From the Midwest to Hollywood


A SHOUT OUT TO THE PEOPLE AT HOME
November 11, 2009, 4:53 pm
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My faithful readers will have noticed a prolonged absence of new posts to this blog. Such an absence may seem to indicate overwhelming discouragement or even that I have packed it in and moved home.

On the contrary, I continue in LA, heartily pursuing a successful acting career. I am auditioning, taking acting classes and acting with the Greenhouse (www.GreenhouseProductions.com) with more vigor than ever.

Whenever, Lord willing, particularly good news takes place, I am likely to shout it to you from the rooftops—and probably on this blog, too. For the moment, though, let me wish you all very well and register my hope to share good news sooner rather than later.

The very best to each of you,

Hans

PS If any of you back home could introduce me to Midwesterner filmmakers, located in the Midwest or in LA, I would be really pleased for the help. While talent is extremely important out here, so is the synergy of connecting with people in common pursuits.



LAVC Acting Class
May 29, 2009, 8:25 pm
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I am nearly finished with my first semester of acting class at Los Angeles Valley College. For several reasons, I consider the class to be an excellent choice for many actors.

It is perhaps peculiarly important to me that a teacher not be pretentious. For a person to speak into my life in a way I can hear it, I have to really respect him or her. Perhaps paradoxically, it is anathema to me when a person spends time convincing the class (and it seems to me, convincing herself) that she is a good acting teacher. When  Bob and Betty Ballew (http://www.lavc.edu/mediaarts/faculty/BallewRobert.html , http://www.lavc.edu/mediaarts/faculty/BallewBetty.html) introduced themselves, without any airs, they each told us briefly of their forty-year careers in the entertainment industry. Bob is primarily an actor (last month he showed us a Tony Curtis film in which he acted.). He is also an experienced cameraman (early in the semester, he was busy shooting the Oscars), so he has plenty of valuable advice about how to act on camera. Betty is also an experienced actress and teaches broadcasting.

Of the many workshop instructors I have met in LA, perhaps 25% of them are honest without being hurtful. In contrast, half of acting teachers seem to think the majority of their job consists of speaking loudly about their students’ faults. I am sure that making a student aware of his faults has its place. However, I question the need to have a teacher whose general posture is to speak negative things to his students. My experience is that there are plenty of negative voices in the entertainment industry without hiring a teacher to join the chorus.

Bob’s general posture with us is to let us know the things we can do better–this seems patently more helpful than just saying what we did poorly. Much of his advice is technical, such as “I need you to back farther away from your scene partner so we can get a better close up,” and “rather than look way off to the right, look a bit to the right of straight ahead–it will have the same effect without being too extreme.” I am always eager to receive such immediately applicable advice.

The price tag provides another stark contrast between other acting classes and LAVC. Classes in LA frequently cost between $40 and $60 per night. Because California subsidized its community college classes, the cost for the full semester at LAVC is $60.

My LAVC acting class is not for everyone. Actors wishing to focus on specific acting methods, such as Meisner Technique or Stanislavski, will need to choose a different class. Additionally, some actors might be irritated that a fair part of the class have very little experience acting. However, students get to choose their scenes and acting partners. I have had only positive experiences so far.

My semester goal was to become more comfortable acting on camera; I think the supportive environment in this class will help any actor progress in that direction. To read the course description, go to http://lavc.edu/catalog/courses.pdf and scroll down to Broadcasting 5: Radio and Television Acting.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions about LAVC. It’s great!



Still Alive and in Los Angeles
May 2, 2009, 12:17 am
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Hello, faithful readers! As some of you have noticed, I have not been writing faithfully in recent months. Lest you should fear I have given up the dream, I’ll let you know in brief what I have been up to:

I continue in my involvement with Greenhouse Arts and Media. Check us out at www.GreenHouseProductions.com. We are shooting one short film a month; I updated my reel recently to include one Greenhouse film, and I have about three new ones to include in my next update.

In February, I acted in my first German-language role. It was in a pilot that was just recently completed; I hope to include it here when I get my copy. I saw the project on a private-viewers-only facebook page. If I could, I would now change some of my acting choices, but the project looks great. I will withhold commentary on my German until my Austrian friend gives it a listen. I delight in expert opinions.

I began a new acting class a couple of months back under Bob and Betty Ballew. The class is all on-camera and extremely economical. I find I naturally respect both the teachers, which makes all the difference in the world. Currently, I am working on scenes in which I play a Frenchman and a Russian.

I broke my hand about three weeks ago. I was playing, of all things, a dancing boxer. In this short film, I got knocked out by another boxer, but to settle the score, I challenged him to a dance off. I know it sounds like a crazy concept, but the hand aside, it was an enjoyable experience. I am hopeful to get some good dancing footage out of the deal. Many of you do not know that I learned some Latin dancing down in Colombia; I then took Latin and ballroom lessons in the States for a while, and even took part in a competition.

To make a crazy story even crazier, I went to the doctor yesterday so she could take off my cast, check out my hand, and so I thought, put on a new cast. However, upon looking at my arm, the doctor said “I don’t need you in a cast anymore.” She even said I could use my hand as I normally would, and in a week or so, I could even try doing pull ups. She is the medical professional, not me, so I will be pleased to do as she says.

In any case, I hope you are all very well.

May your days be good ones!



Continued Associations With Viggo Mortensen
December 11, 2008, 12:50 am
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Over the summer, I shared how people inside and outside the entertainment industry frequently mention a resemblance to Viggo Mortensen (see https://hansroberts.wordpress.com/?s=Viggo&submit=GO). Incidentally, thank you, Viggo fans, for your kind comments in this regard.

I ended the post by saying while I thought such a comparison was a compliment, it remained to be seen whether it would help my acting career.

On a small scale, it did help me get a recent audition. Before I even met a director, he was sure I was “perfect for the part! I saw your picture and knew you were the one!” The part was for a Russian mobster, very similar to the part Viggo Mortensen played in Eastern Promises. As you can see below, the style of my head shot in no way suggested a mobster personality.

viggo-eastern-promises1

My head shot

My head shot

Through amateur studies in counseling, I have learned about a dynamic called transference. Each of us, every day of our lives, applies to current pursuits what we have learned from previous experiences. This includes impressions from people in our past. My theory is that when people experience Viggo Mortensen in a certain way (by watching him in a film), they expect the same of those who resemble him, be it in appearance or manner.

Consequently, I was excited about possible applications of this theory when I learned Viggo had a new role in a Western film, Appaloosa. However, his beard and mustache in the role certainly detract from any purported resemblance, so I do not expect any increase in calls for Westerns.

western-viggo

Cowboy Hans

Cowboy Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to comment about Viggo rather than me–no fleas on me, but he is great.



London Fields–My Most Transformational Project
December 4, 2008, 7:07 pm
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In September, I auditioned for a short film based on a novel, directed by USC student Kat Lo. I did not get the role, but when I met Kat, I found her creative, thoughtful and interested in literature, just the sort of director I would like to work with. Not long afterward, she released a breakdown for another short film based on the novel London Fields. I prepared for the role of a snobby aristocrat, but Kat had me read for the part of a lower class, womanizing dart player named Keith Talent.

When Kat called to offer me the role, I was excited to get footage with my Northern British accent. It did not immediately strike me as a particularly difficult role; after all, I am an actor, and provided I look the part, I can play any role if I choose to act a certain way, right?

However, at the first rehearsal I was rigid when I needed to be loose. I was nervous when I needed to be forward.

Kat and I conferred about how different the character and I were. Keith Talent’s description included the following: “Dresses like a 1970’s porn star. Professional darts player. Often uses vulgarity. Smooth talking. Womanizing and cheating on his wife. Doesn’t care about other people’s feelings provided he gets what he wants.”

Kat suggested I invent an appropriate history for the character and practice in front of a mirror while focusing on how I ought to move. She also had me watch Trainspotting, saying Keith Talent was like a combination of Sick Boy (the pretty boy character) and Begbie (the rough one who is always beating others up). These activities were probably helpful, but certainly useful were her suggestions of what my character really wanted. Where I had focused on his desire for a certain woman, he also wanted to outshine the upper class patrons of the bar in conquering her.

After a work-filled weekend that included polishing up my North Country British accent, we performed our scene for Kat’s professor (Jeremy Kagen) and class. Most illuminating was Professor Kagen’s admonition that we discuss our relationships with all the characters in the scene rather than just those with whom we interact most.

When we shot the film a week later at a pub in Pasadena, the moment arrived when I blessedly forgot about my accent and preparation. This is not to say I ceased to employ the accent and preparation, but rather that I did so less consciously, thus allowing me to devote myself to the scene.

This moment was possible partly because I had done the work I needed to do. Also, I had the opportunity to forget about myself for awhile.  I hope to be able to do this more and more–to simply be a person and to be conscious of the other actors.

Filmmakers, if any of you are working on period pieces or projects with accents, please comment hear! British accents aside, I specialize in roles with Russian, German and French accents. I also speak French and Spanish fluently.



Summer 2008 Snapshot
September 16, 2008, 9:53 pm
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NOTE: I wrote this a month or so ago, but am only now posting it. Enjoy.

My schedule last week was something like this:

Monday: I shot a pilot in which I played a Nazi ensign on an aircraft carrier. I enjoyed working with the director, and I hope to follow up with an actor I met.  Maybe we could work together in future, or maybe I just made a friend.

Tuesday: I interned from 10 am to 6 pm. It is a continual field trip for me to drive over the mountains to West Hollywood each day. It is a swanky neighborhood I rarely have occasion to visit. Paris Hilton used to live up the street from us; we are just above Sunset Boulevard. Don’t remember what I did exactly…might have read a script, worked on compiling some lists from my boss Julia or both.

After interning, I filled in for another worker at Act Now (where I help out in the office and take classes–www.actnownetwork.com); I interacted a bit with casting directors Fern Champion and Jason James. I also got to interact with the other actors who work at Act Now–this has been a great highlight for me because I have constant contact with the same people. This is in contrast to meeting people on set and rarely seeing them again, a matter of course in moving from one acting project to another.

Wednesday: At my internship, my other boss Bill and I put together a list of Australian actors to audition for a project we may cast. Once or twice in the past, we have posted requests for actors on LA Casting and Breakdowns Express. When we request foreign actors, many American actors pretend they are foreign in their submission. A couple of times we have received submissions from actors I know.

After work, I went to a Jamie Cullum concert at the Hollywood Bowl with my roommate and his girlfriend. The concert was excellent, though he did not play my favorite “I’m All at Sea.”

Thursday: I interned from 10 to 6. Afterward, I went to Act Now for a class with Don Phillip Smith of “The Young and the Restless.” If any readers could introduce me to people who work in soaps, please leave a comment. I have a particular interest in soap opera acting.

Friday: I interned from 10 am to 6pm.

Saturday: I had two auditions; one was in Beverly Hills for a short film, and the other was in Hollywood for a political advertisement.



Michelle Kunz, an Excellent Los Angeles Photographer
September 10, 2008, 6:00 am
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Michelle Kunz took most of the head shots you’ll find on my blog. I recommend her unabashedly.  She has a good eye and is perfectly pleasant to work with.

You can get in contact with her via her web site: http://www.mishinaphotography.com/