The magic behind the minutes

This acting thing is so funny. A guy spends months working on a script. A director and a production team spend months planning and prepping. They hire an actor. The actor braves the freeways and comes to the set. He sits in a makeup chair for an hour and a half while teams are lighting and dressing the location and doing test shoots. The actor warms up, reviews what he’s doing with the director. Then he gets in front of the camera, and all those months and weeks and days and hours of work are all there thrumming underneath, but they’ve dropped out of sight because for just these very few minutes, it’s time for the actor to do their thing.

And for those very few minutes, this is what I got to be:

The director told me to just "Kubrick" the camera - that's all I needed

The director told me to just “Kubrick” the camera – that’s all I needed

And then I go away – to wash off the makeup and go find something to eat. And they upload the footage. And they process and cut it together with the rest of the footage and color grade it and put music and sonic atmosphere behind it. Months and weeks and days and hours of work; and if it all goes well, people will be like “DAMN, look what that actor did!”

How long was I actually in front of the camera? Maybe 10 minutes.

When you look at it that way; it can feel like all I have to do is show up and let all that great storytelling and preparation and technical work do its thing. It was already good before I arrived, so just don’t botch it. I guess one way to think of great actors is that they can take a moment like that and blast it further into the atmosphere than you could ever imagine. I’m not there, but I think I’m getting better at not botching it. And this is a great damned part to find myself in.

This film is called The Revelator, and it’s about a man who sees ghosts. I’m one of the ghosts he sees. Only the difference with me is – I see him back. And boy, am I happy to have someone who can see me. Just look how happy I am in that picture.

Yesterday was my first day on set, and basically my big day in terms of the material I was shooting. I’ll do three more days over the next two weeks, but this is really the climactic bit for me. And because of the director’s vision for the scenes, there weren’t a lot of angles to cover or dialogue to go back and forth with. They framed up, they rolled, I did all my business, then we cut and the director (J. Van Auken – also the writer, star, and many other jobs) gave me a giant hug:

Like me, he was covered in flour

I can’t tell you how exciting it was for me, as a longtime horror fan, to actually be in my first horror film; and in the Monster role, to boot. The first time the director looked at me on the monitor he went “F*ck!” If he’s trying to put a nightmare of his onto the screen, it sounds like I did my part to make it happen. And it’s a funny thing, because I’m very aware how much of the credit goes to everyone else; but I also know that not just anybody could have done that in 10 minutes. Whether it’s good enough for the movie? You put yourself in their hands and hope so. But man, they all seemed happy. And so was I – again, just look at that smile.

Reality Adjacent

Here’s a pretty cool thing – my first-ever professional commercial voiceover job:

That take is actually the audition I recorded in my closet. They liked it so much they just bought it and put it in the commercial. The possibilities with this V.O. thing are incredibly-enticing, and I am immediately appreciating that, acting-wise, my “range” is incalculably broader in this realm. No one would cast me as an obsessive cyclist in a film or probably even on-stage – I just don’t project athleticism.

I got some great news a few days ago – a friend of mine has written and will direct an independent horror feature. Due to scheduling issues, an actor had to drop out, and my friend has a lot personally at stake in this, and he called to ask if I’d step into one of the major roles in the film. It’s a horror movie – my first (not counting the short student-made slasher film I starred in over in the UK a lifetime ago) – about a man who can see ghosts; and I’ll be playing the ghost who is his chief tormentor throughout the film. I get to wear grody makeup and special effects contact lenses, and I’m so excited about all of this because it is a dreams-coming-true kind of opportunity.

My ghost sort of breaks the previously-established rules of the movie. I thought almost immediately about when I played Renfield in Dracula, and how the director and I worked to build aspects of his character that made him sort of a living affront to sanity. I would switch accents mid-scene to mock other characters, break the fourth wall, stay on-stage in scenes I was not in, and finally start moving through different areas in the stage to violate the unspoken logic of which rooms were connected to where. At the curtain call, Renfield was the only character who got a solo entrance, and I came in not from the wings but from the audience exit door.

I’ve been looking at the roles I’m getting cast in, especially on-camera, through this filter. In Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine my character is never shown outside the office supply closet where he smokes weed. I only ever interact with the main character, and I narrate ridiculous daydream sequences about his romantic travails.

In Aventura, the heroes of the movie, which otherwise takes place in basically a slightly-absurdist reality along the lines of Little Miss Sunshine, enter very different territory when they meet my character. It’s a totally weird, totally unexplained interlude – sort of a Pee Wee’s Big Adventure-style surreal digression.

And now this ghost…I’m strident in the belief that an actor should never let Hollywood tell them who they are; because there are too many people in Hollywood whose visions are shallow and dumb. A very-talented actress friend of mine who keeps getting offers for little short films feels like she’s hitting a ceiling, since casting directors and agents the next level up keep telling her that she’s no good for Hollywood until she loses 15 pounds. I’m to the point now where if I see a listing that describes the character as two or more of words like “attractive, charismatic, athletic, handsome, VERY good-looking (etc.)”, I won’t even bother to submit; because what they’re signalling about their priorities makes it clear I’ll never get to make my case for the role anyway.

This is a thought-provoking pattern, though; getting cast as characters who operate in their own pocket universe – a reality separate from everyone else’s in the show. I have noticed in my life that many misfits feel very comfortable and able to let their guard down around me, while other people just never seem comfortable with me, even at my nicest. And I know my tendencies towards introversion, and spending a lot of time strolling around up in my own head, can make me come off as aloof, separate, not participating the same way as others.

So I don’t think the camera has got the wrong idea when it sees me in the Uncanny Valley next to normalcy. It may be a limiting idea, but that’s sort of the nature of casting to type. It has its pluses and minuses. What’s most important, I guess, is figuring out what about this I can embrace and effectively leverage.

And continue to record, because the variety of creatures I can do over in the V.O. world just keeps growing. I’ll be playing a heroic knight in an upcoming video game in this series:

Also Satan.

I’m making the one damn thing for after the other

I’m at one of my network of writing-conducive cafes; I’ve just polished off a flat brown and five pages of a new Earbud Theater script I’m calling Monday for the Sweepers. My previous script Scary Ride is in the final stages of post-production and should launch in the next two weeks; this new one, if I can finish it soon, I might aim to have out in late September/early October. Hopefully not too close to Halloween, since it’s not really horror-themed and I like it when we celebrate Halloween over at Earbud. It’s basically our holiest holiday.

It has been quite awhile since I’ve had any steady dates with the ol’ laptop and an espresso drink. Samantha is finished now and submitted to a couple dozen film festivals; I got my first rejection letter which is really a good rite of passage. It’s like an official sign that you’re out of your comfort zone. A Sickness in Time is in the hands of the editor for proofing, which means the time to add new subplots or radically reorganize the book is passed. I can cut things, and probably will, but the rest I have to just leave to hope.

The Stages of Sleep paperback proof arrived and is as close to flawless as my eyes can discern, so it’s officially available for Print-on-Demand at Amazon or anywhere that cares to order it. You can go to your favorite indie bookstore and order it and it’ll be there in their computers ready to be summoned. I know I sound like any proud, obsessed Dad, but I love this book and think it’s just the handsomest. The margins, the dimensions, the typeface…oh man…

So legit now

So legit now

Romeo & Juliet is closed and we’re through tech week and opening of As You Like It; so while my acting commitments at Shakespeare Orange County are nowhere near done; I am reclaiming little pockets of life here and there. I found out I wouldn’t be called to rehearse Pirates of Penzance either Saturday or Sunday during the day, and the sign of how truly sick I am is that my first thought was “think of all the WORK I’ll be able to get done!”

I’ve even managed to make a few visits to the gym in the last couple of weeks. I take this and my present session as signs I’m reclaiming a bit of life balance. Getting where I aspire to be will take much longer, but these steps are good for me; and are producing some remarkable bursts of creativity. I wrote a five page short film script on Saturday, start to finish…just because I finally had a stretch to myself. The intention is to film it in November – you know, right when my life threatens to really become my own again.

The Strange Reality

Things are happening at a velocity that does not seem real. I recently upgraded to a Google Phone and so started using their Calendar app to track my appointments – and it has coincided with a period where every day sees me at a critical stage on something.

For 4 1/2 days over the Memorial Day holiday weekend I was in charge of staffing and managing the Shakespeare Orange County booth at the annual Garden Grove Strawberry Festival. It is traditionally our biggest fundraiser of the year – although I think our Celebrity Gala will surpass it in years to come if we keep it up. Running up and down our Amphitheater stairs lugging 5-gallon barrels full of strawberries is a good way to kickstart my summer fitness goals, I must admit.

The stuff plays are made on

The stuff plays are made on

Only days later, on Thursday, I finally reached the end of the first draft manuscript of my second novel in collaboration with M.F. Thomas. Our first, Seeing by Moonlight, recently became available in paperback, so the timing is satisfying. The new book is called A Sickness in Time and, while it is not a sequel to Seeing by Moonlight, it is like the first a mix of thrills and science fiction that takes place half in modern times and half elsewhere.

After some notes and discussions we started the formal drafting of A Sickness in Time on June 10th of last year, and wrote a great deal of it over the following five months, only for each of us to get consumed by other projects very near to the end. It is a source of pride and massive relief to have finished this step, even though we know there is much still to do in re-writing and polishing the book before we start cranking up the publishing machinery. I will say only that the book does incorporate time travel into its story, and when you’re messing with things like that, you especially want to edit carefully.

I drank uncountable numbers of caffeinated drinks in drafting this book. This cappuccino was the last

I drank uncountable numbers of caffeinated drinks in drafting this book. This cappuccino was the last

The very next day, I went to Burbank for the cast/crew screening of the indie romantic comedy feature Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine. This is the first feature I’ve ever had an on-camera role in, and I shot it about year ago; it’s not at all unusual to have to wait this long. I only spent a day on set, and all my scenes were exclusively with the co-writer/director/star Kevin Resnick, so funnily enough this party was my first chance to meet anyone else in the cast.

The screening was on the Warner Brothers lot, in what we were informed is Christopher Nolan’s preferred screening room. Who knows if that’s true, but it’s a nice place to be when you’re going to see your head in giant size on a screen for the first time ever.

The movie is tight and polished and charming and given the microscopic budget stands as a feather in the cap of everyone involved, especially Kevin and his producer/writing partner/fiancee/all-around-dynamo Rebecca Norris. They are currently raising funds to travel and promote the film in its forthcoming life on the festival circuit, where I think it should see some healthy and appreciative response.

Of my own acting it’s always hard to speak, but the audience did laugh quite a bit; and since it is a comedy that is undeniably encouraging. The feedback from the audience was very warm and appreciative after the screening, although I was difficult to recognize since I am clean shaven and bespectacled in the movie and am currently three months into growing a beard for SOC’s production of Romeo & Juliet.

Our first formal full cast meeting/reading happens this Sunday, and it’s going to be a busy summer of overlapping stage work for me; I’ve been so consumed with casting and writing and other projects that I haven’t been on stage since December, and I happily confess to being restless about it. On top of all the above I have been carrying on my work with Arts Orange County, which is a most welcome and stable position that fits snugly inside my life.

But all of the above, it turns out, isn’t quite enough. A friend and former cast mate named Barney Crow and I are teaming up to produce a short film that I have written and will direct. Not counting class projects from that one time I took a couple of filmmaking classes, or the camcorder movie spoofs my friends and I made in high school and college over a decade before “viral” and “video” ever appeared together outside an essay on Cronenberg, this will be the first time I have seriously directed for film. I haven’t aggressively pursued directing since college, though I have directed several of my scripts for Earbud as well as some short stage pieces here and there. The moment to evolve seemed well-arrived, though, and I actually feel ready for it. Yesterday we were doing lighting/camera tests on our location, and all the work I’ve done on set for other people seems to have given me muscle memory for it all – at one point I caught myself looking around for whoever was in charge and realizing – oh, it’s us. We’re the filmmakers now. And there was confidence there.

Monitor selfie

Monitor selfie

I’m not being reckless about this (well, beyond doing it at all.) This short is designed to be as stripped down and simple as possible – one actor, one location, one locked-down camera setup. The whole crew is about 8 people. It’s just a story and a performance from an actress I trust with anything. When I filmed Cloudy I observed how marvelously-designed a role it was for me to have my introduction to film acting – all two-person conversations in the same location with the same scene partner. Removing variables allowed me to spend more energy on the work. My hope is that the same kismet works on this short film – naturally, we anticipate there will be the customary 2-3 disasters that on average afflict every filmmaking endeavor. We will survive it, though.

The days off are few. I do look forward to them, though.

Blog Dust

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?

Beyond Luck

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.

Winding it up

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.

The shot I’ve been preparing for my entire life

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.

Dale 2
Dale doesn’t want to know his neighbors

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.

Derelict in my duties

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.

Still alive

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.