Dear 12 year old Jack. It doesn’t get better.

One of the reasons I don’t post as much as I want to on here, is that every time I do- it feels too personal- like I’m giving too much away to an audience that barely registers that I’m there. But today, I’m hurt.

Since 2009, I’ve made it my professional goal to perform. Whatever that means to you. Comedy, drama, stage, screen, voiceover. If I can connect with “you” somehow, tell you a story? I’m a happy guy.

But the thing is, my greatest strength is my greatest weakness. I’m different.

Some of it’s on purpose, mind- but that was simply in reaction to all of the things wrong with me that “Didn’t Fit” already. I have wonky teeth, I have a loud voice, and I sound like a 12 year old.

Time after time after time, I’ve seen roles I know I could knock out of the park go to someone else. And, while you keep the sage advice “You just weren’t right for that project” in the back of your head- deep down I know the truth. If it were a choice between me and someone with no experience, who looked or sounded right- they would take him.

I’ve embraced it, for the most part. I’ve grown out my hair and beard in an attempt to emulate my love of Rock N’ Roll, I’ve embraced that whatever roles I have a shot in are weirdos, potheads, hipsters or man children…

But the sad part is, no matter how hard I try- I don’t think there’s any escaping that for me.

I want so much to be the dramatic actor. The every man. The captain. The detective. I want to be John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis.

But I’m just… me. A high pitched wasp, who only gets considered for comedy- but is told “He’s dis-servicing himself only trying to get those roles”.

And then, to be told I’ve lost a regular gig where I put on a hell of a show every week, tech issues, rain or sickness be damned- because of my HIGH VOICE?!

I’m just freaking over it, gang. I’m over the bullying I received growing up ringing true in my ears. I’m over feeling like garbage for sounding like I am. I’m just tired of being stuck. Being me. I’m tired of never getting anywhere, and I’m tired of being judged by people that don’t even know me.

So, little Jack, back in 2003? You’ve just shaved your eyebrows in an attempt to hide your ugly mug. To be one of them. This doesn’t work. Your teeth are still shit. And worst of all, your voice is a liability in the work you do. You will never feel 100% accepted. You will always be on the fringe, the outskirts, if nothing else because your own mind is a fucking asshole.

I have no answers. I’m just so, so tired…

 

Performing In China: Survival Guide.

Upon fixing up my website that I never really gave the goss on what being a full time performer was like, let alone in doing it in a culture so different as China. So, in dot point form- let me give you a general perspective of China!

1: If you drink alcohol, you’re fucked.
That can be a good thing, depending on which camp you come from on the issue. It can be ‘good’ fucked (Australians used this one), because it’s so cheap. Or it can be ‘bad’ fucked because unless you’re in for a very deadly game of Guess Who with bottles of what you thought were Whiskey ending up tasting like Paint Thinner and Liberal Party values, you might be better off not playing at all, and staying well clear.

However, it’s cheap as anything, and available 24 hours in convenience stores. So the experience won’t cost you too much. Just potentially your dignity and a bit of your liver.

2: Chinese theatres are weird.

The layout ranges from straightforward Chinese theatre, which still means you’re going to go up at least 2 flights of stare to get to the audience bay door from the stage- to NES cheat code complicated. It was the biggest impending heart attack, walking in costume to what you thought was the audience bay door, only to end up god knows where, turning back, going up left, down, right, B, B, B, A, B, SELECT- only to find the door is locked and mentally shitting yourself.

Not only that, but the audiences do ‘not’ follow Western rules at all. You can show up any time in the show, and be let in. You can go on your phone, during the whole performance and not be called out on it by staff. I may have taken advantage of my chagrin as I was making my way to the party scene in Romeo & Juliet, where, mask bound, I watched this person texting as the show went on. She had no idea, and hearing her tiny terrified gasp as she realized I was watching, was worth it. Stay off your phone, kids.

3: Vegetarian is a hard thing to pronounce in Chinese. Apparently.

Shu sai? Shoe soy? Fuck’s sake, just no meat. NO. MEAT. …This has shrimp. Could you pl… Oh, fuck it.

4: You get sick of people and they get sick of you.

It should go without saying, but yeah. Leave people alone when you can. When you ‘have’ to spend time with the same people, their little irritating things become massive, because you’re always exposed to it. Don’t feel bad about withdrawing. Took me a few days to understand my own needs. The tour got much better from there.

5: The smog, is as bad as you’ve read.
Get a mask, especially if you’re performing that night. The amount of pure muck you breathe in is simply incredible. But Climate Change is totes not real, eh?

6: Don’t be afraid of street food.
Look, I mean, use common sense- but I can tell you with certainty, my favourite foods came from street food in Jinan. Pineapple on sticks… jenbing… It’s all an experience, so take the leap!

7: Sweet stuff. Everywhere.
Chinese people love their sweet stuff. It’s everywhere. Even savory stuff tastes sweet. I love my sweets, and even I got sick of it. So… y’know, beware of that.

8: Grease aplenty.
When it’s not sweet it’s greasy. I didn’t make the rules, that’s just the way it is.

9: Traffic. All of it.
Fun fact, my second last day in China was a visit to a Stone Temple- it was 40 minutes away as predicted by google maps. By distance. But via traffic? 2 hours. Be prepared for mind numbing boredom in that regard.

10: Talk to the people!
While on that cab ride (yes, cab, that’s how cheap Yuan is to AUD, you can afford it), I talked to a cab driver named Tan. He loved the USA, basketball, his wife and son, and was also 20 grand in the hole from gambling. Another time I swear I could’ve hoked up with a masseus in Dalian, she was complimenting me that much, and even wanted a photo of me. Another time, I got a laugh staring back at Chef’s who were staring at the white people in the restaurant. Interact with the people, and your trip will be grand.

11: The Roads Are Awful. Sidewalks too.
Everyone has a bike. On the road or off. And no one gives a shit if you’re crossing the road. They will not stop for you. Cross at your own mortal peril. Also, so much honking of horns that you’ll start saying “I’m walking here!” unironically.

12: Take it one day at a time.
If you’re ever in the same situation, where you’re on a tour, and maybe suffer a teensy bit from mental illness- remember. Do what you gotta do. Read a book and take time for yourself, even if you feel like you’re missing out. Don’t let your anxiety take control of your behaviour, and always remember to be grateful you’re there, even if you feel like a square peg in a round hole at times.

Want more stories from China? Hit me up, yo!

LLAP

-Jack
http://www.jackinaction.com

 

 

 

Dance Monkey Dance! (Or: How To Stop Worrying As An #Actor)

This will be a short one, but I need to put it out there, because the more I feel I’ve repeated myself, the more I meet people who don’t seem to understand this concept at all.

In your defense, actors of the world, you’ve been fed lies since you started watching behind the scenes documentaries, or interviews with cast & crew. Rarely, if ever, do you truly appreciate the concept of teamwork that is integral to making movies, the spontaneity of it all, the joy, the importance of every team member, and most importantly, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Yes, even greater than you.

Because despite what the world wants us to believe, despite every instagram account you see, despite every glowing review of a star’s abilities, you too are merely a cog in the machine. An Assistant Story Teller. A Dancing Monkey.

This isn’t a bad thing, though, when you come to terms with it. You’re there to play pretend, and make it seem real. Realizing that you cannot possibly hope to do this without the help of every single member of the team teaches us humility, grace, and an ability and willingness to collaborate.

Far too often, I see actors responding to the DIRECTOR OF THE FILM’s directions with “Nah, I don’t think my character would do that.”

On behalf of everyone: Please drop this line of thinking immediately. Shut your mouth, and realize what you’re saying.

You are saying “I know this character than you, boss, and you are wrong and you should change your vision because I say so.”

Even if the director lets that go, rest assured, they think you’re an asshole.

The thing about collaboration is that you “should” speak your mind when you have concerns- because your job is to be intimate with the character. If you’re doing it well, your gut should tell you when something doesn’t feel right.

But never, ever again should you be saying “My character wouldn’t do that.” Ever again. Because your job is to find a reason for your character to do that.

Get it?

Look at it this way: You’re playing a character who’s intrinsically shy, but then gets into a fight. Why? Why would they suddenly fight? This makes no sense! Guess what, mate: It’s your job to make it make sense. State your concerns, talk to the director, find a way to compromise.

Do not be so arrogant as to stick to your preconceived notions of character. That fundamentally denies what we as actors are supposed to be- empathetic. We need to understand our characters so well, that we can justify anything, with help.

You are not better than your director, your sound guy, your make up artist, or your First AD. Your ideas are welcome, but a part of a collaboration. You, like the rest of them, are here to create a vision together.

Do not get lost in the fantasy that Hollywood feeds you, that the actor creates these characters completely on their own, without help and without compromise. It is tripe, and it makes you a less versatile person, and a less empathetic human. You can do better.

Remember, monkey. Now Dance!

I’m a 2000 man

Because when I was 15 I would name my livejournal blogs with song titles stuck in my head at the time.

As Wil Wheaton tends to do, he has inspired me to let loose a little bit with the structure I’ve given myself for this blog. Because the thing is, this is still a blog. A diary. A journal. It doesn’t have to be anymore serious than I want it to be.

I want to be open, I want to be honest, and I want to try and share my journey more.

So! With that in my mind: Let’s look at my December, pros and cons.

Pros:

I have money in my account, and that’s just swell. Supanova paid me (I’m an MC now!), work is coming along nicely in the childcare realm, and I’m excited for the future of not depending on my government for handouts.

I have a callback tonight! It’s for a feature film where I play a man with slight autism. That ought to be really interesting to play. I’m very excited.

Feature film script is coming along nicely. I’m 45 pages in which means I’m officially halfway to the minimum amount of pages. I think I’ll surpass that easily. That said there’s a lot of revision to do, and I’m gonna utilise every writer friend I know to make the polish I need.

My personal life is calm. I can be lazy and uninspired, unlike my focused partner, who has a full time job and a straightforward career. I take that in my stride though. I know the path I chose, and I know that I can make things happen. I just have to make things happen. No one can do it for me.

Christmas is here. I personally don’t give a shit but Issy likes it and Shez my cat like to try to eat the christmas tree. Plus, I get gifts for the first time since forever now that I’m with her. It’s nice to be appreciated.

And finally! I’ve joined a gym. Overall I’d give my attendance a C, especially since when I go there I tend to overwork myself and need to recover and then get lazy, but I’m going of my free will and not for some stupid new years resolution, so that’s something.

Overwatch. I’m having so much fun having something to focus on. It’s like sport but less filled with mysogyny. Funfunfunfun.

Cons

All those dead people. You know who they are. I don’t need or want to get into it. But everyone, please, keep Patrick Stewart safe.

I have RAW Comedy Competition in January and I’m scared as fuck. I’m a much more experienced actor and comedy is still very new. Every time I step on stage it’s like learning to walk. But this is for new performers and I certainly fit the bill.

My theatre restaurant show got cancelled. Temporarily, but still, a bummer. It always is when a paid gig gets put off. Daddy needs his honey!

I got a haircut and they cut too much and I kinda hate it. I want my viking braids back. 😥

Certain workplaces are less than awesome. Won’t name names. But I will tell you that one team leader munches on food in the backroom like the rest of them but I’m not allowed to. So that’s super fun.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with myself, and I’m gonna try and write some jokes out for January 21 Raw comp. AHHHHHHHHHH.

Take care home slices!

-Jack
http://www.jackinaction.com

Death, The Childhood Destroyer.

One of the stranger things about our species is our ability to figure out that we are going to die. An ability which I would argue is equal parts useless and useful. The inevitability of our fates would make it seem that knowing about it is essentially meaningless. What is there to be gained in knowing our own futility? And yet, with equal truth, we could say that knowing makes our lives more meaningful, as we know there is a full stop at the end of our sentence.

As for me, I remember with acute precision where I was when I first realized that I was a little boat full of holes, slowly filling with water. I was 10 years old, at a friend’s house, let’s call him Ryan. Ryan was a blonde boy, 12, and lived down my street, and this was as interesting as that kid was, as cruel as it is to admit. Still, he and his brother had a whole array of gaming devices (a Nintendo AND a PC, man!) and my brother and his were friends, so we were there fairly often, less out of genuine affection, but mere convenience, as I would later find in girls.

 

I had always had a fasincation with superheroes, what boy doesn’t in this day and age, and my hero of my childhood years was Spider-Man. He was a brightly coloured paragon of justice with a sense of humor a ten year old could get behind, and a secret identity of a regular joe schmo, struggling to pay his rent. There’s a reason ol’ Web Head has stayed relevant all these years, and you wouldn’t have caught a single day of me walking home from school without flicking my wrist and adjusting my fingers outward, trying to shoot webs and swing away to the nearest building, in a pose I hadn’t yet learned that, properly adjusted, was a good and proper salute to devil and his favourite music.

In 2001, Activision and Marvel Entertainment created “Spider-Man” a 3D Platformer of a superhero way back when before they were a surefire way to make profit. Yes, children, there was a time before the Arkham Games, get off my lawn. “Spider-Man” may have been a sterling success or a flop, all I know was it’s own significance to me. Back when games came on discs (again, lawn, mosey on off), I’d played a smidge of it at another friends house and couldn’t believe how cool I felt crawling on walls and beating up badly polygonal rent a thugs- but ALL OF A SUDDEN AFTER THE FIGHT WITH RHINO-

The game froze. Every time I tried. I was heartbroken.

On another visit where we talked just enough to keep our “friendship” afloat, yet left no room for doubt of the “wham bam” nature of it all- I saw the disc. I asked, heart in throat, whether I could give the game a try. To my elation, Ryan said yes, and like many a child, and indeed, adult would do in the years to come, I took a single player game, popped it in, and thorougly ignored my friend as he stood there by his chair at his desk in his house and didn’t ask for a turn. Ryan was good people. Which was lucky, because I was Spider-Man, and Spider-Man only takes the best.

Hours passed. I stayed glued to the screen, Ryan had long since abandoned me, presumably to look through the phone book to find a better friend. I let nothing break my focus, and soon I was on the final level.

I could go into the nefarious plot of Doc Ock, but all you really need to know is that he had bad guy plans that ended up creating this:

To this day, I remember that monster. Oh how awful it looked, maroon and black, with huge white staring eyes, hanging twelve feet above the floor, using only its hundreds of tentacles to slowly lumber forward toward its prey, and it’s scream, it’s awful guttural scream, a mixture of nails on chalkboards and a deep throbbing roar of eldritch horror, pattering towards me as I ran for my life-

Suddenly, a wall! Shit! I’d spent too much time staring at the thing, I prayed to whatever deity I could hit and hit the space bar as hard as I could to jump, and…!

I died. I died again. I died over, and over again, and every time I did, I felt my world crashing in on me. In my ten year old stomach I felt for the first time my gut clench, in the most primal form of fear and despair.

This creature was death. My death.

I was going to die.

It was hopeless.

One way or another, I would be consumed by this… thing.

I had no choice in the matter.

Running was an option, but only a temporary one. The abomination would always be there. I cried as I started the game again, like an addict jonesing from another hit, begging for another chance to run from my tormenter, not knowing why it hurt so bad to feel this way, and why I was so determine to try anyway.

On the umpteenth turn at bat, I breathed steadily, kept my reflexes sharp, and led the abomination forward and into the engine of the Submarine itself. BOOM! With all the processing power an engine of 2001 could muster, the screen filled with flame and rubble in a colossal explosion! SUCCESS! The two symbiotes unfuse, SHIELD picks up Spidey and his friends, congratulates him on a job well and Doc Ock is brought to justice. I had finished the game, and yet, I didn’t feel happy.

Feeling numb, I picked myself up and made my way home, trying to hide my obviously red, wet cheeks as I bade goodbye to a no doubt baffled Ryan. I ran home, opened the door, ran up the stairs and flung myself into bed.

Why did I feel so bad? It was just a game, after all.

“I’m going to die” I whispered to myself.

“I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.”

My childhood illusion had been shattered. I was not immortal. Nothing was. Nothing I viewed from that point on would be separable from that one, true fact. Nothing would be the same again.

I cried for a long, long time.

Do you remember the scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- where Professor Lupin and his class find out what their greatest fear is, come to life, right in front of them? And the only way to deal with it was just to laugh it away? If I were a betting man, I’d place good money on my personal boggart being that awful fusion, with that horrible sound of suffering, and to be honest, I’m still not sure what there is that you can laugh at about that.

THE BIG NEWS (In Story Form!)

For those that can’t be bothered reading this story I went out of my way to create- there’s a TL;DR right at the bottom. 😉

My office chair won’t bend backwards and I frustratingly push against it with all my might as I search the casting calls for this week on various social networks. One immediately catches my eye: SHAKESPEARE TOUR. WOW! What a wonderful gig that would be- travel around, bringing the bard’s words to life.

PAID?! Holy crap! Sign me up!

IN CHINA!

Huh?

Don’t get me wrong, I love China very much- I’d visited before on a different tour in fact! Love me some toilets that are essentially holes in the ground-

china trip 2Featured- Me In China. That’s not a hole in the ground btw, that’s The Great Wall. Kinda the opposite. Anyway.

That wasn’t the source of skepticism. It was the classic gut feeling of “This seems too good to be true”.

I’m a professional actor, and one of the first things you need to accept if you want to go down that path, or the path of any  artist, really- it’s that people are going to take advantage of you. If they can get away with it, they will use you and never compensate you for your time and effort.

And this? To me it legitimately sounded like a spam email .

COME TOUR SHAKESPEARE IN CHINA. ALSO SEXY SINGLES WANT YOUR DICK AND NIGERIAN PRINCES WANT YOU TO HAVE THEIR MONEY.

With this in mind, I cautiously put my name down to be considered, and a few emails later, there I was, sitting with other young and a few mid 40’s hopefuls. It’s not crowded, but it’s certainly not an open space to do your voice trills either– but I do my best to go over my lines and shoot the shit with my fellow performers. There’s always a temptation to not talk to ‘the competition’- don’t be that guy, dudes. If they hire the other guy, they do, and you feeling tense and giving the side eye to everyone else in the room will help your case not a bit.

After a time, I’m the only guy left in the room and I begin to play my warm up music. The entirety of KISS: ALIVE! A live album I’ve always got on my phone to psyche myself up. Yes, I know. Egh- KISS- what a bunch of posers. But to me they are the epitome of my values on stage- work your fucking tail off and give the audience what they paid to see. Every. Time. It’s hard not to feel invincible when I have Let Me Go Rock N’ Roll going- and I just let loose.

It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you warm up to these dudes.

Just as I’m really getting into it, letting my hair down and doing some air kicks- Chris- the co director and the wizard behind the curtain of this production, tells me to come in. I’m a little embarrassed- normally I use headphones- but since I was alone I was playing it full blast. I shake it off and walk in with confidence.

Entering the room I meet another director- one who’s very friendly- the good cop to Chris’ aloof persona. I introduce myself and get going performing the famous “All The World’s A Stage” monologue by Jacque from As You Like It. This along with my go to contemporary monologue (there is no record of it as it’s from a play I did in my university days)- make me feel pretty confident, I shake hands and leave.

An hour later- I get an email “CAN YOU COME BACK TOMORROW”

Um? Hell yes?

r2d2 beeps happily

The day flutters by quickly and there I am again with Chris and his codirector- they greet me and say “Are you ready to perform your Macbeth piece?”

“…Huh?”

Turns out they hadn’t sent me the email with the piece they wanted me to learn for the audition that night- meaning I was already handicapped. They said it was fine, I could just do Jacques’ monologue again.

lenny focus

Terror enters me. “It’s FINE? I don’t want FINE. I want GREAT! BRILLIANT! AMAZING! GODDAMNIT!” This flashes through my head in a split second, but I smile bravely and try not to let uncertainty enter my bloodstream- to be uncertain is death.

I take a deep breath, put my Jacques skin back on and this time I hold nothing back. I am sultry, I am slinky, I am sad at the state of the world- so sad I have to laugh. I see a stage in my peripheral vision and I RUN for it at full pelt- it’s at least 20 metres away, every second of silence gnaws at me, but uncertainty is not on the menu tonight.

Impressed, the codirector asks me to deliver the same monologue, as an older professor, tranquil. Still. Well, anyone who knows me knows who I wanted to emulate in that moment.

So I channel my inner Jean Luc/Patrick Stewart and I imagine myself behind a podium, restricting my movement and act like I’m teaching at a lecture hall, my voice as deep as I can achieve. I click my fingers at an imaginary chatterer- pay attention! I say with my eyes as I continue irritably with my lecture- and I laugh as an old man with experience as I talk about the lover, sighing like a furnace, my students comfort be damned.

I think that’s what did it. They smile. The codirector asks me- “Where did you study?” and I have to be honest- Griffith University in QLD- and he responds with “I can normally tell instantly what school people come from- WAAPA, NIDA, VCA, but your style is so unique.” I grin, I thank him. I shake hands- I walk out.

I wasn’t certain of course. You should never be 100% certain in these things, always looking forward in case it doesn’t work out. Plus, it saves you from utter heartbreak. Every time I ignore that rule, it reminds me hard why I should always follow it.

But it seems this one was meant to be. I got an email- many moons ago now- confirming my involvement in two plays for the month of April 2017- Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and character unconfirmed (GO BENEDICK!) in Much Ado About Nothing. I didn’t want to make a fuss about this until I signed the contract, but now I have.

I will be touring for a month, fully paid, all expenses paid through the tour- and I couldn’t be more excited. I can now consider myself a professional even more than I did before. I am so grateful, and thank you to everyone for your support while I’ve been biting my knuckles trying not to tell everyone. Thank you.

Now I’m off to play some Witcher 3! TEAM TRISS!

-Jack

TL;DR: I auditioned for a Shakespeare show and I got it, I’m touring China in April for a month and it’s paid and its awesome. YEEHA!

 

 

A Story About How I’m A Bad Person

Generally, when something bad happens to me, I initially feel pissed off. Everyone does, I’d say, except uber trained Super Monks. After that initial feeling of rage though, I make an active effort to let this stuff go.

This isn’t, sadly, because I’ve made a positive step to making my life better… It’s simply that my feeling angry about people being shitty to me would make me a massive goddamn hypocrite. Let me give you an example.

It’s the 90’s. I don’t recall what year anymore (which makes me pretty sad to be honest), and my father, brother and I are at a beach we often frequent on the borders of Queensland and New South Wales. Generally on our arrival, this would be my cue to go and climb the cliff, 35 metres high at least, to the extreme anxiety (later, chagrin) of my parents. But today we had boogey boards, so into the surf we went.

It was fairly routine that day, we swam out deep, avoided the humongous sharp rocks that littered the shallows, caught a wave and held on tight. Repeat. Immense joy, and bonding without words.

Now, our dad had made it clear if we ever encountered a rip, essentially where the sea was trying to drag you in a certain direction- it was important not to fight it, which is exactly what my brother, Kirby, deigned to do as I was towling off and enjoying the sunshine.

But one thing he could do? Scream. And he did that plenty.

“DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD! HEEEEEEEEEELP!” he cried out, his ginger curls obscuring his face, as with each wave he found himself slamming into a rock with only his foam board for protection.

In reality, Kirby was in no real danger, his boogey board was more than sufficient, and Kirby wasn’t drowning, Dad was an accomplished swimmer, already wading out to protect him, and the situation was under control.

But the truth of the matter is, to me, the sight of my 7 year old brother being tossed around like a beetle in a jar, was absolutely friggin’ hilarious to me.

All bullshit I could tell myself aside, that’s as far as it went for me, my brother in seemingly mortal danger just tickled my funny bone in the right way. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t nice, it certainly wasn’t brotherly, but it was goddamn funny.

To this day, I still laugh at inappropriate situations, when friends, family, and even myself are in trouble.

That’s what I remind myself, every time I wanna get mad about someone stealing my food from the fridge, or leaving my shit on the train. “I probably deserve this.”

Thing is? Even if I’m wrong? It’s a surprisingly effective remedy. Maybe try it. You shitbag.

Find me on my website or buy tickets to my comedy show on the 2nd of July in Melbourne!