Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday's Tales from the Set

Hello all, and welcome to the second installment of Tuesday's

Tales from the Set

In Which Kalen Becomes a Stunt Driver

or alternatively titled:
In Which Our Hero is Asian For a Day, and a Bad Driver, But its Totally Not Racist

So there I was - roasting in my car on a hot Sunday afternoon, foot firmly on the brake pedal and surrounded by a sea of equally stalled cars on the Pasadena freeway.  Was there an accident?  Was the president in town?  Had the zombie apocalypse finally come and we were all fleeing the ravenous undead hordes?!

No.  We were extras, working on a Sunday, and instructed to sit in our cars on the cordoned off section of the freeway and keep the ignition on and our feet on the brakes so they could shoot from behind and see our brake lights lit up.

Three months into my work as an extra at the bottom rungs of the entertainment industry ladder, and Hollywood continued to bring the glamour.

We'd started work at five am that morning.  Hours of just sitting, alone in our cars with our thoughts and our books and our Ipods and laptops - but never getting too comfortable, lest our feet slip off the brake pedals...which they started to do as one hour stretched into two and then three and four and five.  It's terribly fulfilling, knowing that your work can be performed with equal competence by an actual rock.  At one point I did leave my car and hunt around for something to hold down my brakes so I could take a nap in my backseat.  Alas, I came up empty handed.  Or else all the other extras beat me to it...

But that's the thing about a Hollywood set!  Just when you start to feel the chill of slow and painful death by boredom set into your bones....out of nowhere!  Excitement!  Happenings!  Egads!

A PA in an ominous black truck zoomed up alongside me and rolled down his window.  I snapped to attention and shouted 'I'm not sleeping!' before remembering oh wait, nobody cares.  

Much like my high school girlfriend, they just wanted me for my car.

The PA briefly looked me up and down.

"You'll do," he said, and told me to shut off my engine and get in his truck.  Flattered beyond measure, but having heard stories about boys like him, I hesitated.

"But what about my car?"

"Just leave it there," he said.  "It'll be fine."

"It won't mess up the shot?"

"Nobody can even see it back here," he assured me.  My last several hours of work thus validated, I shut off my engine and climbed into the strange man's car.  We drove in awkward silence (he wasn't a big talker) the ten minutes back to where base camp was set up and he dropped me off in front of the wardrobe trailer.

"Tell wardrobe that the director wants you to photo double for Matt King," he said.

"Okay," I started to say, ever agreeable.  Then something occurred to me, even as he drove off.  "Wait.  Isn't Matt King Asian?"

But alas, he was already dust in the wind, and thus armed with my dubious instructions I prepared to face The Wardrobe Department.

Mercurial in their favors, The Wardrobe Department is one of the mightiest of the departments - they hold the power of Good Clothes in their hands.  Their whims may be tempered by the Will of the Director, but they and they alone know what clothes can make you look your best and what can make you look your worst - AND THEY CAN MAKE YOU WEAR THEM.

Bad things happen to those who piss off Wardrobe.  Incidentally, that may or may not be part of the reason I can be glimpsed in an episode of Melrose Place wearing a lavender suit and matching pink fedora.

But that is neither here nor there.

I approached the wardrobe trailer with all the timidity of the lone extra separated from the safety of the herd and very aware that he is out of his element.  The three wardrobers paused in their discussion of Sekrit things and eyed me balefully over their diet sodas.  They knew my coming heralded a Return to Work.

"What?"  One barked.

"Umm, they need me to photo double for Matt King."  I stood tall.  Or at least made an attempt at height.

The Lead Wardrober narrowed beady eyes, trying to decide if I was pulling her leg or not.  "Matt King is Asian."

"Yes, he is."  It's always best to agree with Wardrobe.

"You're not Asian."

"That had occurred to me as well," I said politely.

"God I hate this set," she sighed and waved me up to the trucker.  "Come on.  Let's see what we can do with you."
Half an hour later and garbed in his character's requisite SWAT gear, I was shocked to find that I did in fact, look vaguely Asian.  I still looked nothing like Matt King of course.  The powers of Wardrobe are vast and many, but even they can only do so much.  Still, it was something.  And if you squinted with one eye, gouged the other one out with a stick, and the lighting was poor, our resemblance was absolutely uncanny.

"You'll do," Lead Wardrober ultimately grunted in eerie similarity to the first PA.  And thus armed, another PA was summoned and I was driven back to set, along side another extra photo doubling for the other lead actor.

At set, we were escorted to the first AD, who was standing next to a very large, very expensive SUV.  I started to get a Very Bad Feeling.

"You're Matt's photo double?" She asked me.  

I nodded.  My fear was a great and terrible thing.

"Good.  You'll be driving."

"I will?"

"Yup.  You'll need this."

She handed a walkie talkie to the other photo double, but my attention was on the SUV, which bore a passing resemblance to an eighteen wheeler and probably cost more than my entire apartment building.

"You'll follow that PA to the other side of the freeway and wait there.  We'll radio you instructions from there.  Got it?  Great!  Don't crash!"

I wasn't really sure what to say to that, and by the time I mustered the nerve to propose a version of the scene where Matt King WASN'T driving the car, she was already out of ear shot.  
Me and my Very Bad Feeling climbed into the car.

Initially, I tried to drive at about 5 miles an hour, figuring any damage I did at that speed would be negligible enough that I MIGHT be able to pay it off at some point in my lifetime.  My ingenuity was thwarted by two things:  the speed of the PA we were following, and the swift revelation that my companion had no idea how to work a walkie talkie.

"You're useless," I informed him.  I was not in the best of moods.

He didn't disagree.

Soon enough we found ourselves parked on the shoulder on the other side of the freeway, about half a mile out of sight of where the crew and cameras were set up.  Unlike the side of the freeway we had been working on, this side was not in any way cordoned off, and cars whizzed past us at breakneck speeds.

Were it Christmas, you might say my Very Bad Feeling grew three sizes.

"You guys ready?"  Squawked a voice from the walkie talkie.  Which I was now operating.

"Umm, yes?"  I can be forgiven, I think, for lacking confidence in my answer. 

"Great!  When I say 'action' I'm going to need you to merge over to the far lane, the one closest to our cameras and just keep accelerating until I say you're good.  We won't be able to see you until you round the curve at those bridge supports, so we're only going to get one shot at this.  But relax, its just a simple drive by shot.  Got it?"

As I looked at the cars whizzing by where we were parked at a standstill, I tried to calculate the time it'd take to match traffic speed and merge across four lanes successfully.  I then gauged the distance from me to the curve she'd designated as the edge of camera frame.  My silence was  not an assent so much as an inability to form words due to sudden lack of saliva.

"Aaaaaaaaaaand action!"

I dropped the walkie into my lap, threw the gear shift into drive and slammed down the accelerator.  The Terrifyingly Big SUV responded accordingly and we zoomed down the shoulder, gaining speed at a ridiculous rate.  We approached the curve in the freeway and were rapidly running out of shoulder.  I prepared to merge into the first lane of traffic.

It was only at this point that I realized the car had no rear view mirror.

It had been a relatively easy drive to our parking spot and I hadn't needed it and so had failed to notice its absence until that point.  Of course the car had a rear view mirror - just not the traditional kind.  Rather than hang from the ceiling of the car, there was a camera that looked out the back of the car and relayed a video feed to a display set in the dashboard.

Dear readers, in case you have never found yourself zooming down a (soon ending) freeway shoulder at eighty miles an hour with an incompetent passenger screaming at you to merge merge merge in one ear while a director squawks 'Where are you? Why can't we see you yet?  Go faster!' into another.....let me assure you.

It does not occur to you to look for a rear view mirror in the dashboard.  

Craning my neck as far as my neck would crane and praying that this car did not come with blindspots, I threw the car across all four lanes of traffic at somewhere upwards of ninety miles an hour and we blew around the corner and past the cameras.

"Great job!  Now turn around and come back to set!"  Came over the walkie.

"Turn where?" I yelled, still somewhat adrenaline crazed.

Somewhat, in this instance, being code for: Completely.

"That break in the divider, right ahead of you."

"The one ten feet ahead of me?"

"That's the one!"

I whipped the car to the left in a nearly 90 degree turn in a gap in the divider roughly twice as long as the car was wide.  The car squeaked through, my passenger squeaked a scream, and I oddly enough, was praying to Krishna.

Really couldn't say why.  The sum of my Hindu knowledge is having read Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny a couple times.

"Awesome work guys!"  The first AD, upon our return to set, was far too bubbly in my opinion for someone who had just tried to have us killed.  I would have said something to that effect, but I was busy kissing the ground and swearing off all forms of vehicular travel in the near future.

"You didn't crash, hurt the car, or die!"  She continued in what I can only assume was her attempt at levity.  I would have informed her that her confirmation those HAD indeed been possibilities in no way helped my state of mind, but my lips were still making love to asphalt.

"Be sure to see me before you guys wrap for the day.  We've got a week left of shooting to do, and I might bring you both back as stand ins."

Well that part sounded nice, and so I didn't utter mystic curses at her back as she walked away.  I did however, have negative emotions that needed venting in abundance, so I turned once more to my companion.

"You're useless."

He didn't disagree.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Writing is NOT Like a Box of Chocolates Meme

I have been TAGGED, y'all, by the nefarious Party Pony, one Miss Jenny Phresh!  And in turn, I tag Lori, L.J. Boldyrev, and Robyn Lucas.

The assignment, should I choose to accept it (under threat of violence if I do not, I might add) was to take the phrase “Writing is like . . .” and finish it. Post it on my blog. Tag three others to do the same. That is all.  The end, finito.

Oh, but apparently you can't say writing is like a box of chocolates.

Now, my second thought upon receiving this assignment was to say:

Writing is like Cormac McCarthy's The Road - wild and fraught with peril, beginning at the end of a world and ending at the beginning of one, and occasionally along comes a Viggo Mortensen to star in the movie version and that makes everything better because he takes his shirt off a lot.

HOWEVER.  That way threatened to lead me to deep and profound thoughts, and that scared me!  So we're going with my first thoughts upon receiving this assignment.

Which, because I am a contrary little bitch, was to say, but wait!  Writing IS like a box of chocolates!

Let's examine this for a minute, shall we?

You receive two packages, unasked for, unexpected.  One a shiny red box of chocolates, another a shiny new book idea.

They lie there, tempting, inviting, but still unopened - because both are oh so bad for you.  Both will lead to intense highs of sugar and excitement and adrenaline - and plummeting lows of exhaustion, regret and self-flagellation.  Sleepless nights are soon to follow, filled with neurotic fears as to the maximizing of your glutius and the preponderance of your adverbs.  This is not the time to be opening such Pandora's boxes.  You have that new dress to squeeze into, or That Other Thing soon to demand all your time and attention, with no room for the distractions of a novel. 

But you are weak, or the boxes powers' of temptation are too strong.

And you open them.

And reach inside.

You start with something familiar, the devil you know.  Just one piece of milk chocolate, just a little paranormal fantasy, enough to take the edge off, but still easy, not dangerous.

But absorbed in savoring that little piece of chocolatey goodness, that 'short fiction' piece of paranormal fluff, you blindly reach for another.  You're not quite sated yet, and surely one more can't hurt, right?

You grab without looking and pop it in your mouth - and ooh, its coconut!  A hint of sci fi!  How unexpected!  But not unwelcome - it complements the previous flavors quite nicely, you find, even though you never would have thought to add that in on your own.

Now curious to see what else this magical box of surprises can offer you, you reach for another piece.  It's indefinable, an explosion of flavors you can't easily identify, but they're all enjoyable enough so you shrug and don't complain.  Maybe opening this box wasn't such a bad idea after all!  THIS time will be different from all those OTHER times before!

One more piece leads to three more after that, and you're starting to feel quite full but you can't stop now!  There are wonders yet to be discovered!  You bite down into something with a crunch, and its pecan and ooh, how did that get in there!  But it fits!  It works!  Baby, you're on a roll!

And then you find that weird piece.  The one you just don't know what they were thinking when they came up with it in the lab, and its gross, and nasty, and doesn't belong at all.  But its too late, you've bitten into the witch's poisoned apple and that taste isn't going away any time soon.  That odd bit of horror that has no place in your paranormal fantasy has wormed its way deep into the heart of the plot.  A simple mouth rinse isn't going to wash it free.

Frantically, you grab a handful of the flavors you know and love, no longer worried about any other possible consequences in your desperation to rid yourself of that awful taste.  You'll drown it out!  Bury it beneath an avalanche of chocolatey genre goodness!  You cram characters and plot twists and genre tropes in with reckless abandon!  Come one, come all!  There's room for everyone!

But then bloating sets in.  And cramps.  You start to feel quite queasy.  Clearly, this wasn't a good idea at all but you've come too far.  You've got to ride the sick feeling out.  You suck it up and grab some water, a cleansing, healthy distraction.  Spend some time with the hubby and kids.  Welcome back to civilization.  It missed you.

But the boxes still lie half open on your desk.  Unfinished.  More tastes left to savor.  You know better.  You really, truly do.  But you can't find it in yourself to just walk away, just discard them in the trash.  Think of all those starving children in third world countries or those poor would-be writers that would love to write a book but can never seem to come up with an idea.  How can you just reject these treasures that have been offered to you free of charge?  How can you turn them away when others would kill for just a taste from that box you're so casually thinking of discarding?  What kind of ungrateful louse are you?

Once more, reluctantly this time, out of obligation rather than desire, you reach into the boxes.  You're going to finish what you started, dammit.  Even if your ass will never be the same.  The queasy feelings have abated somewhat, and you can do this.  You've learned your lesson, you'll take it slow.  One piece at a time.  Pace it out.  Don't get too caught up, less is more.

There are still bitter pieces to swallow, but you power through them, determined to let nothing go to waste.  There's not a lot of the good pieces left, you plowed through most of them early on in your initial binge - you kick yourself for your lack of foresight, NEXT time you vow you'll start with the bad flavors first and save the best for last.  But wait - next time?  What are you saying!?!  There's not going to BE a next time, you know better than to ever accept such a 'gift' again!

But even as you say it, you know its a lie.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Tales from the Set

Hey guys!  Sorry about being MIA, just been crazy busy y'all, but more on that soon enough.  Instead, allow me to present the first installment in my new regular Tuesday feature:

Tales from the Set

In which I get REAL, y'all, on the nitty gritty of what work, life and love looks like behind the scenes of a Hollywood set.  And I'm not just being alliterative with the love part, just so you know.  Twice now, I have come across cast or crew members having sex somewhere on set (I KNOW I WAS SHOCKED TOO *STABS EYES WITH FORKS AND PEEKS SLIGHTLY BECAUSE ONE OF THEM WAS REALLY HOT*).  No, but seriously.  Thank God that whole Rapture thing didn't pan out, because I'm telling you, the televangelists are right about us.  When the End comes, us Hollywood types are totally getting Sodom and Gomorrah'd.

Now, I'm sure most of you have at some point or another said to yourselves: "Self?  I wonder how my good buddy Kalen metamorphosized from a naive little Hollywood wannabe to a full-fledged Hollywood  Butterfly whohasneverthelessstillnotmanagedtogetanoticeablerole."

And if you haven't asked yourself that question YOU ARE NO LONGER INVITED TO MY BIRTHDAY PARTY.  You know.  Next year.  When I turn twenty five again.

But I'm just going to assume you all are coming, and tell you a story about Little Pupa Kalen the Actor's first steps on the road to being a full-fledged Hollywood Butterfly whohasneverthelessstillnotmanagedtogetanoticeablerole.

It's called "Kalen's First Day On Set."

It's otherwise known as: "How Kalen Almost Cost Production Tens of Thousands of Dollars His First Day On Set."


Sips water.

Adjusts tie.

Once upon a time, an ambitious, well-intentioned and utterly clueless aspiring actor named Kalen arrived in HOLLYWOOD.  Capital of the entertainment industry, city of glamour, fame and fortune, the place where dreams come true.  He strode down the star-studded Hollywood Boulevard, gazing around him, wide-eyed at the wonder of it all, until a passing car splashed muddy rain water all over his Clearly Not Designer Clothes and he realized catching pneumonia your first day in town does not make for the most auspicious career beginning.

So he moved on to hovering around Starbuck's in the areas Big Fancy Agent Types were said to frequent, waiting for someone to recognize his Obvious Brilliance and Pending Fame and Fortune.

This continued for a couple of weeks.

Our intrepid hero was a real go-getter however, so soon enough ascended from Street Corners to the next rung of the Hollywood Ladder.


It was there, after several false starts involving Large Overweight Hollywood Stereotypes Who Seemed to Think This Was A Date, that our hero came across the secret entrance way to the Actor's Inner Circle and Pending Fame and Fortune.

A magical place, known only as....

Central Casting.

*Your narrator pauses to allow his audience time to make the appropriate oohs and ahhs of wonder*

Central Casting, he learned, was the largest casting agency for extras in Hollywood.  They supplied ninety percent of all the movies and TV shows filming in LA with extras or 'background artists'...those people you see in the background of your favorite shows and movies, just doing random every day things to make a scene feel real and large as life.  It was the perfect place for a Famous Actor In Training!  They could get him on every set in Hollywood where you could see first hand how things worked behind the scenes.  He'd learn the difference between a director, a director of photography, and assistant directors.  He'd learn magical words and phrases like 'Check the gate', 'martini's up' and 'first team flying in!'  It was the best way to earn his union eligibility, and there existed the slim, fragile hope that he might even be DISCOVERED.

Standing in line at Central Casting, waiting for his photo to be taken, he heard all the stories.  About how Charlize Theron was an extra when the director picked her out of a line-up and gave her a role.  About how Brad Pitt was actually fired from Central Casting for sneaking off set to go to an audition - and two weeks later booked his first movie.  So many stories!  So many possibilities!

So when our hero called the Casting hotline that night and right away booked a job as an extra on a major primetime crime procedural show for the very next day - oh the excitement!  He was on his way!  He would show up on set, bright and early, and his Obvious Brilliance and Pending Fame and Fortune would take it from there!

Fate however, had other plans.

His call time the next day was five am, and as he drove through fog-shrouded streets on his way to another mystical land known as CBS Radford studios, it occurred to him that bright was perhaps not the best descriptor - though early fit it well enough.  It also occurred to him, as he circled the studio five times, that there were an awful lot of entrances to CBS Radford, and he had absolutely no idea which to enter or where to go upon entering.

This was, to say the least, unforeseen.

So after trying ALL THE GATES and only discovering the right one on his last attempt, it was five after five when he finally parked his car and ran quick-like-a-bunny to the bungalow the Less Than Helpful Security Guard had directed him to.  His heart beat like a jackhammer as he struggled with the three changes of wardrobe he'd been instructed to bring for Various Unfathomable and Possibly Occult Reasons.  Clearly this was the first of his Trials to test his worthiness for Pending Fame and Fortune.  He could not fail!  And so when he arrived at the bungalow just in time to see a Production Assistant leading a herd of extras down the street, instructing them all to grab a chair and follow him, our hero did the only reasonable thing.  He grabbed a chair and followed the pack, hoping his tardiness had gone unnoticed.

Luck was with him!  For when they stopped at the 'holding area', he was one of the first ten to be picked out by the PA and instructed to go to set!  Eureka!  Not only had his near-gaff been completely overlooked, he was one of the CHOSEN ONES.  Surely this meant great things!  Lots could be read into this!  His future Bel-Air mansion awaited him!

However, after the first four hours of standing around a cramped Hollywood setting cleverly gimmicked to look like a New York night club, he couldn't help but notice that all the tales of Hollywood glamour had left out some very key details about Being An Actor.

The first was the temperature.  Surrounded on all sides by huge whopping lights that could only be characterized as miniature suns, our hero quickly learned that being on set was synonymous with BEING HOT AS FUCK THE ENTIRE FREAKING DAY AND OMG HOW COULD IT POSSIBLY BE THIS HOT WITHOUT DEFYING THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.  As sweat drenched his shirt, he prayed for deliverance from the hellish heat - and then the director called cut, the lights were switched off, and the sound stage's AC kicked in, blasting the set with sub zero temperatures.

That was the day our hero grew to hate the phrase: "Be careful what you wish for."

The second detail the tales of Hollywood glamour had left out was that Hollywood does not like noise.  It frowns upon it, in fact.  Or in most cases, yells.  Apparently - shocking as it may seem - sound stages are in part named for well...sound.  As in, it carries.  And so it turned out that acting involved a lot of standing around being completely silent for several hours at a time, because on a sound stage, hearing any sound OTHER than what his actors are saying in scene is the kind of thing that makes a director Very Very ANGRY.

That was the day our hero learned he doesn't like when directors are angry.

The third detail the tales of Hollywood glamour had left out was that acting is hard freaking work.  This too, was unforeseen.  But as hours of performing the same actions over and over in EXACT repetition set in, along with the effort it apparently took to manifest the same amount of energy in the same facial expressions every time the camera swung his way - all so the director could have multiple takes and then match the same actions from different angles when the cameras were moved to capture the turnaround shots - it started to sink in that the ease of this career had perhaps been somewhat exaggerated.  Especially when our hero considered how much more difficult it probably was for the ACTUAL actors, the ones reciting the same lines over and over and conveying ACTUAL emotion and having the cameras on them FOR EVERY FREAKING SECOND OF THOSE HOURS AND HOURS.

That was the day our hero first contemplated a career change.

And then, disaster struck.

During the lunch break about half way through the day, he checked his voice mail to see if anyone had called him in the eight hours since he'd started working.

It turned out Central Casting had called him about twenty times, asking in increasingly angry tones where he was and why wasn't he on set and this was EXTREMELY unprofessional and his standing with them was in serious jeopardy.

Our hero was understandably alarmed, and experienced a momentary existential crisis.  He had THOUGHT he was right there, on set, but apparently that was somewhat in question.  He hurriedly called Central Casting and insisted upon both his existence AND his presence on set.

Then the casting director asked if he'd checked in.

....Checked in with whom, our hero asked?

There was an audible sigh, and the casting director asked whom he'd gotten his voucher from.

Our hero was forced to admit that he did not in fact HAVE a voucher, and wasn't exactly sure what one was.

There was a definite groan then, and after telling him to stay put, the casting director hung up the phone.

A mere thirty seconds later, the PA angrily strode into the holding area waving a small white voucher and demanding to know who this Kalen O'Donnell person was.

With increasing foreboding, our hero reluctantly admitted that was most likely him though he wasn't one hundred percent certain.  Due of course to his current existential crisis and the fact that he suspected from the PA's expression that it perhaps wasn't in his best interests to BE Kalen O'Donnell at that particular moment.

Then he learned that a voucher is the small piece of white paper that tells the production both that you are in fact, there and accounted for, and how much you are owed for the day.  It's a very helpful piece of paper, and its VERY VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU HAVE IT IN HAND FROM THE SECOND YOU STEP ON SET.

In explaining why he had not actually checked in or received the all important voucher, our hero was forced to admit that there was a slim, small, slight possibility that he had been five minutes late.  When asked if he had ever been approved by wardrobe then, he was again forced to concede that there was an equally slim, small, slight possibility that he had not - and in fact had no idea what the phrase 'approved by wardrobe' referred to.

There was a moment then when it seemed that the PA might do bodily harm to our brave but stupid - oh so stupid - intrepid hero.

One flurry of activity later, a trio of the most bizarrely dressed women he had EVER seen swooped over and clucked in dismay over his attire.  Although he had THOUGHT he was wearing appropriate apparel for a New York night club scene, he was outvoted and apparently it was not at all what they would have put him in, had they seen him. NOT AT ALL.

And then, there was a small, stifled sound from one, almost like choking on a scream.  She clutched at her heart, and horrified, pointed to his chest.  He was wearing a logo!

That was the day our hero learned this was a VERY BAD THING.

For in our era of product placement and multi-million dollar endorsement deals, ANY visible sign or indication of a brand name must be carefully vetted and approved by production, as they can not risk lawsuits from the makers of products they aren't approved to use, promote or endorse on their shows.  Nor can they risk angering the makers of rival products who HAVE paid to have their product used, promoted or endorsed on their show or in their advertisements or commercial spots.

And yet, blindly, stupidly, our hero had been cavalierly promoting an un-endorsed shirt IN EVERY SINGLE SHOT.

For a moment, it seemed all was lost.

Would they have to reshoot?

In a panic, production quickly reviewed their footage, and to their vast relief, discovered that our hero was not actually visible in any of the final footage, despite his many hours of doing all the same work and showing all the same effort as every other, ultimately visible, extra.  Crisis averted, he was swiftly changed into more fitting attire, and production proceeded.  By the end of the day, nobody even remembered what he'd done.

And that was the day, dear readers, that our hero realized that he was in for a LOT of hard work, with absolutely no guarantee of reward.  And the very high likelihood that most, if not all, of his work might ultimately go largely unnoticed.

It was a sobering day.

But, it was merely the first day.  The first of many, and of many lessons to be learned, and many times of screwing up and almost costing production thousands of dollars.

Because, as our aspiring young actor soon came to realize and will share with you in weeks to come, Screwing Up and Costing Production A Metric Shit Ton of Money is something that happens every single day.  And despite the frequency of it happening, it is Never a Good Thing and to be avoided at All Possible Costs and that these are just two of the reasons why most actors are stressed, neurotic, raving lunatics.

Welcome to Tinseltown, Kalen O'Donnell.

We hope you survive your stay.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thanks Again and Sample First Chapter of Dust to Dust

Guys, I just want to say thanks again for all your kind words, thoughts and encouragement!  And since I don't have time for a real post today, I'm totally cheating and just linking you all to my still in development website - specifically the first chapter of Dust to Dust, available for sampling.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thank You!

Just wanted to take a second to shout out a quick thank you to everyone who helped me with my Dust to Dust pitch last week!  Apparently, it got the job done, as Sara Megibow selected it as one of the three winners in Sisters in Scribe's twitter pitch contest, and I'll be sending her my first 30 pages for critique!  You all are rockstars!

But then, you knew that.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Eye of the Beholder and All that Nonsense

So I keep having to postpone giving my own flashy awards.  SOME people who shall not be named but who I am currently looking at POINTEDLY, are taking foreeeeeeeever to announce big exciting news that needs to be bragged about to ALL the interwebs, and until they announce it, I can't brag about it!

So, you know.  Hurry that up.  And if you think I'm talking about you, I probably am.  There's like, five of you.  What's the point of having massively talented world-conquering friends if you can't use their accomplishments to shock, awe and amaze people as though they were your own?  You're all fired, you hear me?


So since none of you will let me brag about you yet, I guess I'll just have to brag about myself and sound like a total egotistical tool, so THANKS A LOT GUYS.  JEEZ.  So anyways, one of those fancy callbacks I was talking about a couple weeks ago resulted in me getting a part in a movie shooting in New York.  So June 30th, they're flying me out to New York for three days to shoot my part.  Anyone going to be in New York then?  We can hang out in my trailer!

I'm just kidding.  I'm not getting a trailer.  They're spending all their money on just flying me out there.  I'll be sleeping in Central Park or the subways, like all the other actors who live in New York.

Hah!  ZING!

Excuse me.  I've had too much sugar today.  Aaaaaanyways, I'm super stoked, because I love to travel.  One of the things I've always wanted most from an acting career is being able to travel due to it, and this is the first time I've ever been paid to fly somewhere or stay somewhere else during a shoot.  Unless you count that pilot I did where they put us all up in hotels down in Irvine for the shoot, but I don't.  It was Irvine.  Who counts Irvine for anything?  So yeah.  New York, baby!  Just don't ask me what the movie's about.  Or who else is in it.  Or like, what the name is.  They don't tell me that stuff.

Seriously.  They haven't even sent me the script yet.  Oh Hollywood.

Now that THAT unpleasantness is over and done with, on to more important things.  Our topic of the day!

So I used to suffer from serious clinical depression right?  Yeah, I know, way to bring down the mood, huh?  But no, is okay.  Was long time ago.  But it was like hereditary and due to having....an interesting young adult life and it was all very much too much and made me want to curl into a ball all the time except for when I was being self destructive and never get out of bed and mostly eat lots of ice cream and go waaaaaaaah why does the universe hate me?!

It was all very dramatic.  It's almost like I'm an actor or something.

But anyways, drugs didn't work cuz apparently I'm a freak of nature.  Who knew, right?  So the only way to kick the habit of you know, sucking at life, was to alter my outlook.  It was all very Zen.  But it worked!  I revel in an overabundance of pep these days!  All totally natural!  No artificial flavors or preservatives whatsoever!  And you can too!  Just drink the Kool-Aid, my children!

Ahem.  Sorry.  Wrong speech.  ANYWAYS.  One of the most fundamental contributors of depression, and easiest parts to beat, is that we start looking at all the PILES and LOADS of obstacles, difficulties and handicaps weighing us down.  We make mountains out of molehills and stare up at them with wide, panicked eyes and go, how am I supposed to get over that?!  It's too big!  And so we don't even try.


And it applies to day to day life too, not just giant chemical misfires in your brain.  How many of you have ever stopped somewhere around 20K into your new manuscript and thought to yourself, omg, this is impossible!  I have SO MUCH MORE to write!  I'm never going to finish!  Oh sure, you put it away for a time and you come back to it later and start again, cuz you're a determined little sucker, but it takes it out of you, doesn't it?  Saps some of your strength, a little of your drive?

But what if you look at it just a little differently?  Don't think of your manuscript as one giant mega-beast of 90,000 words, but instead see it as a collection of scenes and subplots and character moments, each as important as the last.  Like dozens of little short stories, or windows into your characters' lives, all strung together to make up one greater whole.  Suddenly, its not quite so unmanageable.  Bang out a thousand words one day, and you didn't just write 1/90th of a novel, with 89 more days like that to go.  You wrote a short story, banged out a whole complete THING that you don't have to worry about anymore until your novel is done.  And everyday is just another short story finished, or more you've learned about your character, and you're not even thinking about it like a race with a distant finish line anymore.  Each day is its own little race, and you win every time.  And then before you know it, you add up all those little stories and moments and look at them together in a big picture window, and voila!  You finished your novel without even realizing it!

You have TRICKED yourself!  Isn't it great?  Outsmarting yourself and your own writer craziness is fun!  Everyone try!

Another useful mind game to play on yourself when you think you're not being productive enough, or as productive as you'd like, is to write down everything you do during the day, as you do it.  Everything, from the little to the big.  Write it down, and cross it off, like writing a To Do list as you do things instead of ahead of time.  Work out in the morning or go for a run?  Write it down. Cross it off.  Take a shower?  Counts.  Feed the kids?  Totally productive.  Write 1,000 words of your manuscript?  Hell yeah you did.

You can break it down into the little things too.  Instead of just writing 'worked on book', get specific.  Write 'explored Character X's backstory' and cross it off.  'Outlined action sequence for next chapter.'  On the list, with a giant X through it.  'Kiss scene', 'kill scene', 'everybody dance now' scene....list 'em individually and check, check, check.

Doesn't even have to just be physical things either.  Mental or emotional goals you succeed at during the day can go on the list as well.  'Didn't drink soday today' is an accomplishment, as is 'refrained from having my mother-in-law shipped off to the loony bin just to get her out of my house.'  Write 'em down, cross them off!

Then at the end of the day, just before you go to bed, look at everything you did.  Don't even read the list, just look at ALL THE THINGS YOU DID and crossed off.  Pretty awesome.  And the best part?  Cross your items off really well so you can't really read them too well and then leave them out for your roommates, friends or significant others to find and feel intimidated by your amazing-fantabulousness.

"Honey?  What's this?"

"Oh, just my To Do list for today."

"Your To Do list?  Just for today?  You really did all this today?"

"Mm-hmm.  Why?  What'd you do?"

Be warned.  Obnoxious smugness IS an occasional side effect of using this technique.  Just remember.  It's for the greater good.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Twitter Pitch Round Robin Workshop!

So this is not the post I intended to post today, but I'm still finishing up moving and getting home internet sorted out, so that will have to wait.  INSTEAD!  Feast your eyes on a couple of cool things!

Like Anita posting a plethora of awards on her blog here!  And much more awesome than the awards themselves (though as the recipient of one, I find them quite awesome all on their lonesome) is how easy it makes it to find a veritable cornucopia of wonderful blogs and bloggers to enjoy!  I shall be making my way down that list a little later, but first, on to the next order of business!

Contests!  Yay!

First, check out this one here!  The Next Big Author Contest, apparently it's kinda a big deal.  Who knew?  But it entails posting the first chapter of your Work In Progress and has the potential for great feedback and networking, so hooray, all you authors who don't have a complete MS yet and have had to sit out on many of these contests.  This one's for you!

And then back to form with a contest that DOES require a completed manuscript, but oh is it worth it:  a twitter pitch contest which opens this Friday with a deadline for midnight on Saturday!  Enter your logline of 140 characters (NO ABBREVIATIONS) and possibly win a critique of the first 30 pages of your manuscript from the amazing Sara Megibow, of the Nelson Literary Agency!  For those not in the know, Ms. Megibow has been on a hot streak lately, signing three new clients in the past couple weeks when she only signed a handful all last year.  Apparently, she's hungry for great concepts and awesome books at the moment, so strike now while the iron's hot and get your pitch 'pitch perfect!'

And so to that end, I'm hosting a Twitter Pitch Round Robin workshop!  It starts now and will extend until the deadline of the Twitter Pitch contest, at 11:59 pm, Saturday May 7th!

The rules are simple!  There's a character limit of 4,000 characters in the comments of my blog.  We have to get your pitches down to 140 characters.  So how it works is you start out by posting WHATEVER YOU WANT about your story in a comment on this post.  Whatever you think is integral to your story, whatever you ideally would want to include in your pitch.  But to post, you have to edit the comment ahead of yours, and your pitch and your edit of the pitch ahead of you both have to fit into your comment. 

Get your pitch ready, then before you post it, refresh the blog to find the most recent comment.  Read the pitch ahead of yours, and cut out a line or two, whatever strikes you as unnecessary to get to the heart of their pitch.  There's no character limit on how much you have to cut, just make a reasonable contribution to that person's edit, and make sure it fits in your comment along with your own pitch.   Then the person to comment after you will cut something from your pitch.

You can post your revised pitch multiple times, as in fact that's the whole point.  The more people who join in, the more often you comment and edit other people's pitches, the closer everybody's pitches will get to that fabled 140 character limit.  Just don't post several times in a row.  After your pitch has been edited, give a couple other people a chance to edit and pitch before you throw your revised pitch back into the mix.  I'm not setting a rule on how many comments need to be between yours, but use your best judgment.  Don't be afraid to post multiple times, but don't hog the critiques either.

This workshop is open to anyone, not just people entering the Twitter Pitch contest.  You can post your revised pitch multiple times to get it cut down further, or post pitches for multiple projects.  Just be willing to cut from other people's pitches and have a pitch you want shortened in turn, and that's all you need!

Don't worry if two people post at the same time and accidentally edit the same pitch - just worry about the comment directly ahead of yours, and I'll be jumping in to 'pinch hit/edit' any comments that get missed or overlooked.  Anyone else who wants to pinch edit can jump in as well.  I think it'll all work itself out on its own.

Here's my pitch for Dust to Dust to get things started off.  So again, first person to comment just needs to cut some stuff they consider unnecessary from mine and post their own pitch.  The person to comment after them then cuts from the first commenter and then posts their pitch, and so on and so on, going down the line.  Once you've commented and been critiqued, wait a few comments and then feel free to jump back in with your revised comment.  Once Saturday rolls around and we wrap it up, I'll be critiquing the last comment to bring things full circle.

Now enough jibber jabber!  Off we go!

Pitch for Dust to Dust:

Sixteen year old Micah is the youngest of nine children gifted with magic and cursed to kill each other on sight.  When his siblings tell him the curse was put on them by another magic family, they must fight both the curse and years of distrust to stand united against their enemies.

Who's next?