Friday, October 21, 2016

1880 Compliant

I coined the phrase 1880 Compliant or 1880 Compliance to refer to things that will still work, or keep working, if the power grid goes down. "Compliant" as in goes along with or works with, and "1880" because the first commercial power generator went online in about 1881. It's like a shorthand for business continuity without electricity: what happens if the power goes out? What happens if the power stays out? Actors are small businesses. Anything 1880 Compliant is a thing that works whether or not the power is working.

Important deadlines and other things don't care what infrastructure is doing in your area; you either showed up for work, or an audition, or you didn't. You could download the script/sides, or you couldn't. The movie/video/TV show could be watched our it couldn't. The theatre's lights could turn on or they couldn't. Business continuity isn't a major focus for actors (nor should it be) but since the internet today has many sites down, I'm going to write this instead of waiting for them to come back online. I have shared the phrase 1880 Compliant for years, but today I'll commit it to (digital) paper. Seems kind of apt. And ironic (not quite what that word means, but I digress).

Something you or a business does is 1880 Compliant for some amount of time. Books printed on paper are 1880 Compliant forever, books on a digital readers are 1880 Compliant for the life of the battery: they're basically not 1880 Compliant at all or are for only some hours or minutes.

Things that are 1880 Compliant can include:

A paper date book
Unless you lose it, burn it or otherwise physically destroy it, a paper date book will be available, complete and serve its purpose until the paper rots away. It won't care no what the power company does.
A bicycle
If it works today it will likely work tomorrow and the next day. Eventually its maintenance may need things like replacement parts and lubricants, and those need power to be available where you are, but a bike is effectively 1880 Compliant for the foreseeable future.
Talking in person
Face to face conversation doesn't require electricity to happen, and if the people's basic survival needs are met (the modern world requires electricity enabling the technologies that make food and clothes that end up in our presence), they can effectively communicate like this for the rest of their lives.

Things that are _not_ 1880 Compliant could include:

A digital planner
If you can't charge its battery it won't help you know what's next or next week. And if you think an online or home back-up will save you, you are right-ish: those will extend its 1880 Complaint time-frame, and may make your schedule retrievable, but eventually all those 1s and 0s do nothing for you if the power doesn't come back on soon.
A car
You may think "but I don't have an electric car, my car uses gas," and while that can be true, surprisingly almost all gas stations use electrically powered pumps without a petroleum product powered generator as back-up. Despite the distribution and sale of petroleum products being almost the entire business model of a gas station, they depend on the power being on. This means that in many natural disasters people have been left to abandon their cars and walk, even if they are right next to a gas station that has underground storage tanks full of fuel. That fuel is totally out of reach because the power the station's pumps rely on is not available. Remarkably foolish and tragic: this lack of a generator back-up slowed evacuations after the storm surge knocked out power before Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
All communications with screens or microphones involved
Kind of obvious; electrical technology may work during a power outage at first, but eventually telephone and cell phone systems' back-ups will run out of their ability to keep things running if the power grid stays down long term.

As actors, when working on a film or TV set, the production may have brought its own generator and may then be able to keep working without interruption for a time. They may be able to keep filming and "make the day" without the local power grid providing electricity; a set might be 1880 Compliant for some hours. Our work certainly doesn't require electricity to be done, though the systems that capture it and all the people working on the shoot probably will eventually need power from the grid to work well or at all. Plus, if the power went out because of anything that wasn't limited to the power grid (like a storm or other natural disaster) then filming probably stopped for other compelling reasons.

On stage, the show probably won't go on with out the power on; most theatres don't seem to have backup systems to power everything for hours if the power goes out. The light board and sound systems may have backups for their computers, but the lights, lobby and ticketing areas are probably going to go dark and stay dark. Rehearsal might be able to happen, in a park or a space with windows during the day, and auditions maybe could too, but with out the power up, traffic signals and subways probably don't work so getting to a rehearsal or audition might not be possible. A lot of what we do for work doesn't work when the power doesn't.

A corollary I'll mention that I also coined is being 1980 Compliant, meaning working without internet connectivity. The internet wasn't widely adopted until after 1980. Now I'm off to go to an 1880 Compliant in-person meeting ;-).


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Monday, October 17, 2016

David's fight choreography in Peter and the Starcatcher in DC

David co-choreographed the stage combat in
St. Marks Players' Peter and the Starcatcher,
playing through October 22, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Peter and the Starcatcher poster image

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Thursday, October 06, 2016

Let's Make a Content!

The world has embraced the word "Content" for much of what we make. But that puts so much emphasis on the container and so much less on the things contained. I am starting to use the word "material" more to myself, to clarify that what we make has value and worth even separated from the container it comes in.

"Material" can be made into stuff. "Content" is bland and emotionally agnostic. My friend Shariq Siddiqui (with whom a conversation today inspired me to actually write out this post, a post that had been tumbling around in my mind for a while now) said, people don't wanna pay for content (even if they'll pay for anything around it). Material makes it sound like...well...material! Maybe we start thinking of our film and TV work as more like material making its way through a digital mill towards the audience. And think of it less like some blank feature-less chunk of content being digitally shipped in uniform shipping-container-like units toward the viewer or user.

But "the medium is the message" rings true in so many instances, so no matter what's said, we all notice the way and place it is being said. But, I connect with the character more than the logos at the start of the show or movie, and I think you do too. That is how we all want it. That is how we expect it to be.

I'm suggesting we don't get bogged down in focusing on the "container," the "pipes," the "screen," or, heaven forbid, the "bucket," and lose sight of the reason those things exist. They were created in the first place to serve content, both to be of service to it and to deliver it. Stories of human life need to be kept somewhere. The people and the stories can live without the containers (ex: live stage performance), but the containers and outlets kind of become pointless without the people and stories.

Not sure we'll find ourselves calling a friend and saying: "let's make a great content!" But whatever we call it, let's make some great things.

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Dependent's Day Release (David is in this movie)

David plays Luke in Dependent's Day and it starts its theatrical run Friday (tomorrow), October 7, 2016. To celebrate the opening, there will be a red carpet in LA at 6pm, then everyone will cross the street to the movie theatre tosee the film. Details below.


Red Carpet Pre-Party:
Friday, October 7, 2016
The Federal Bar (across the street from the theatre)
5303 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601
google map

Friday, October 7, 2016
7:40pm (note that this is one of the screenings that day,
details on the continuing theatrical run below)
Laemmle Noho 7
5240 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601
google map

Limited Theatrical Run:
Laemmle NoHo 7
from October 7-October 13 with showtimes every day at
1pm, 3:10pm, 5:20pm, 7:40pm with Q&A after, 10:15pm
tix now at

Pre-order now on iTunes at
Dependent's Day will be on Video On Demand (VOD)
everywhere in North America on October 18th 2016


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Friday, September 16, 2016

Resolution Fetish Is a Blight

It is the crafts-person not the tool. Alicia Robbin's manifesto-like call for us to focus more on the person capturing the image more than the camera system is clear thinking. You can't fixate on the machines and then hope to tell a human story well. Character, story, plot, words, music, spectacle: these are created and shaped by people.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

TV Show Lengths Could change

You're also going to see the clock for linear channels [think broadcast and cable television, traditional television] change dramatically. A show could be 10 minutes, seven minutes, 94 minutes. We just need to tell the stories that need to be told

Says Nancy Dubuc, the President and Chief Executive Officer at A+E Networks (from TV Titans Roundtable: 5 Chiefs Spar Over the Future (and Netflix's Role as Arch-Frenemy)). This suggests that in the not-too-distant future, shows that now are online only could migrate to more traditional TV places. Exciting.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

The Last Mile

The trailer was riveting, and then it just stopped. The bit of the video that is normally loaded ahead of what you are currently seeing on the screen, the buffer, had gone empty. The pace of the scene, gone, the flow, now missing. Now the player was trying to find the data somewhere online from a machine that wasn't replying fast enough to for anyone to watch it. See, people don't realize that it takes time to send things great distances online. And this video player clearly didn't understand it. Or more accurately, it hadn't been designed to load more into the buffer before it started playing, so it wouldn't run dry. And this trailer, and the actors in it, are paying a price for it.

This is the last bit of our work: it getting to the audience. This last bit, "the last mile" as the telecommunications industry calls it, is expensive. In the theatre not so expensive on the day it happens, but may have been in training. In theatre, the last mile is up to us: we find our light and speak clearly and distinctly enough for the last row to hear the words. In film and tv it isn't in our control unless we are the distributor (like when we put our work online ourselves). There are people who dedicate their careers to making sure broadcast tv or a movie theatre prints and digital files are technically perfect. And there are engineers who build screens and projectionists who run them to insure our work makes it past this last mile.

But there are other versions of the last mile. Getting things across the finish line, to a point of completion is vital. Get a script into a shareable form, move an edit to a picture-lock status, finish a sound mix, get a project to a point of being finished, meaning it is now in the audience's minds and hearts. If our work doesn't get there, we may as well just have been rehearsing.

An additional side note: there is a reason certain video web sites are as ubiquitous and well known as they are. Well actually there are probably many reasons, but the one I'm focusing on here is this: the site by and large works whenever we, or the audience, go to it. And the site works because they spend a small fortune making sure that last mile is handled well. For instance, one major site once gave $300,000 bonuses to every one of their employees who worked on a system that stores often watched videos on the servers of your internet service provider (basically the machines near what your computer/tablet/phone connects to first) instead of further from you on their own servers in their own data centers. What this means is, if you have any say in how something you are in is going to be shared online, don't fall into thinking the off-brand site with a poorly set up player and network won't kill your project before it's even been born. Use what works. It is sad to see good shows and movies languish and disappear into irrelevance because the last mile was ignored. So please, follow through, and get your projects across the finish line. Otherwise, I fear we are basically hobbyists.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ad: Nightpantz Provides Opportunities for New Filmmakers

Sponsored Post:
Nightpantz is a digital sketch collaborative based in Los Angeles that successfully strives to give artists opportunities to be seen and heard, and they want your help to fund a second year of sketches through their Kickstarter (which launched today). Here is their ballet sketch:

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Money and Fame Are Not the Answer

Yes, they may answer the questions of what to give your landlord, or grocer, and yes it can make certain types of roles easier to book because you've got a demonstrable built-in audience, but you probably didn't become an actor because it is a get-rich-quick scheme or the easiest way to have strangers recognize you and know your name.

Meaning. Meaning is what makes a life closer to a life worth living. Right now I am too busy to write more in depth thoughts here and now, but staying sane is important, and building a good life is more important than building a good career, even as they intertwine. And so I challenge you to take this last weekday of the week, and find something meaningful to pour some of your time, heart and breath into. Do something meaningful to you. Then, have a great weekend (thanks to my friend Heather Fusari for putting me onto the video).

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Have Fun Fighting For It

Every time you make a film you should be prepared to descend into Hell and wrestle it from the claws of the Devil himself. -Werner Herzog

Any project can go into turnaround (stop moving toward production and release) at any time. Any project can suddenly, and without warning, transform so significantly it is hard to call it the same project anymore. Life can change in an instant. And there is no going back.

There isn't any rewind button on stage any more than there is in life. Film seduces with the promise of do-overs, but as I once did on a pilot, you can hear them say, "moving on," "we got it," or "new deal," after only one take and realize that one take is all the editor will have of you to choose from (happily, my worry was unneeded: I'd done well, and since my character was named Winchell, one of the other actors started calling me, "one-take Winchell" as a compliment that helped knock me out of my actor-insecurity moment).

Life happens in the now. Breathe, commit to what is happening this moment, and have fun. After all, that is part of why we choose this, right? (Herzog quote from Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog on doing what you love and his advice to those heading into the world of film.)

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Nose to Spite Face

I'm so glad that [film or tv show] did poorly at the box office/got canceled, because I have written/am attached to something very similar to it...

And what, they were stealing your thunder? No. They weren't. They were the example your business plan could've used to justify people giving you their money to make your thing. A rising tide raises all ships. Cheering the failure of anything in media or entertainment is hard to not put squarely into the category of bitterness.

Sure, we all have shows or projects we aren't personally fans of, or that didn't reach their potential or we otherwise just don't like. But keep your negative comments to yourself. Not only do they make your own projects less possible (self-interest), and they also may offend anyone who touched the project (common politeness) who you may want to hire you, recommend you or fund you, but also: feeding the negative, giving complaints your voice, and maybe even your online platforms and name, make your world worse, make it more sad and less positive (your quality of life).

Sure, maybe thus and such a project falls sort of its potential, and misses the mark artistically. Learn from it and hope they make their money back so everyone has a chance, including you and your friends, to make more stuff. I saw one too many people on my social media feeds today cheering projects' failures, failures that translate into other people's lost jobs, lost income and artistic heartbreak. Be nice.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

SAG, AFTRA Health Plans Could Merge by January

The SAG and AFTRA health plans, whose still-separate status four years after the two actors unions merged has remained a major irritant, are expected to merge by January 2017, said an AFTRA plan trustee Friday.
There is underway a merger of the health plans, said Disney/ABC labor vp Marc Sandman at a UCLA law school panel. There is an expectation that it will be complete as of January next year

(from SAG, AFTRA Health Plans Expected to Merge by January, Says Trustee, thanks to Ben Whitehair for bringing it to my attention).

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Being a Clerk

We can be an order taker, or we can create something. Delivering what we're asked for as an actor, without any unique artistry is doable, and you only have to turn on a TV or watch some movies to see it being done. There's nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with delivering as asked, as expected.

There is nothing particularly right with it either. Don't get me wrong, paying your bills and getting hired again is important. But so is taking pride and doing great work, not just good work, but great work. Our goal isn't just to do a solid job, it is to do more, more than we can plan or design. Could be tapping into or connecting to a universal force of inspiration, the muses, the divine. Whatever it is, it isn't incompatible with delivering as promised.

Like anything anyone creates, it can be good, or somehow more than average, better than normal, and therefore somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Making anything, there can be workmanship skill, craft and art, not merely competence. It doesn't mean be reckless or unguided, but means to be un-mundane.

There is only one single February 17th, 2016 in the history of the universe. What can you do to make it special, important, something worth experiencing, doing more than just surviving until the 18th. Whether it is doing a day job well, really well, or folding laundry with deft precision, or maybe grocery shopping with clarity to literally nourish yourself, or as on the job as picking up a glass in the clearest way, or saying "hello" in character in a way that speaks volumes, we can do well today. Let's do well. Let's try failing well and be proud of our work, not just because the checks clear and the phone rings again.

(thanks to Chet Grissom for bringing Ethan Hawke Remembers Robin Williams' Acting Advice to my attention.)

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Friday, February 05, 2016

You Are the Insurance Policy

The default of the world is to resist our efforts.

I'm frustrated at how much trouble it is to get my movies made.

The film/s I'm in is/are stalled in post.

I can't seem to get my script read, let alone sold.

We spend our professional lives in a creative industry, meaning an industry that makes things that don't exist before we and our colleagues make them exist. This means there are a great many forces against us and or work.

This is not a complaint, it's an observation. Much of the universe tends toward chaos and loss of energy: literally the fabric of the universe cools and slowly winks out of existence (Google "entropy" for more on this). So we should not be surprised when circumstances seem to conspire toward messing up our plans:

  1. to do what we intend for an audition, including get there on time,
  2. to have the set we are working on run smoothly with all people, equipment and stuff present and fully functional, including the video and audio files not getting corrupted, effectively destroying half a days work,
  3. to connect with other like-minded, effective and talented people to collaborate with, including have your txt message not say it was "delivered" to them without actually arriving on their device,
  4. to do anything necessary to accomplish what we like to think of as our professional tasks*.

We think our role is only to be an assistant storyteller, to portray the character, and though our acting bring it to life. But that is not our only task:

* we are the insurance policy our employer took out, to get our part of the production done no matter what; even when the unexpected happens, when all plans fall apart and everything seems hopelessly chaotic and lost, we do our jobs anyway, we play our part anyway and make our characters happen anyway.

We are paid because a robot or computer cannot handle "exceptions," they cannot manage the unforeseen or accidental. They give us money because we can react to chaos in a productive way. Our job exists because a sequence of instructions cannot do it. Not only is film acting often strongest when it is accidental behavior caught on film, not only are we the squishy and is our job largely in a sense about facing uncertainty with courage, but we can expect our expectations to be wildly fallen short of. We can plan to have all our plans go awry.

For it may be that when everything has gone "wrong," when everything has gone horribly badly, that is it then that we are actually earning our keep. Our ability to persist, problem solve and prevail in the face of anything the world presents us is _exactly_ why someone decided to give us some of their treasure in the first place.

Like all other forms of insurance, our employers will hopefully look back on the projects we are part of (that fortune has smiled on) and think, "it seems calamity never came and since everything went exactly as we hoped or better, we didn't need any contingency plans after all." We are their contingency: in the event that machines can only capture our work and not do it for us, then we are the solution. We bring the emotion, humanity and life that nothing else can.

Our job is to feel bad, our task is to embrace and live in:

When reversals and frustrations come, it is just a return to the status quo: something new is not being created as we hoped it could be.

Many jobs and careers exist solely to address when things go wrong. Lots of people's work life is only about when pre-planned goals remain unrealized despite past action. They have jobs just focused on being able to put things back together when they fall apart. A cardiologist has little to do if if all hearts remained healthy on their own. So too us. We are here to insure the status quo cannot survive. Our goal is to help make change happen.

The status quo uses inertia and a myriad of things to stop us, to stop any creative endeavor, to foil all progress. Our job, the reason we are being employed, is to step into the fray, move into the chaos and dwindling energy supplies and animate a made up person. And in so doing we help tell a story.

In fact, in the process of making things, the process of creating, the only insurance against all that would defeat us is us.

Our job isn't just to do our work despite setbacks, our job is to handle the setbacks. Our characters fight for what they want and don't yet have. That lack is what drives them. Without the obstacles there may be no story. Without problems in our job, there is no need for us to have been hired to solve them. If there are no problems, it is an unexpected easy day. Sort of like how our job is to audition and the bookings are our vacations. When problems do appear, just think, "ah, yes, this is why I have a job, to push back against this."

Ridiculous problems and absurd setbacks are the whole point of our position. The reason we're here is to handle the stuff no one would design or deliberately build in, and try to get the problem solved anyway. We are the bulwark against the universal trend toward loss and disorder. We're here to insure action is taken against a world that will defeat us if it can, and sometimes will. But whether we reach our aim or not, our task is the pursuit. In short: our job is to act.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

David in The Thanksgiving Experience

David was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, the film won Best Acting Ensemble and was nominated for 10 awards total, including Best of, for the Los Angeles 48 Hour Holiday Film Project. David had the chance to work with extremely talented cast and filmmakers on The Thanksgiving Experience. It was shot over the course of just 2 days, from idea to finished film. Happy Thanksgiving!


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