Life in Eighth Grade

I continue to be blessed by the wonderful attention the film “Eighth Grade” is getting. Now that the DVD/Blue Ray is out, I’m sure more and more people are watching it as we speak. To celebrate the release, I made a video with me dabbing over and over to a parody of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, since October 9th was also his birthday. After a day and a half of only a handful seeing it, writer/director Bo Burnham quoted my tweet about it, and in the next day and a half it got over 10,000 views, and over 850 likes with 0 dislikes (unprecedented). Everyone seems to think it’s funny and uplifting, and I couldn’t be more amazed and grateful.

Yesterday there were SAG Award screenings in NYC for it, with Q&As after with Bo and star Elsie Fisher. I decided to go, and ran in to an actor friend who hadn’t seen it yet. It was awesome to get his reaction to the film. Then during the Q&A Bo sees me in the audience and says “Greg!” in the middle of an answer. He introduces me to the audience and continues with his question. After it was over, the two stop and say hi to me, and Bo says, “I am sharing your video with everyone!” It has been so amazing to work with people who are so kind and generous with their time and abilities. Last summer this started out being just another acting job, but it has grown into something so much more than that.

Thank you, Bo, Elsie, and the universe at large!

The Coolest Principal In The World

This summer I had the great fortune to get cast in an independent feature called, “The Coolest Girl In The World.” It was written and directed by comedian/actor Bo Burnham. I was so excited to work with him for this project. He was awesome both at his job and as a person. The cast and crew were fantastic.

Though I was only with them for three of their shoot days, they made me feel very welcome. So acting jobs are just that – jobs. But this one was a pleasure! I can’t wait to see the film.

Awesome 48HFP News!

Back in June I did the Baltimore 48-Hour Film Project with Team Citra, a team I had worked with on 48HFPs in Baltimore and Washington over the past few years. We had made some good films and “Kings Crossing” was no exception. We had two separate units running and everything went great despite some logistical curves that our production team handled flawlessly. We ended up with a humorous story with a heart that we were all pretty proud of.

A few weeks ago, the festival coordinator announced the list of films that would be shown at the “Best Of” screening, and our film made the cut. This is typically comprised of films that would win judges awards to be announced that night, audience picks from each of the screening groups, and rounded out with other films that the judges liked. Since we knew we hadn’t won the audience award for our group, we were likely to be in line to get something.

Well, we got something alright. Our film was awarded Best Use of Line for using the required line of dialogue (“Sometimes the best answer is no answer.”) the most naturally or cleverly (some would say “least awkwardly”) in the judges’ opinion. The was due (I’m guessing) both to the script as written as well as the delivery of the actor who said it. We also got Best Use of Character for using the required character (Q. Treller, member of a secret society) in a manner most pleasing to the judges. I think this was partly because of script decisions to never refer to the character by name in dialogue, but have it show up in physical notes that were used in shots, and also because the actress played the role straight which made her more believable as a person.

But it didn’t end there. We got 1st Runner Up for Best Film! To clarify for those not used to film festivals or beauty pageants, that is 2nd Place (that always gets me, so I felt I should explain). The whole field consisted of good films, so second out of that lot is quite an achievement. But I also got the award for Best Actor! I was surprised and humbled. Everyone was so happy for me and I was happy too, but also a little stunned. I was feeling all, “but I just did what I do, and…award? Wuh?”

What a great night. I am so proud, not only of my award, but for our awesome team who came together and did a great job making a film in 48 hours! Congrats, everyone!

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!

Festival! Festival!

Some of the short films I’ve been involved with have been showing at festivals all around the country. In particular, two films written by my pal Jimmy Monack have been getting serious attention.

“Charm City Rumpus” was just seen at the Reel Independent Film Extravaganza (http://www.reelindependentfilm.com/) in Washington DC on Saturday October 12th, and was nominated in three categories. Our star Felicia was up for Best Actress in a Short and Eddie Furs got a nom for Best Supporting Actor in a Short. We also were considered for Best Narrative Short! While we didn’t walk away with any of them, we were all pretty happy to get these nominations.

This weekend a film I did this summer will be screened at the Boston International Kids Film Festival (http://bikff.org/) in Boston, MA (of course). We were all pretty proud of this 7-minute short, and I bet it will get some serious attention as Jimmy kicks off its festival tour in Boston. I really wish I could be there to see it on its way, but Jimmy will do a good job representing, I’m sure. I will keep you guys posted as this develops.

Student Films Are How I Give Back

I just got done shooting a comedy short for a film student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. While they don’t generally pay, and usually doesn’t add to my reel, I feel it is still worth my time when I can spare it.

I like to help give the student real-world experience, by offering advice when they ask for it (which they do often enough). As a member of SAG-AFTRA, my involvement also gets them ready for an important part of making a film outside of college – paperwork. Every well-run film has paperwork, and the SAG Student Film Agreement is a great way to break them into that habit. They will also be very grateful for your help, and are almost always really nice. You really get the impression that they are happy you are there, as opposed to some productions that treat actors as a necessary evil.

And I don’t want to get sappy here, but these kids are the future of film making. If we don’t get involved and help out, what will happen to our industry? So, students of film, fellow actors, and movie-going audiences everywhere – you are welcome.