Friday, June 29, 2018

"A Perilous Journey"

You can tell there is nothing on TV when you spend your bedtime “cool-down” watching an hour-long documentary on cargo container ships.

Pity the documentary filmmaker, serving not boundless imagination but limiting factual happenstance.  As luck would have it – which is pretty much all you’re depending on – sometimes, during the boundaried “Shooting Schedule” nothing of import, tension or meaningful consequence takes place.  

What’s a poor documentary filmmaker to do?

(We’ve had direct familial experience in this regard.  Son-in-law Tim worked on an editing team for a series chronicling a mid-sized American city’s “First Responders”, which was cancelled because there were not enough colorful emergencies for the “First Responders” to respond first to.  Or for the underworked filmmakers to record.)

The same challenge faced the creators of the televised tribute the cargo container ship.  They tried their best.  But how do you successfully dramatize “mundane”?

Okay, it was the world’s longestcargo container ship.  Much longer, we were told, than the Titanic– built in 1911, so “Duh!” – and longer than the Empire State building (constructed more recently, but why are they comparing cargo container ships with a building?)

Imagine a giant “Bellows of Significance” pumping “serious import” into a show needing all the “serious import” it can handle.  The container ship’s multi-ton cargo is not missiles and weapons but DVD players and televisions.  (Factual Tidbit:  Do you know how much home entertainment paraphernalia was transported on the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria combined?  None! Okay, the bible.  But it wasn’t on Blu-Ray.)

The captain was asked about the pressure of helming this miracle of modern engineering and readily confessed there was plenty.  His reliable safety valve, he revealed, was standing on deck, and looking around. “Feeling the wind blow in your hair.” (An equallyilluminating insight would be hearing an “Uber” employee, extolling the joy of driving around with the window open.  “It makes all the difference”, Malcolm airily explained.)   

Every step of the cargo ship’s journey from South Korea to Rotterdam was filled with (injected) jeopardy and suspense.  Even the “just traveling on the seas” part.  For if it was not impeccably loaded for perfect balance – worst-case possibility, we were told – the ship could capsize!  (It didn’t.  So “Nice boat-loading, you guys.”)

The ship’s first stop in Hong Kong presented the daunting challenge of docking the massive vessel, similar – though the metaphor was not included – to parallel parking an incredibly long stretch limo.  (Where you think, “I wonder who’s in there.”)  If the ship’s docking maneuver was not precisely executed – worse-case possibility, we were told – the ship could capsize!  (Again, it didn’t.  Maybe the heightened expectations were my fault.  This was reality after all, not The Poseidon Adventure.)

The next leg of the journey involved perilously traversing of “Pirate Country.” 

Since pirates are famously indifferent to home entertainment equipment, their nefarious objective would be holding the ship’s captain hostage for ransom.  And, being restricted from carrying weapons, the ship’s only protective mechanism involved, I don’t know, some contraption that shot water out of it real fast.  

Guns against hoses.  

And we didn’t even see that.

An ominous light was spotted in the darkness.  But it turned out to be a harmless fishing trawler that had drifted off-course.  So no “Arrrrr”, and no action.   

Then, there was the Suez Canal, which, we were informed, cut the travel distance to their Dutch destination considerably, as compared to sailing around the bottom of Africa (which no one had done since the canal’s completion in 1867, but somehow this was treated as “Breaking News.”)

The world’s largest container ship, passing through the narrow Suez Canal, would be a troublingly tight squeeze, we were told, wherein – worst-case possibility – no, the boat would not capsize; there wasn’t enough room – but it could get seriously damaged, and the erring Egyptian engineers piloting it through would be in terrible hot water with their superiors.  (Egypt not being Canada, where they’d say, “Tough luck, eh?”)

The boat got through just fine.

I turned in before the final conclusion.  But I doubt the ship blew up in Rotterdam harbor.  I would have read about it in the papers.

Tallying up – four imminent difficulties – and nothing happened.  But boy, was it ever “drum-rolled” before every commercial it might.

The show’s ultimate “Suspense Level” was negligible.  The thing is, that’s all the poor documentarians had to work with.  

I do not know who deserves more of our pity.  

The people making the program.

Or the folks who found nothing better to watch.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

"Improv Improvement"

Prompted by a bykenlevine post (June 1, 2018)…

When I watch actors, I take note of their efforts to make memorized dialogue sound believably real. Truth be told, I never thought about that when I acted at camp or in the two films I appeared in, the more respectable one being Cannibal Girls.  

I was just trying to deliver the lines.  (Which I immediately forgot, and if they needed a “re-take”, it felt like I had never seen them before.  It’s like, once out of my mouth, they flew out of my brain.  Call it “Celluloid Amnesia.”)

Even if I knew how to replicate reality – recalling a critique by a UCLA drama teacher – “You have a certain quality, but I wouldn’t call it acting.” – a recent blog post describes why I never pursued acting, which I have no regrets about whatsoever. 

Except that I never became one.  

(One regret.  That’s almost no regrets at all.)

This is a subjective survey – but what here isn’t?– but other than Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, and those fast-talking women I mush together as “Carole Lombard”, most actors sound, to me, like they’re acting, delivering dialogue like it was written by somebody else – which  it invariably was – their designated duty, being verbally accurate and sufficiently able to be heard.    

By detectable contrast – he says, embarking on an extraneous side-trip – foreign language performances feel authentically natural, the characters’ dialogue emerging excitingly “hot of the presses.”  The actors feel like they are actually talking to each other.  “Regular people”, conversing on the street.

Simulated Examples  (Emerging in credible torrents):

FRENCH:  “Je ve zen de-mon de-bon de-von zavazon…”  

ITALIAN:  “Peen-ta pun-ta poon-ta bada-ben bada-bean…”

SPANISH:  “Kerada kelada konada menada kenada…”

It sounds like they actually mean it.

Filling the “Credibility Vacuum”, actors in this language resort to conventional “tricks” to enliven the dialogue.  The herky-jerky hesitation, the (mock) stammer, the random “Um’s” and “I mean’s.”  

Actors (unnecessarily) clear their throats, rub their (unitchy) chins, tug on their earlobes, a move that, outside Carol Burnett, I have never experienced in actual life. All to convey, with varying degrees of persuasiveness, “Forget it’s onscreen.  This is actual people talking.”

Thanks for the message. We thought it was totally real.

Which brings us to the Ken Levine-inspired issue of “improvisation.”  (Quotes to be clarified forthwith.)

Improvisation occurs mostly in comedies, though I recall something about Marlon Brando and “a glove” in On The Waterfront.  (Quotes for no reason at all.)  

To a question on the ubiquitous improvising in movies – notably in Judd Apatow movies – Ken responded (in part):

“Sometimes the improvisation adds a sparkle the screenplay didn’t have…But it also results in loose narratives and it’s not a coincidence that Apatow’s movies, although generally very funny, are also too long.”

I agree, and I agree. 

Even during unhappy times at Apatow movies – See:  Superbad – I always marvel at his films’ refreshing spontaneity, his actors delivering “lived-in” performances no other director seems able to elicit.  It’s like the characters are naturally interacting.  

And they are doing it in English!

I also agree that Apatow’s movies, especially those he writes himself, are self-inflictingly too long.

Here’s where I split off, however.

One – editing is still editing. Not all improvised quips are equally “golden.”  The less hilarious ones, along with the extraneous “story points” – making room for “Improvisational Expansion” – can still be judiciously scissored.  (It takes truly memorable punch lines to atone for a third hour of parking.)

Also – clarifying the above-designated quotation marks – 

What Apatow does is not – in the classical sense – improvisation.

True improvisation involves a comedic ensemble, unfolding a suggested notion in front of an audience with no prepared script to fall back on.

This is clever comedians, pitching “alternate jokes.”  (And then leaving them all – or at least too many of them – in.)

Yes, they are spontaneous in both cases.  But one style is a respected comedic art form, and the other is “high-wire” shpritzing in front of the camera, the comedic actor, in subsequent “takes”, competing essentially against themselves.

I am always for “The best joke wins”, whether it’s in the script, or derives spontaneously from the stage.  (Especially if it’s not myscript.  And if it is, you have to demonstrate that the “replacement version” is better, and not just a “sideways” alternative, exciting not because it’s actually funnier but because, “Oh, my God!  Look what just happened!”)

The final intention, however achieved, is to make the sometimes not most scintillating joke or line of dialogue sound believably “alive.”  

It’s like they say about sincerity.

“If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” 
Hesitant Announcement:  Anyone wishing to connect with me in more circumscribed - careful how you read that - venue can reach me at

Troublemakers Unwelcome.

Thank you.

Earl Pomerantz

(Sole Proprietor) 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"'Wheat', Wedux"

Writing about (the nutritional perils of) wheat yesterday returned to mind the sketch I wrote with my brother for the Canadian television special he produced and starred in with his then partner Lorne Michaels, which was called – not surprisingly – nor particularly originally – “The Wheat Sketch.”

The sketch was based on a recently passed law in which, as a price-stabilizing strategy, farmers were paid not to grow wheat.  Being me, I detected the latent humor in that policy, and, teaming up with my brother, we decided to make comedy hay while the sun shines.  See?  I’m in “rural patois” already. 

The following is not it, exactly.  I am a haphazard archiver of written material.  But it’s fun to take a fresh crack at things, now and again.  

So here we go.


(Revised, and hopefully improved.)

Two middle-aged Saskatchewan wheat farmers rock contentedly on their front porch.  Finally, Lem – or Clem – or some equallyinsulting stereotypical “farmer name” – breaks the yawning Saskatchewan silence.


After a long beat, the other replies,


Leading to a veritable torrent of lively conversation.  Although not without pauses.

“Good season, eh?”


“Different, though.”


“Government paying us good money not to grow wheat.”

“Good deal, I’dsay.”

“Real good.  Farmers don’t grow the wheat, and the money rolls in.”


“Couldn’t be easier.”


“No wear and tear – man nor machinery.  No trouble with the weather.  No mechanical breakdowns.  Not a thing to go wrong.”



“What’s wrong?”

“I just thought of something, maybe, could have gone wrong.”

“What’s that?’

“Well, you know how the government pays us not to grow wheat?”


“Now I’m not certain about this.  But what if, theoretically, say, we didn’t grow oats instead?”

“The Canadian government doesn’t payus not to grow oats. They pay us not to grow wheat.”

“I know.  And I’m wondering, what if we didn’t grow the wrong crop by mistake?”

“You mean we didn’t grow oats when were supposed not to grow wheat?

“Things happen, sometimes.”

“There should an easy way to find out about that.”

“What’s that?”

“What didn’t you plant?”

(STRAINING TO REMEMBER) “Sorry.  This is all new to me.  I’m used to planting, not not planting.”

“Retrace your steps. Maybe it’ll come back to you.”

“All right.  I recall heading out to the field, carrying a shovel, and a bag of no seeds.”

“Why’d you do that?

“Force of habit, I suppose.”

“Think, man.  Were those seeds not wheat, or not oats?”


“Wait!  (AFTER A BEAT)  Nope.  I lost it.”

“This is terrible!  What if they check?”

“Check what?”

“What we didn’t plant!  If we didn’t plant oats when we were paid not to plant wheat, we’d be in mighty hot water.  That’s “Defrauding the government.”  Taking money under false pretenses?  They’ll lock us up in the calaboose!”

“What do you think we should do?”

“No choice about it. (RISING FROM HIS ROCKER)  We gotta go out right now, and dig it up!”

“Dig it up?”

“To make sure we didn’t plant the right thing.”

“We didn’t plant anything!”

“The government doesn’t pay us not to plant anything.  The government pays us not to plant wheat!”

“Hold your horses, a second. You’re over-thinking this thing.”


“It’s too late in the season.  There’s no time to dig up the oats we didn’t plant and then not plant wheat instead. We may as well wait it out, and face the music when the time comes.”

(RELUCTANTLY RETURNING TO HIS ROCKER)  “I guess you’re right.  No need to fly off the handle.  We’ll know the truth soon enough.” 


“If she don’t come up in the fall, she’s wheat.  And if she don’t come up in the spring,

TOGETHER:  “She’s oats.”



(Note: There is a chance nine out of the ten Canadian provinces might have found this comedy sketch funny.  One, for sure, would have found it ridiculous.  Though, hopefully, they’d have forgivingly laughed anyway.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"Foodenfreude" *

* “The malicious enjoyment in the misfortunes of other foods.”

There is always the tension. 

No foodstuff is safe.

Carbs.  Sugar.  Fat.  Licorice.

LICORICE:  Licorice!

It’s only a matter of time. You know the saying (I shall tastelessly appropriate for literary purposes):

“First they came for the peanuts.  But I wasn’t a peanut.  Then they came for the high fructose corn syrup.  But I wasn’t…”

You never know who’s going to be next.

CHOCOLATE:  “We were in big trouble for a while.  Then they did a new study – we’re okay!  The darker the better!  The bad part’s the milk!

MILK:  “We still say it does a body good.  But is anyone listening?”

Who knows?  Maybe someday, milk will do a body even better.  It happened with coffee.  Red wine’s stock’s on the rise.  Nothing seems to stay down forever.  Remember the Woody Allen film Sleeper?  Pastrami was a “health food.”  I know that’s satire, but it makes a legitimate point.  Hang on, cotton candy?  Your “Day of Redemption” may yet come to pass.

Currently on the ”Dangerous Food” list – though the nutritionally educated have been after it for decades…

… is wheat.

SASKATCHEWAN WHEAT FARMER:  “Wait! That’s all we do!

What can I tell you? Except start thinking about pinto beans. 

I’m not here to tease “nutritional certitude.”  Although, like economics, but more likely to stick in your teeth, theories on “good and bad” foods seem conspicuously lacking in consensus.

Now, there’s this troubling scuttlebutt about wheat.  (And barley and rye, though I’ll assign wheat the representative “Curly” role for these “Three Stooges” of “questionable comestibles.”)

According to recent carbon testing, hunters and gatherers, for whom wheat was an absent element in their diet…

HUNTER:  “Because we never heard of the stuff.”  


HUNTER:  “I thought you were putting us down.  We get a lot of that, because we stoop.”

I was just saying that because of your entirely wheat-free diets, you guys were nutritionally healthier than your wheat-eating descendants, stronger, avoiding a myriad of illnesses, and you were apparently also a couple of feet taller.  Though not as tall as a dinosaur so what difference does it make?

HUNTER:  “Point taken.”  

GATHERER:  “Tall was better.  We could reach the real high things.  And not wait for giraffes to have stuff fall out of their mouths.”


GATHERER:  “Don’t you just love to be “Anyway-ed”?

Sorry.  Eventually things changed.  For understandable reasons, nomadic “Hunters and Gatherers” transitioned into planting and harvesting “Agrarians.”  


“You do not have to chase wheat.”

“Wheat never lifts you up with its tusks, flinging you violently to the ground.”

“You could stay in one place, receive regular mail deliveries, form civil societies and eventually political organizations, where one day someone would rise to the top, ignoring traditional norms of behavior and flagrantly flaunting the rule of law.  Okay, but mostly, it was good.”

Yes, mostly it was good. It was a sign of anthropological progress, being able to proudly proclaim, “We are a totally ‘Foraging Free’ Community.”  (With the Chevy Chaseian implication, “… and you’re not.”)

The consequent problem was, it is presently argued, that from an “optimal health” perspective,

Wheat’s bad and meat’s better.

MEAT:  “Remember when we were ‘too fatty’?  Man! It’s like this crazy rollercoaster ride!”

(By the way, have they ever studied the effects of these chronically anxious eating alternatives on the people who ultimately consume them?  I put that in brackets, because it may actually be stupid.)

In the end, it comes down to a trade-off.  Would you rather eat brontosaurus and avoid “Leaky Gut Syndrome?”  Or would you prefer a sandwich and take your chances?

My call – as usual:  A reasonable compromise.  

Unlike those who believe there is no such thing as “Good wheat”, I shall continue my consumption, though in regulated doses, and avoiding the “processing.”  

I have enjoyed many a bagel in my day.  I will not turn my back totally on wheat.

SASKATCHEWAN WHEAT FARMER:  “Thanks for the support, eh?  We really appreciate it.”

No problem.  But could you do something for me?


Could you cut down on the negative consequences?


LEM:  “No clue. You ask me, wheat’s great!  And if it knocks a few days off your life, hey, you could choke eating a carrot!”

CARROT:  “Shhhh.”

Monday, June 25, 2018

"A Tacit Personalized 'Thank You'"

I will be brief today, as I am called to needed grandfatherly duties.

Just a little story about, you know, there’s like, “Secret Santa”?  Well, this was a secret, personalized “Thank-You.”

I have already shamelessly patted my back in this regard.  But thishappened. Proudly instigated by me.

Here’s the story.  

The Westerns Channelhas been broadcasting for decades.  As a devoted regular viewer, I emailed a suggestion that they air kids’westerns on Saturday mornings, mentioningHopalong Cassidy, along with other youth-oriented “oaters” of Yesteryear.

Not a month later, Hopalong Cassidyis scheduled on Saturday mornings.

I don’t if kids watch it, but Ido.  And recently, I got my unspoken reward.

My private gift arrived in the form of a wonderful joke, meant for assiduous students of comedy, notfor the small fry.

Listen to this.

In a plot-breaking interlude, “Lucky”, Hoppy’s youthful companion is badgering “Windy”, Hoppy’s cantankerous sidekick about the money he loaned him that was never repaid. “Windy’s” tired of hearing about it, and “Lucky” grumpily departs.  After which, “Windy” grumbles to himself,

“Young Whippersnapper. He mentioned that money a thousand times in three years.”

I proverbially almost swallowed my gum.

“Did they just dothat?” I am sitting there, thinking.

A genuinely funny “under-the-radar” one-liner, in the improbable venue of “Six-gun Adventure.”  

That hadto be for me.  No eight year-old kid would ever appreciate it. 

By the way, that’s why I love “B” movies. 

You get a startling surprise.

Two pictures related to this story.

You’ll have no trouble determining which one is Golda.

Friday, June 22, 2018

"An Unearned Feeling Of Privilege... Suddenly Revoked"

I believe it was on an episode of I Love Lucy.  Though it could easily have been somewhere else.  Two famous comedians, I think, Bob Hope and Milton Berle, though it may well have been two other famous comedians… are you getting the feeling I am somewhat deficient in the particulars?   

Non-fiction narrative. At its reliable worst.

And still, I move forward. 

Because I’m in too deep to turn back.  And because the selected point lies beyond the specifics.  Suggesting the “exalted facts” are not as huffily important as they think they are.  (You know, it could have been The Andy Griffith Show.  And one of the comedians could have been Danny Thomas.)

Whoever they were on whatever series they were on,the beloved funnymen, vacationing in some remote American backwater revel relievedly in their freedom from burdening adulation.  No one recognizing them on the street.  No embarrassing  “singling out.”  They’re just, liberatingly anonymous, regular people. 

Then, gradually, they begin missing their celebrity status.

And by the end, they are genuinely upset.  (In a comedic fashion, of course.)

That’s the phenomenon in question, right there.  An undue accordance of attention… with feelings of loss when it’s removed.

Well, sir and madam,

That’s exactly how I feel, during my “Thursday Walk”, entering the once personally elevating Groundwork Coffee Inc

I thought I was finished with that issue.  I’m an adult, after all.  So I received unique attention for a while and now I don’t. It was fun while it lasted.  “Moving on.”

Apparently, judged by the residual churned-up emotions,

I can’t.

I continue to gothere every week – it’s my habitual “Thursday Walk” destination –   

But it is definitely not the same.

I do not mean it’s not the same because I no longer get immediately bumped up in line upon my arrival, or receive generous discounts on my “Venice Blend” pour-over”, or am handed complimentary samples of “Venice Blend” beans to take home.  That’s coffee under the bridge.  What I am talking about is the detectable “cool breeze” I now experience, opening the emporium’s decorative screen door and stepping tentatively inside.

Being in total control of my neck, I keep it from swiveling to my left, where the Picard-headed store manager, who once leapt into action the moment he saw me, tends attentively to his customers, as if no one “of note” had recently arrived.  

I cannot tell if he’s deliberately ignoring me or he’s just busy.  (Both behaviors look, superficially, the same.)  I just know that once he dropped everything for me.  And now he doesn’t.

And though it’s stupid, I can’t help wondering,

“What did I do-hoo-hoo?

The employees seem in on the “transition”, taking one side or the other, some, with frosty demeanors, going, “How do you feel now, Big Shot?”, others signaling, “It’s not you, Earlo. He’s crazy.”

It’s like I don’t even want to go inthere anymore.  There’s this hovering sense that this boomeranging phenomenon was somehow my fault – a disgraced “Lottery Winner”, caught monkeying with the numbers.  Should I have rejected the selective treatment from the outset?  I told him “I’m just an ordinary person”, to which he replied, “We all are.”  But that was the end of it.  I kept taking the “goodies.”

Should I have been more forceful in my objections?  Should I have resisted more adamantly?  I mean, it’s not “hubris” if you didn’t ask for it, is it?  (Even if, inside, your “kingly impulses” are scarily unleashed?)

I suppose I could straightforwardly ask, “Why did it start and why did it stop?”  But what if he proclaims ignorance to this rollercoaster behavior?

“Why sir, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

(He asserts, in a suddenly English affront to his dignity.)

I do not know the answer.

I just know, when I step into Groundwork– with neither me nor my temporary benefactor at fault – it’s like I am no longer welcome.

And I fear I will never feel welcome again. 
Here's a new thing that just happened I didn't know about and then someone explained it to.  

Your comments used to appear in my emails.  Now they don't.  They only appear after the post itself.  Therefore, I may not notice them, because I rarely, if ever, read my blog' already published posts.

I may now have to start.  

But you're dealing with a person who checks his phone messages every two weeks.

When I remember.

Oh, well.

Time matzah on.  

An adjustment may be required.  

For a person for whom "change" is just another name for "Why?"

Just thought you should know.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

"Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee... An Actor's Life For Me (Conclusion)"

While attending Acting School in England, thinking I wanted to be an actor, I simultaneously – for financial reasons – found myself in the “Staff Room” at “Tea Break”, a substitute teacher, wearing a woolen suit on a sweltering July, with no air conditioning in sight.  

Seeing me seriously glum, pondering the unbridgeable gap between where I wanted to be and where I currently was, Mr. Rowbotham, a fellow practitioner at St. John’s Church of England Infants and Junior School, leaned over and consolingly said, 

“Don’t worry.  It probably won’t happen.”

To which I dolefully replied,

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Even at “The Actors’ Workshop” things were hardly more encouraging.  “If you are going to be an actor”, my teacher intoned, dousing our dreams in a bracing shower of reality, “it is guaranteed that you are going to be poor.”  

That’s when I quit acting, or at least aiming professionally in that direction.  I could handle the possibility of being poor.  But “guaranteed”?

I’m out!

What then of the people who stay in, and find gainful employment?  How do they feel, slotted at some random spot on the “Actors’ Achievement” spectrum?  That’s what they wanted, right?  Not fame and fortune.  Otherwise they do sex tapes on the internet.  They wanted to be “working actors.”  Simply “plying their trade.”  And now, they’ve made it.

Let’s see how that works. (An admitted “Pessimist’s Perspective.” But – actors, tellme – am I entirely off-base?)

There’s this Bruce Jay Friedman short story called “A Foot In The Door”, where, specific storyline aside, an inveterate “striver” living in “Short Hills” wanted desperately to live in “Tall Hills.”

That, at least partly, is what the “working actor” experience is all about – You get “Short Hills.”  You want “Tall Hills.”

(I once heard an actress at an audition speak of – in herwords – “The Fucking Lucky Club”, referring to actors, presumably less gifted than she was, having substantially more commercial success.  Shining an alternate light on, “It’s all about the craft.”)

You get a job.  Are you happy?  Maybe a while.  But you inevitably want more.

You’re an “Extra.” Soon aspiring for a line.

You get a line.  But the credits refer to you only as “Hoodlum Number Three.”

You play a “named” character.   But it’s not a “Featured Role.”  (And you still have to provide your own wardrobe.)

You nab a “Featured Role.” But at the “Premiere Screening” you find you’ve been edited out of the picture, ruining you opportunity to be “seen”, not to mention your date for the evening, who complains, “I thought you were in this.” 

You have a “Featured Role”?  You want a “Co-Starring Role.”  

You get a “Co-Starring Role.”  But not the “Lead.”  (And the “Lead” keeps forgetting your name.)

Or you’re the “Lead.” 

But it’s in television.

Then you’re the “Lead” in a movie.

Which goes straight totelevision.

Finally.  Against insurmountable odds… you were somehow able to surmount… you are the “Lead” in a hugely successful, major motion picture. 

You have made it to the top.  You’re contented now, right?


And it has nothing to do with the size of your trailer.  You’re a bigger person than that.  Besides, you visited the “Lead Actor” with the larger trailer and saw that your fruit basket had kiwis in it and theirs didn’t.

So what’s the problem?

You are at odds with the director about playing a scene – your creative “visions” diametrically conflict. You’re at an unbreakable impasse, ready to “walk” if you don’t get your way.  I mean, what’s the point of being the “Lead” if you still lack “final control”? 

The director proposes a compromise.  

“We’ll shoot one my way and one your way, and we’ll decide later which one to use.”

Fine.  (“I’m not trying to be ‘difficult.’”)

They shoot it his way and then hisway.  The film is edited and “locked”, a  “Print” messengered to the “Lead Actor.”  And wouldn’t you know it?

LEAD ACTOR:  “They used his way.”

That’s why the most powerful job in “Actor” is “Director.”   

Directors inevitably possess the ultimate “say.”  (Actors – even the “Leads” – merely provide “raw material”, their performance assembled after they are gone.)  The thing is, most actors are not particularly well suited for directing – for technical, organization or temperamental reasons.  It’s just too darn hard.  So they remain actors.  And there is always frustration.

Top to bottom in acting, no one entirely gets what they want.

(It’s a little better in theater.  Once onstage, the actor is in total control.  Of course, at some point the actor comes off-stage.  And the director’s there, waiting for them.  

“You are playing the part… how shall I put it…?

“My way?"  

“Yes.  And we’d really like you to stop.”

Oh and by the way? Stage actors – even the “Leads” – are truly desperate to be film actors.  (I have seen it on “casting” visits to New York.)  Not to be crass or anything, but it’s the money.  

So there you have it. Children, andaspiring waitresses – See:  Yesterday’s post – dream of becoming actors, with no idea of the travails their heroes – and those beneath them on the stratified totem pole – actually endure.  

And yet…

That’s right.

Even when you know what it’s about,

There is still an “And yet…”

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


“… An actor’s life for me.”

Dining recently at a nearby restaurant – where the outdoor tables provide accompanying blankets in case you get chilly – I watched a young – late twenties, early thirties – waitress, trudging to a nearby table with a mop, tending to a messy, left-behind spill. In a voice, meant to be overheard – otherwise, she’d have just thought it – I hear her grumble,

“Do I want this?”

I don’t know why. Call me intuitive; call me ridiculous. No, call me intuitive.  But my immediate inference from overhearing her existential disgruntlement was not “Do I want this job as a waitress?” but rather the circuitously implied,

“Do I really want to be an actress?”

This assumption is not as big a leap as you’d think.  In Los Angeles, the bet that your waitperson is, or more accurately, wishes they werein show business is “even money”, or lower. (With “Uber Driver” challengingly moving up on the rail.) What I saw, carrying a mop and an overused “wipe-up” cloth, was a struggling actor, wondering out loud if it was worth it.

Which got me to thinking.

It often occurs to me how bad my attitude is about everything.  Even things that are currently going swimmingly, my negative reaction being, “How long can this last?”  

By imagining contrast – or is it comparison – I wondered how much unwavering optimism, grit – and outright statistical denial – it takes to publicly profess and actively follow up on: 

“I want to be an actor.”

Thank God neither of my children confronted mewith that perilous announcement.  They’d have seen “paternal support” and undisguised anguish duking it out on my tortured physiognomy.  

(Which is why I never play poker.)

Top to bottom, “bottom” being imagining working for Spielberg while mopping glutinous glop in a neighborhood restaurant, I do not know how they manage to keep faith in such an enormous, long shot aspiration, bordering on winning the Kentucky Derby without a horse. 

I mean, the odds.   The odds…

And the rejection. The rejection.  (Just to be parallel.)

Your agent sends you out for an audition.  Meaning you have an agent, which puts you substantially ahead of the game.  Substantially.  (I’ll stop soon.  I promise.)  

You do your thing for the producers.  Later, you hear from your agent:

“They decided to go in ‘another direction’.”

That ubiquitous euphemism is supposed to immediately make things all right.  I know all I’d be thinking is,

“Yeah, in a direction away from me.”

That’s, as they say in The Godfather, the business they have chosen. A soul-crushing world of no auditions at all, auditions that fail, auditions with promising “call-backs”… that fail, auditions for people wearing ironic (disturbing) “Free Harvey Weinstein” t-shirts… that fail.

The rampant indignity is everywhere.  You walk into an office, you check in, they direct to a seat in the waiting room, you casually look around,

And everyone there looks uncomfortably like you. Only in some cases – and it only takes one– 


You change agents. (Thinking, “It’s not me, it’s them.”) You get new “head shots.”  (Or its current Internet counterpart.)  You take acting lessons, which cost a fortune – meaning, no quitting that nifty restaurant job – hoping to upgrade your chances by “honing your craft” and “perfecting your instrument.”  Acting is an art, after all.  Not winning the lottery.

Unless it’s exactly “winning the lottery.”  Thousands of aspirants – eleven winners.  And some of those “low-money payoffs.”  “Spokesmodel” at the Automobile Show.  (“Hey, it’s a foot in the door.  You never who’s sampling the new hatchbacks.”)

“Everything about it is appealing”?  Sorry, Irving.  I don’t think so.  

You see an actor in a movie.  You think, “can do better than that.”  But how can you prove it?  It’s not like they make the same movie twice – one with the inferior actor in it and another with you.  “You see that?  I’m better.”  Sadly, it does not happen that way.  Instead of you on the screen, you pay money to see them.

I am truly sympathetic to these punishing aspirations.  (The “bug” did not entirely elude me.)  I just don’t know how they do it.  During the best of circumstances.  Not to mention the worst. 

Someone offers you your dream… for certain (criminal) considerations… It’s not a happy place to be. 

And yet, people dive into a business more likely to shatter their dreams than get them a star on Hollywood Boulevard.  And I haven’t even gotten to, “What happens if they come true?”

Of course, you know what that means.

The always wonderful, “Two-Parter.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"What Matters To Me"

Which could accurately describe this entire enterprise, though, fearing a resounding “Who cares?” I chose the safer “Just Thinking” instead. 

“Protecting the Brand”, you know.  (Which will arise again, not a surprise on our trademark “Protect The Brand” culture.  The “brand” is the “baby.”  Insulated at all costs.  

I am hoping to be brief, an intention I feel rapidly slipping away.  Still, with but one point in mind, I shall try to adhere to its boundarying parameters.    

Wish me luck.  Here goes.

A hideous “tweet.”

And my first thought is not “I ‘get’ – and rigorously support – “Free Speech’, but that egregiously ‘crosses the line’.”  (For no discernible explanatory purpose.)

My first thought is not “Ouch!” on behalf of the blind-sided “target.” Although I immediately empathize. (See:  The original lyric in Cabaret’s“If you could See Her Through My Eyes”, a sordid production number involving an “stand-in” Aryan and a {fake} gorilla that startlingly ends with, “… She doesn’t look Jewish at all.”)

My first thought is not for the hundreds of innocent Rosanne employees, thrown into “Collateral Damage” unemployment.

My first thought is not“What this country coming to?” with its inevitably accompanying “What do you expect with a president who’s the championing “Poster Boy” for “Unfiltered Putridity”?

And my first thought – though it’s close – is notthe vociferous backlash from those perceiving the reaction to the “tweet” as further corroborative evidence of the polarizing “Them versus us.”

My instinctive first thought, instead – rightly or wrongly –

Is about fairness.

That is simply the way I roll.  (Acknowledging others may roll differently.)

Traditionally, my “List of Evaluative Concerns” slots the issue of “Fairness” consistently at the top, a proclivity I attribute to the “Deprived Second Child – of two – Syndrome”, where the faintest whiff of “patrilineal favoritism” sparks an immediate, whining,

“No fair!

(So much for “unlicensed psychologizing.”)

Demonstrable Track Record:

When O.J. Simpson went home, I wailed incredulously at my television,

“No fair!

When a Supreme Court with a 5-4 conservative majority famously favoring “States Rights” overruled the right of the State of Florida to recount its ballots – 5-4 – handing the office of president to a conservative – I angrily anguished, 

“No fair!”    

When the police beat the crap out of Rodney King (and were exonerated), and more recently, lethally shot defenseless black youths in the back (with minimal consequences) – I helplessly bleated,

“No fair!

That’s what I think about. I know there are other – legitimate – issues needing attention.  But that’swhat, for me, inevitably comes to the fore.

“No fair.”

Rosanne Barr transmits a vomitous “tweet.”  Disneyimmediately cancels Rosanne.  A “righteous gesture of outrage”?  Or a company, protecting its vulnerable brand”?  Youdecide.  (Considering recent precedents arguing the latter.  See:  The NFL, in the opposite direction.)

I did not want to write about this.  But I was unable to move forward until I did.  (That is apparently the way this works.)

What do I feel about what happened?

I feel a number of things. 

But – idiosyncratically – this, most of all.

A mentally messed up woman got hammered.

And, though serious sanctions were definitely called for,

The “knee jerk” axing of her TV show?

I don’t think that’s fair.