Sunday, September 30, 2012

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: First Kiss

I'm back in LA and ready to kick the crap out of some auditions! Woot! Until then... here's the new ATX!

Ah, thank God we managed to shoot an episode in a location besides our apartment. The backdrops help to give an illusion of variety, but I would like to see us switch things up more than we do. But new locations require either generous friends or shooting permits. Sooo that's why that can be tough sometimes. It's probably partly my fault. I can get a little timid about asking people for favors when I'm sure more often than not it probably wouldn't be that big of a deal. Man up, Wellman!

But speaking of asking for outside help, we got ourselves a bona fide Groundlings alum! I met Sara Cravens through the Virginia Avenue Project, which is a children's theater group I got involved with last July. She's one of those fearless actors where you say "Okay, now you're going to climb on top of me and scream right in my face as loud as you can" and she very comfortably replies with "Like this?"

I was a little nervous about this one as I was writing it, because originally the roles were switched, and it was the guy who was the awkwardly aggressive kisser. It kinda worried me because I was afraid maybe it would come off a lot darker than intended. The safer (and much funnier, I think) idea to have the girl be the aggressor came to me maybe a few days beforehand. I ran it by Sara and we both agreed that it was funnier, so I went through the script and swapped character names around. Funny how just one change can improve a script so significantly.

Also got to put my editing hat on for this one, which I'm a little proud of. Matt did most of the editing, but I went in last week while I was in Kentucky and cut a few things down. Basically I just cut some of the monologue at the beginning (it was WAY too long) and a joke at the ending that didn't really work. Took me a good hour whereas it probably would've taken Matt about three minutes but I'll still call it a victory. 

Barely posted this sucker on time! I was madly scrambling to throw the video onto the internet before midnight like Cinderella trying to escape the Prince's dance before the spell breaks and everybody finds out she's just some poor tramp. But by Jove, we made it! Two months in and we've hit every deadline! Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: Puppy Love

Oh, hello there internet. So sorry for forsaking you. I managed to put this sketch up on time, but somehow doing the corresponding blog post always managed to fall securely in the "I'll do it tomorrow" quadrant of my vacationing brain. But anyway... yeah. New sketch. Here it is.

If I can pinpoint any one common thread in our sense of humor, I'd say it has to be ugliness. When I hear of anything especially serious or horrifying, I'll eventually think "How can I make that funny?" As a rule, comedy is generally only funny when somebody isn't in on the joke. The audience's laughter is mostly a knee jerk reaction of "Thank God that's not me." (Or, sometimes, "That's me! That's me!") That being said, I think this ATX project has become something of a challenge of mine to see just how ugly I can make a character and still get laughs. 

The guy in Puppy Love is, I think, one of the more extreme examples of that effort. Heartbreak, obsession, rage, delusion, loneliness, insanity... funny stuff!

It's another weird little piece, and yes, the filming process was just as strange, if not more so. It was literally just Zach following me around with the camera while I did creepy stuff with some confused dog that isn't even mine. He kept nervously shaking his head and saying "What the fuck are we doing?" I got a little excited every time he asked that, because in my artistic experience, that question is always followed by a really unusual answer. 

I just about never know what I'm doing with these things, but as a result, the end product always surprises me. As long as that keeps happening, I'll stay happy, because that means I'm continually making new discoveries. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

52 Sketches in 52 Days: A Friendly Game of Checkers

It's 11pm. I walk into the door of our apartment with arms bulging with groceries. Shew, what a long day! Can't wait to just sit back and take it easy!

I look around the apartment to see that Zach has the tripod set up. He's constructed a crude toplight out of plastic tubing and fluorescent lighting. "We doing this or what?!" he says.

Next thing I know, Matt's filming us scream at each other at the top of our lungs while our neighbors cower in their beds and wonder just what kind of horrible things go on in Apt 105 at one in the morning. Such is the life of the aspiring young Los Angeles artist. Where else do people sit you down and have a serious discussion about the proper way to say "Bibbity Bam Bam DIGGLE!"

This was an exciting sketch for me because it was the first one that I didn't write or direct. It was a nice feeling to not have to worry about having some kind of central artistic vision for the entire piece. All I had to do was focus on my character, which is basically a fraction of the many factors that a director has to yank his hair out over. Who knows? Maybe other writers and directors will step up and throw their talents into the ring...

Of course, one compromise I obviously made was that this wasn't a sketch so much as a short film. This sucker's nine minutes, and I think that could potentially deter some of you attention deficit internet folks. I just figured the day you become a slave to your own rules is the day cool things stop happening artistically. That being said, more often than not, we still plan to keep these babies short for ya.

LOVE the way that toplight kicks in. I think it really adds so much. Wish we could afford all those fancy doodads the pros use. (And while we're wishing for impossible things, I'd also like a talking puppy that can breathe fire.)

I'm kicking it back in my home state of Kentucky right now, so posts may be a little scarce these days. Don't worry, faithful reader. I haven't forgotten you! I'm just out with people who are waaaay more important to me than you!

(If it makes you feel any better, I've got a mean patch of poison ivy splotching up my right ear... That has nothing to do with being an artist in Los Angeles. I'm going to stop writing now.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

52 Sketches in 52 Days: Audition

Sooo the Reel process is still going VERY slowly. But! I shall persist! In the meantime, here's our newest sketch!

The very lovely model/actress Aqueela Zoll graced us with her talent for this one, and I think she knocked it out of the park. Or at least the pie.

As I mentioned earlier, we're starting to bring in a lot of new blood for future sketches. I was initially nervous to ask people. "Who are these amateurs?" they would think to themselves. "I'm a REAL actor!" I only knew Aqueela through an audition (ironically), but she was totally on board when I gave her a call. More often than not, I'm starting to find, most actors in LA tend to be flattered that you thought of them and are usually more than happy to help out. Especially if they get some good reel footage out of the deal.

Shooting everything in one take like that really forced us to rehearse each moment carefully. The process was similar to theater more than film. We couldn't just fire off spontaneous jokes off the top of our heads or go off script too far. Especially since we only had one pie. We also had to stop a bunch of times because some evil dog kept barking outside and screwing up the sound. 

Keep showing the love, folks. Share us with your friends. We promise we're housebroken! Now if you'll excuse me, I think there's some leftover pie sitting in the kitchen...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Making a Reel: Hunting for Footage

"Do you have a good reel?"

It's a question that always makes me squirm. "Er... I'm working on it," I'll mutter. Then the person will inevitably smile politely and say something like "Oh, I see" before changing the subject. It's the one big chink in my armor that still exposes me as an unprofessional boob.

To be fair, not every new actor in LA needs a reel the first day they get here. When I arrived last October nobody had filmed me in anything besides the occasional home video shot by mommy and daddy.

Casting directors will not be impressed.

So the first task of a befuddled LA actor who's trying to make a reel is to get cast in things. But wait, don't I need a reel to get cast? Well, yes. Shut up. 

Do crap for free. If you think you're getting good material out of it, whore that talent of yours out to any pimply college kid who comes your way. Then ruthlessly forget his name after you get your first Oscar nod.

I'm at a place in my career where I've shot enough solid material though, so I've run out of excuses. 

I now have to embark on a giant email quest to actually obtain a copy of everything. You can't just rip stuff straight off of Youtube, alas. It's a lot of "Hi! Remember me?" (They probably don't.) "Could you take some time out of your super busy day to send me that piece I did for you awhile back?"

Most of these people I haven't talked to in months. And from what I hear there's always that one guy who I'll have to pester twenty thousand times until his only choice is to either give me what I want or rip his own eyeballs out in annoyance. 

But I gotta do what I gotta do. A good reel will open doors for me in ways that a headshot can't. I'll keep you guys posted on my process and would appreciate any advice from you veterans out there. Soon I'll be able to answer "Do you have a good reel?" with "Heck yeah I do! And it's better than yours, dummy!"

Or something like that.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

52 Sketches in 52 Days: Dick Jokes (Saddest wig in cinema history...)

Well, we've hit the one month mark and the project's still rolling! Here's week four:

Ah man, I love that long silence about midway through, haha. All credit goes to Matt for that ridiculous Easter egg at the end too. That sucker would make a pretty jacked up ringtone. I was also pretty pleased with how all the laughing and hooting sort of became the soundtrack for the piece.

Okay, okay, so we really did make an honest effort to do the cross-dressing thing right. Picture two straight guys standing hopelessly in some high class wig shop, walking around in circles. The internet told us there was some big sale, but the saleslady acted like she had no idea what we were talking about. Eventually we had to tuck our tail between our legs and just use the same ratty one we had from Dude Tips. We'll do better next time, I reckon.

I've started trying to recruit some other actors in the hopes of giving us some new talent to play with. Evan's a fine actor that we know from Kentucky. You can see him for a very hot second in this national Lexus commercial. Stay tuned for more awesome LA actors showing us up soon!

It was a pretty simple shoot, except for the fact that we had nobody behind the camera. We literally just ran back and forth to start and stop each take. It's still a pretty humble operation, but by Jove we're getting things done!

Whoa! Dude Tips made it to 160 views last week! Thanks for all the support and feedback so far. We are a contagious disease that has infected your brain. Now go to a public place a sneeze a bunch!