Sunday, March 29, 2009

Winter wonderland

In which our Diva stays inside where it's warm a little while longer

Rehearsal for The Storm (working title of the HD short I mentioned the other day) rescheduled due to a family emergency for the director.  I'm eager to get to work on it, but still a little relieved -- check out the view from my back door to see why:

Still have to venture out for an audition later, unless they decide to reschedule too.  Which wouldn't surprise me a whole lot -- it's in the Loop, where they have six inches and still falling.  Chicago is situated such that the full brunt of lake effect is mostly on the South Shore in Indiana, and up toward Milwaukee.  We've gotten spoiled in the last couple weeks, but there was bound to be a last gasp of winter still coming.  Hopefully this is really the last!

Song for today: "Little Toy Gun" by honeyhoney.  Fun video directed by Kiefer Sutherland.  First song going on the playlist for Blue.  I don't always do them (last one was the "Vixen Mix" for Dracula, which was a big hit when I burned CDs for everyone), but this character really calls for one.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I can has brains?

In which our Diva is (re)animated

I checked in with the folks from the zombie voiceover gig, and the website isn't live yet, but one of the clips I worked on (as both female voices) is up on Vimeo:


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Small films, big ideas

In which our Diva has a shiny new character to play and a tangent to wander off on

A pretty nifty first yesterday: Landing a gig on the basis of my reel, with no audition as such. \o/ Just a great meeting, chatting at Starbucks with the director, writer/producer and leading man of an HD short with a very interesting story to tell. I'm playing a mystery woman named Blue, with some definitely challenging aspects! It's funny -- I've been fretting about having so little dialogue to put on my reel, but that ends up being a big part of why it stood out, because this project is going to have a lot of nonverbal storytelling. (There she goes with the broken record again!)

Without giving too much away, I can say it involves one man, one woman, and one set. Not a romance, but a connection between two isolated people that could only happen this way under these circumstances.

And in formulating that description in my head, I was reminded of a completely different film, telling a completely different story, that nonetheless fits the same description, which I hadn't thought about in quite a while: The Cold Equations. (I know a lot of people consider it inferior to the New Twilight Zone episode that adapted the same short story, but the movie version gets the benefit of first impression with me. Although I mostly ignore the stuff about the Big Bad Company, which seems to be what most people object to.) In 1996, I don't think "Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie" was even a label yet, let alone one with the baggage it carries now. There was just this little film that popped up on their schedule one day, with no whiz-bang or fanfare, and kinda blew my mind. It showcased facets of Billy Campbell we hadn't really seen before, and introduced Poppy Montgomery to American living rooms in a far more lasting impression than the high-profile college comedy that landed her in the multiplexes the following summer. (I don't even remember what that was called. Just that her face was either sideways or upside-down on the poster.)

A dizzying number of independent movies have been collected and stamped with that "original" label since then. Occasionally they're even still good ones -- if you missed Splinter recently, you missed one of the best old-school horror flicks anyone's made in ages. But the Sci-Fi Channel hasn't been that Sci-Fi Channel for a long, long time. So its imminent rebranding as "Syfy" is just style matching substance. (Though, Mr. Howe? The focus-group folks who told you they'd text it that way? Have to have been frakking with you.) It's no big surprise that they don't really get it, when even the final behind-the-scenes special for Battlestar Galactica had talking heads banging the same old tired drum: "It's sci-fi, but it's about people!" As if that were something amazingly new and innovative!

I'm going to let you in on what is apparently still a secret to many: Good sci-fi has always been about people. Good fantasy has always been about people. Good horror has always been about people. Rayguns and magic mirrors and fangs, robots and pointy hats and the plural of apocalypse: All just trappings. Means to an end, and that end is telling a story. And stories? Are about people. Pretty much by definition.

I'm really rambling now, but I guess the point is that I'm getting more interested in where the "little films that could" go, now that I'm increasingly the one working in them. A lot of it is happening online, of course, on YouTube and MySpace and Vimeo. And we're up to our eyeballs in film festivals these days. I wonder what else is going on that I know nothing about? Here's to learning!

Song for today (and lots of days!): "One More" by Superchick. Another booked-up weekend coming up... Take those vitamins!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The rundown

In which lists are easy to  make when our Diva feels a little run down

Random waking-up thought of the day: "I can't control the buruzim!"  (No, I have no idea what they are.  Or why I'm so sure they're a "they.")

Song for today: "Day N Nite" by Kid Cudi.  Every time I think nobody's making creative videos anymore, I see something like this!  Trippy.

Inspiring person of the day: Derek "Pretty Boy" Dow.  (Yes, the guy from the Ford contest video. Coolest person I've met in ages.)  Order Family Values on DVD and support independent film in Chicago!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Last day in Hell

In which our Diva bids a fond farewell to Intrepid Reporter Tara Kyles

Whew! Very physical shoot yesterday -- lots of running and action. So! Much! Fun! Just like being eight years old and rampaging the neighborhood with my friends playing Charlie's Angels, except with a camera and a boom mike and crew running right behind me! Craziness.

Shoutouts and BIG thank-you to Darren, Derek, Nicole, Angela, Sharon, and all my fellow actors (especially the three cutest demons EVER)! I can't wait to see this one...

Speaking of Derek, our awesome DP and up-and-coming Force To Be Reckoned With on the Chicago film scene, check out his video for the Ford Fiesta contest:

I'd love to see him win it, so tell your friends and get him those hits!

Song for today: "The Girl in 14G," which I'll be opening with at Villa Verone tonight. Come on out from 6 to 8 and enjoy great Italian food and fantastic entertainment from the artists of Elgin Opera!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ballerina, reporter, queen

In which our Diva has a lot to blog about today

Flitting about online doing research for Magic Flute and also for Fledermaus -- as of today I'll be playing Sally in that. It's a small role, but she's the sister of Adele (the soubrette lead, who sings the famous "Laughing Song"), and she's a dancer at the opera! What was I just saying the other day about needing to get back to ballet class? :-D There may also be a surprise solo moment...

Also watching The Queen. It's been sitting here from Netflix for almost two weeks, but I've had too much going on to sit down and watch it until tonight. Can I be Helen Mirren when I grow up? She just blows me away in everything she does.

Opera rehearsal tomorrow, audition for a webseries Friday, and then back to shooting Hell the King on Saturday. If all goes as planned, we'll wrap that day. It's just a short film, but I'm having so much fun with my reporter character Tara Kyles. She does some things you might not expect, and I've had the best time creating who she is and why those things make sense! This is the first project I've been in that had digital effects, which means I probably won't see the finished film for a while. I can't wait to see how cool it all turns out!

Brand V

In which our Diva's Adventures in Self-Marketing continue apace

Headshots get woefully outdated so fast!  I've been shopping around for a photographer for new ones, and finally settled on the amusingly-named but well-reputed Socko.  (Warning: website is a little Flash-happy for my tastes.)  Also meeting soon with what will hopefully become my commercial agency.

I'm slowly getting used to having my "look" be the first thing people talk about.  I still wince a little bit inside, but after all these years in theatre, I can tell you it's no less true there.  On-camera people are just more honest about it, which I'm actually kind of starting to like.  And I'm having to consciously remind myself less and less that, yes, it's about being interesting to watch, not just being a "smokin hot babe" or whatever the term of choice is these days in the bikini mags.  Just because they're  never going to be ringing my agent's phone off the hook doesn't mean I'm not going to work!

Dreamed in web design all last night (weeeeird!). Reallyreallyreally wanted to get out in the incredibly beautiful weather yesterday, but too much work chaining me to the computer desk. Back down in the 40s today, but I might go for a walk along the little creek at the end of the block later anyway.

Song for today: "Motion" by Plumb.  Dance wherever you choose!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Another amazing dancer

In which our Diva is in awe

I saw this on Superstars of Dance about six weeks ago, but the sprawling discussion of cultural appropriation and race in sci-fi/fantasy currently going on in the fannish blogosphere tangentially reminded me that I wanted to post about it.

Mamela Nyamza as the Dying Swan:

(For comparison, check out this archival film of Anna Pavlova, for whom the piece was originally choreographed, and present-day star Uliana Lopatkina.  Also, to clarify, it's a standalone number, to a piece by Saint-Saens.  It's a separate entity from the Tchaikovsky story ballet Swan Lake, with which it gets confused about 98% of the time.)

Stop before you get to the part with the judges, because they're crazy.  I love this so much.  It's such an amazing fusion, and her physical perfection and emotional power just blow me away.  As a friend pointed out, it's a great big challenge to the traditional "pretty" portrayals of death and suffering, especially women's.  And I lovelovelove that it's a black artist doing a little cultural appropriation of her own.

I almost didn't watch the show, what with Simon Cowell's tacky "reality" competition fingerprints all over it, but I couldn't resist the lure of getting to see this awesome smorgasbord of dancers even in that context.  And I'm not sorry (though it was really hard to stick with ignoring the lame competition aspect), because I wouldn't have heard of most of them any other way, and they were all worth watching.  I really need to get back into dance class; I feel like such a slug since the end of Dracula with all its cool movement work.

And posting all these videos lately makes it look like I'm not doing anything but surfing the Internet!  Which is only partly true -- I'm in research mode, working on the storytelling bits for The Magic Flute.  Where, as well as being the storyteller, I'm once again playing an imaginary creature, one of the "Spirits" that lead Papageno and Papagena together at the end.  In the last year, I've been a fairy, a vampire, and now a forest spirit.  Oh, and several zombies in this oddball voiceover gig last fall.  (I should nag them about getting a copy of that -- it looked like it was going to be really fun when the animation was done!)

So, back to the fairy tales.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, March 13, 2009


Via my friend Sarah, check out this gorgeous short film:

World Builder from Bruce Branit on Vimeo.

When I'm combing the breakdowns and sending out the headshots and driving to the auditions, it's always with the hope of being part of something this beautifully crafted and heartfelt. And talk about a great example of nonverbal storytelling! I know I'm kind of a broken record about that sometimes, but when I see something like this... Wow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

CYRUS official website

Check it out!

See the skeeeeeery trailer, read Mark's cool writer/director notes, and register for the forum to keep up with the news!

And yes, I'm bouncing dorktastically at the thought that I am officially a cast member posting on a fan forum. Deal. ;-)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Music to conquer the world by

In which our Diva remembers when this involved lots of time and cassettes

What's better than plotting out your own personal soundtrack?  Sharing it!

I've been building a playlist called "Go Girl" (just 'cause the phrase amuses me) for about a month now.  It started out with three or four songs that make me want to go out and take on the world, which I've gotten into the habit of playing on the way to auditions.  Since that generally involves longer than three or four songs in Chicago traffic, I started collecting recommendations from my friends, and, after lots of tweaking and twiddling, finalized a 71-minute, 19-track playlist of grade-A go-get-'em-ness.  (My friends being made entirely of awesome, I have discovered WAY more fantastic music in the past month or so than I needed.  Yay, lots of fresh tunes on the Zen!)

Eighteen of those tracks are now set up on this public MySpace playlist.  The missing song is Emilie Autumn's "How Strange," which is unfortunately not one of the handful of tracks on her MySpace Music page.  (It should be between "One Step Ahead" and "Rock What You Got.")  My advice is to hie yourself to your purveyor of choice and pick up or download her album Enchant.  (Also featuring "Rose Red," a spooky riff on the folk song, which I dare you to get out of your head once you hear it.)

My musical tastes are crazy-eclectic, so there's everything from early Madonna (my first-choice song for inspiration in high school -- I wore out my cassette playing it, well, over and over) to the latest release from Superchick.  With, yes, Debbie Gibson and even a couple country tracks along the way.  They might not all be up your alley, but there's plenty to choose from.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Spring fever!

In which our Diva turns with seasons of the natural and professional varieties

The last couple of amazingly beautiful days have had me looking longingly out my window at Office of Doom. Can't wait until the trails along the Fox River are green and gorgeous, and I can grab a little time to take my bike or even just my feet over there. Schlepping into the city can be crazy-making, but living in Elgin definitely has its advantages!

And with any luck, I'll have a chance or two again this summer to take in some time by the lake. Love to sit on the shoreline rocks behind the North Lakeside Cultural Center. This week is the first I've heard birds singing in the morning, too. Sooo ready for winter to be done!

After a month or so of spin-cycle auditions -- I seriously lost count! -- the spring student film casting blitz looks to be finally winding down. I think the one I had tonight will be it for a while. Don't know yet if any more gigs are coming my way from it; one director mentioned that she would be in touch next week, but the rest are anybody's guess. In the meantime, I got to read some very cool stuff and meet a lot of great people.

Looking at tomorrow's forecast, it seems Intrepid Reporter Tara Kyles might be extra intrepid in the rain! Though if it's too bad, they'll probably push the exterior stuff back to next weekend. Very jazzed about this one -- the script is lots of slightly twisted fun, and I even get some actiony stuff that I didn't know about until I went to the table read! Can't wait to see how it all comes together.

Once Hell the King is done, time to get the brain back in opera mode for a while. Elgin Opera's spring production has now been dubbed Love and Fairy Tales, featuring excerpts from Die Fledermaus and The Magic Flute. I'm doing double duty as singer and narrator, connecting the dots of Flute's somewhat twisty tale. That's happening the first weekend of May at the Rider Center. Keep an eye on the website and the new Elgin Opera Blog for the latest!

Well, I'm up bright and early tomorrow for Intrepid Reporting, so it's off to bed with me, to dream of sunshine and lush leafy trees!