Opening this Friday, March 25 is the comedy horror thriller, They’re Watching written and directed by Jay Lender and Micah Wright. Starring Brigid Brannagh (Army Wives), David Alpay (The Vampire Diaries) and Kris Lemche (Haven), the film is about an American TV crew getting trapped in a centuries-old web of revenge, horror, and blood, when their home improvement show is attacked by angry Eastern European villagers out to kill the show’s star.
Read my interview with Mark V. Lagrimas, the producer ofThey’re Watching.
Edwin Santos: This is your first feature length film you’ve produced. Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? Tell us a little bit of your journey?
Mark Lagrimas: This may be my first movie that I have produced, but I have been involved in making movies and television my entire career. My experience on and off set began as a production assistant for ABC. In addition, I have worked for the Disney Channel, MGM Studios, CBS Studios, and numerous projects around the world. My expertise is in the financial and research and analysis of projects from start to finish so it was a smooth transition into producing and really just the culmination of something I had been gearing up for over a decade or so.
Edwin Santos: Where does an idea for a film usually begin with you?
Mark Lagrimas: It happens different ways, but it all boils down to one question I ask myself: “What would you, Mark V. Lagrimas, like to pay $10.00 for a ticket to go see at the movie theater?” In this case, for our film, “They’re Watching,” it was a simple premise. A film crew taping a popular home improvement show goes on location to do what they always do. It just so happens that on this particular occasion, it all goes to hell. I thought to myself after I hear the pitch, “Yeah, I’ll go and watch that!”
Edwin Santos: As you mentioned earlier, you were a financial consultant and a research analyst, but you also have experience in marketing, publicity, consumer products, theatrical sales, network & cable television sales, television archives, and ad sales prior to becoming a film producer for “They’re Watching.” How was your journey in these aforementioned areas helped you as a producer?
Mark Lagrimas: My experience helps greatly in evaluating whether or not you want to go into a particular project in the first place. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each project? All projects, no matter how great they seem, have flaws. In the end, you have to decide as a producer whether you want to dedicate your time and resources to pursuing a projects despite these difficulties. I’ve also seen a lot of what’s out there in the market first hand so I can help navigate the ship a little better in terms of making sure we make good decision, that we get optimal deals, and our team works efficiently.
Edwin Santos: “They’re Watching” is a mixed bag of genres. What is your favorite film genre and why?
Mark Lagrimas: I can’t say I have one. It’s like asking me to pick which of my children is my favorite. I was fortunate to be exposed to two massive media libraries in my time with the studios: the Walt Disney and the MGM libraries. I’ve grown to appreciate the needs, desires, and dreams of people of all ages and all walks of life simply based on the kinds of movies they love the most. That’s the beauty of Hollywood and the world in general: diversity!
Edwin Santos: “They’re Watching” was shot using the Red Epic. How is using today’s new digital technologies helpful in maintaining and keeping costs down?
Mark Lagrimas: Using higher resolution gave our directors, colorist, editor, and SFX animators and larger canvas to work with. In addition, we anticipated the rise of 4K technology even when HD resolution was just getting into full swing 3 years ago. We’re proud to say that we’ll be one of the best looking films in this genre out today!
Edwin Santos: How does working within tight restrictions such as time, money, location and talent force you to be more creative?
Mark Lagrimas: It forces you to plan better and monitor your resources more closely. That wasn’t so much of a problem as Micah Wright and Jay Lender, our writer/directors have video game, comic book, and animation experience. In those mediums, especially when it requires putting a pencil to paper, you cannot simply go back and redo a scene. It has to be planned well in advance or else months of work by hundreds of people is down the drain…not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars. We are also proud to have shot our film on location in Romania, where the crews are efficient, friendly, experienced, and do world class work at highly competitive rates.
Edwin Santos: What are some of the opportunities and challenges you had being a Filipino American in the film industry?
Mark Lagrimas: The only opportunity I had to interface with my community other than most recently was at the beginning of my career. In 2004, I attended a panel called “Filipinos in Entertainment” put together by the Filipino American Library of Los Angeles. Fritz Friedman, Dean Devlin, Ron Sato, and some of the great names in entertainment were there. What I got out of listening to them speak and later having a lunch with Ron was that this business will chew you up and spit you out if you let it. They were right. There are a multitude of us going for positions in front of the camera but so few of us succeeding at the highest levels behind the camera. At nearly every place I worked, I was the only Filipino on staff. Sadly, in many cases, I was the only Filipino in the building. I am glad to be here where I am, but its likely no surprise to say that I have encountered my fair share of obstacles, which is why I try to help my fellow Filipinos whenever I can. For example, Jonathan Wandag (the composer of “They’re Watching”) is one of the most talented people I have ever met who just happens to be Filipino. I knew that at the first chance, I would do everything I could get him out there. I am glad I had the opportunity to help showcase his genius in our film.
Edwin Santos: Does race make any impact on your work?
Mark Lagrimas: How does it not? You can’t do simple research in our industry without measuring categories of ethnicity, socio-economic background, or the language you first spoke or continue to use predominantly in everyday life. All of these factors determine the audience for your work and how to reach them. Although “race” is more of a social and political construct, it definitely factors into relations in Hollywood whether people admit it or not. Look at the Oscars and the #OscarsSoWhite situation. Look at the jokes made by Chris Rock and Sasha Baron Cohen about Asians on the very show that was supposed to attempt to bridge the “race’ divide. Look, if it was during a stand up routine in a comedy club, you could let that slide, but at the Oscars? I remember having dinner and spitting out my food when I heard those comments on the TV. As an Filipino, as an Asian Pacific Islander, as an American, as a human being…it’s my duty to make sure that kind of filth never rears its ugly head again. And if it does, there’ll be someone to punch that big ugly head in the face.
Edwin Santos: Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
Mark Lagrimas: It’s funny. In my high school valedictorian speech, I made numerous references to movies and even brought out my Forrest Gump and Yoda impressions in front of the crowd. Truth be told, I was actually a frustrated artist who applied successfully to some top tier art schools in my youth. My parents wanted to be a doctor like every ‘good’ Filipino son and basically threatened to disown me if I didn’t go that direction. So I forced myself to study biochemistry for 2 years before switching out to pre-law which was an “acceptable” profession for them. My Disney internship and a really inspiring girlfriend (who became my wife and the mother of my children) actually helped me break the shackles of filial piety so that I could do what I always wanted to do. After years of disagreements, my parents finally understand and are now huge supporters of my work. So the lesson of the story here kids is: Be true to your heart!
Edwin Santos: Indeed. What films and filmmakers are important for your work going forward?
Mark Lagrimas: I am, and always will be a humble student of the entertainment game, so everyone and everything inspires me. However, as a Filipino, I think the film that really touches me to this day is the 1952 masterpiece “Singin’ in the Rain.” Odd choice, no? Gene Kelly is amazing, Donald O’ Connor hilarious, and Debbie Reynolds is alluring. But pay attention to the single line by the amazing Leon Lontoc, a hard working and talented, but long suffering filipino actor in Hollywood’s Golden Age. He may simply be giving directions to the main character but he was playing one of the few real life roles that our people were allowed to play in Hollywood at the time. We have gone a long way from being butlers and valets for the stars and I’ll be damned if we’re simply relegated to that place again.
Edwin Santos: (silently reacting when Leon Lontoc was mentioned, but resumes with Mark’s interview) Will you continue producing films going forward or will we see you directing a feature in the near future?
Mark Lagrimas: I will definitely continue to produce films for the foreseeable future. As for directing, it’s always been my dream to direct a Filipino martial arts film. As a practitioner and a historian, I have seen our fighting arts in everything from the movie 300 to the “The Bourne Identity” franchise. Our time for recognition and praise is coming. I plan to be one of the people who brings that about.
Edwin Santos: What all-time favorite producer, screenwriter, director and actor(s) would you love to work with in your dream film and why? And, other than yourself, one of your dream choices is a Filipino/Filipino American. Go!
Mark Lagrimas: Once as a UCLA student, I met Denzel Washington as he was getting coffee after his premiere of “The Bone Collector” in Westwood at the time. He was such a humble and down to earth guy. I would love to work with him. It’s still my dream to work with any one of the Filipino talents I grew up watching. When I was a kid, “Young Guns,” “Wayne’s World,” and “Aladdin” were awesome to me because those were the first times I was able to hear a Filipino voice or see a Filipino face on the big screen in the United States. Lou Diamond Phillips, Tia Carrere, and Lea Salonga…expect a call from me soon.
Edwin Santos: What advice would you like to give to aspiring film producers?
Mark Lagrimas: The same adage goes just as well for film as it does for any other business. “The customer is always right.” If you keep that in mind, somehow, someway, you’ll always have a job in Hollywood. Around here, we don’t sell burgers or fine tailored suits to the world (not directly at least). We sell dreams, hopes, fears, laughs, and moments that you can live over and over again. How can you NOT listen to your customer?
Edwin Santos: Lastly, what’s next?
Mark Lagrimas: My partners Micah and Jay are continuing to develop numerous amazing projects for Best Served Cold Productions. In addition, I am looking forward to producing numerous projects in the coming years under my newly minted production finance company WarSong Entertainment. We plan to roll out over a dozen film and television projects in the next five years. Stay tuned.
Edwin Santos: Thank you for your time.
Mark Lagrimas: Thank you!
Seems like I learn something new after each of these interviews…
Mark mentioned Leon Lontoc. So, I did some research on the Manila-born actor who appeared in Singin’ In The Rain.
It turns out he worked as a barber and a waiter while making ends meet…and in between or whatever spare time he had, he was a movie actor starting in the early 1940s. He is uncredited as the Filipino butler in the Gene Kelly musical. But, his break came in the form of a new medium called television starting with Adventures of Superman in 1953. From then on, he co-starred, guest-starred and became a regular on such shows as The Loretta Young Show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Hawaiian’s Eye, McHale’s Navy, I Spy, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Bonanza, Ironside, Mannix, The Brady Bunch and Mission: Impossible. He is best known for his work as a regular, “Chauffeur Henry” on the Aaron Spelling-produced television show, Burke’s Law. He even spoke a bit of Tagalog on the show.
He passed away in 1974. To those of you who never knew of Leon Lontoc’s work (like me, in shame), many of his episodes from his television days can be found online like YouTube. Maybe one day, I will write an extensive #FACinfocus on Leon Lontoc…
They’re Watching opens at select theaters and will be available on VOD / iTunes this Friday, March 25th. In California, the film will have its premiere at the AMC Burbank (in Burbank) as well as openings at the new Laemmle Monica Film Center (in Santa Monica) and the 4-Star Theatre (in San Francisco). It is also opening theatrically in Chicago, Atlanta, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Lubbock, New York, Seattle, Tucson and Washington D.C.
For more information about the film, click here: http://www.theyrewatchingmovie.com/
Tomorrow night’s episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow finds our heroes and villains return to where they began…at Star City. But, home is not where the heart is as they encounter thieves, destruction and mayhem. And, for White Canary (Caity Lotz), she slowly uncovers what happened to Star City’s resident hero and old friend…Oliver Queen / Green Arrow. Stephen Amell guest stars.
Read my exclusive interview with one of the writers of tomorrow night’s sixth episode titled Star City 2046 of the hit television show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Executive Story Editor Ray Utarnachitt!
Edwin Santos: Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? Tell us a little bit of your journey?
Ray Utarnachitt: My name is Ray Utarnachitt and I’m an Executive Story Editor on “Legends of Tomorrow.” Before this I co-wrote a freelance episode of “The Flash” and also wrote on “The Tomorrow People” and “Person of Interest.” I’m originally from Michigan and studied Film at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I, of course, thought I was going to be a doctor for many years and I was even a Biology major for most of my college years. But to the dismay of my parents, I switched tracks and graduated in Film!
Edwin Santos: Utarnachitt?
Ray Utarnachitt: My mother is Filipina and my father is Chinese born in Thailand. Thus the Thai surname!!!
Edwin Santos: Have you ever wanted to be a writer?
Ray Utarnachitt: As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.
Edwin Santos: What is your first piece you ever wrote?
Ray Utarnachitt: The first thing I really remember putting a lot of effort into was a story I wrote for a class competition in elementary school. My story took place in the future and the entire Earth was covered in water — and these three scientists had to explore the deep ocean in a futuristic submarine because of reports of a sea monster. Of course, it was terrible and I didn’t win. Haha. But I was pretty drawn to genre storytelling at a young age.
Edwin Santos: Other than a script coordinator, it seems you have held other positions in film and television such as a visual effects assistant in 1999’s “The 13th Warrior.” Were you figuring out what you wanted to do or were you already focused on becoming a writer as those varied positions were just the means to get to your current position?
Ray Utarnachitt: When you move out Los Angeles and you have no real connections to the film industry, it’s incredibly difficult to figure out how to get started. There are no signs pointing you where to go to be a writer. And because there is no one clear path to get to where you want to go, you kind of just pick one and see where it leads. Most of my film industry experience is actually in Film Production — I started as a production assistant (PA) on set working on commercials, music videos, and infomercials. Then I worked as a PA in Visual Effects for a short while before working in the production office as an Assistant Coordinator. But throughout all that time I kept working on my writing trying to get better. Eventually, those jobs I had which had nothing to do with writing actually led me to people who would eventually hire me as a writer. So, it was a matter of staying focused and always keeping your eyes on the prize. It wasn’t always easy but you have to believe in yourself and keep figuring out how to get what you want.
Edwin Santos: What is your daily writing process when developing scripts for “Legends of Tomorrow?”
Ray Utarnachitt: On any given day, we could be doing any number of things in the writers’ room. It all depends on where we are in the schedule. Sometimes we’re generating ideas for the next episode on the slate or we’re further along in the process and actually detailing specific beats for scenes which will be in the episode. What’s exciting about working in a writers’ room is that every day is different.
Edwin Santos: With such an ensemble show as “Legends of Tomorrow” is, how would you describe your process in fleshing out characters as well as balancing the characters and their story arcs?
Ray Utarnachitt: With every episode we usually try to uncover whose story we’re trying to tell at this point in the season. And once we do that, we try to find another character who could be a good foil for that person in order to express the story. Once we’ve figured that out — we then try to come up with interesting character combinations for the other characters. That’s been the most fun about writing for such a huge cast, with each pair-up you get different results because each character is so unique.
Edwin Santos: This Thursday’s show,”Star City 2046″ is your first written episode for “Legends of Tomorrow.” Are you excited to see something you’ve written on the page to now share it on the small screen? Or, are you very professional and soft spoken about the experience that it is nothing really exciting anymore?
Ray Utarnachitt: It is always exciting to see something you’ve written finally broadcast for everyone in the world to see. So much work goes into each episode from the inception of the idea for the story all the way through post-production. It’s nice to see the outcome of all that hard work.
Edwin Santos: Who is your favorite character in “Legends of Tomorrow” and why?
Ray Utarnachitt: I think my favorite character is Ray Palmer. I like him because of his undying optimism. And he always finds humor even in the darkest of situations.
Edwin Santos: As a Filipino American, do you feel there should be more FilAms (or POC) television writers in the writers’ room to give voice and tell stories about our experiences? Even in the fictional fantasy world “Legends of Tomorrow” thrives in?
Ray Utarnachitt: Yes, of course. I feel there should be more diversity in general in writers’ rooms. It’s essential to get other points of view that are not typically represented in stories on television. The good news is that in the years I’ve been in the industry I have seen some improvement in this area — but we could always do better.
Edwin Santos: And, last question… Currently, DC Comics has Asian American superheroes in their canon but they all have been sidekicks. Which one of them do you feel should appear, hop on the Waverider, join the “Legends of Tomorrow” cast and make a name for himself / herself?
Ray Utarnachitt: I’m not completely familiar with this character, but I read somewhere that there’s a new version of Captain Steel who has Filipino origins. I think that would be very cool to have someone like that on board the Waverider!
Edwin Santos: Thank you for your time.
Ray Utarnachitt: Thanks!
After my interview with Ray, I did some research. I remember a Captain Steel when I used to collect comic books when I was a boy but he was not Filipino. Until I remember about DC’s New 52 comic book canon. In “Earth 2” #13, the character known as Captain Steel was revealed to have Filipino origins.
The New 52 version of Captain Steel was created by writer James Robinson and illustrated by Yildiray Cinar. Robinson told the media he was including a Filipino superhero to add diversity to the book.
Thus, “Earth 2” #13 had the World Army’s Commander Khan describing Captain Steel this way: “Although an American citizen, he’s native Filipino—born in the Philippines. His father—natural or adopted, we’re still unclear—wanted the best for his son.”
Another CW show, The Flash is currently visiting multi-dimensions and parallel universes where their first stopover was Earth 2. But, then again, the Legends of Tomorrow on the Waverider can also make a pit stop at Earth 2 . So, who knows where DC’s first superhero from the Philippines could turn up? Though, I have to agree with Ray. It would be cool to have Captain Steel turn up in Legends of Tomorrow.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow / Episode #6 / Star City 2046 written by Marc Guggenheim and Ray Utarnachitt airs tomorrow night, Thursday, February 25 at 8pm ET/PT on The CW. Check your local listings.
Watch my interview discussing about my career, creative life as well as tips and advice to millennials when working in the entertainment industry with Alexia Anastasio at Sqeegee here: https://sqeeqee.com/streaming/history/uOTIkUQCPvfWImAD
Television history was made last week for Filipino Americans. But, did you know it occurred twice? Last Monday night on the CW, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" introduced Josh's family in the episode, 'My First Thanksgiving with Josh!' where the character Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) spends Thanksgiving with a Filipino family.
Watch the episode on Hulu: http://www.hulu.com/watch/871002
This past Friday, I watched the NBC comedy, "Truth Be Told" for the first time. I already knew that Vanessa (Minnillo) Lachey was in it. I knew of her when I was with E! Entertainment when she was a finalist in E!'s competition to replace Brooke Burke as host of "Wild On" in 2007. I didn't know she was an actress so I was curious in this new formula, yet diverse sitcom.
As much as I was celebrating "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," the episode of "Truth Be Told" was a long time coming. In that, I never saw the subject presented on television before -- and it was a subject, a personal subject where I spent most of my life denying being a Filipino.
I don't speak for those who came to the U.S. as children and decided to deny who they are because, in my opinion, that is an impossible task. They speak Tagalog and carry traits that are specific to the culture. Not me. It may have begun when my parents only spoke and taught us English to my siblings and I when we were born in Chicago, Illinois. Our only language is still English. And, even though, I spent twelve combined summer & Christmas vacations and lived one year in the Philippines, and joined Filipino Clubs from childhood to college, I still didn't accept my Filipino culture. I only saw it as a novelty. It was just there when I needed it. Through those years, I got used to the denial and created a monster. To the point, being an "American-Filipino" or a "Vanillapino" was to my benefit. Every corporate employment or job I had, I was promoted 100% of the time because the promotion required I speak to clients. But, truthfully, I knew my skills and my experience got me those promotions.
I remember back in the late 1990s to the early 2000s, there was this popular wave happening that anything Filipino was trendy and hip. It all started with "The Debut" directed by Gene Cajayon. And, even though that was the first time I saw a Filipino character rejecting his Filipino heritage against his immigrant parents on celluloid film, the episode below was a first for TV but, this time, it's a first generation American-born Filipina mother, the parent, who has rejected her culture her entire life -- only to embrace it later when her daughter rejects her Filipino Barbie doll down to stereotypical and almost derogatory societal terms. That hit below the belt...to even hearing a kid say that. I'm pretty sure I said it myself when I was ignorant.
Since the last decade, I have embraced the culture...but that doesn't mean I will sit down and learn how to speak Tagalog again... I mean how do you speak the language without developing stuttering and drool? I tried it. It was messy.
Watch the episode on Hulu: http://www.hulu.com/watch/874150#i0,p0,d0
“I'm like a fine wine. I get better with age. The best is yet to come.”
― Richelle Mead, Blood Promise
“I'm like a fine wine..."
Having seen the laugh-riot action comedy Awesome Asian Bad Guys written by Milton Liu, starring and co-directed by Stephen Dypiangco and Patrick Epino (National Film Society) and executive produced by Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man) at the 30th Annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in 2014, watching the film again with all of my friends and colleagues was an experience!
"I get better with age."
The National Film Society and Angry Asian Man along with Visual Communications presented a Special Screening of Awesome Asian Bad Guys, a Kickstarter-funded, web based series turned feature length film starring Tamlyn Tomita, Randall Park, George Cheung, Dante Basco, Yuji Okumoto and Al Leong at East West Players' David Henry Hwang Theater in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles last night to celebrate the film's DVD & VOD release that same day. And there were a few things I got out of it.
(1) When was the last time you saw a mainstream American film where the filmmakers and high profile leads are Filipino Americans?
(2) At the afterparty at Far Bar in Little Tokyo, I was hanging out with not just the co-directors of Awesome Asian Bad Guys but also with filmmakers Gene Cajayon (2000's The Debut) and Patricio Ginelsa, Jr. (2003's Lumpia). While Gene and Patricio were directing films about varying Filipino American experiences, I was producing films about other people's experiences such as my first produced film, 2002's Soap Girl). So I felt a kindred spirit among them. However, until I acted in Edward J. Mallillin's 2008 Filipino American film, Brown Soup Thing that I decided that if I do another project, Asian Americans, but specifically Filipino Americans, will be prominent. And, that began with my web series, 2014's No Regrets where the leads were Filipino Americans with a universal appeal. I will do other Filipino American themed projects later this year. With Filipino Americans as the second largest Asian American group in Los Angeles, I don't see why not. In a way, Gene, Patricio and other FilAm filmmakers who made an impact a decade ago have paved the way for Stephen, Patrick and others of this millennial generation of filmmakers to carry on and reach higher than ever before (thanks now to the tools we have that are accessible as well as social media to reach a hungry audience looking for new voices...and, in turn, become the "Voice of the Voiceless" themselves). Asian American representation in film and television has gotten better since the 1990s (i.e. Fresh Off The Boat) but it has also hit below the belt (i.e. Aloha).
(3) There was this running joke in Awesome Asian Bad Guys where Stephen and Patrick would repeat names of movies and TV shows in the 1980s and 1990s of where both saw George Cheung and Al Leong in. And, the joke would end with Stephen exclaiming the CBS TV show, Simon & Simon starring Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker with the maddening look of an Overly Attached Girlfriend...
I'm a bit older than them when I say that I have seen George Cheung on prime-time television shows since the mid-1970s or when my Dad thought I was old enough to watch Mannix. In fact, my Dad loved action movies especially the Rambo and Die Hard films. He was with me in spirit last night meeting these two iconic actors.
And, the only time we saw these two legendary actors were only once every prime-time television show and / or blockbuster movie. This was hilariously addressed during the Q&A when my friend asked "has all Asian American actors appeared in Simon & Simon? One of the leads in Awesome Asian Bad Guys, Dante Basco jokingly mentioned that every year, all Asian American actors are called in to various TV casting offices to audition for that TV show's one Asian-themed episode. This is true. One audition I was called in for was a costar role for the Matthew Perry show, Go On -- and there I saw Dante Basco...and James Kyson...and so on.
Here is a fun fact. The first film I ever worked on was in 1992's Rapid Fire starring Brandon Lee, Nick Mancuso, Dustin Nguyen, Powers Boothe, Kate Hodge, Al Leong, Raymond J. Barry, Tony Longo and Tzi Ma (in the summer of 1991). I just finished my third year at California State University, Northridge and wanted to start making money to pay back my student loans so I did background work only that summer before beginning my final year at CSUN. Thanks to my best friend who was studying at UCLA at the time who saw the ad. Al Leong is the second actor I met from Rapid Fire and I remember seeing him on-location at the UCLA campus. Nick Mancuso was the first actor I met from that same film when I co-executive produced 2011's Violent Blue (in 2010).
Indeed the gathering last night was a different experience for me compared when I first saw it last year at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival...and I could right now type a much lengthier critique as to why it is -- the lack of Asian American representation in Hollywood to this day despite making still small stepping stone strives. But, during the Q&A session after the screening, Dante Basco put me at ease when he said...
" [Awesome Asian Bad Guys] is a cool way for us...celebrating our history as Asians in Hollywood...not complaining about stereotypical things that happened in the past but, a funny way for us and our community to comment about the past and celebrate about the past without complaining about it..."
The best is yet to come.”
To which, I'd like to add, let's keep this momentum going by creating original content, producing projects and create & accept roles that best represent who we are as Asian Americans.
In the meantime, get your hands on the Awesome Asian Bad Guys movie right here:
A possible sequel - Awesome Asian Bad Girls -- could come next!
This past Wednesday, September 24, 2014, someone who I never met (that I can remember), Renee Agoncillo-Frial de Faeldonea, a grand daughter of Don Perpetuo and Doña Fidela Agoncillo (they are pictured at left) and daughter of Maura Agoncillo de Frial, of Dumalag, Capiz. passed away. Rest in peace. My prayers and condolences to her family, friends and loved ones.
I wanted to begin this blog first with the passing because it all relates to my year long (seems like a lifetime of) research about my direct ancestral connection to the first Flag of the Philippines especially for this month of October's Filipino American History Month (Filipino American Heritage Month) as well as my rich family history -- at least, from my mother's side of the family. Plus, I'm a history nut! So, I may be incorrect with some of the dates here or even the relationships of my family...believe me, there is so much information out there as well as too little to confirm online. This blog may be re-edited after it is published.
Since the first time I visited the Philippines in the Summer of 1977, I slowly accepted and embraced my Filipino heritage. You see, for years, even recently, I don't see myself as a Filipino, or even the term, "Filipino-American" or "Filipino American" for that matter. Where does that double terminology identity apply towards? Immigrants from the Philippines coming to America or people like me born and raised in the United States by Filipino parents? It can't mean both? I usually call myself "American" or if I'm feeling jovial, it's "American-Filipino" because honestly, I do not speak a lick of Tagalog.
Nevertheless, that doesn't stop me from learning something new about my culture, my heritage and even my family every time I'm in the Philippines. After a one-year stint living there from 1980-1981 and subsequent summer vacations thereafter, there was always something I'd pick up but, unfortunately forget about it later. Until 1995 after my grandmother passed away. She took care of my younger siblings and I during our one year stint in the Philippines. Aside from meeting my many, MANY relatives back in 1980, many of them were at her funeral. So, assembling everything I heard and was informed about my rich and historical Filipino lineage in 1980, 1995 and as recent as 2013, this is what I gathered...
This is my Great-Grandfather, Dr. Antonio Marasigan Agoncillo from Batangas, Philippines. His family owned vast land even in present day, Makati. He was the first doctor who studied in the U.S. and the first to own a car in Batangas. He was good friends with then-President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon. He was jealous of the President when he danced with my great-grandmother at their mansion in Batangas. Unfortunately, he died way too early...and ironic as I think about it. My Great-Grandfather was on his way home from treating a patient when it started to rain. He was on horseback and perspiring, got sick due to pneumonia and later died in his early thirties.
I have so many surnames of extended families, it's very difficult to keep track. But, the four that has always been consistent are the following: Santos (my Dad's side), Monroy (my mother's father's side), Teves (my mother's stepfather's side) and Agoncillo (my mother's mother's side). Through the years, it's the Agoncillo side I found fascinating. My grandmother was an Agoncillo and so was my great-grandmother (left photo; in Chicago) who was married to the aforementioned Dr. Antonio Marasigan Agoncillo (photo above). It was the Agoncillos I first met the first time I went to the Philippines in 1977 and thereafter. My one year stint was spent with Agoncillos. The first time we moved to Los Angeles in 1981, we were greeted and welcomed by Agoncillos. And, well into the '80s and '90s, I met more of my extended Agoncillo family from Taal, Batangas and around the globe. I learned this past summer that there is a town called, Agoncillo, a fourth class municipality in the Province of Batangas, Philippines. Historically, on April 17, 1949, Executive Order No. 212 was issued by then President Quirino authorizing the immediate organization of the Municipality under the name of Agoncillo, in honor of Don Felipe Agoncillo, a native of Taal and one of the first Filipino representatives to the Spanish Cortes. Someday, I will take a trip there...
The first photo you see above this blog are of Don Perpetuo Agoncillo and Doña Fidela Marasigan de Agoncillo, a prominent couple from Taal, Batangas in the mid to late 1800s. Both hailed from landed families and had eleven children. Don Perpetuo ran a highly successful shipping business during the latter years of the Spanish rule up to the time of the Japanese Occupation in the Philippines. They are either my 5th or 6th generation grandparents! Perpetuo was a close relation of Felipe Agoncillo (illustrated on the Philippines national stamp below and related to my mother's side), the first Filipino Diplomat and husband of Marcela Agoncillo, who sewed the first Philippine Flag. ZOINKS?!?
Marcela Agoncillo, her legacy as the principle seamstress of the first and official Philippine Flag, gave one of her thimbles to Maura Agoncillo. This was donated by one of her daughters to then First Lady, Imelda Marcos during President Ferdinand Marcos' regime. The thimble now sits on display at the Malacanang Museum in the Philippines.
She was a daughter of a rich family in her hometown of Taal, Batangas. Finishing her studies at Santa Catalina College, she acquired her learning in music and crafts. At the age of 30, Agoncillo married Filipino lawyer and jurist Don Felipe Agoncillo (who was the Filipino representative to the negotiations in Paris -- that led to the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War) and gave birth to six children. Her marriage led to her important role in Philippine history. When her husband was exiled to Hong Kong during the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution, Agoncillo and the rest of the family joined him and temporarily resided there to avoid the anti-Filipino hostility of some foreign countries. While in Hong Kong, General Emilio Aguinaldo requested her to sew a flag that would represent their country. Agoncillo, her eldest daughter, Lorenza and a friend, Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, a niece of Jose Rizal (HELLO?!?) manually sewed the flag (in Hong Kong) in accordance with General Aguinaldo's design which later became the Official Flag of the Philippines. The flag was made from fine silk which Marcela bought in Hong Kong. It was embroidered in gold and contained stripes of blue and red and a white triangle with the sun and three stars. It became known as "the sun and the stars flag". It was finished in a period of five days, through a difficult process. Marcela, Lorenza and Delfina worked manually with the aid of a sewing machine. They had to redo the flag when the rays of the sun were not placed in the proper direction. Their eyes and hands suffered due to the prolonged work. The flag was personally delivered by Marcela to Aguinaldo, which he brought back to Manila. It was hoisted from the window of Aguinaldo's house in Kawit, Cavite during the proclamation of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898. Marcela was not able to witness the first public display of the flag because she had to stay with her husband, who was still in exile.
Last July 4, 2014, we commemorated the 68th Anniversary of the Formal Recognition of Philippine independence by the United States of America. Although General/President Emilio Aguinaldo initially Declares the Independence of the Philippines back in June 12,1898, it was not until July 4, 1946 when the United States of America officially recognized Philippine Independence. (below photo).
Whew! I learned more about my Filipino heritage here than I did when I spent a semester studying Pinoy history at St. Anthony Novaliches High School in Caloocan City during my one year stay...
While the flag itself is the perpetual legacy of Agoncillo, she is also commemorated through museums and monuments like the marker in Hong Kong (where her family temporarily sojourned), at her ancestral home in Taal, Batangas which has been turned into a museum, in paintings by notable painters as well as through other visual arts (below photo).
At an Agoncillo family birthday party this past summer, I was informed I am a 5th generation descendant of Marcela Agoncillo, the woman who sewed the first Philippine Flag. So, today, I have high respect for the flag (as well as my culture and my heritage) because of my lineage to it. To see it everywhere from social causes to sports to social justice and to entertainment, I have a deeper understanding for it. I may be born under the national flag of the United States for which it stands but, there is historical importance to the Philippines' national flag more so than ever before. I guess you can call it (and, honestly, I really don't like this word but), pride.
I may not have any direct connections to world leaders, diplomats or national heroes ... patriots... but, I try my best as an actor and a producer in Hollywood to represent Filipino Americans well in the media and giving us a voice. I have many cousins who are also in the arts doing their thing (as I discovered while doing this initial research) Still, there is much more to learn about our rich history... So, I suggest you look into your family lineage. You'd be surprised to discover how much you're lineage is knee deep into history!
Happy Filipino American History Month, everyone!
It was March 8, 2010 that my actress friend and I decided to study long form improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade here in Los Angeles. Unlike my friend, I have already studied short form improv at a couple of places in town, have seen Room To Improv perform live on stage and, of course, splintered my ribs when I watched Comedy Central's "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (both the British and American versions). Moreover, it was redemption for me because in the late '90s when improv was hot (then), I was standing outside Groundlings trying to convince myself to not be scared, walk in and sign up. In seconds, I found myself driving away due to fear (I'm shy at heart). Anyway, Improv 101 at UCB was easy to pass despite my thinking head getting in the way. I thought I'd stop there. But, I didn't. I got addicted. Before we performed the first of two student showcases, to get over my stage fright, I did UCBTLA's Long Hard Improv Jam. I did fine for a while; holding my own with the vets while the laughs continued -- until I went blue. That's what I realized was a big no-no. Obviously, there are things I need to improve or just be smarter in my initiations. One of our classmates from the Level 1 class at UCB, Nick Rasmussen mentioned Monkey Butler to us. So, on January 13, 2011, I contacted the Artistic Director of Monkey Butler, David Magidoff. He confirmed what Nick said. We can go to any beginning class and they are free. Our first class was a Sunday afternoon at a Pasadena church with Nathan Davis for the Foundations Level which was okay...because I decided early on that I will complete the Basic Program at UCB (all four levels) and figured after a month at Monkey Butler, I'll sign up for Improv 201 at UCB. That one month became two months, then later six months and so on. My friend dropped out of MB due to a language barrier (which is understandable). I remember one rainy afternoon where only 12 of us showed up to class and Nathan decided rather than teach, we just do a full improv show in class. I was so excited! At first, I was trying to avoid jumping in or take the initiative. But, classmates kept pulling me in to the scenes (thank you!). At one point, I played the father whose daughter wanted to be a dancer and I happen to mention in character that I once had a dream of becoming a dancer. As soon as I said that, it was time for a flashback. It was happening so fast I had no time to really think or decide what to do. Just do what came to mind first. So, I saw myself doing Robin Williams dancing as Twyla Tharp. Then, I had to mirror it the second time after I said, while in a prison scene, as Donald Duck in character, I once did Shakespeare in the park...and of course, the next thing was a flashback. The last time I did a Donald Duck impression was when I was a boy and the last time I did anything Shakespeare was writing a report about the guy for my friend's final term paper. Let's just say with a growing sore throat and sniffles because of the rainy weather, I did the best Donald Duck impression I could while reciting the soliloquy in the "Nunnery Scene" of William Shakespeare's play 'Hamlet.' I will never ever forget that experience because we were all having fun!
On January 24, 2011, I volunteered to be one of the performers to represent Nathan Davis' Level One Workshop class in a Showcase called One Buck Butler which was held at the Oneonta Church in South Pasadena. Just short form improv games were done on stage. Which was fine. I just needed to get over my stage fright. Being in front of the camera is a whole lot easier than being on stage, for me. Being with Monkey Butler Comedy, I found balance. The other one thing Monkey Butler did for me was to be clean with my initiations as, again, I tend to go blue (which seems to be the norm at other improv shows). But, either indirectly or directly, because Monkey Butler Comedy was part of a faith group called Mosaic -- and also there were children in the audience, I really had to clean up my act.
On Thursday, March 24, 2011 at the One Buck Butler show at the Oneonta Campus, I was a guest performer for another class Level One Workshop taught by Lynn Downey Braswell. This was a test for me. Never having played with other scene partners before, more so, not know them...it was a challenge. The two photos above were of my new scene partner and I performing the improv game, "Whose Line." To me, this was more about acting and reacting than it was about improv. Those little notes helped carry the scene very well especially in the end. I think we did our job when we made a little girl laugh!
Another factor was performing improv with different people from all walks of live in various levels of their improv studies -- at other locations. This is where the support comes in. Supporting your scene partners and each other. Monkey Butler had a show at Alhambra, CA. (above) on April 23, 2011. Just did the improv jam and performed with the MB vets. I remember right after this show, one improv teacher at UCB believed doing jams are a waste of time. I beg to differ but, to each their own, I guess..
I continued to practice with Monkey Butler Comedy at the Level One Workshop. And, even though, I really wanted to advance to the Level Two Workshop and so on, I felt I'd stay in the basic level while I pursue the advance levels at UCB. On August 30, 2011, I signed up for Improv 201 at UCB. Advance weekly practice and study at UCB while having basic weekend practice and study at MB was the thing for a while; also doing student showcases at UCB and MB for the public was good because I was getting comfortable and less nervous being in front of a live audience. Also include doing various improv jams around the city not only Monkey Butler's One Buck Butler and Two Buck Butler shows but also at Crashbar Improv, Tuesday Night Thunder and Room 101, watching shows at UCB and Room To Improv and studying the books.
Monkey Butler Comedy was the Winner of the Harold Competition at the 9th Annual Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival 2011 held at iO West.
While studying the 2nd level of improv at UCB, I did two more shows at MB. Then, after a year with them, I stopped and focused more on my UCB's studies. I passed Improv 201 at UCB. Then, I signed up for Improv 301 at UCB on November 3, 2011 and failed the class (because of the teacher; totally confused me and others students in the class). So, I went back to Monkey Butler to re-learn the basics of improv. I came to realize that once I advanced in improv, other disciplines and approaches come into play. So, I had to be solid with the basics again for the next four months until I signed up again for UCB's Improv 301 on March 6, 2012. Passed the class! Before I signed up for UCB's 401 class, I knew I didn't want to repeat another class. So, I went back to Monkey Butler on the weekends and also signed up for a daily improv intensive boot camp and later improv scene work. On July 13, 2012, I signed up for UCB's Improv 401 -- and passed!
I continued going to Monkey Butler Improv afterwards but mainly to their Halloween events. I was always El Santo!
Monkey Butler Comedy was the Winner of the Harold Competition at the 12th Annual Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival 2014 held at iO West.
On August 25, 2014, Monkey Butler Improv Comedy announced they have ended operations. I don't what happened but, if I have to guess -- Monkey Butler was gaining more popularity than Mosaic. On September 19, 2014, Monkey Butler hosted their celebration party. Since then, members and students of MB Improv Universe opened new places to teach a new generation of improvisors, comedians and performers for the servitude of the community. A lot of cool people I met during my time spent at MB such as Nick, Moses, David, Gabe, Ai, Charles, Cristina, Billy, Skyler, Nathan, G., Jane, Ken, Greg, Jessica, Laura, Lynn, Max, Patrizia, Rey, Sean, Steve, Jason, Tad, Zach, Brittany, Janet and others. To which I say, "thank you, Monkey Butler, for everything!"
My first time attending an Asians On Film's event -- this one was an Asian Cinema Entertainment Mixer held at the Vaucluse Lounge on the west end side of the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California. Other than the talent that were inside, there were also photographers, press and a Step-And-Repeat wall. I went there initially to meet new folks and promote two projects I have coming up. But, the latter, I decided not to do because, really, I just wanted to meet new people and reunite with old friends - especially the ones I haven't seen in ages (and Facebook doesn't count).
Like many mixers, it is a chance to network with like-minded people to hope someday work with many of the people you've met as well as elevating each others' careers. But, more importantly, as I have learned in the last twenty five years in this business -- the goal is to gain a group of colleagues who will, in time, become your most trusted and lifelong support group of best friends. That's really the goal at these mixers in my humble opinion...because this town (and specifically in this entertainment industry), unless you're one of the lucky ones, you will get eaten up and spit out before you even realize what happened. Heed my advice from someone who've been through it. By someone who was stabbed in the back by an ex-friend/ex-colleague I've known for eight years and after working together on various projects including two feature films; the first film giving us notoriety almost twelve years ago, he financially ruined my life. I'll just leave it at that.
Usually, I avoid mixers. That's just me. It's all political. And, judgmental. And, I know I'm eating my own words when I tell you about three groups of people (nice segue, huh?). You'll meet three groups of people. The first group I call are the "Veterans." They are people who've been through hell and back working in the Hollywood industry, have thick skin, some may still be jaded but always hope for the best and has every war story in the back of their hand (but tread lightly telling their stories because you never know who is lingering in that social circle you're blabbering in that might know that person you're talking about). They also have very active radars and usually size you up before you even enter the room. And, they are experienced -- meaning they know how to carry themselves. However, there are two kinds of Veterans. First, there is the friendly kind who is more of a people-person and who doesn't give a shit about what level career you're at (because what I learned is that you never know who will be the next big thing). But, that, in itself, shouldn't be the primary reason to get to know them. They, too will sense that and will slowly, in a courteous manner, move away from you. That last sentence leads into the second kind of Veterans -- "the fake-friendly-kind-but-they-don't-do-it-intenionally-they-are-just-protective-or-if-they-are-friendly-to-others-beneath-them-they-feel-their-own-careers-will-fall?" Yeah, I just don't get it sometimes.
The second group are the "Newbies-But-Are-Seriously-Passionate-In-Their-Craft." I like this group. They know they are new in this industry. They know that people will size them up and judge them. They know that it's all or nothing. They are survivalists -- when all else fails, they are smart enough to move on and won't look back. They know they are smart enough to keep the ones who look out for their best interests (and vice versa, of course) and rid those who do not. Yet, they are also the ones who give others a second chance to redeem themselves: they are passionate, caring and selfless. These are the types of people this Entertainment Machine needs to survive. These are the regular normal folks!
Then, there is this third group -- you MUST avoid. I've seen my share; heck, I've experienced my share. As soon as you gain some notoriety and respect in this industry, you will attract this third group. Most especially when it comes to deeper relationships outside work -- it starts to get tricky and weird. And, this is the first sign you'll catch to recognize this third group. They walk into a mixer, work the room just a bit and come up with this consensus: "Aw shit! There ain't no important people here! Where's Spielberg? Where's the Weinsteins? Not even the Kardashians will show their faces here! I'm leavin! We're leavin!! We all leavin!!!" (Really?) If anything, you'll instantly see this third group a mile away. Whether it's the dudes still rocking their Ed Hardy tees to women who still think the hoochie mama look is still relevant, whatever they are doing isn't going to win many people over especially if they are crashing into an A-List party. But, hey -- to each their own, right? You show aggressive gumption, A-Listers will recognize! I have seen with my own eyes this third group successfully grabbing the attention of A-Listers (who I will not name here). However, these types of friendships or relationships do not last long and it is the people in this third group that become victims of their own selfishness. Their selfishness is so high, it completely blinds them from what is actually going on. They start thinking conspiracy; it's them (pick a category: small town, gender, religion, ethnicity) against the World (the A-Listers). There were A-Listers who were giving opportunities for this third group of people (which is what they wanted in the first place) but, they found it difficult to function and started blaming others because they weren't ready and/or some A-Listers took advantage of this third group's blindness or desperation to fill their own voids. Laws of Attraction, I guess. It's sad but it happened.
So, to this day, after everything I've been through, I always go back (and try to maintain) my place of balance. Everyday, you must find your balance. Abusing drugs and alcohol are never the balance so you should stop that. Every day is trial and error. Everyday, you're a work-in-progress. (Nicole Kidman still goes to her acting coach for new projects). Do not think or accept the people who've made it have settled. No, they also continue to find balance. Because in a split second, everything you've invested in, goes just like that. And, other than family and friends outside Hollywood who support you from afar, it's your most trusted friends & colleagues who are your strong support group when things in your Life goes loopy.
"Home is where the heart is." To me, sitting together in a table is just that. And, when I sat there throughout the night, friends I worked with more than ten years ago to friends who I worked with just recently came to this table (below). I guess in all honesty, I just wanted to reconnect. For the last three months, I've been engulfed with projects that this night afforded me the luxury to be real again.
Shazbot... very, very sad to hear about Robin Williams' passing today. He was my first and all-time favorite stand-up comedian and comedy actor! Since I first saw him in an episode of "Happy Days" as 'Mork from the planet Ork.' Then, he appeared as the same character in a short lived ABC-pilot sitcom called "Out Of The Blue" during his juggernaut success of "Mork & Mindy" (despite being a boy, all the sexual jokes & innuendos went over my head but, laughed anyway). I collected all of that show's bubblegum cards (still have them) and read his first autobiography (still have it). Then, he hosted SNL, then, did movies & TV (sometimes in dramatic turns which, in my opinion, he excelled in), a Broadway play with his then stand-up rival, Steve Martin in "Waiting For Godot" (I missed) in New York and more of his rapid fire stand-up especially for the cause, "Comic Relief." I've never met him in person despite I've been to iO and UCB for shows. But, at least I saw him again...on television in "The Crazy Ones." Below are my favorites from Robin ~ both comedy and drama!
Prior to that, he spoke of his continuous pain, his love for his family, his children and grandchildren...in a sad, almost surrendering, tone. Generally, people will agree with me and tell me that suicide is an act of desperation by someone in intense pain. Let me take it further by adding that with people who suffer with depression (and it doesn't have to be physical pain but mental pain, social pain, stress, everyday pressures of life, basically surviving), all that will blind common sense thus "deciding" that the act in itself is the only way to get rid of the pain, escape, OR, just to let go. There was a late '80s report about a Chinese UCLA student jumping from her dormitory window because her parents were dissatisfied she scored an A on her term paper. Her parents expected their daughter to only excel with A+ scores. Never anything lower than an A+.
I know from this week to the next, we'll learn more. As for myself, I am at a loss. Most definitely, I will be crying for a while. It's like losing a funny uncle. Other than my parents' funny people like Don Rickles, Jerry Lewis, Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and Johnny Carson as well as the ones I grew up with but were well before my time (Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Bugs Bunny), Robin Williams was my first contemporary funny man that enabled me to break out of my own shyness growing up and that being crazy is okay....but, to me that was a private thing I did with my family and friends. Never thought I'd consider publicly pursuing it. I became an actor because I wanted to do the dramatics! Until the late '90s, I almost got the nerve to walk inside The Groundlings to take my funnies to professional and public opinion. Almost got the nerve...because I walked back to my car and drove away. In 2004, I studied short form improv but, it was the safe kind. In July 2008, to celebrate my sibling's birthday, we went to check out Anthony Cools in Las Vegas. And, when he asked for volunteers who wished to be hypnotized, I was the first one to jump on stage initially to debunk hypnosis. And, I'm still not a believer. I proved to myself that hypnosis didn't work on me but, I was already knee deep as a participant in his show (his people were eyeing us so they can remove those who were just messing around). In my silent observation, I didn't want to call his bluff and publicly cry out fraud live on stage (because it wasn't him - I just wasn't a believer). But, since I was already on stage, the show must go on. So, I decided to commit. So, ninety-nine percent of the suggestions he gave me, I did them without hesitation. It's that one suggestion which is NSFW for me to say here, I almost didn't do. I discovered this suggestion was a test to see how far I would go. So, in a split second without showing too much hesitation for the audience to notice, "I gave that chair a good lickin'". (if you can paraphrase that last line, then you know what I did on stage). The laughter was overwhelming. That experience proved to me that I'd give long form improvisation another shot. Robin studied improv first before he studied the craft of acting and before he did stand-up. I studied at Monkey Butler Comedy in 2009 and the Upright Citizens Brigade (above photo) in 2010 while taking improv bootcamp & intensives between them. I'm glad I did because honestly, it's freeing. And, very supportive. And, finally a place where I can share my experiences with others. Below is Robin Williams' 1983 HBO comedy special (my first time seeing his standup) and the second video is from the non-televised 8th Annual Critics' Choice Awards in 2009 where you can see Robin just improvising all his own!
In 2010, I was invited by Kristina Wong to be one of the suitors to win a romantic date on the live stage show, "The Fix Up Show" hosted by J. Keith van Straaten at the ACME Comedy Theater (right photo). Alex Borstein was guest matchmaker. I had no intention getting a date but no one knew. My intent was to see how I can take a real life situation (finding a date) and make it funny. Much like Robin Williams, a lot of my memories of dating are already written inside my head and all I had to do is pull one out of my hat trick and use it as a response! It paid off. Audience members came up to me saying I was very funny and they had a great time. One nice lady said, "my image on stage didn't fit what was coming out of my mouth." I took those notes and co-wrote an internet dating web series in 2013. It was fun because I was able to take my real-life dating experiences into hilarious situations either as a character of myself or just a character (as shown below). The Santa Monica photo was not scripted. Every response I gave to her questions about dating have all been written and archived in my mind's memory banks! Later that year, I created my own web series to premiere this October. Below the small thumbnails is a preview episode of "No Regrets," a lightly scripted and highly improvised series.
In the Summer of 2012, a friend of mine found out I do comedy and offered me to perform stand-up at the Comedy Store (left photo). He was (and still is) hosting a weekly show there in the Main Room. (Improv and stand-up are two different animals). I've never written material before; my jokes comes to mind at the spur of the moment (much like Robin Williams and improv). Anyway, to make this long story short, the stand-up comedian I was sent to didn't do a great job teaching me the fundamentals of technique. He wanted me to watch Jim Gaffigan and do his style. No offense to Mr. Gaffigan, but, my standup heroes are/were Robin Williams and Steven Wright. Yes, two sides of extremes. But, it was the teacher who said to me, I have to find a middle ground. Before my stand-up debut at the Comedy Store (which was the same place Robin Williams made his stand-up debut), I sent this out on my Facebook: "Due to an unforeseen event, what was originally scheduled as my standup comedy debut tonight, August 16, 2012 at the World's Famous Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip is cancelled." However, I did go to the Comedy Store to see and support two other friends' first times. In standup, you're on your own. I'll be ready soon. The door is always open...to take on a new risk and succeed. And, if I don't, at least, I can say, I did it. Like the time I was invited to an optional clothing resort and the year after, to a private naturist barbeque party at someone's backyard. I went au natural (with beginning with fear first) but, now I can say, I did it. Both are the same -- "you got to be raw to take a risk." :)
Rest in peace ... and a final Na-nu, Na-nu, Robin Williams... You'll always be an inspiration.
I paid my last respects, prayed for her spirit and said goodbye to my agent, Nancy Chaidez tonight at the Media City Church in Burbank, California. She passed away on April 14 to pancreatic cancer after two years (despite doctors telling her only six months).
It was a full house inside. Her family contributed to her memorial with song, poetry, reflection and prayer. Not to mention laughter, tears and one startling audio mic glitch. The large gathering at tonight's memorial service showed to me an outpouring of love and respect for a little spunky woman I met almost ten years ago.
Joined the Screen Actors Guild in 1998. And, did a showcase in 2004 in front of potential agents for representation. I didn't think I'd get any interest (since I was a bit older than the other actors in the showcase) but, three agencies were interested and one of them was NCA. Nancy was one of a handful of people in this industry who truly believed in me. I am honored to have worked with her this past decade. My condolences to her family and NCA.
Rest in peace, Nancy. I'm going to miss you!