Thursday, December 28, 2006

Spreading the Word.

Tomorrow, Friday the 29th of December, will see a group of blogger friends/old high school friends/hangers-on meet at Club Lago in Chicago. I think around 7ish?...Maybe?

Sadly, I will not be there, I have to work my own waiter job about four miles north of Lago.

Enjoy, and let me know if you are going anywhere else. Or come on by my place.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Quick Hits.

  • To those of you who may be in the city of Chicago this weekend. I work at a place called Jury's, 4337 N. Lincoln, on Fri., Sat., and Sunday. Lulu, knows it. We are open till 11 p.m. those nights. Come on in if you can. Ask for me, they call me Phil there.
  • To those of you who may be in Elmhurst (Spring Inn?) this week. I live there. Not the Spring Inn, Elmhurst. My cell can be gotten by emailing me at the email in my profile. Drop me a line, it would be cool to see you.
  • I've started a sport's blog, Double-Nickel. Check it out when you get the chance.

Christmas tag, Christmas tag.....Tagging all the way....

Frank tageth.

A-Available or single? Married.

B-Best Friend? Dave, the Wife, The Boys, the guy who calls me Bill...

C-Cake or pie? Neither. I made myself a shake last night after Christmas Dinner. Breyers ice cream, Hersey's chocolate, 2% milk and some chocolate chip cookies from the desert tray. I think I'm gonna try making one with the left-over lemon squares today.

D-Drink of choice? Diet Pepsi. I can't stop.

E-Essential item I use every day? My mouth, in order to decieve and misdirect those who would have me use my brain.

F-Favorite color? Red hair.

G-Gummy Bears or Gummy worms? Either, I got the sweet tooth.

H-Hometown? Elmhurst, Illinois

I-Indulgence? Most of the time.

J-January or February? They both sure can suck in Chicago. They sucked in LA too. Rainy season. Mud slides. Not good times.

K-Kids and names: Philip and Patrick. I like family names, I think it helps connect the kid, and person, to their past.

L-Life is incomplete without? Travel.

M-Marriage date: Married, June second(?), 2002. Vegas.

N-Number of siblings...2 Younger brothers. Danny & Timmy.

O-Oranges or apples? Oranges

P-Phobias or fears? Heights. Large bodies of water.

Q-Favorite quote? "Will there be someplace, where I know...wash my pants?" Dave, summer, 1996, on the phone with a school adviser, after being informed he would be living in a hotel on Michigan Ave, and not the Columbia dorms.

R-Reasons to smile: The Boys, the Wife, my family. Most of the time, it's good to be Phil.

S-Season? Football!!!!

Tag 3 or 4 people...Dave... I think everyone else has done it. If not? Do it!!

U-Unknown fact about me...Return of the Jedi, is my favorite Star Wars film.

V-Vegetable you don't like...Onions, though I'm not sure they are a vegetable.

W-Worst habit...Smoking. I still like it. I don't wanna hear it.

Y-Your favorite food? I love oysters.

Z-Zodiac? Scorpio.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Actor Friends Part 7. My Own Private Guffman

I apologize for the lack of new topics here, but I have found myself alittle active lately. I got cast in Greenman Theatre Troupe's production of Murder: Stage Right. They are Elmhurst's lone community theatre, been around for acouple years, their most recent productions were The Odd Couple and Waiting For Godot.

The production I am in, which also needs a stage manager and costumer if anyone knows anyone interested, is a pretty standard dinner murder mystery type thing. Tailor made for the suburban audience, when done well, these can be alot of fun to perform.

I didn't audition for the show. My buddy Mike went to school with the Artistic Director David Soria. David is also an I.S.U. theatre alum like myself, and if you knew the I.S.U. theatre department, you'd say, "Of course he is." It's a recurring theme in my life, plus we are everywhere in Chicago. I had met David previously, volunteering to help when I could. Mike helped organize the auditions, they needed more actors. Mike couldn't do it. I got the call. The show is only one weekend, rehearsals don't conflict with my schedule, so I said yes. I like saying yes, but I have occasionally regretted it. (More on this later.)

Last night was our first production meeting. The actor's, director, board members, production team, etc. all met at a house here in Elmhurst. Crackers, bread, cheese and wine were served. General introductions were made. David spoke about company rules, rehearsal locations, schedule, contracts, production needs. All standard, important stuff, that reflect a good level of professionalism. Then he introduced a gentleman in the back. He would be working on the production as a Life/Actor coach.


Fast forward an hour. First, I've participated in an introduction exercise that requires you describe yourself, in relation to the show, with single words. (I'm am an actor on the show and I am eager. I am a actor on the show and I am frightened.)

My first partner is an energetic, forty-something, teacher and mother, with an extensive dance background, who may have been stabbed in the face earlier this year by a student. I saw no visible scar and I wasn't sure if I had heard her right, so I didn't ask to many questions. She seemed exceedingly nice. My next partner is a 63 year-old grandfather. He is a big guy and teaches Latin at a prominent Catholic high school. He and his wife have decided that it is time to indulge the things they have been unable to indulge in. Acting is one of his choices, and I think that's pretty cool of he and his wife.

Next we go around the room, again using single words, to describe things that went well, or didn't,l in our last production. Often, this can become a bitch session, with everyone giving their sad story of the director that wouldn't direct, or the actor who stabbed everyone behind their backs. To our life coach's credit, he keeps it quick and on point. I've had three glasses of wine by now. My word was, commitment. I get nods of approval and understanding from around the room. We have now shared an experience, gaining a better understanding of one another. Our coach likes my word and writes it on the board which keeps our list of words. I expect we will be revisiting with board throughout the process as a means of staying focused.

We'll see.

I may sound alittle sarcastic. I've been through this before. These exercises are meant to help people find a comfort zone with others, encourage communication, open up, etc, etc, etc... Sometimes they can be very helpful. Often necessary when working with inexperienced actors, unfamiliar with each other. You can find these exercises in any professional production or basic acting class.

They can also be used to avoid the work at hand. A time burglar. You end up spending more time in a chair talking than you do on your feet working. Especially when not run by the director and in the absence of a specific acting or script problem to be overcome. One of the nice things about being an actor is the teamwork. You aren't working alone, as a writer might, relent only on yourself for motivation, or ideas. You use everyone around you. For good, or bad.

Early odds on whether I was right to say yes are unclear. Doing a show is a five week rehearsal schedule, three show, one weekend run. I'm a stay at home dad, who works three days a week waiting tables 45 minutes away. The show offers zero potential for more professional opportunities outside this company. There are only so many hours in the day.

But, I will get to work with new people, make new friends. Get in front of an audience again. Build something long term here at home.

So... We'll see. We all have to take our own advice sometime.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Actor Friends. Part 6 That's A Wrap.

Most of you who read this are artists. Even if you don't produce art in the classic sense, as a painter, writer or sculptor, you creatively express yourself. It may be a hobby, but it is much more than a simple pastime. Me? I'm an actor. I may not be the best actor in the world, but I am trained, and I do enjoy it.

We wrapped shooting yesterday on, Cold December. The production had been working all week, but I was only called for the last two days.

As most of you know, films can be prohibitively expensive. The financing for Cold December comes entirely from the director/producer/writer/Cameraman Brian Wright's (pictured here) pocket. When your chosen medium is movies, you can't always wait for some exec to give you forty million, so you tailor your script to what you can afford. Often, making stylistic and artistic choices due to lack of funding.

We shot with a skeleton crew of Director/Cameraman, Boom Operator and Assistant Director/Script Supervisor. Three people, more or less, essential to filming. Director/Cameraman's need is obvious. Normally, there would be a laundry list of departments, from art to make-up, costumes, props, lighting, etc.

The Script Supervisor's job is to keep track of everything that is being shot. Organizing a list of shots from close-ups, two-shots, masters, medium shots, reversals, so the director knows what needs to be, and what has been, shot. Also, for the editor (who is our director/producer/writer/cameraman, as well.) to use as a guide when editing. The Script supervisor also helps keep track of the set, where things are and what was used, in an effort to maintain continuity. It is a very difficult job, performed excellently by Annie, a recent Northwestern grad pictured here.

The Boom Operator is required for quality sound. It is a demanding position calling for very close attention to details, like sound levels, surrounding noise and actors mumbled performances of dialogue. Among other things, there is physical strain. Holding a mic above our heads for ten to fifteen hours a day is no easy task. (On the left, Mike, our boom operator, and Brian work out the challenge of shooting in a bathroom with confined space and multiple mirrors.) I boomed on a feature film in LA when I first arrived in town. I was grossly under qualified, but desperate for work. I left the shoot with a high respect for the job.

It was especially nice to work with Chris again. He trained with the same coach I did in L.A. and uses, mainly, the same techniques. One of the challenges of acting in a film, compared to performing a play, is the nonlinear schedule. There is no organic build as in performing a play from beginning to end. Actor's in films have to pay close attention to the given circumstances of what is being shot at that time. An actor must internalize those circumstances, (Which I call "prep", but it could have many names depending on the actor.) then allow that to infuse their performance, dialogue and relationships with their fellow actors characters. This is often called "subtext." or "internal monologue." The circumstances change throughout the scene. Within your "prep" is what the character "wants." The changes in circumstances can be called "obstacles," to those "wants." The best actors have a very strong "prep" and are endlessly creative when making "choices" based on it. "Choices" are what the actors use to overcome "obstacles" and also to create a full character. Marlon Brando famously sliced an orange peal and put it in his mouth, pretending to be a monster, to entertain his grandson in The Godfather. He could of done anything, but what is brilliant about that "choice" is he accomplishes a "want," (entertaining his grandson) and clearly describes his character. (Who is, in fact, a murderous, greedy monster that controls a criminal empire.)

I'm getting alittle ahead of myself. There are volumes written on acting technique by much smarter people then me. Suffice to say, I felt good about the work being done and I look forward to the finished product.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My Actor Friends. Part 5

A script can be read, like any written piece, and enjoyed, but different than a novel or blog, it is meant to be performed. Shakespeare and Sam Shepard are wonderful writers and alot can be learned from just sitting, reading and studying their work, but like song lyrics without the music, you are only getting a portion of what they are meant to be.

One of the first steps towards performance is the read-thru. All the actors, the director and occasionally a few crew members attend. Usually, it's the actors first chance to meet one another. We had our read-thru of Cold December last Sunday. It went very well. During read-thrus actor's can occasionally focus to much on the script. Getting the lines right is important, more so in theatre than film were dialogue can be more flexible, but at this early stage you also want to establish a connection with your fellow actor. Look them in the eyes, take your time, listen. I thought, since Chris, the director Brian and I had worked together, we had extra confidence to make some stronger choices during the read. He's the lead, so he spent more time connecting. I play one of his wacky friends, so I get act like an idiot to get a laugh. Between Chris's honesty and my jackassedness we struck a good balance. Slowly, everyone started taking their eyes off the script. We had fun, the director was happy and I think we will have fun.

Monday, December 04, 2006

What's On Your Shuffle? (Does that mean my iPod only or all my music on iTunes?)

Thanks to Lulu for this one.

How many songs: 12,445

First song: Dreadlock Holiday - 10CC

Last song: SNL clip - Kevin Spacey doing Christopher Walken auditioning for Han Solo in Star Wars. (Truly inspired comedy.)

Shortest: 0:04 Who's Knocking On The Wall? - They Might Be Giants.

Longest: Symphony No. 9 - Ludwig van Beethoven 26:58

Five most played songs:

1. Catch The Wind - Joan Baez and Donovan
2. Victoria - The Kinks
3. Winnie the Pooh - Mike Curb Congregation
4. Pulled Up - The Talking Heads
5. Sweet Jane - The Cowboy Junkies

First song that comes up on "shuffle.” Welcome To The Terrordome - Public Enemy

Number of items that come up when searching for:

"sex": 58

"death": 37

"love": 653 (That's kind nice to see.)

"you": 1398 (My God, I'm obsessed with you.)

"me": 3054 (Not as obsessed I am with me. Lulu mentioned this, some of these aren't totally accurate do to things like this, (Simpsons - Homer arguing with Lisa about different meats) coming up for "me.")

"cry": 37

I Tag Dave.

Tag Again.... For The First Time.

Echo is tagging me again.

1. Popcorn or candy?
Candy, usually Junior Mints or Dots. Sometimes Raisonettes. Always with a Diet Coke.

2. Name a movie you've been meaning to see forever. Brian's Song. I'm a huge Bears fan and I've never seen this movie.

3. You are given the power to recall one Oscar. Who loses theirs and to whom? I gotta tell you, I couldn't be less interested in the Oscars. Awards ceremonies really leave me cold. Anyway... Take Costner's for Dances With Wolves and give it to Scorcese for Goodfellas.

4. Steal one costume from a movie for your wardrobe. Easy, Darth Vader.

5. Your favorite film sex scene. In the car near the end of The Ice Storm.

6. Invite five movie people over for dinner. Who are they? Why'd you invite them? What do you feed them? George Lucas, The Coen Brother's, Martin Scorcese, Spike Lee. I just think they all have some good stories to tell. We'd play Pictionary and have Pot Luck.

7. What is the appropriate punishment for people who answer cell phones in the movie theater? Just toss 'em out.

8. Choose a female bodyguard: Sandra Bullock in Ms. Congeniality.

9. What's the scariest thing you've ever seen in a movie? I still think about Jaws when standing near any body of water.

10. Your favorite genre (excluding "comedy" and "drama") is.... Westerns. Uniquely American, the good ones teach us a great deal about ourselves.

11. You are given the power to greenlight movies at the studio of your choice for one year. How do you wield this power? With cynical disregard for others.

12. Samantha or Jeannie? Have I met them?

13. Is Gene Kelly annoying because it's obvious he was so full of himself and he was about 4'8"? Sorry, Gene Kelly is the man. You stand next to acouple movie stars and you discover, alot of them are pretty short. All of them are full of themselves.

Technical Difficulties.

For some reason, I can post comments as anonymous but not as Phil. Anyone have any ideas or experience with this problem?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow Day, or The Frozen Tundra Of Elmhurst.

Life threatening amount of snowfall last night. Do I miss L.A.? Nah, never.