Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Pop Music, Re-Writes and More Naked Men

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

Are You Ready?

For some football? My favorite time of the year is here. It’s the time of year when I stumble out of bed on Sunday to recline on the sofa and watch football with one eye open (or both eyes closed) until I wake up enough to pay attention. Unless The Philadelphia Eagles are playing. Then I have both eyes open and my brain set to the spew obscenities option. This is a complete non sequitur, but I was titckled to see Will Smith wearing a discolored Eagles cap in Hancock. There was a lot of speculation on the net about whose team the hat was from, but come on. What else could it be? I knew what it was from the shape of the Eagle and at a distance. Anyway, the season will be somewhat annoying for me, because of the New York Giants being the reigning champs. They are a nemesis of the Eagles (the team has more of them than Horatio Cain). Though I’m still glad they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl(the Patriots and Arlen Specter know why). The problem is that we’ll be deep in the heart of Giants country (they play in New Jersey – I dunno) and there will be rabid Giants fans in our midst on set. Ah well.

Speaking of autumn, the weather here has gone nuts. It’s actually been humid for the last few weeks. This past week, it felt more like we were in New Jersey in July than late summer in LA. It’s been down right funky. And not in the fun musical way. Maybe that’s a good thing (though my sinuses and hair would beg to differ). It may still be funky when the shoot begins. We would be acclimated. Though it could also easily be freezing.

The Re-write Stuff

Yes, it’s a bad pun. Jon is on the last scenes of his detailed, line by line treatment. He likes to block every single action and the underlying motivation in single sentences for the entire film before going directly to the script. It’s a great way for him to think out everything for each of the characters making it easier to direct the actors. But it can drive me a little crazy. Questions like ‘Why would Michael do that?’ often draw a response from me like ‘Because he’s a man.’ That’s not very helpful as far as Jon is concerned though it’s a reasonable answer from my point of view. We typically resolve the confusion with a more specific question. Clarity has been very important during this re-write. And it can be surprisingly difficult to achieve for the more subjective aspects of this film. For example, what makes a rock band successful or not successful? That can be a highly subjective question. The answers can cause a fight if poorly phrased. One of the characters is a young man who heads of band (The band has no name as yet. We were going to call it Codfish Aristocracy after a strange book Jon recently processed at the Archive. However, there already is an active band with that name. Go figure.) that plays incomprehensible music. Most folks who read the earlier draft of the script thought it meant that Dave’s band was bad. They can play their instruments and can sing; however, they have trouble connecting with an audience. Their lyrics are odd. And their style of performing is more like performance art than playing rock music. I watched a lot of live music in my clubbing days in a part of the country where some great acts were born. Still, it was hard to articulate what I thought was wrong with Dave’s band. I’ve seen weird acts that I’ve liked. One of them, Sparks and the tune I Predict, were an inspiration for Dave’s band. Being weird isn’t enough for a band to fail to connect with an audience. I thought Sweet or The Sweet had the weirdest lyrics I’ve ever heard (Ballroom Blitz, Little Willie, Fox on the Run), but I liked them a lot as a teen (Lord, I’ve just dated myself). And I’ve seen bands where the audience was irrelevant to the performance. Some of those worked for me, because the band was having such a great time that it was just fun to watch them be with each other. It took a lot of Youtube surfing and annoying a radio jock friend of mine, Bruce Kline, in the wee small hours of the morning to figure out how to explain why Dave’s band gets bad reactions from most of the other characters in the film yet the aging Pop Star, Billy Swain, thinks they could still make it.

It’s a matter of the members the band completely owning the material they are performing. There is an energy level among band mates who are confident in the material and their performance of it. That energy is infectious even if the lyrics are inane or even incomprehensible outside of the performance. I was finally able to explain Dave’s band enough to Jon for him to find a way to make that problem cinematic. Early on, we see a Youtube performance of Dave’s signature song performed by his band. It is not fun to watch. Later, Billy performs the song during the battle of the bands at the climatic Reunion Dance. If Billy was nothing else, he is a consummate performer who knows how to own a song. When he performs it, everyone is on their feet dancing. One script problem solved. I’m still trying to explain teenaged girls’ brains to Jon. I don’t think Youtube or Bruce can help me with that. Still, we think the script will be finished soon. I almost finished with the initial schedule. The negotiations with the actors is going well. We should be able to start talking about them in a couple of weeks, if not sooner.

Two Sides of Naked

I am most often chided by my friends back east for being jaded about working in film, even on my heretofore modest level. After all, what isn’t fun about seeing gorgeous men live and up close in various states of undress? In theory it’s fabulous to see someone like Karl Urban or, more recently, Travis Willingham, half naked. But that’s only if you don’t have work to do while around such distractions. You have to look that them really critically, make adjustments (I’ve often been on my knees in front of the most amazing torsos trying to get trousers to lay correctly) and send them on their way to the next scene. I don’t even really notice what’s actually in front of me until the day is over. Then, there is poor Jon who really doesn’t think about what he’s actually looking at until he’s almost asleep long after we’ve wrapped for the night. Then, he’ll just exclaim “Woo-hoo” and go to sleep. Maybe that’s why the ladies are so comfortable in states of undress around him. They sense his oblivious-ness. My crew guys like Randy almost never get to see the beautiful women undressed or nearly so. He always ends up talking to some guy who is quite comfortable hanging out in his boxers. Randy is not comfortable talking to men in their boxers. Early in his career out here, I overheard him telling an Ohio buddy that he really liked Apollo on Battlestar Galactica, but doesn’t that guy have any pants?

There are times, however, when I am supposed to look at an actor’s performance and evaluate everything about it, including his appearance. That can be quite a challenge to my professionalism. This week, Matty Ferraro, debuted in the second season opener of here!TV’s The Lair as Ian, a troubled young man who is also a werewolf. Matty was one of our very small crew that worked on the The Gunslinger short in February. He is also a talented actor. One of the more pleasant things I do out here is watch actors I know work. It’s hard to get to the plays sometimes, but we’ve gone to screenings and catch most of the TV appearances. My favorite until yesterday, was Garett Maggart’s guest appearance on CSI: Miami. It was only usurped because there was no nakedness as there was in The Lair. Garett and I talked while I was watching. He asked what I was so happy about. Upon hearing that I was watching a homoerotic werewolf, he dryly replied ‘well, of course, what else would you be watching?’

My prurient nature aside, I enjoyed Matty’s initial performance on The Lair. Ian is mysterious and compelling and vulnerable all at once. Even before the audience gets to see his scars, it is clear that he is a wounded soul. When Riley picks him up hitching on the road, it is clear that Ian is more hungry for human contact than he is interested in sex. Thus, when the men come together the encounter is tender and truly intimate and not just carnal. I could still see Ian and Riley during the sex scene. And it helped that both men are beautiful. I was very interested in seeing Matty in these scenes because I want him to portray Vincent in the live action version of the Soldiers novels. He did not disappoint. He is elegantly built and graceful in movement. I never lost Ian’s character while he was in a love scene. His performance was everything I had hoped to see. My biggest challenge was telling Matty all of this without sounding like a drooling lech. I think I managed to pull it off.

On the flip side, is Matty’s talent manager and our production partner, Ralph Lliteras. He, too, hears from many who are not in the business that his job must be a lot of fun. I think he should have a web cam in his office, because even to my jaded eyes, most days for Ralph are truly bizarre and unbelievable. I think he’s had everything short of a llama stampede in his office over the years. Weirdness aside, Ralph is a dedicated manager who makes sure to see as many of his clients’ performances as humanly possible. Ralph is also very, very straight. He approached viewing The Lair with a far different mindset than mine. He gamely watched through the scenes with the muscle bound leathermen in a group grope-fest and other fun things until Matty appeared toward the end of the episode. I was speaking to him on the phone when he commented on understanding why the producers were impressed with Matty. His wife, Marguerite was loudly commenting in the background that she saw why the producers were impressed with him. Ralph just sighed. He was very happy with Matty’s performance. And don’t fret for his sensibilities. Two of his more lovely female clients have some risqué appearances on the horizon. He’ll be a much happier manager then.

This has been a really long blog. I’ll have to save the return of Craig from Ohio and the Adventures of Choncho, the library dog, for next week.

No comments: