Monday, July 29, 2013

Not Dead Yet

"Francisco Franco is still dead."
-Saturday Night Live

One of the morbid aspects of our society is that when we don't see or hear from people in a while, we assume they are dead.

Saturday Night Live had, as part of their "News Update," had would occasionally use the line "Francisco Franco is still dead," a reference to the number of mistaken reports of his death in the media before he was actually dead.

With celebrities, there is always that game of "Alive or Dead."

One of the funniest moments in the documentary of comedian Don Rickles, called Mr. Warmth, is when Rickles is talking about the people in the pictures on his wall. Rickles was about 80 at the time of the shooting, so it makes sense that many of his contemporaries were now dead.

As Rickles looked at the photos, he would identify them as follows: "Dead. Dead. Almost Dead. Dead...."

Don Rickles is thankfully still with us, and so am I.

For the first time in a very long time, there has been a month gap in my posts. While I try to deliver at least one post a week, I never wanted to let the quality suffer by just churning them out.

In the past month or so, I have directed a one-act play (which is now being discussed as being shot as a short film), prepared a large number of budgets for people (and I still am), did a rewrite on a script, and found time to take an intensive meditation retreat at the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Templar, New York. The latter was a necessity as part of my Zen practice, which is about all that keeps me sane in this very insane business.

Oh, and I prepped a short film which got postponed a week before shooting (actor problem). (See reference to why I needed retreat above)

Through all of this, almost every day, I was determined to write the next part of the blog series on the film Floating with Norman Reedus and Chad Lowe. Every day, something came up. As I write this, I realize I need to get ready to go out and see a show with a talented young actress I know who happens to be the daughter of the my favorite casting director  (and one of the truly good people in this business, Judy Keller).

At 55, you may be able to include me in that game of "Alive or Dead" at some point in the future - but not yet. Still here, and busier than ever. I came home to two more people looking for budgets, an offer to First AD a very long short, and an offer to maybe go on a shoot in Alaska in the Fall.

Oh, and there is still that short that got postponed which we will be shooting - well, sometime.

Fear not - determined to get the next post out in a few days.

While you wait, enjoy below:

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sometimes, Good Deeds Go Unpunished

"No Good Deed Goes Unpunished"
The "Murphy's Law" That Rules on Most Sets

A few months back, in the post "Paper Blood - Part 1- I See Dead Mafioso," I spoke of an actor named Mike Squicciarini who tended to play an enforcer in mob movies and TV shows, most notably, The Sopranos.

I won't go into everything in the old post again, but in doing this blog, I have tried to pay homage to a lot of the "forgotten heroes", both in front and behind the camera, who carry films on the journey from concept to screen, and often, as with Mike, make our lives a little better for having met them.

Whenever I see tabloid coverage of actors, I try to remember that they are people. with family and friends who love them, to whom they are not just faces on a screen but Moms and Dads and, in this case - uncle's.

In the comment section on the post linked is a beautiful comment from Regina Squicciarini, for whom Mike was not Big Mike or Scutch, as we affectionately called him (see license plate below), but Uncle Mike.

Please read the comment - I can't say what she did as well as she did - but it reminded me of why, in doing this blog, I never wanted it to be a place to bash even those actors (and, more often here. directors or crew people) that may have made mistakes on set, or with whom I didn't have a good realtionship. In those posts, used pseudonyms.

I asked Regina if she could send along some pictures of Mike, and she has graciously done so, including the one at the top. I wanted to headline the article with one where Mike was smiling and the good guy we knew, not in the character of the tough guy he played. (forgive my awkward retouching to remove an old phone number)

I like that there are The Sopranos references in the photos, a show where Mike was extremely proud to be part of the family. With the recent passing of James Gandolfini, who I know was a big fan of Mike's, it gives us a moment to reflect on a show that, while not hiding the uglier sides of the Mob, also did a pretty good job of representing Italian-American families as people. As a third generation Italian-American myself, I was not upset that the show would broaden stereotypes of Italian-Americans (those existed with or without the show), but rather, the family scenes, the scenes in the homes, seemed real to me.

A large part of that was actors like Mike, for whom, as I said, family was SO important. No role was more important to him than his care for two aging parents, and from the brief conversations I've exchanged by email with his niece, Regina. I gather that extended to his entire family. That concern for showing families as families in the traditional, not Mob, sense, seemed to pervade the show, and it depended om folks like Mike for whom the experience was real.

On this day after July 4th, maybe not a bad time to remember that those stereotypes we see on TV and on screen, whether it be the mob enforcer or the hip hop artist or the wacky Hispanic guy (who Luis Guzman has done such a good job portraying, and done so with so much detail, that many of his characters are now just called "Luis", his real name), that these folks a members of families, and that will ultimately be where they are best remembered long after their screen image has faded.


My work life has been a bit crazy - will get to the next installment of "Floating" within the next few days.