Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some Pictures

This is before our big night at the Tropicana.
Outside the Taj Mahal. You can't tell but we're absolutely starving. Everywhere we went was closed in the morning or didn't have anything Kate could eat. We ended up at the Hard Rock Cafe and had the burgers of a lifetime (angus/veggie).

This was taken at Vinnie's off of Bedford Ave, one of our favorite neighborhood pizza places.
Kate's students made her a huge thank you card the size of the novelty checks you get when you win publisher's clearinghouse. It was totally worth immortalizing here.

There are more pics of Kate from AC but my computer is in the shop for now so hang on for those!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recent Highlights

A few quick highlights of the recent past:

1. I made it through a month of furious back-to-back readings with the Ma-Yi Writer's Lab, EST's Sloan Project, Manhattan Theater Club's Education Department, Theater Development Fund, and last but not least, Making Books Sing.

Ma-Yi: 5 Plays...Almost 6 but I had to drop one for the PSA and consequently did not win the bicycle promised as an award to the actor with "Most Appearances." Although the prize for "Most Plays Attended" was 10 million dollars, so I'm not sure the bike really exists. Anyway, really amazing new work.

EST: 1 Play, Durenmatt's The Physicists. "The world is being run by a mad female pyschiatrist!"

MTC: 5 Plays by highschoolers in one sitting. Real issues, real drama.

TDF: 10 Plays--That's 5 plays per school and two school trips out to the ends of the Earth. Some of this stuff is like gold.

MBS: 1 Play, a musical about dancer Jose Limon. I played Jose. I neither danced nor sang.

GRAND TOTAL: 22 New Plays!

2. I was recognized in public! A woman named Moe who works at Kate and my favorite restaurant Red Bamboo came over to our table and said she had seen Fight Girl on a lark and not only liked it but had that funny moment of realization where she realized that the robot was a guy who she'd served at her place for years. It was totally awesome. She'd never known I was an actor and it was one of those A-Ha moments of city synchronicity. She did not mention if we were good tippers or not, but I felt like a consummate rockstar. Red Bamboo is NYC's premier destination for vegan soul food by the way, and if you don't know what that is, just go down there and try it; it's incredible.

3. Kate got into the Sam French One Act festival with her newest work, A Chicken Goes to Broadway to be directed by our friend Heidi Handelsmann! I read it and it's going to be hilarious. Not sure when it is going to be, updates to come. Kate also had a major triumph directing an evening of Flux Theater Company's Imagination Compact, a showcase of new plays
by writers like Liz Duffy Adams and Gus Schulenberg and featuring our friends Elena Chang, Kelli Holsopple, Will Ellis and Anthony Wills. A really beautifully done event with great work done by all sides.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Stand Up to Cancer PSA Diary: Day Three

This one was breezy.  I showed up at the NY Preservation Society building in the village for a photo shoot that's going to be the print portion of the SU2C campaign running concurrently with the TV spots.  It was rainy and miserable and they were running late, but it was all due to them setting up the studio so we wouldn't be electrocuted by the rain.  The thing is, the studio was in a rented Penske Truck that they were driving around the city.  They set up shop outside the preservation building and we did a couple shots that lasted about 15 minutes.  

The campaign is all about shifting attention towards researching a cure for cancer and away from the treatment side (which is where pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists make their money).  We saw mock-ups of the ads while we were in holding and the style they were going for looks really nice.  A lot of bold, compassionate, proud and determined portraits coupled with bits of copy from the manifesto and stats.  Everyone on the crew there was awesome, too from makeup to the lighting guy inside the tiny Penske truck studio to the woman who held the umbrella for me while in transit there and back.  I may never get over someone's job being to hold an umbrella for me :-)

The next day was supposed to be shooting onboard the Staten Island Ferry but I couldn't be there so I don't know who was there or how it went over.  I'm sure it was pretty good--the rain didn't last and it was a pretty tight operation, so I'm confident all will be fine.  I heard a bunch of people say that because we were volunteers we didn't have to participate every day if we couldn't come and that if we were featured previously on film then it was best we not appear too much more since it would be totally weird to recognize the faces in the crowd from five different commercials for the same thing.  Sounds fair, but while we were shooting the film portions I couldn't help thinking,  "Get in the frame, Paco, they can't see you!  Move in a little more so the world can see your face!"

I'm sure someone else got a really good start on their own thing with this Manifesto, cause it's that good.  You read it and you're like, "This is well-written, poetic, has stakes, conveys an argument..."--basically everything you could hope for in a bit of commercial copy.  Usually it's something boring like, "For their patients, doctors and hospitals use Tylenol."  I'll have to wait until I hear something more about the air dates and production information to know more.  The whole enterprise is churning on its own now, out of my hands.  There will be a culminating telethon event on all the networks on September 5th though, so I suppose the campaign will lead up in the weekes or months prior to that.  We'll all see, I guess.

Stand Up To Cancer PSA Diary: Day Two

Day Two consisted of meeting up at Lincoln Center at 9am and shooting a segment with Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton, Orlando, The Beach).  We played high society patrons of the ballet who walk through the lobby and then stop and turn to the camera in support of Tilda's move to stand strong.  The story as I heard it was that Tilda was late and that's why we broke for lunch at 11:30 without having shot a single thing.   I didn't get that close a look, but I caught her trademark flaming red hair and white tights from the back of the room.  

After that it was down to the Bethesda Fountain in the Park for a segment with Morgan Freeman (You know his movies, okay?).  I actually got a little star-struck for the first time when he walked in.  When I realized who it was, the words "Holy Shit, that's him!" came out of my mouth without me even though i knew what was happening.  It was like I was a stranger watching myself from across the courtyard and thinking, "Hmm, that dude right there is star-struck."  

This shot was all of us in the fountain courtyard with props like magazines, copies of the Post and Times, and even a fake baby carriage with fake baby inside.  Actually, there was one of those on the first day, too and as we were shooting at the fountain a bunch of bystanders asked to participate and I'm not sure now if the young couple with the baby carriage were real or not.  Shooting in public was a trip there because there were a ton of tour groups and newlyweds constantly pouring in in the middle of shooting trying to take their own pictures.  I felt bad, but we actually weren't there that long.  And they got to see Morgan Freeman in person.  Zzzzz!

It was a good day despite not winning anything in the raffle they did after we wrapped.  Someone one a real crystal bowl while everyone else won stuff like Spider-Man umbrellas and bags.  The day before someone won a digital camcorder!  It was all donated which was cool and it was also a nice way for the sponsors to say thank you to us.  But alas, no Spider-Man umbrella was won that day.  

I also didn't get a chance to re-do my portion of the Manifesto which I was kind of hoping would happen.  I thought, "I'll just be visible and look like my allergies are fine, and then BAM!  Out of good will they'll ask me to do it again under optimum conditions..."  This did not happen.  I spent the day pretty much a glorified extra but it was all for the good.  The work takes its own course and this was a good cause, so I was happy to take part. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Stand Up To Cancer PSA Diary: Day One

In a whirlwind typical of commercial shoots, information came very suddenly and very late and there was little time to prepare. I had gone in two weeks ago for an audition for a PSA directed by THE David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac) and breathlessly found out two days ago that I booked it. We didn't find out until the night before where or when it would be or what would be asked of us. I do not like these situations given my nature, but I was thrilled about the opportunity and couldn't wait to begin.

It turns out there were four segments we had to shoot in four locations in one day and had to report to Bryant Park at (of course) 6:45 am. We were outfitted with ID cards with a number on it, had our picture taken and were then arranged around the Bryant Park Grille where I was chosen off the bat for stand-in work for Hizzoner Mike Bloomberg! (We're the same height).

Mayor Bloomberg showed up, I gave up my seat to him-- and then by a twist of fate was chosen to go back to the table and actually be seated in the chair opposite as if we were best friends having a casual breakfast. It was awesome except I was really hungry from racing to the set after oversleeping and drugged to the gills with allergy medication. I did my best to seem spirited and he offered his condolences for my line of work. He could have just sat there and not said a word, but he was very nice and made an effort to chat with me--despite the fact that every time I hazily answered a question of his he'd say, "What? I can't hear you." He did say when we finished that he hoped to see my name in lights one day though, so throughout the day when people asked me what it was like to have the New York City Mayor for my scene partner I told people, "He's a prince."

We did another segment along the Bryant Park sidewalk cafe area where I was now facing away from the camera; the dues you pay for having just been featured in the last shot. The guest of this segment was Susan Sarandon (Moonlight Mile, Enchanted, Bull Durham). I was too far way for any schmoozing to occur but she seemed cool. She's always been a model celebrity to me (in the pro-actively socially conscious sense) who's used her fame for the betterment of the world, and so it was no wonder Kate correctly predicted she of all the stars would be doing this, too.

After we finished that one we went to the main concourse of Grand Central Station and tried to pretend to be busy straphangers while a sea of real busy straphangers milled and seethed all around us. We did a zillion takes of stopping what we were doing and taking a moment to address the camera, following suit with the guest of the segment: Lance Armstrong. This was even less intimate than with Mrs. Sarandon since he was up in a balcony somewhere and none of us ever saw head nor hair of him. From there we went to Central Park.

Cutting to the chase a bit, Ed Norton (who repeatedly said, "Hey, Fincher!") and George Carlin taped their moments. In between taping these, myself and a few others were chosen to read the pretty amazing copy over a teleprompter. I was having worse allergies now (I couldn't really breathe out of my nose without doing 20 jumping jacks) despite having taken a ton of benadryl so I was basically paranoid, dehydrated and having palpitations imagining only getting through the first line ("We used to have the wildest dreams...") before being cut ("We uthed to hab the wildetht dreabs..."). I tried to remain calm. It came my turn and I did my thing for about four takes and then we basically wrapped for the day. It was really, really cool. I also thought the teleprompter was going to do me in since I can't read for shit past an arm's length, but it turned out I could see fine. The lens is right behind the clear plate with the words on it so it looks like you're looking straight into the camera anyway (yes, I know, that's the whole point I've just never done it before). Over pizza I got to shake hands with the director (whose personal film language and aesthetic I've long revered) and got some nice compliments from some other people. The crew and the heads of all the departments were awesome without exception and treated us well.

All in all it was a pretty amazing foray into on-camera work with some amazing (and amazingly generous) movie people. I'm looking forward to the rest of the shoot!