4.27.2012

Why Actors Are Better (and Better-Off) Than Writers.

Writing is, in case you aren't familiar with it, god-like fun. Whether you are J. K. Rowling or the senior scribe at OctopusXXXFanfic.net, there's a reason people write fiction and screenplays and lyrics and such, and it is not (unless you are the truest form of hack) about money or making the world a better place. The joy of writing I believe comes, ignobly, from two things:

"And THEN he says.... OH YES GOD I'M A GENIUS."
1) You get to put words in other people's mouths.


2) You get to control what happens. 

Okay, maybe that's actually one thing. But the theory goes: the Real World is out of sorts with its potential for beauty, and you, the writer, get to correct it, by making the train leave at the right time, the hero say the best three words in the language, the aliens arrive with the appropriate lights and flourish. Somehow the omnipotent powers to make this happen have been bestowed on anyone who has the ability to type.

If screenwriting or playwriting is your thing, the thrill is even more visceral, because at some point or other, actors are actually going to speak these words out loud, and do their best to pretend to believe them.

Anyway, that's why I prefer writing to acting.  I don't really "get" acting, although I understand it has something to do with applause and mirrors. And of course the acting profession is compromised by its close relation to a hundred things which tend to leech at the soul, that is, lying, self-analysis, obsession with personal appearance, and for the sake of rent-paying, giving all your passion and interest to lines like, "This pudding is the best I ever had!'" and "Take me now, before Daddy comes home."

To my mind, writing is just a better gig, because besides the aforementioned omnipotent powers, you can do it in your underwear without makeup. 

BUT, there is one way in which Actors definitely have it over Writers, and I think it's this: the sheer number of people in the competition to be heard. 

Los Angeles has a sub-population of approximately 54 billion actors vs. roughly 72 billion screenwriters (according to the last census, which allowed for hyphenating of job title). Because anyone who can type, seriously, can be a god with a laptop in their underwear.

And then there's the harsh fact that actors age, and they have to figure out how their real age affects their career, and they will get limited opportunities based on what age they appear to be.  And they have to face and make a hard choice about their greatest love, based on biology.  This is a serious, real-world reckoning of self that writers basically don't have to deal with.

Writers age, and they're still writing. They don't go away. I've met writers in their sixties, with very impressive credits on shows from the 70's, who are today trying to to start their own web series, because they can't shake the bug.

So, based on this unscientific example, I have deduced that every dude who wrote one episode of One Tree Hill, or an 80's slumber party movie that you never heard of, is still kicking around LA, chasing the next gig. (Or, with the advent of youtubes and personal blogs, creating their own gigs.)

Actors, for good and practical reasons, pursue becoming a star. (If you're a writer and have this idea that you are doing it to be a star, you are, again, a true hack, and deluded besides.) Stardom is a good gig because at some point you can make the choice to stop acting, because the stardom fuels itself. (Do we know when was the last movie Angelina Jolie was actually in? Anyone?) Then, in their highly-scrutinized and -subsidized way, these stars-gone-nova are able to go back to living their own life.

So, at the end of the arc for actors, there is this dream of freedom. With writers, it's the dream of power.

Of course, some of these ex-staff-writers and former-aspirers have moved on to real jobs as content aggregators or dishwasher salesmen or whathaveyou, but the ones that still have that (really kind of infantile) desire to speak as Gawd, these writers are everywhere. Their stories are their kids, and they never have had their dream beaten out of them by Time. That dream is still the ultimate fun, and they hold onto it until the day they die.

- inspired by David Mamet's "Bambi Vs. Godzilla," which contains many similar rants

4.17.2012

ERP, recollected.

Back in the day, we had a theater company called Emerald Rain Productions (ERP), with the elegantly simple purpose of putting on rock musicals written by me and my songwriter buddy Gaby Alter, whose every cough is some sort of catchy pop hook. It was the best of times. Here is a mock-rock-doc about our adventures, captured in completely antiquated Standard Definition video, painstakingly Final Cutted by me.



4.05.2012

Is Anybody In Los Angeles Happy?

I used to have a co-worker who was a professional wrestler. His way of greeting people was to ask: "Are you happy today?" (as opposed to hi, hey, sup, etc.) Whether you answered truthfully or not, it was always a good conversation starter, and it gave the greeter a good idea of what he was in for, i.e., how much of a bitch you were going to be today. 

It occurred to me yesterday that maybe no one in Los Angeles is happy. I don't really know a person here who's happy on a regular basis. I know a lot of people who are living their lives and doing fun things, like being in movies and having babies and being warm and going to the beach. But it seems there's no one who's innately happy about it, today, in LA.

from http://melroseandfairfax.blogspot.com/
if it's a problem, lemme know

Elaborating: A lot of people are happy about something that might happen tomorrow. This is the big pull of LA. Tomorrow some shotcaller will recognize your whatever and then a house in the hills will fall onto your head and you will never have to do real work again.

A lot of people (like me) are very interested by their lives in LA, because it is culturally the most diverse place on earth and thus endlessly interesting. At the bleeding edge of Western Civilization. No place like it. No time to think about it.

A lot of people are pretty happy about being from LA, but in the way where they'll get drunk and then fuck you up for talking shit about a claimed sector of some neighborhood you've never even been to. And that's not really the kind of happiness I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the kind of happy you get from living in a certain place to the point where you actually annoy other people. And you don't notice, because you're so on the wavelength of happiness, you can't even sense the other thing. I'm talking about the civic joy of New York, whose residents are so narcissistically proud of their town that they think their mayoral race is big news in other cities, and also blindly believe they have the best Chinese food in America (They don't; Los Angeles does, and we should be happy about it, but it's so far to drive there.). I'm talking about the deep self-satisfaction of San Francisco Bay Area people, who walk around with a silly smug smile knowing that they live next to all the best food and the best gadgets and will never have a dull moment because of all the weirdos. I'm talking about the deep romance and history of being in or from Boston, the chilled-out grace of waking up in someplace like Austin, or in whatever that city is in New Mexico.

In Los Angeles, people act out in a way that suggests they're dealing badly with not being happy. Others mistake this behavior for obnoxiousness or stupidity. Most of it, of course, involves driving. For example, why was this Torrance woman texting in her car while driving with her child in her lap? Is that text solving some happiness problem she has that wasn't solved by having the child?

A lot of people in LA are happy, temporarily, to be out on the freeway driving fast, bouncing off the railings and other people, but only when they're not being slowed up by the other drivers who are (categorically) Asians, blind people, illegals, or faggots.

And, OK, then there's that "faggot" thing: I went to a perfectly nice party last week in Echo Park which was briefly interrupted by a street altercation between two guys screaming at each other about being "faggots" and how much they're going to fuck each other up. I wanna say these guys were just young, but honestly they could've been in their mid-30's.

Of course they didn't actually fight. They're not even happy enough about their lives to defend it with physical action. They just want to make sure that the other guy also knows how terrible a person they are.  I have no idea what they were fighting about, but most of the fights I see in Los Angeles boil down to guys calling each other fags and running away. And it's not even said with specific hate towards homosexuals, more like with an overflowing unhappiness directed at all humanity.

The stars are not happy for having "made it." Why does Lindsay Lohan keep crashing her car into things? Because she's so damned happy to be alive?

Rich people are not happy about being rich in LA. At the casino, on a regular basis I met customer/players who had tons of money and lived very cushy lifestyles, and they were all frickin miserable sons of bitches.

Kobe, staring at the ceiling. Yeah, it's the Staples Center ceiling.
But same concept.

Think about it: Kobe, with his dysfunctional team and less-than-seven championships? Not happy. NFL fans? Not happy. The Dodgers? Really not happy. People with families? Getting through life, but kinda worried about all the unhappy people, and then getting divorced. Actor/stripper/models from Ohio? Making a promise to themselves to push away all the people who suck happiness-energy from their lives. Film Industry People? Working on something that might make them happy, tomorrow.

And that is the saving grace of LA, by the way: People work hard, in their fashion. They hustle to make that cheese. The definitive quality of LA is striving. Folks have a dream and are working towards it with energy, with passion, and sometimes with creative inspiration. But without, I would argue, a lot of happiness.

On the other hand, we do have the best Chinese food in the country.
The San Gabriel Valley, and its expanding mini-chains, have the best Chinese food in America.
This is not arguable. It is a fact, and will be recognized as such by anyone who knows what they're talking about.