I Wanna Be Famous
When I first wanted to be an actor, I had zero clue as to what the hell I was doing or what that even meant. I'd seen people do it on TV and it looked like fun, so what the hell. I'd just go and be a movie star and be famous. It was just that easy in my head. At the end of the day, all I gave a shit about was being famous. Who doesn't want to be famous, right? Get free shit, and people like you for no good reason and you don't have to wait in line for anything. Yeah, that's awesome! I want to do that! I didn't even have to be an actor. If I coulda found a picture of Elvis riding on the back of the Loch Ness Monster and turned that in and got famous, that'd be okay with me. The Elvis scenario seemed unlikely, so fine I'll be an actor. I was an idiot. I was kinda sorta an idiot. Or I was just young and dumb, I'm not sure.
Shortly there after, I enrolled into a two-year drama school in Dallas. I wasn't sure what the hell I was going to learn, but I thought I could network and learn the ins and outs of a business I had zero clue about. I've always been a business guy.
So, I remember being in class with my first teacher, Lynn Metrik. She was an old school New York broad (albeit from Houston originally). She was nice, in her own way, but she also let me and everyone else in class know that she wasn't putting up with any of our shit. That said, I just smiled and knew all of that would change as soon as I turned on the charm a bit. That didn't change. She put her foot directly in my ass as soon as I tried my Eddie Haskell bit and it stayed there for much of the first few weeks of school.
While slowly trying to remove her shoe from my rectum, I started paying attention and listening and studying and seeing what it actually took to create amazing characters and performances. How much work was involved to produce effortless 'reality' that the greats can pull off, performance after performance. It was then that I got challenged by the process and put my everything into developing my craft. It was then, that I could give a shit less about being 'Famous'. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to create great work and didn't give a shit who saw it.
That became my thing. I was and still am about creating great work. I did theatre and short films and sought out characters that had meat and depth in great stories I was proud to help tell. I turned down films that I thought were just dribble bullshit. I was a bit of a snob to tell the truth. I remember getting an audition for a main character in Universal Soldier: The Return starring Jean Claude Van Damme and I turned it down because I thought the script sucked. Of course it sucked! My agent was none too happy with me. Here I was, an actor, with almost zero professional credits and I'm turning down work!
Time went on and I produced and cowrote a film called, The Prodigy. That was one of those gifts, those life changing experiences that was violently painful, but one of the best learning experiences of my life. It was a brutal 13 week shoot made with just under $200k, shot on very expensive film, made by a bunch of first time filmmakers. Guts and luck are what got that film made.
So, we jump ahead to my first trip to Los Angeles. I drove there in my beat-up pick up truck with no A/C, leaving my pregnant wife at home, so I could help push the film and hopefully get it distribution. We got the call! Craig Costell over at the William Morris Agency called and wanted to see the film!! This was it!!! The director and I were jumping up and down, screaming after we hung up the phone. We knew that if someone over at WMA liked the film, our careers were set!!
We rushed over, nerves on high and turned over the VHS tape of the film. Yeah, I said 'VHS tape. Suck it! So, the director and I went and had lunch and waited for the call. The phone rang and we rushed back over for our meeting. This was it. Lives about to change. Not so much. It was in that meeting that I learned the four most important words of my career. This. Is. A. Business.
They loved the film! Loved me! Loved the director! What it boiled down to was that as much as they liked it, I was a complete unknown actor as was everyone else and the film hadn't won Sundance, so good film or not, there was nothing they could do with it. Many might have been discouraged by this, but I wasn't. This was a huge lesson in Film Biz 101 for me. I hear young filmmakers all the time saying, 'We don't need names! Our actors are just as good!' But what they don't understand is that 'good' has nothing to do with it. Distributors have to know how they can sell the film to the general audiences and what that takes a lot of times is, well...famous people. People go see the latest film starring, 'The Rock' or Denzel Washington, because we're fans of those famous people. I see amazing films that never get made, or if they do, it's for little to no money and never gets sold, because they didn't have star power behind it. I've been involved on the producing end of many films and the first order of business is what 'names' can they get for the project. And sometimes that 'name' is a crappy actor! Doesn't matter, they're famous.
So yeah, that changed my perspective quite a bit. I still put the work above all else, but I do want to be famous. I don't give a shit about fancy cars (motorcycles maybe) or signing autographs, but I want to get to a point where I can get amazing films made, amazing stories told, just because I'm involved with the project! That's awesome! Yeah, I wanna do that!