Sunday, March 27, 2011

Last Tango in Los Angeles: Labcoats and Workshops.

Last Tango in Los Angeles: Labcoats and Workshops.: "I finished my first day of shooting on this new film yesterday. It was a relatively smooth shoot, well organized, pre-planned to the smalle..."

Labcoats and Workshops.

I finished my first day of shooting on this new film yesterday. It was a relatively smooth shoot, well organized, pre-planned to the smallest detail, just like I like shoots to go. But I was reminded again how important that first shot is before we move on to coverage and single shots and close-ups. If the actor doesn't make a choice in that first shot, he can't go back and add something later, because, obviously they all have to match. I'm still very much a newbie when it comes to this stuff, so it can be frustrating. Although yesterday the entire day of shooting had me in bed so there wasn't a lot of room for play anyway. Nonetheless, it was a valuable lesson. Again.

I have written, in this blog in fact, that I considered film work to be by far the easier of the two types of acting - stage and film. That's a sweeping and unecessarily bombastic statement and I made it for the sake of argument. Nonetheless, I still believe it to hold a kernel of truth. A friend of mine, a guy that works continuously in film and tv out here, took me to task for that statement when I wrote it. He's right, of course, but I wrote it not to denigrate film acting, but to amplify the difficulty of stage acting, the difficulty of sustained, concentrated work. No do overs, no second takes, no 'oops, I made a mistake.'

I've finished, at least the first draft, of a play I've been tinkering with for about six months now, tentatively titled THE PROMISE. I rather like it so far. Not to say I'll feel the same in about ten minutes. But I think it's got some possibilities. Ideally, I'd like to mount it as a staged reading sometime in April or May. As I did with Bachelor's Graveyard, another play of mine, just throw it out there and see what happens. Not a workshop or a 'talkback,' I hate those. What's more, I don't believe in them. I've never understood why playwrights feel the need to 'workshop' something they've written. When was the last time you heard of a novel being 'workshopped?' Writing by committe holds no allure for me. And I have no interest whatsoever of changing a single word of a play simply because an audience member suggests I do so, an audience member with absolutely no vested interest in the play to begin with. Workshopping a play is one of the silliest things about theatre I've ever run across and I'm a bit appalled at playwrights who allow it. Again, I'm reminded of that wonderful quote from George S. Kauffman, "Every human being has four needs in life: the need for shelter, the need for food, the need to procreate and the need to rewrite someone else's play."

Now reading a play out loud sitting around a table with a core group of trusted friends, that's another thing. I've done that. It hardly qualifies as 'workshopping,' however.

I have another big audition this Tuesday. An out of town gig that I'd kinda like to do. We'll see.

I had a long conversation recently with one of my agents about my hair...or to be more precise, my lack of hair. I've grown it long for ADDING MACHINE. Long on the sides, that is. It tends to magnify the fact that I'm balding to begin with. He would like me to 'rinse' it (dye it) and have some photos taken with it like that. He (and for that matter, nearly every actor I've talked to out here in Los Angeles) thinks it would behoove me to do so because casting directors apparently have no imagination whatsoever and can't conceive of an actor changing his or her appearance for a role. When I first heard of this particular line of thought I simply didn't believe it. And frankly, I tried hard not to believe it for months and months. Now, I'm not so sure. I have personally run across this sort of thing several times now, much to my genuine surprise, and I think there may be something to it. It's not only silly, it's demeaning. Yet, I have to make a decision about it this week because clearly there is some truth to it.

Two actors are in a room auditioning for the part of a doctor. The best actor doesn't get the role because the other actor is wearing a white lab coat. Casting directors, at least most of the ones I've met, seem to be unable to imagine the better of the two actors wearing a lab coat. Now, I know this sounds preposterous, even to the layman, but it's true. It's a decided truism in Los Angeles. I can only imagine the conversation following the audition, "Well, Bob is the much better actor. He's really good. But I just don't see him playing a doctor. But Gunther, although really not very good, was wearing that doctor's coat. He really looked like a doctor. Let's go with him."

This is the part of being an actor I despise. It's no wonder actors out here obsess over their head shots.

Anyway, that's all kvetching. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about it. A fairly famous actor, one you'd recognize immediately, and he said to me, "You know, they're either going to 'get' you or not. The ones that don't aren't going to play a big part in your career one way or another anyway. Eventually, simply by the law of averages, you're going to run across a casting director that 'gets' you. And then everything will change." I hope he's right. He told me he was out here for nearly five years before someone 'got' him. Shortly after he was playing the lead in a very successful television series.

Ah, the life of an actor. The heights of absurdity. And yet, and yet, we keep going back for more. Geez.

See you tomorrow.