Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New headshot Photoshoot

I met John Anthony Sutton at our Brits in LA pub crawl a few months back. Pub Crawl is essentially a Brit thing, where a few mates all meet at one pub, have a pint, then walk/stumble/crawl to another for a pint, then end up pretty much legless for last orders at a final place. Anyway by the by, he asked if he could talk some shots of me for his portfolio, having not long shot with Stoyan Vassev, I was a bit apprehensive, but a few pints in and I would have agreed to sleep with his mother. But, turns out I'm glad i did as I'm pretty pleased with the following shots. I was able to get a couple of things that were missing from my repertoire. Clean shaved, and some with my specs - ever since my turn as the nerdy scientist in Fringe. I had no shot to represent that side of me- -So hopefully I succeed in getting some for me - as well as helping John gain some more work. The shoot was very comfortable, and John fancies himself as a bit of a comedian, he is also very precise. He knows what angles work and what doesn't. It was all a very painless process, for me anyway, I'm sure John's hand was aching pretty bad afterwards, that camera was pretty heavy. The cost is only $195 for two looks and if you are dissatisfied with your shoot you won't have to pay, which is a pretty good policy. Visit his facebook page to see more examples of his work.

I'm putting them up here to find out what you guys think. What does this series say to you?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wannabe Gets It's Day

Like it on Facebook

So around ten years ago, I met Richard Keith, he was a young talented photographer who was making his first short film, 'Exhibit A'  He was looking for someone to play the lead. A young lad in private school who was obsessed with hunting, not animals but the weak, and abducts a fellow class mate to torture. I auditioned well but he had someone else in mind. He had left his email on the script, so that night I looked him up and added him on Aol Instant message. We started talking about our influences and the movies we liked, Scorsese, Kurosawa, Christopher Guest comedies. I'm sure somewhere in the conversation I flattered him and his directing style and the writing of Exhibit A. Thanks Steve Jobs and your technology for helping me win the role and placing Richard in my life. 

Director and co-writer Richard Keith

Exhibit A was a really fun experience for me as an actor, Richard and I worked closely for months on the piece. I shared some of my writing with him a film script called 'Lifted', which he had some ideas about, and he shared some new material he had been working on too. After Exhibit had ran the festival circuit in the US. We knew we wanted to collaborate on something else. I would constantly be telling Richard anecdotes about my transition to acting in L.A., and the weird and whacky people I had encountered and certain sticky situations I would find myself in. So he suggested that we recreate some of these scenarios and put them into a script. What started as a very broad comedy called "Meet Ronnie Deli" soon became a grounded based on a true story, mockumentary. Richard and I thought it might be fun to film a few scenes from the script to see how it would turn out. I asked a few of my acting buddies Adam Huss and Anna Becker to help out. 

Me, with Anna Becker (Molly) and Adam Huss (Paul)
We let loose and came up with some really interesting material. The dance off scene was the first one we shot, then the security guard scene, then the Paul meets Molly scene soon followed. Richard edited it together and we showed it around to a few people, who flipped and encouraged us to continue to shoot more.

We had no money and were both struggling to make ends meet, Richard got me a job in a production company as a producers assistant. one day I showed my boss what we were up to and he loved it. He gave us use of all his office space to use as locations, so every weekend or evenings after work we would bring in our actors and skeleton crew - usually just Richard. And we slowly knock the script out.

We were so lucky with our cast, most everyone who is in the film was a friend, or someone I had worked with on other shorts or knew from acting classes I had taken.

So about four months later we had a complete film. We decided to hold an industry screening at Culver Studios. It was a huge success, a packed house with agents from CAA, William Morris. Producers, distributors. The room was on fire and everyone was laughing in all the right places. I remember sitting at the back grinning from ear to ear. So proud that we had pulled it off.

Afterward the screening Kevin Huvane from CAA asked us if we had thought about making it into a TV series and wanted to get it to his TV department.

This was huge!

We bought on another producer to help us figure out deals coz what did we know?

A pitch meeting was set up with David Madden at Fox Studios - we showed him some scenes form the film and he loved it, he offered us an if come deal - in laymen terms this means he wasn't going to give us any upfront money but if it sold to a network, we'd get paid. CAA were having none of it and advised us to not take the deal. So we didn't.

Things went really quiet with CAA after that and we thought it was the end of the road, so Richard submitted the film to a few festivals. We were excepted to the Boston Film Festival which we both got to go to, our first festival. it was great. Unfortunately for us it was a dead house, perhaps twenty people showed up, however we did get some great reviews from the press.

Nickelodeon show "Just For Kicks"
Meanwhile I had booked an acting gig on a show called 'Just For Kicks', A Nickelodeon show produced my Whoopi Goldberg. so Wannabe had taken a back seat.

Richard was handling it and called me after the film had played at the LA Independent film festival, that he had met a guy called Tony Jonas in line for popcorn and persuaded him to see our film instead of the one he was booked for. Afterwards Tony offered us a deal for TV. Turns out Tony had been the president of Warner Bros. TV for eight years, the guy responsible for putting Friends on the air.

I met with him a few days later and his enthusiasm and excitement for wannabe was electric, this guy could sell ice cones to eskimos (A line from the movie)

He knew exactly where it belonged and who should show run it. Marta Kauffman the co-creator of FRIENDS, yeah that small TV show with Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox and Matt LeBlanc.

Marta Kauffman created show
Warner Bros. TV Studios bought the show and we thought wow, the stars are aligned this is gonna happen.

We spent a few months in development and then went to pitch at the networks - CBS passed, NBC Passed, HBO Passed, Fox passed, Showtime passed. Then ABC loved it, but eventually passed.

We were shocked, everyone who saw the movie and the pitch loved it and laughed their head off - but yet no one was buying.

Richard and I decided to not get disheartened and concentrate on something else - Together with Darren Darnborough, A british actor and friend, we decided to create a new web series called Andy and Chaz bugger Off To America, about two bumbling crime bothers, who had run away to america to escape a wrong doing and start a new life.

The first episode of Andy And Chaz Bugger Off To America Watch them all on youtube

Wannabe sat on the shelf.

It was nice to see some of the cast members start to get recognition for their talents.

Matt Dallas in Kyle XY
Matt Dallas, who had a small part as one of the dancing contestants became the star of an ABC Family show called "KYLE XY"
Jonathan Dixon in Star Trek
Jonathan Dixon, who played the security guard has been in the star trek remake. Adam Huss has appeared in several mainstream TV shows including NCIS: LA.
Liz Warner in the middle
Elizabeth Warner now hosts one of the biggest radio shows on Indie radio.

Spencer Garrett is unstoppable as a character actor, he is in all the major movies and Tv shows, I think he has something over 300 credits.

Spencer Garrett
But the biggest success was from both Tate Taylor who plays Gunner, the coked out director and Octavia Spencer who plays Lady Chanet Janey Jones. Tate went on to star in Academy award nominated movie "Winter's Bone" and write and direct the Academy award nominated movie "The Help" starring none other than Octavia Spencer, who eventually went on to win the Academy award for best supporting actress in 2012. About four months before the Oscars, I saw them both at a BAFTA screening of the film and we reminisced about "Wannabe" I jokingly asked Octavia where will she put her Oscar when she wins. as it was obvious to me she was a shoe in. I also said that we should release Wannabe now. It's so timely. Tate was robbed by the way both in directing and Screenwriting - He wasn't even nominated. That pissed me off. He so deserved at least a nom.

Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer and Director of The Help, Tate Taylor.
Both Tate and Octavia slipped quietly off the social media radar, changing their numbers and emails, I guess that's what must be done when you reach that level of success. I look back on what a great time we all had as independent artists making our way through this mostly tough business.

Meanwhile I had been auditioning and making some headway, appearing on some good TV shows, Indie films and stage.

Earlier this year, a film I shot in 2010, called "Return to the Hiding Place" had a distribution screening at Sony Studios, and I invited Darren D from Andy and Chaz to come along, he in turn invited Richard Cambridge, A fellow Brit working in Silicon Valley. Who was launching a platform, a new distribution technology company called ChargePlay. He was at first interested in "Return to the hiding Place" as a demo for the company to launch. As I didn't have the rights and I knew RTTHP had bigger fish to fry, I suggested he take a look at "Wannabe."

A few days later I got a call, Richard loved it and showed it to his colleague Marcus Lovingood and they wanted to make a deal. I couldn't believe it - The movie that has had nine lives.

So here we are today, Wannabe finally gets to be seen. I am so very proud of this film, as it was sure dedication and the coming together of talented artists that made it happen. In the words of Steve Williams,  "Success is about the seven P's - Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance." Count them, yes I know there are six, Steve never said he was a scientist. :-)

In this movie I get to embarrass myself over and over and you know what? if it gets a laugh and people enjoy it, then I'm all for it.

I hope you all enjoy it  as much as we had fun making it - Wannabe is released on August 10th, 2012 Exclusively through Facebook.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Safari! So-Goody!

Yes I decided to not shave for three weeks, it was liberating albeit, itchy!!

Hey #YoungThuds!!

Earlier this month I took a once in a lifetime trip to Zambia in Africa, organized by my very good friends at coolhunting.com, Josh Rubin and Evan Orensten. The trip started with deliveries. A Tumi Cool Hunting safari edition travel duffel bag and a pair of boots from The vintage shoe company. Alright! Now that's a great way to get you in the packing mood. 

The fashion designer Geren Ford custom made Safari jackets for all 27 people in the group, each one uniquely designed and tailor fit the person. Mine was described as 'Theatrically rugged'.  A deconstructed jacket with patches of suede and leather. It's really awesome. Geren also made us printed cotton scarfs, that provided much protection from the sun and more importantly for me, the bugs. I consider myself a bit of a dare devil, I've put my hand to skydiving, planking on the edge of the Victoria falls and riding helicopters, if only there was enough time to bungee jump.  But when it comes to bugs. I just completely "bug out". you see, mosquitoes absolutely love me, and will jump at any chance to suck my blood. A recent trip to India had confirmed this. This time I was taking no chances and had purchased $300 worth of repellent, (FYI - nothing works better than deet.) Instectshield clothing and bed netting, then on amazon I came across this really ugly and unflattering bug suit - A must have for all Lady Ga-Ga fans out there and budding beekeepers. I loved it, truth be known.  I wasn't exactly going for the Robert Redford 'Out of Africa' look. Ok, I was, but just not in this mesh. I ended up looking more like Terry Thomas in an old "Carry On" movie ;-) or a new character in a Thomas Harris novel that he hasn't thought of yet, "He puts the repellent in the mesh, he put's the repellant on the skin" However my bug suit did prove very trying when it came to drinking my afternoon G&T's. Imagine sipping through a pair of old granny tights. (another bug repellent, I'm told.) Unlucky for me, we had the Tsetse flies biting at you during the day and the Mosies at night.  So to say I came away with only three bites I count myself very blessed.

"Bugsuit" covered by Geren Ford Custom-made Safari Jacket
When we landed at Mfuwe airport the first thing to hit me was the smell. Gasoline and burning fields. The smoke rising into the deep full African sun is a beautiful sight, but. my stinging eyes wondered what on earth we had just entered. Some war torn city perhaps. 'Apocolypse, Now' sprang to mind. 'Hotel Rwanda', maybe? 

As we pass the locals I wonder what must they think of us, three trucks load of rich (?) folk from the States with matching boots and luggage. Are we the circus? I mused. What do they think of us? Who are these middle class wankers coming into our village, snapping pictures and drinking champagne? I actually felt a little sick at myself.watching the locals walking and cycling everywhere carrying canisters of water on their heads, three to a bike. Children chasing after us with their hands stretched out shouting "Sweeties, sweeties." I thought this is crazy.

 But, I was told later that the village appreciates us as guests as we are actually helping their economic growth and help pay towards the schools in the village. The lodge and it's guests have been long time supporters of the schooling system here. And education is the number one priority of all the young I spoke to. More on that later.

The Lodge was really beautiful, not what I had imagined. It over looks the plains with Giraffe, Impala, Zebra and Baboons jumping all over the place, like the opening of some classic Disney movie. Did somebody cue them? I thought. The owner Andy and all the staff at The Bushcamp Company were tremendous, from the excellent friendly service to the knowledge of all of our guides, a special mention goes out to Ozzy our bartender, who made sure that our glasses runneth over, with Veuve of course. 

Once settled there were even more surprises, We were given Pentax binoculars to use during our stay and Pentax were also kind enough to give us cameras to keep and lenses to play with. And it helped that we had Kerrick James a world reknown photographer on hand to give us lessons and some pointers. My favorite was the Pentax K-30 with the interchangeable lenses. The 300 fixed lens was great for capturing animals in the distance and the 18-135mm lens was perfect for the variety I sometimes needed especially when we got extremely close to them, and most of the time we were. 

Dora the Explorer eat your heart out
The trip itself was very well scheduled, with activities every day, from drives through the national park, dinners in the middle of a lake, a sunset cocktail party sponsored by Veuve Clicqout, walking safaris and of course meeting and hanging with new friends. As a rather big group it was hard to spend quality time with everyone, but Evan and Josh mixed things up a bit by splitting us up into smaller groups of six or eight to spend time in the actual bushcamps. with. Two nights in two different camps. I stayed at Zungulila and Kapamba. Zungulila was right out of some Ralph Lauren shoot, or a Vanity Fair spread. take your pick. Vintage luggage cases stacked up against the walls, a dazzle of Zebra skins spread neatly under crocodile skinned coffee tables, a parade of elephants crossed the lake in front of us. while a lioness and her five cubs stare down a lonely Impala (Antelope)... lunch? 

When we moved to the next camp Kapamba, the elephants were even closer, try right outside the room, with no real doors, the spiderweb gates promise to keep the bigger animals at bay, but throughout the night thoughts of snakes, honey-badgers and hyenas slipping through the gaping holes kept me sleeping with one eye open. This camp is not for the faint at heart. but enough alcohol and Ambien (sleeping aid)  will see you through till morning. Did I mention every morning your wake up call was at 545am - But it's well worth it as all the best animals come out at sunrise. Cue Elton's 'Circle of Life'

Evan and Josh, still taking care of us, provided us with Moleskine sketchbook and pencils. I discovered I am no Picasso, but still had fun listing all the animals and footprints and trees we saw each day. Out of the big five I got to see three. The Elephant, the Giraffe and the Hippo. In fact the Hippo slept right outside our room. Grunting the night away. Rhinos are rarely seen in Zambia and everyone but me laid eyes on a leopard. (I'll get you one day!) 

Now all this sounds rather luxurious right? And it was, it's what we in the UK like to call...'Glamping' (Glamorous camping) but there was another reason we were there. And that was to learn about the culture and see the state of the schools in Mfuwe. I was told that most of the kids (up to 50%) in the town are orphaned losing their parents to HIV/AIDS, or Malaria or even attacks by animals. (yes you heard that right) So, the schools are overrun and are in desperate need of more classrooms and supplies. 

On our first visit to Mfuwe Day Secondary School, we toured the grounds. The first thing I noticed was that the school has no running water. Pupils pump from the wells all day long, taking it in shifts. Their bathrooms are cesspits in the ground which is a breeding ground for disease and bacteria. The dormitories are overcrowded with worn down mattresses and clothes hanging from the ceiling, on some occasions it's four kids to one bed. Heartbreaking indeed. 

As we approach the new buildings (paid through donations and sponsorships) there's a glimmer of hope, as we see builders hard at work, making a new classroom, alongside an almost complete dormitory. If you feel you may want to contribute in someway please visit their website - even a few dollars will make a big difference. They even need trees to provide shade, desks and backpacks are in big demand too. A lot of these kids have to travel on foot or bicycle up to 15km to get to school. Imagine carrying your books in the heat.
  We were greeted by the headmistress and the staff of the school, who led us to an open area, where the school choir entertained us, They were an amazing talented bunch with such great voices and personalities to match. After the choir came the drama class, who performed a musical number that was so raunchy it makes 'Magic Mike' look like 'High School Musical' But according to our hosts, this sort of tribal mating ritual style of dancing is very common. Personally I liked it, but noticed a few shocked faces within the group. 

After the performances some of the pupils were chosen to meet and greet us and share their stories. These kids were so well mannered and so excited, they all loved having there pictures taken and seeing the results. The ones I spoke with have high ambitions of reputable careers, such as judges, policemen, lawyers, and ministers. one boy Dixon, told me about his dream of becoming an actor, but didn't see how that was ever going to be possible and that a career as a doctor might be more realistic. All the kids wanted to get my email address, and physical address, almost desperate for a slice of Americana. They are familiar with such shows like 'American Idol' and 'So You Think You Can Dance.' I wondered if the latter had inspired their gyrating 'getdown' moves earlier.

A few days later a few of us returned to the school, to somehow give something back to them as a thank you for the welcome they had given us. A couple taught photography, another taught project management, (turning your dreams into reality) and little old me taught the drama class.

 Grizzly Adams teaches a class.
I've coached a few fellow actors for auditions in the past, but have never taught a class before so was quite nervous. I'd spent a few days thinking about what to actually teach these guys, as self expression they already had in abundance. that was clear, so I decided that I wanted them to experience something rather than just some sort of lecture, I also didn't want to tie them down to a script. Using the skill-set I had learnt at The Groundlings, I decided upon a curriculum of fun games, improv and character work. -Which they all seemed to love.

The Drama Class of 'Mfuwe Day'
Our windows were packed of kids peering through trying to catch a glimpse of these kids parading around the room as elephants, shivering from frostbite, or being very very tired. The biggest kick seemed to be when I had them all play zombies. -This is just a great exercise to get them started, to relax and enjoy themselves. I led them through some exercise that got them to really use their imagination, and of course it crossed my mind that when I was demonstrating some 'space work' of a doctors office and using space work implements, that they probably didn't have the same sort of environments as us.  However, I loved watching them as each one got up and recreated their own worlds, their own habitats, using the power of suggestion and mime. I ended my session with a fun game that I used to play as a kid called 'Wink Murder'. A cunning game where all participants close their eyes and one is tapped on the shoulder, whomever is tapped is now the murderer and must kill everyone with a wink of an eye. If the killer winks at you, it is your job to die of the most horrible death you can imagine. Everyone laughed so hard watching their class mates ham it up as each one dropped to the floor. I was the last one standing when Leo winked at me,  I'd had some previous practice of dying (on-screen), most recently on the cross over episode of Hawaii 5.0 and NCIS:LA That was a pretty unspectacular two shots to the chest it was all over kind of death. My character Alfred Hoffman in Fringe had died a fantastical death of choking on his own DNA toxic gas. Strangled in my underwear by a raving psycho bitch in the horror movie  'Slaughter' was a good one, oh and on the TV show 'The District', dying of an overdose of PCP, death cout 4. But, none, I tell you, even came close to the blood curdling sounds that came out of my over the top, highly dramatic, tony winning ,death scene I gave these kids. The best round of applause I've ever gotten and one that will always mean the most to me.

I love the joy in this kids face when he sings.

And as for Dixon, I'd like to believe that he does have a fighting chance of one day making it as an actor, I told him to always keep the dream alive even if it's in your sleep... because strange things happen when you dream and sometimes they come true. Not that I'm comparing myself, but growing up on a council estate in the UK, I never knew how I was ever going get to Hollywood and become an actor, but if I dreamed hard enough, it might just happen.

I hope to get back to the school in a few years to see how it has progressed - and now I dream that it will have running water by then.

-- I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Much love


Monday, May 21, 2012

Want to see Craig Robert Young shag a bird to death?

That's me on the left. Yes, I look like a Mexican Justin Beiber, I know.

Andy and chaz Bugger off To America is now listed as the most popular on Staytunedtv.com
would love it if you shared it for me - Thanks a lot - CY

Enjoy the Episode below, where I shag a woman of ill repute to death.

Recent Photo Shoot for Hollywood Monthly Magazine

 This old ford truck just happened to be in my neighbourhood on the day of the shoot. We knocked on a few doors to see who it belonged to, but nobody seemed to know - so I quickly jumped in the back, for Stoyan (the photographer) to take some quick snaps.

*All Photos taken by Stoyan Vassev of Grandreport.com