July 2013

MY LIFE AS A WRITER

I have been writing plays or dramas or comedies or comic strips or radio plays or feature film and television pilot scripts or blogs since I was about 8 years old. That’s my earliest recollection of sitting down and typing out a very slender story based on the TV show The Wild, Wild, West. I remember my dad and I recorded the script as a radio play in the basement on a Realistic brand reel-to-reel tape machine. Of course both the script and the recording are lost to the vestiges of time, but I remember clearly the feeling of fulfillment at having created something that began only in my mind. In fact, I felt powerful.
I wrote the comic strips and books that I drew. I honed my storytelling skill on Speech Trek, my high school satire of my speech communications class set in the Star Trek universe; I wrote speeches for the Voice of Democracy program that the VFW sponsored each year, winning my local district once; I wrote radio dramas that my pal Rich Bitting and I performed on cassette tape, one year winning a local NPR station contest for the best radio play; and I wrote and delivered, along with Rich, the high school news report on our local station WISL, calling it The Rich & Mike Show. And all the while, never did I consider myself a writer. But writing was always the cornerstone of my creative heart.
In the Army I wrote a play, began a novel, and a few comedy sketches for our local theater productions. I co-wrote a joyously silly and inappropriate comedy series called Anytown USA with Scott Snyder. We voiced all the male characters and had a blast! Honestly, it still makes me laugh.
My favorite writing piece from this era was when I was given free reign to create a five-minute skit celebrating the closure of U.S. Army Field Station Okinawa in 1985 after 40 years in operation. The spoof took place in the office of the post commander Colonel Kressler. I played the colonel as one by one, a major, a captain and a lieutenant arrived to troubleshoot a desk lamp that would not work. The punch line was when the company clerk entered to deliver papers and on her way out stopped and plugged the lamp in. Officers and enlisted personnel seemed to enjoy the skit.
While in college I wrote three radio plays for a series that I also directed over WPSU-FM called The University Radio Theater. If not great radio drama, it was great fun doing it. I also wrote the lyrics to incredibly rude (and funny) songs for the two-man band known as The Pukes. Sad to say, I was one of the two men… Following public performances of Kimchi Squat and Soap Dropper, demand for my music writing career mercifully flat lined.
After the college I completed the first draft of the novel (but never the second draft), a short play, and several short stories. One of the short stories, The Last Shot, was published in the October 2006 issue of The Writers Post Journal.
The bulk of my writing from the mid-1990s onward has been feature film and television pilot scripts, with an occasional short film script thrown in the mix. Out of all of this came my screenplay Daybreak, my first film as director and producer, which was based on my own short story The Dark Wish. Some short films came close to fruition, such as L.A. Bound & Gagged, Disturbing Echoes, and Man of His Word. But to date, only Daybreak made it through the money-raising gauntlet.
I’ve also had some rewarding collaborations as well. Paul Clemens and I crafted the semi-autobiographical comedy screenplay Crazy Days about my Army days on Okinawa, and most recently Tommy Cook and I banded together (along with M.R. Stein) to create

the script for the proposed 3-D thriller Scream Machine Revenge, which is currently making the rounds, as we like to say.

Finally, I have been researching and writing versions of the script for what will be my next film, a documentary on the history and power of radio in America. It’s a darker film than you think. Stay tuned for Radio Changed America!

I’m just saying…

MY LIFE AS AN ACTOR

I guess my life as an actor began in the second grade. I played a cardinal (the bird, not the cleric). After the play finished I was chosen by my teacher, Mrs. Dudich, to stand in front of a microphone and read the names of the cast to the audience of proud parents. I did so, I’m told, without a quiver in my voice or a single mispronunciation. Not bad for a painfully shy and chubby 7-year-old. And so it was to be: shy and quiet in person, fearless and loud when performing.

In high school, I preferred the isolation of the lighting booth to acting on stage. However, that didn’t last long. I was drafted at the end of my sophomore year to play the role of Caiaphas, high priest of Jerusalem, in the Easter-themed play The Trial of Judas Iscariot. (I doubt it’s still in the rotation for public school usage, but this was 1979…) “He came to me of his own volition,” is a line I still remember because I had to look up the meaning of the word volition. Well, after that show, I came to acting of my own volition!

 


While in the Army I tried my hand at more acting, starting with the Fort Hood Community Theater (three plays, three not-so-good reviews), moving on to the Fort Ord Cabaret Theater (three plays, three sets of glowing reviews) and finally wrapping up my Army acting career with ACTOR (Army Community Theater, Okinawa, Ryukyu) where I acted and directed.

I moved on to Penn State University and landed roles with the mainstage University Resident Theater Company (URTC), along with workshop productions ranging from Shakespeare to some original works. In the summer months I either did plays at the Boal Barn Playhouse in neighboring Boalsburg, PA, or summer stock with the Pennsylvania Center Stage, and I spent one summer with the Elizabeth II living history show in Manteo, NC, which led to my network TV debut as a bar extra in an episode of Matlock starring Andy Griffith.

Although I did some professional (i.e, paid) work as an actor, it really wasn’t until I relocated to Los Angeles that the real challenges began. Within three years I was in both acting unions, AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild (now merged into SAG-AFTRA), had the first of two talent agents, and regularly attended acting

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workshops and performed in local 99-seat Equity Waiver theater productions. My most notable review from these early years was in Variety calling me “the excellent Mike Kacey” for my role as a police lieutenant in The Little Sister. The star of the show was Robert Saachi (The Man with Bogart’s Face) and was produced by Crane Jackson (anyone recognize the name from The Big Lebowski??).

Finally, with a better agent and the SAG-approved professional name of Michael James Kacey, I was able to book gigs on Beverly Hills 90210 working with Jason Priestly, Brian Austin Green, and Ian Ziering; Nickelodeon’s hit All Thatworking with Keenan Thompson and Amanda Bynes; and a scene with Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham Carter in the film Live From Baghdad. I also played Ned the bartender in my feature film writing-directing debut, Daybreak.
Bitten by the filmmaking bug, I have largely left acting behind, although I was coaxed out of my self-imposed acting retirement by director Richard Gale and actor Paul Clemens to appear in the recent mega-hit YouTube epic short film: The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon. Recent word that a feature film version of the story will be made has me chomping at the bit to return as the doctor!
I have, in recent years, fed my acting itch by appearing in old-time radio recreations alongside some of the veterans of the Golden Age of Radio. I usually play the Announcer (a surprisingly difficult role, actually) and some bit parts here and there.
However, I must confess, I have played Superman as well… You gotta love radio!
I’m just saying…