Comments or questions for Colleen? Leave a comment on her blog.
June 30 2006
With two short film scripts completed, locked and loaded, I'm focusing now on my new feature script, which I'm quite enjoying. It's far more commercial than what I ordinarily write, so I think we have a good chance of either selling it or making it.
There shouldn't really be a definition difference between a commercial and non-commercial script, because it's all meant to be produced for an audience to see and respond to. But there is.
The non-commercial, generally "indie" film has fewer characters (costs less), fewer locations (costs less), more dialogue (costs less) and can be shot in a short period of time. The story's pacing can also be slower and in certain cases create a world not seen before by a general audience - occasionally shocking, even, with characters who can only be considered ... unique.
Most don't make any money; in fact, most lose money because they normally don't enjoy the viewership of a large audience.
Some non-commercial films clean up at the box office, however, because they capture the attention of an audience that tends to view the film over and over until the DVD is released. Think Napoleon Dynamite.
The commercial film is usually budgeted (that is, it has one) with a faster paced story following a "beat sheet" that keeps the audience enthralled with every beat of the story. You can almost hear someone snapping their fingers and thumb behind every beat.
Snap! Stubborn New York detective lands in LA to talk his (separated) wife into "coming home."
Snap! His heart sinks - she has become incredibly sophisticated, successful and happy in LA.
Snap! A group of international thugs takes control of her office building.
Snap! John McClane flies into his unique, maverick action to save his wife!
Snap! In his bare feet!
I'm not putting commercial filmmaking down in the least - some really fine commercial films have been made over the years. And completing any film is something to be celebrated because it's such a Herculean task!
Meanwhile, the pace of my new script is definitely caffeinated - the story moves briskly! The cast is much larger, it takes place in locations that will actually cost money - hey! This is *fun!*
Along with this feature writing project, I'm doing background work on the documentary about a significant life-or-death issue I'll be writing that we hope to produce at FYP Productionz as well as doing prepro on the film we're shooting next month and of course coaching some amazing actors!
Somewhere in there I have a personal life - and have to figure out when I can practice piano!
Back to work (keys clackety-clack-clacking)!!
June 28 2006
Amazingly, someone who should know better recently told me he thought a short film was somehow easier to write, produce and shoot than a full length feature film.
Um, no. Not if it's done properly. That's why there are so many horrible short films - the people making them figured they'd be easier to make as well and found out the hard way they are even more demanding script-wise than the feature. There's no wiggle room. Each frame has to contribute to the characters and story.
Those that are good are often outstanding - and memorable. Take a look at Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit (Academy Award-winning) short films and you'll understand what I mean.
Just as the short story takes more discipline to write well, so does the short film script.
That's why I love making them. And I always learn from each filmmaking experience - different genres, filming techniques and formats (film, dv, HD, beta SP, etc), increasing my directorial, writing and production knowledge.
In fact, making the short film is so much work - we have to do everything with the production of a short film one does with a feature - that most people think it's silly to bother with them. One person even said at a filmmaker's forum that he thought it was a ridiculous amount of work for something that has a limited cash value or market. "If you're going to make a film, make a feature. Don't bother with doing shorts."
His name is fairly well known in the American independent filmmaking community and I'm not using it because he dropped so completely in my esteem of him when he said that.
Short films are really about creating art, intense character development, and disciplined story telling within the constraints of limited time and resources.
It's a great way to explore one's talent, production methods, new formats, story telling and character development skills without breaking the bank.
It's also a great "calling card" for directors of photography, sound folks, set designers, hair and makeup artists, costumers and actors. Several actors got some major roles from short film projects - including Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey!
Well done, short films are a great source of personal and artistic satisfaction. Not everyone makes films for those reasons - and while I think it's great that great films can be made with a profit in mind, I feel sorry for those who don't ever make films - or any art - for personal or artistic satisfaction. It must be a pretty empty feeling.
June 26 2006
Busy, exciting weekend for me - boring blog for you, I'm afraid.
It was a mix of writing (keys clackety-clack-clacking!), FYP administrative bid'niz, prepro discussions with potential (and *very* hot) crew folks and attending a party for my young neighbor who just graduated from The Evergreen State College (Matt Groening's - The Simpsons - alma mater!) - congratulations, Kevin!
After the party it was back to writing (more clackety-clack) until 2:30 am, up again at 7:30am Sunday to write (finishing the script we're submitting for an IFP/Seattle production money grant competition) and watch the World Cup soccer second round match between England and Ecuador (England won!), followed by taking care of administration business for FYP - emailing it to Brittany.
On to the feature script I'm also writing - I've decided instead of being a drama, it's really a comedy! A comedy with substance! Awright! I love when that happens. The script and characters take over and let me see ... it's a different genre than what I started with!
Somewhere in there I had a game of fetch with the pups and a snog fest with all three pets.
This coming week will be a whirlwind of prepro meetings with potential crew members, new actors I'll be coaching, writing the feature script (Nothing But The Truth), administrative business for FYP, and of course my regular coaching practice.
I'm very excited - my rewrite of Mortal Wound will, I believe, be outstanding, so I need to take some very careful rewrite time for it throughout the week. With the brilliant potential crew people we're meeting with this week, and the outstanding actors up for the male lead roles, my hopes for this production are very high.
I ordinarily don't get excited about these things because I'm always immersed in the work - there's so very much to do.
But this time, I'm outright excited for the possibilities.
Not just for mortal wound, but I got an outright "Excellent work" from John re: Mercy, the script I *just* completed.
Brittany and I are turning out to be a great team. Who knew? There's always a risk in establishing business relationships in a creative venture, and heaven knows I've had my share of disappointments with them. Which is why I was particularly careful before deciding to throw my hat in this ring and get behind it with my usual 120%. Brittany seemed to know all along - always a good sign when the business side of the partnership believes that strongly!
We're in it to win it. A win to us means doing great work, being true to ourselves, and following our passion.
A fulfilling personal life usually accompanies this philosophy and lifestyle - and while at least a degree of my personal life is revealed here, unfortunately you won't read about any of her definitely fulfilling personal life here because it's .. well, *personal.*
Besides, I can hardly keep track of all her (large) family and circle of friends' activities!
June 24 2006
Jarrod assisted with the auditions - he was a great help and learned more about auditioning! I am very clear about what I look for in actors and there were a couple who stood out. We're holding more auditions for the two male roles next week in Seattle, so we should have a terrific cast for the intimate, emotional, three-character short film.
We're interviewing and laying the groundwork for producing the film and doing the post production work with crew members and other artists whom we hope will work on the film as well my favorite post production house - Modern Digital. Owner Rich Fassio and his staff have always done a fab job for all my projects.
And we learned that the location in which I want to shoot Mortal Wound has been locked (secured for us to use). Brittany found the place and I really liked it and wanted to shoot there, but we didn't know if we could use it (at no cost!) until today!
Brittany also booked a tough defense attorney role - which will only be seen on Japanese television. The story is the recreation of a true crime story that has intrigued the Japanese public. I'm delighted she landed it - she'll nail the character with her own inimitable style, and having it on her reel will only do her good because there are some really great roles written for women now as attorneys, prosecutors and cops!
"Pre-pro" (pre-production) is the busiest time for me as a writer/director. I like to cover every little detail *before* we shoot the film so there are back-ups for the back-ups that help create an angst-free, smooth shoot.
There are a couple other scripts I need to finish right away, too, so I'm *really* scrambling - and the actors I'm coaching are getting booked (um, that means getting jobs.. not getting arrested.. ;-) ) so my coaching practice is a little crazy now as well.
And I know I'm going to make many French people roll their eyes, but I have to give a shoutout to my dear French e-pal "Deneuve" in Paris - who keeps me stocked with dvd's and cd's of my favorite French chanteuse - Mireille Mathieu. Some consider her a bit dated - but that incredible voice will never be, IMHO! Besides, singing along with her cd's has helped me speak French well enough for my Parisian Pal to understand me clearly!
June 22 2006
"Life is meant for having fun!" yelled the commercial voice on my car radio.
It was an advertisement for a local amusement park where your family could go to be "happy!"
It struck me there is an immense difference between having fun and being happy; the words are not really interchangeable.
Fun is momentary; happiness can last a lifetime.
If we're happy spending time together, we can have fun.
If we can't stand each other, it doesn't matter how much fun the environment is supposed to provide ... we won't have much of it, if any.
Happiness is a state of mind; a state of the soul or heart.
Fun requires an external trigger.
Fun does not create happiness; happiness can, however, create fun.
Geez, do I sound like a fortune cookie today?
June 20 2006
Looking for a few insights on courage today? I like these:
Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken
belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the
pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain.
Do the thing you are afraid to do and the death of fear is certain.
Trust in yourself. Your perceptions are often more accurate than you
are willing to believe.
Do not fear mistakes- there are none.
To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world
tells you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is
because we do not dare that things are difficult.
June 18 2006
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
--George Orwell, 1984
June 16 2006
Jealousy, to me, is the fear of losing something we never had - or owned - in the first place.
It might be a useful emotional vehicle to create conflict for a character in a play, book, short story or film; in real life it's pretty much the basis for destructive behavior and a real waste of time.
If you're jealous of someone, you might want to figure out what you believe you lack within yourself - because attempting to own whoever it is that spurs those feelings of inadequacies or departure or potential loss is futile.
No one owns anyone.
The only thing we own and can control is ourselves. Our soul, heart and emotions.
If you're not happy with that?
You may consider making the choice to figure out how to make yourself happy with and build on who you are, because when push comes to shove, when the fit hits the shan, that's the only real personal equipment with which you have to work.
It's a gift.
You just may want to develop it.
June 14 2006 ** live from Seattle **
The second leg of the trip home was testy.
The U.S. security hoops through which we had to jump were noticeably different, more numerous and inconvenient than British security. I found the British security workers more involved, personal and frankly, effective.
In the UK we didn't have to remove our shoes; we didn't have to collect our luggage from the initial flight and then re-check the baggage in for the second airplane ride to England - the baggage was securely transferred; the workers appeared to *care* who we were and what we were doing and the lines, while long, moved smoothly and quickly.
In the US, we had to stand in long lines that did not feel like they moved quickly, pick up our bags from the initial flight, take them around the airport to find the next gate through which we had to go through more security after *just* going through customs; we had to take off our shoes for the security check, there was almost no personal interaction with security workers - whose cool, detached attitude was off-putting as we had to go through the drudgery.
Deal is: when security authorities come across as warm, caring and involved, they ask questions in a way that lures wrong-doers into a false sense of security - and, shocked, the wrong-doers find themselves easily caught by their own words. And these friendly-type authorities develop a keen skill for sensing trouble and spotting problems - and solving those problems swiftly with little fuss.
It was with my jaws locked from so much unnecessary folderol with my luggage and US security measures that I took my aisle seat in the plane from Newark to Seattle.
Which took off about an hour late because the co-pilot's seat had somehow broken and needed to be repaired.
Typically, I wrote copious notes for a variety of projects and several pages on my feature script, Nothing But The Truth.
After which the woman next to me - a lovely advertising account executive from New York - and I launched into a conversation that would last us hours - covering everything from dealing with difficult people, negotiating, politics, policies, the documentary I've started developing (she had some great insights!), following one's passion, a little coaching and some dish on some of her past top advertising clients. *My* lips and blog are sealed!
I realized, as we taxied on the tarmac, that any plans I had to sleep somehow failed to materialize.
When my friend Jarrod picked me up, we were abuzz with catching up, even in my rummy condition.
Home? My two wee pups and kitty were *thrilled* to see me. Since I've been home, they keep waking up and looking at me to make certain I really am there and not leaving!
I keep flashing back to all the terrific adventures I've had in England.
While I was there, I missed my pets, family, friends, actors, clients and cooler Seattle weather!
I did not miss local, national and cable television news programs using pop music behind every story as a way of "spiffing up" the report. Come to think of it, I ended up not missing US TV. That's surprising because I'm known to enjoy several programs here.
I missed baseball games!
I did not miss the Red/Blue partisan politics of the US, although heaven knows the UK has their problems with partial politicians as well.
Something I wasn't expecting to happen while I was gone: my yard became an overgrown jungle in my absence! I practically needed a machete to make my way through the overflowing flora!
Changes I'm making after England:
I'm starting to carry my camera around with me all the time so I can take photos of my adventures to include in my blogs. I love including snaps and received lots of compliments on those posted from the trip.
Of course, one can go *too* far taking pictures of one's personal experiences.
I suggested to John that I take photos of the people coming by to look at the house he's trying to sell, getting a few tidbits about what they are seeking in a new home, etc. Thoughtfully, he offered to dismantle my camera so he could clean it! He assured me that it wouldn't do to post piccies taken with a dirty lens! What a guy! ;-)
I still have to get my home legs back. It was a shock for me to hear an American accent for the first time in nearly three weeks when I boarded the plane in Manchester when we were greeted by an American steward.
I'll be reflecting on several experiences and impressions from my trip over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, it was back to work on the short film, documentary and feature film work underway at FYP as well as resuming my coaching practice.
My partner at FYP, Brittany, didn't like the sound of her title ... CEO. She handles the business side of the operation. We both agreed it sounds too corporate. We don't do business the same old way, nor will we become mired in a stifling corporate culture so she reasoned our titles should not make us sound like we are.
I suggested, "Biz Whiz."
She loves it!
So her business card will read:
Now I have to come up with an appropriate title for me, being the creative/production side of the team!
June 12 2006 ** live from midair! **
Like looking into a pool of water, isn't it?
Did you know that Narcissus may not have been all that good looking after all? He just *believed* he was and couldn't stop looking at himself in the mirror of the time - H2O. So much so he drowned - trying to get closer and closer to touch his beloved image that he fell in.
If you can't resist looking at yourself all the time, learn how to swim! ;-)
Speaking of swimming - when I left you last I was off to a pub several miles outside Manchester to go karaoke singing with John.
My throat was still suffering from the cold or whatever it is I had, but I was confident I could get a few tolerable notes out. Even did a little vocalizing and a few warm ups to prepare. I wanted to make a good impression on the crowd since all these folks are regulars and know John!
In fact, they are *such* regulars, I could swear I could see their derriere prints in the chairs as they stood up!
I soon realized I needn't worry about impressing anyone, as the crowd had clearly been celebrating England winning its first game in the World Cup for many hours. I'm not saying these folks were drunk but several thought they were dancing until someone stepped on their hands! ;-)
My first selection, the Bee Gees' song, "Words" got the crowd waving their arms back and forth, tears streaming. As I ended the song with its last, elongated note ("And words are all I have ... to take your heart awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay....") the crowd stomped, clapped and cheered its approval!
Wow! This was fun! And, I could sense addicting. I had to face it! I was a star!
For my second song, I leveled 'em when I got down and gritty with Janis Joplin's "Another Little Piece of My Heart!" Curling up in a near fetal position, I begged the audience to "Come on, come on, come on, come on and TAKE IT! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!"
Yep, another crowd pleaser!
Shortly thereafter my voice gave out and I just listened and applauded for some of the wild and crazy performers.
I must tell you, John really wow'ed 'em with his selections of emotional, challenging and well written songs, sung beautifully with his clear, talented tones. Being a poet and lyricist, he makes selections with incredible depth, such as the haunting "No Son of Mine!"
Me - and here's where the swimming comes in - I tend to wade in the shallow end of the pool, leaning toward pop/rock.
I was reminded of a visit to a neighborhood Paris pub several years ago when we all joined in as a woman sounding just like Edith Piaf, playing an accordion, sang "La Vie En Rose" when a very happy young Englishman led us in a rousing rendition of "Vindaloo!" It's the British anthem to cheer its teams on ("We score one more goal than you!").
Back to the Manchester townhouse late - final packing and preparations to leave in just a few hours.
The time to leave for the airport arrived in what felt like minutes.
Driving to the airport, John said it perfectly: "At this point in the holiday, it feels like it just started, doesn't it?"
I couldn't agree more. It felt to me as if I'd just arrived.
But simultaneously, I also looked forward to seeing my wee family at home, my aging parents, my actors and clients, and getting a jump start on all our work at FYP.
And it's always better to leave with my friend and host feeling *that* way than to watch him look for Ben Franklin quotes ... Franklin is the one who said that, "Company, like fish, after three days ...." And I'd already been there 17 days!
I'm writing this on the first plane ride home - from Manchester to Newark. Security at Manchester took forever because so many people were traveling on a Sunday morning? Don't these people go to church any more?! ;-)
This "forever" seemed so much longer because the British do not seem to have caught on to the concept of air conditioning, so I was drenched, sweat pouring down my cheeks and neck and into my eyes.
After finally making it through security - which is a *breeze* compared to the upcoming American security system - we had to walk down two flights of steps (why do they call them flights?) that were jammed packed with big bag-toting travelers. We all had the bright idea we'd avoid the crowded elevators. Um, wrong.
Finally downstairs with only the occasional bruise from flying elbows (I can empathize with David Beckam et al), we waited another forever in a (very hot) bus as it waited to collect all the passengers heading for Newark.
When everyone eventually arrived, we were driven out to the tarmac and our plane. We walked up the steps and *mercifully* the plane was only half full (or half empty if you're the sort to see things that way), so many of us have three seats to ourselves to stretch out, rest, write or whatever.
I'm making the most of it now because the plane from Newark to Seattle is packed. Jammed. All seats filled.
I can't help but wonder how, only a few decades ago, travelers only had the shoe leather express, horses, trains and boats carrying them to far away destinations.
Today, not only is long distance travel much less time consuming and more comfortable, but virtual visiting ... is only one click away.
June 9 2006 ** live from England **
After a Wednesday night meeting a Corrie chatroom mate and having a typical delightful and enlightening debate with John and Nikki on hand as well, I prepared myself for a very long day of travel the next day (Thursday).
And what a whirlwind day of sightseeing it was!
My friends (fake names, natch!) Deneuve, who flew in from Paris and Kiera from England swept me away from the Piccadilly Train Station in Manchester ..
.. on a morning ride to Stockport!
Taking me to Lyme Park - another extraordinary estate preserved for the common good to be viewed, used and appreciated by the public.
The hitch to getting there from the train station is that it's quite a walking distance. Kiera assured us that we'd walk about a mile, then buses would run from the gate to the grounds - which is *quite* a distance.
Quelle surprise! Today was the buses day *off.*
Tramp, tramp, tramp the girls are marching - on a bloody hot day!
We decided to give hitchhiking a go, and mercifully, an older British couple picked us up and let us off at the grounds!
Sadly the main mansion is closed on Thursdays, so we missed the interior (I *joke* about this - "No worries. Just another old house. Old furniture. Old paintings.") but did NOT miss the beautiful grounds and walked throughout the massive estate!
After a spot of tea ourselves, we sauntered up the hill to the main road back to the gate. We started hitchhiking a bit earlier this time and a delightful young man - the photographer for the local newspaper, Dominic Salter - gave us a ride all the way to the train station! Cheers, Dom!
And we were off to Buxton.
Beautiful Buxton is known for, among other things, its wonderful water - sold by the bottle in the UK. Here's a spout from which the locals fill their bottles with pure Buxton H2O - along with what it looks like on the shelf.
Besides beautiful buildings and a massive public park (the UK is blessed with so many gorgeous parks for its public), Buxton features a cave - Poole's Cavern, named after a notorious bandit of olde named John Poole who hid there - along with his loot. Touring children are advised that there *very well* might be a treasure chest hiding in there somewhere! Ooooooooo!
Mind you, Kiera said the Cavern is only a 5-10 minute walk from the train station.
Add another *hour* to that 5-10 minute estimate and you'd be accurate. I asked if her interpretation of the 5-10 minute walk is "as the crow flies," and she admitted, no, it just took her about that long to get there in her two-seater *sports car* when she took another friend who met her at the station ...
I could imagine her breezing along the streets, convertible top down, sunglasses sparkling, neck scarf waving in the wind and smiling as she squealed the tires from the train station to the Cavern, sliding into a parking space ..
Here at last, here at last. Thank God almighty we were here at last.
The cave tour was well worth every step! Not to mention the company of Kiera and Deneuve. I was particularly thrilled that Deneuve understood my French .. that I didn't have to pardon it.
An early dinner and lovely train ride back to Manchester topped off a day of *walking* and great company.
Countryside we saw from the train.
We discussed things national and international, personal and professional - these women are tops in their professions - politics, humour and all the other things that make for a lively and insightful exchange.
I was so grateful they had time to share with me on my visit - I told them (truthfully) that even if we had simply sat at the Piccadilly Train Station all day, I would have had a great time because I enjoyed their company that much.
Cheers, mates! Thanks so much again for all your generosity, Kiera! And Deneuve - tu es un ange!
When I arrived back at the townhouse, I admitted to John and Nikki that after 15 days, I was. Walked. Out.
There is lots to reflect on, so much learned and so many new sights I've seen and people I've had the pleasure of meeting. But that will have to wait. Today it's the start of World Cup soccer games, tomorrow I am taking the day *off,* then spending the evening at a pub featuring karaoke so I should be up quite late before my flight leaves Sunday morning.
I did everything I set out to do for myself; and since I came with no expectations, anything I might have wondered or hoped for was exceeded and by miles. Happy girl returning to Seattle, me. Only with a British accent.
Sort of. Well, at least it's better than Madonna's. ;-)
If you've been reading my blog throughout my trip, thanks for sticking around - and of course thanks to John for putting them up every day. Speaking of John, here's the photo he proclaims the best of the holiday! It's mine!
I can assure you there are more adventures coming in the future.
'til Monday! A bientôt, mes amis!
June 8 2006 ** live from England **
Today's blog is quite short because about all we did was *write* yesterday!
Many many hours of writing, challenging this and that, editing and... well, pretty much all you'd hear would be clacking keys and us playing musical chairs.
In this particular case, I don't mean traditional musical chairs.
You see, John's chair squeaks a certain tone .. and the chair I use squeaks an entirely different tone. So on the occasion we'd both be thinking quietly, we'd also squeak out a tune.
I shall spare you all the punny titles that include the word chair in them (i.e., Chairy, Chairy Baby; Chairish Is The Word - that's not all of them so I can assure you I *am* sparing you..).
Today I worked on a feature script that's pretty commercial - which means we can either try to sell it or FYP can produce it. We'll see how the breeze blows!
It should be completed by the end of June, at which time we'll focus solely on producing Mortal Wound in time for submission to film festivals who have early deadlines.
John worked on his novel, and I think he has very good reason to have high hopes for not only its publication but book sales! He came up with a stronger title today, which I think will also influence sales.
Today it's off for a full day with friends I've known online for some time - one from Paris, another from England - but have never met in person! I'm so looking forward to meeting them!
We're taking the train from Manchester to Lyme Park, then we're walking around the park, then we're having lunch, walking more and then .... ??? It's supposed to be *hot!* So I hope we'll be walking among the trees!
I don't know if you heard, but there was one suspect arrested in Manchester Tuesday and another detained in Dewsbury who are reportedly associated with the 17 Toronto men taken into custody accused of planning terrorist activities in Canada. Activities that included beheading Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Toronto Globe & Mail newspaper reports that the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) have disrupted several terrorist activities in Canada when there was not enough legal evidence to make arrests.
Two men in London, England were detained Saturday, June 3, by British authorities who said they had intelligence the men possessed a chemical weapon. TV news here made this an ongoing, major story over the weekend.
One of the men was shot but with no life threatening injuries. Representatives in London's Muslim community are upset because they charge the government had no solid evidence that the so-called chemical weapon exists and acted too hastily.
June 7 2006 ** live from England **
Well, today - Tuesday - I wrote for seven hours straight after John and I went on an extended brisk morning walk for an hour and 20 minutes.
He was kind enough to bring me tea and a nip of food during all that time. Bless him. I could definitely get used to writing like this!
I've suggested I receive the same treatment to Brittany Quist, my partner/CEO at FYP Productionz when I return to Seattle .. but I think there's something amiss with her computer. Haven't heard back from her, yet.
Although I could *swear* I hear her laughing .. some 7,000+ miles away!?
But, seeing's how it would be incredibly boring to hear about me finishing the new first draft of the screenplay I'm directing the end of next month for FYP (ideas, keys clacking, angst! more ideas, more clacking, anger! online research, still more clacking, look out! rewrite a scene, clack clack clack, SOB!), I thought it would be more fun for you to see the pictures I took along our walk this morning!
BTW, John's photos have been complimented by blog readers who have contacted me -- thanks on his behalf! And you should know that the piccies not copyrighted by John are actually *my* photos because all my work on the site is copyrighted by me.
Like, they're ones *I've* taken.
With my camera.
So .. if anyone .. likes *them,* feel free to comment as well ..
Of course John crops them all to spruce them up, but .. I, you know, pointed and pulled the trigger, as it were ...
Here are the walk around Manchester photos:
The evening was spent at Annie's fascinating
She let me play her keyboards and sing, then showed me how she puts the songs together one instrument at a time on her 64 track sound board. I've worked with similar programs for film soundtracks, but it was really fun and informative watching her create every instrument's particular sound. She can create massive numbers of sounds and instruments - I *loved* the oboe, it didn't sound computerized in the least.
I can see why everyone likes to
I asked Annie and John if I could let you hear a sample of my favorite part of my favorite song on their Suburban Nostalgia CD, Broken Rules (Lyrics by John Beresford, music by Annie Wallace). They said yep!
June 6 2006 ** live from England **
Last night I had the pleasure and privilege of watching and hearing a song come to life!
John's songwriting partner, the multi-talented actress and musician Annie Wallace came over.
John sang the lyrics he wrote for music she composed. She was effusive in her praise - well done, mate! She also brought over the mp3 version of her new composition - inspired by sunshine! We loved it!
Now John will write lyrics for it and down the road they'll record it for their second CD - this is the fourth of several songs they'll do for the album - then put some of the songs out as demos to be purchased by other singers and bands.
This means the singing doesn't have to be totally polished and professional, but the singers and bands interested in the songs need to clearly hear what they'd sound like!
We go to Annie's studio Tuesday night to sing and play with all her amazing electronic music making equipment! She stars in the Kathy Bates role for the new theatrical rendition of Misery on UK stages this coming November. Remind me *not* to tell her I'm a writer! ;-)
Today, Monday, it was off to The Lakes region, where after a long drive we had a typical British breakfast - eggs on toast for me, many more things on toast for John.
Beautiful waterside area populated by many swans, who get along well with all the other bird inhabitants.
A *lot* of people bring their dogs when they travel - and many we saw have two.
Off to another area, Windermere, which was quite crowded so we just enjoyed the scenery and many *many* swans on hand!
Then, can you guess where we went?
Yep, Liverpool. Home of the Beatles so we sang Beatles' tunes for our car-aoke selections in honor. Here's the building - with the Liver Birds on top - after which the city was named.
During World War II, Liverpool took massive hits from the Germans because it was not only an industrial center, making machinery, boats and other equipment to fight the war, but a key waterway to transport all those war effort goods to the front!
The city took a downward turn a few decades later, when manufacturers in other countries, most notably the Japanese, built the same boats, machinery and equipment much more efficiently and for less money.
But the city is thriving today!
Being chosen the "Most Cultural" city in all of Europe this year, a top international honor, Liverpool has been granted large sums of money for local development projects.
A spot of tea ("There's nawt like a spot!"), and we were on our way home, chatting and singing.
After a smashing salmon dinner and watching 90 minutes of Corrie thanks to TIVO, Lucy Benjamin won X-Factor celebrity style! The three-month pregnant former East Enders actress started out the most frightened, self-conscious, nervous performer of the lot - and ended up the most confident, top performing champion! She sang the brilliant Girls Aloud song "See The Day" and did a smashing job.
I don't *think* this is a bad thing, but John *did* mention that he will need a "fortnight's vacation" (that's two weeks) when I leave next Sunday!
Pshaw! What does it take to squeeze in a little daily singing, serious writing, walking, car travelling, photo taking, laughing hysterically, coaching, daily blog webmastering, long chats, great meals, socializing, X-Factor (celebrity style) and Coronation Street watching with a friend?
Being the thoughtful, *mostly* quiet guest I am? Why, gosh, it's almost as if you'd hardly notice I'm here! :-)
June 5 2006 ** live from England **
John agrees. He does not know anyone else who comes thousands of miles from their home and gets the photograph of a rooster walking behind an alleyway next to a restaurant.
Here's what happened.
We went to dinner at a fascinating Indian restaurant - the Nawaab - where they served more than 20 quality (yes, really!), tasty dishes, smorgasbord style.
As we were leaving, the cashier invited us to take photos of the Indian wedding taking place upstairs -- with some 500 people on hand. I couldn't say no, so ...
Which takes us to .. walking back to the car, when I could *swear* I heard a rooster crowing nearby. So I investigated, and found the roving rooster! Snap!
I'm not sure what this says about me, but I don't ... think ... it's ... a *bad* thing .. ;-)
Walking around Manchester, one of the first things that hits you: fresh air! The air is so clean and clear. It's invigorating.
Despite impressions created by media images of a certain group/class of British people being snooty, snobby or feeling they're better or know better than others, all the people I've met here have been lovely. They're down to earth, modest, kind, talented and have positively no pretence - in their attitudes, attire, the vehicles they drive or their living quarters.
More, they are the most accepting folk - no matter what condition (or how many) one's teeth, one's body type or size, or one's age. Everyone appears to be taken at a sort of soul value (as opposed to a face value).
Unlike the US, this is also apparent in their television programming (some 400+ channels here) where people of all sorts, types, shapes, colors and sizes are well employed in drama, comedy and commercials.
Speaking of television (and films) - once again I'm stricken with the disparity of exchange between the US and the rest of the world. In Seattle, we enjoy CBC-TV from Canada (which includes some programs from the UK), BBC America; a few UK programs are also shown on PBS and a few cable channels, but by comparison the UK is swimming in American programs and films.
I'm not saying every program created here is a gem, but there are several that I wish had the opportunity to be seen by audiences in the US.
I'm told by those who are "supposed to know" that American audiences don't tolerate the various British, Scottish, Australian or Irish accents, understand British and other UK countries' senses of humour, etc., but I would argue perhaps that's because American audiences simply haven't been exposed to enough of the work.
This uneven exchange is not only apparent here, it's worldwide. I've covered the Banff International Television Festival and I can tell you it features dozens of award-winning programs from throughout the world I certainly loved, but knew they would never see the light of day in America.
The result, sadly, is a more insular American culture, while the rest of the world is working hard to become more interdependent, interactive and global in its relationships - whether financial, social, personal, professional, business or cultural.
June 4 2006 ** live from England **
Sunday morning felt like the perfect time to head out on my own for a brisk walk!
Especially since everyone else at the townhouse wanted to have a lie about instead of getting themselves up and outdoors like this wacky yank!
John drew me a map of the area, so I felt quite confident and more than a little smart when I stepped off the walk, my water bottle in hand!
Now the term, "lost" is relative, isn't it?
I mean one can not know exactly where one is, can't one? But sooner or later, one can ask directions for a main roadway near the townhouse, can't one?
A brisk walk turned out to be a rather nice adventure in the streets of the neighborhood, and gives me the opportunity to send some photos of a few details the uninitiated might enjoy.
For example, it's common for cars to be parked on the sidewalk, no matter the direction of the vehicle compared to the direction the traffic is moving on the street.
And here, one doesn't "yield" to oncoming traffic, one gives way.
One isn't instructed to "scoop your poop," but rather not to foul the footpath!
A friendly cat pranced up to me, rubbed against my legs and plopped on her side, asking for pets! Missing my own cat at home, I obliged!
I knew I was moving in the right direction (at last!) when I came across a familiar massive graveyard. I'm taking a graveyard tour soon - there are many pithy comments on tombstones waiting to be captured.
Home at last, long after I expected to return, but well exercised and experiencing the lovely area in the quiet of a Sunday morning in Manchester - hearing church bells ring, very few people on the street other than the occasional jogger.
Something I haven't mentioned - for obvious reasons, is that I accidentally dropped my camera in the loo at Chatsworth. Mercifully, it was as I entered the room, not... well... Glub glub glub, it was completely drenched in toilet water. Eeeeeew.
So I fished it out, washed it best I could and realized that the nylon handle I often put in my mouth to hold the camera as I organized whatever else I carried would never find its way back there again!
We could only hope that after the camera dried it would work again - it was incapacitated after being rescued and dried as much as possible with paper towels.
Thankfully, John took up my slack on photo taking tasks, and you've had the good fortune to enjoy his piccies here, many of which have received compliments from those reading and responding to the blog!
Well, it's two days later and it *appeared* to possibly, finally be working again this morning, so I gave it a go with a shot of the stairwell at John's three level townhouse:
Out to dinner with the family at a great restaurant then it's back to writing and watching the semi-finals of the notorious X-Factor, celebrity edition. Last night prayers from TV viewers with bleeding ears throughout the UK were answered at last: the Chefs were given the boot!
Incidentally, if you've any interest in reading pithy reviews of this absolutely cheesy but guilty pleasure program, check out John's reviews at tvscoop.
Word has it the reason The Chefs were so freely exuberant and had no compunction about being ridiculously silly is that they were massively stocking up on Dutch courage before they performed. Back stage, after these guys started falling down as they were "singing" and "dancing," producers told staff to HIDE THE WHISKEY!
June 3 2006 ** live from England **
What a gorgeous sunny day in Manchester!
It's an easy stay here today. John's daughters have come over and they are all that and a bag of chips! Positively wonderful, delightful, beautiful, talented and *smart!*
We went to see The X-Men film. It was my first exposure to them and the film was actually pretty well made technically. Great talent, but it's clear the producers asked themselves, "who cares a whit about the script, eh?"
Certainly not them!
It was fun to see Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) made up as a furry blue mutant - an intellectual blue man spouting profundities, of course.
A typical British tea of cold meats, cheese, chutneys and more - will be followed by a viewing of the hot TV show Doctor Who and of course, the celebrity X-Factor. Although I've pretty much lost interest in the contest since Nikki Sanderson was dumped in favor of four chefs who can't sing or dance but have no qualms about being completely silly onstage.
While that might be entertaining in an "it's so awful it's funny" way, the audience has been reminded time and again that it's a "talent contest" and a "singing contest."
On the other hand, Nikki's voice was giving out (as were all the amateur singers' voices) - they said she had tonsillitis, so perhaps it's best she gets the time off to rest, now.
Meanwhile, lots of writing to be done today and this evening - for FYP Productionz and character development for my new scripts. Tomorrow it's dinner out, having fun with the girls and ... writing!
I'm also doing some producing and directing homework for a project I'll be directing in about two months.
Yes, writers write on their vacations. Even if I weren't spending time with a writing partner, I write at least 1-2 hours every day, no matter what else is happening around me.
June 2 2006 ** live from England **
Best news first!
Hewitt/Loos(er) got booted off celebrity X-Factor! (See previous posts to understand who these slags are!)
Contestant Nikki Sanderson (former Coronation Street actress) has steadily lost steam since her great opening night, and may get tossed tonight unless she brings her A-game in. There are those who think she hasn't got an A-game; I'll just hope she does. Chris Moyles and Matt Stevens are the top contenders in my eyes now, although everyone is getting quite tired - except ex-East Enders actress Lucy Benjamin, and she's singing for two (three months' pregnant).
UK reality host extraordinaire Kate Thornton does a *fantastic* job here - no wonder Simon Cowell flips so much diss Ryan Seacrest's way when he works with someone as astute, talented and sharp as Kate. Alas, word is she's a party girl so some nights she looks a bit rugged. Stop partying, Kate! You're too good for that!
Sensational day today at an incredible place, Chatsworth
This is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and regardless of where you fall on the subject of royalty, my hunch is that you will appreciate the life, ideals and work of the 11th Duke, Andrew Cavendish. He made certain the massive estate would be open for the public to enjoy!
More, there are some 500 locals employed to run and maintain Chatsworth and not in menial jobs. There are celebrations and festivities going on all year 'round on the grounds.
People are welcome to bring their pups. We spotted the most popular breed of the day - the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
The mansion has massive exhibitions of paintings, sculptures and other artwork created over the centuries for one and all to take in.
It also features examples of the lifestyles of the royal and famous enjoyed over the centuries at Chatsworth.
A fascinating attraction in the garden is the sculpture of a willow tree with water spouting out tiny holes made in the branches to have it literally be a "Weeping" Willow.
There is so much more - between the gardens, artwork, farm and extensive 35,000 surrounding acreage it would take three days for a *proper* visit, but one day we got in most of the sights and happily, it was a beautiful sunny day!
Sadly, Andrew died in 2004. His eulogy spoke of his kindness, generosity, keen wit, intelligence and heart. His was not an easy life, despite his station, and he made the most of it for the whole of the UK as well as his close family. The day of his death, more than 20,000 notes and cards were received from all over the world - from famous and unknown, from rich and poor alike - mourning his passing.
The world could use more people like Andrew.
The scenery to and from Chatsworth is nothing short of breathtaking. While we got some fantastic photos along the way, I still don't believe they do the land justice.
I captured the image of sheep in three stages: baby, two adults whose coats have been sheared and another adult, whom I called "Puff" because of his royal wooliness.
We also stopped at a lovely tea room The Three Roofs in Castleton, where we enjoyed a typical British breakfast - a cuppa (fantastic!) Earl Grey tea and toasted tea cakes.
The way home, I bent John's ear at length about three scripts I'm writing. Two are well in hand, and I came up with a proper ending to one as I simply talked about it. The third I not only spoke about at length but reviewed all the problems it had.
I finally tossed it and started over again with a completely new direction for the story and characters.
Here's where I went wrong: instead of making all the characters very active and reactive, the premise made them too passive. Alter the premise, now everyone's in deep doo-doo, fighting their way out of the mire, desperate to resolve a very sad situation too often glossed over in other films and books.
Trying to fix the first script wasn't working. Every time I came up with a *solution,* John would only have more questions or point out that at this juncture he didn't care about the characters, nothing compelled him to want to see these people work anything out, etc.
It's important that the person you speak with be honest, even brutally so, if you want to do decent work.
When I tossed the old script and came up with the new premise, he came alive! "Yes! Think of how much more everyone has to lose!" he said. Well, being British, you can remove those exclamation points ... ;-)
If you're a writer and don't know this, it always helps to talk through your work. I suggest using a tape recorder and listening back to it. John has heard of using the cardboard cutout of someone, just to get you talking.
Now, while I know talking these things out helps one's work immensely, John finally told me the reason *why.*
"Talking uses a different part of the brain," he said. He's currently finishing his novel, Love on a Wire, and we both will be completing scripts number two and three of a trilogy we're co-writing.
E you tomorrow!
June 1 2006 Bonus Edition ** live from England **
A day for writing (what - you think those screenplays, books, essays, articles and columns create themselves?), errands (including my favorite - going to a British grocery store with their fabulous trolleys!) and of course watching the celebrity version of X-Factor on the telly tonight.
Simon Cowell proved himself to be more of a rotter than the UK's ultimate cad, no-talent contestant James Hewitt ("Harry's dad," tongues wag here. Hewitt had an affair with Princess Diana and was so cruel and greedy he wrote a book all about it! Blaggard.).
Cowell voted off the better of the two least vote-getters after their sing-off last night. Apparently, at one time he was turned down by popular page 3 model (topless) Michelle Marsh, so he took his revenge by giving her the boot.
Well, Cowell may have just catapulted the (much) less than moderately talented blonde into a record contract because the country now has so much sympathy for her that they'd buy it simply to spite Simon! Tosser.
The three top contestants in my eyes are Nikki Sanderson (former Coronation Street actress), Chris Moyles (pop disc jockey here) and Matt Stevens (popular and charming rugby player for Bath and England, originally from South Africa). They're all singing for charity, working their a**es off, pouring their hearts out every night for audience votes - every telephoned vote at the end of the program means money for their respective charity.
As I've written, John and I write back to back in his den. Mostly what you hear are birds singing outside complemented with our rhythm section of keyboards clacking inside. Periodically we stop to ask each other a question, have a discussion or read something aloud we particularly enjoy from what we've written or read on the Internet. It's also fun to send an email to one another - nearly inches away!
Interestingly, I'm used to spending hours on end alone when I write - I'm delighted at how comfortable it is to work with John in the same room. I'm not sure this would work with *any* writer who happens by, but it's great to have it happen here! ;-)
Of course I don't spend *all* my time in here. We don't wear shoes inside so I also love to take a good slide on the town house living room floor! Apparently one of John's daughters who will be visiting this weekend is also keen on a good skid! Aha! Do I smell .. competition ..? I'll have to polish my socks! ;-)
Words here tend to end in the sound "eee."
I didn't have a chest cough. No, I had a "chesty" cough. One doesn't wear comfortable pants. One wears "comfy" pants. One doesn't look at pictures. One browses through "piccies." Presents are "pressies," and so on.
And Brits don't understand why the rest of the world thinks all British men are gay!? [Understand? We didn't KNOW! Ed.]
John and I started a daily early morning brisk fitness walk today of a mile and a half!
Since I'm feeling better, now, it's time to get moving again and we'll double that distance in the next day or two! My Seattle fitness coach would be proud, and I'd love to surprise her by knocking off a pound or two before I leave!
Actually, I'd love to please *myself* by maintaining my weight loss program under any circumstances that present themselves no matter where I am. I have my coach to thank - I've learned so much about nutrition and movement from her it's made a huge difference in my psychological and physical well being.
Speaking of which, I'm getting my hair done today at a local beautery (my own word Brit-icized), after which I'll take a lovely walk back to the townhouse. Two healthy walks in one day! I'm back on track!
Back to writing, me - it's a beautiful nearly sunny day in Manchester!
Eh. Meh. Ged.
I have found, thanks to John & Nikki, the *most wonderful* hair stylist - ever - in a modest Manchester neighborhood beauty shoppe!
Karen is her name, and hair dressing is her game!
She understands fine hair completely, and mine couldn't be more fine without becoming invisible!
The young hair washer/apprentice was superb - best hair wash I've ever had. In the US, hair washers tend to be a bit tentative - rubbing rather than scrubbing! Two shampoos and a conditioning and my scalp was *alive* and happy!
Then Karen said, "You're not doing yourself any favors with this haircut."
I replied, "Have at it!" And she did!
Scissors in hand, she grabbed wafts of my hair and chop chop! Whack whack. It was nearly Edward Scissorhands magic.
In addition to being exquisitely brilliant at her trade, she's a beauty herself. A large headshot of her hangs in the shoppe which looks like she may have been a model - or might still be.
Also on hand is the large parlor pup! Wonderful to pet since I miss my own dogs - no travelling for them to the UK because there's a six-month quarantine policy for incoming pets.
What a fantastic experience! Thanks to everyone at AT!
One of the more popular birds indigenous to this area: the magpie.
These are birds that mate for life, so it's common to see them in pairs; chances are if you see one on his or her own, it's because they've lost a partner.
So there's a saying for when one sees magpies:
One for sorrow.
Today on a walk, a pair of them landed directly in front of me - oh, *joy!* :-)
Of course everywhere one turns here, one is reminded it is World Cup season! Brits proudly support their team by buying all sorts of memorabilia - everything from half soccer ball shaped breakfast bowls to hats and riff raff of all sorts as well as flying flags where ever they can!
Here's a brief conversation I had today:
Brit: Fortunately, the corporate culture devouring the US hasn't hit Britain yet.
Me: Ummmmmm.... well...
And explained to him that in the US, Wal-Marts tends to put local and regional governments in the position of subsidizing their workers with food stamps, health care and more because the pay is so low and the benefits so few.
Now for some good news!
Thank you for taking in my website! We've received more than 40,000 hits in May as well as informed and entertained some 1,500 new visitors! Welcome! Bienvenue! Wilkommen!
June 1 2006 ** live from England **
'twas a day of merriment, footpaths and taking in the sights of centuries old buildings, furniture, history and drama - all to delve into the life and fabric of William Shakespeare's existence -- his places of birth and death; other homes of those related to him and of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford upon Avon (which is undergoing a transformation to resemble an authentic Shakespearean theatre of olde!).
Of course what would a British icon be without a ration of gossip? He married Anne Hathaway - him 18, her 26 - when she was three months pregnant. Since he only left her their *second* best bed in his will, I'm assuming the match was not made in heaven.
They had three children: two daughters and a son; the boy died at the age of 11, devastating the bard. Some say he never fully recovered from his grief over losing the youngster, though he was always close with his eldest daughter Susanna, whom he left the majority of his homes and wealth when he died on his birthday, April 23, 1616.
Meanwhile, did you know that Shakespeare didn't do one original work? He based all his pieces on myth, folklore, and stories handed down through the ages. His brilliance came in translating them for the theater through poetry.
More, he was quite wealthy. Quite the producer and businessman, he.
His mother, Mary Arden, had a posh house - for the time. It houses a small farm of animals, including rare chicken breeds, small animals and a falconry - with several breeds of falcons at various ages and levels of taming.
There's lots more all about this at http://www.shakespeare.org.uk
The four hour round trip afforded us a lot of *car-aoke* singing and chat time - and we stopped to have a proper English cream tea! This means putting cream in your cup, followed by brewed English tea and a lump or so of sugar, plus fresh scones with clotted cream and raspberry preserves.
It's a good thing we spent some four hours walking to work that off!
The most impressive thing to me, as usual, is the energy exuded by these centuries old homes, furniture and artefacts. I keep putting my palms on everything, soaking it up!
Speaking of ancient buildings, here's a great shot inside Manchester Cathedral John captured yesterday.
The countryside here must be seen to be believed. There's so much of it and it's brilliantly cared for.
Apparently it's caused quite a row here because whilst there are 67 million people, there are 30 million cars - and those who want to preserve the countryside do *not* want any more roads built, which would harm the land and the breathtaking views. But the country's narrow streets in the cities and roadways for longer travel appear to have met their efficiency level!
Overcrowded traffic problems appear to be universal, and like the US where there is a lack of long term planning and execution of well devised solutions - Britain appears to have short (read "election") term agenda for solving problems of transportation, education, health care, etc.
Interestingly, I was told today that I could move here and make a dandy living coaching actors for the camera - privately as well as for established drama schools. I've always been one not to restrict myself, so perhaps I can do some occasional work here and maintain my career in Seattle, as FYP Productionz is my priority right now!
Special break-in blog
A toast - to all who serve now and to all who have served in the past - paying the ultimate price for the freedoms so many of us take for granted.
May 31 2006 ** live from England **
Knackered, me, after a day of a Manchester walk about!
Much more on this later, but a few notes: seeing Manchester from at least a hundred feet atop a huge enclosed ferris wheel-type gondola situated smack in the middle of town known only as The Wheel. Truly a high ... light. :-)
It affords a perfect 360° overhead view of the entire area so riders can see everything from the Manchester United soccer stadium to other famous and infamous structures.
There's a bit of controversy about The Wheel - the decision was made to remove it in a matter of days (I got here just in time!) to make way for a gigantic screen on which Mancunians can watch the FIFA World Cup (soccer) competition.
It's estimated every pub will be rammed, tellys turned on in every home along with dozens of other outlets for everyone and her cat to see the World Cup, so many folk here would prefer to leave the stunning, German-made ultra view ride where it is.
But World Cup big screen aficionados won out.
The Manchester Art Gallery, in addition to exhibiting many fine works of the past several centuries, is featuring a large room where conservationists are rescuing and renovating James Etty's largest painting, The Sirens and Ulysses.
It was fascinating to watch one of the conservationists work - focusing on an area so small she did not appear to move anywhere else on the canvas all the time we were there.
I lit a few candles in the historical and ancient Manchester Cathedral for friends, family and my health! If you're interested, my cough is much better today!
It's remarkable to be around buildings and all the history they've housed over the centuries here. I touched many of them, imbued with the energy carried by all those who have come before.
Lunch at Manchester's historical inn, The Old Wellington, was delicious, nutritious and hearty. The weather is perfect for eating outside and enjoying a long conversation. The original building - Manchester's oldest inn, by the by - was badly damaged in a 1996 IRA terrorist bombing, which blew out much of the city centre, but it was restored and later relocated!
They actually moved it 100 metres from its birthplace - when it was painstakingly dismantled and identically reassembled, brick by brick, mortar by mortar in its new location!
Some observations about Manchester: there are no cars or drinking alcohol outside allowed in the city center; some bus routes are active there but it's basically a Shoe Leather Express transport system and no one complains because so much is so readily available.
Everywhere we went, people hold hands. Men and women and every mix and match pairing thereof - young and old. I wish Americans would follow their example. There's something comforting about seeing so many people touching one another in a receptive, communicative way.
I mentioned the World Cup, which starts June 9 in Germany but nations for whom soccer is nearly a religion are already in a frenzy over it.
Another mania here is the British TV live performance program Celebrity X-Factor. It's a crazy concoction of non-singing celebrities who must win a singing competition and every night they remain on, their charity gets more money.
Simon Cowell of "American Idol" fame is one of the judges - and let me tell you it's refreshing to see him relaxed, compassionate (yes, you read that right) and supportive of contestants! He is home in Great Britain and it shows - he's no created persona for this show!
How it works: what we would call C or D list celebrities in the US - renowned for their work and achievements in Rugby playing, cooking, magic acts, reality TV, along with a disc jockey, ex-soap opera stars and more - are selected and taught to sing a song for the competition.
Starting with nine acts, each night someone is eliminated.
Unlike the US, elimination takes place minutes after the competition ends, no waiting overnight.
When the lines open at the end of all performances, the public votes for its favorite act via a telephone call - for which they pay a fee, part of which goes to the celebrity's charity of choice.
Now, after the voting lines are closed, the two acts receiving the fewest votes perform again in a sing-off.
The range of talent and sound went from A to, truly, z. We screamed in agony at one group's performance - oh, yes, there are individual and group acts. Groups of likely and unlikely suspects (such as four renowned chefs put together) also compete.
More, and disgustingly, they had the cad of all time, James Hewitt on with Rebecca Loos (whose name should end with an "e," from her behaviour and reputation!). These two were boo'ed at the end of their song, "Addicted to Love." Not just because the audience, like me, wasn't fond of them, but because they could not sing a single note!
She tried to use her seX-factor, and perhaps that is what saved them last night - the lascivious vote. Ms. Loos' dress came down to just above her naughty bits and as judge Sharon Osbourne observed upon ripping them both apart for existing on the planet - Loos wasn't wearing knickers!
John, Nikki and I decided we must adjust the TV's resolution or perhaps the broadcaster aired that part out...
When one particularly acerbic woman - a reality show host with a disdainful personality sang, we thought for sure she would be eliminated. Sadly, she wasn't. Which means we have to hear her again tonight. We said her gnarly personality killed any chance of making her belted musical request come true: Make Love To Me.
She sang for a charity protecting abused children, and I chided, "Those poor kids are in for a rough patch" if they count on people contributing to their charity. Poor lads and lasses.
Nonetheless, it was divine British entertainment and all for charity. Now we just have seven more nights of this...
Tomorrow: all things Shakespeare!
May 30 2006 ** live from England **
Today I'm visiting a few of the wonders that make Manchester proud - the art gallery, Manchester Cathedral, Lowry Center (Oi! You're in England now! It's Lowry Centre! Ed.) and the Shambles!
Fortunately I had yesterday to help me recover from my seemingly ever present cold and cough.
Sadly, I've sounded like a seal colony since I've arrived (thank heaven I'm not in Canada!*), although I think my left lung has pretty much made its way through my bronchial tubes on its way out, so that should cut my hacking in half.
Off to a great day of taking in the sights, making notes for my screenplay, chatting and singing with John!
See you tomorrow with the reflections and observations!
*There's a huge international controversy about Canada allowing seals to be clubbed and skinned. If I visit there whilst still barking like this, I'll wear a small badge: "NOT A REAL SEAL!"
May 29 2006 ** live from England **
My first visit at a local British pub did not disappoint.
The UK will soon be joining other more health conscious nations when they declare all public places off limits to cigarette smoke, but at this point those addicted to nicotine are still free to light up.
Being allergic to cigarette smoke, I steeled myself for the night ahead. We were shifting from the pub to its adjoining restaurant, where smoking is not permitted, so sitting in the midst of second hand smoke would be mercifully short lived.
Pulling pints is an artform, and our barmaid needed just a bit of adjustment in her form which John kindly requested of her. Trust me, the girl is not working her way through college - at one point we wondered if she even spoke English she was so unresponsive and slow.
What with Bush and Blair and all the political, cultural and social news in the air, I could hardly wait to hear what subjects would wag the tips of all those Manchester tongues! What topped everyone's topic list at just about every table I checked in on? Driving. Stories of trips, driving cars in other nations (where one drives on the "wrong" side of the road and the steering wheel is actually on the left, not the right, where it is in the UK), driving in England and Manchester, driving in Canada and the US - driving.
At the table to my left, a group of men were gathered for a pint and hands mimed steering; at the table directly across from me, motions of shifting gears by some neighbor women taking a Saturday evening to catch up.
Unlike the US, in the UK, the "manual" car is most common by some 90%, not those with automatic gear shifts. Manual in this case is also translated into a number of autospeak titles: stick shift, standard shift, four/five on the floor, etc.
Streets here are narrow and while I've never been in a car driven on the left side with the steering column on the right, I envisioned the switch before arriving so it hasn't bothered me. I've heard that tourists from other nations actually gasp and moan with fright as they traverse British streets as passengers - and of course there are plenty of stories about those who took up driving here trying to make the switch.
Back to the matter at hand.
This particular gathering was a "ping." For me.
Some time ago, Coronation Street fans began the ritual of holding individual parties all over the world honoring people visiting from another country, Corrie actors making a personal appearance in places far away from Manchester, Corrie landmarks (the passing of cast members, the 45th year celebration and the like).
Then some years back, the invitation for one included an historical typographical error. Instead of saying, Join Us For A Pint, the invite read: "Join us for a Ping." And the name stuck.
Included personalities in the festivities: Graham Williams - a rock band (and other genres) musician who is creating a rather massive musical and dramatic CD which can best be described as a musical journey taking place in a story that's a cross between War of the Worlds and Rocky Horror Picture Show. He wants me to perform several voices for the CD, so it was great fun to hear more of his ideas and where he is on the project.
I think it's safe to say you'll be able to see this in theatrical and film formats in the near future!
Also on hand, the multi-talented Annie Wallace, who has been cast in the Kathy Bates role for a British theatrical treatment of Misery currently being developed for a Manchester theater, which will be directed by Ian Kershaw. Kershaw is married to lovely Julie Hesmondhalgh - she plays Hayley on Corrie, the first transgendered character in the world featured as a regular cast member on a television series.
And Hayley has the good fortune to be married to Corrie character Roy Cropper, performed brilliantly day in and day out by the inimitable David Nielson.
Manchester is rich in cultural formats - sporting 13 formal theater venues, Granada studios (which produces many television programs, including Corrie) nearby and many others in the region. Like so many European and UK nations, the government financially supports its national art and artists - including filmmakers - in a way the US would never consider. Which is not only a reflection of US government policy but of how the nation tends to view art and artists. Fodder for another blog, indeed.
Interestingly, when I described some of what Alec Baldwin shared with me regarding acting for the camera for my movieScope interview, John chided me with a loud, "WHO?" and noted to one and all that it took a mere one hour, forty minutes for me to drop his name. Hmph.
Well, it wasn't ten minutes later that *John* proclaimed loudly to the group that *his* photo is on the same web page as Alec Baldwin's!
To which I responded loudly, "WHO?" and looked at my own watch. The table trembled with guffaws and hands hitting the table. Caught in your own gotcha, my friend!
I *love* show people! At one point in the dinner everyone except Diane (from Canada) and me burst out in the theme song from an old popular British TV program called Magpie. Voices loud and clear and harmonizing, who had more fun than our table?
While the restaurant's fare was quite tasty (all new British dishes for this American palate), including the Spotted Dick dessert, I can understand why, at any gathering in Seattle when we're trying to decide what to order in or take out, no one chimes up with, "Hey, let's eat British!"
What a fabulous evening. Thank you, Corrie ping-ers!
May 28 2006 ** live from England **
I've only been here two and a half days and already I'm in love with Manchester!
The people, buildings, the streets, parks, cemeteries (I'll post a blog with notable tomb stone literature from them later), the ambiance, the energy, even the weather.
Yesterday we (John, his partner Nikki and I) went grocery shopping - which apparently is a Saturday morning family affair. Dads, moms, kids, grand and great-grandfolk, and couples of every persuasion were all out at the largest store - Tesco's - stocking up on nutritional fare for the week.
The grocery carts here are brilliant! Unlike those in the US, they can be pulled sideways, circled easily and danced with properly because each of the four wheels turns freely! I was the family sherpa, pushing it hither and yon as it filled with delicacies, British food surprises and victuals for the week.
John and I have worked on some writing projects (we work back to back on separate computers in his den) as well as getting some coaching time in for his vocals. He is the lyric writing side of a songwriting team; he and his partner record music on their own as well as create songs for other singers to purchase and perform.
One thing in life and especially in this business we treasure most dearly is a trusted, true, caring and loving friend. In John I have the best. And to enjoy working with him as my writing partner is a huge bonus.
We met some six years ago - he visited Seattle for a Microsoft week long seminar. We knew each other only slightly on a Coronation Street chat room and agreed to have lunch while he was there. A simple lunch has turned into a great mentorship, friendship and working relationship over the years. He had always wanted to follow his passion of writing and hadn't yet found the courage - I told him I'd help him take care of that pronto. I had always needed a webmaster for my various website ideas! Done deal.
As I explained in an earlier blog, what kicked this mutual admiration society off is that we make each other laugh - a lot. We take ourselves lightly, our work seriously.
We've gone through our share of individual ups and downs; a divorce and new relationship for him, all over the map craziness for me in my career along with a nasty bout with cancer. No matter where we are in our lives, for some reason - call it appreciation, respect, gratitude, paying attention, caring deeply or combination thereof - we know we are there for each other and there's nothing we can't share.
We've spoken of having me visit Manchester for years, but of course especially after my bout with cancer, financial reserves were depleted. So you can imagine my surprise, delight and ecstasy when I received an email from John and Nikki last Christmas with the subject: WE WON'T ACCEPT NO FOR AN ANSWER!!!
They said they were paying for the trip here, no strings or questions allowed, only great fun.
I was thrilled, we arranged the dates, purchased the airline tickets and here I am.
Well, it did take approximately 19 hours of travel time from Seattle ... before and during which I was so excited I couldn't sleep. Mind you, it's not just John and Nikki (and meeting John's incredibly delightful and talented daughters!), that captured my waking moments, but I have wanted to visit England for just about as long as I could remember. A lot of literary history has been born here, not to mention history itself!
When I travel, I'm not a hotel hopping sort. When I visited France for five full weeks, I stayed in the Paris apartment (11th district) of a Seattle couple who live there and wanted to visit their parents in Seattle during that time. Knowing just enough French to prevent me from becoming entangled in an international incident, I would start each day with a backpack full of food and water and head out the door in a different direction.
I got to know the city and country in a way I never would had I stayed in a hotel and did the tourist thing.
So now I get to see and learn about Manchester and several parts of England (including Liverpool and Stratford upon Avon) whilst spending time with a great friend, collaborator and raconteur.
These were all the thoughts that buzzed through my mind as my jet touched down, landing safely on the tarmac of the Manchester International Airport. Exhausted, sick with a cold and cough, I had to take additional time to wait in line and chat briefly with British immigration as I handed in my "landing card."
When I made my way through the luggage bin, out to where folks waiting to greet passengers were gathered, there he was - standing tall in the crowd with that clever smile and look of anticipation we both shared. A long, welcoming hug made it all real, and we headed for his beautiful three story town house where we chatted and laughed until I lost my voice and had to rest.
Something about genuine friends - one feels completely at home in their presence, no matter I'm on the other side of the world from my Seattle house.
May 27 2006 ** live from England **
My first day in Manchester, England!
Thanks to some terrific traveling companions over here on the two extended plane trips from Seattle were quite pleasant.
A young (11 going on 12) man to my left on the plane from Seattle to Newark, New Jersey was a great traveller! With all the bad PR so many plane riding youngsters get, he stood out as being one of the best at any age. His mum, seated just to his left, could be justifiably proud.
On the trip's leg from Newark to Manchester, a delightful Irishman who lives near Manchester and his teenage son sat next to me, and he could not have been more thoughtful, kind and patient! I had the window seat and I have, I believe the smallest (scientifically proved!) bladder on the planet. And I have a seriously awful cold, cough and general malaise - none of which contributed to anyone's good time on the flight!
Watching the baggage handlers load the plane at Seattle was pretty entertaining. A couple of them got into a real row - resulting in one of them *throwing* a vulnerable piece of luggage on the ground. Shouting, screaming, pointing ... then one of them walked away in a huff. I was just thankful that bag wasn't mine. It was finally scraped off the tarmac and pitched into the plane by a huffed handler.
The passengers not at window seats didn't understand it when we window sitters burst out laughing during the video of the chairman and CEO of the airlines as he bragged about the professional, highly trained staff devoted to our well being and that of our possessions.
Manchester is delightfully grey and rainy - similar to Seattle, actually, only cooler.
I had the traditional fish and chips (w/vinegar and salt!) with mushy peas for dinner - that we retrieved from the corner shop just a block away - and despite my no-sleep-for-a-full-day state I still managed to get quite a lot of work done for the new FYP Productionz company Brittany and I just started and other things on my "to do" list.
I am a true Coronation Street fan (the oldest TV soap opera in the world and still extremely popular in the UK - played in prime time!), so it was a real joy to watch my first episode live instead of many months behind as I normally see it on CBC-TV in Seattle, or reading Mike Plowman's world famous video caps of current episodes on its website.
And of course what other popular British Shows did we watch? Of course! American Idol! Here, mercifully, they show the competition program and the results show together! No waiting a day for all that voting business. It was fun to watch the entertaining two hour finale again. That finale was more fun than all five years of the series because it didn't take itself so seriously and because it was all about the singing.
While American Idol can get pretty silly, the one thing about it I like is that it shows the BS one has to endure and hard work one has to do in order to succeed in the world of performing an artistic craft like singing. Like so many of the early hopefuls, most people believe that "all it takes" to succeed is just to get out there and not work diligently perfecting the craft/art. It's good to see so many become better and better with the singing and dancing coaching they received.
And for goodness sake, don't worry about Chris - he'll do just fine with or without "The" crown. And I do love Taylor Hicks' single, "Do I Make You Proud?" Especially in light of the fact that if he had his way, silly Simon Cowell would have dumped Taylor at the outset. Randy and Paula got it right.
Well, enough of that American chit chat, especially in light of Bush and Blair declaring they got it WRONG on the war in Iraq! And Bush admitting he made a mistake with his arrogant statements at the getgo of the conflict! Pigs do fly!
Um, which of course means that we should be sure to wear a hat for at least a couple days ... and most importantly that many lives will now be saved because of this shift in arrogant attitudes and policy.
Well, after a good night's rest, it's off to do more things .. British!
May 25 2006
Fear not, loyal reader, I'm posting "live" blog reports throughout my stay.
I'm so incredibly excited. I'm a huge Coronation Street fan (the oldest TV soap opera in the world -- few pretty people, all great actors and a terrific use of comedy in the writing. I watch it on the CBC channel in Seattle.) and love other British programs as well.
I'll see British and European films, visit Shakespeare's home, go on lots of day trips and visit a number of literary treasures.
Most importantly, I'll simply live the British life with John, his family and friends (many of whom I know - or at least they know of me), going to the "local," the neighborhood pub, even joining in on karaoke night, and hanging out with some great people and their pets!
Unfortunately, the British policy regarding pets to enter the country is so severe that I can't take any of mine.
John and I should also work on some writing projects which will be lots of fun!
I've never been to England before, so it's a dream come true!
May 23 2006
The date I write this today is actually April 20, but I normally write my blogs weeks in advance - although I will be posting live blogs from an upcoming trip.
Mr. Baldwin was extremely gracious, informative and articulate - anyone acting for the camera, at whatever level, will learn a great deal from his knowledge, experience and wisdom.
movieScope readers will be the richer for all he shared; I'm delighted because everything he spoke of is exactly what I've taught my actors throughout my coaching career.
I don't expect everyone to agree with what I teach, and have no problems with people who don't - but having such incredible respect for Mr. Baldwin's skill, craft and reasoning, I can tell you the points he made to help you, which verifies what I say to my actors, gave me quite a thrill.
May 21 2006
I suggested him to my editor as our first maiden edition subject for my camera acting column because in addition to being a fine actor and superstar, Baldwin has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of aspiring and accomplished actors over the years. It has clearly been a passion of his, with most of his efforts aimed at students of NYU's Tisch School of Drama.
And the point of movieScope is to empower those working in film - actors, writers, directors and producers.
The article will focus solely on the subject of camera acting - techniques, experiences and advice that will help readers who are established actors, beginners or intrigued by the profession.
I have three pages of hand written questions based on my research and information from people who have known and studied with him. I have like half an hour for an interview that could easily take hours based on his vast knowledge, experience and passion.
I've also arranged to have photographs of Baldwin as he really is that are not available anywhere else.
The column should have a lot of exclusive information; the questions are very specific and geared for those seriously interested in the subject. He's been in an off-Broadway show for four months now, so his theater chops are sharp! But this discussion will focus on camera acting, character development, creating a successful career and working with directors as well as producing. He has executive produced the award-winning Nuremberg television series as well as the cult favorite, State and Maine; he has also produced many other projects dear to his heart.
Did you know he also co-wrote an episode of Law and Order (Prime)? Based partly on his experience with celebrity hungry media, the episode was aptly titled "Tabloid."
I'm really looking forward to speaking with him. I'm told he has a great sense of humor and is naturally funny IRL so I just hope and pray I don't spend all our time laughing!!! ;-)
I'll tell you how it went in my next blog!
May 19 2006
It used to bother me. A lot. Too much, really.
Probably because I wasn't raised around babies. I was a military brat - we moved 17 times by the time I was 17 so we didn't have much time to hang out with developing families.
That, and I'm sure I had other "issues" surrounding that sound from my own babyhood. Parents at that time were told not to respond to a crying baby -- "let them cry themselves out" was the rule.
Typically, I decided to do something about it.
I needed to understand what made me so irritated - even angry - to hear that sound interrupt my generally subdued audio environment (I also love to blast great rock music, but that's another story). If I understood it, I reasoned, I could deal with my feelings and it wouldn't bother me any more.
I found a baby holding volunteer program at the local children's hospital. Volunteers - after having a thorough background check - would be trained to hold babies in a wide variety of painful conditions from severe illness to accidents recovery.
We also performed a number of other tasks to assist the medical staff such as laundry, restacking diapers in patient rooms and feeding the babies.
Rocking chairs were in each room; there were between one and several beds per room, depending on the condition of the wee patient. These children came from far and wide - in several cases the parents lived too far away to be with them all the time because they could not get away from their jobs, other children in the family, or were in fact sick or injured themselves.
When they were in town, they stayed with their babies. It was a relief for the parents to know their infants were being held and comforted by people who cared about them.
After being shown how to properly hold the baby (mind you, not being raised around babies or having them high on my priority list of social interaction I needed the training), I held my first patient. He was an eight month old who suffered a head injury in an automobile accident.
The nurse told me that he was in pain all the time - despite being medicated. The only time he had any refuge from the agony was when he was asleep. And even then - who knows? When I was undergoing chemotherapy I know I'd have sensations of pain while I slept - sometimes it would wake me.
So I held the at first sleeping sweet baby. Such a small boy. Such a picture of perfection and innocence and precious vulnerability.
Then he awoke, and after taking his bottle intermittently, began full out crying.
Instead of getting upset about it, I found myself rocking peacefully, being completely at ease and whispering, "Tell me all about it. That's it. Tell Colleen all about it. I'm right here. I'm not going away."
After saying this many times, I added music and crooned the words to my wee ward.
As he cried, I felt my own tears sear down my cheeks. Not only feeling badly for his pain, but for my own. Grieving his physical and emotional misery and realizing that if someone is there for you and says it's OK to cry and share why - trapped emotional pain can be released and cleansed by tears.
We become free to grow and move on.
Merci, mon cher petit enfant.
He fell asleep within minutes of me speaking and singing to him. I continued reciting and crooning my little mantra as he slept soundly.
I don't know if he survived his injuries. But hopefully, when he was with me, he had more than a moment of a respite from pain. More than a moment of grace.
That was the last time I needed to take care of my own "issues" as well as those of a suffering infant.
From that point on, I would simply be there for a sick or injured baby, listening and whispering and crooning and comforting and asking him or her to "tell me all about it."
May 17 2006
I do, and help my coachees create individualized biz plans for themselves.
I find that actors and other artists who don't create a business plan appropriate for their work/art tend to continue to think of themselves as amateurs at some level, even after they start making a living from their art.
There are lots of business plan templates on line -- you can pick one or use parts of several of them to create the personal business plan that suits you and your work.
Perhaps the most important thing to start with is your mission: namely, what is your purpose?
Mine is to inspire, empower, motivate, educate, problem-solve, strive for excellence in all I do, counsel and advise talented, hard working, dedicated people, helping them achieve their greatest success. To be rewarded for all this through healthy, rewarding relationships. To be recognized, be in constant demand for my work and paid fairly. I only work on great projects with great people for great money (thanks to Peter Doyle for that mantra!).
IMO, working on behalf of others as well as myself creates a good creative and healthy balance.
Include personal and professional goals; how you want your "business" to look.
Remember, as an artist you are at once the manufacturer and the "product." Actually I prefer the term "project" rather than "product" when it comes to creative efforts because I believe it reflects the notion that people are actually involved in the process, not machines.
Financial aspirations and goals are also important to include.
Business plans are dynamic. That is, it can be revamped any time you want to or think it should be.
It's also a good way to address what needs closer attention. It has been brought to my attention recently that marketing my work needs some *serious* attention - so I'll focus more on marketing when I redo my business plan. Soon!
May 15 2006
Sell us affordable insurance.
May 13 2006
She lived to be nearly 18, and this was several years ago when the average age of a cat was about 12, so I don't believe it put a damper on her life expectancy.
At the time, when I was also news director and morning anchor for a *hot* rock radio station, I performed stand up comedy occasionally at clubs in the evenings. Usually just for fun or to help a good cause. Then I came up with a great idea!
See, Kitzel was a most unusual cat. Even people who disdained cats adored her. And she was beautiful.
I'd have birthday parties for her - they were legion. Anyone who was anyone would show up to be entertained by our antics. Ah, yes. A girl and her cat.
One antic was a little routine we put together, called "Kitzel - the world's only (living) cat ventriloquist."
See, I'd hold her up the way one holds a ventriloquist dummy -- except in this case, Kitzel was the ventriloquist, I was the dummy.
So she would "speak" through me. Get it?
She would sit up, completely still, as I spoke. Her lips remained motionless.
She would even lap water from a saucer I held as I chirped, "Bottle of beer, bottle of beer..."
Or she would stare at the audience, her mouth completely closed as she sang (through me of course!) her medley from Cats.
"Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiidnight! Not a sound from the pavement!"
The letter "M" is as difficult for the ventriloquist to say without lip movement as the letter "B," so hey, talk about a crowd pleaser!
Not that I would ever use jealousy as a reason to retire the act, but incredibly, after the set, people would rush toward us (I had my pen ready and everything!), only to whiz past me and make a fuss over Kitzel! As if I didn't exist!
They weren't interested in my autograph - they were only interested in her pawtograph!
I realized how Paul Simon felt when he split up his act with Art Garfunkel all those years ago because everyone carried on about Art all the time when Paul was the writer.
Kitzel, Kitzel, Kitzel!
I think the problem was that we were billed as "Kitzel - the world's only (living) cat ventriloquist." Great ventriloquist acts always bill the dumm- the *partner,* too.
Like Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney, Waylon Flowers and Madam ...
I figured that since my income was based on me being a serious broadcast journalist, maybe being listed as the sidekick for a cat ventriloquist wasn't the smartest career move. And, truthfully, Kitzel was never into show business. Especially at the age of (human equivalent) between 75-105 depending on which figures you believe.
So I retired the act. Much to Kitzel's glee.
I'm really sorry I don't have any pictures of us performing to show you. If you're reading this and took photos of us performing and you haven't burned them in some sort of voodoo practice, please email me a copy so we can post them.
I have to admit, the saddest day in my life was the day Kitzel died in my arms. People came from all over when we knew she was dying to say good-bye, even joining us in a little candlelight vigil.
She was a very special soul, that cat. I think of her and say a toast to her every time I drink -- a bottle of (non-alcoholic) beer.
May 11 2006
I've found that when you live your truth -- doing what you love, practicing your passion and expressing who you genuinely are? Nothing can stop your success. As a person, as an artist and as someone recognized and appreciated for who you are and what you do.
And I mean nothing can stop your success. Not an "establishment," not naysayers, not detractors, not people who *insist* that there is only one way to present yourself or the age or race or weight or height you must be.
When you express yourself from a state of authenticity, when you create from your soul, you and your art (or however you express yourself) are in for a great and joyous journey because you and your work are originating from a state of grace.
There are so many people in film and television today who are successful because they had the courage to be who they truly are and followed their passion. And when they were becoming established they weren't the "right" age, look, whatever, for that time, either. The list is actually long - I'll post such a list for inspiration soon!
In fact, if you are one of the people who should be on that list? Email me! I'd be happy to share your story here.
I've also discovered that people who fervently force others to be unreal, to have only specific types of looks and behaviors in work and life, are always ultimately undone by, dare I say it? The real deal.
Interestingly, the people who push "unreal" the hardest, especially when it comes to trying to make people look or act a certain way they are not normally, are the very people who are most shocked when karma comes around to smack them out of their privileged position, relationship or office. I've seen it happen so many times - I keep wondering why people don't learn from the mistakes of their predecessors.
Fortunately, some of those who have been smacked out of those situations have in turn found their own truth and have courageously decided to make profound changes in the way they live, work, relate and create. Some are now enjoying tremendous success in film and television - but on their own terms, and in ways they never imagined back in the day they tried to control or in some cases actually abuse others.
Part of the definition of truth encompasses sincerity and integrity, and having a "standard." Truth is considered the supreme reality; the ultimate meaning and value of existence.
I hope you have found your truth; I hope you are living it and reaping all its rewards, personally and professionally!
May 9 2006
See if you can guess a major reason why:
An actor I know in Los Angeles told me about a birthday party he attended for a friend who also happens to be an actor.
The Birthday Girl was a happy camper because she was surrounded by friends. Her hot new talent manager came too.
Someone said from the back of the room, "Happy 27th, 'Binkie!'"
The manager snap turned to her and asked if 27 was her real age (she looks considerably younger). More distinctly he asked, "Are you really that old?" She reluctantly admitted she was.
The manager said, quite seriously, "Well, I would never have signed you if I knew you were 27."
Just a couple days ago, I spoke with a talent manager in Hollywood looking for talent who told me that, "27 is like 100 here!"
My LA actor friend told me, "If you don't lie about your age here, you won't make it."
So it's lie or have a career die?
I admit I have my share of age issues - I just want to look as young as I feel!
Interestingly, history shows that discrimination against any significant group of people, whether because of age, race, gender, sexual orientation or whatever, always leads ultimately to serious economic problems.
Heck, in this case it could mean a downturn at the box office because the targeted audience seems to be skewed more and more tightly and desperately toward a specific group - like teenagers.
Well, it's already happening.
Box office revenues have steadily fallen while Hollywood pooh-bahs make their decisions based on fear instead of courage. While they insist they're looking for people who think outside the box, from here it looks like their box is getting smaller and smaller.
Which is why it's so important for independent individuals and groups in the US and every nation in the world to GET CRAZY NOW. Do your thing, create from the heart, do it with a burning passion - have something to say they wouldn't even consider in Hollywood - do something only you can come up with.
Show us a new way to look at ourselves and the world. Hollywood pretty much recycles what they want to sell us, and even kids have a strong "been there, done that" attitude about typical commercial films and television programs these days.
The time is right - and mark my words - in the next five years, you'll see some notable, terrific work that audiences are hungry to see developed by a legion of people who have been sharpening their skills and craft outside Hollywood for some time, now.
I also believe the revolution in distribution and ways to advertise work will explode over the next ten years - with the age old "word of mouth" leading the way.
These achievements will be made by incredibly innovative folks who wouldn't be considered by Hollywood anyway because they're, oh, at *least* 26.
May 7 2006
Many years ago, I smoked, and to this day regret ever starting. I was in the Air Force - basic training. All our breaks were called "smoke breaks," nearly everyone else smoked and I believe we were given gifts of free cigarettes by the tobacco companies. Thanks a bunch.
But it might help my friend to know why my dad - who vociferously refused to quit - *finally* stopped smoking.
He was an air traffic controller -- in a tower where smoking was allowed. Windows were open to allow air in.
During the heat of one summer, his tower was shut down for two days to install proper air conditioning for the equipment and the room, sealing off the windows.
Airplane traffic was redirected to another airport nearby.
When he and his cohorts returned to go to work, they were sickened by what they saw: the whole floor was carpeted with DEAD FLIES. Dad said there were literally hundreds .. if not thousands of them. He said they knew flies were in the room with the windows open but they had no idea there were so many!
The health department would not let them into the room until the flies were tested - to see what killed them.
The report came swiftly: what killed them? The nicotine stuck on the windows, walls and equipment from everyone's smoke. All they had to do was walk on the stuff, lick it or whatever flies do, and it killed them.
Dad said they all "took the pledge" rather than end up like those flies.
Unfortunately, dad didn't quit soon enough to prevent contracting emphysema - but at least he doesn't suffer from the hideous lung disease nearly as much as he would if he had continued to smoke!
May 5 2006
And before you know it, ordinary folks associate you with smarm.
Just something to consider if you think you're offered a great opportunity but the only way you can receive it is to work for smarmy folks.
If you accept the opportunity but are at least aware of the smarm factor, you stand the chance of fending off the smarm smear a bit longer than the uninitiated.
Still, sooner or later?
Before you know it, you've been smarmed.
May 3 2006
Failure is always an option for me.
A dear friend was afraid that I would be seen as a dilettante rather than someone who is quite serious and focused. I am quite serious and focused, but I like to be serious and focus on lots of different things - I love to learn. And experience and create. Which, I find, creates a great background for a director.
I can never tell when a formerly "useless" piece of information or experience will pay off big time in a script or on a shoot.
I have finally decided that I am not, however, an inventor.
Like so many things, I could probably pull something off if I spent more time on these ideas/projects and "applied myself."
But so far my two invention ideas have tanked. Everyone to whom I have explained them gives them two thumbs down, way down, but perhaps that's because I have not presented them in a positive enough light.
Speaking of light, my first idea: shadow watch dogs.
In front of a strong light, adjust your fingers to cast a huge shadow of a dog's head against the window. Moving your pinky finger up and down to replicate the lower jaw opening and closing. So the window has the shadow image of a *huge* dog filling it, its mouth opening and closing.
Or you can play a CD of dogs barking.
This should scare away any would-be thieves, burglars, robbers or worse.
They'd be all, "Oh, my God! Lookee that giant dog! Hear it barking? Let's get outta here!"
See what I mean? Can you believe this idea was *ridiculed* by even my best friends?
Unfortunately I don't have time to develop it properly. But you can take this idea with my blessing. Make a million dollars going house to house being a shadow watch dog.
My other invention that has drawn nothing but criticism: using subtitles for radio programs broadcast in other languages.
So, let's say it's a French news cast. Right underneath it with a lower volume? English spoken "subtitles." Accompanying it, crawling across a little screen implanted in the radio, will be the written subtitles in case you want to read them.
Subtitles can be in any language, translated from any language.
Now, I understand that the software necessary to make this possible is a few - maybe several - years away. And that reading subtitles could be a problem for someone driving a car or truck.
But, despite its down side, can you see the potential dying to be developed? Feel free to take this idea and run with it!
As for me, it's back to the drawing board.
Seriously - I love to draw.
One. More. Interest. To. Pursue.
May 1 2006
I live in a little known woodsy area of North Seattle, so they tend to make themselves at home here - especially during the fall and spring.
I pick them up and toss them outside, I don't kill spiders. They are natural predators for really "bad" insects - those that can spread disease - like mosquitos, so I support their quest to rid my living space of pesky, buzzing, biting bugs.
I haven't gone so far as to name any of them - but I do say, "hey, thanks for taking care of the place" when I see them.
Apparently I'm in the minority re: my affection for arachnids.
One afternoon, I had the cast of a theater reading of one of my screenplays filling my living room. There were fourteen of us sitting in a circle.
Now, most of the actors I cast for the live reading of The Director were theater actors and I could see written across their tilted, nodding faces through their squinted eyes: "So ... *You're* Colleen Patrick. Huh. Big deal. Well, let's just see how good you are when it comes to theater direction, bee-atch."
Their scripts lie closed in their laps, they slouched in their chairs, their extended feet languishing near the center of the circle. Were they also chewing gum? Probably not, but it felt like they were.
Suddenly, as if out of central casting, a *huge* spider -- as large as the palm of my hand (honest!) -- started crawling across the center of the circle. The way I discovered this is that as I was speaking, their eyes immediately grew ten times their normal size ... I believe the term is ... their eyes were "bugging out."
I rose and surreptitiously drew a deep breath because this creepy crawly was the largest spider I'd ever seen in my home/studio, swept up the uninvited visitor in my hand (I could feel it wiggling), walked to the door and tossed it outside, casually saying, "OK, little buddy. Let's put you outside."
When I turned around to rejoin the group, everyone was sitting up stick straight, scripts were open to the first page, hands folded neatly over them. If they had been chewing gum they swallowed it. I swear, it looked like anyone with messy hair had brushed it; anyone with a dirty face washed it in just the few seconds it took me to rid the room of Sister Spider.
Everyone was totally ready to get straight to work and do whatever I asked. Apparently my small act of bravado convinced them I could direct *anything* brilliantly.
The live script reading was a total hit with its audience! These actors put in a terrific performance! We had a blast rehearsing and performing it.
More -- I became a rumor in my own time as these actors have spread the Super Scary Spider Story -- it's taken on a life of its own!
And I discovered exactly what I need to do to convince anyone new with whom I work - anyone who may question just how good a director I am: keep a nearby large spider fed and happy. Just in case.