Awesome Festival News!

The end of June/beginning of July was a bit of a roller coaster for me.

First, I met with a NY agent and she decided to add me to her freelance clients. I had spent the past few months going to workshops and intensives with casting directors and associates, showing my reel to whoever would look at it, and generally tried to show them how ready I am to go for co-star/guest star roles on TV and supporting roles in large-budget film. But, that effort would have gone largely to waste if I didn’t have someone in my corner who could see the breakdowns early enough to make a difference. So in one meeting I went from “this could all come crashing down” to “this could actually work.” Since the meeting, I have gotten my online submission profiles set up so the agent can use them, and she should be able to find roles that are being cast by people who have met me and have seen what I can do.

Then, the first festival sent word to us that they are passing on “Cleaning Up.” This particular festival, DC Shorts, gets about 10 times as many submissions as they have room for, so I knew it would be pretty tight. One reason I submitted to them though is they send a link to a page that shows what our film’s reviewers thought of it, so I knew we’d at least get some helpful information out of the deal. Two of the reviews were completely positive, said things like “the audience will be laughing out loud” and “this is something fresh for the audience,” and ultimately recommended us for selection. The third merely said it didn’t go with their personal sense of humor and recommended it not be selected. I don’t know if the third reviewer had more pull, or there were other factors (I’m told there is some sort of arcane numerical formula involved), but that was that. So, of course, part my brain said, “100% failure,” and I got a little depressed despite another part of my brain pointing out that a sample size of one produces no meaningful data.

But then, a week later, I got an email saying that certain people were “excited to invite your film, ‘Cleaning Up’, to screen at the 2015 Rahway International Film Festival.” “Excited” – how about that?! I don’t know how excited they were, but if it was half as excited as I was, then they made a chihuahua look like a blood hound. It was such awesome news at exactly the right time. We have been plugging the crap out of it and they haven’t even announce the screening schedule yet! Also, we are getting bios written and promo material assembled. You know, the stuff that we knew we’d need should we get accepted to a festival, but didn’t get to it until the need became real – that sort of stuff.

The Rahway IFF is on the last week in August in Rahway, NJ. I am definitely going, and I’m sure I’ll have stuff to say about it then. Maybe I’ll see you there!

In The Can!

Well, we got “Cleaning Up” done just in time to submit to some key festivals. We are all really happy with how it turned out. Everyone who has seen it has had a good laugh, so we are expecting good things from the festivals we are submitting to.

I submitted to the NYC Independent Festival before I realized that there is a completely separate Shorts Festival here as well, so I submitted to that two. They seem to have their act together, as they have already confirmed receipt through withoutabox. I also submitted to the DC-based Reel Independent Film Extravaganza because I know the people there and they are good folks who will probably give my film a shot. Also in DC is the DC Shorts Fest, which is right up our alley, and I submitted despite having to go through their website and type everything in again because they don’t do withoutabox.

Lastly, I submitted to the Toronto International Film Festival even though I know how small a chance we have of being selected. I chose this time of year to start submitting because most of the larger festivals (Tribeca, Sundance, Cannes) will be accepting submissions several down the road, which give us time to try and gain a little notoriety from the smaller festivals.

Of course, now is the hardest part – waiting until July before I start hearing back from these people! In the meantime, I’ll keep submitting and hoping!

Almost Done!

My short film, “Cleaning Up” is almost done! Principal photography was wrapped last week, and we have already got a rough cut together to send to the composer. Lew just needs to finish up some visual effects (website screens on monitors, mostly) and one little bit of B-roll, and we will have a final edit ready for sound engineering and color correction.

Our first stops on the whirlwind festival tour (because their deadlines are soonest) are the Toronto International Film Festival, the DC Shorts Film Festival, and the Reel Independent Film Extravaganza (love that word)! We will submit to more as their deadlines approach, including Sundance, Tribeca, and maybe even Cannes!

I am so fortunate to be working with a fellow crew and cast that care as much about making this film as I do!

Lessons From Kickstarter

Well, production on my short film, which we re-titled “Cleaning Up,” is going better than I ever could have hoped. My co-producer Lew and I have put together a wonderful crew who are talented and hard-working, and are totally understanding of their pay being deferred until we secure funding.

To this end, we decided to try to raise the majority of the funds through Kickstarter. Let me tell you right now, this undertaking is not for the weak of heart. It was quite an emotional roller coaster for me – and while I love the physical roller coasters, the emotional kind are not nearly as fun.

When I first put up the campaign and sent the link out in posts, tweets, and emails, I got a large influx of donations. These were from people who were either dear friends or people I had worked with, some whom I haven’t seen in years. But they came in over the first week of the 15 day campaign, and I felt such love and joy at this – I will not lie, I actually teared up a few times.

But then the realities of launching a not-fully-prepared Kickstarter campaign began to rear its ugly head. Over theĀ  last week, pretty much the only contributions we got were those friends and such that either didn’t see the posts before, or had to wait until they actually got paid to donate. While the generosity of these people means a great deal to me, apparently it doesn’t mean as much to the Kickstarter community at large. There were on average nearly 1,200 other projects in the Film & Video category alone that were essentially competing with us for attention. It is no wonder we fell behind more prepared campaigns in this regard.

In the end, we failed after 15 days to get the money we were asking for. But we got nearly 60% of the way there, and learned some valuable lessons along the way. One, Kickstarter is harder than it looks, and takes a lot more preparation than we had figured. And two, we have some wonderful friends that really care about us getting this movie done. And I personally can’t thank them enough.

We are pressing forward with the film, cutting corners where we can, and are figuring out our next funding step. I’ll keep posting as we get it done.

Do It Yourself

This year I decided to produce my own short film. I had an idea for a short silent film about a janitor and the wacky adventures he has going about his duties one night. So I sat down and wrote out the story in semi-screenplay format – with no dialogue it was pretty impossible to stick to the “one page = one minute” standard. It ended up being about 4 pages long, but will probably have a run-time of close to 25 minutes. Originally I was calling it “After Hours,” but then I remembered the Scorcese picture that came out thirty years ago. So, rather than name it after a film that had its own Wikipedia page, I decided to call it “Cleaning Up” instead. And it’s starting to grow on me.

Fortunately I have help. My pal Lew Fraga was so tickled by the story that he said he couldn’t stop giggling as he thought of how certain shots would look. He runs Fraga Studios, and decided to put his expertise toward co-producing it, and he had such good ideas we decided he should direct it too (which was a better idea than me directing it – not only do I not have the experience, it would take twice as long to shoot). Lew suggested Doug Bischoff to be the Director of Photography, and I asked John Rowles to do the music. Our core crew and cast were complete!

Our goal is to submit it to film festivals once we complete it. I am hoping to make the early submission deadline for Toronto on May 2nd, but that might be tight. I am fairly certain we can make Sundance by July 28, and Tribeca is in October, so that won’t be a problem!

We have our first shoot date in just three weeks. Right now Lew and I are scrambling to get all the props and wardrobe and location together, but I think we will make it. Also, we are schmoozing for financing and starting up a Kickstarter campaign. There is so much more to do than on other projects when I am merely an actor!

Public Service

Lately I’ve been working on a documentary reenactment for PBS on the Jamestown, Virginia settlement. Apparently archeologists recently found evidence of cannibalism there, so everyone is scrambling to get their documentary out on it, and I got swept up in PBS’. It looked like fun and would pay the bills, so I agreed to do it.

The exterior location for the first couple days was on a preserve out in central Maryland that actually had a hundreds-year-old log cabin that we got to use. We got dressed up in our early 17th Century attire, and walked up and down a hill for several takes. Then I got to haul some lumber for a while, and I started to feel I was in Colonial times, but mostly because the data reception was so bad there I gave up using my smartphone between takes.

We went through periods of Yellow Fever and food shortages. Maybe the hardest acting challenge for us was fighting over the dwindling corn reserves right after lunch on the second day. When it came time to carve the victim up, I ended up being replaced as one of the butchers at the last minute, so I didn’t get to have a really neat scene showing guilt, reluctance, and desperation. But I didn’t mind too much, since I was still getting paid.

It looks like they will have a decent doc on their hands once they dub in the expert narration and whatnot. I definitely would like to see it when it comes out on PBS, even though it probably won’t help my reel any.

The Show Must Go On

Over the past few months I have been dealing with the untimely passing of a close friend. He had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, so although he tried to fight it with chemotherapy for a while, it was pretty much a done deal. All we could do over the next several weeks was make sure he was comfortable and know that he was loved. I believe we accomplished both of those.

But even while this was going on, I felt the best way to honor him was to keep doing what I do. For the DC 48-hour Film Project I played a guy in a dark comedy about using an event planner to help with his suicide. Yeah, I know. I made a point not to share it with any of my friends who were also close to him, but I did tell him, and he had a good laugh at the coincidence.

I got news of my friend’s passing the night before my shoot for the Baltimore 48HFP, and, oh boy, we drew Comedy. But I needed to soldier through and do it like a professional, both for his memory and for myself. Yes, I wept a lot while driving in my car to the location, but once I got there, I dried my eyes and focused on work. I wasn’t being strong, or brave – I just had to. I got through the day wearing a lampshade that had been made into a painful hat, and we made the comedy we’d intended.

In the weeks since then, I often think of my friend and that day. And I keep plugging away at this acting career I’ve decided upon. I miss him terribly, but I am doing the best I can to (I hope) honor him. It would be presumptuous to say something like, “he would have wanted me to do this,” because he never specifically said that. But I know he thought I was funny, and he did know that I am doing what I want to do, and I’m pretty sure he’d be okay with that.

VEEP War Stories

I’ve been wanting to tell you guys about stuff that happened on the set of my “VEEP” episode, but didn’t know what constituted NDA violation, and frankly, didn’t want to spoil anything for actual fans of the show. So, I dutifully waited until the show aired on April 13th (yeah, that’s right – shot on Friday September 13th, aired on April 13th!), and then waited two weeks in case anyone was behind on their “VEEP.” So here goes…

I’d been going in to read for day-player roles on this show since mid-season 1. Finally they thought I was the best fit for this one, and of course they refer to the role as “Weird Guy.” Talk about typecasting! I’ll take it!

For these two Coast Guard scenes they shot on-location at an airbase in Middle River, MD, which is east of Baltimore. This is a bit more of a drive than their set location, but as you know I like driving, so set the GPS and off I went. On the way there I got a message from one of the production assistants that the writers would like us to rehearse the scenes beforehand, so they were moving the call times up by an hour. Fortunately I still had about an hour of buffer left, so only had to hit the gas a little more to make it just in time.

When I got there one of the PA’s led my car through the gate and to the piece of airstrip we were using for home base. I parked and they took me to my trailer. Well, more accurately, my section of the trailer they were using for co-stars, but I had my own door that said “Weird Guy” on it, so I was happy. We went to rehearsal and all the cast introduced themselves, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who shook my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Julia.” And I thought, well, yeah, I knew that – you’re the famous one,” but fortunately I merely said, “Hi, I’m Greg.” So we then ran through the scene and went back to our trailers to wait for the sun to set.

The first scene they shot was the first one where they were still at the dock, so rather than sit in my trailer all alone, I hung out on the set watching the proceedings, and talking with cast and crew between takes. Here’s a photo Reid Scott took and posted on Twitter that night. He was ridiculously fun to talk to! I didn’t take any photos on set because I didn’t want to get in trouble, and besides, it was almost out of juice from the GPSing and such.

Then they set up my scene. They put my boat out and anchored it like 40 feet from the dock, Then I got in a smaller patrol boat (like the one parked next to my boat in the scene), they took me out, and I made the transition to my boat without incident, which is good, because I was the only cast that wasn’t wearing a life vest. But I figured I was pretty safe given my swimming ability, our proximity to shore and the number of actual Coast Guard personnel surrounding me. Yes, those are actual CG in the small boat and standing in my boat. Cool, huh?

We did several takes running the entire scene with the cameras behind me, and then the crew went over to the big patrol boat to shoot the entire scene from my side another several times. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t decided it was a funny idea to have my arms up for the entire scene. This of course meant that I had to have them up for every single shot, and as I said, they filmed the entire scene in one go, which meant I had my arms up and motionless for like ten minutes at a stretch. Between takes I had to rub my shoulders while the director of photography sent me encouragement.

The next day my shoulders were so sore I could barely move them. But I’d had so much fun the night before that it was well worth it!

Looking for Rep

In addition to getting myself in front of all sorts of casting directors, I have been attending showcases where I meet with and perform for talent agents. I have been getting decent feedback from both commercial and theatrical agents lately. A few have even laughed when I read the side or copy (it’s supposed to be comical stuff – don’t worry!), and some have even asked what I have on this here website and have even promised to come look at it. If you are one of those fine people, then hi!

I have a feeling that I will start taking meetings with some of them in the near future. Then when I find the one that’s right for me that thinks I’m right for them, I will have signed with representation. What does that mean for me? Well, for one thing my marketing budget will drop by nearly one half, as I don’t need to keep agents that I won’t be working with apprised of things. But it will also mean that the hard work will have just begun, as we will have to hustle to keep the auditions coming, and I will have to rock each audition extra hard to make it worth everybody’s time. But it will be worth it.

I’ll keep you in the loop when I start taking meetings!

Ready For Pilot Season

After the holiday slowdown, I am ready to get out there and work! This may be due to the weather, or from being around too much of my family, but I am super-eager to get auditioning for stuff. Fortunately for me, pilot season in starting!

This year, I actually feel reasonably prepared for the madness that is pilot season. I have made some contacts with casting people at most of the major networks, as well as having put myself in front of casting directors for many of the busier houses in NYC. The only thing that would make it perfect is having an agent represent me to more people, but I have yet to sign with someone. Perhaps if I get in a pilot they’ll be coming to me.

Meanwhile, I just do what I do, which is go to more workshops to make more contacts with more industry people, and do the occasional short film so my acting doesn’t rust. But I think this pilot season might be the best for me yet!