Wednesday, April 20, 2005

We fucked up, they got away...

I think a lot of people will remember that as a line from the movie "Scarface" with Al Pacino. It was a line spoken by a guy named Mike Moran who I got to know very briefly while working on a show called Wish You Were Here. It was a short-lived CBS sitcom starring a guy named Lew Schneider. I was thinking about Mike this morning - I'm not sure why - I think I heard something on the radio while I was driving that reminded me of Scarface and when I do, I always think of that line. Mike was working in the art department on Wish You Were Here and I was a PA - it was actually my first job. He was really nice to me (in fact everyone on that job was really nice to me,) and he told me at one point that he was an actor and had done Scarface. At the time, being young and naive, I couldn't imagine why anyone who had been in a movie that big would be slinging a hammer (as the expression goes - though more for grips than anyone else.) Now I understand that one small part doesn't make a career - but - at the time I didn't understand and moreover - I had no idea who he was in the film even though I'd seen it a dozen or more times. Then he spoke that line and it all came back - but what stuck with me most was how proud of that he was, and how happy he was with my reaction to it.

So why am I writing about Mike today? I looked him up on IMDB to see what he'd been doing since then and I discovered a long list of credits. He'd been working and since it didn't look like many of them were big parts, I suspect he kept swinging that hammer as well. And that makes me feel good. Because I knew at the time he loved being an actor. He loved doing it and he kept doing it. He persisted and was, at least when I knew him, a happy guy. I was sad to discover, when I looked him up, that he passed away last year. But it got me thinking about some of the other people I met and liked on that show - people who I now realize were very important to me. People like Norman Berns, a great Production Manager who I learned a lot from - he's on the various yahoo groups and is still offering advice. Bob Doran, another production guru who I worked for quite a bit after that, though I've lost touch with him. Bob Altman (not Robert Altman, but another journeyman director I've stayed in touch with) who actually brought me on to the job. We went to the same high school and had been introduced by Ted Stolar - our photography teacher who was a fabulous mentor to me. He's producing for Martha Stewart these days. Skip Lane, a former William Morris Agent turned Producer who later gave it all up to pursue a dream of running a golf course (I actually learned a lot about golf - and the industry - from him (and he introduced me to Paul McIlvane a brilliant gaffer/DP who lent me his Bolex one weekend to shoot my first short (which remains in a box in my closet and will never see the light of day.))) Steve Bawol, a writer I've lost touch with, though I heard he was living in Paris. Lew Schneider, who was the star of the show and went on to Exec. Produce (and write) Everybody Loves Raymond - after a brief stop hosting on a kid's game show that my brother actually won $1000 dollars on as a 12-year-old. And Leanne Drum, a fellow PA who actually helped me land my first PA job in Los Angeles when I decided to make the plunge and who wound up as the Music Supervisor on my first film. She's off to graduate school now. Ruth who taught me to drive stick shift one day, Jackie, an assistant director who was wonderful to me and taught me and I think I kind of flirted with, Kathleen Phelan who I still think about and others.

It's funny, now that I think about it, how all those people touched my life and it's funnier still how a random thought caused me reflect upon them. It was a rare occurence for me, that show, all those people. I was young(er) and eager to learn, I was an open book and they were all more than willing to help me fill the pages. There are not a lot of opportunities in this business like that, so I would encourage anyone who happens to read this to take advantage of them. Listen, learn and most importantly stay in touch with everyone.

That is, unfortunately, advice I lost sight of for a while. But I'm back at it now. There's always something you can learn and there are always benefits to having friends. I hope, at the time, I gave them back even a little of what they gave me. There is not enough of that in the film business.

I'll bet you never thought a posting that started with, "We fucked up, they got away..." would end this way. I guess I needed a little pep talk from myself this morning.

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