Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Spent the Weekend at a Cool Seminar with BattleStar Galactica Director Michael Nankin

Weekend before last, about 25 lucky attendees and I enjoyed a two-day seminar with famed TV director Michael Nankin. My favorite shows he's directed are multiple episodes of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and CAPRICA, he has also directed CSI, HEROES, FLASH FORWARD, TRAUMA, and numerous others. Michael was also a showrunner (executive producer) and his credits as a writer-producer-director include CHICAGO HOPE, PICKET FENCES, LIFE GOES ON, and tons of network pilots.

Though I have directed, most recently "The Hollywood Quad," and a short play presented at ABC in front of a group of producers, I don't consider myself a director. It is a unique talent that I don't yet possess. However, as an actor and writer I found his seminar invaluable. I learned volumes about what directors are looking for both in the casting process and during filming. It is nearly impossible for me to put what I learned into words because it is mainly experiential. You have to be there and experience it.

For example, he showed dailies (all the film shot and printed on a particular day) and showed the edited final product that went on the air. One of the sets of dailies was from BattleStar Galactica, the other was from Caprica. The dailies from BattleStar Galactica included Edward James Almos as Admiral Adama, and Mary McDonnell as Laura Roslin. It was a scene that favored Mary McDonnell and he showed three versions of it, all of which were amazing. (She is one of my favorite actresses). He talked about why he chose which pieces of which scenes to piece together into what we saw on television. Very informative.

The second set of dailies were from Caprica and included three actors, Esai Morales as Joseph Adama, Teryl Rothery as Evelyn Adama, and 11-year-old Sina Najafi as Young William Adama. Michael showed us with this set of dailies how he used camera angles to continue the "uncovering things that are hidden" aspect, which is such a big part of the series. Very interesting.

It was also very cool that Esai Morales was there and answered several questions about choices he made and choices Michael made.

I also got to enjoy dinner with Michael and others in the group where we got to know each other a little better and was an extreme pleasure.

The seminar was produced by Marc and Elaine Zicree as part of their SuperMentors series of classes and seminars. I have attended several and highly recommend you take part in one or more of them if you are at all interested in furthering your career in the entertainment business.

Here is a shot of Marc with Michael.

HowTo Make It in Hollywood as a Quadriplegic Actor/Writer/Producer

As the only quadriplegic actor/writer/producer in Hollywood, the only successful one at any rate, (by successful, I mean has made money doing this and is a member of at least two of the three unions SAG and WGA, I haven't yet made it into the PGA) I consider myself an expert. Over my many years of doing this I've come up with Jim's rules of how to make it in Hollywood if you're quadriplegic.
1. Forget you're quadriplegic. Nobody cares. Everybody will expect you to do an able-bodied person's amount of work plus 10% because you're quadriplegic.
2. Remember you're quadriplegic. It is both the aspect about you that will open doors and close them. It will make people remember you as well as scare them away from you. It is your biggest asset as well as your biggest detriment. However, if you don't make it, don't you dare blame it on the fact that you're quadriplegic. Too many people have worked much too hard getting performers with disabilities opportunities in the media for you to blame your lack of success on your disability.
3. You had better be talented. Not just talented, have multiple talents. So many damn talents that they can't afford not to hire you. I'm talking a three ring circus of talents. If you don't have them, develop them. I'm not saying that a young, good-looking quadriplegic guy could never make it here with no other talent than acting. I did it. The reason I didn't go any farther for many years was because I was a one trick pony. I thought acting would do it for me. I started writing projects for myself. Told producers a zillion ideas for projects that would include me as the lead. It wasn't until I started writing projects with out me that I started getting notice. I started becoming known as a writer, I stressed the actor part of me less and less.
4. If you are quadriplegic, think twice before you bring that up on the phone. Quadriplegic can be a very scary word. Show them your talent and get them to love you before you drop the Q bomb.
5. Wherever you live, try to make a name for yourself as an actor or writer or whatever it is you aspire to be. If you are an actor, do as much community theater as possible. If you're a writer, write plays, get them produced. If you're a director, direct plays. That way when you get to town here, you will have a track record. It will help you get an agent.
6. This is the most important rule if you are a quadriplegic with dreams of making it in Hollywood. Do not become direct competition for me. I will kill you. It will look like an accident; after all, I am a writer. You may laugh and think I am teasing... There is a reason I am the only quadriplegic actor/writer/producer in town.
7. This is the other most important rule. Don't forget you're quadriplegic and try to do everything. In other words, look after your health. At times in my career, I neglected mine to get ahead, and though I did edge ahead slightly, I paid for it. Get a good doctor, and stay healthy.
8. Forget all of these rules and make your own way. Because the truth is, there are no rules in Hollywood... except of course, rule number 6.

Please click one or more of the links below so I can promote this blog. Also, please add your self as a follower over on the right. Thanks!