Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/20/17

About 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles, just west of Santa Barbara, is the small town of Solvang. I've never been there, but it's supposed to be a popular place to go Danish. The city, built as a Danish community, is famous for Danish cookies and pastries. It sounds like a tourist trap, but a few thousand people live there.

The funny thing is, if you talk to anyone who lives in Los Angeles, they've been there. It's like asking people in New Jersey if they've ever been to New York. Except Solvang is a million times smaller and not the cultural, artistic and financial center of the country. But everyone goes there, either as a separate trip or on their way up the coast.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/19/17

What would you do to be famous? There was a time when people gained notoriety by actually accomplishing something. Explorers were known for discovering new lands and shipping passages. Scientists were known for discovering gravity and planets. Today, people seek fame by posting cellphone videos on Youtube.

But if you're an actor, how do you get people to notice you? The traditional route is to study your craft, work hard, pay your dues and rise through the ranks until you get bigger roles and more recognition. Jack Nicholson's first jobs in front of the camera were soap operas. His first movies were low budget horror and westerns. It was writing screenplays that led to better acting roles. He did Five Easy Pieces 16 years after moving to Hollywood.

Today, everyone wants their first acting job to be the lead role in a giant summer blockbuster that breaks all box office records and wins a million Oscars. If that's your plan, good luck.

A popular route to celebrity for people who want to be famous for the sake of being famous is to make a sex tape. I doubt they're as popular as they used to be, but they worked wonders for great thespians like Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton. Their sex tapes made them household names, and started a wave of copycats.

But I think people forget that Pamela Anderson was already moderately famous before her sex tape. She was also a Playboy model, so I don't know why anyone was excited to see her naked. That's as rare as seeing Lindsay Lohan drunk.

Paris Hilton kind of bothers me. She was born with every advantage, yet she blew it all just to have 15 minutes. If all she wanted was fame, she could have gotten it by using some of that money to do something worthwhile for humanity. I wouldn't expect her to cure cancer, but I'm sure we could all think of a better use of a billion dollars than a camera and hotel room.

Beverly Hills Hotel

Gil Turner's

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/18/17

Where would you throw a Christmas party if you lived in Los Angeles? There are plenty of hotels and event centers, but if you want somewhere with character, Los Angeles has a few options.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach is nice if you're into nautical themes, but I've decided to have a party at Harry Houdini's house in the Hollywood Hills. People disagree on whether or not he actually lived there, and the current building is a reproduction of the original. Even if Houdini lived on the property, he never lived in the house that exists today.

But it's a nice looking place that's available for private parties. The main house looks like a Mediterranean villa and the grounds are ideal for entertaining, with a terraced garden and rock waterfall. Spending the evening outdoors during Christmas might not be a good idea in most of the country, but this is Southern California.

Houdini Estate
Laurel Canyon Blvd

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/17/17

When the idea of setting a story in Los Angeles came to me, I wanted everything to revolve around Santa Monica. I've been there and I know the area more than any other part of Southern California. Originally, the main characters were going to live in Santa Monica and spend most of their time around the beach, pier and Montana Avenue. I even used MGM because I thought they were still in the Colorado Center.

Eventually, it made more sense to put them in the San Fernando Valley. It also opened more opportunities since a lot of people in Los Angeles look down on the Valley. It has some of the richest neighborhoods in the city, but some people ignore the hills and only think about areas like Pacoima, Van Nuys and Panorama City.

But I still wanted someone to live in Santa Monica, at least part time. So I'm putting one of the characters into a house on Palisades Avenue, near 4th Street. It's a nice little neighborhood near the park, with a large beach and ocean just down the cliff. I don't know what it would cost to actually live there, but it's next to Montana Avenue and close to the Third Street Promenade. I'm guessing it's a little pricey.

I wrote a quick scene between two of the characters on the beach that hopefully says a lot about their relationship in a short conversation.

Palisades Park, Santa Monica

Probably not the worst place to live.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/16/17

Stella Adler was one of the founders of method acting in the United States. Most people think about Lee Strasberg when you talk about the method. He was one of the first people to bring Stanislavski's system to the United States. But then Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner broke away from Strasberg when they thought he was focusing too much on parts of Stanislavski's training that Stanislavski himself came to reject.

In the most general terms, Lee Strasberg wanted actors to think about emotional moments from their lives and use that emotion on stage. If your character's father is dying, think about when someone in your family died. Stella Adler wanted actors to imagine the circumstances of the scene. If your character is a banker, go to a bank and learn what they do. Sanford Meisner wanted actors to react with other actors in the moment. Study your character to the point where you know how they would react in any given situation. Each approach is similar, and more or less based on Stanislavski's system. The audience would never be able to tell what the actor was doing, but it's obvious to the actors if their partner is using a different technique.

Acting with someone who uses Strasberg's method is like acting with a wall. When fully immersed in their own emotional memory, they can block out everyone else around them. Actors who use the Meisner technique are the exact opposite. They pay careful attention to everything their partner says and does. Adler students are closer to Meisner, but not as in the moment.

When I started acting, I thought Strasberg's method was the way to go. It makes sense. If you have to act an emotion, just imagine something in your past that brings out that emotion. But the younger you are, the less likely you'll have a similar experience. Shakespeare as a teenager is very difficult for someone with no life experience.

When I got a teacher who used the Meisner technique, I knew that was the way to go. It made even more sense. Rather than think about yourself, you react to the other characters around you. Ophelia isn't crazy because she has a chemical imbalance. She's crazy because Hamlet drives her crazy.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I found that with Strasberg's method, I could never cry on stage. Thinking about a sad memory never did it for me. As soon as I went Meisner, I could cry on cue. Rather than make myself cry from a buried emotion, I was crying because of the character's situation. It suddenly got very easy. It's also much easier to recover when you're crying based on the scene rather than something terrible in your past.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/13/17

I spent a few chapters hinting and teasing at a film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. In chapter 16, I finally get into the story.

The fictional film is about Émile Armand, but my story is not. One of my characters is an actress who plays one of Émile Armand's lovers in the film. Her mother is also one of Armand's lovers, and one scene in the film explores their little triangle, culminating in a threesome between mother, daughter and their shared lover. It's the kind of twisted situation someone like Bertolucci would film.

I didn't write it just because it's twisted. There are some Oedipal and Electra issues the character has to work out. It's not at all graphic. It's supposed to be more psychological than titillating. In fact, I should mention the character's relationship with her parents more. That might help her.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/12/17

Who are your biggest influences? That's a question you're going to get a lot if you do any kind of acting. My standard answers are Helen Mirren, Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep and Sally Field. More or less.

In having one of the characters answer that question, I chose Jennifer Aniston. There's no real reason. She just seemed like an actress most people probably don't look up to as their acting idol. I'm not mocking Jennifer Aniston. I have nothing against her. She simply popped into my head when I thought about actresses that people probably don't think of as their acting idols.

But it makes sense, in a way. If you grew up with Friends, and you're a big fan, you might think more of Jennifer Aniston as an actress than most people. I first learned about Alan Alda from M*A*S*H. He's done a lot since then, of course. And who knows. Maybe in 50 years, Jennifer Aniston will be universally admired for her work.

The African Queen
Directed by John Huston
© 1951 Horizon Pictures

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/11/17

The new character that I've just introduced is from Alaska. I wanted her to be from somewhere very far away from Los Angeles, but still have a down home Americana feel.

I don't know anything about Alaska. I've seen pictures. It looks very nice. But I probably picture it as the frozen wasteland that most Americans picture of Minnesota. Since I know beyond any doubt that Minnesota is nothing like Antarctica, I have to leave open the possibility that Alaska doesn't match its stereotype either.

Rather than bog myself down in research on Alaska and its community culture, I'm just going to think of this character as being from Iowa. I suppose I could make her from Iowa, but Alaska is more mysterious. To me, at least.

Choosing her hometown was not entirely scientific. I looked at a map of Alaska and picked a coastal town in the middle of nowhere. I wanted her to be from the coast rather than inland to contrast with the Southern California beaches. Alaska has an enormous coastline, so there must be all kinds of beaches. But I'm assuming they're not quite like Venice.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/10/17

Are there any acting schools in Los Angeles? Of course there are. I could have easily had one of the characters go to any anonymous acting school and no one would have ever questioned it. There are probably thousands of schools in Southern California.

But I like to at least picture a place in my head when I'm writing about it. I can write about the 405 freeway and picture a million parked cars, but I don't know of a single acting school anywhere in Los Angeles.

Since there are far too many choices, I picked one near a Mexican restaurant that I remember from my 2014 Los Angeles trip.

Casa Martin
Santa Monica, California

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/9/17

I don't like reality TV shows. I never have. For one thing, they're not very realistic. In the first episode of one of the very first reality TV shows, MTV's The Real World, one of the characters points out that the way they were living in that house had nothing to do with the real world.

Today's reality shows are either game shows – America's Next Top Garbage Collector, American Prep Cook, American Accountant Wars or shows that follow curiosities around – Here Comes Child Services, Newark Shore, Keeping Up with Chlamydia.

It's not that scripted shows are always better. There have been some pretty terrible shows over the years. Remember Manimal or Holmes & Yoyo? Those were not Saturday Night Live sketches. They actually existed. But the entire point of a TV show is to entertain. Is anyone really entertained by watching actors pretend to buy abandoned storage units or people who aren't actors acting like they're buying a house?

In this story, there's a reality TV show that takes someone from one religion and has them live with a family of a different religion. The fake reality show is called Turning the Other Cheek. A conservative Mormon goes to live with a liberal Jewish family, a Muslim lives with a Catholic family. That sort of thing. It sounds like such an absurd idea that I looked around to make sure it didn't already exist. I'm sure it will sooner or later, but for now, I can't find anything like it.