Posts Tagged ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

CRAFT

Last Monday, Carolyn was in Hollywood shooting a scene for a TV show running on CBS. I can’t reveal which until before it airs, but I can say that her comments got me thinking about the little things—the mastery of craft—required of us all.

This was not Carolyn’s first rodeo. She’s appeared on “Chuck” (ABC), “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC), “Chance” opposite Hugh Laurie (Hulu) and other shows and films. Doing so, Carolyn’s learned a lot about the special skills the camera demands.

For example, actors must hit their marks—taped spots on the floor putting them in proper position relative to other actors, the camera and lights. There’s also eyeline. When a scene is shot from multiple angles, actors must look at the same person or object in the same way for the sake of continuity. 

Carolyn’s also aware of a tip I read from the great actor Michael Caine. In a two-shot (two actors on camera), look at your opposite’s eye nearest the camera to keep your face from being hidden while not distorting the shot.

One more tip—and a key one: Be polite. Carolyn’s worked with accomplished actors who, along with the rest of the cast and crew, have been unfailingly gracious. TV/film production is arduous. The set is no place for egos to run amok.

What does this teach us? Without devotion to craft—the small stuff too easily ignored—there is no art. An actor brings to life—fleshes out—a character other artists—writers—create. The art involves going deep inside and finding the soul of that character. But it’s also critical to hit your mark, maintain your eyeline and work seamlessly with others to make art—and commerce—happen.

I’ve seen sad results when people enamored with their “art,” whatever it may be, fail to master their craft. During my long career as a freelance copywriter, my “art” (though it wasn’t art but rather a business communication skill set) was concepting and writing print, radio and TV commercials along with other media. My craft involved such mundane attributes as listening to my clients, respecting their authority if we disagreed and assuring that copy was concise, well written and, yes, correctly spelled. 

Because I ran my own business, my craft also included sending invoices in a timely matter, following up to be sure I received payments on time, setting aside funds for taxes and maintaining client relationships. To accomplish the latter, I promoted a simple selling point not so easily achieved by many: On target, on time, on budget.

I’m often amazed that many artists—or those who wish to be—want to live the artist’s life— whatever that is—but not practice the artist’s craft and the discipline it involves. As for me, I’m currently half-way through draft 3 of my new novel, editing and polishing every day, having received valuable feedback on draft 2b from nine readers. In a few weeks, my writing coach/editor Tom Parker will read and comment on it so I can produce a final draft 4.

If more people paid attention to the small things—not only in art but in life, every facet of which requires a mastery of craft—we might spend less time sweating so much of the big stuff.

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THE HOAX OF NONVIOLENT CRIME

Several months ago, an East Bay detective—legit—called to say that an investigation on identity theft turned up a stolen piece of mail addressed to Carolyn in care of her manager. It contained a royalty check for one of Carolyn’s TV performances. The amount was small. The crime was big. People who would deny its seriousness are perpetrating a hoax.

Many people urge leniency for perpetrators of nonviolent crime. Bull! Every crime against property is a crime in which violence is done to a person’s sense of wellbeing. Because behind every piece of property lies a story.

Carolyn’s check didn’t come easy. TV viewers saw her as a nurse (“Chuck”—NBC), dementia patient (“Grey’s Anatomy”—ABC), a woman startled by Hugh Laurie (“Chance”—Hulu) and a homeless woman (“Bartlett”—Amazon Prime). They and the public haven’t witnessed the years Carolyn has spent attending acting and singing classes. Preparing for them. Rehearsing at home for auditions. And then auditioning in Los Angeles at her cost or videoing at our house (we’ll ignore my reading other characters’ lines to her).

An acting career makes no promise of success. But after thirty-five years as a professional storyteller, Carolyn decided to give it a shot. She studied and did plays but set her sights on TV and movies. She sweated to hone her craft, risked rejection and overcame it, and has enjoyed a few small triumphs.

That meant little to the woman recently convicted in the theft of other people’s mail to steal their identities, which can cost victims much money and considerable aggravation. I fear that the efforts of Carolyn and upstanding people in all walks of life get overlooked by those who consider nonviolent criminals the ultimate victims.

I get that many people grow up in difficult circumstances. Minority and immigrant communities often produce more than their share of criminals. That includes my own. Jews once played major roles in violent crime. From the 1900s through World War Two, killers such as Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and Dutch Schultz (nee Arthur Flegenheimer) abounded. Children of poor immigrants they possessed minimal education. Their turns to crime might be sociologically understandable, but their behavior was and remains illegal, immoral and unacceptable.

The thief who stole Carolyn’s royalty check will be sentenced in San Jose at the end of this month. The court invited Carolyn and her fellow victims to attend. Carolyn won’t. That would steal more of her time.

Carolyn has no desire to demand a lengthy sentence at hard labor or solitary confinement on bread and water. As bad as it can be, the California prison system offers far better treatment than the Soviet gulag or North Korea’s prison camps. Also, the judge possesses information about the thief Carolyn doesn’t and will be empowered to determine a reasonable sentence.

In writing this, I’m not seeking vengeance against those convicted of nonviolent crimes. “Lock ’em up and throw away the key” doesn’t reflect my philosophy. But it’s time that people who seek leniency for nonviolent criminals acknowledge that every nonviolent crime impacts one or more victims. And that those victims frequently pay a price beyond—often far beyond—the monetary value of their loss.

This revised post put up on May 4 includes a revised title. I erred in calling the theft of Carolyn’s mail a victimless crime. It was, indeed, a nonviolent crime.

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HOLLYWOOD’S STARTLING SECRET

If you saw the movie Birdman, you may think all actors are narcissistic and way off kilter. Some are. Most aren’t. My wife, Carolyn Power professionally, knows. A Screen Actors Guild Member who’s had roles on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and NBC’s Chuck, as well as in several independent films, she attended last Sunday’s SAG Awards in Los Angeles. Her observations will surprise us non-Hollywood types.

Of course, every Hollywood gala offers its share of dazzle. This event, held at the Shrine Auditorium, lived up to expectations. Carolyn went with fellow actors Sioux Matson-Krings, Molly Brady, Matt Jain and Seema Lazar of First Take, Nancy Berwid Management. Of course, she bought a new gown and walked down the red carpet—the side reserved for guests. Nominees walk the other side where the media can approach them. The dinner was good. The after-party buffet was amazing, from Chinese food to chicken with mango and butternut squash. Not to forget an array of specialty cocktails. Attendees also loaded up on swag from lipsticks to skin creams to a cell phone charger.

All well and good, says Carolyn, but the SAG Awards are all about community and inclusivity. “This awards ceremony is unusual,” she says. Actors nominate, vote for and honor cast ensembles and individuals. Who fills the audience? Actors. “It was thrilling for our smaller community to join with the larger acting community.”

Mingling with nominees at the after-party was a highlight. Some famous actors are standoffish because they’re usually mobbed everywhere. “Understandable,” Carolyn says. Yet Steve Buscemi took a picture with Matt. Kevin Costner did the same with Molly’s husband. Newer actors making their mark were entirely accessible. Carolyn cites the women from the cast of Orange is the New Black (Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series).

Orange’s Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes—Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Comedy Series) and Gwendoline Christie (the warrior Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones) proved warm and gracious, humble and grateful. “Oh my goodness, to see how beautiful they all look since they play roles in which they’re not made to look as attractive as they really are. It’s a thrill to be able to walk up and say, ‘Your acting is so specific and so believable, and I enjoyed your performance.’” Actors all want to be appreciated.

An important lesson came from meeting these actors. “They’re people,” Carolyn notes. If she’s cast in a role with one of them, she’ll be excited but realize that “we’re all actors here.” She cites Edward Norton, who stated how grateful he was for his nomination (as an egomaniacal actor in Birdman) but also to be a working actor. “He was an actor among actors, and he honored all of us with his words.”

Carolyn also was thrilled to meet LaVerne Cox, a transgender woman in the cast of Orange is the New Black. Our son Yosi is trans (female to male), so LaVerne as an actor and a trans person means a lot to both of us. She posed for a selfie with Carolyn. “LaVerne is beautiful, kind and gracious,” Carolyn reports.

So here’s to the Hollywood the media often ignores: actors as people just like the rest of us. Only maybe with better hair.

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