Monday, December 5, 2011

To Kill A Mockingbird at DPHS (2011)

The first weekend of November this year, I had the pleasure of both watching and being a part of  five live performances of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  I played the role of Mr. Cunningham.  The play, written by Christopher Sergel, is adapted from Harper Lee’s novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Karen Rugerio directed this play as well. The setting is Maycomb, Alabama 1935. A basic summary of the plot is this: Jem and Scout meet Dill, a young boy who feeds on their fascination of Boo Radley. Atticus, Jem and Scout’s father, is appointed to defend a black man named Tom Robinson who is charged with raping and beating Mayella Ewell. When the day of the trial arrives it is revealed that Bob and Mayella Ewell are lying, and that Mayella made sexual advances toward Tom. Now, Tom is innocent, but is still sent to jail with a guilty verdict. Jem’s faith, along with Atticus’s, in the justice system decreases. Especially so when they are told by Heck Tate, the sheriff, that Tom was shot to death. Then, Bob Ewell, who was humiliated in front of everyone in court, attacks Jem and Scout. This lures out Boo Radley, who saves Jem and Scout from Bob. The sheriff sees no reason to prosecute Boo or Jem, as it was Bob that was killed and convinces Atticus to not pursue it.

Three characters that stood out to me were Atticus Finch, Mayella Ewell, and last but not least, Jem. Atticus has integrity, respect, intelligence, courage and is compassionate. Mayella is conflicted, abused, manipulated, maladjusted and fearful. Jem is fun, friendly, understanding, hurt and is maturing. I feel that for this play, there is no “main idea” that is being sent across here. There is a great mix of themes in this play, and the one that stood out the most to me is courage. Doing the right thing even though it isn’t popular. Atticus does that in this play and to me it is awe-inspiring.

 Now, I will discuss the performance I was in on Friday, on the night in which the judges came to see us. The set, watching it from concept to completion was simply amazing. I mean the paint and design of the houses and courtroom were well fitting of the images created in my mind when I first read the play. The lighting wasn’t bad, but there were some rough spots in which the lighting hindered the watching ability from the audience’s point of view. I saw footage of the mob scene and found that it was needlessly dark. Luckily, the problem was addressed and the lighting was perfect on the days following Friday. The costumes were all period appropriate, so no complaints there. The props were good as well, so the illusion was never ruined by little nuances like that. Wigs and make-up were excellent. I found the shadowing of my face to be perfect as to how my face was actually aligned. Though, having prior knowledge of how some of the wigged actors look pre-wig, it was slightly uncomfortable as it was messing with the already preset image in my mind. The sound was pretty good, there were moments when projection, mine too, wasn’t high enough. The last portion of the play the audience sees was nicely done. I get what Ms. Rugerio was trying to accomplish by creating this picture of everyone together. The vocals were excellent, I speak of course of the main singer, her voice definitely exceeds normal expectations of quality.  The acting, from what I was able to see (the courtroom scene mainly), was impressive.

 I know firsthand that everyone worked tirelessly to bring up their performance level.  I liked what everyone did with their characters in how they all did their part and saw things from the character’s point of view. I really enjoyed playing the role and doing the work in learning more about this character.  I think Gregory Peck and Harper Lee would be proud of this production.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The In- Betweeners


So I got to work a couple of times on MTV's new show "The In-Betweeners".  It's a show about high school kids and it was shot at...my high school!

I'd wanted to have the chance to be part of this project since they were auditioning for the pilot.  Unfortunately, they were always looking for someone over 18.  Then they were looking for way under my age range.  I kept running into this snag every attempt I made.

Now, my high school had an agreement with the production that gave the high school students the chance to be extras on the show...unpaid extras...but they got to be a part of it.

So far I had the chance to work with them on two occasions.   One of those days was during a school day, so I got to skip a couple of classes in the a.m. as well as come back on set after school.
I got the chance to watch Mark L. Young in action.  Some of Mark's past works include Dexter,  Heroes and Sex Drive. He plays one of the main characters, Neil.

Being on set, even when you're not the focus of the camera, is always an enjoyable and interesting experience.  Just as in everything else in life, you get what you put into it.  I'm interested in working both sides of the camera, so this gives me the chance to observe and learn from my surroundings.  It is always an opportunity to meet creative, like-minded people on the same journey as yourself. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Orlando Film Fest - 2011

The cast and crew of "No Charge" at OFF 2011
The Orlando Film Fest 2011 had a lot of really great features and shorts.  It was at the The Plaza Cinema Cafe from October 19-23rd and commenced with a screening of Virgin Alexander, starring Bronson Pinchot.  Anyone? Balki from "Perfect Strangers".  I know this because I've been told I looked like a young version of him.  What do you think?

I really wish I had had the time to be there all weekend and watch almost all of the films.  I spent most of that weekend in rehearsals for my role of Mr. Cunningham in "To Kill A Mockingbird".  Luckily I was able to make it out there to catch two short programs that included the screening of two films that I was in.  One a comedy, No Charge, and one a dramatic thriller, Rust.  Among the many friends and familiar faces were also some of the cast and crew of Two Days, a feature I'm so glad I got to be a part of.

Back to films.  No Charge was one of the shorts in Short Programs # 24.  No Charge was in good company as all the shorts were really entertaining and of high quality.  No charge is set in a coffee shop with some very diverse but extremely funny characters.  This is what a comedy looks like when done right.  This short is a riot with an extremely talented cast and amazing crew.  Other films in this program included:

Colt Jackson: Enforcer, film noiresque but in color.  A very funny short about a security officer in a gated community who takes his job seriously, a little too seriously which makes for quite an escapade.

If you're in theatre, as in stage, you know all about the oldest curse of Shakespeare's Scottish play.  Break a leg has you hoping against hope that the production survives.  You know things will go wrong but what now? What else could possibly happen?  Break a leg is available for purchase on Amazon


Blackout Roulette was another fun little short, black and white, where despite almost knowing what to expect you can't turn away, you can't help but keep watching for the inevitable.  Then there was a sweet little short in Spanish,  Letter to Julia, with subtitles for the linguistically challenged.



Here's one for the thrill seekers, movie style --  Short Programs # 6.  Rust was very well received by the audience present.  This time I got to watch it on the big screen!  It was also kind of nice to be there to observe the audience's reaction and response.   All the movies in this program were suspenseful and kept your heart pounding and very macabre - except for one.  The last one,  Coffee, Tea, and Cappuccino ended on a very heartwarming note.

Rust on the big screen
I only got the chance to catch a few minutes of My Fair Lidy which had a lot of really great local talent in front of the camera, including Rus Blackwell, Joe Coffey as well as the Extreme Stunt and Driving Team, behind the cameras.  Watch this behind the scenes with stunt coordinator, our very own, Grady Bishop:


I can't end without mentioning THE MAN in Orlando, Valensky Sylvain!  Any theatre, any showing, every screen - everywhere you go, there he is!  That was just awesome!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

En garde! Thrust, parry, foil and so forth...

So I decided to try out fencing.  I wasn’t sure I’d like it but I was willing to at least explore it.  
I learnt a few basic steps and rules, including safety.  My instructor told me that a really good fencer could be judged by the beauty of their form and movement.  That may be something fencing and dancing have in common, because isn’t that a big element of the latter as well?  His advice of “you’ve got to know when to advance, when to retreat and when to trick them” seems rather zen and probably applicable to both life and war. It’s a pretty good workout, especially for your legs. 
Oh, I almost forgot, I met this young man, who has been attending this class for a while and he sparred with me and shared his knowledge.  He was very helpful and did an excellent job of teaching me.  Something about him reminded me of the character Manny from “Modern Family”, if I didn’t know any better I’d swear I ‘d met the real-life version of him.  Oh, you’ll never guess what this kid’s name is.  Wild guess, anyone?  If you guessed Manny, you’re right! 
Sorry, don’t have any prizes to give out for the right answer yet.  Although, when I’m in the money, that will probably be an option.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011 IFF - Independents' Film Festival



The Independents' Film Festival took place in Tampa, September 15-17 2011.  


I went to the IFF Saturday Extravaganza to have the chance to catch the screening of Rust and watch one of our directors accept the award for Best Florida Film.  I am so glad I had the chance to be part of this project.  This intriguing short is beautifully made and the story woven really well both on paper and on screen.  It is exciting to know that it is being seen and appreciated.  It was a wonderful experience working with both the cast and crew during the making of it as well.





I  got to see a number of the winning entries.  I wish I had been able to see them all, especially since I was truly impressed with the ones I did get to see.  There was a mix of indie shorts, student films, music video and animation.





 Let's start off with my personal favorite winner, "Rust".  "Rust" was one of the really great films brought together by the IFF.  It's a story of love, hate, ghosts and sweet revenge.  Here's a link to the trailer for you to get a glimpse:



One of my favorites was the Best Indie Foreign Short called "Pizzangrillo", directed by Marco Gianfreda.  It was a sweet, funny movie with moments that tugged at your heart-strings.  The humor was seemingly unintentional.  In a span of  few minutes, you cried, you laughed and left with a heartwarming smile.  This one is from Italy. 


I'm not used to seeing black and white, silent films but here was one.  "The Magic Man" directed by DC Kasundra won Best Indie Mini Film.   This was combined with modern visual effects so it adds a different touch.



There were two animated films.  "My Brother Greg" by Philllip Enders, won Best Indie Animation. "Defective Detective", by Avener Geller and Stevie Lewis of Ringling School of Art and Design,  won Best Student Animation.  Both were funny, and very well done.



"Deep Blue Breath" is a really special film.  This was a film made with the help of the Make a Film Foundation which works with terminally ill children.  It is written and stars Clay Beabout, about his experience with Vater Syndrome.  It is a mixture of live action and animation.  It is a touching and inspiring movie.  It won Best Indie Short film.


"Picture Day" by Ken Adachi from FSU won Best Student short film.  This is the first time I've had the chance to see an FSU student film and I liked what I saw.   A young man obsessed with the impact of his school picture risks losing his sense of self and possibly his friend over it.



Other award winners filmmakers I have the good fortune to know were Clint Mourino for "War of our Children" and Banks Helfrich for "The Ah of Life".  Here's some information on Banks Helfrich's next project:



Last but not least is a "most excellent" music video, Liberty, by Ben Disinger that  won Best Student Music Video.   I agree with Ben that "...it needed to be said" which was his response when asked why he chose to make this video.  Let me know what you think:





Tuesday, September 20, 2011

MIFF 2011

Ariel Barone and I on the big screen


MIFF stands for the Melbourne Independent's Film Festival. I'll give you one hint, it's not down under.  

It's a two day event with screenings and a couple of parties. All very reasonably priced I might add.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Chasing Reality -  directed by Chris Kridler won Best Documentary. Now here's a reality show I'm actually inclined to watch. It was actually fun, interesting, humorous.  It gives me intelligent real-life characters with a mission and purpose in life. They are thrill seekers - it may not be classified as an extreme sport - but it should be since it is just as dangerous if not more.  As a result of what some may call their insanity, we get to learn about mother nature and get a glimpse inside this force in a way we never could otherwise.  Honestly, I wasn't expecting to find it funny or entertaining and I was pleasantly surprised.

Maybe -  directed by Kevin Shah.   A short about a man's adventure or should I call it misadventures in dating.  In this case, let's call it attempts, since that's probably more accurate.  Really good writing.  You felt bad for the main character while you couldn't help laughing at him at the same time.   Is that wrong?  Liked the little twist at the end.  If only...






The Adventures of Monty Moudlyn - directed by Zach Hibbard.   Have you heard about this overly optimistic fellow that can't keep his feet on the ground, just can't be brought down... to earth.  You know? That person who's just always unreasonably happy?  Well, that's Monty for you.  

If you want to watch this fun little short here's the link:    
http://vimeo.com/26446640




The Breakdown - directed by Robby Sparks. This is a really cute and funny, animated short.  It's less than two minutes long but what a ride!  Misty Posey, a fellow actor, also worked on this really well put together piece.  
This was awarded Best Animation and Best Art Direction.

Twilight of Youth - directed by Jerald Fine.  We are taken on an ironic trip of one individual into the zone of dread - filled with grey hairs, wrinkles and possibly false teeth too.  That's the character's opinion, not mine...just to be clear.   It makes me think of a Twilight zone-esque theme.  Interesting and thought provoking with a lot of good music in it too.

Happenstance - directed by Sandy Pranjic and Victoria Strehlau was a Canadian entry. No words but they say a picture is worth a thousand words and this little piece had a lot to say.  Another thought provoking short, a must-see for teens.  Just think about it.

Butterflies directed by Ester Brym.  A feature documentary about six youtube stars. As some one also very enamored with the web and video sites like Youtube, it was really cool to get a glimpse into this new media community.  Their reality is interesting and entertaining unlike some others I won't mention here.  You know the ones I'm talking about.



I also got a sneak preview of "The Space Coast" by Lear Bunda.  This looks like it's going to be a really fun movie.  Hope I get the chance to see it.


Following the screenings Saturday morning, there was also a Q&A with the filmmakers.  I saw some familiar faces in the row of filmmakers in front of me.  In addition to Zach Hibbard who I worked with on "The Adventures of Monty Moudlyn", there was Lee Thongkam with his beautifully made feature - "Tears of Remedy". This movie has been making the film festival rounds.   From the reviews it is apparent that it has really good production quality because people comment how they find it hard to believe it didn't cost so much more to make when they find out the movie's budget.  Pete McMasters was also present.    

I always enjoy listening to how other people got to where they are, what their catalyst was and learn about their process.  There is so much to learn from an individual's creative journey.





Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Something Better? Something new?


One of my goals for the summer was to add something new to my skill sets and to continue improving my craft to be a more skillful and versatile actor.
Working with an acting coach on a regular, weekly basis was a step in that direction. So that takes care of practicing acting.
So many things to learn and exciting new talents to choose from when it comes to adding something new.  
Do you have any suggestions for me?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

End of another not so lazy summer - 2011


Yet another summer has flashed by a little too quickly.   Somehow, the days got away from me.
When summer started, I was still in the middle of two projects - a feature and a short. I was going to get done with them and then take it easy.  I started out relatively well, I started working with an acting coach I really admire and respect.  I attended a few film festivals and just enjoyed the experience.  I wrote an article for the entertainment magazine by Steve Holmes Now The June SHN Ent Magazine 1.


I was then invited to audition for a lead role in a short movie “The Wind” and booked it.  I got the chance to 
play a range of emotions through my character - Sam.  I dance, I fight, I love and survive.  


While I was auditioning for “The Wind”, just for fun I auditioned for another role in a student film and booked that as well.  


I was then invited to audition for two other projects and booked them too.  In “In Between” I got to play a vicious bully.  In the feature, “The Station”, I am an off-the-wall rapper called DJ Reck. 
I also booked a commercial for The Stenotype Institute.


Now summer is on it’s last legs and high school’s right around the corner.  Let’s hope I don’t run into it. :D
I’m planning on going to regular school full-time so it’s a good thing I know how to juggle…metaphorically speaking.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Remind you of anyone, hmm?

I hear that I look like some past and/or present actors. When I have looked back at images of them, some I can agree with and others eh…not so much.


Post a name and/or picture of the person you think I look like. Do you think I resemble someone?





Sunday, July 10, 2011

WOW! What a way to spring into 2011!


What a start to this year!!  They say variety is the spice of life and well, I’ve got plenty of it. 

In movie news, I have just finished two features with Tempest Entertainment.  In “Z”, a zombie movie, I play a young survivor and a protective older brother Dillon.  Dillon gets shot but lives to continue their stark existence.  In “Dark Land”, a dark twisted thriller, my character Jared is a loyal friend whose concern for his missing friend leads to his own death at the hands of a serial killer.


In short news, film shorts, that is, I have had quite a few.  ”Time” was an instrumental in which my character meets his time sacrificing himself to save his friend’s life. In “Wait, What?” I played The man aka the devil himself.  That was shot in Tampa and  was a lot of fun.  I had a small part in “The Adventures of Monty Moudlyn” shot in Volusia County.  In  a really funny comedy, “No Charge”, I got to play a sullen, ungrateful, arrogant teenager.  Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, how did I ever pull that one off. :D


I am continuing to work on the webisode called “La Fleur De Mai”. I have a recurring role as one of the younger members of the Geary Clan.  We just finished shooting Episode 2.  We also participated in the Aids Walk at Lake Eola this year.


I recently learnt that I have been cast as Alan in “Two Days” and will be working with an Italian director.  I have also been cast as the son of the Punjabi restaurant owner in a webisode called “Gamestore”.  


I got to utilize my teleprompter training this year.  I did a video spokesperson ad for Video Depot and I got to be video presentation host for Skills USA.  I got to work with green screen, teleprompter and motion capture suit.


Other things I dabbled in:  I did one more  live improv performance at the Why Not Lounge in Altamonte Springs and had a blast. You can see a clip of one of the sketches on my website under Live Credits or on my Youtube channel. Look for the Sexy Gynecologist Scene. 


I worked for 3 days as a promotional actor at the HIMSS convention at the convention center.  I had to dress up as one of the founding fathers and it was a very interesting experience.  I enjoyed it.  I also took part in the 24 hour film festival this year and had fun being a part of that.  I got to be a teen father-to-be facing the music in the music video “Patience” by the band Abandoning Sunday.    


The spring was sprinkled with a few print jobs and commercials, including a web/print ad campaign for the F.I.R.S.T. School. I saw a little thumbnail of myself on their Facebook ads.


I have started taking voice lessons and I go once a month, but I practice a lot at home in between.  I am also taking weekly acting lessons with a very talented coach.


I am currently co-writing a script for a potential TV series with a local writer. So wish me luck with that. 


Also, I got to be part of this very fun video set  aptly named “Terminator Condoms” that was produced right around the Arnold debacle.  Here’s a link to one of them for your viewing pleasure: http://youtu.be/wYt7JqKYWhc


Don’t forget, there are lots of video samples of my work on www.ajnickell.com under screen credits and on my Youtube channel.


I almost forgot, I auditioned for the magnet programs at Dr. Phillips High School.  I was accepted by both Theatre and TV and film production but I had to make a choice and I chose TV and Film production. This way if there’s an awesome role fitting for me I will be able to accept the opportunity.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

End of Year 2 - 2010


I had an eventful 2010 with a chance to grow and develop as an actor and a voice artist with many projects and training opportunities throughout the year.  The fall was no exception.

In December I wrapped on the feature “Here We Are Again” playing the role of Affan, a gay teen trying to re-connect with his long lost father.  

In November I was cast as one of the characters in a Webseries out of Fort. Myers called “Hide”.  I also got to try out a new character, a guido,  for a bad date example in a short called “The Perfect Date”.

I just completed shooting the pilot episode of a webisode called “La Fleur De Mai”.  I am playing a teenager Junior, part of the all powerful Geary clan, dealing with an alcoholic mother and a rolling stone for a father.  I have a recurring role and will be in many of the 13 episodes planned for season 1.

I have also just wrapped “Shadow Speak” where I have been cast as the lead Mikey, a teenage boy who not only can see ghosts but whose main romantic interest is a ghost.  I am also a co-writer.

I did two live performances - improv sketch comedy with a group at The Social, downtown Orlando in October and then at the Why Not Lounge in Altamonte Springs in December. Took a lot of weekly improv workshops throughout the fall.

I got the chance to do a little more voiceover work as well.  I play a news reporter in Deep Seeded for Caisson Films and I am the voice of Wells in “As Night Falls” by Tempest Entertainment.  I also did a print job for the F.I.R.S.T school’s marketing campaign.

There were a lot of training workshop opportunities this fall and it was not possible to fit them all in.  However, I was able to make the time to do the following:
  1.  A workshop with Nickelodeon casting director Leslie Zaslow.  
  2. A one-on-one acting coach session with Helen McCready Wheels.
  3. 4 week set of Scene study/Character development classes at Star Catcher Studios with Kia Riddick-Taylor.
  4. A modeling bootcamp with a local agency.
  5. A fighting for film workshop.  This covered a variety of martial arts styles and doing choreographed stunt fighting for films.
  6. Two workshops with Rus Blackwell and found them extremely useful.
  7. Weekly Improv Workshops