On the eve of a new year it’s a moment of reflection on the past one. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over these last twelve months it’s what IMDb has been running as a series. Titled No Small Parts, each video looks at the career of a well-known actor and often reflects on a smaller part they once played in a film or TV series.
When I was asked to participate on ESPN’s The Price of Gold in 2014, I had no idea that three years later that documentary would continue to air on numerous networks and streaming services. Just the other day a friend saw me in a promotion for it!
New for me this year was doing some background work on a few major films. Over the years background work never particularly interested me. But when a casting director personally reached out for one project, I’m glad I accepted. I hit it off with an actress I met on set that day and brought her into the Naval Justice School mock trial program. Will that scene make the final cut? It would be nice, but it really is all about networking.
There’s another part I played this past summer that if it makes the final cut I’m hoping to leverage it for additional opportunities next year. I’ve always enjoyed documentaries that focus on World War II reenactments so we will see what happens there.
My point to all of this is that there are truly no small parts in this industry. Oh sure some parts are larger than others, but it really is about the cumulative effect of on screen and behind the scenes contacts that builds a career. One part here, another there, and after a while a body of work starts to develop.
One project I’m excited for in the new year is the First World prequel I’m writing. As I’m just starting to work on the third act, I have a goal for this project over the next several months. My inspiration to write it came from working with one of the actresses at the Naval Justice School. As I’ve learned over the years, inspiration can come from anywhere.
But while 2017 has had many great moments, I’m not reflecting totally through rose colored glasses. There was the sad passing of my former business partner this summer. But he would have loved the celebration of his life in November at the Skating Club of Boston.
Sadly the political landscape has caused such a polarization on both sides of the aisle I wonder when it will subside to some sense of normalcy. There are two types of people in this new world, those that face reality head on and get on with it and those that lose their entire identity in it. The latter has ruined some good people that I know. As for the former, it’s called constructive conversation and just dealing with it at the voting booth. In short you’re either on the train going forward or alone in the caboose waiting for an engine.
While I’m never one to make resolutions in any given year (you can’t predict the future), I always aim to complete some interesting projects. I think 2017 saw that happen. In closing I leave you with a variety of photos from the year.
As always, thank you to my readers around the world!
This month marked one year since I was hired for a role playing character at the Naval Justice School (NJS) in their mock trial program. Since that first class last December my character and responsibilities have grown. There’s even been a change in the government contractor that administers the contract. But through it all, it has been an amazing experience.
The majority of projects I have worked on the last twenty years have largely been one day or multi-day projects (particularly for film projects). But this recurring opportunity is not only important work for NJS but greatly contributes to our acting experience and respective networks.
While a few of us are original to the program, the majority have been part of the program since March. For me it feels like a traveling troupe of actors with our audience being the students and our stage being the courtrooms of the school.
For this round I was directly responsible for bringing on new actors. As I mentioned to some of them this past week, when I receive a resume I always try to find some sort of six degrees of separation or similar project. One of the actors had previously done a mock trial program at Harvard, so that was a no-brainer.
In my view it works when an actor is open minded to the process of one of these role playing characters and gets along with other actors. The latter may sound a bit obvious, but it’s probably the most important because we spend so much time together. When I think of the amount of socializing we did this time it confirmed that we had a solid group for this round.
The one thing I can’t emphasize enough is the networking part of it all. When I was doing background on a film earlier this year, one actress and I hit it off and she was the first one I thought of when filling one of the larger roles. With another, I came up with the idea for an original story with her in one of the starring roles. Another one of the actors has been enjoying a successful run in Rhode Island theater circles and some of us plan to see him in his latest play next weekend. But there is one actress that I’ve worked with since last December, that sadly won’t be returning this coming March as her husband has been transferred to another military base.
When I first met Helen last December, she was so positive, with a constant smile and eagerness to help others. It didn’t take long for us to become fast friends and when I was in Newport this past summer we caught up over lunch.
So many of us are coffee drinkers with constant walks to the kitchen or the Starbucks on base. Helen, who isn’t a coffee drinker, suddenly arrives with a coffee maker, filters and coffee! As we were all struck with amazement and gratitude her response was along the lines of, to make our day easier. On our last day this week Helen wrote each of us a personal note. This wasn’t email, but a handwritten note!
Helen’s generosity, kindness and talent is something all of us should strive for.
When I was interviewed for ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary The Price of Gold, the memories of the events at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships quickly came back to life. It was my first “Nationals” as an accredited journalist for the magazine I recently launched. Little did I know that a plan was in the works that would forever change the sport of figure skating. That plan resulted in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. For those who want to get a solid unbiased perspective on what happened during that time, I strongly suggest you watch the documentary. Director Nanette Burstein did a brilliant job presenting the story.
As I read the industry trades regularly I heard about a movie in development that was presenting the story as a black comedy. How do you make a black comedy around a planned attack? Why do you center it on the skater that was banned from the sport of figure skating due to either her knowledge of, actions, or some other involvement in this vicious attack on another skater?
The entertainment industry is littered with hypocrisy. I’m sure some producer was well aware of the tens of millions that were captivated then and how successful the ESPN documentary was. But just because there is a perceived market for something, doesn’t mean that it should be produced. This isn’t a story of fiction, this is one of fact. But the film that just came out two days ago not only makes a laughing stock of the sport, but elevates the perpetrator to the sympathy vote. Let me be clear, anyone who is anyone who follows the sport or works in it, has zero sympathy for her. There’s a reason why she was banned from the sport. I don’t care how many accolades, awards or positive reviews this film receives, it never should have been made.
Nancy Kerrigan is a friend. In addition to skating with her a bit on the same ice many years ago, I interviewed her many times. We really got to know each other when we were on Skating with Celebrities and flew back and forth between Los Angeles and Boston. She is probably not only one of the hardest working skaters I know, but one of the bravest.
Here is someone who was horribly attacked just because she was pursuing her dream to be the best. That’s what sport is all about. To be the best and to be honest in that pursuit. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy path. You attack the ice, not your competitor. You beat them on the podium, not on a knee.
When I think of what Nancy had to go through mentally and physically after that tragedy it still defies any sort of explanation. It was bravery bar none. It’s one thing to overcome a physical setback, it happens all time in sports. But to have it compounded with a planned attack on you so your adversary has a better chance to win, that person should never be allowed to shine again—particularly in a film that presents her sympathetically.
There are so many interesting true stories that could be told in figure skating. One has to ask, is this the only story the sport has to offer? I’ll confess I only watched the first hour of this “non-skating” film and clicked off the screener. Enough was enough.
The real story is about Nancy Kerrigan. How she steadfastly pulled herself together after the tragedy and went on to enjoy a successful skating career. At the end of the day she took to the ice in the rink, not in in the glass.
Last week I hit page 30 on this prequel story to First World. The title and logline came to me about halfway through this initial draft. With notes for the next two acts generally outlined, I’m aiming to have a first draft completed in January.
It’s always interesting how these new projects start. The idea came to me in September when I was at the Naval Justice School (NJS) talking with a couple of the actors about developing a new story. For the last two weeks I’ve been back at NJS with most of the students returning for this next class.
For me it comes down to motivation. If I’m not motivated to write a story, it just won’t be written. I firmly believe that environs make all the difference. When you are around other creative types and engaged in the kind of work you enjoy doing, it’s amazing how ideas start to generate with collaboration bringing new opportunities.
Of course it’s one thing to write a screenplay, it’s another to produce it. This one is being written in the same fashion as Justice Is Mind, to produce independently without pitching to the industry. While there’s obviously nothing wrong with the industry pitch, that process goes in fits and starts. Hot one day, cold the other. Ask anyone in this industry and that’s just the way it is—if you take the traditional route.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s one thing to produce a feature film, it’s another to promote it. I have to know if I’m OK devoting the next 2-5 years of my life developing and promoting a project. Justice Is Mind was literally a five year commitment. From screenplay (2010), short film version (2011), production of the feature film (2012), release of the film (2013) and marketing (2013-2015). I still promote Justice of course, and I continue to pitch the sequel, In Mind We Trust, as the basis for a TV series.
The “First World” project is about developing a franchise. It always has been. But commitment is important in this industry. It’s not just about making the film, it’s about staying with it for the long haul. As I learned with the short film version of First World and Justice Is Mind, you never know where a project can take you. It was a series of pitches that saw First World have a premiere in India at their The First Ever National Discussion on Science Fiction and Justice Is Mind having its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth.
The creation of a new story is always an adventure, a journey into the unknown. Believe me when I tell you, it’s a trip worth taking.