Friday, February 23, 2007

A Filmmaker Prepares

For the past two weeks now I've been busy trying to get a project for school off the ground. Every quarter at school as part of my requirements we are required to do a different film project. Last quarter (my 2nd) was a documentary. This quarter it is a PSA (Public Service Announcement). Since the first week of classes we have been pitching ideas, writing scripts, writing storyboards, etc. The thing that makes this different from the previous projects is that my professor, Prof. MacGillivray, insisted that we hire actors instead of using our fellow classmates to act in our pieces. Well I knew that this day had to come eventually but I never knew how much of a headache it could be.

I'm not new to the idea of auditioning actors. Years ago I worked on a cable access show called "Sounds Of The City" and had to help in the casting stages for the talent. It was weird since I had spent so much time in my life actually auditioning for people. Now the tables are turned. But the difference is that I have a different sensibility about it since I've been in the shoes of the struggling actor. On the show I was the Director and Senior Writer. So I'm no stranger to directing either. It's just this time I'm being graded for this project. So hopefully everything will go off well.

This week I placed casting notices on craigslist and in hopes of getting actors to audition for my PSA. There are only 5 roles I'm casting but you'd be surprise the responses. To begin with there are 4 non-speaking roles and 1 speaking role. There are 2 couples, one straight the other gay. I purposely have been looking for trained actors who I know can handle these roles. But you'd be surprised the amount of male actors who are dead set against playing a gay role. It's not as if they are being asked to make out with a guy either! The majority of the males who replied said that they would rather play the boyfriend of the girl or the spokesman.

What is it with young actors looking for work, who are afraid to play gay roles? It certainly didn't hurt Philip Seymour Hoffman because he won an Oscar last year for playing the VERY gay, Truman Capote in the film "Capote". I know Mr. Hoffman is straight because I've seen him pushing his baby in a stroller in the West Village. He's an ACTOR. It hasn't hurt Heath Ledger [pictured above with Jake Gyllenhaal] either. He gave probably one of the best performances of his career as "Ennis Del Mar" in the film "Brokeback Mountain". He's straight too. Seen him with baby and wife, Michelle Williams walking around town here in Brooklyn too.

I think young actors who respect their craft and have real talent really shouldn't have any hangups about roles that they are approaching. Especially if they are at the beginning of their careers. If they do, then maybe they just aren't cut out for acting as a career. I know I've played my fair share of straight men in the past. I recently saw an independent film that I thought was brilliant. It was called "Brother To Brother" and was directed by a brotha by the name of Rodney Evans. The actor who played the lead was Anthony Mackie who I thought was just wonderful. Mackie has gone on to much success in films and on stage and playing gay hasn't hurt his career one bit. He's an ACTOR!

Also in the film was Daniel Sunjata [pictured, left] who played the gay writer Langston Hughes. I saw him years ago on Broadway playing a gay baseball player in the drama, "Take Me Out". Now he plays on the FX show "Rescue Me" as a very straight, womanizing New York City Firefighter. He is just a great Actor.

So in a few hours from now I will have actors come in to my audition and I hope I won't have a heck of a time trying to cast two males to play a gay couple. Besides it's a role in a student film. If only I could hire Anthony Mackie and Daniel Sunjata for my student film. Oh well!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Daytime Baby-Mama Drama

I grew up watching soap operas (a/k/a daytime dramas). I was a weird kid. In kindergarten I would come home from school and watch "Dark Shadows" with my mommy while hiding under the table whenever "Barnabas Collins" [pictured] came on. When other kids were running home to watch "Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck" in 3rd grade, I was running home to catch what was going on in Port Charles on “General Hospital”. When I got to college I would schedule my classes around “All My Children”. Just because Jenny and Greg were in college too. Needless to say, I had a very adult view of the world at young age.

When I finally got my very first professional acting job, as fate would have it, it was as an extra on the soap opera, “Search for Tomorrow”. I would go on and play a variety of roles in various capacities (extra a/k/a “background performer” or “U/5” a/k/a Under Five lines) on all of the New York based soap opera. Some of them are no longer on the air like “Search for Tomorrow”, “Loving”, “Ryan’s Hope” and my last semi-regular soap gig, “Another World”. I had never watched any of the shows I worked on except for “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”. Some of the story lines that I was involved in were considered “racy”. But that was over 10 years ago.

Now I’m home on from school because of the President’s Day holiday and I just happen to be channel surfing and now I realize that all those daytime dramas that I used to work on, were tame compared to the new daytime dramas: The Talk /Judge Reality Shows!.
"Erica Kane" [pictured] never had to worry about discovering her man of three months was sleeping not only with her niece but "he" was biologically a woman. This is what I just saw on “The Jerry Spring Show” today. On the next channel a woman is suing her husband on “Judge Hatchett” for taking away her pick-up truck. Simple enough. Until you find out that the husband purchased the truck for her as a gift for Valentine’s Day even after she had cheated on him with his fishing buddy in the truck. [By "fishing buddy", I'm not talking about the "Brokeback Mountain" kind either.] By the way, this was the second time he had caught her. Needless to say, Judge Hatchett was not happy with the woman for wasting her time and dismissed the case.
My question is: Where do they find these people?

I have to admit, I have been a fan of
Oprah Winfrey for many years. Just because I think she avoids going the exploitative route with the issues she discusses on her show. Her guess will always handle themselves with dignity and class no matter what horrible things they have been through. No chairs will go flying on her stage! Granted, I may not be interested in her shows about purchasing the “perfect bra” or what to do if you get a tampon stuck in your "hoo-hoo?" That is when I turn the channel or read a book. I have that choice. But you have to wonder why shows like “Jerry Springer” and “Maury” (or what should be called “Who Be Sholanda’s Baby Daddy Show?”). Perhaps as long as there will always be people looking for their 15 minutes of fame at the expense of sacrificing what little dignity they may have and people willing to watch these public humiliations, these shows will always have an audience.

However, it is a sad statement on American society when these shows are shown overseas and this is the “America” that foreign countries will view as what it means to live in America. It’s bad enough that foreigners thin
k some of us are dumb asses’ for putting George W. Bush in the White House for a second term. All they have to do is watch an import of any of these shows and then they could understand how this happened. Every day Canada is starting to look better to me. At least there, gays are allowed to marry and receive the same benefits allowed married people nationally. Go Canada!!!

Friday, February 16, 2007

John Amaechi - My Black Gay Hero

I've always been a big sports fan. As a kid growing up in Roosevelt, Long Island some of my fondest memories was practicing my baseball pitching and catching with my dad in our backyard. I always loved when we'd watch football and basketball games whenever we got the chance. My dad was an amatuer boxer before I was born and my mom talked him out of it. He was a Mets/Knicks/Nets fan. I'm now a big Yankee's fan. I often joke with my friends that Derek Jeter is my next husband [oh, how I WISH that photo below of the two of us wasn't "embellished" with Photoshop] he doesn't know it yet.

Growing up, I guess I knew was gay. But how could that be when I liked sports? I mean, that's so unstereotypical for a gay guy to be into contact sports. Right? Gay men are supposed to be into figure skating as far as sports go. Right? Well I'm not saying that I would kick Rudy Galindo out of bed, but I happen to like watching the Superbowl too! (And not just because they played in the rain and their suits where getting soaking wet either!) What it comes down to is that it just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover. So for a long time I kept my love of sports from my gay friends and kept my love of men from my straight male friends. But how could I be a whole person with all of my friends if I lived in the closet with so much?

Once I grew up and realized that there ARE many men who are both gay AND big sports fans. It only made me wonder if there were in fact, professional players who were gay as well. Gradually as the years went on there were Dave Kopay, Greg Louganis (although swimming technically doesn't count because it's not a "contact" sport) and countless female athletes. But for the first time I can remember, do we have a Black man, John Amaechi, who is coming out so soon after leaving the NBA. Roy Simmons came out many years after leaving the NFL.

No one even seemed to be too bent (no pun intended) by Pro Wrestler, Orlando Jordan coming out a few months back. I guess this was because he said he is "Bi". So in the eyes of many straight fans, "There's still a chance". Although I'm not a big pro wrestling fan (although I've had a crush on "The Rock" for years), I do know it's more theatrical then say, a boxing match. But just the same, it was a big step for Orlando Jordan to come out too.

I believe this is a really big step because so many straight brothas out there would question the ability of a player who was not only a brotha and a skillful ball player but who is also gay. Mostly the thought of a gay man sharing a locker room with them scares them. Especially someone who (in their eyes) is just a "regular brotha". NEWSFLASH to all the straight men out there: We all don't want to "convert" straight guys! We are not all checking out your asses either! Amaechi has said in interviews since coming out that he was never attracted to any of his past teammates because when he was on the boards it was just a business. I know EXACTLY what he means!

Since I've never made it a big secret about being gay, it amazes me how many seemingly intelligent straight men will question my motives when I so much as say "wassup" in the break room at jobs that I've had. Even at school now, this happens to me. I'm a big guy who is not flamboyant so when I tell people I'm gay, the guys instantly freeze up. I even overheard two guys talking about me saying "but he doesn't look gay?" Sometimes I even question the reason for my being fired may have been because I wasn't part of the "all-boy" network at my last position in corporate America. But I digress. I think that Amaechi's coming out will hopefully let sports fans see that many players may not always play on their "team" but can still win for THE team.

I only hope by John Amaechi and Orlando Jordan coming out will make it easier for other professional Black male athletes to feel comfortable to come out while they are still in the middle of their sports careers rather than wait to retire to do it. If a person is a good player it shouldn't matter who they sleep with outside of the playing field. But ultimately it's up to the fans to support their teams regardless of whether or not there may be one gay player on the team.

I also hope it makes it easier for high school athletes to not be afraid of whom they are. If they are gay and want to play organized sports, then they should without any judgments. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's important that the door has been open, now it's time to dialogue on how to make the team work to win. It shouldn't matter if someone is a Yankees or Red Sox fan and is gay. [Although I would equate dating a Red Sox fan to dating a Bush supporter: not going to happen in my lifetime.] Our money is still green and we still go to support our teams. Who gives a crap if one of the players is playing in a "different league"? I certainly don't.

One of my favorite books is a novel called "The Dreyfus Affair" by Peter Lefcourt. It's a love story set in the world of Major League Baseball. A white shortstop falls for his Black second baseman and so the story begins. Since it came out, there have been talks of making it into a film. I'd hope with the success of "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005, that "The Dreyfus Affair" would finally get the green light. Like the rugged characters in "Brokeback", the world of baseball is a very testosterone-infused environment. But would straight guys be freaked out that guys, who look like them, are into sports like them, and scratch and fart just like them are suddenly falling into other guy’s arms? I sure hope they do.

There will always be people like Tim Hardaway and his foul comments about his fellow brother of the courts. To the straight guys out there (and I know there are a few reading this now): We are everywhere. We play sports like you. We drink beer like you. With the exception of who we love, we are not that different. If you happen to have a favorite player who you find out is gay, it doesn't make you "weak" or any less of a man because you like him. If anything it makes your more of a man to stand by your favorite team and ALL of it's players. We're not going anywhere. So GET OVER IT!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tyler Perry Is Too Funny!

I was wonder if any of you have seen this clip of Tyler Perry. He is best know for his stage shows and films based around a character he calls "Madea." Most of the time whenever I see a male actor trying to get laughs by playing a overweight elderly woman, sometimes the joke gets kind of old quick. But I have to say that Mr. Perry is genuinely very funny as Madea. I wasn't a big fan until I saw this clip where he parody's some film from the recent past. I just found myself laughing my head off. Any other fans out there?

Friday, February 9, 2007

My Very First Blog

I got fired from my job in Feburary 2006 and re-evaluated my life and decided to go back to college to live the life that I wanted instead of the one that I fell into as a drone in corporate America. Now I'm very happy as a filmmaking student in New York City at Katharine Gibbs School. So what if I'm the oldest one in my class (I'm even older than my instructors)? Most of my classmates are young enough to be my children but they accept me like an equal. They are all very talented and smart young men and women and I think will be major contributors to the film and video industries one day. I finally feel like I'm on the path to doing something that will make a difference in the world and in my life. I wouldn't change a thing. Except maybe having a job. And maybe meeting a nice guy to curl up with on these cold winter nights like we've been having lately.

My whole reason for going to film school was because a few years ago I took a screenwriting workshop at "The Writer's Voice" at the West Side YMCA. It was a great workshop and the instructor, Charles Schulman was THE BEST!!!!!! I eventually learned how to develop and write screenplays. I finally finished a screenplay that I was very happy with and considered it "my baby" and then we talked about what to do with it after it was done. One of the things that I didn't want to happen was that I would sell it and a studio would change the entire story as I had written it. So one day I read this book by Robert Rodriguez called "Rebel Without A Crew" and in it he spoke about he how he made his first film "El Mariachi" and became one of the biggest Directors in Hollywood. So it gave me an idea: Maybe I should go to film school and learn how to make my own films instead of selling my story away.

Now after being in school for 7 months, I am having the time of my life. Learning all about filmmaking for the digital age. I'm doing really well too. I hope that when I get out that I can get a job working with a major network or maybe learning my craft as an apprentice for a one of my favorite directors like Mira Nair, John Waters, Ang Lee or Spike Lee. I've followed all of their careers and love watching their visions unfold on screen. I hope to be just as great as they are one day.

I'd be curious to know if there are any other 40-somethings out there who believe that it's never to late to follow your dreams. Just because we are no longer the MTV generation or eligible for reality show like "American Idol" doesn't me we have to give up on our dreams. Personally, I really don't care what someone like Simon Cowell has to say about my talent. Any comments?