Category Archives: blog

at home, thousands of miles away from home

I was in most of the scenes we shot yesterday, including a scene where I talked for almost three pages.

Three. Pages. Of. Dialog.

It was a lot, and we were filming right next to an airport so there were constant interruptions from airplanes, so I messed up more than I would have liked … but the cast and crew were really awesome and understanding, and we got through it.

Actually, we didn’t just “get through it.” We did some really great work together. You see, I break down my scenes into actions, intentions, goals, and a few other specific things. Just like in real life, I may want to Let Them Know I’m The Boss, or Put Them At Ease, or Make A Generous Offer. I may need to do all of those things in the span of a few lines, because my primary goal that ties all of that together is To Get Them To Go Along With Something I Can’t Live Without.

Being able to take all of that work and put it into a scene, but then also throw all the preparation away and keep it simple and in the moment is a challenge on in the best of circumstances (it’s easy to get wrapped up in the process, to go into my head and lose my connection to the character and the scene — this is what an actor like me goes to school for years to learn how to overcome) but when there are airplanes a few hundred feet away ever two minutes, it’s even more challenging than usual. It would be very, very easy to be so distracted by the noise and so concerned with just getting through the scene, that I could lose all the levels and character choices … but the director and the cast made sure that didn’t happen, by reassuring me that the performance was layered and communicated all the things I wanted to communicate. (I usually have a good sense of what I’m doing, but there was so much to think about, so much information to convey, and so much noise distracting me, I wasn’t able to know if I was on point or not — and this is where  a good, engaged director and cast is the difference between a performance that is meaningful to the audience and a performance that doesn’t quite hit the mark).

So it was a very long day, and a very challenging one, but I’m proud of what we did and happy with the work.

I’ll be honest: I keep thinking that I’m done being an on-camera actor, but then I have an experience like the one I had yesterday, and I remember how much fun, and how artistically satisfying it is, to take the words off the page and bring them to life with some other people.

I’m in a lot of stuff, again, today. I get to work with an actor who I instantly liked tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we discover together in our scenes.

Happy Star Wars Day

To celebrate May the Fourth, I present one of the first (maybe the first) performance of my short story The Trade (which I wrote in 2002), with Paul and Storm at the very first W00tstock, way back in 2009:

In which a scene from a movie is recreated (or: further confirmation of the benefits of being easily amused.)

I’m in Toronto for a couple of days, working on a show, before I go to Ottawa later this week.

I’ve had a nice time while I’ve been here, though I wasn’t prepared for how profoundly lonely I would feel after just 24 hours away from my family. I guess after months of spending as much time with my wife, kids, and dogs as I want, I’d grown accustomed to their faces.

To help ease my loneliness, I went for a big walk all around the city today. I took a lot of pictures, and I shot a lot of video, with the intention of making a short thing that I could put on the YouTubes about my day and the stuff I saw. Being creative while I was also being a tourist engaged my brain and my soul in a very good way.

Toward the end of my adventures, I wandered into a train museum thing by the CN tower (TRAINS INTO TUNNELS…) and I got inspired to make this really stupid-but-amusing-to-me thing:

Not bad for something I put together in iMovie in about 15 minutes, I must say.

Hey look I’m unboxing a box that I curated for Quarterly!

This year, I have the privilege of curating four boxes for Quarterly. Because my interests are so diverse, and because I’ve been on this planet for four decades, I thought it would be fun to use each box to pull together some things that reflect the different influences I had in each decade of my life.

This is a video of me unboxing my first box for this year, which is inspired by the 1970s (not the 1980s, which I say at the beginning of the video and didn’t realize until we were editing and it was too late to change it).

If you’d like to subscribe to the remaining boxes I’m curating this year, or just pick up one of them, you can do that at Quarterly.co/wil My next box will be filled with things that were a big part of my life in the 1980s, like video games and RPGs and stuff.

Let’s talk about being an actor.

I answer questions on my Tumblr from time to time, and this one from today felt worth crossposting here.

the-eru-anne asked:

Good sir, what advice, if any, would you have for an aspiring actor? More so along the lines of – where in the world does one start if they cannot afford an agent? Because finding oneself work seems almost impossible. Or maybe I just don’t know how to look.

I answered:

An agent is never something that you need to afford. Legitimate agents only make money when you make money, by taking a 10% commission from the total you were paid. When you’re in SAG/AFTRA, most of the jobs you get will offer “Scale +10%” which means the SAG/AFTRA scale rate, plus the 10% for your agent (so if you make $1500, you make $1500, not $1350 after your agent gets the $150 commission).

Any agent who wants money upfront for anything is a scammer and should be avoided at all costs. Ways agents will try to trick you include paying them for headshots, submissions, coaching, etc. Legit agents will be able to recommend other people who offer those services (except submissions — that’s an agent’s job and shouldn’t cost anything).

But that’s just one half of things. That’s the business side (and not even all of it). Let’s talk about the other side: the art side, the side that keeps you working part-time jobs so you can go on auditions and hopefully work as an actor. The business of acting sucks. I’ve been at it for nearly 35 years, and I still endure the kind of bullshit that I thought would have gone away (for me, with my experience) now: casting people who don’t make an effort to give me anything to work with, directors who don’t know what they want or how to communicate what they want to actors, non-actors wondering what my “real” job is, and on and on and on. What kept me focused and dedicated through years and years of that (and the struggle to just get any work at all) was how much I loved performing, how much I loved the process of creating a character, getting to know him and his relationships with the other characters, and bringing whatever that reality was to life.

I’ve worked on wonderful things, movies like Stand By Me, and dozens of episodes of TV like Eureka and Leverage, and I’ve worked in truly awful crapfests to pay my bills, like Deepcore 2000 and Fish Don’t Blink. I’ve had big roles in shows like The Big Bang Theory and tiny roles that were almost cut out entirely, like Pie In The Sky. In every case, though, I loved the process of creating the character I was going to play. I loved the experience I had writing about and exploring who he was. I loved breaking down the scenes into actions and beats, and then discovering new things I hadn’t even thought about when I played in those scenes with other actors. That love, that joy, that feeling of rightness when I was in the creative moment kept me going through all the business crap that I hated. It gave me something to look forward to and remember when I was subjected, again and again, to the fundamental and inherent unfairness of the industry.

Another way of saying all of this is: if you’re going to succeed as an actor — whether you work a lot or not — you have to need it the way a normal person needs food and water. It has to be such a fundamental part of who you are, you will endure some pretty shitty times and make a lot of sacrifices while you work on your craft and your art. If you don’t need it that way, if it isn’t something you’re willing to fight for, then you aren’t going to be a happy person. You aren’t going to be a fulfilled person, and that will make you a desperate and frustrated person when you audition.

Being an actor isn’t easy (if it was easy, everyone would do it and we wouldn’t see hundreds of hours of bullshit reality television clogging up the airwaves), but it is also a calling for a certain kind of person. If you’re that kind of person, and you’re willing to do the work, you are answering that calling and taking your place in a long and wonderful tradition. Remember: everything worth doing is hard, and for an actor, there is no better feeling in the world than absolutely nailing a scene, and bringing an audience along with you.

I hope this is helpful. Break a leg!

I’m going to be a dad for a second

This has been on my mind for the last few days, as I’ve watched a loud and determined bunch of unhappy people do their best to make happy and successful people feel as bad as they do.

Everyone who becomes a fully-functioning adult — every single one of us — goes through a time in our lives when we are a shit. The difference between shitty adults and awesome adults is growing out of that.  Take charge of your life, and make changes to make yourself happier and improve your relationships with people who aren’t dickwagons.

Having committed to making those changes in your life, resist the urge to fall back with an old crowd who will drag you back into old patterns. Time you spend with people who are shits is time you are not spending with people who are awesome, and when an awesome person sees you with a shit, that’s one more awesome person who you didn’t have an opportunity to bring into your life.

Life is too short to be a shit, and you tend to attract to your life what you offer in return. So if you look around yourself and discover that you’re surrounded by shits, change that as quickly as you can. It may not be easy (in fact, it won’t be easy, at first), but I promise you that you’ll be happier when you do.

a case of the mondays

Judging by the soft, blue/gray glow behind the blinds, it was just after dawn when the goddamn cat decided to walk around our bathroom and howl for no goddamn reason.

I sat up in bed, startling both of our dogs, and stomped across the bedroom.

“Jesus fuck, Luna. Shut the fuck up,” I grumbled, as I picked her up from the empty bathtub and carried her into the living room. I set her on the couch and got back into my bed.

I must have fallen back asleep quickly, because the next thing I knew, Anne was shaking me awake. “You’re on your back and snoring,” she said.

“Sorry,” I said. I rolled onto my side.

An hour or a few seconds later my alarm went off and I dragged myself out of bed. My sleep tracker said I’d gotten nine hours of sleep, but my foggy brain and cranky self sure didn’t feel like it.

I made coffee and sat down at my desk, where I got to work.

First up today is approving art assets for Titansgrave, so even though I have a pretty severe case of The Mondays, I’m slowly restoring HP and Mana by working on something I love.

I think there’s a nap in my future.

Let’s talk about Titansgrave for a moment.

Here’s a picture of Aqualad as a pirate, from one of the funniest episodes of Teen Titans Go I did.

Aqualad is a Pirate

I realize that TTG has its detractors, and respectfully request that they don’t use this post to list their grievances. I liked the show, I loved the cast and creative people involved, and there’s always the older, more serious Teen Titans for you to watch.

Speaking of older stuff: you know what holds up surprisingly well? The Land of the Lost (not that abominable movie; the original series). In fact, I used some elements from Land of the Lost as inspiration for some elements in Titansgrave.

Titansgrave. Let’s talk about Titansgrave for a moment.

Holy shit you guys Titansgrave is looking amazing. I desperately want to share some of the art images we have, including some of our character models and locations, but there’s this whole marketing plan that I have to follow, like I’m an adult who is part of a successful business or something.

Yesterday, I watched a rough cut of our first episode, and I loved it.  The photography and the set are beautiful, the actors I cast to play the adventuring party are just fantastic, and as I watched it, felt like the cameras and editing captured the experience we had when we filmed the show. This was really important to me, because translating the emotional and visceral excitement, tension, curiosity, triumph, despair, and joy we all had while we played the game and told the story into something an audience can enjoy is the only way this show will be a success.What I saw yesterday did exactly that. However, I know that, I’m not entirely objective, so I’m going to screen a few edits for some people at Geek and Sundry who weren’t on the set and don’t know anything about the campaign — basically what the audience will know going into it — to make sure that my instincts are correct: Titansgrave is a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and the characters who you’ll get to know are pretty damn compelling.

Lots of people are asking if we’re going to release the campaign setting, and what game system we’re using. These questions have been answered elsewhere, but I’ll put it here just so it’s here: the game is powered by the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) system that Green Ronin created for Dragon Age RPG. This is a version of the AGE system called Fantasy AGE, and we’re adding a few elements to the rules that are specific to our setting, that allows us to incorporate some science fiction elements, as well. At the moment, a lot of us are developing the world, writing fiction that takes place in Valkana, creating NPC allies and adversaries, imagining areas that we touch on in the show but don’t fully examine (so players at home can have their own adventures in our world) and building out the lore of this world we created. It’s a lot of work on a very tight schedule, because we are going to release the campaign setting this summer, but I’m not complaining because I have been itching to just write and write and write some more.

Speaking of writing, here’s a little bit of fiction I wrote while I was figuring out what a particular district of the city of Nestora would feel like.

Grell’s Alley

Korram put one hand on the pommel of his sword, and the other deep into his pocket. He pressed together the two sovereigns he found there, lest they make a sound and draw unwanted attention in this rough part of Nestora. Korram knew his way around a back alley, and was indeed using one at this very moment to make his way to the Shal, but there had been enough killing today. Far too much killing for the two sovereigns he had to show for it. Best to not attract attention, he thought. Some distance away, a concussive boom shook the air. Not thunder, Korram knew from instinct he had long forgotten how to explain. It was more likely a Guilder strike. The flashing of lights reflected off buildings at the end of the alley, as emergency and security hovers sped past, confirming his suspicions.

So much killing. He thought. Too much killing. Korram was tired.

He straightened his spine, pulled his shoulders back, and walked deliberately down the alley. Garbage bins and foul waste piled high around him. Rainwater dripped down from wires and off of rooftops, forming foul puddles between the cracked and broken cobbles beneath his feet.

“Oi!” Called a voice from the darkness in front of him. “Oi! Trellem!”

Korram grunted, and kept his eyes fixed on the end of the alley. With one thumb, he imperceptibly slid the leather guard off his sword.

A stocky dwarf stepped out of a shadow, and blocked his way. No dwarf would stand against a Trellem alone, Korram knew. He sniffed the air, drawing as many scents as he could, forming a mental image of everything around him: Wet brick and urine — human urine — eight hours old to his right. Garbage, a dead rat, a slowly leaking gas line to his left,  and there, above it, tucked into a fire escape made of rusting metal and rotten wood, an elf, wearing soaked Darham leather.

“Stop a bit and visit with old Grell now, won’t ya?” The dwarf said.

“I don’t think so,” Korram said. His sword settled into his hand, ready to become an extension of his arm, of his will. A single-shot blaster, tucked into his belt, felt warm against the small of his back.

“How about you just give me yer gold then?” The dwarf said, “To, uh, ensure yer safe passage through Grell’s alley.”

Korram breathed deeply. The elf was tensing its — her, he now realized — her legs and was about to pounce. He exhaled a sigh.

“There has been enough killing today.” Korram said.

The dwarf flashed a grim smile, revealing a mouth of broken teeth behind his filthy beard. “Disagree,” he said. The elf pounced.

Korram spun in place and drew his sword in one motion. The elf fell on it, sliding down its blade and catching her jaw at the hilt. She hadn’t had time to register surprise, Korram thought, as he yanked her head from her body. Dual daggers clattered to the ground and Korram turned back to face the dwarf.

Korram didn’t need to use his highly evolved sense of smell to know that Grell had pissed himself. “Too much killing,” he said, advancing on the dwarf, who fell as he tried to turn on stubby legs and run away.

Minutes later, Korram wiped his blade clean along the back of Grell’s tunic, elven and dwarven blood mingling together on the rough, heavy cloth. The lifeless heads of Grell and his companion kept watch over the alley, while Korram pulled a small bag off the dwarf’s body. Several coins inside jingled together.

Too much killing, Korram thought, but at least he had more than two sovereigns to show for it. He walked to the end of the alley, and down the lane toward the Shal.

Valkana is a broken and wounded world, a post-apocalyptic land of science fantasy that is so much fun to create and explore. I’m having a fantastic time imagining it, and I’m really excited for you all to come and visit, later this summer.

fitter, happier

Taking walks, by myself and taking walks with Seamus and Marlowe.

Exercising several times a week.

Keeping close track of what I’m eating and drinking.

Caring for my physical and mental health.

Reading more books.

Taking pictures.

Writing jokes.

Cleaning up after myself.

Holding hands with my wife.

Sitting with my therapist and talking it out.

Fitter, happier, more productive.

I still miss my dog.

 

as the tear drops rise to meet the comfort of the band

Thirteen years is a long time to spend with any living thing, and losing a companion that loved unconditionally and as enthusiastically as my little white dog did is tearing holes in my heart.

I’m trying so hard to get on with my life, but whenever I think I’m making some progress, and moving through the grief process, I see Riley out of the corner of my eye, and realize her spot on the couch is empty. Last night, when I walked into my dark bedroom to go to sleep, I automatically walked around the spot where she liked to sleep on the floor, and for less than a second, I forgot that she’ll never sleep there again. Today, I drove up our street and nearly broke down sobbing when I looked at the lawn she used to stop and smell at whenever we walked her.

Her dish is in the corner of the dining room, where she left it. Neither one of us as been able to pick it up. Her pills and her food are still in the pantry. We’re going to donate them to the Humane Society, and even though I know that’s a good thing to do, I still feel like I’m going to cry when I think about the finality of taking them out of the pantry for the last time.

Seamus has been going into my bedroom, lying down in Riley’s bed that is extra smooshy to take the pressure off of her arthritic hips, and almost crying. He fusses in a way I’ve never noticed as long as we’ve had him, and Anne thinks he’s grieving, too. He and Riley weren’t very close the last couple of years, because Marlowe was just more fun to play with, but she was part of his pack.

Anne remembered Riley over at her blog:

Riley became known as the “I’M A DOG!” face with all the pictures we put of her on the internet over the years. The outpouring of love and support from real friends and internet friends has been so overwhelmingly kind. From planting flowers in her honor, to making donations to local shelters in her memory, to even registering a star in her name just so I can look up and think of her every night, is so unexpectedly wonderful. I love that this sweet, oddball of a dog has so many people who cared about her and will miss her goofy face as much as we do.

Goodbye, little girl. We love you.

I’ve gotten tens of thousands of kind thoughts from people who never knew Riley, but seem to have formed their own bond with her in that strange way that’s only possible because of the world we live in right now. That brings me a lot of comfort, and I want you all to know that I deeply appreciate your kindness and your thoughts.