There comes a time in the life of every performer when they’re asked “Do you think you could hit the gym before this project? You’re playing a barbarian.”
OK, no. That’s not true. At least, not for Dwayne Johnson. I think he walks past a rack of weights and just becomes a paragon of human physical training and development. (Love you DJ! I indeed do detect that which the Rock is in process of composing in the kitchen; it smells glorious.)
However, I did in fact visit a weight room and physical training edifice local to my place of dwelling, and the results, well, are now on film for good or ill.
This project is in the late stages of post-production, I’m told, with things like digital effects and color balancing being applied to footage at a torrid pace.
Once upon a time, I made some extremely shoestring-budget films with my college buddies. We were, and still are, nerds who like Star Trek and Dungeons and Dragons. With this confluence of influences, many of us actors at one time or another, and the available technology and willingness to make absolute fools of ourselves, we hit on the idea of filming the scripts of one Matt Vancil.
The first of these was Demon Hunters, quickly followed by Demon Hunters 2: Dead Camper Lake, and international cult hit The Gamers. I’m not making the international cult hit thing up, either. Copies of the DVD were sold to places like Finland, the UK of GB, the Baltic Republics (I’m looking at you, Lithuania) and many other fancy nations not in North America. All this was back in the days before digital streaming of videos, and we had to actually ship things physically from place to place, employing thousands of people rather than calling on our robot drone army to deliver items door-to-door.
After we’d finished filming The Gamers, I graduated from our liberal arts university, and being an ambitious nerd, moved to Chicago to attend graduate school.
While I was away from the beautiful Pacific Northwest, my friends incorporated themselves into a film company, Dead Gentlemen Productions. Under this aegis, they produced and filmed The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. For a while, in the early days of live streaming for Netflix, you could find it in their catalog. It was a big deal for the company, and totally raised the profile of our once little group of buddeez.
Not only had we entered the age of digital streaming, but my contact with the company changed as I moved to the middle of the continent and pursued my theatrical training and career to obsession. It is, after all, what one is supposed to do in graduate school for theatre. It’s also at this point in the story that I lost track of the day-in, day-out goings on in the ‘company’. Things were changing in my absence, which is not to say that had I been present, they would’ve remained the same.
I returned to the Pacific Northwest for reasons romantic. My then-girlfriend (now wife) Emilie had just landed a great job in Tacoma, and I, in my naïveté, thought “Well, I can continue my acting career anywhere! There’s a major theatre in Tacoma (the now defunct Tacoma Actor’s Guild), and it’s just a short commute to Seattle! The Dead Gentlemen guys have more stuff in the works, and I get to be with the lady I love!”
Within 6 months of landing in Tacoma I had indeed landed on my feet and continued my theatrical career. I had booked a school tour with The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Adventure Musical Theatre outreach: “Klondike! The Great Alaskan Gold Rush”, and landed a role in “Once Upon a Time in New Jersey” at The Village Theatre in Issaquah. The ‘walking-distance’ theatre I’d once dreamed of working at closed its doors mid-season in ignominy over mismanagement and profligate spending. And Dead Gentlemen Productions, still alive and kicking despite several key members moving to other states for film school, jobs, and educational opportunities, was indeed about to embark on another project.
Like what you see? There’s going to be more! The Dead Gentlemen return to their origin! From the DG website: “The Demon Hunters are back in a new weekly comic from Dead Gentlemen Productions! We’re taking things back to before the beginning with a new format, new stories, and a few surprises along the way. This is Demon Hunters the way it was always meant to be seen—without the limitations of a college film budget. Join the hunt on April 1st at Demon-Hunters.com!”
” Brooks Caldwell has it all: money, power, and a beautiful socialite wife. When Brooks makes plans for a weekend romp with his young mistress, his wife sets in motion an elaborate plot of revenge.”
Sounds fun, right?
A (gigantic) Tangent
Up here in southern Alaska, we’ve got something called Washington Filmworks. It’s a great organization with the stated goal to ” encourage growth in the film and video production industry for the economic benefit of Washington State. By offering productions extensive support–from location scouting to financial incentives–we’re helping Washington State reemerge as a premiere destination for motion picture production.”
A while ago, Washington, and Seattle were popular places to film. We had movies that put us on the map. “Sleepless in Seattle, ” anyone? But as producing film in Hollywood became more expensive, many US states began to subsidize film production to attract producers to make films away from Los Angeles, for less money. Maximize those profits, capitalists! The era of ‘Runaway Produciton’ began quickly, and has not yet let up. Washington state was not as quick on the draw to subsidize film production, nor as generous as several other states, and was quickly losing out on opportunities to bring film jobs north from California.
Enter our hero: Washington Filmworks. Washington State has had a Film Office since the 1970’s, but Washington Filmworks merged with the state film office to create a cyborg of incubation, subsidy, and resource-gathering that has allowed local filmmakers to hone their craft, and the state to attract production, and jobs in the film industry for crew, and (most importantly for me) actors.
An important part of Washington Filmworks’ mission is incentivizing film production through the State’s Motion Picture Competitiveness Program. Money for movies.
Bad luck? No! Good luck.
Especially for me. In 2012 I was cast in a film, partially funded by Washington Filmworks incentives. “A Bit of Bad Luck” starring Carey Elwes, Teri Polo, and Agnes Bruckner.
If you don’t blink, you can find me in the bar, where the film’s protagonist (Elwes) finds himself befriending the locals of a small town.
It was a great gig. I had one line of dialogue, which may have been with my back to the camera, depending on which shot the director and editor decided on. But for me, professional exposure in this film was far less important than my experience on set. I got to spend time on a union film set, and learn my way around, taking that experience with me. I got to meet Carey Elwes, who, aside from being a truly funny guy in front of the camera, was an absolute gentleman and complete professional in the most inspiring sense. I had a really enjoyable time, getting to work with my colleagues from the Seattle acting community in a setting where we often don’t find ourselves.
What’s the moral of this post?
There is no moral. I live in a state that cares about my industry, and I’ve seen a benefit from the State Government meddling in the purity of the market. You want a moral in every post, go write your own blog. (I think my political economy professor would be proud of me just now.)
From Taproot’s website: “Lieutenant Naomi Watkins returns stateside and opens her home to faithful friend and Afghan translator, Anisah. When Anisah’s visa is called into question the whole town goes to war over this suspicious stranger. But as fireflies light up the night, romance launches a stealth attack showing us that anything can happen.”
This is a big play, with wide-ranging subject matter and clear resonance with the complex difficulties we find ourselves facing today. In my faith tradition, this time of year is one of reflection and this play is excellent food for thought and discussion.
We open March 28, and perform until April 26.
For ticket information, click the banner or link above to be magically whisked away to Taproot’s website! See you at the theatre!
So, it’s been a while. Those awkward moments when you attempt to re-establish a rapport after months away from a colleague, you know, the person you had that ‘finish-each-other’s-jokes’ vibe with; you know those moments. I hate those moments. I’m going to bullet-point this update just to get through with it, and then we can carry on like we used to back in ’13 (or maybe ’12).
Watt?!?. Village Originals Developmental Production. Photo by Sam Freeman. Property of Village Theatre.
– August, 2013 – “WATT?!?” was a big, vulgar, funny, provocative success during Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals. We got great receptions from our audiences, provoked lively discussion, and came a way learning a little something . . . about ourselves. (The more you know!) Last December, I was even privileged to re-unite with my “WATT?!?” cast-mates (you know who you are), band (ditto), musical director (Aaron Jodoin) and composer (the ever-awesome Brendan Milburn) to record the premiere cast album at Seattle’s famed Studio X (some minor bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., and Soundgarden recorded some marginally significant albums there.)
– September, 2013 – Vacation. Mexico, baby.
– September, 2013 – Rehearsals for . . .
– October, 2013 – Much Ado About Nothing at Seattle Shakespeare Company. Really, there’s far too much for me to say about my experience in this show. I was given the opportunity to play one of the roles that got me interested in Shakespeare, and in Theatre. I was acting opposite a fantastic Beatrice, and with a tremendous cast of familiar and new faces. I was working with a director I for whom I have tremendous respect and with a company that has been one of my artistic homes. It was a dream job, and my hope is that I did justice to the role, and allowed the audience to enjoy what is one of my favorite plays. I haven’t read them (another post for another time), but I’ve attached some links to some of the notices we received from local reviewers:
Even though it is the middle of audition season here in the greater Seattle area, production continues, as ever, as companies put up their last few shows before the summer. There has been some great work on the boards this spring, with lauded productions like NCTC’s The Trial, Balagan’s August: Osage County, ACT Theatre’s Assisted Living, Seattle Rep’s Boeing, Boeing, Seattle Shakespeare’s indoor re-mount of Wooden O’s The Taming of the Shrew, and Taproot’s The Whipping Man, just to name a few.
I hope to carry that baton as well in Taproot Theatre’s production of Itamar Moses’ Bach at Leipzig. A bit of background, cribbed from the back of the script:
“Leipzig, Germany – 1722. Johann Kuhnau, revered organist of the Thomaskirche, suddenly dies, leaving his post vacant. The town council invites musicians from across Germany to audition for the coveted position, among them young Johann Sebastian Bach. In an age where musicians depend on patronage from the nobility or the church to pursue their craft, the post of a prominent church in a cultured city is a near guarantee of fame and fortune – which is why some of the candidates are willing to resort to any lengths to secure it. Bach at Leipzig is a fugue-like farcical web of bribery, blackmail, and betrayal set against the backdrop of Enlightenment questions about humanity, God, and art.”
Sound like your cup of tea? Want glittering, witty dialogue, tights and wigs, and some swordplay? Itamar Moses’ script is a multi-faceted gem of intelligence, character, and comedy, with depth to surprise and ideas to challenge you to think further.
Being a reader of discernment and excellent taste (as demonstrated by your choice of electronic literature, ahem): I know this show is for you. Click the banner above to be magically whisked away to Taproot’s webpage for information on dates, times, and how to get your hands on what is sure to be a hot ticket.
Happy New Year! Yes, yes, I know it’s been too long since I last posted, and for that, I’m truly sorry. For those of you seeking news about my theatrical exploits, wait no longer: here’s the dish:
I’m in a fully sold-out comedy on the boards of Taproot Theatre in the beautiful Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. I defy you to purchase tickets. Can’t be done. They’re all sold. Unless you want a standing room ticket (those with arthritic knees/hips need not apply.)
Adapted from the famous “Jeeves and Wooster” stories of British humorist P.G. Wodehouse, Margaret Raether’s “Jeeves in Bloom” follows the hapless Bertie Wooster and his ‘gentleman’s gentleman’ Jeeves (portrayed by, well, me) and their misadventures in the gardens of an English country manor.
It’s Tuesday! JourneyQuest Season 2, now in full-swing, is taking a teeensy break this week. So INSTEAD, click the image below and take a look at this!
The same production groups behind JQ are making the third movie in the GAMERS series …at least, they’ll be making it if they get the money. 17 days to go and several thousand left… and if we don’t get ALL the money pledged, we don’t get ANY of the money pledged.
Watch the video, check out the crazy fan support in comments, and pitch in $10 bucks if you have it. It will go towards supporting professional Seattle artists–actors, writers, directors, production assistants, camera and sound techs, special effects, composers, costumers, caterers, and sooo many more– doing what they love and what they are good at. THANK YOU!
And if you REALLY don’t have $10 bucks, please re-post or re-share. Getting the word out is crucial, and I GUARANTEE you at least ONE of your friends is as big a nerd as we are and wants to see this movie made!