative Assistant. That’s when I hit my first snag. They all wanted resumes. I didn’t have a resume. Nor have I done anything that remotely translates to what an administrative assistant does, whatever it is they may do. The closest I’ve come to computer work is making up stories for screenplays. And that’s when it hit me.

Make it up.

Make up another persona. Make up a work history. Make up a list of skills and abilities that I didn’t have. In other words…lie. So that’s what I did. The only real thing on that resume was my name. I even decided to make up companies that had conveniently went out of business so they couldn’t be contacted. I cheekily went as far as to include the company that my brother owns called ARBO Pictures. And I said I worked there for 5 years (ha!). So what would my job responsibilities be at these fictitious companies? Easy. Whatever my prospective employer needed, I would simply cut & paste that piece of their ad right onto my resume. Could this really work? My theory on giving people what they wanted to see was pretty thin. Still, it was worth a try so I sent out 7 resumes that Friday. On Monday I had 4 responses.

My first interview was, in a word, HILARIOUS. Not because of the interviewer but because of the interviewee. I laid it on quite thick. I told her I wasn’t really a 9-5 guy and that I only leave the office when the work was done. I told her everything she could possibly want to hear. I was a whore and she was my "john"—ooo, no one does it better than you mami.
Looking back, it was more than a little gross. Didn’t matter anyway. There was no way I was getting the job. One phone call and she would immediately find out that my entire resume was BS. If she typed my name in any search engine, a million things would pop up from martial art fan sites to my own movie’s official domain. I was going to be found out and it was going to be really, really embarrassing. The next day she called and offered me the job.

As I drove to work the morning of my first day, I couldn’t help but think of how easy this was going to be. I mean, it was a mid-sized company that sold security tags to retail stores. How hard could this be? I assure you, I’m not being cute here or leading you to a funny little reversal. The job really was going to be easy. All I had to do was some light filing, a little computer work, and answer the phones. Simple, simple, simple. I did not, however, take into account my co-workers. More specifically, the attitude of my co-workers. I was completely blind-sided. When I was interviewing, my future employer warned me about the head boss, the owner. She said he was pretty boisterous and a little difficult. Turns out he was the best of the bunch. He was just a salty old dog that likes to mix it up a bit. I really liked him. It was like working for Milton Berle without all the cross-dressing. My co-workers, 2 females, were a completely different story. By the first second on my first day, they made it perfectly clear that they did not like me.

How could they have come to that conclusion so quickly? Usually it takes people weeks to figure out that they don’t like me.

As far as I can decipher, I was the "new guy" and I was invading their fine-tuned clique territory. New Guy, by the way is what they continued to call me throughout the entire two weeks. Never Kevin, always New Guy, as in "Hey, new guy!" It took me about fifteen minutes to make up a nickname for them. Shrek and the Ewok . The resemblance was uncanny.
It was interesting how they would treat me horribly in completely different ways. Shrek would treat me like her retarded second cousin, constantly reminding me to file things in alphabetical order. The Ewok would just ignore me. All day. Every day. Despite that, I did learn a few things about office etiquette. For instance, if I left for lunch and neglected to ask anyone if they wanted anything, that was considered rude. Also, whoever called the office was immediately deemed an idiot. The phone would ring, Shrek would talk for a couple of minutes, hang up, and shout, "Idiot!"

So how did they treat each other? It didn’t take me long to figure out that Shrek and the Ewok did not trust each other. Or really like each other. They each thought the other one was trying to destroy them. Destroy them? How do you destroy someone? This wasn’t exactly Lord of the Rings. Nonetheless, I slowly started to lose it. The nicer I was to them, the meaner they were to me. I didn’t like it and I didn’t deserve it. By the 4th day I had to call my friend and co-director Larry Strong who knew about my little experiment and well…vent. I told him about Shrek and the Ewok.

I told him about how everyone was deemed an idiot.

I told him that I felt guilty every time I went to lunch.

I told him about how they were trying to destroy each other--but most of all, I told him how mean they were to me!

Larry listened to all of this (I don’t think I was very coherent) took it all in and asked me one very simple question. Why do they have to like you? Hmm. Good question. Hadn’t thought of that. Why did they have to like me? The answer was just as simple as the question.

They didn’t.

At the end of my two weeks and with the experiment at an end, I had two very different results. The first job, the penitentiary, was a complete wash out. It was a horrible job, filled with horrible people, for horrible pay. 2+2 equaled 4 on that one. If you’re an out of work Creative, this is not the job for you. I’m not sure it’s the job for anyone. With the crazy hours and the borderline abusive atmosphere, I can easily say that this is the worst job ever. And for a union gig, it pays amazingly low.
But the results of the 2nd job were much different. I learned something about myself. It’s the same issue that plagues all Creatives:

The insatiable need to be liked.

That’s why we’re creative in the first place. Because we want people to like what we have created. And more importantly, to like us. When you work in creative environment it’s hard to notice that trait because everyone has the same affliction. But when you work with Norms (regular folk), they don’t have that disease. They’re there to work. Period. They don’t feel the need to engage in a popularity contest like we do. It’s a job, not a prom. Which is something you’re really going to have to deal with when you get a real job. It’s not your career. It’s a job. To make money. Everything else is just like Microsoft Windows; pretty little pictures that have no real purpose.

So what’s the verdict on the real job issue? Office jobs are the way to go. They’re easy and the pay is decent. You may have to embellish a bit (please also see: lie) but you’ll get over it. The most important thing to remember, however, is that you must drop all the baggage that comes from being a Creative. If it helps, think of working at a real job like an indefinite experiment. Or research. Or whatever. Doesn’t matter, whatever you need to tell yourself to get through the day is sufficient. Get over yourself, get a job, and make some money. That way you can afford to pursue your creative endeavors. And if your co-workers are mean to you? Well…maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to get revenge by giving them nicknames like Shrek and the Ewok .