Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Backstage at A Christmas Carol: The Long Run

I’ve done many lengthy runs of different shows, and the experience varies. Some shows are simply more demanding than others. Doing Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale eight times a week for weeks on end was difficult physically and emotionally – but ultimately rewarding. Other shows are such a joy that you don’t notice what you’re putting your body through.

Then there are musicals.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a musical. I love them, they are what got me started as an actor but I had forgotten how much more energy it takes to do a musical than it takes to do most plays. This production of A Christmas Carol is not a “let’s all sit on a couch and talk” kind of theatrical experience. I’m singing while dancing ballet! And then it’s offstage to change costumes and run back onstage again. And there’s nothing like it; being able to see the smiles and the tears on the audience’s faces. You can feel how you’re touching the audience - that for those two hours, we’re all in this experience together. Rewarding.

One question I always get is “What’s difficult about doing a long run of a show? Does it get boring?” These questions get straight to the heart of what means to do your job well. The first thing to remember is that every night, this is that audience’s first time seeing the show and it’s our responsibility to put on the best version of our show. That idea still keeps me excited and gives me a fun nervousness before curtain. I also spend a lot of time with the script, even after the show has opened. And I’m not the only one. The amazing Chris Winfield, our Scrooge, can be seen with his script every day. So can Klair Bybee, our Jacob Marley. Clearly we’ve already learned our lines, so what could we be doing, you wonder? We’re still investigating the material. Making discoveries. Looking for new ideas, actions and emotions to discover. I’m sure you’ve read books more than one time and somehow on the tenth reading, you understand something that you’ve never noticed before. It’s the same with the script. Not only does it make your performance clearer and more fully developed, but it keeps you fresh. When you’re still open to finding new things, even while you’re onstage, it is not a repeat performance. It’s the first time for you, and the audience can feel that. How? It’s a mystery.

I can say that being able to refine your performance over the time you are performing a role is a wonderful gift of the theater. I never “freeze” a performance, because that shuts out all possibility of magic. We’ve had people see the show multiple times and tell us how much the show has grown even though they loved it the first time they saw it. That is the best compliment we can get, because it means we’re doing our job well.

As we get to the end of our run of this show, I know I’ll miss doing it. There’s something about this story, getting to hear it every night has an impact on you – as it should. I’ll also miss working with all of these wonderful actors! These are the funniest people I’ve spent time with in recent memory. Since there are 27 of us, we are like one big crazy family backstage, in the dressing rooms and in the green room. We’re constantly looking for a kid’s vest that always seems to wander off. Every day. The kids are always joking with us and playing jokes on us. And it keeps everything interesting and fresh backstage. That camaraderie also informs our relationships in our performances. Everything helps everything.

I’ll see you at the theater! Maybe even this weekend – there are still tickets available for our final four shows! And if you feel so inclined, come on back to say hello to the cast after the show. You’re allowed - we’re all family.

Before I forget – I wanted to remind you that our next production at The Group Rep is The City. It’s a revival of a play that was written in 1909 but has been updated to modern times. It’s a play with murder, intrigue, scandal and politics. Stay tuned to this space to find out more…

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Monday, December 14, 2009

From the Rehearsal Hall: OPENING NIGHT!

After weeks of rehearsing it all comes down to one night: Opening Night. Often opening day is spent trying to stay calm and conserving energy. I often pretend to take a nap. I know I’ll never actually get to sleep, but I always lie down and close my eyes anyway. Luckily for this production of A Christmas Carol, we had performances leading up to the actual opening, called previews. At first it’s just a few company members sitting in the house, getting us used to having an audience. It really helps – you get used to the flow of the show, and learn how demanding it will actually be. You also learn where people may laugh. There are always surprises in that department, you recognize jokes and expect laughs in those places, but you never know what an audience will find humorous. By the time we got to the night before opening, the house was completely sold out! And there were reporters and other members of the press seeing the show to review it. It’s great to get some of them there before opening night if at all possible, as it helps take some of the pressure off the opening. A part of you wishes they would wait a couple of weeks until the show is a well oiled machine, but their job is to help get the word out about the show. At the end of the day, you appreciate that they’re there at all.

Finally the big day arrived. We actually didn’t have the day off, we had rehearsal scheduled that afternoon. I was thrilled to do it because this show is a big production. Technically, it’s an extremely complicated. Plus, it has the added benefit of keeping you focused and not jittery at home. And you know what – the opening show was fantastic! We were all in a great mood from being excited and had been focused together all day. It was such a relief not only for it to go off without a hitch, but for it to happen at all! There were so many emotions attached to opening that you felt a huge weight had been lifted by the performance.

Once we got past that, we could finally settle into the run and do our jobs.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Click here to go straight to the next installment.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

From Rehearsals [Getting Used to the Space]

Bumping your head. Falling on your face. Tripping over chairs. Running into walls. Making entrances too early. Tripping over people. Making entrances too late. Stumbling around in the dark and somehow ending up outside the theater. This is what it’s learn your way around a set that’s just been built.

All the while, you’re trying to remember your lines and blocking.

Finally being able to use the set is an exciting time in rehearsal. For one, it means that you’ve moved out of the rehearsal hall and into the theater. That in and of itself has it’s own difficulties. The rehearsal hall is a closed space where we can hear each other easily, especially when we’re singing. The theater is designed so that the sound flows out into the audience. Onstage it can often feel like you’re out there all alone. In a great way. Feeling that exposed requires you to listen with your entire being and that makes everything you do onstage much more alive. As does the throbbing pain that results from running into a wall. But hey – anything that makes the show a more visceral experience for the audience is a good thing, right?

In all seriousness, our set is beautiful and fun and is a testament to the talent of our scenic designer, Trefoni Rizzi. The kids are having a blast playing on it, as are (ahem) the adults.

Come see the show and you’ll see what I mean! A Christmas Carol is playing at The Group Rep. Tickets are available now.

Happy Holidays!

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

click HERE to go to the next installment.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

From the Rehearsal Hall [Children of All Ages]

One of the best things about being an actor is you’ll get to work with people of all ages. And the ages of the actors in A Christmas Carol span seven decades! From the smallest tweens to veteran actors, our cast has quite the breadth of experience. The greatest aspect of working with actors of a certain age is not only their wisdom (which we all expect), but their personalities! These artists are not the fuddy-duds of our society – they’re actors! They’ve lived their lives as performers and all bring such a spectacular energy to our lives, onstage and off. Every stereotype is blown out of the door, with constant humor, brilliance and WIT! Just the other day, we heard one of the best jokes about The Simpsons from a completely unexpected source, and it brought the entire cast to our knees! Let me tell you, at a time when you’re getting used to the set and trying to remember your lines, some good humor goes a long way.

But the world of A Christmas Carol is not a world populated only by adults. We all know the adage of showbiz is “never work with kids!” And to be completely honest, whenever I’ve worked with children, that thought has crossed my mind. Multiple times. But not here. The younger actors we are lucky enough to work with in this production blow that idea out of the water. I have never seen more honest and less precocious performances from children than the ones our kids are bringing. It’s more than merely refreshing, it’s exciting. And they’re all pros! I’ll admit, whenever someone gets confused as to where they’re supposed to be – they can just ask one of our kids, because they will know the answer.

Every day in rehearsal I feel truly blessed not only to witness and learn from everyone’s work ethic, but also because I get to spend time with such wonderful people. I have not experienced such warmth in rehearsals in my entire life. It’s a lovely thing to experience at all, much less during the holidays.

Come see the show and you’ll see what I mean! A Christmas Carol is playing at The Group Rep. Tickets are available now.

Happy Holidays!

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

click HERE to go to the next installment.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Christmas Carol!

This is the first entry from the A Christmas Carol Rehearsal Blog. [it's playing at The Group Rep] Here is your first look into what the rehearsal process is actually like. The best part about this show is not only is it a brand new musical adaptation of the famous Dickens’ book, but it’s also the Los Angeles Premiere! All of us at The Group Rep are excited to put on the premiere and look forward to sharing this wonderful piece of theatre with the world.

I haven’t mentioned this before, but I joined rehearsals as an immediate replacement. When I accepted the role, I was performing in another show and scheduling made it so that I couldn’t join rehearsals until they had already been in progress for a couple of weeks. I’ve been an immediate replacement a few times before and it is very… real. Immediately. Everyone else had been working with and getting familiar with the material for weeks so there was quite a lot of catching up to do. I was also dealing with the nerves of being the “new guy” who is introduced to everyone all at once. The best thing to do in these situations is just dive in. Be fearless. Besides, I had a lot of work to do.

The first two days I was there were spent entirely on music – and the first song we worked on was “Fezziwig’s Carol” – my number. Since this is a premiere, I have never heard or even read the music. I kept saying to myself “Just dive in! Just dive in!” It was, to say the least, overwhelming. I was still performing in the other show - there were times when I was sure my head would explode from the alarming rate I was stuffing new information into it. But – the music was wonderful and the arrangements were so lush! How could I not forget how completely exhausted my body was and just let go?

It felt good. It felt right.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

click HERE to go to the next installment.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How I Got My Equity Card -or- Pump Your Brakes

Actors' Equity Association. "AEA" or "Equity", founded in 1913, is the labor union that represents more than 48,000 Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. Equity seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society. Equity negotiates wages and working conditions, and provides a wide range of benefits; including health and pension plans, for its members.

During my sophomore year at NYU I got a job as an EMC (Equity Membership Candidate) at The Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ. Their producer, Roy Miller and their artistic director, Robert Johanson, wanted me to be in the ensemble for their production of Man of La Mancha and also understudy one of the principal roles. It took a long time for me to find out because they had to make a special deal with Equity to allow me to be able to do that job. I appreciated it – not only did it allow me to do that show, but the way the artistic staff believed in me gave me the confidence I needed to perform at such a prestigious venue for the first time.

But I was still just an EMC. While my ego was bruised at first, it ended up being a good thing, because I was able to play some roles while I finished university that I would most likely not have been able to if I had my equity card. I played the Witch in Into the Woods. As a woman. Charles in Pippin. The Senator in Hello Again. Let’s face it, I would not have gotten to play roles like that as a 20 year old if it weren’t for imaginative directors working Off-Broadway. I now think of this as an integral part of my development as an artist. I had been exposed to highly commercial theater and I also got to get down and dirty like any twenty year old artist needs to. I still needed to cut my teeth, as it were.

After La Mancha closed, I went back to school. Begrudgingly. It was a serious reality check going from working in a sold out run at “The State Theater of New Jersey” (and all of the luxury that goes with that) to living in a dorm and getting up early for class five times a week. And I still had two years to go.

During my final semester I got tonsillitis (while I was playing Charles in Pippin, I might add) and had to miss just over two weeks of academic classes. I was struggling to keep up with my work when three weeks before the end of the semester my Art History teacher informed me that there was no way I could pass that class and the best thing for me to do would be to withdraw. Not passing that class meant not graduating early, as I had planned. DRAMA! I was beyond disappointed - I was supposed to graduate in three weeks! I moped around for a week when I saw an ad for an audition for the national tour of Freedom Train: The Harriet Tubman Story. I wasn’t too keen on going on tour at that time, but I just couldn’t imagine going back to school immediately.

I went to the audition and got called straight to the final callbacks. I wasn’t nervous until I opened the door and saw the entire creative team behind the table. There were at least ten auditors - there were so many people that they actually had to push two tables together to fit them all! I sang my song, read the scene and went home thinking that they weren't too impressed and I really should register for the next semester. Within an hour, I got the call to do the show.

Six weeks later I was on the road, freezing my ass off in the snow belt. It was cold. This was the kind of winter weather where the temperature wouldn’t get much warmer than six or seven degrees. Sometimes, it seemed like I would never get warm. I got a cold that lasted three weeks! But I got to see so many cities and perform in some of our country’s most beautiful theaters that have been around since the vaudeville age. You could feel the magic in some of these old and ornate palaces. As difficult as the touring lifestyle is, and it IS difficult, I felt like the luckiest man alive as soon as I made my first entrance onstage every night.

And I got my equity card.

Yes, I do feel fortunate to that I got to join the union while I was still in college. And yes, that is pretty rare. When you're in drama school, everyone is focused on getting their equity card or at least becoming an EMC as soon as possible because you can't even audition for big shows unless you are a member of the union. I had spent some time taking class at NYU while still in high school and I wanted my equity card then! But I was no where near ready for that sort of artistic responsibility. I remember being frustrated that I didn't get my card from working at Papermill. I think the important lesson for me was that I had to keep working hard, growing as an artist and the union status would come at the right time. And boy did it! Instead of having to go back to school when I thought I was finished, I got to take a semester off and go on the road. I finished school the next fall right around the time I got my SAG card...

But that's another story.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Rehearsal Hall Surprise!

Look who I ran into the rehearsal hall at the Center Theater Group! CTG runs the Ahmansan, the Mark Taper Forum and the Kirk Douglas Theater. You all know Lea Michele from the TV's GLEE[!]. What you may not realize is that she comes from the Broadway musical Spring Awakening. Jonathan Groff was her costar in that musical, and will be playing her possible love interest on GLEE! WHAAAAAAAAAT?! Sounds like fun. They're doing a workshop of a new musical at CTG, which could end up being exciting. Either way, it was fun to hang with them both during a break, albeit briefly. What resulted is a surprisingly good picture. Note how tired we all look. I would like to add that this pic was taken about 45 seconds after I had finished singing a vigorous ten page song - that's why I look so "awesome."

Jonathan, Soccerboy, Lea. (photo credit: Jonathan Groff)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Box-Office Round Up: October Eleventh, 2009

5. Paranormal Activity $7.07 million [week three]. Well! The folks at Paramount are surely jumping up and down based on these numbers! I know that seven million does not seem like a huge number, but you must consider that it’s only on 160 screens and is getting a $44,000 per screen average. That’s good news, the next highest per screen average is $11,700 and that belongs to the number one movie! PLUS – this picture pretty much succeeded on the basis of viral marketing. This movie has been a trending topic on Twitter for the last ten days – all based on a few well-placed trailers. Well done, Paramount. Well done.

4. Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3D [re-release] $7.7 million [week two].
I think everyone knew that these would place in the top five – I mean these are new animation classics! What else is there to say?

3. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs $12 million [week four]. Since this the first edition of The Dup in quite some time, I feel I should mention the fact that everyone was surprised at how well this movie is doing. Anyone who tells you differently is lying to your face. Yes, it’s based on a longtime bestselling children’s book, but those fail as movies all the time! [Ahem, The Seeker: the Dark is Rising] The key with children’s movie adaptations is to keep the budget low enough so that home video can save you if need be, because we all know that as much as any kiddie flick makes in it’s theatrical release, it’s always going to at least double that on home video because parents will always need something to occupy their kids without them.

2. Zombieland $15 million [week two]. I had no idea how this movie was tracking before it was released; all I knew was that those ads and trailers seemed to keep getting funnier the more I saw of them. This movie is a bona fide hit – it made its budget back [and more] on its opening weekend. Pundits say that this is an example of the death of star vehicles, but… I don’t agree. Yes, this is a small film without any huge box office actors in it – but Woody Harrelson is a name. Jesse Eisenberg is a name of sorts, he’s still up and coming but people definitely mention that it’s got the dude from Adventureland. Once you factor in its genre roots and the fact that it was the first genre flick of it’s kind to open in October for Halloween’s sake, you had to imagine that it’s be a hit. That being said, I also think that if this movie starred two hugely well known actors everyone involved would have to spend so much time explaining why their stars aren’t actually slumming that it wouldn’t be a hit at all – even un-savvy audiences would think it looked like a payday.

1. Couples Retreat $35.3 million [opening weekend]. Couples retreat is an example of good marketing. There have been outdoor print ads up for a few weeks now and they never seemed to be apologizing for themselves (see Surrogates). In fact it was exactly the way I felt about the print ads for The Hangover. I had not seen a trailer, but somehow these ads just began to look funnier the more I looked at them as the weeks rolled by. Then I finally sat down and watched the trailer – I had no idea that it had Vince Vaughn AND Jon Favreau - that’s like every bachelor’s favorite pairing. And then I learned that they wrote this picture together! As soon as I found that out, I knew that it would be a hit. And in fact, it’s the highest gross for a movie they wrote and starred in. ALREADY! Actually, they broke their previous two movies’ grosses (Swingers and Made) sometime early Friday evening. I’m just saying. Congrats to the boys – for a lot of us, Vince and Jon feel like people we know. They’re there because we put them there.

[ © MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Saturday, July 11, 2009

One. Year. Old.

One year ago today Soccerboy in LA began! When I started I had no idea where it would take me, or even if I’d really have anything to say that would take me farther than one month. I’m surprised. And grateful. This is the most amazing journey, and it has been/is nowhere near easy. It was always fun and compelling, but the learning curve was steep.

A week after the first feature I wrote one titled One. Week. Old. When I look back, that feature is surprisingly in tune with the obstacles and successes I have encountered in the past year. This is just a taste of what I’ve learned on this path of following my dreams.

Believe in your work. Love your work. Pour your entire being into your work. Make brave choices in your work. Never settle for mediocrity. Demand the best out of yourself every single day, and when that begins to feel old renew that feeling.

No one is going to give anything to you – you must be prepared to do it yourself. It may be surprising at first, but you get used to it. As soon as you realize that you have complete creative control, you’ll love doing it all yourself. Doing it yourself also means that when things go wrong, you are the person who has to fix them. The longer you wait to get things fixed, the longer you will wait for results. All sorts of results – results you can’t even imagine.

As soon as you begin to get results, people will try to take everything away from you, or explain it away. They will call you crazy, or worse. They’ll say “You got lucky,” or “You’re not talented,” or “Your work isn’t good.” Even if you’re getting genuine compliments from people, there will always be the buzz of vultures. Sometimes they’ll even be brave enough to say hurtful things to your face. Let them, congratulate their courage but Never Defend Your Work. Besides, how are you going to let someone who sits on their ass all day and does nothing creative get inside your head? Then, move along. Once you’re far enough away, you’ll realize that their hatred is simply ceremonial; it confirms that you are winning. When you’ve done something for yourself, no one can take it away from you.

Don’t trust everyone. Look directly into people’s eyes and you will know who is worthy of your trust. Immediately.

Know when a compliment is genuine. Never be afraid to hear constructive criticism.

Surround yourself with supportive people. Become a supportive person – it’s much more fulfilling than you realize.

Maybe most importantly: Be a nice person. I like being nice, compassionate and loving. It’s one of my favorite things about being human. In fact I think that’s what’s missing from the world and causes a lot of our problems. It also makes it much easier to build personal and business relationships. The problem is when you are nice, many people will perceive that you are weak and will try to stop you, fuck you over, overlook you or dismiss you. You must remain strong. You must always be willing to stand up for yourself and your work. And if you have to, remind them that being nice is just a choice.

Never. Give. Up.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Madeleine Stowe Laughs Last!!! [and finally, btw]

Madeleine Stowe Laughs Last!

A few weeks ago, I wrote An Open Letter to Madeleine Stowe about her “situation” with the screenplay she wrote and wanted to star in. If you remember, no studio wanted to make the movie with her as the star, because she wasn’t bankable enough. It didn’t matter that Ms. Stowe was (and still is) quite the actress. She held onto the screenplay and never sold it, the role was worth that much to her. In my letter to her, I suggested so much time had passed that it was time for her to look at her options again. I thought maybe it was time to let go of her dream of starring in the movie she wrote – and it would be painful to do so. But I said that she was talented enough to make another one and if she sold the first and took a secondary role, that could make become bankable enough to star in her second.

Well, it seems she took my advice to heart. Not exactly, but better. See, the thing about advice is the way you make it your own. When you can see that a bit of advice is good, you still have to find a way for it to fit on you. And she did. Variety reports today that she just sold her script, and finally! Oscar winning actress Rachel Weisz will play the lead role. And Madeleine Stowe won’t be in it at all. She’s going to direct the motherfucker!

She deserves a standing ovation for this. She did not give up on her dream. I know a lot of people will point out that she won’t get to play her dream role, but I say: She get’s to be the sole person responsible for telling her dream story.

Way to go, Madeleine Stowe! I’m right proud of you.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved. that's right, yatches: this shit is mine!]

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Julia Has A Laugh

This is video from the Lincoln Center Tribute to Tom Hanks - Not a roast at all. In the priceless video below, Julia Roberts speaks some choice words about Tom Hanks that we know are all too true.

Way to go Julia!

But serioudsly, Julia, you could stand to learn how to hold for a laugh. I'm just saying!

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Friday, April 17, 2009

An Open Letter to Madeleine Stowe

Everyone on the planet is aware of how there are a ridiculously small amount of good roles for women in Hollywood. And we also know there’s far less for women over forty. I for one, think it’s a shame. But to be fair, it’s not like I’m writing Meryl Streep’s next Oscar winning role – I’m too busy writing for myself. Well, Madeleine Stowe decided to write her own, and good on her for doing that. Actually, she wrote it a while ago, but we’ll get back to that.

A few years ago, I spent some time at a very successful talent/literary agency. I won’t say which one, but I can say that it commonly goes by three initials, none of which are the letters U, W, P or T. While I was there, Stowe’s screenplay was making the rounds trying to get sold. Now, this was no ordinary screenplay –this screenplay was good. And by good, I mean great. So good, that not a single studio that passed on it. Are you following? The screenplay with an over 40 female protagonist was so good that every studio in town wanted it. The only problem? None of them wanted to do it with Stowe as the star, she wasn’t bankable enough. Ouch! So what did Ms. Stowe decide? She refused to sell to any studio who wouldn’t have her be the star.

Good for her!

Now it’s been several years and she still hasn’t sold that script. And let’s be honest, it’s not like she’s become any more bankable since that script was making the rounds. But that’s okay, I’ve got a plan for her.

Dear Madeleine Stowe,

Since you can clearly write a phenomenal script – write another one, girl! The only thing is that the second one has to be inarguably better than the first. You can do it, you already did it once. Take it from another writing person – good scripts aren’t an accident. Don’t worry about what people call beginner’s luck. Just sit down, lock in, and use the same energy you used to pound out the first one. Warning: it will not feel the same, but luckily this time you have even more to prove. So prove it!

After you write this new great screenplay for yourself to star in, sell the first one – without attaching yourself to star. I know, I know – it kinda hurts. You can play another character in the movie, for sure, but not the lead. Let the studios do what they feel they gotta do. Then, win the Original Screenplay Oscar™! This will be difficult in ways that have nothing to do with art,and you may end up feeling like a whore but again, you can do it. And once you have won the Oscar™, sell the second screenplay with you attached to star. And voila, you’re back!

Now wasn’t that simple? Always trust the Soccerboy.

[MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Monday, April 13, 2009

State of the Industry

We're all aware of what's going on financially around the world. I was forwarded an email that originated from a CAA agent that spells out an idea of exactly what is going on in Hollywood right now and what that means for his clients. This was the first time I had heard anyone manage to state it so succinctly. It is hard reading, in the best way. It's complete honesty is somehow uplifting, like a light at the end of the tunnel. Below is the transcript.

Dear Clients,

I wanted to take a moment and give you a number of important updates.

Before I begin, however, I wish to tell you all that I am so very proud of you all for your dogged determination during these most difficult times. Hollywood is being challenged on multiple fronts – labor uncertainty, paradigm shifting and the great recession.

I know a lot of you are getting antsy to get out more, and frankly many of you are in a tight financial pinch; as such, I wanted to describe to you all the current climate in LA and the factors influencing the
current environment.

1. SAG STALEMATE: Since the SAG contract expired on June 30, 2008, there have been few to no STUDIO feature films (this does not include companies such as Lionsgate and the Weinstein Company that are not in AMPTP and as such have completion agreements). Some analysts say there are up to 200 feature films on hold. Around September, we started to see a mass movement of film actors to TV projects. Many of my "name" actors have done one-day guest stars (this is very typical right now), and we are seeing a number of Guest Star level actors doing CO-STAR roles. Remember from November of 2007 to March of 2008, due to the Writers Strike, again there were no feature films shot. So for the film actor, there has only been 4 months of work in the last 17 months.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Due to the lack of studio feature film production, BOTH film and TV actors are now competing for a limited number of jobs in the episodic and pilot environments.

2. PILOT SEASON: During the Writer¹s Strike of 2007-2008, Studios adapted and used the void to eliminate pilot season as we know it. Gone are the days of hundreds of pilots. In fact, this year, there are only 67 pilots to have registered for production of which only about 35 have been greenlit for production.

And this year, due again to a sagging economy, studios and networks believe that by committing named stars to their projects, they will receive more money from this year’s upfronts from ad agencies. They are banking on star power to leverage better buys at the all important UPFRONTS. So, stars and pop-stars like Richard Dreyfuss, Chevy Chase, Brittany Snow, Elle McPherson, Rebecca Romijn, Ashley Simpson, Scott Caan, Skeet Ulrich, and proven TV talents like Kelsey Grammar, Eric McCormick, John McGinley, Joel McHale, Jenna Elfman, Donald Faison, Maura Tierney, Peter Krauss, Craig T. Nelson, Dax Shepherd, etc. You do the math -- 37 pilots, top stars being sought.

BOTTOM LINE: The conflagration of the economy and a lack of roles being cast, means that this pilot season may be even more competitive than the concurrent regular TV market right now. So those of you who have gotten auditions for series regulars, feel great about that!

3. TV: While TV has been steady, again due to the conflagration of film and named actors doing guest starring roles, we have seen a horrible trickle down. Many Guest Stars are now doing Co-stars and Co-stars/Developmental Actors (those with less than 5 primetime credits) frankly are not getting seen much. One CD recently told me that she had over 25 women who would be considered working actors going for a co-star role.

BOTTOM LINE: Again, due to the abundance of name and working actors, many less-developed actors are not even being seen right now.

4. ECONOMIC IMPACT I THE EROSION OF QUOTES/RATES: There are really three major impacts to actors during this economic crunch. First, we are seeing the erosion of quotes. Due to the availability of so many talented actors, CDs and Producers are in the driver¹s seat in negotiations. When they say, "Well, we got someone else who will do it for less," they ain’t kidding. I have spoken to a number of my peers who have confirmed this erosion of pay for actors. In short, right now, quotes are eroding and for many, the minimum has become the maximum pay.

5. ECONOMIC IMPACT II THE CONCLUSION OF SAG STALEMATE: Many are hoping that with the end of this stalemate, Hollywood will get back to normal. I have to say that I am not one who necessarily believes this. First off, due to the economic conditions, most studios have lost their millions of dollars from hedge funds; and European, Asian and Middle Eastern money has dried up. Even Steven Spielberg has had to beg, borrow and steal to get his company financed. And it wasn’t anywhere near what he originally asked for. I believe that, even after the SAG stalemate is over, there is probably not enough money for 50 Studio Feature Films to be done right out of the gate.

BOTTOM LINE: While this will help us move towards normalcy, it will not be the cash cow some people think it will be. One side note is that I expect that more formulaic projects will be down out the gate as studios will be less likely to take significant risks since most of these projects will be financed by both the studio and their investors. In short, you will see more Iron Mans, animation and SAWs; they are
money in the bank when you factor in ratios, etc.

6. ECONOMIC IMPACT III OVERALL STATEMENT OF ENVIRONMENT: It is important that everyone follow the economic conditions closely. I know it is easy to be skeptical over the studios, networks, cablers, production houses, show runners, etc, losing money, but it is a cold-hard fact right now. These entities are truly in a difficult spot. If you have read much lately, there have been dramatic cutbacks at every studio and network, from firings to asking show runners to cut between 2%-7% of their budgets (not to mention the 25+% cutback shows like the Sarah Silverman were asked to swallow recently). Furthermore, these networks and studios are largely owned by conglomerates that have lost in the billions over the last 6 months. When I attended NATPE in January, all the talk was how to get "thinner." Everything is getting tight. Budgets, Marketing, Staffing, etc., and this will undoubtedly impact the actor. Also, the foreign sales market (where much of the TV and Film money is made) is being hit hard by the erosion of the US Dollar. So these entities are not able to recoup the costs they were
in better days by the one-time explosion of the foreign markets.

BOTTOM LINE: The economic conditions are forcing the industry to be as “thin” as possible.

7. COMMERCIALS INDUSTRY AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS: One analyst said last year, that 2008 was the worst commercial market since maybe 1974. I would not argue with this. Think about it: three of the top products/services for ad agencies are banks, cars and other financial services all of which were struck down in 2008/early 2009 by this recession. This was confirmed when news struck that even the Super Bowl did not sell out advertising this year. The good news is that the advertising industry tends to be one of the first ones to be negatively impacted by a recession, but one of the first to grow as the recession moves to an end as advertisers of products want to start accumulating market share before the turn of the economy. Another impact relates to the overall conditions of the TV/FILM/PILOT situation. Many strong actors have made enough money on TV/FILM, etc so that they have not had to do commercials in years. Due to the last few years and the lack of work, many top actors are now back in the commercial market; thus again, causing a logjam in casting.

BOTTOM LINE: The economic slowdown has caused a dramatic decrease in ad sales and the lack of work has caused more actors to re-enter the commercial market.


Okay, so that is where we are today. You know me; I try to always call it straight as I see it. So, I am not going to sugar-coat this either. I anticipate that 2009 will be a tough year overall for actors (and
agencies). First off, the economy will not likely get straightened out until at least the 3rd to 4th quarter of this year and so all the factors above will remain in place through most, if not all, of 2009.

Secondly, until the labor situation gets straightened out, we will not be seeing dramatic amounts of film production and this seems to be dragging along as well. (As we enter the 8th month of the stalemate, it was announced today that SAG is thinking now about taking AMPTP to court for anti-trust violations.) But again, even if it was finalized, there is not enough investor money to see the film production level normalize and increase for most, if not all, of 2009. Also, since movies cost around $40 for two (tickets, popcorn, etc), this is not a recession-proof field anymore.

During our last significant recession, there were few choices for guilty pleasures to get away from the stress of our times so many people flocked to the theatres. NOT SO THESE DAYS, one can go to the web, TV, cable (not around in 1974, 1982, 1988 much), Video Games, Netflix, RedBox (movie for $1). So studios are probably not in any big rush to make films as people cannot afford this once-cheap diversion better to divert for a few bucks to all the many other sources of guilty pleasures.

OKAY, so that didn’t sound like good news.

The good news is that there are some paradigm shifts occurring that make 2010-2012 look like it might be one of the most prolific times in Hollywood history. Due to technological developments, there are more platforms being developed than ever. The internet is driving millions of new viewers each year.

Zillion is going to transform the way we view advertising. For those who don¹t know, it has recently been unveiled by the maker of Real Player and the “mouse.” It is a system that makes you watch ads before downloading movies (they already have 14,000 titles ready for download), TV, other forms of entertainment to your TV screen. However, the consumer can choose the products they want to see (let’s say you go retail clothing and watch a Macy’s ad and love the jacket; you can immediately click on the ad/jacket and go directly to their website, where you can buy it). Also, you earn points by watching the commercials that you can use towards purchases.

Furthermore, SONY and others are now selling TVs that wirelessly connect to your computer, so you can download TV/FILMS at anytime from your computer (websites like Hula, Netflix, etc) directly to
your TV. In short, technology is making more platforms which will require more content than ever. Also, Cablers are all embracing doing scripted shows, some have up to 5 shows this year -- again, more content is needed and thus MORE ACTORS!

BOTTOM LINE: More platforms = more content = more actors! So as long as SAG/AFTRA can protect your rates and jurisdictional issues, there will be more good compensated work than ever in Hollywood by 2010-2012.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jake Wilson is The Real Deal

I do not throw words like this around. I mean it, Jake Wilson is the real deal. Jake stars in a web sitcom called The Battery’s Down. The show is a hilarious look into the life of someone making it as an actor living in New York City. But get this: it’s a musical, complete with songs and big dance numbers – and it’s totally indie! Here’s the best part, not only is Wilson the star, but he created the show and writes it as well! Jake and I chatted about what it’s like making your own show for the internet. [something I’m a bit familiar with myself…]

Jake graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with a degree in Musical Theatre and says that it was the best program ever and the best decision of his life. He moved to NYC right after graduation, right after Michigan’s senior showcase [which is how he got his agent!]. He loves living in New York even with the financial difficulties that the city brings, but also knows he’d feel that way no matter where he would live doing what he does. Jake had been in NY for a few months auditioning and “getting bored from just working stupid part-time jobs” and wanted to do something to get his name out and be fulfilled creatively. He shot some ideas around with a few friends and eventually settled on the premise that is The Battery’s Down.

Jake’s title on the show is exactly what one would expect from a multi-hyphenate. Right now it stands as: Creator/Writer/Producer/Director/Cinematographer/sometimes Choreographer/Publicist/Production Manager/Actor/ etc…

I hate that actor always comes last. I am an actor above all else and that aspect of it always seems to get thrown by the wayside because of my 87 other responsibilities. I am praying for the day where I can just sit back and simply be a creator/writer/actor.
That is definitely the price of being a multi-hyphenate. At first, you take on more responsibility in the production because you’re just trying to open up more opportunities as a performer, and then people all of a sudden forget that you really are also an actor on the show too! But that is the life of being on an indie production. The Battery’s Down is totally Indie, there are no investors. . The main people Jake has helping him in that area are his friends, and costars on the show Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Adam Wachter, and Jessica Hershberg. Even though the show is indie, the production value is incredibly high. I mean, this is a musical!

Thank you!! We do what we can. There is no budget. The budget is "how can we do this for free?" "who can do us another favor?" "how am I going to pay my rent?" Everything is out of my pocket and I really cannot wait for the day where I get paid to do this!!! [Anyone reading? ;) We are totally open for blatant advertising and product placement] There is no crew, although of recently I do have a great assistant and some interns that help with the logistics of setting up locations etc. It is usually either my friend Michael Kadin Craig or Andrew Keenan-Bolger filming. They both help me with the editing as well, but everything is totally unpaid and done by ourselves via Final Cut. In a perfect world I would LOVE to have things actually set up and have loads of pre-production months in advance, but there is absolutely no time in the real world. With a few exceptions [mainly in the writing area] we begin from scratch on the 2nd of the month and plow forward until about 11pm on the 31st when I am burning the DVD and running late to the release party.
What made you decide to create a web sitcom?

It is absolutely the best way to expose yourself for the smallest amount of money. Plus I have total creative freedom. Where else can someone my age with no real credits say that? How could anyone pass that up? This show is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I feel that if we don't make the jump to network TV like we have been talking about, there will sadly probably only be one more season of the show. I physically can't do it to myself for that much longer and maintain a normal life, especially on zero budget. That being said, It is the happiest moment of the month when I can relax for one day and watch all of my friends laughing at the DVD showing at the release parties. In the end I am obviously having a blast. I am so lucky to have been able to work with such talented and giving actors and composers. I still can't believe that I can honestly say "Yea, I filmed a scene with Christine Ebersole for MY television show." Like...WHAT?!?
There you go. I told you, Jake Wilson is the real deal, yo! The second season of The Battery’s Down premieres on April First! No joke! Check out the trailer for the second season below, and watch the first season at!

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The DUP : March 8, 2009

Crikey! It’s already March? What happened? Daylight Savings, that’s what happened. Now I love having the eveningtimes lit by sunlight just as much as the next guy but damn, its still winter! Now we’re just going to use more heat in the AM until the seasons catch up with us. Thank you, 109th Congress, your stupidity is the gift that keeps on giving.

Without further ado, here’s this weekend’s box office estimates:

5. Paul Blart: Mall Cop : $4.2 mil. This movie is still bringing people into the theaters! And with a budget of $26 mil, its $133 mil cumulative gross is fantastic. This kind of money means there will definitely be a sequel.

4. Slumdog Millionaire : $6.9 mil. I wonder how far this movie is going to go while still in theaters. It’s been doing steady business since it opened back in the fall. And with a $125 mil total gross so far – it shows no sign of stopping. Next weekend will be the big test for this picture, seeing that it lost about 42% of last week’s total. With a $15 budget, it’s gotten it’s money back many times over. Though as I said last week, where did they spend $15 million dollars? It’s like when the Blair Witch Project came out and they told the world that they only made that movie for $50,000 and we were all wondering what the hell they spend fifty grand on?

3. Taken : $7.5 mil. This movie is a hit! It has a total gross of $118 million that makes me wonder what other movie has Liam Neeson been in that would come near making this much money? Wait - he was in Batman Begins. And Love Actually. And Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. And Schlindler’s List. Hmmm… When you read that list you wonder if Neeson feels like Taken should have earned more money by now.

2. Madea Goes to Jail : $8.8 mil. Oddly, this week’s gross for Madea is a sign that it’s beginning to slow down. Yes, it’s version of slowing down is landing at number two. With a total gross of $76 million, I’m sure no one over at Tyler Perry Studios is complaining.

1. Watchmen : $55.6 mil. As expected, Watchmen took first place. After the numbers started coming in for Friday night, many people were expecting this movie to do about $75 mil, but movies like this are interesting. It’s audience is similar to the audience for tween movies in that here is the largest amount of interest on opening day. All of the Comic-Con peeps could not wait until Saturday to go, so this movie’s biggest night would be Friday. It may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but let me assure you, that with a $20 million difference, the studio is doing the exact same thing. Another obstacle this picture had to overcome was its running time. At 2:40 before trailers, theatres simply can’t have as many showings as they could if it were only two hours. Now, the remedy would normally be to put more prints on more screens, but at 3600 screens they already have. I definitely have to congratulate Warner’s for leaving no stone unturned. Way to go!

And that’s the weekend!

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Monday, March 9, 2009

At 100!

Break out the Strawberry Bubblicious and the Korbel Extra Dry because this is the 100th feature to appear on Soccerboy In LA!!! We’ve come a long way in eight short months. It all started early one Friday morning when I wrote to a friend living in Scotland saying what was going on in LA at that moment. It made me so happy to write it, I decided to make it the first feature of this magazine.

Living in LA and working in the entertainment industry is an amazing journey in and of itself but writing these features, and making Everybody’s Stupid has brought a new level of awareness of what’s going on around me. All of a sudden you realize that LA is a very cool city. Yes, swimming pools, movie stars, bars and trolley cars are around for sure but there’s so much more. I had no idea that the French Dip was invented in LA nor that Philippe’s is still open for business. Or that there’s a traveling taco truck selling Korean BBQ style tacos! [I have GOT to get there!] And our museums are phenomenal! And it’s all at your fingertips!

We just made it to the halfway point of season one of MD TOTAL’s flagship series, Everybody’s Stupid. Believe it or not, that show has been in the master plan since day one of this magazine. It’s getting some serious recognition, and even more love from people every day. It’s a joy to make, and its especially fulfilling to help people laugh during times like these.

I’m going to leave you with a picture to give you a little perspective on how far we’ve come in 100 features. It’s a shot of the first Everybody’s Stupid print ad, which ran at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I’ve watched myself on TV and on a movie screen but there simply aren’t words to describe what it felt like to see this print ad. We’ve come a long way.

This is just the beginning.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Roundup : 2.28.09

Well, well, well. I bet you thought we were all done here at the Dup, but no. We just took a much-needed bit of time away. It’s been an interesting year at the box office so far, no? No one expected Paul Blart to be the hit it has been except you and me. We’re aware that right now, people are looking to movies to raise their spirits. I happen to believe that’s onbe of the reasons Slumdog Millionaire won the Best Picture Oscar this year. Times are tough - seriously tough – and what better way is there to escape the stress of your life for two hours than a movie?

Here's this weekend's box-office estimates:

5. He’s Just Not that Into You : $5.9 mil. I gotta give it up, this movie is still making money! It has to be the most successful (if not the only) movie who’s idea started from a single line of dialogue from a television show. If I remember correctly, this movie was made at a fraction of the cost of what all these actors salaries would normally command, so I wonder what exactly the number is for it to actually be a success. Between Aniston, Barrymore, Connelly, Johannson, the budget would normally have been $50 mil RIGHT THERE. I have to give it up to everyone involved, they managed to make a romantic comedy that appeals to the times. Word.

4. Taken : $9.9 mil. This movie is doing just fine. I also have to give it up to Luc Besson for his ability (and humility) to just be a writer on a feature. I think that is the most interesting aspect of their story.

3. Slumdog Millionaire : $12.2 mil. Now everybody has already heard of Slumdog by this weekend. Hell, even PCD just released a version of the Oscar winning song, “Jai Ho.” WHAT? Give it a listen, and you’ll be saying the same thing. Going into this weekend, Slumdog had already crossed the $100 million mark having been on about 1500 screens. With their Oscar in hand, the producers decided to expand to about 2950 screens and managed to triple the gross of their previous highest weekend. Way to go! This movie is great fun, and I definitely loved watching it, but I have to ask one question. If it cost $15 million to make, where did all the money go? Let’s get real, were they rolling cigars with $100 bills? Seriously.

2. Jonas Brothers: the 3D Concert Experience : $12.7 mil. The Jonas Brothers now have the second highest opening for a concert film EVER. Maybe it’s time for more people to take them seriously?

1. Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail : $16.5 mil. Madea actually opened last weekend, and scored the Lionsgate’s highest opening weekend in the company’s history, and holds it’s place for a second week. Why? Because Tyler Perry is making movies for a ridiculously under-serviced audience. AND, all his movies have one thing in common. His name is always the first two words in the title of every movie. That, my friends, is what we call branding. And it works!

Now that awards season is over (sorry Hulu awards, I gotta keep it real.) let’s all go to the movies!

And that’s the weekend!

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Everyone is Stupid : Community Service

Here we are, episode SIX is here! Can you believe that we’re at the halfway point of the first season of Everybody’s Stupid?! In the sixth episode, Soccerboy takes President Obama’s words to heart and spends some of his personal time doing a service for his community. During times like these, we would all be better off if everyone took some time to do some sort of service. A community outreach, if you will. And what better time then during the month of Love…?

SO! Sit back, relax, pop some popcorn, pour a drink and enjoy the latest episode of Everybody’s Stupid!

Bonus Points!

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Everyone Is Stupid : Episode FIVE

Spray the Champagne! Episode FIVE of Everybody's Stupid has arrived! After the super-sized Holiday Spectacular, we took a brief hiatus to spend time with friends, family and ourselves. It was a much needed break, and we're already looking forward to the next one. Life is like that, ain't it?

As always, thanks for watching! So - sit back, relax, micro some popcorn [but for the love of all that's holy, if you're at the office: DON'T BURN IT!] pour yourself a Jarritos and enjoy EPISODE THREE of Everybody's Stupid!

Everything in Moderation...

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Checks and Balances

We just got news today that SAG’s National Exec Director/Chief Negotiator, Doug Allen, has “stepped down” from his position. For those who don’t know, SAG is an acronym for the Screen Actors Guild – the union that represents actors in movies and television (including commercials). As an actor, I’ve been a member of unions since 1997, first with Actor’s Equity Association (the union for stage actors) then less than a year later I joined SAG. I only mention that to be fair and honest about whom I am in this debate.

The big debate lately is whether SAG should strike or not. As an actor, I agree with everything we’ve been asking for. There are so many new forms of media for which we are not being compensated fairly. And by new media I mean cable TV and home video. Well, that’s not exactly the focus of our efforts, but it is something we are still fighting for because actors, writers and directors have been getting screwed since cable and home video were still nascent. And now that the internet has been around for well over a decade we’re keen on awareness. Hell – Marlene Dietrich knew it before everybody else did. She put a clause in her contract to protect her payment for all media known and heretofore unknown, anywhere in the known universe. DAG. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

As a person with a brain, I also fully understand that this is not the time to strike. We all just barely survived the writer’s strike of 2007-2008, and this town cannot take another work stoppage. You see, when writers strike, producers can make the scripts that they’ve already purchased. But when actors strike, nobody works. Including catering, makeup, wardrobe, grips, cinematographers, gaffers, people who build sets, people who design sets, producers, writers and directors. EVERYONE. And most of these people are not getting rich to begin with – they’re struggling with how to keep their houses and pay all their bills as well.

When I realize that SAG was offered a similar contract to the one that writers and directors were offered [and took] a year ago – and that was during far better economic times – I have to put my foot down. No strike, not now. And if it comes down to the one person who was leading us in what I consider to be the wrong direction, then I’m okay with him being removed from that position. Hopefully he’ll find a place with a better fit because SAG is mostly not made up of movie stars, it’s made up of working actors.

He was not alone in his thinking - there were many boldfaced names who made it known that they supported the idea of a strike. Hell, even SAG president Alan Rosenberg was with him all the way. In fact he was quoted today as saying "This is the darkest day within my memory. It kills democracy at SAG."

WHAT? It kills democracy? Apparently Rosenberg has forgotten everything he learned in eighth grade Civics. This would be a good time to remind everyone that democracy in America is made up of three distinct branches: judicial, executive, and legislative. And this situation is an example of the judicial branch [the board members] taking steps to remove the executive branch [National Exec Director/Chief Negotiator] because it became clear he was no longer acting in everyone’s best interests. It’s tough to take, but it sounds exactly like democracy to me.

I’m an actor and even I know that.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It’s ON!

The past seven days have been a flurry of activity. It really was the best Black Weekend ever! Apparently, Black is the new black. But then again – black has always been the new black, now hasn’t it? The inauguration was easily the biggest event in the history of Washington D.C! I love how the president’s inaugural address immediately got down to business, but it also reminded me that he has been getting down to business since November Fourth! Now that Barack Obama is President Obama we can finally get to what’s really important.


That’s right, Oscar nominations came out today, and boy are they interesting. A lot of it is exactly what we expected [Slumdog Millionaire] and some were unexpected [Benji Buttons getting 13 nominations! Huzzah!] while others were completely omitted. The best thing about this year in movies is there were so many good movies that the omissions seem… tough to take.

What’s great about the Golden Globes is that they give a lot of room for different types of movies and performances. The fact that performances are separated into comedy/musical and dramatic areas is extremely kind. And that difference is what I notice the most on the day that the Oscar nominations are announced.

For example, the phenomenal Kate Winslet won two Golden Globes: supporting actress for The Reader, and Lead Actress for Revolutionary Road. Yet she was only nominated for one Oscar, for leading actress. For The Reader. Until this morning, Ms. Winslet was the front-runner for the leading actress Oscar for Revolutionary Road. Now that her nomination is for what she won a Globe in the supporting category – all bets are off. As much as I love, love, love Kate Winslet, I much prefer not having a clear idea in my mind of who will ultimately win the award. Things just got fun! Meryl Streep is never to be ignored in any category, even though she hasn’t won in a long time. Anne Hathaway has been talked about since the day Rachel Getting Married opened in theaters back in the fall. Angelina Jolie gives an AMAZING and subtle performance in Changeling. That movie did not do as well as it should have. I think people thought it was going to be a kidnap thriller, and it simply wasn’t - it was much better that that. Ms. Jolie’s work in that movie is impeccable. And in a year where she also appeared in Wanted, it just goes to show you what she can do. I’ll admit the girl could stand to eat a few more pork chops, but her acting chops are out of this world. Yeah, I said it!

Robert Downey, Jr. gets a nod for Tropic Thunder! That performance is at once crazy and classic. Five months later, my mouth is still agape.

No Cate Blanchett this year. Huh?

Mr. Heath Ledger scored the nomination he deserves! Christopher Nolan said it best when he accepted Ledger’s posthumous Golden Globe: We can all see the giant hole left in the future of cinema. I’m not going to lie to you - Brokeback was the first thing I saw him in that mattered to me. But I had no idea of what he was capable of until The Dark Knight.

No Clint Eastwood. At all?

I have to say that I was surprised about Colin Farrell winning the Globe for In Bruges only because that movie did not get the attention it deserved. That movie is good, it’s the little movie that could. Rent it, and you’ll understand. I have to admit, if it won the Oscar for original screenplay, I wouldn’t complain…

Revolutionary Road was left to Art Direction and costume design. What?

This is exactly what I mean – the omissions are glaring, but at the end of the day there are no more than five nominees in each category. It’s a good list, and should make for an interesting ceremony. Good luck to Hugh Jackman, a lot rests on his shoulders!

Congratulations to all the nominees!!! Have some champagne – you all deserve it. But don’t get too relaxed, now the real work begins.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now Let's Get to Work.

Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Tuesday, as delivered.

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cruise Season!

As you were prowling what’s left of department stores’ after-holiday sales, you must have noticed that bikinis and board shorts were starting to appear on the racks nestled between the gloves and acrylic sweaters. Why are they there, you ask – surely this is not the beginning of summer! And you would be correct, in the coming weeks stores such as Barney’s, Bendel’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and (gasp!) Macy’s will rollout all that’s adorable for spring, but in the gap between Holiday and Spring seasons is an intermittent one: Cruise Season. And let me tell you, it’s easily my favorite. Cruise Season is the five weeks after New Year’s when it’s fashionable to jet off to a resort. If it’s 5 degrees in NYC, then what’s better than a week in the Maldives? Or the Seychelles! Frégate Island, anyone? [Don’t spread that secret around, or it’ll get ruined.]

I find it rather fantastic that a certain class of designers makes a miniature collection of clothing specifically for this mini-season. An entire line of clothes just for vacation! What’s most fascinating is that clothes designed for Cruise Season simply do not work for summer. How is that even possible, they’re hot weather clothes??? The way these collections are designed is specific to the feel of being away during the winter! The colors, the patterns, but most of all it’s about the magic of being away after the holidays have already passed. That, my friends, is honest luxury. Some people go skiing at this time of year; some have a hankering for the beach, others need both. Guess which group I belong to?

For most, this is seemingly a glimpse into a completely different way of living. But that is exactly what makes Cruise Season so great - this is something full-grown adults can aspire to. Even if you’re just regarding advertisements in magazines depicting glossy and fabulous versions of life, that is far more important than mere daydreams. These aspirations, thoughts and desires have the ability to change something in you. Thoughts can spark more creative ways of thinking that can help you achieve goals you previously thought unattainable. That’s what thought can do - it doesn’t have to be a silly waste of time. And let’s be honest, in these troubled economic times, how else are we supposed to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps without more creativity? So go to Frégate Island, even if it’s only in your dreams! [Seriously, don’t tell everybody about our place – can’t we keep it special?] Just pay attention to the way these thoughts make you feel, who knows where that may take you...

Happy New Year. Get yours!

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]