Thursday, June 16, 2005

Il operaio fra gli operai

I believe that translates as the worker among workers. I'm fully prepared for it to be idiomatically incorrect as I do not admit to being fluent in Italian (nor English for that matter).

When I began this blog a few long weeks ago, I considered the fodder and folly to be wholly external. It was the world that was presenting annoying commonplace obstacles to the realization of my genius. Don't think for a minute that that arrogance is lost on me. Though it was entirely lost on me until very recently, a gross shortcoming for which I am trying to humbly account. I can't tell you exactly what happened, let's just say as I bent over the pond I couldn't stir the water in such a way or tilt my head to get the reflection I needed, so I took a lingering glance at what was really there. I didn't like what I saw and I acknowledged that it wasn't the first time that I saw such utter selfishness.

Rather than a complete retreat, to which I've consigned my life many times, I decided to stand firm and face truth's reckoning. I must not be seduced by the thought that this was some white light transformation, the flicking of a switch between dark and light. It is rather a reostat, moving from the dark to the dim. Dim to the solipsistic is very bright indeed. In the dimness, I see not a self-centered vision of, "Ain't in grand the wind stopped blowing", to genuine faith that, though I have but a tiny idea of the true brightness I seek, trudging forth will slowly bring a luminosity heretofore unimaginaed.

The lofty prose is befitting. Deal with it. Please. I would appreciate your patience. I need to learn patience. I need to learn a lot of things. Principally that I don't know everything. That you have something to teach me. Fellini learned from Rossellini. He wrote for him and even acted in The Miracle. My initial thought is that I too must find a worthy master to whom I will apprentice. Not a bad thought, but with what amounts to a fairly pessimistic outlook, I'm not sure anyone but a legend would suffice. Problematic to be sure. If I change my perspective ever so slightly, I could perhaps recognize that Fellini likely made the world his master and learned from it with true genius as is evidenced in his most humanistic work. So how did an ogre like me choose Fellini?

Admittedly, I simply like the way Finding Fellini sounds. I think the term Felliniesque, like surreal, is a giggle in its overuse. I absolutely admire the truth of his discovery and reconciliation of the external and the internal. His images are brilliant. Maybe too there's a humanist inside this oversized bulk of flesh. I hope so.

Yesterday I worked on a commercial as an actor. I fought symptoms of sabotage along the way. I managed to avoid it this time. On so many film sets, I have either disappeared or been the crazy-maker, judging the skills, talent and efficiency of all. I went into this one eager to have the experience. The experience of being a principal on a low-budget, though national, commercial. Of working in Portland. Of being directed by someone that did not initially impress me. (Who turns out share my exact birthday, August 23, 1967)
Of being a worker among workers.

Here's out it went. I showed up on time. I found the AD and said hello to the client, director and producers. I went to wardrobe. They weren't ready for me so I went out to set. I said hello to the DP, to whom I am acquianted. He was chilly and I couldn't help but think it had to do with me. He couldn't possibly be stressed and preoccupied with the task of shooting a commercial. I sat and chatted with the craft services girl about Glasgow, where my wife was born and this girl had lived for six years. I saw the lead actress arrive with Starbuck's for the director, producer and client. I saw her act like a star. I stopped myself from voicing my disdain out loud. I got called to wardrobe. I hated the initial options. I made a face to the director. A face that said, not my choice, but whatever you want. It was a tight sleeveless number that made me look like a "bear" marching in the gay pride parade. Remember Philip Seymour Hoffman's shirt in Boogie Nights? I was glad the client didn't like it. I changed clothes in front of the client. I let myself be looked at. It was the wardrobe they were judging. I was clear on that. But it didn't come easy, I have to admit. We did our blocking. I liked the woman playing my wife. She was a good actress. I worked with her. I acknowledged her talent and let it support me. Again I'm afraid I must admit that my first inclination was to assert my talent. I judged a lot of things. I fought myself a lot. But I put a good face on it for a change. It felt good to be a professional. And I didn't have to lurk about announcing it all goddamn day like the surly prick I've almost always been in the past.

I have an audition for a student film at the Art Institute today. A short. A zombie short, no less. Can you believe it?

I'm still waiting for somebody to pinch me.

Ciao amici,

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


These past few days I've been wondering if I should succumb to a more conventional occupation to support my family. I've asked myself if the path I'm on is tenable and wise. If I should perhaps reassign my filmmaking aspirations to the realm of hobby.

There has been much self-examination. Attempts at a thorough inventory of my achievements up to now. Their viability as a demonstration of sure-fire talent. Assessment of potential profit of future projects. Consideration of methods and skills. Direct questioning. Cross-examination. Re-direct. Re-cross. I was moving toward closing arguments. Finalizing an assessment along the lines of dedicating an hour a day to screenwriting, a weekend every other month to directing and one night a week to teaching scene study. The rest of my hours dedicated to making an honest living with regular paychecks and health insurance.

Before I go off half-cocked in pursuit of real world legitimacy, perhaps an evaluation of my skills that I've built in all my years in the entertainment world is in order. I booked a job on a commercial as an actor next week. Should I try to get representation and more work as an actor? The money can be quite good and it might generate more interest in my acting studio. The fact is these gigs are few and far between, especially for a big lug like me. Besides I don't really want to run around trying to get jobs on corporate industrials. Nor do I want to do theater for very little money working for directors that I don't respect and that I'm fairly certain I could do a much better job than he or she. It may be hard to believe that I'm not putting it down, but, truly, I'm just expressing my lack of interest in such endeavors. Seems like a giant step sideways at best. What about doing some assistant directing or producing, maybe even some directing? The woman directing the commercial spot I'm in has done no more than direct a few short films. I tried to do some commercial work in NY. In the end I decided that I was better off focusing my energy on developing my chops with actors and writing. This is a smaller market certainly. I have a meeting with a local insider later this week to discuss potential commercial production opportunities locally. We'll see.

I presented a co-development opportunity to an actor friend today for a low-budget thriller to be shot in the next summer or two. It seemed as good a place as any to direct my focus for the next several months.

And then, an hour or so later, I got a phone call. Naturalmente. It was Michael Cassidy. He was short of breath. "I've got good news." Music to my ears. Of course he has good news. Why else would I be subjecting myself to such a survey?
His agent Larry Taube read Original Glory. He likes it. He says: It's quirky. The writing is excellent. What do you want me to do with this, Michael?
Michael says, I want to be in it and I want the writer to direct it. Larry says, Let me see what I can do. Tell Neal to have a list of all the actors he has in mind for the lead roles and that I'll call him next week.

Gulp. Somebody frickin pinch me, please!

This past week's scrutiny has been incredibly humbling. I'm going to need humility in spades to patiently proceed with the task of doing all that I can to prepare for the production of Original Glory, knowing full well that there is a long uncertain road ahead. There is no guarantee that this film will get made. However, until they stop returning my calls I'm acting as if it's going to get made. I'm not going to write any checks, legal tender or otherwise, that I can't cash, but …

But what? Let's just say I'm going to do my best to keep my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds.

i nostri cordiali saluti,
signore direttore