Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Cleaners

I've spent the last three days and nights at my girlfriend's place in Brooklyn, a 40-minute subway ride when the subway is running. Problem was, in case you didn't see the news, a hurricane hit the city, prompting the city to shut down all public transit. So the two of us along with half a dozen of our friends decided to spend the storm together, watching videos, playing Apples to Apples, Risk, and Rock Band, and generally doing what we could to stave off boredom.

Except for the transit shutdown, none of us were directly affected by Irene, which was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit the city. We probably should have felt grateful, but I think most of us were just disappointed after all the hype that nothing interesting had happened. Walking around we saw a few limbs of trees had been downed in places. In the dark some of us passed piles of green leaves on the sidewalks, smelling prematurely like fall.

I made it home this morning, back into Spanish Harlem. While on the subway, out of it on my way home, and on my way to the gym and laundromat today, something about the place looked a lot better than it had before. I couldn't figure out why, but I felt like I was walking in the East Village rather than East Harlem.

Then I realized what it was. The high winds and torrential rains had washed all the garbage off the streets. No burger wrappers, cigarette butts, or anything else ripped up and crumpled on the sidewalks.

I realized that it was because there was so much trash around that I normally ignored the businesses there. But now that it had been cleaned up some, I kept noticing all these cute little restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops I felt like I'd never seen before. Especially further east, on 116th st, and up and down 1st ave.

I've been living in this neighborhood for almost a year now, but I still don't know much about the place. Mostly because I've never spent any time in it outside my apartment and a couple grocery stores. The only friends I know who live within a ten minute walk are a couple I normally only see in Chinatown at an acting forum they run. If I want to visit any of my friends, most of the time I have to figure out a way into Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, or sometimes Queens. It would be kind of nice to call someone up and walk to their place or somewhere we could both hang out for a change. doesn't offer much, and neither does Craigslist apparently. I want to figure out some way to get to know people around my neighborhood. If only to take the commute out some of my social life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back In Town

Haven't heard from me? I was on vacation. Happens a lot. I spent the last two weeks in Washington state with a short trip or Portland, OR. I am now back in New York, and back in business.

I have to say, Seattle makes New York look old and dirty. Also behind the times in a few ways. I have to struggle to figure out how to recycle out here. Now in Seattle, not only is recycling in every store and restaurant, but so is composting. It's not a hippie campaign effort, it's municipal law. We caught the best week of weather in the entire year as well, so the place was gorgeous. Views every direction from everywhere. The south lake union area is really starting to grow...

Every time I drove past the new headquarters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I kind of had to stop and wonder. I know they're hiring like crazy right now, and I might have the credentials for some of the work they need, with my degree in political science and international studies, and my 60+ country travel experience. I'd live near my parents, sister and brother in law, nieces, probably in a nicer apartment for the same money...

But... that would mean an end to acting in New York. Maybe an end to acting period. I mean don't get me wrong, Seattle has some great theater, but NYC is home to Broadway, a good handful of major motion pictures, and 23+ national TV shows. If I'm gonna act professionally, I'm gonna act here.

So here I am. Back in Spanish Harlem, 25 years old, with headshot and resume in hand, ready to work.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On Set

So. My first film.

Sort of. There were the two NYU scene studies, a couple pages long each. Then there were the three or four times I was an extra for something (the latest on Thursday, pictured to the left). Or the time I had a nonspeaking role in a (I believe still unfinished) vampire video my high school buddies were making. Somehow or another there ended up being footage of me, in a suit, standing facing a wall about two inches in front of my nose.

And of course there was my reality show about studying abroad in India.

But this is the first time I've been in a fictional, self contained movie, with a speaking part. The lead speaking part, actually. You hear occasionally from celebrities that acting for film is hard work. My impression so far is that that's not quite true. The work is repetitive, sometimes in somewhat uncomfortable temperatures for your costumes, and it goes for long hours, but it's not hard. What makes it seem hard is that you're usually surrounded by stressed out sleep deprived people whose work is hard. The feeling of hard work is sort of contagious.

I prefer Al Pacino's (alleged) quote: "If acting on stage is like walking a tightrope, acting on camera is like walking on a chalk line on the ground." If you mess up on film, you just stop and try again.

Really performing on camera feels a lot like rehearsing for the stage. Just a lot smaller. When you're on stage, you need to evoke the place, circumstances, mood, scope, and a lot of other things besides. When you're on camera, a lot of that is done for you by the lighting, set, makeup, costumes, angles, and editing. So you just have to make everything a lot smaller and more... natural, for lack of a better word. You as the actor carry a lot less weight of the final product than you would on stage.

So if performing for a camera feels like rehearsal for stage, rehearsing for camera is a different animal entirely. It's very detailed, but it feels really easy. I'm in each scene with one other character. One of my favorite things about this has been going to rehearse each day at the same location with a new actor each day, and sharing the identical walk back to the subway afterwards with each one. They each talk about something different, and have a different story about their acting career and how they got where they are. It's fun.

So today we shot half the movie, in chunks, out of order. Because we can. Tomorrow we shoot the other half the same way. Then the next day we finish up a couple final clips. Then the next day I fly out to the west coast to visit my family.

Man, this is going fast.