Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Paranormal Activity" -- A Coin Flip from Stardom

Okay, maybe not "stardom". But these days, when the words "star" and "celebrity" have become so watered-down, let's run with it...

The point is, I had a 50-50 chance to be in a movie called "Paranormal Activity". This movie recently became a huge cult hit. And judging by the latest box office numbers, has now been elevated from "cult" to "mainstream" hit.

(Am I using too many "quotes"?)

Whether or not I'm using too many quotes, and whether or not it's cult or mainstream, and whether or not I should be using the word "stardom", here's how I fit-in to this story (as originally posted in response to a fellow actor's comment on Facebook)...

Trivia... I got a callback for the demonologist role in "Paranormal Activity". The director said it was down to me and one other guy. Basically... a coin flip. Heads, you're part of a surprise rag-to-riches cult hit story. Tails, you're posting a comment on Facebook.

So, that's the story in a nutshell. And because of that bit of behind-the-scenes movie trivia, for days now, I've been tripping out (he said, showing his age) on how close I came to having my IMDb STARmeter ranking move from 755,201 to 6,758 (the true sign of success in Hollywood these days).

Of course, I had no way of knowing at the time that the ultra low budget movie I auditioned for would become the runaway rags-to-riches hit movie that it's become. And that's part of what's tripping me out...

We never know.

That's nothing new.

We just never know.

Seemingly little things become huge. But we don't know which ones will launch, and which ones will languish. At this very moment, and at every moment, there are countless opportunities to be in ultra low budget films. Most will lead to nothing. A few will lead to other opportunities. And very few, like "Paranormal Activity", will explode beyond anybody's wildest dreams.

I'm both discouraged and encouraged by my "so close yet so far" relationship to this movie. Discouraged because I'm not currently part of this blockbuster hit. Encouraged because I am "in the game".

Like all other actors slugging and slogging away at this business, I'm always one audition away from something big. The difference this time is that I know how close I came. Many times, we have no way of knowing. When we submit to something, we have no way of knowing if the project will amount to anything. When we audition, and don't get the part, we don't know if we were runner-up, or at the bottom of the pile. And we don't know why we weren't selected. Sometimes, it's a "look". You don't look like the image the director had in his head, or you don't look like a person who's already been cast in another role as a family member. Sometimes, it's talent. Another actor auditioned better than you. Sometimes, it's the gut feeling of the people selecting for the part. Sometimes, it's totally random... like, eenie-meenie-mynie-mo. Literally. My acting teacher has a story about that.

There are so many factors involved.

And there are also times when we don't even know what happened to the projects we auditioned for. For instance, when I auditioned for this film, it was just another "UNTITLED FEATURE". It's just a fluke that I recently connected the dots, and realized that the callback I got was for the movie that eventually became "Paranormal Activity".

And the callback was in the same house (belonging to director Oren Peli) that was used as the sole location for shooting the film! When I first saw the trailer, I thought, "That place looks really familiar". I was in the house that's now a part of the folklore. Once again...

So close, yet so far.

So, as I search for an ending to this blog post, I'm choosing to focus on the "upside". I'm choosing to feed off of the fact that I'm "in the game". I'm leaning towards "encouraged".

And I'm also leaning towards continuing to use "quotes" whenever I damn well please.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Twitter Me This

So, the latest explosion in social networking is happening on Twitter.

Happening "to" Twitter?

"With" Twitter?

Whatever qualifying word is used, it's happening.

It's not that Twitter just started. It's been around for a couple of years. But at some point in the not-so-distant past, it reached the Tipping Point.  And in the very recent past, there was a battle between Ashton Kutcher and CNN to be the first to reach a million followers (Ashton won), followed in the same week by Oprah signing up for a Twitter account (and posting her first Tweet on her show... which also featured Ashton Kutcher).

When we look back on these days, we'll either say, "Oh, I remember Twitter" or "Yeah, I remember when Twitter first became big... and look how much it's in our lives now".

In any event, whether the future is Twitterless or Twitterful, surely there will be many more methods for connecting in many more ways in the future.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Some Thoughts About Improv...

My boss just left for the day, and on the way out, he was making some comments about not staying too late, leaving some work for tomorrow, don't let her (one of my co-workers) stay too late.

I replied with something about clipping his heels, not staying too much longer, will probably be gone before her.

She replied that she'd be leaving soon because she got here early this morning.

We all shared a laugh or two, and then he left.

My point?

Don't worry. I'll get there...


The little exchange mentioned above connected with something fresh in my mind. It was an exercise we did in acting class last night, where we had to do improv before and after the scripted portion of our scene. And the thing about telling people to do improv is that we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have every line be something clever.

Guess what?

Most of life does not consist of us stringing together a bunch of clever sayings.

So maybe with that thought in mind, I'll put a little less pressure on myself the next time we do improv in acting class.

It's not that I put a huge amount of pressure on myself. It's just that thinking back, I know that a portion of my thoughts were occupied by the actor part of my brain, which is generally focused on thinking of something clever to say... as opposed to just being in the moment... looking around... twiddling your thumbs, etc.

In the real world, there's also a lot of silence... in addition to the not-so-clever stuff we say.


Remember that the next time you're doing improv, okay? And pay more attention to that in daily life... since that's what we're trying to recreate on stage and in front of the camera.

Nothing new here.

I've been trying to do that for some time.

But this little message is about not trying so hard. And it's about not continually staring into the eyes of your partner. Hmmm... I guess I wasn't doing that all the time last night. I recall playing with some papers that were sitting on the table at one point. So I wasn't totally acting like an actor.

But still, it really hit me when I heard the little "random" exchange of small-talk as my boss left that communicating is really just about connecting... even with little tidbits of trivial stuff. And it's about being awkward, and tripping over our tongues, and being comfortable with silence...

Or not.

I mean, we're not always comfortable with silence in life, right?

But in improv, we tend to have a lot less of it. We need more silence in improv. And in scripted stuff. Not to bring things to a total crawl, mind you. But in real life, we don't always go "my line... your line... my line... your line" with no breaks in between. And we also interrupt each other. And...

Now I'm getting way to far off of the point. I didn't mean to get into a bunch of points about acting. I really just wanted to make one point...

Bottom Line (for now): Stop trying to be so clever. Just "be".

And, as is usually the case, the lessons I'm learning about acting are good words to live by in the real world, too.