A .gif at last, a .gif at last, thank God A-Mighty, I’m a .gif at last!
Yeah, the first of my Squaresville episodes is airing soon. I realize I risk being typecast as an alien lizard-monster, but there are worse problems to have.
(h/t to TheNobleHelium on The Tumblr)
My friends have posted the official trailer for Season 2 of Squaresville. I am in exactly one brief shot of this trailer; with my face covered by the logo. Ah well, we did the math and decided that I’m officially the old man of Squaresville, and we do want to keep the kids interested
Season premieres this Friday, February 1st, at about 9am Pacific. And if you haven’t watched Season One yet, the whole thing’s only about an hour long and IT’S FREE (because it’s The Internet). Get caught up already.
Took my first crack at landing an actor-y thing to do for 2013 last night. The whole experience was very modern – I applied for a role in a low-budget feature through the website LetItCast.com.
I didn’t have to drive to a stage or studio for an audition; I didn’t even meet anyone involved in the production. The site listed an overview of the project and a breakdown of the characters by age/gender/type. They provided instructions for what they would like to see – in most cases this will be “sides” (aka an excerpt) from the script itself, but for this one they wanted a monologue, preferably from a list of playwrights whose work they viewed as in the intended realm of the movie. And the idea is, we just film our audition from wherever we are, and then upload it using their provided preferred technical specifications; which are very broad and easily-accessible to just about any equipment you might own.
More and more I believe that people who want to work in this business need a little minimal cross-training when it comes to recording a piece of video. Even if you don’t want to be a director or DP there are simply too many opportunities where these skills can benefit you to ignore it completely. Thankfully, consumer-grade equipment and software has become robust and user-friendly enough that most people who have at least used computers regularly throughout their lives should be able to film a monologue and have their face adequately framed and lit for something like LetItCast without having to go to film school or drop thousands of dollars in order to do it. Just pay enough attention to recognize the most common media file formats and what formats are generated by the equipment and software you have, find an instructional video on basic “3-point” lighting (lots of these on YouTube), and you’re already ahead of the crowd.
I wanted to give myself the best chance possible; so I asked my friend, the super over-qualified Matt Enlow, if he would shoot my monologue. He owns a better camera/lens than I do and is used to shooting in his apartment. The monologue was only two minutes, but I wasn’t sure how long to allow for the whole process. I figured an hour-ish would be safe for set-up and multiple takes, and that there might be some extra time for computer-sweetening afterwards.
But even Matt – who lives and breathes New Media both in his day job and his passion project making that web series I keep mentioning – was kind of blown away by the production cycle. I arrived at his place; he already had his tripod up. He pulled a poster off the wall where I was going to stand, and turned on a couple of regular home lamps. We did a little futzing with which-jacket-should-I-wear/glasses-or-no-glasses, that sort of thing, but basically he was ready to shoot me in about five minutes. Then he hit just hit a button and I started talking, and he cut two minutes later.
He said – kind of surprised – “I think we’ve got it”. I was immediately a little doubtful, just because every actor is insecure and when doing a shot that long there’s all kinds of time to make weird faces or trip over a moment. And who knows – Matt’s a great guy and cares about quality work (we did several takes of every tiny role I’ll be playing in Squaresville this season), but maybe it was Sunday night and he didn’t feel the need to grind too hard at it. Or maybe (I guarantee 90%+ of actors secretly come back to this thought on a daily basis) he thought I was so uselessly incompetent that direction or extra takes weren’t going to do me any good. But he seemed very convinced, so he popped out the memory card and put it in the computer for us to review.
Upload of the raw video to his laptop took about six minutes. We reviewed it and, while I do make some weird faces along the way, I agreed that it seemed surprisingly solid for a single take, and that searching for an ephemeral extra bit of quality might just waste our time and deaden my performance. So we went with that single take.
He trimmed the beginning and end, added fade-ins and out-s, applied a basic color balancing filter and then cleaned out some of the ambient noise. All that took maybe ten minutes in FinalCutPro.
Then he output it to the requested format and that was it. In a half-hour we had made my audition movie; soup-to-nuts.
I completed the audition application there and immediately set it to upload to the LetItCast website. Then we took a walk to go to dinner, which was of course my treat because karma, damn it.
By the time dinner was done, I saw an e-mail on my phone that confirmed the site had received the audition video. We went back to his apartment, I verified the upload, approved the video, and gave them permission to send it to the producers.
This morning, when I woke up, I saw another e-mail, letting me know that the producers had viewed my audition and inviting me to subscribe to e-mail alerts whenever they finalize casting for any roles on the project. Technology.
Maybe I get the role, probably I don’t. That’s how it works. But I found the whole process sort of marvelous and fun – instead of fighting traffic and the clock, having a heart attack over finding parking, waiting around in a hallway staring at my competition for two hours, and turning over one expensive headshot after another in order to act in front of strangers for two stressful minutes; I got to make a movie with my friends, in an environment where I was comfortable, for basically nothing.
I think this may have the potential to show us off better as actors. Best yet – the website doesn’t charge me for a membership, or to submit; Hollywood is full of pay-to-play garbage and this was a welcome exception.
Fascinating start to the acting experience for the year.
A theater critic at The Examiner listed the acting ensemble from Unrelenting Relaxation as one of the best in Orange County Theater in 2012. Our director, Mike Martin, is also on the short-list.
I am incredibly proud that I got to be a part of this show – it was an overpowering emotional experience, and often a hard thing to get an audience to – but I am so glad I chose to do it. Honestly, I believe this praise most directly reflects on the astounding women who played on-stage, the demands on them both technically and emotionally were so intense, and they never shrunk from putting themselves through the wringer. I always said that I had the best seat in the house, getting to experience the fullest version of all these performances every night as, in my role as Interviewer, I received all their stories and prompted them with my questions. The vast majority of my work as an actor was, while crucial, completely invisible to the audience by the very design of the show. Not everyone would be drawn to that but to me it made it an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Unrelenting was the second show I did at STAGES last year following Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and I loved becoming part of that family which has been producing quality work for 20 years. The cast was full of loving, dedicated people that I still count as friends, Mike was both supportive and creative in guiding our search for the show; and his assistant director, Brian Fichtner, deserves mention for his constant encouragement and attention to detail.
It’s impossible to sum up what it does for us to know that we’ve really reached someone. And when someone who loves going to the theater that much tells you that you did something especially well… for me, it’s like re-living the best moments of that show.
I’ve performed my last show for 2012 and have been adjusting to the time away from acting. I do have to admit that I am already eyeballing a few opportunities to pursue in January; but I told myself I would be done for the year after the last Much Ado and I have held to that. By any measure it has been the acting-est year of my life, and I have to marvel when I consider just how many tricks of fate had to happen, and how many directors had to take gambles on me, in order for me to have enjoyed and learned so much.
Here’s a little picture-tour through some of the roles I played:
January: as ”Mr. Blake” in The Scent of Hostility, a 10-minute play written by Jeffery Rockey for the 24-Hour Creative showcase at Camino Real Playhouse, directed by Jessica Morrow
March/April: as “Sagot” in Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile, produced at STAGEStheatre in Fullerton, directed by Anthony Galleran
April/May: as “The Interviewer” in Amanda DeMaio’s Unrelenting Relaxation, produced at STAGEStheatre in Fullerton, directed by Mike Martin. I was onstage the entire show but the audience essentially didn’t see my face until curtain call – acting with just my voice and my shoulders/back-of-skull was one of the most intense acting challenges of my life.
July/August: Backstage as “Lord Mayor of London” in Shakespeare’s Richard III, produced at Shakespeare Orange County, directed by Carl Reggiardo. I also played the role of “Clarence”.
August/September: as “Borachio” in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, produced at Shakespeare Orange County, directed by Thomas F. Bradac.
September: as “Dr. Ivan” in The 4th Floor, a 24-Hour Play Production staged at the Avery Schreiber Theatre, directed by Bree Pavey & Paul Storiale.
October/November/December: as “Dogberry” in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, produced at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, directed by Denise Devin. I also played the role of “Friar Francis”.
November: Shakespeare Orange County’s production of Much Ado About Nothing is revived for two performances at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center
November: as Bonus Mystery Character who will appear on YouTube in 2013!
I have updated all the things at the Audition Bulletin Board. Lots of new listings for the next couple of months. And taking the early lead for the title of Show Every Company in Orange County Will Do in 2013 is Godspell, with two productions already on the books for the first few months of the year.
I’ve been looking forward to sharing this news: there’s going to be more Squaresville:
We did it IN SECRET!
For those who don’t know, Squaresville is a webseries created/written/directed by my good friend Mr. Matt Enlow and shot and performed by many, many more friends of mine. It’s Matt’s third web series after Engaged and Mountain Man, which makes him a grizzled veteran by the standards of this medium. But it’s his first as a solo writer/director, and has a much more personal bent to it.
It’s made by a crew that was seeded during his years at USC and has grown in size and talent over the years as like-minded people (like myself) have joined up. Funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign, its first season premiered this year and included sixteen episodes along with many behind-the-scenes goodies, fan chats, and Q+A’s (“Q-and-Hey” in Squaresville parlance). It’s attracted a rabidly-loyal fanbase, some awesome and friendly mutual admiration from web colossi such as Felicia Day and zeFrank, and been nominated for a number of awards in the web media world, including 6 nominations for the upcoming IAWTV Awards.
It’s the story of teenagers in a small town trying to reconcile their outsider status and big dreams with their often-ridiculously mundane surroundings. In Squaresville, it’s the “popular” kids you’d see in other shows, and their soap opera dramas, that look the strangest in this context; and it has a way of emotionally-grabbing anyone who can remember what it felt like to be an awkward adolescent questing for true friends and a purpose and some amusement along the way.
I think it’s an exceedingly well-made show and a treat for consumers of web media, but my praise comes with a necessary disclaimer, because I work on Squaresville.
I got to know Matt through his wife, Chrissie Weatherup, who is a producer of the show as well as one of the regular cast members – she plays Sarah, the older sister of main character Zelda. Back when she was fresh out of college, she showed up at an audition for a staged reading of a play I had written and was directing at a little theatre in Hollywood. Not only did she earn a role and do a splendid job with it, we became fast friends and regular collaborators.
Chrissie at 21, not yet knowing for how long she was going to know the weirdo taking her picture
I became friends with Matt as well, which soon introduced me to a whole extended family of USC friends and others. Some of them I consider among my closest friends in LA.
I remember seeing references to Squaresville long before the Kickstarter campaign. Matt and his producing team worked for years developing the show, plotting out how it would use the web to create its unique and enthusiastic bond with its viewers; casting, and setting the look and feel of the show by creating trailers and “mini-sodes”. All their prior experience with new media, not to mention their considerable filmmaking abilities and resources, were hard at work before they asked anyone to give a dime, and it showed when the campaign started.
I previously worked crew on a short film directed by Chrissie, and while I didn’t attend film school, I had helped out on a number of other little projects around town in various capacities, and so when the time came to shoot Squaresville’s first full season, they invited me to lend a hand in whatever non-specialized capacity I could. It’s a job I’m well suited for on set, being the Need-a-Guy Guy. Matt calls me the official Factotum of Squaresville; and I accept that title with pride.
Production was scheduled for nine days in October, 2011. At the time I was not only working a full-time office job, but acting in a production of Dracula at the Long Beach Playhouse, so I was only able to contribute on three of those days. I helped rig lights, corralled extras, pushed a car, held bounce boards and reflectors, picked up set dressings and lunch, and did plenty of the general hoisting-and-wiring that a P.A. would do. My favorite part of the experience was driving the golf cart we made into a jerry-rigged camera dolly for scenes shot at and around the school location:
Check out those smooth camera moves starting at 2:11
Of course, I had my crazy hair/beard combo for playing Renfield in Dracula, so I was indistinguishable from a normal school groundskeeper:
Just a modern-day troll looking for his bridge to live under
It was many months’ wait for the show to be assembled for its premiere; but it felt, in a weird way, like it was already well-loved even though people hadn’t seen it yet except for some “minisodes” that snuck out to the Kickstarter donors. All that social networking did its job. The premiere was an amazing party at Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard, during which we got to watch most of the episodes in-sequence with a jubilant crowd. When you add up all the minutes of story, you realize that we shot the equivalent of over half a feature film in nine days. And that we made something we can be really proud of.
There’s a balancing act that I think makes Squaresville special, and as a fellow writer I can appreciate just how damned tricky the thing is that Matt and his collaborators are pulling off. Because I get to see, first-hand, just how hard they all work, how much labor and ingenuity goes into getting this show made. Not to mention we’re all doing it for free. And yet the result never feels labored or histrionic like the shows so ruthlessly-spoofed in the Bizarro-world episode I Don’t Wannt Wait. It’s laid-back, cool. And fun; the way Matt wanted the show to be from the start. This world and the web medium depicting it are perfectly suited for a whole episode about talking to your best friend all day on the phone, and I really admire that this show knows that truth and runs with it.
The days I spend on the Squaresville set tend to be the most fun days I have on any project, because all that humor and nerdiness and sweet sincerity that suffuses the show is an absolute representation of the people who made it and the atmosphere in which it is made. The producers all work hard, while meeting all the insane demands of the show, to make sure that the set has that atmosphere, and I think it absolutely bleeds onto the screen.
As the final first-season episodes were starting to roll out on YouTube in late summer, and the audience grew in size and emotional intensity, word started to circulate among my colleagues that the producers had secured the funding we needed to film not only the super-sized season finale, but a second season even bigger than the first. But it had to all get done at once, in another nine-day block, very soon, and we couldn’t tell anyone about it yet.
So, in September and October, conspicuously not Tweeting or Facebooking what we were all up to, an expanded cast and crew ventured out to make Season Two of Squaresville. As soon as I arrived on set I was struck by just how much it had all grown. You know those sequels where you feel like the entire universe of the story has blossomed outward? That’s what Squaresville Season Two is – a bigger world, a bigger cast of characters, more nerdalicious tangents, and higher stakes for everyone platforming off of Esther’s surprise revelation and the repercussions of her “breakup” with Zelda in that tumultuous Season One finale. Season Two will be about dealing with all that and more, and yet from all I can see none of that growth has left behind the core of what the show is about – it’s still about friendship, and the characters the audience loves, and the strange and sometimes smothering oddities of growing up.
Also – body hair. Body hair is important.
A bigger crew still needed its Factotum, so I returned and was able to be there for the majority of production this time despite my commitments to act in my third stage production of Much Ado About Nothing. Again I did general work as-needed; but I enjoyed a bounty of added treats on my list of responsibilities. They stuck cameras in my hand to shoot behind-the-scenes video as well as to supplement the amazing production stills taken by Jessie Lucas. Apparently a lot of my footage (assuming it’s usable at all) will show up in supplementary/bonus material in the months to come, which means you may get to know my snarky voice, unsteady hand, and addiction to snap-zooming very well. I made sure to point out the irony that they were giving a camera to the one guy on set that didn’t go to film school.
But they also knew that 2012 had become the acting-est year of my life, and so they made an amazingly-gracious request that I actually step in front of the camera this time around. Not just once, but three times. That’s right – I play three roles in Season Two of Squaresville, although you’ll only see my weirdo face in one of them (the rest you’ll just have to be surprised by).
They’re all very small roles, nowhere near the complexity of the characters our principal cast has worked so hard to create, but I was still insanely nervous and self-conscious, because this is essentially my first real on-camera role that isn’t just filling in the background or the goofing-off I did with friends in high school and college. But Matt wrote funny bits for me, and with so many talented people conspiring to make me look good at doing them, I’m optimistic that they succeeded, and so incredibly grateful that I get to now be “in” Squaresville.
You can tell, I’m sure, that I’m trying not to give too much away. I know what it’s like to be a fan, craving every little crumb of information that slips through; and if you like Squaresville then I am so excited for what’s coming for you. I would be tormented if I robbed you of the opportunity to really experience it in its best form – when Matt and the gang finish cutting it all together and start rolling out episodes in January. So get ready.
And do I want there to be a Season Three? Oh, yes, please.
On Thursday we revived Shakespeare Orange County’s summer production of Much Ado About Nothing for two performances at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center. This is the theater owned by Cathy “Peter Pan” Rigby – one of the ropes in the fly system is permanently-labeled “Cathy Legs 1″. It seats over a thousand, which easily makes it the largest audience to ever watch me act.
Being in another production of Much Ado simultaneously is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I didn’t need much studying up on the Borachio lines despite not playing him for 10 weeks; our Borachio is always around to listen to. However, since the North Hollywood production is such a shorter version of the script, it has changed my whole perception of the pace and flow of the show. And playing Dogberry and The Friar all this time meant I was biting my tongue during any scenes shared by Dogberry and Borachio – trying not to blurt out the wrong character’s lines.
The morning show was exclusively for middle and high school students, which was a rejuvenating experience. The whole house was full and energetic; they went absolutely bananas any time there was kissing or a dick joke or a beautiful dress – which there is a lot of in Shakespeare comedy and we ought to never be shy about that. We went out in costume after to sign autographs – we signed programs, scrap paper, arms, backpacks. My surpassing hope is that we reached at least a couple of people in the audience and ruined them for life by convincing them that they should do this too. I think there’s something sacred about convincing people to run away with the circus.
But it’s done, which means I can put Borachio back in the trunk. And there are only three performances left as Dogberry/Friar – Sundays only, which stretches out to December 2nd.
Beyond that – well, here’s where it gets strange. Almost immediately after last New Year’s, my friend Bob – who was the Oscar to my Felix last year – asked if I’d be willing to play in a stage reading he was directing. I accepted, and during the rehearsal process for that, got cast in Picasso. During the rehearsal process for that, I got cast both in Unrelenting Relaxation and Shakespeare O.C.’s Richard III. While rehearsing Richard they invited me to come aboard their Much Ado as well.
The upshot of this is that dating back to those first days of January, for all of 2012 I have had an acting role in rehearsal, in performance, or booked for the future. It amounts to 5 full-length plays, that staged reading, two 24-hour Theatre Projects, and 3 day-player roles in a webseries (I’ll explain later). That’s 68 performances of 13 different characters in one year; and let’s reiterate here – although I made a little money along the way, this is not my job.
If 2011 was the year that I welcomed acting back into my life and accepted that it’s something I want to have in my life on a regular basis, then 2012 is the year when it consumed more of my life than I had previously ever imagined. It’s the year of the most success and also the most failure, as my more ambitious pursuit of auditions meant more times than ever in my life where I went for a show and…didn’t get it. You can’t be an actor if you can’t handle that.
But on December 2nd – that stops. I’ve got nothing booked after Much Ado. I might even shave off this beard I’ve maintained for the last five months (directors kept asking for it). If I even want to go to another audition, I’ll have to get more headshot prints. The work I’m doing in L.A. asks for a lot of my time, and it will be a lot more difficult to fit theatre into that time, though not impossible. Opportunities have arisen that are tempting, and I have talked with some friends about making a short film that will give me some more camera acting experience.
If I got to choose the ideal number of hours in a year acting would consume, I think I would opt for more than 2011 (3 plays and a one-off corporate gig) but less than 2012. Balance is important, and I want to be able to write and travel and – well, sometimes I just have to put all other things aside and Make The Money.
But this upcoming gap on December 2nd is intriguing. What ever will I do with myself?
First reviews are in for this edition of Much Ado and are thus far highly-complimentary! I remember meeting the gentleman who wrote this piece – he waited for everyone and was very happy and supportive. And I’ll be taking that whole “standout performance” quote, believe you me.
I’ve looked better, but given how uncomfortable a position I had to contort myself into for the sake of this tableau, I’m just glad I managed to smile.