Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Extras! Extras! See all about it!

I treated myself to viewing seasons #1 and #2 of Ricky Gervais' incredible, hilarious, Emmy-winning BBC/HBO creation, "Extras," about background, lineless actors - "extras" - and their struggles to make a living as well as get ahead in show biz as "real actors." Those who have lines.

Pictured here, the Extras core cast l-r: Ashley Jensen, Ricky Gervais, long time Gervais collaborator Stephen Merchant and Shaun Williamson.

Each episode features at least one A-level star put in the position of ridiculing themselves and their coworkers so sharply and over the top, I keep hoping that audiences actually know the megastars he casts are nothing like the characters they portray as themselves!

In the show featuring Orlando Bloom, Bloom "as himself" skewered Johnny Depp mercilessly, describing how horrendous it was to work with him and how he could not understand why people think Depp is such a great actor, making fun of his scissors props and other props his notable characters have used.

Kate Winslet as the chain-smoking naughty nun is priceless.

I do worry if the British show is a bit inside. I fall on the floor laughing at things I've seen, experienced, and know go wrong along the way working on or making a show or film, then wonder if real people in the audience understand how funny it all is because Gervais shows how just about everything *does not* work and why.

Typically, Gervais takes on all the verboten subjects in the most twisted way: racism, politics, homophobia, materialism, celebrity, classism, looksism sexism - all the "ism's," in fact, along with the usual deception, deceit, betrayal, failure, success and camp that is show biz.

One of the things I appreciate about this show in comparison to his original smash hit, The Office, is that Gervais' Extras character has a broader range of emotions, surrounded by people who don't share his depth or see themseleves realistically as he does (and despite himself ends up loving them anyway).

Unlike The Office, however, audiences were steeled for comedy when Extras hit the air. They didn't know The Office was a comedy until well into the first season. Viewers in the UK took it as a serious documentary about a typically dysfunctional office. When they realised it was a joke, they laughed long and loudly.

Suffering as his character does in every episode, we are left with the punch line of a very old joke: What? And quit show biz?

This response comes at the end of a very long story told by a circus clean-up man who follows the elephants and other animals in the parades, cleaning up after all the sick and bodily elimination in their cages, getting paid nearly nothing; worse, he's kicked around by everyone with whom he works - all of whom disrespect him.

Finally, the frustrated listener asks, "Good heavens! Why don't you get another job!?" (Review punch line.)

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Make it happen!

Queen Latifah says if you want to succeed (especially in the biz of show!) - you need to make it happen.

Appearing on Inside the Actor's Studio, "Lah" says that she had to make success happen for herself because when she started she was not the type of person Hollywood considered all that employable.

She hooked up with writers and directors who shared her vision and understood what she could contribute to any project. She got herself to places where industry folks could get to know her - and face it, what's not to love? Of course it helps that she's not just affable but multi-talented, well trained, experienced and a real go-getter.

She had a plan and she followed through with it.

Johnny Depp says the way to make it happen is not to work too much. He believes that actors who take every job offered don't stand out; if you want to have a long lasting career and establish yourself as a notable performer, be very picky about the roles you select to take. Consider the type and quality of work you want to do and hold out for them.

Renee Zellweger says she didn't work for a year when she decided to be careful about the roles she chose. But the payoff has been a career filled with terrific work and an Academy Award!

Sandra Bullock took charge of her career when she realized she wasn't doing herself any good by taking roles that didn't enhance her reputation professionally or personally.
She now runs her own Fortis Films production company, so she's in charge of selecting the projects, she has creative control, casting, quality control and of course gets to cash in on her own image, talent and skills. Miss Congeniality exceeded $300 million at the box office. Sandra made it happen for herself the way she wanted.

It took courage, a solid plan, determination, perseverance and a bunch of hard work to make it happen, but in each case, these extremely successful people did it by taking control of their careers and doing it their way. None of them succeeded by doing what old Hollywood said they "should" or "had to" in order to "make it." Most importantly, they did not convey a sense of desperation, but of being pro-active and skillful.

What do you need to do to make it happen for yourself? Do you have a plan? Do you feel confident or desperate? Are you happy with yourself and ready to take control of your career?

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