April 2010

THE HAUNTED THEATER


Not too long ago I was back in my hometown of Shamokin, Pennsylvania. While running some errands for my mother I found myself sitting at a red light at the edge of downtown. My eyes took in the view and settled on a parking lot where the Victoria Theater had once occupied. I sighed, as I always do.

Whenever I look at that spot I still see the old movie palace right where it had stood

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since 1917. I fell in love with films at that theater. Its towering ceiling, ornate with art deco majesty, the textured heavy golden curtains that parted as the previews began, and the florescent clock that softly marked the minutes until the show began all remain vivid in my mind.

My grandmother would take me see the latest Disney fare. My dad took me to see “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” “King Kong” and “A Bridge Too Far.” I sat between my parents and nearly peed my pants laughing at Peter Sellers in “The Pink Panther Strikes Again.”
As the 1970s came to an end, the first multiplex arrived. It wasn’t in Shamokin, but the 30 minute drive to the newly constructed mall was worth it just to see the latest release. You see, movies took weeks and months to reach the Victoria in Shamokin. The mall screen was small and the ceiling was made up of acoustic tiles, but your feet didn’t stick to the floor the way they always did at the “Vickie.”
Once a new release finally made it to Shamokin I would stop in and see it again. The silver screen was 40 feet wide and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Empire Strikes Back” looked much more impressive than at the mall! It was the IMAX of my youth.
I left Shamokin in 1981 to join the US Army. The theater’s attendance fell as the cost of repairs and maintenance went up, I suppose. Near the end it was used as a haunted house during the Halloween season. Finally, the heavy gold curtains closed for the last time and the florescent clock was unplugged. The art deco ceiling began to fracture and leak. The west wall collapsed one morning and the building had to be demolished in 1999. From its 1917 opening with vaudeville shows and silent movies to the classic golden age of movies and the gritty cinema of the 1970s, the Victoria Theater beckoned movie lovers in Shamokin, Pennsylvania. I count myself as one its lucky patrons.
When I made my first movie, “Daybreak,” I took great pains to make sure that the grand old movie palace was seen in the background of one of the scenes. That was about a year before the end of the Victoria Theater. It was my tribute to the place where I fell in love with cinema.
The reverie ends. The traffic light turns green and I head home, my errands completed. I still see the theater exactly as it once stood. I always will. It haunts still me, I guess.
I’m just saying…

GET YOUR HEADSHOTS RIGHT


Once you decide to pursue work as a professional actor, you’ll need to get your tools together. The first and perhaps most important tool is your headshot-resume. If there’s one thing that an actor needs to get work, it’s a great headshot. It’s the first thing the casting director (or anyone else) sees. It’s your first impression. If they like the look of the 8×10, they’ll turn it over and peruse your resume listing your credits, skills and training.

A quick word about your credits, skills and training: don’t invent! People might ask you about the bogus credit and, if you don’t know something or someone that your should, it will taint your reputation quickly. You may, from time to time, exaggerate a little bit (this is Hollywood after all), but do not flat-out lie. This goes for skills your list on your resume. If you say that you can ride a horse while juggling then you better be able to do it–and do it well! Someone once told me to put “singing” on my resume as a skill. “Everyone can sing,” my adviser told me. No. Not true. I cannot sing. So I do not list signing as a skill. I do list “cartoonist” and “radio disc jockey” as these are both jobs I have earned a professional paycheck for in the past. Finally, advice about training: get some locally. Even if you have a BA in Theater from a prestigious university, get some names on your resume that the casting directors will recognize. Plus, it’s a great way to start networking, which is another important component of an actor’s life.
So, back to the headshot. Most actors have at least two “looks.” One look is always a closeup showing off your eyes and conveying personality through your expression. The other look is a wider shot of your body and is typically your “character” look. What kind of roles can you realistically play? What does your body shape and size most broadly indicate? My days of a leading man vanished as quickly as my hairline. Hey, those are the facts! Don’t kid yourself. Craft a look that your can make money at in the acting profession.
If you examine my collection of headshots you can probably see me in different roles based on different photos: dad, neighbor, insurance salesman, used car salesman, drunken bum, hard-nosed cop, good guy and bad guy. These are all my looks. On “Beverly Hills 90210″ I was the boss of a car wash; on “All That!” I was a funny security guard; I was a dad in a Cracker Jack commercial; an oil company worker in “Live from Baghdad” and a doctor

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in “The Horribly Slow Murderer..”

My concluding thought on the topic of headshots is: make sure that you look like your headshot and it looks like you! You do no one a favor if your headshot makes you look incredibly good courtesy of airbrushing and Photoshopping tricks. This also means that if you gain a lot of weight or lose it, get new headshots to reflect it. Also, as you get older, make sure your headshots acknowledge that fact! That’s where I’m at now. The gray on my temples appears nowhere in my headshots.
I’m actually looking forward to seeing what new looks I have now! Senator? Executive? AARP commercial guy?!
I’m just saying…