2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 810 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 14 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Casting call

Just had a casting and waited over an hour in a packed waiting room with anxious but annoyed actors. The brief went out at 11:30 for a12:00 call. It was with a new company so some forgiveness was in order.

The commonly purported idea the actors are self involved, lazy or pretentious is one that I’ve never understood. I understand that there are some people out there like that, and some fantastically bad ones at that. And there are reasons for those things. But by and large actors are people with the guts to share emotionally and the experience to pull together as a team on a slightly higher probability than a normalized cross section of people.

The happy things to take away from this experience today are:
A) when the order of arrival got lost the actors all politely took over and reordered by arrival.
B) all actors were pleasant warm and supportive of each other and the poor VERY new reception who was standing in as CD for some of the time.
C) the CD was warm friendly and supportive and thankful for our time.

When bad castings happen (small budget, disorganized cattle call counts as this) friendly and supportive improv. makes a big difference.



So while Sim’s studying for her big film next week and I’ve had a day off I thought I’d make this Apple and Pork Tagine. We’ve had this Tagine for a couple of years but amazingly never gotten around to using it. So with some spare solo time on my hands I thought I’d make this. Note that I’m making it as we speak and I stole the recipe off the interweb and messed with it a lot.

I’m going to make a ricotta & blueberry strudel for desert.

I’ll let you know how it goes

250g pork fillet
1 tbs plain flour
2 tsp olive oil
1 red onion cut into 6 wedges
1 bunch baby carrots,
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp rosemary
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1 1/2 cups low salt vegetable stock
1.5 royal gala apples
Fresh mint and parsley
Slivered almonds


Cut the pork fillet into strips about 3cm thick. Place flour in a shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper. Dip the pork into the flour, so it’s lightly coated. Shake off any excess flour. Heat olive oil in a flameproof casserole dish, over a medium-high heat. Once heated, add the pork in small batches and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, until browned on all sides. Transfer browned pork to a plate and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium – low. Add the onions and carrots to the pan and cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pork and spices to the pan and cook for a further 30 seconds, until all the ingredients are coated with the spices. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, place the lid on top and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Cut the apples into quarters and remove the core (leave the skin on). Add apple to the pork and vegetables. Stir gently and then replace the lid. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes, until the pork is cooked through.

To serve: Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick, and serve on couscous.

Gilty Pleasure

I just finished filming my scenes for the short film “Only Gilt.” It’s based on book by kids writer Paul Jennings and the rough synopsis is “A boy goes to school wearing a bird cage on his head. He explains to his teacher that it is a self-imposed punishment because he blames himself for the murder of his girlfriend’s budgerigar [1]“. No prizes for guessing that I play the teacher Mr Marsden and have the task of performing some relationship dramedy opposite my tween costars Toby and Giselle.

There is always a challenge when working with actors you’ve never met before. You have to pull off an ensemble performance to convince the audience that you’ve known each other for years in the complex status roles the writer has given your characters. It’s not enough to be believable as a solo acting unit. To tell the story effectively you have to mesh as a team.

Now it’s probably me being 50% ageist and 50% paranoid, but I get nervous when I have scenes with kids. My reason is how do they know how to create these complexities in a faux relationship when they really haven’t experienced much diversity of relationships themselves? But here comes the kicker – it’s NEVER a problem. I’ve worked with a bunch of kids in the 10ish range and they are always amazing. Totally committed, completely able to improvise a new relationship and readily able to tell the complex story asked of them – as long as they don’t get personally intimidated, pushed around or emotionally squashed (and unfortunately I’ve seen that happen).

The thing is, I’m less and less sure that amazing acting is important in telling a beautiful story. Wonderful to see, and lovely as a piece of art; great acting can (and should) facilitate the telling of a story such we transcend the liminal borders and feel with the characters; BUT it is by no means necessary or sufficient to the conveying of story.

The keystones to acting (in my humble opinion) are connection to yourself, connecting to each other, and (perhaps most importantly) a willingness to be a vehicle to the telling of the narrative. Yoshi Oida calls this the invisible actor and for my money it’s the most important part of the job. To this date the kids I’ve worked with have been egoless enough to perfectly serve the narrative. It was a fine lesson for me and they have my thanks.

Anyway Only Gilt will be amazing I’m sure. Check out their stuff above if you get the chance.

Acting and Juggling?

Recently a friends put out a call asking how other actors do it.  The it being hold down regular work and still manage to get time for castings, gigs, callbacks, classes and so on.  His recent new job has turned out to be nowhere near as flexible as it was originally marketed as being and he finds himself in a pickle, as we all have at sometime or another. It’s no less of a panic than the episode of Family Ties where Alex finds himself with 2 dates to the senior prom!

The face I made when we didn't make the cut for Optus one80

The face I made when we didn’t make the cut for Optus one80

So what do you do?

  1. Improvise Cleopatra’s death scene and call in sick or
  2. give it to them straight and tell them they can just fire you if they don’t like it.

Either option can cause you intense anxiety which (unless you are auditioning for a Mamet play) can does not behoove good acting.

And how do we pick jobs that give us our freedom whilst allowing us enough money to pay the rent, acting classes, headshots, casting websites and enough cheap goon to drown our sorrows?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

From my perspective there came a time recently where I realized that the halcyon days of doing indy and amateur theatre were over outside of a big advert coming my way. It does seem disheartening that the only way to practice the craft that you studied 20 years is to pay for it yourself no matter how many hundreds come to see you.

So what was my permanent solution? Sadly I don’t have one, BUT a working day-by-day plan helps. My day job is fairly flexible and very understanding and CASUAL because it’s in the theatre industry. I also broadened my focus from TV, film and theatre to looking for more payed acting jobs. When I went to acting school there was no mention of the paid work that’ll give you, if not a living at least a close semblance of one. They are Corporate Video, Corporate Roleplay, Voice Over and Advertising. Stuff I’ve done less of (but are the bread and butter for friends) are Theatre in Education, Puppetry, Presenting & Radio.

Ad promo

Ad promo

I’ve talked recently about how Corporates can be some of the best workshops you’ll ever do.  I think it’s also worth noting that they can also be some of the most rewarding and life changing work that you’ll ever do.  I think back to the amazing performances I saw as a kid at school that got me hooked into acting. If I bumped into any one of those amazing people today I’d punch them in the face (kidding). Main point is that these jobs all pay, and for the most part pay well.  They are highly skilled acting jobs that’ll be appreciated and will help you get by and get more skills and work (if you leverage them). Just with out the built in glam of TV, Film and Theatre (which ironically is less glam once you are there).

Anyhow what’s your take, and how do you make it work? Or what make you lose your mind in frustration? We’re all here to help one another.

The corporate acting jobs: (the best workshop you’ll do)

I’ve had a few corporate jobs come up over the last few weeks. That’s great for a few reasons; one being that it’s been scarce on that particular front for a couple months (though filled by other acting work); two it’s with new clients which is great business wise; and three it’s the best emotional workshop you can possibly do AND you get paid for it.

I’ll talk a bit about #3 by going into some fuzzy details about the jobs.  With corporate work (Role play and Video) you are hired to show the good and bad of human interaction so that the people learning can see and practice what to do and what to avoid. What that essentially means for the actor (ie. me) is that I get to play the juicy parts of the human condition. Some times it’s the emotional journey of your favorite Shakespeare tragedy EVERY HALF HOUR

One job involved a character that was dying and the clients were training on getting information through to him. The tricky bit here was in a lot of the scenario’s my guy came in in a state of middle-of-the-road-happy but had to break down when confronted with the scary information.  This might seem a little obvious but for me as an actor I have been inclined to prep for the sad stuff and think about the rest of the scene as a chaff for that seed.  Here I was in a position to find it, or more accurately let it find me, in the scene. Now I’ve never been the cry-on-cue kind of actor but I was happily surprised to be able to pull it out of the bag very half hour for 8 hours a day for a week.  Big win.

This time I’ve been using Chubbuck (as taught by Anthony Wong so a little of a different flavour to what you might read) to get me over the line. He talks about setting up little land mines of emotion on words or gestures or concepts, in home time rehearsal and then setting them off (or letting them find you) in the scene.  I’ve been a little unsuccessful in the past doing this (at least for my own happiness) and I think that the main reason is the self judgement in the moment getting in the way of getting the action/objective. But in the immortal words of Bullwinkle Moose “This time for sure”.

Like any good magic there is a trick behind it and by trick I mean loads of tough training and constant practice, and I won’t go through it here.  If you need to know then get a hold of Anthony and do the dying exercise (or sexual chemistry or any of the amazing things he does).  The thing is it’s no different from being angry on cue; or being in love on cue; or what-have-you emotion.  The trick is focusing on yourself and the (sometimes sub-textural)  story that gets you there and making it about the dialogue between you and the person opposite you. I think that being in those 2 places at once makes it harder for the self judgement to be heard and get in the way of doing the job. Corporate jobs are great ways of training what you learn in class.

I’m in a glass case of emotion

So it’s been a big emotional couple weeks for me, both fake and RL (ironically real life stuff always happens at the same time doesn’t it?).  That’s a segue into looking after yourself emotionally.

We all know putting your hand in the fire is a bad thing. But the actors job is to metaphorically do that, and with glee and often.  Some of the reasons that actors (and all artists) are loved is that they are vicarious vehicles for emotional catharsis for the rest of us. The important actor trick here is to be very skilled at recovering from horror.  All the crying and anger and love is based on real feelings and (esp for my style of performance) very real events. After such a performance you get a couple hours of cathartic joy and relief in your body. It does (like the drugs that mimic it) come with a crash afterwards. So it is extremely important to have a good set of techniques to get you back to reality and back into yourself. Some might call this de-rolling but for me it’s just resetting. All the drinks at the pub and good reviews are poor substitutes for good de-rolling techniques. This is another thing that I’ve been thankful for – getting skilled up by Anthony. Actually he’s the only one whose taught this to me over the 15 years I’ve been going to his class. I never learnt this in acting school or any of the other classes I’ve been to which is sad.

Anyway that is some of the stuff I’ve been thinking about wrt corporate jobs. I’d love to hear some of your experiences.

Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting

Foxtel camera challenge

Seton buys me coffee

I had the pleasure a couple of weeks ago to work on a great little project.  It was a competition in-house for Foxtel.  The channels received a brief and they were to make an action film a couple of minutes long.  We had a day to film, which is not a lot of time with action.

1st things 1st.  We had a morning of fight choreography with director John Masiello and fight teacher Igor Breakenback at his MMA gym (!).  Just the idea that I was doing a fight rehearsal (which I can do) at an MMA gym (which scared the pants off me) was a challenge. Seton Pollock (the Newman to my Seinfeld) was skipping rope like Rocky when I entered the Octagon (no exaggeration).  Of course I can’t skip rope but I gave it the old college try. Ahh college was a good 16 years ago but hey I’m not total fairy floss.

The fight lesson went well.  We had bags of fun and did some great work but it was a lot to remember.  Fight dialogue is as hard to remember as regular dialogue… except if you get it wrong you are slightly more likely to sprain your face.

Foxtel Camera Challenge

What’s my line?

The next day we filmed.  It was a torrential weather outside but nice and cozy in the deserted Foxtel building at North Ryde on a public holiday. The warmth came from the crew and cast.  Such a great gang and ridiculously talented.  We did a LOT of work in the office.  I was clocked with a stunt coffee mug which looks great and worked brilliantly. Seton and I fought under the caring guidance of Igor (a kinder guy you cannot help to meet) and we were safe and looked after.

John emulated a load of camera styles that came together fantastically.  The final product looks amazing.  A visual feast.  I hope that it sees public viewing someday.  Also would love to work with any of the crew again in the future.

FOLLOW UP. – Here it is for your entertainment!! Enjoy


[vimeo https://vimeo.com/44849187 w=585]

not so Tricky Business

Just received a lovely letter from the series producer of Tricky Business thanking me for me for the work on Tricky Business ep 11.  I was honestly touched.

It was a whirlwind casting costuming and shoot.  I was cast 2 days before the costume fitting and then shot the next day down in Carringbah.  My audition was a little shaky which is I guess how we always feel.  I had it totally down in the waiting room at Mullinars and had a good substitution for my “holding back the tears” scene.  It was a bit more chaotic in the test as it always is with a non actor reading in lines but it was OK and I hit all the marks.  Someone must have liked it as I was cast without callback.

I get a call the morning of the costume fitting which is the day before the shoot wanting me for a particular time which I can’t make. No issues with them at all they change it to whenever I get there.  I get there in about 15 minutes and everyone is amazing.  They’re obviously super busy like the Flash family on amphetamines. Except when ever I have to talk to anyone.  Then they are funny and generous and interested in what I have to say and me being comfortable on the job.  Costuming is the same, and it sets the tone for my time at Tricky Business – patient talented professionals.

Shoot day was a 4 hour call in the south and walking onto a big set like that is a bit like parachuting onto a battle field – who knows who is who and to whom you are supposed to talk to.  Added to that it was lunch time and everyone was mixed up in a moshpit of food and mobile phones under these 2 tents. I had done my research however and recognized the actor I was acting opposite from his head-shot. From there it was the establishing enough of a relationship to be comfortable and believable on the set.

Hair and makeup was crazy.  They gave me an impromptu- incharacter hair cut to resemble the middle class limo driver in Woolongong.  I object to this in film.  If you are doing a 50 worder on TV for $200 and they feel the need to do a permanent change to you it needs to be negotiated.  I often have multiple jobs on not in that one bogan style they like so I have to take $50 of my wage and get the hair fixed up which after tax and agent fees leaves me with $100 for a days TV work not including the 2 hours travel. Enough whinge about that. All the crew and cast in the makeup room are lovely and introduce them selves whether they be leads or head of department. If I wasn’t focused on being in character sad I’d be embarrassing my self with the usual diatribe.

Tricky Business on nine

We get onto the set and wait around while I try and extricate myself from well meaning nervously chatty new actors (well new extras, but I fail to see the distinction when you’re starting out at a new job). I’m hoping to get 5 minutes to focus and settle myself before my crying scene without appearing like a diva.  I do. They call me for my scene and we do a run through with the director and the AD gets up to stand in unnatural positions and proximity to one another (as usual) and away we go.  My scene partner gets 2 takes and they switch to me. The director asks if I wanted to do it with the tear stick (we’ve not talked tears yet) so I say OK and makeup go off to get some. A second later someone says action and I’m baffled, mildly panicked and snapped into focus in the space of a sigh.

… then I false start the 1st line. When you dry or stumble or false start on camera things slow down.  Moments seem to last an eternity but if you f*ck up as often as I do you learn to use it to your advantage. I take a breath for me and editing and start again in a slightly different tone. I get through the 50 words and I hear cut and “that’s great, lets move on.” and it’s time to be wide-eyed and panicky again. ONE TAKE?! Oh well.  That 45 seconds is my day on Tricky Business.

So now I’m reading the lovely note from Denny at TB specific to me and remembering why I got into this biz, or at least why I’ve stayed now I’m here.  This is the kind of uplifting egalitarian ethos we are trying to produce on our films.  It makes me proud to be in this industry.

There are no people like show people.

Revenge of the Nerds, NERDS!

Had a long weekend of gaming at the EYE-CON RPG convention over the long weekend.  It was a wonderful weekend of hilarious, exciting and some disappointing games leading ot a rollercoaster ride of an event.  But first some qualifiers.

What is a role playing game?  If I had a dollar for, “is it a computer game?” (nope that’s a …computer game) “Do you dress up and put on silly voices?” (nope that’s my day job). Well as described by wikipaedia – “A role-playing game  is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative through a process of structured decision-making and character development. Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines (and chance; ala dice). The original form (sometimes called a tabletop RPG) is conducted through discussion. An arranger called a game master (GM) usually decides on the rules and setting to be used and acts as referee, while each of the other players plays the role of a single character.

That being said it’s really interesting to me as an actor what drives other people to this hobby and how do they interact with it.  Over the weekend I found a great amount of classy acting in the guise of escapism.  People playing covert Nazi’s with their own agenda or insanely explosive Goblins, all with characterizations that I’d envy to have in an improv class, and that I found myself interacting with gleeful abandon.

At the low points like most games we were stuck haggling over rules, but the heights were when we were haggling over character motivations and thwarting schemes. In essence we were acting in complex improv dramady and loving it. eg: A George Peppard like ex-army boss played by me (professional actor) with the Nazi/student to my left, the Italian Resistance Fighter/Actuary on my right and the Allied paratrooper/IT tech at the end of the table, all looking at each other as suspiciously as the character list of Reservoir Dogs.

The acting was engaging and funny, all well motivated and for the most part with an idea of character.  I think for that reason we were all on a level playing field regardless of acting experience.  We were all solidly in our imaginations with respect to the setting and played our successes and failures at the whim of dice with convincing aplomb. All this without standing up from the table, wearing a crazy costume (outside of the Sheldon Cooper wardrobe we all seemed to have raided) or having met one another before.  People had traveled interstate with pals and stayed at the YHA to be there.  The commitment to having fun was equally as impressive.

It’s good to know that what I feel as the camaraderie of acting occurs outside of the biz, and that anyone with a solid character motivation can pull of some fine acting feats.  That and it was a blast of a time. All in all I write off EYE-CON 2012 as a success. Bring on the next one.

Electronic birthday

Met up with amazing director and recurring flatmate Ben Flaxman today to a birthday catch up and chat about the state of interpersonal electronica today. One has these conversations when one gets old re: new fangaldy devices and services bah-humbug! We mused on many a topic including “iPads; the most expensive book I’ve ever owned?” and “Twitter; more than just griping about bowel movements and transient emotional malaise?

I think that Facebook almost solely exists on birthday reminders.  I was wonderfully blessed today with a hundredish salutations and celebratory remarks on the anniversary of my birth, from close colleagues and people I haven’t seen since high school 2000 years ago (and oddly a few who wouldn’t have wished me a fall down the stairs back then let alone happy birthday). And to be honest I reveled in the sentiment in just the way it was directed.

However I think that it’s a sign of the times when one feels that an SMS “happy birthday” is such a wonderfully personal gesture (I got a card a little later in the day and had to lie down and breathe into a bag till the room stopped spinning).

Silliness aside it was a wonderful birthday and I really think that social media is a darned good part of that.  To my mind these social electronica are more than just a life support system for out of date acquaintanceships (as we often decry). I’ve lost count how many times I’ve used it to look up the name of someone I should know, or have been saved by being notified of a breakup before I could blurt out a faux pas in person. I’ve seen friends rally to a heartbroken pal; distant relatives reconnect without the need for painfully embarrassing, intoxicated wedding conversation.

So in short I’d like to say that for all my complaining, jibing and sighing over the ever-changing technologising of our human relationships I’m happy that it exists, especially for a agoraphobic, curmudgeon like myself.

To quote Seinfeld “it’s very important for human beings to feel that they are popular and well liked among a large group of people we don’t care for.”  …And for myself, amongst group of people I treasure and feel blessed to know. Many thanks.