I did a brief interview with the OC-Centric New Play Festival, which is staging the world premiere of my one-act play The Rothko. We start rehearsals this Saturday under the direction of the esteemed Richard Stein, executive director of Arts Orange County and the former Executive Director of the Laguna Playhouse.
From the interview:
“If you are going to write a play, make damn sure that whatever story you’re trying to tell NEEDS to be a play, not a sitcom or a pamphlet or anything else. That means you have to have some personal idea of what the theater is and what it can do, and hone your idea in that direction until the very fact that it is a play is inextricable from what it is.”
The Festival will be presented in late August in the black box theater at the Chapman University campus. I have seen a number of my 10-minute plays staged, and heard many of my pieces read aloud, but this is a big step up for me in terms of seeing a more substantial work get a polished, professional staging which some major imagination and talent behind it. I am thrilled to see what comes of it.
At last I have a V.O. Reel:
This pulls together clips from my audio dramas, a couple of the video game characters I’ve recorded, a feature film voice-over that was recorded but never used, and that fake commercial I did on someone’s podcast. There are a couple of other things floating out there that I haven’t acquired yet, and at least one hopeful future gig that would add nicely to this, but I think there’s some decent variety and entertainment happening in a minute there.
It’s also on YouTube, since that may be more convenient under some circumstances.
Voice work is known for being a pretty cushy gig at the pro level, and for being REALLY hard to break into the pro level. Nevertheless, I do see gigs popping up on casting notices once in awhile, and have been lacking the means to effectively pitch my abilities. So this is a big step in the right direction.
Now I just need enough of my on-camera work to find its way back to me…
Last night, the Earbud Theater crew went back into the studio to record another audio drama. Our July play, Bea Little (written/directed by Earbud founder Casey Wolfe), is in the final stages of post-production and should be made public in just a few days – and it’s a wicked good time, I can tell you. Last night’s session was for my script for our August play, Escape (The End of Humanity Song). I took the night off from acting and sat in the director’s chair, which was a pretty addicting experience. The cast was strong, playful, and brought all that emotionality that I craved. I think it’s going to be a funny and moving piece, if I can cut it together well enough.
It was a reminder to me just how much the logistics of production can influence the writing. After the long and difficult post-production on Habitat, I pledged to do a number of things with the script for Escape that would make the editing easier. Fewer sound effects, simpler transitions, longer dialogue scenes, shorter script – all conscious choices that played a role in picking what story I would tell and how I told it.
Of course, every solution generates new problems, and what Escape has that Habitat didn’t – three-character dialogue scenes – proved to be its own headache, as the studio only has two microphone set-ups. This meant we did a lot of recording one character in the scene, dismissing that actor, then getting the other two in later. This is basically standard operating procedure in animation, but I think these podplays thrive on a quasi-theatrical energy of real-time interaction between the performers, so I do feel like I’m asking extra of them when they have to imagine a performance from earlier in the gaps of their dialogue.
I have an outline for October’s episode (tentatively titled The Sounds Below), which I am hoping to write a first draft of in two weeks during a break period from the novel. We will probably try and record in late August or early September. I envision nothing but two-character scenes. Of course, it’s going to be a sound effects-heavy show, because it’s Halloween and you want the creepy sounds. You NEED the creepy sounds.
Director: Steve James
Writers: Based on the memoir Life Itself by Roger Ebert
Producers: Steve James, Garrett Basch, Zak Piper
Stars: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Stephen Stanton
In the greatest movie-going experience, an audience is not an observer but a participant. We go through the screen and share in the wonder, agony, and transcendence of strangers captured on cameras, until we find that in the greatest of these experiences, we cease to be able to separate the movie from our experience of watching it. This was the philosophy of Roger Ebert – film critic, Illinoisan, unlikely television star, defiant cancer foe, loving husband, and (I never knew this before) Steely Dan fan. Is this a point of view he won us over to one fiercely-argued essay at a time, or a real truth he just saw and put into the clearest words? How generous of him either way.
Roger often quoted his late rival and friend Gene Siskel, who articulated the standard that a movie should be better than two hours of watching the same actors eat lunch. Life Itself, based on his memoir, could have provided us ample entertainment just with Roger’s company – with the delicious between-takes verbal brawls that erupted between Gene and himself, with the stories told by friends and loved ones and filmmakers who admired him, and even with Roger, who allowed cameras in during what he did not yet know would be the last months of his life, and whose wit even outlasted his tongue.
But Life Itself is directed by Steve James, a documentarian Roger fiercely championed for his film Hoop Dreams, an epic which covered years in the childhood and adolescence of two kids scooped up and set on different roads by the machine called basketball. And during the movie, Roger is seen praising 56 Up, the latest in Michael Apted’s long-spanning series of films revisiting the same people every seven years of their lives to take stock of their journey. It is clear that, once Roger committed to being in a movie about his life, he was not going to shrink from the task of trying to capture a sense of something bigger. To do so would violate his philosophy; plus, if nothing else, he had to surpass Gene’s standard.
Very proud to announce that I’ve joined the cast of Reclaiming Friendship Park, an independent comedy/drama feature film that will be shooting in and around San Pedro in August. This is going to make August a pretty crowded month on the acting front, as I will also be performing in The Tavern and rehearsing for Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare-Summerfest Orange County at the same time. Still, it’s a tremendous opportunity for me to play a major role in what has the chance to be a very charming ensemble piece. I will play Dale, an oddball shut-in at an apartment complex where a businessman who wants to trade in the corporate life for the “healing arts”, has just moved in and started disrupting lives.
This will be a major step up from the challenges of Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine. I was told I could be on for as many as eight of their eighteen shooting days, with some long, complicated scenes involving many characters. We’ll be moving at microbudget pace, no doubt; still, my hope is that I can rise to the occasion and give the filmmakers some good work.
I tend not to say things in advance so as not to jinx myself, but I have another feature audition coming up in a week that I am dearly hoping to land. Just getting into one movie gave me a major boost of confidence; after this, I’m actually starting to dare to think I can do this regularly!
Slept poorly last night and was grumpy all day, with one of those pressure headaches lurking just out of perception pretty much the entire time. And this was the day I had given myself off from the novel in order to working exclusively on this screenplay re-write I really should have finished a week ago. Even though I gave myself three long, dedicated work sessions, it still felt like I was towing the big boat through the weeds the whole time, and progress was slim throughout the day as I fought distractions. Even the soothing fountain at the library sounded as loud in my ears as a construction site.
I took a nap after dinner and took a final shot at it, and finally busted through and finished tweaking an appreciable chunk of the script. Still less than I could have done on a good day, but enough to sign off on. Tomorrow it will have to wait until after I get my novel quota to see if I have any writing brain left, which is not the scenario I prefer, but these are the realities of the situation.
I don’t always know why I have bad days; and I know that sometimes the right thing to do is not beat myself up, but rather step away and go with a healthy flow. But then, on other days, it really is possible to grit one’s teeth and stubborn the tide into turning a little bit. Looks like this was one of those days; the headache isn’t really any better, but somehow I feel more sanguine.
Part of the reason why Habitat took so long to emerge is that originally I was not set to edit the thing; and when I agreed to take it on, there was a skills gap. I knew I was going to have to learn stuff and do things I hadn’t done before to get it done. But really, in this area I’m not afraid of that; and I’m very proud of the results even if I know there is some n00b stuff cooked into the final mix that I won’t do again.
I am just as proud with what I did today, which is to make a functioning .xml script for Earbud Theater so it can finally be distributed on iTunes and Stitcher and all the rest. It even earned one of those “Valid” check-mark boxes over here.
So while I’m sure most will just wait until iTunes picks it up, people who like to get all fancy and subscribe in their own unique ways may now do so.
When I woke up this morning I had absolutely zero experience with making .xml scripts. I have, however, done quite a bit of yammering in HTML, and so the whole open/close nested tags principle is one I’ve already internalized. I just needed to know the new vocabulary and the list of information the feed expected to have, in addition to the custom tags iTunes demands because of reasons. This took awhile because a) never done it before, and b) we already have 9 episodes up, so there was a lot of data to plug in. But I went from zero knowledge to validated, tested, and working within about four hours.
Now, there are a lot of services out there now which will take care of this for you for a low, low, monthly fee, so all you have to do is upload your content and get on with business. But it was strangely empowering to brute brain my way through the process; it will really only have to be this annoying once, and future episodes will take only a couple of minutes to paste into the script. And now I can totally be that guy people know who can tell you how to get your podcast onto iTunes.
Habitat is here. By which I mean it is now available for download and streaming! Actually, this is only possible at the Earbud website at this exact moment; Earbud’s web designer needs to re-do something with our RSS feed to get us onto iTunes and all the rest. But it is now finished, and public, and FREE. I do hope you listen and spread the word.
I wrote an essay about my love for sci-fi and the development of the idea which you can read at the Earbud blog here.
“I wrote the first draft in a week, intending it to be a short film, but as Tolkein once wrote: “This tale grew in the telling.” I realized we needed time to really take Danna on something resembling the human journey, and even with this version of Habitat realized, I never get tired of writing about Danna and Interface, and their attempts to get through this thing called Life.”
Written/Edited by Nicholas Thurkettle
Danna – Christine Weatherup
Interface – Nicholas Thurkettle
Premiering tomorrow at Earbud Theater:
Artwork by Kevin Necessary
There’s a word I love: “gesamtkunstwerk”, roughly from German, it means “total artwork”, and was used by Wagner to describe opera as an artistic mode that could unify many artistic disciplines within it – composition, performance, design, painting/sculpture, etc. These days, film is our dominant gesamtkunstwerk, but to me what is most exciting it not just gathering multiple artistic modes under one umbrella, but about seeing the chain of inspiration, one piece of art generating another, and so on. It’s thrilling that a thing that springs into being from nothing can have such rapidly-mutating offspring.
Anyway, this wonderful cover piece Kevin did puts me in mind of that. It’s a wonderful image to look at, and it took me a bit to remind myself that it only exists because of a story that I wrote. So his artistry becomes a part of the whole that is Habitat, along with my script and performance, the incredible music (which, while not composed for us, nonetheless suits perfectly), and Christine’s performance, which I am dying to share with you.
Just got some very late word that my 10-minute play “The Jersey Kid” will be performed this weekend by the Red Brick Road Theatre Company as part of their third annual “Shorts!” fest. Performances are free (donations accepted) on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm at J.E.T. Studios at 5126 Lankershim in North Hollywood. This is different from the company that will be staging “Jersey” in Sherman Oaks next month – hey, two L.A. productions of one script only weeks apart. That isn’t bad at all.