Friday, April 20, 2018

The Room - An Emotional Rollercoaster

Tommy Wiseau's The Room is not a good movie. It's not. NO, it's not! But it is a GREAT movie.

I mean, it's an absolute piece of shit. Almost unwatchable. There's no plot. The character's motivations turn on a dime. Story lines are forgotten the second they are mentioned. The cinematography would get you a C grade if you did this in film school. And the pacing is on par with an incontinent octogenarian's bowel movement. But YOU need to see it.

I'm serious!

A little back story:

Somewhere around 2009, Joel Rickenbach started the "You've Got Geek On You" podcast (later shortened to "You've Got Geek.") The title was a homage to a line in Shaun of the Dead ("You've got red on you, did you know that?") It was a pop culture podcast that explored film, television, music, comics, games, books, etc.

The podcast was born out of late night phone calls Joel and I would have about these same topics. This was 100% Joel's baby. So he asked me and James Hunsinger to join him every Wednesday night (or sometimes Sundays or whatever day of the week worked for everyone's availability).

Aside from providing an MATURE rating from iTunes, my greatest contribution was "The Nerd Confessions." This came out of an episode where I admitted, I had never seen James Cameron's Aliens before. This was rectified in July of 2009.

Andrew Mitchell set up what would be the first or three screenings at the University of Delaware. For the inaugural screening, we invited anyone who was interested in coming to watch Aliens with us.

Bob Trate (future "You've Got Geek" panelist) brought his helmet for me to wear.

The next screening would be Flash Gordon, in which Dave Perillo and Brendan Carr (future "You've Got Geek" panelist), would perform as The Ukes of Earl in opening the night's festivities (though Dave became unavailable at the last moment and Brendan played solo)
Steve Manocchio watching Brendan rock out. Also, that camera makes me wonder where the hell that footage is! 
Flash Gordon was a MST3K type viewing. All were welcome to shout out whatever they wanted at the screen. It was probably my favorite screening of the three movies we'd show there.

The final screening however, would be the aforementioned The Room. Tommy Wiseau's masterpiece about a guy who is in love with a girl, who seems to be in love with his best friend, and possibly a 14 year old boy next door. I believe this took place early 2010.

The screening was amazing! It was a room full of friends, almost all of who, were seeing the movie for the first time. THIS is how the movie is meant to be seen. In numbers.

I find it near unwatchable in a singular setting. But the more people you gather, the better the film.

I would go on to watch it two more times in my life. Once, as part of Brendan's bachelor party in late 2010 (though , admittedly, I told Joel to wake me when it was over having seen it with in the same calendar year - that's about as much as the human condition can accept seeing it). And then finally May 18, 2012 as part of the "You've Got Geek" sponsored screening at The Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, PA.

THIS was the screening where Jim Burns showed up as Johnny AKA Tommy Wiseau.

While this was the first public appearance, Jim had been "Tommy" before. Specifically on the 2/23/2011 episode of "You've Got Geek."  <--- CLICK to listen to the episode.

Fast forward to April 2018.

I got a text from Jim about a staged reading of The Room at PhilaMOCA in Philadelphia. He asked if I was going to attend. I was on the fence, until he told me HE was reading the part of Johnny. 

YES! That's Greg Sestero (the actor who played Mark, the writer of the book Disaster Artist (which was turned into a movie starring and directed by James Franco), and of course Tommy Wiseau's best friend).
Jim is a private dude. I'm not.
I immediately told Julie and decided to call on EVERYONE I could think of who might be remotely interested.
Julie and I started throwing names at each other. And then we both became extremely sad.
Both of us had immediately thought of Joel.
Joel passed away in 2015.
He is still a huge presences in both of our lives. Not a week goes by where I don't have the thought in the back of my head that I should, "call Joel."

See a good movie - Call Joel.
See a bad movie - Call Joel.
Think of an extremely irreverent joke - Call Joel.

Phillies deplete their bullpen in the 3rd game of the season and need to use a position player to pitch an inning - Call Joel.

898 days, and my first reaction is still to "Call Joel."

Last night at the reading of The Room, I laughed my freaking head off! Every single person in the cast was stellar! With Jim's Johnny and the woman playing Lisa as stand outs.

All night I had this feeling eating at me. Right before we took this picture, Jim (not Johnny, not Tommy) put the feeling into words:

"I can hear Joel's laugh."

I asked a random woman to take this photo. I didn't crop or alter it in anyway. Today I realized,without knowing it, she left the room to Jim and Julie's left for Joel. 

Sometimes when you set out to make a dramatic film for you and your friend to act in, you instead end up making a comedy cult masterpiece.

(*Apologies for typos. I wrote this piece crying while listening to Joel's laugh)

Friday, April 13, 2018


Long before the Cambridge Analytica scandal, I have been trying to find ways to kick my nasty Facebook habit. More than my fear of data mining (which I'm not particularly fearful of), I loath the timesuck that the social media platform has become in my life.

About 3 weeks ago, I removed the Facebook app from my phone. This isn't the first time I've done it, but it's the first time I've done it so easily. Sure I still use Twitter and Instagram on my phone, but I never seem to fall as deep into the rabbit hole using those platforms.

The second thing I did, was "unlike" almost EVERYTHING on my Facebook page. A friend of mine recently said she's deleting her artist page to concentrate more on her website. This inspired my mass "unliking" of pretty much everything, including pages for friends endeavors (bands, artist pages, improv groups).

I'd rather see my friends posting about what they're working on ,or an event they're having, on their own pages in their status updates (from my desktop of course). Maybe it's silly, but it just seems so much more personal and intimate, which was one of the things I loved about Facebook from the outset.

Finally, speaking of those Events, I looked into ways to remove ALL event invites from my account. Unfortunately, you can only block people individually. This is rather unfeasible, so instead I'll continue to ignore Event invites as I have been (as well as most of you) for the past 2 or 3 years.

I will however make this promise, I'll personally stop using them.

When I have an event I am interested in sharing, I'll just put the details with a link in my status update. That way people don't:
  • a. get bombarded with Event invites that they have no possible way of going to (sure, I'd love to see your improv show in Los Angeles this Thursday at 10pm)

  • b. feel bad, and almost singled out, when they can't make it to an Event.

  • c. get buried under so many Event invites that they miss out on things that they actually WANT to do.

...and if you don't see my status update, hey, it's no different than how most of us no longer even look at Event invites.

I still like Facebook, and continue to think, overall, it's a terrific way to stay connected with friends and family when people are extremely busy. I just no longer want it controlling my life.

"I miss seeing your pictures of Kit!"

The weather's getting warmer. Come hang out on my patio and see her IRL.
There's your invite. No Event needed.

Friday, April 6, 2018

"They're Gonna Put Me In The Movies..."

On January 31st, I saw a listing on Facebook for an alleged casting call for Creed 2. It asked for participants to fill out some information and include a head shot.

This is the "head shot" I sent:

This photo was from a few years ago when I shaved off my beard. As men are required to do, I took lots of other photos from each stage of shaving, which included both a Charlie Chaplin (NOT Hitler!) and Freddie Mercury.

Sending the 
photo and info to the casting agency was meant as a joke. Though when I posted about it on FB, I had a couple of my friends, Dana & Todd, reach out. Since they both have connections in "the Biz," they asked if I wanted them to get me background work on Creed 2. Seeing as Dana was something like 13 months pregnant and Todd was going through some family issues, I declined not wanting either of them to waste their time on one of my flights of fancy.

Then I immediately forgot about it.
Until I was contacted via email a few days later.

The emailed went something like this:

We reviewed your application and the information that you submitted online; so far so good! What we need to do next is schedule a time for you to come in for an initial evaluation.
This appointment is an opportunity for us to meet with you and determine if you'd be a good fit. Timing is everything so the sooner we get you in the better.
I do have appointments with Ms. Bryant, the Office Director of our South Jersey location, available this Saturday at 1:00p or Monday at 7:00p.
During the evaluation we will get measurements and take a couple snapshots. This is not a competition but be aware that other talent may be present during this initial process.
Email me back ASAP with the appointment time that is best for you. We look forward to meeting with you; make sure to smile!

P.S.: Email me even if these times don't work, I may be able to work something else out for you. 

I say "something like this," because I deleted THAT first email, but have since received another 5 or 6 pretty identical emails. As well as 11 text messages. Yes. ELEVEN!

The texts come from 3 different phone numbers, but are always from "Kim."

The company is called Nine9 Modeling & Acting. A quick Google search tells you that, while the agency is legit, they also have some less than legit business practices. Such as putting out "casting calls" for movies that are already been cast. 

Their MO is to bring in "talent," one or two times. THEN tell them they need "representation" which they offer...for a fee. Which is bizarre, because all representation worth a damn is percentage based on work an agent gets you (per SAG/AFTRA it's 10%).

I did find this from Nine9 posted online:

"...only 1% of aspiring models and actors are signed by agencies. We...represent the other 99% of talented individuals looking to find their place in this industry...we do tell everyone during our initial open call about our enrollment and monthly fees..."

Look, I'm not going to pretend that I wouldn't LOVE to do Background or Featured Extra Work if my schedule and financial responsibilities would allow it (most of the time they won't). And while I admit almost nothing is free, this preying on people's dreams just seems disingenuous.

But hey, Nine9 can continue to send me text messages. Because as I said, "almost nothing if free," my unlimited text plan is, since it's a perk included in my phone service.