Fallen off on the blogging this year – I would say it’s because I’m busy but I think I’m basically always busy. What really happens, I suspect, is that in very intense periods I can find it difficult to reach a mental state where I can write a blog post. It has to do with the calibration of expectations for the act of “writing” and the purpose for which I’m doing it. I’m just now starting to emerge from basically a nine-month period where I had a mammoth load of writing to accomplish that was financially and professionally important; and the volume was so consistently high that any time I thought about blogging, it was difficult to disengage from the need for everything to have a shape and a theme and a tone and a finite journey; I would be exhausted before I even started.
It’s not wrong to just blog an announcement, or an idle thought, or anything, really. Outlets have diversified, though. I put my little thoughts on Twitter and Facebook; make announcements there and on the individual pages devoted to my various endeavors. Blogging has been incredibly valuable to me as a writer over the years; and I think it would be good, now that I am actively trying to recover some healthy balance after a period of forced unbalance, for me to do some – and to hell with whether it’s a well-made post or not.
So what’s the news? Well, in the “all-consuming new endeavors” file, I have deepened my commitment to Shakespeare-Summerfest Orange County, where at the end of last season I became part of the Artistic Committee, and have stepped into the role of Casting Director. Having never really organized an audition out here in the professional world, and suddenly having to bring hundreds of people around on a tight schedule to audition for three large-ensemble shows; to answer anxious queries, coordinate volunteer staff, get our company up on audition listing services, sending thousands of e-mails, scanning and organizing headshots, resumes, registrations, tracking the data of every actor we review…it’s been an intense education; practically a full-time job for the last two months, and likely to continue through the end of April.
As “Casting Director”, it’s not my job to decide who plays what. It’s more that I try and put the best, most diverse group with the most potential greatness in front of the directors, and give them the information they need so they can make their choices; and organize the whole shebang and run communications for it.
In any endeavor it’s eye-opening to see things from the other side, and having been to more than my share of auditions in the last few years, it’s great for dispelling the anxiety about the hundreds of things actors can convince themselves might make or break their chances. Acting is hell enough on the ego without those extra fears.
I don’t know if I’ll put these skills to use elsewhere – it was a job that needed doing here and I was able to step up and do it. I am glad for the experience though; purely from the perspective of trying to keep life interesting; and what I found within minutes of the audition day starting was that as long as you were on-time and your paperwork was in order, I didn’t really judge anyone on anything else.
Also under the “unusual jobs” heading – I have apparently become an “expert” for the purposes of talk radio. This is all to do with Seeing by Moonlight; we have a PR firm helping us promote the book, and one of their methods is to book me on radio programs to discuss items in the news on talk radio shows. It’s an interesting content sandwich – I come on, the host helps me plug the book, we break down the topic of the day (which is tagentially-related to something from the book), and then we close with a final plug.
Generally I’m brought on to discuss stories relating to World War II, the Nazis, and Hitler. I admit that I didn’t imagine when I got into this field that it would lead to me doing radio interviews about Hitler; but my co-author and I did do some research, and the Nazis, though long past their heyday, do have a habit of popping up in the news. Recently I’ve been doing interviews about the government of Bavaria’s decision to publish a new annotated edition of Mein Kampf. Naturally, people have pretty strong feelings about this.
The reason I put “expert” in quotation marks is – although my co-author and I did enough research to write a thriller that intersected historical events to a standard we could sign our names to, I am not going to pretend to be a true historical scholar. I have a BA in Theatre Arts and Music.
The truth is, though, the format doesn’t really lend itself to drilling down that deep. You would be surprised how quickly a 10-minute block of radio conversation can go by; really you are just trying to get three or four bullet points across to the layman. I’m not praising or condemning the medium; it is what it is. We give people a few bites of the story, then move on to something else. My experience as a performer is probably as useful as any knowledge store writing the book gave me; because I have that internal clock I can wind to the interview and know when answers are running too long.
So I’ve been on radio stations in Anchorage, Colorado Springs, Redding, Wilkes-Barre, Birmingham, Buffalo, many other cities, some satellite radio shows, web shows. The hosts tend to be politically on the right, but that is just as likely a function of that side of the spectrum having a dominant footprint in the medium. The conversations have all been friendly and very focused; they are, after all, professionals at this. Some have had me around as a repeat guest – it is strange to be introduced as “Our resident Hitler expert”. Probably won’t make business cards of that.
I think this comes back to my essential ambivalence about fame. I can accept that the PR firm’s strategy to sell books is to raise my public profile, and Mr. Thomas has asked if I would be the public face of our writing partnership and I’ve agreed. Beyond the utilitarian aspect of it, though, I’d rather be in a show.
I have heard rumblings that Titan: Dawn the indie video game I provided voices for awhile back, may finally be seeing a public demo release. And the independent features I’ve shot over the last year are going to be screening one by one in the coming months before starting their journey out to festivals. We’ve put out three episodes of Earbud Theater already this year. I wrote/directed two of them, but the third – The Creaky Stairs – is, I think, a bona fide classic, one of the best episodes we’ve ever done. We have another episode about to launch and my next script is already drafted for them.
Through Casey Wolfe, the founder and head producer of Earbud, I’ve become involved in another endeavor, Brick Moon Fiction. It’s an imprint for publishing anthologies of new speculative fiction around specific themes, and I’ve already delivered three short stories to them. One, “Fourth Grade”, was published in their first released anthology – Visions on Visions: Stories from the World of Augmented Reality. Another, “4pants”, was released for free on-line as a look into the future of romance in honor of Valentine’s Day. The third, “The Lake of the Dead”, will be released in their second digital anthology. It’s very stimulating to have an outlet for these little pieces – the turnaround on them is often very quick, and because the themes are assigned to us, it’s always a pleasure to see how some of the other Brick Moon contributors attack the idea.
There’s much more, as always, but this entry has gone on long enough; and with no satisfying theme or fun button to end on. What in the world is wrong with me?
I remember in college, auditions were happening for As You Like It. I remember speaking with the director beforehand and asking if he might look at me specifically for the role of Orlando. It was a long shot – I was a physically-awkward introvert without a well-developed voice, and far from the best-looking guy in the department – and yet I thought there was a chance there was a romantic in me. He took my request seriously, saw my audition, and cast me – As Adam, the 80-year-old manservant.
It’s a funny history I have, that the more I pursue “straight” roles, the more eagerly directors encourage me towards the strange, the cartoonish, the character-y roles. I left callbacks for Dracula thinking that the best I’d done was to maybe be the third best Jonathan Harker in the room; then got cast as Renfield. Mid-2014 I submitted an audition video as “Doormat Boyfriend” for a zombie horror film, and off of that, got asked to re-audition in-person as “Infected Cannibal Paramedic”. Which, I must admit, I would have enjoyed much, much more.
A couple of weeks ago, I submitted for an independent feature film called Aventura, and was asked to record an audition video for the role of “Slick, Successful Hollywood Filmmaker”. I felt good about the video I submitted – I’ve been picking up common sense about that process all year. In response, I was asked to record and submit a new video, for the role of “Hippie Sheep Farmer”.
It’s a tremendous compliment, really, and yet it is strange to channel your efforts into believably seeming like one thing, only to have your audience decide you could be something miles away from that. I suppose it’s the character actor’s lot; and if that means I never have to get six-pack abs, I’ll accept it.
And as a result of all of that, I can proudly report I’ve been CAST as “Hippie Sheep Farmer” in Aventura. I’ll be filming in a couple of weeks – I am currently involved in beard conversations with the wardrobe department.
This is going to come off as braggy, but there’s a purpose of encouragement in it. This is the third feature I’ve got a role in during the last nine months, and I don’t have a Union card, an agent, a reel, or L.A.-style headshots. Which is not to say those aren’t really good things you should really want to have, but don’t let the lack of them psych you out of putting yourself out there.
I haven’t known any of the filmmakers in advance, either – these are all completely cold readings with strangers. Which is a great measure of pride. Now, these are super-indie gigs, meaning I’m going to end up with gas money and meals; but I’m learning that a few gigs like these go a VERY long way in assembling the toolbox I described above. An agent, for example, is much more likely to sign an actor who has a proven track record of going into the room and winning the part.
In the next month or two I should see the finished cuts of the two features I shot last year; after which I should get the footage and finally create my on on-camera reel. Here’s hoping that means more opportunities in 2015; and some paydays.
Yesterday we closed a production of the musical version of Little Women in Laguna Hills. It was my first musical in 16 years, and you can chalk the end of my hiatus up to the fact that director Aurora Long is one of those people I just can’t say no to. I played Professor Bhaer – and my nervousness wasn’t exclusively about singing in public. A karaoke bar + a cocktail = Nick singing in public just about every time. There are different standards for doing musicals though, not just hitting notes or imitating a pop star, but using the vocal instrument as part of giving an emotional performance that tells a dramatic story. The audience can’t just go “oh, how pretty and accurate those notes were!”, they have to say “Oh my God, he’s in love!” My focus recently in the acting workshop I’ve been attending has been to make my work more personal, more invisible, more natural-seeming. To suddenly be applying all these tools to a big, bright, charming musical is a strange act of contortion.
Nonetheless, the feedback was lovely and the show was very well attended. Now I wouldn’t bet against my popping up in a musical again, although where and when is up in the air.
I’m also back on the iWaves with a new Earbud Theater episode, This Monstrous Life, a festive and strange exploration of the holiday season from the perspective of the horrible creatures that despise it:
Art by Tuccicursive
I play Cthulhu, Jr., a would-be world-conquering nightmare being from another dimension who is plagued by Daddy issues. It’s definitely the oddest and, I have to admit, one of the funniest pieces of acting I’ve ever had the privilege to do. This was the biggest production in Earbud’s history, with the largest cast and crew of any of our plays, and the end credits have a celebratory theme that rings especially strongly with me. 2014 was a breakthrough year for Earbud, and it saw me go from a contributing writer to part of the producing brain trust, just in time for this to happen:
I’m immensely proud to have been a part of our three eligible shows for 2013-2014; and we’re going to be back even stronger next year. (Although – SHHHHH! – I actually think the best Anthology Audio Drama podcast out there is Jonathan Mitchell’s The Truth. Check it out, because it is RIVETING.)
This just about closes out my year in acting for 2014 – I’ve recorded a role for another Earbud piece that will drop in late January. It’s been another wild year that saw any number of firsts – not just my first musical post-college, but my first two roles in feature films, both of which should be making the festival rounds in 2015. Then there’s my first paying V.O. promo/announcer gig. Really hoping there’s more to come after that.
I hope I never lose that thrilling jab of stage fright that comes from doing any show. This year involved any number of challenges that were extra scary. My biggest hope is that they open doors to opportunities for me to frighten myself even more in 2015.
Yesterday, a very high-quality camera was filming a close-up of my chest hair. Movie-making is weird.
The movie I shot this summer, Reclaiming Friendship Park, is in post-production. And as they were editing it together, they realized the transition into the scene where you first meet my character was really awkward. There is a grammar and rhythm to shot selection in film that, whether you realize it or not, becomes sort of second nature; and if you subvert that by omission rather than design, you really can trip up your viewers in a way that they won’t be able to articulate.
The scene starts when I arrive home to my apartment, and the main character surprises me and introduces himself, trying to make friends. Right now, the first shot is my point-of-view pulling into the driveway, seeing him. Then it cuts to my surprised reaction as I panic and try to get away from him.
That reaction is the first time my face is shown in the movie; so it’s just a little bit bumpy because the audience takes a second to think “who is that?” and then their focus is out of the scene and it takes energy to get them back. The solution, they decided, was to get a couple of shots of my character driving home, so the audience could “meet” me, as it were, before my encounter with the main character disrupts my world.
So, they asked me if I would come back to San Pedro for about an hour or so to get a few shots to build into a “driving” sequence. It was just me, the director, the DP, and a borrowed pickup truck. Of course, it was a stick-shift, which I have almost no experience driving; so we spent a lot of time lurching and stalling along side streets in order to get a few seconds of smooth motion. One aspect of Meisner technique in acting is to focus on an action so that the conscious mind doesn’t get in the way of natural humanity in performance. I don’t think “trying to remember my character while also trying not to destroy a kind stranger’s truck” was what Meisner imagined. The unused footage is going to be hilarious.
They sent me a still from the scene a week in advance, so I could track down the wardrobe I used and get my hair re-cut. The barber looked at the picture and said “You look weird like that.” I told her it was part of the character, but I think it still made her professionally uncomfortable to make me look odd on purpose.
My character has some funny ideas about masculinity, which motivated the chest hair shot.
The DP had the previous cut of the scene on his iPhone – because we live in the future – so I got to see myself in a feature film for the first time. And actually, hard as it is to step outside myself, and hard as it is to discern character comedy on an iPhone, I think it played really well. That’s exciting. I asked them if they could send me whatever they’ve got of Dale ASAP. I’m on the verge of finally having an on-camera acting reel; and for anyone looking to cast an oddball, I’m going to have good credentials.
It feels like I do more self-promotion than ever, which I’m sort of ambivalent about. I have come around to its necessity in the era of the “personal brand”; and it has actually had positive benefits to my career; although my long-term hope is still that I can build a viable career in this trade while keeping the spotlight more focused on the work than on myself. I guess that’s a weird distinction to make, and probably doesn’t sound natural coming from an actor, but it is honestly how I feel. I only want to be out there to the extent it helps the work; and if it’s not about the work, I’d really rather be left alone.
Maybe that’s why there has been less blogging lately, I already personally feel like I’m talking about myself too much. Add to this that I’m in the closing phases of the new novel, along with a number of other projects, and there’s also just been a lot less time.
Nonetheless, there are new things to share:
That’s the typically fantastic promotional artwork from Kevin Necessary for my newest Earbud Theater podplay, The Sounds Below. You can stream/download it through the link or head over to iTunes. It launched Oct. 28th, just in time for Halloween, and the response has been, I think, the strongest of any of my Earbud pieces. I feel like I’m still in the extended sigh of relief from finishing it; the soundscape for it was by far the most complicated and time-consuming of them all, and as has been our practice I was doing post-production all by myself. That’s going to change going forward – one of the thrilling things going on right now is that our work is starting to attract people who want to help out, including some people who actually know what they’re doing when it comes to audio engineering. This means we’ll be able to get out work that is of much higher-quality, but also faster. My next piece is going to be a little change of pace called Bubbles, which should drop in mid-December.
Three Earbud pieces from this year – Habitat, Bea Little, and ESCAPE! (The End of Humanity Song), are nominated for multiple Audio Verse Awards. The Awards are now in their second year, and with some of the most popular audio drama podcasts on Earth like The Truth and Welcome to Night Vale in contention, it’s likely to draw far more attention. Earbud won a couple last year, and we’re hoping to as well this year. Anyone can vote here (hint, hint); this round will reduce the nominees to finalists in every category, and in the second half of November another vote will determine the winners.
I did a pair of radio interviews this week, to talk about both Seeing by Moonlight and the Virgin Galactic disaster; first for the show Late Night Parents, and then again for Allen Media Radio, which is an actually an outlet of the P.R. firm my co-author hired. So you’re literally listening to my publicist interview me, which makes it very friendly, with expertly-frequent plugs.
Because of the research I did into the history of rocketry and the space program for Moonlight, I do still follow stories like Virgin Galactic with interest, and I guess in the one-hand-washes-the-other mechanics of media booking, it’s easier to talk to me about a book after we’ve spent some time on the current headlines. That may be feeding my recent ambivalence, because it’s difficult to consider that a terrible accident which cost someone their life gets processed into an opportunity to advertise my little thriller book. Still, my co-author has asked if I would be the public face of our partnership, and it’s something I’m willing to do if it helps him recoup his investment in this book.
Lastly, one of the films I shot this year, Reclaiming Friendship Park, launched its first rough trailer. You can view it on the film’s Facebook page. The movie is still very early in post-production, so a lot of mixing and color correcting still needs to be done (and the music is, obviously, not ours), but I think it looks pretty polished for this stage, especially considering how low the budget was. I’m only in the trailer for the blink of an eye, but since my character is largely comic relief, and the trailer is focused on setting up the story, it makes sense.
I heard from the director and producer of the other film I shot, Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine. Sounds like they’re up to their necks in post as well, but that there will probably be a cut to view around January.
Hopefully I will be able to write a little more later about my short story collection Stages of Sleep, which is nearly in its final form – just waiting on cover art. The way everything is lining up, I’m likely to have two books out in 2015 – and at least two feature films in which I’m acting. Talk about work coming to fruition. That’s something I’m not ambivalent about at all.
Been awhile since I updated here. It’s been a busy time, exciting in some ways, exhausting in others, sometimes frustrating, sometimes with great potential. Any writer knows you can’t eat potential, and that has summed up rather too much of my life, but another birthday passed and I’m still knuckling away at this business; and I am assured this counts.
A few bullet points-
-We’ve closed the 2014 season of Shakespeare Orange County. While it was my third performing with the company, it was the first under the new regime and is effectively an entirely new company behind the scenes. And I am proud to announce that the regime now includes me – I have joined the Artistic Committee and will be focused on developing the acting company and strengthening ties with the local theater community, as well as contributing to the company’s web presence.
-This horror film, The Pact II, is now available for streaming/download on the likes of Amazon Prime and iTunes. I was the assistant editor on it, which was really no more glamorous than three days of logging footage and sorting them into their respective scenes. Still, I got paid; and I nearly became the writer of The Pact III, but didn’t for reasons which are thoroughly Hollywood. Stories for another time…
-I am, to my constant amazement, still pressing forward on my new novel collaboration with MF Thomas. I say amazed just because as a sustained, persistent large-scale writing endeavor it has been far beyond just about anything I have tried to do in so short a period. It is not a sequel to Seeing by Moonlight, but it is, similarly, a blend of thriller and sci-fi, with the sci-fi more prominent this time around. Our working title is A Sickness in Time, and Chapter 15 of it is open in Word even as I’m typing this, begging for my attention.
-My work continues on The Sounds Below, and excitement is high throughout the Earbud brain trust for its potential. October will be a special month for us – in honor of Halloween we will premiere two horror plays, mine and a new piece from Casey Wolfe titled Over Halloween. In addition, nominations are now open for the Audio Verse Awards. Earbud won a couple last year and we have three eligible episodes this year which we consider some of our all-around finest work, so we’re hoping to take a few virtual certificates home. You’ll probably see some tubthumping from me in the near future as the nominations phase shifts into the first round of voting.
-The feature film Bread and Butter, starring my longtime friend (and star of Habitat) Christine Weatherup, is about to make its world premiere at the amazing Woodstock Film Festival. It’s going to screen on the 18th and 19th – details here. I was the boom operator for six out of the sixteen shooting days, Christine did some fantastic work alongside Micah Hauptman and Saturday Night Live‘s Bobby Moynihan, and I became great friends with writer/director Liz Manashil and many of the crew, and I hope that this is just the beginning of a long festival run and distribution in the future.
These images probably tell the story better than anything. First – as Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Photo by Jordan Kubat
Then, as Josh the Deputy in The Tavern:
Photo by Jordan Kubat
Lastly, as this guy:
That guy is “Dale Dailey”, a character in the independent comedy/drama feature film Reclaiming Friendship Park, which wraps production today after a whirlwind two-week schedule under the leadership of writer/director Daniel Holland. I was on for five days, and it was a major step up in the camera side of my acting career, both in terms of the size and complexity of the character. It is exceedingly difficult to know if I did a good job; all I know is that the cast and crew were happy. My final shot was on a sunset-painted rooftop in Venice, and it’s hard not to get a little old pinch of that feeling that you’re living a dream when that’s going on.
Dale’s an odd one – and as the movie gets closer to completion and exhibition I might talk a little more about him; but at one point I was filming him, performing Peter Quince, and rehearsing Josh simultaneously; which requires a certain dexterity (also, a fuel-efficient car).
We’re entering in to a more relaxed phase now. Josh is the only character to keep in my head – and I don’t mind admitting he’s not on-stage all that much. I spend a lot of the play backstage, working on writing projects. And I think those obligations are going to move into the forefront now that there are no more rehearsals in the immediate future. There’s a show that starts rehearsal in October for which I might audition, and I still submit myself for on-camera stuff; but I am sort of looking forward to a little vacation from this summer; a chance to give some more emphasis to writing, to rejuvenate, and to find some perspective on what this crowded year in acting has meant to me. I’m attending an acting class for the first time since college, and some good study and self-discovery will probably do me more long-term benefit than just jumping into another show.
I know I’m going to look back on these months and wonder how I kept so much straight – while simultaneously keeping my novel-writing pace steady as well as my Earbud work and tending to my screenplays. Those pictures will be there as proof, though. Three faces – the same in many ways but different in the ways it’s my job to make different.
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…
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!
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