Summer Days

the order 1886 upcoming ps4 video game My two years in LA have seen a variety of projects, the past few weeks especially: a commercial for Plantronics‘ latest headset (which debuted at E3 last month), a silent black-and-white western shot on 16mm film (scroll down for production stills), an appearance on an improvised court show, and the long-awaited announcement of the video game my facial likeness will appear in – the upcoming PlayStation 4 title, The Order: 1886 (watch the trailer below).

On top of all that, last week I did ADR for the heavy metal comedy, You Are in Bedford, Man, which is in the final stages of post-production. I’m also gearing up for a documentary project with a noted LA-filmmaker, currently in pre-production. A few of the opportunities that lie ahead include an audition for a network mini-series (details forthcoming) and collaborating on a passion-project with a good friend and very talented story-teller.

Realizing I hadn’t seen a play in well over a year (!!), my nostalgia for live theatre finally convinced me to check out some shows and I’m so glad I did! Two radically different, but equally enjoyable Hollywood Fringe Festival productions – The Fire Room and White Trash Wedding and a Funeral. The Fire Room was an original piece created by the talented ensemble at The Fugitive Kind. A dark, funny, honest, strange play, The Fire Room felt like it was born in a twisted mirror of our world, just close enough to catch our unsettling reflections. The writing channeled the poetry of Tennessee Williams and the performances brought to life some desperate, hopeful characters. Stella! At the opposite end of the spectrum, White Trash Wedding and a Funeral was not a re-imagining of the Hugh Grant/Andie MacDowell movie, but it did feature booze, boobs, mass murder, and a kick-ass, trailer trash karaoke rendition of Sister Christian. Good times!

Speaking of weddings (slightly more normal ones, thankfully), I returned to North Carolina last month to be best man at my friend’s wedding – congratulations, Travis and Samantha!

A slightly more normal wedding

Canon Printer Shoot and a Silent Western

Summer’s just round the bend and (thankfully) I’ve had plenty to keep me occupied. After wrapping You Are in Bedford, Man in early April, I drove down to Costa Mesa where I filmed an industrial with Innovate Media for Canon’s latest wireless printer-to-camera products. I’ve included some production stills below (also featuring actress Tatum Langton):

Last weekend, I worked with director Tyler Schwartz on a rather unique UCLA project – a black and white silent Western, shot on 16mm film! While not exactly Django Unchained in terms of scope, the costumes were fantastic, the outdoor locations were well-suited, and the cast and crew were a pleasure to work with (also, did I mention it was shot on 16mm film?) I’m always thrilled to be a part of my favorite genre and savored the opportunity to recreate the old silent Western shorts so many filmmakers cut their teeth on in the 1920s (I was probably born in the wrong decade).

Here I am in period get-up (a drunkard, a deserter, and a reluctant father), with co-stars David Voorkamp (my long-suffering son) and Cindy Derby (a virtuous schoolteacher, prone to fainting):

Frontier Family Sepia

There will be a public screening at UCLA in a few weeks’ time, I hope to have more information soon.

Sex, Wigs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll

rex-and-roy-ripper-you-are-in-bedford-man Smells like teen spirit gum! This past weekend, I did my best to embody the rock ‘n’ roll soul of the 80s, complete with groupies, needles, riffs, and … hair. Way too much hair.

In fact, I was joining the cast and crew of You Are in Bedford, Man (produced by the prolific Royal Institute for Picture Quality) on their last day of filming. I play Roy Ripper – the voice, sex symbol, and mustache behind Devil Breath, an unfortunately-named heavy metal band enjoying the heights of success in 1983. My bass-playing brother, musical prodigy and co-founder Rex Ripper (played by Brennan Murray) has us sat down for an MTV-esque interview, but of course, everything goes horribly, offensively wrong. The entire process felt like a deleted scene from This is Spinal Tap. So much fun!

In other news, I kicked off April with an industrial shoot in Costa Mesa for an upcoming Canon printer – more information on that in the next few weeks! Production also wrapped on a few additional scenes for Normal Activity. I hope to have some exciting updates on that project very soon!

120 Hour Film Festival

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With Josh T. Burke in ‘Normal Activity’. I acted opposite this guy in an outdoor drama, one sweltering Ohio summer 5 years ago. Crazy how things work out, huh?

On Sunday evening, February 17th, I had never heard of the 120 Hour Film Festival. By the time Monday rolled around, I knew there was a film being made in less than 5 days, and that I *might* be acting in it (I had no idea what it was about, and neither did anyone else, because it hadn’t been written yet!) On Tuesday night, I was standing in the middle of somebody-who-I’d-never-met’s house with lights, cameras, boom mics, a hysterical script and an enthusiastic cast and crew which included friends old and soon-to-be. I felt like I was doing theatre again – the air was thick with collaboration, and paranoia. And I was playing a dude named Brad …. again (much to Carl Pinder‘s amusement).

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Pictured with director Ben Austen and actress Maura Mannle on the Activate-sponsored red carpet. Even though I’m not selling it, that Activate stuff really was delicious.

The next few days continued to feel like theatrical déjà vu – lots of ideas, lots of energy, lots of stress, lots of fun, and not enough time. But somehow, despite a few logistical disasters, a brief moment of panic from our very talented cinematographer, and some dangerous levels of sleep-deprivation and energy drinks, we pulled it off. Our 120 hour film-making process turned out to be a very well-received 8 minute short, Normal Activity – a spoof of all those ghost-hunter reality TV shows you find on TLC. Not only did our amazing editors craft a finished-product from hours of footage in record time, but in the midst of the chaos, they revealed a very funny, award-winning film. Normal Activity won Best Screenplay, Best Director, and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sherry Theatre’s inaugural 120 Hour Film Festival. There were 5 very ambitious, completely original short films at the festival, and it was a joy to see what other feats had been pulled-off in so little time by such gung-ho artists! To read more about the festival and the films, check out the NoHo Arts District review: www.NoHoArtsDistrict.com

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Awards galore! From left to right, director Virginia Crawford (Audience Award for ‘Deserted’), Best Actress winners Kim Beavers & Danielle Scheid, our Best Director, Ben Austen, our Best Screenwriter Lena Thomas, Best Actor William Gabriel Grier, Best Editor Michael Stratigakis, and Best Cinematographers Brad Kaz & Josh Maas (not pictured).

But it’s not over yet – the film still needs a little bit of polish, but we feel we might be on to something here. A few additional shoots are in the works, and then it’s off to some more film fests we go! But all I really want to know is … when do we start making the sequel?

Winter

Ross Denyer Winter in Los Angeles isn’t so much a change in temperature, more of a change in temperament. There’s no snow, no significant seasonal shift (unless pilot season counts), but wrapping up one year and figuring out the next is quite a transition. Especially if you’ve been in hibernation as long as I have, and need some thawing out.

A few months ago, I wrote about the true meaning of success. I said it was in the mind. It was a matter of outlook, more than circumstances (in that sense, success and resilience share many qualities). Is it reasonable to consider that failure might also be in the mind? Of course, it’s not a desirable state. We dress it up as something more favorable or appealing, and hope that nobody will notice (especially ourselves). But soon, doubt starts to creep in and, if we let it, fear. Fear of making the wrong choice, fear of not committing fully to the right choice. Fear of turning something down, fear of saying “yes”. Fear of failure. Even fear of success. So many unknowns. It’s stifling.

A professor in college told me that “fear kills creativity.” Fear has been an interminable itch of mine for a long time. And I’d by lying if I said I’d found the magic solution. I certainly haven’t. But that’s a bit of a mind game, isn’t it? There doesn’t need to be a magic solution, but there does need to be a process. “Giving up” is the absence of process. “Mindfulness” is making oneself open to the possibilities around us. I know what I need to work on.

Recently, I had my first audition in 3 months. It was an absolute joy. I was suddenly grateful for an opportunity that (I’m ashamed to say) I had begun to take for granted. There’s something positive to be said about constant rejection: when acceptance does arrive, its value is appreciated. After a long winter, in which I allowed the cold to numb my senses, I’ve begun to diminish my fear. It’s still there, but I see it for what it is: a flinching of the mind, not a fair reflection on my circumstances. There are many opportunities, and I am grateful for the people in my life who remind me to reach out and honor them.

I’ve had five auditions in the past week. I don’t know if I’ll book any of them, but then, it doesn’t really matter what I think. That decision is in someone else’s hands. For me, I just need to do the work. And I’m pleased to rediscover how much I enjoy it.

New Acting Reel!

Just in time for the holidays, I was fortunate to receive a few long-anticipated pieces of footage, including the uber-cool intro for the upcoming sci-fi musical Attack of the Tropes (for an extended sneak peak of the short film, check out Rubicon Crossing Productions for a 2-minute teaser, available to watch directly on Vimeo).

I’m still waiting on footage from a few other projects, but since time doesn’t hang around, I figured it was a prime opportunity for an updated, slimmed-down, powerhouse acting reel. It was good fun editing it, I hope you enjoy watching it. :D

Ross Denyer Acting Reel 2012 from Ross Denyer on Vimeo.

Success is in the Mind

Reading – it’s a good habit I’m trying to reacquire. Not reading websites, or the news, or because someone told me to, but out of my own curiosity and desire to grow. I like the texture of books, the visceral feeling of turning pages. Kindle’s pretty cool, but it just doesn’t feel right. Fortunately, there’s a library within walking distance and a limited but unusual collection of books I might have never found elsewhere – The Mindful Brain, for instance.

Daniel J. Siegel (co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center) writes about increasing our mental awareness, attuning with ourselves and others and improving our well-being as a result. I keep coming back to his section on “Attention to Intention”, because I recognize its description of a life-long struggle: “Intention is a central organizing process in the brain that creates continuity beyond the present moment.” We often talk about “intending” to do something, but do we really mean it, or are we just kidding ourselves and others?

The book continues: “a way of making sense of emotion is to identify it with the intention to act in the near future… most basically, emotion is outward movement. It is the stretching forth of intention.” Wow. I think on how often I feel strongly about something, I feel compelled to pursue something. Actors try to to carry this with them onto the stage or in front of a camera, but we all do this constantly. Sometimes we don’t even realize the impact. I know I haven’t.

Success can quickly become this distant ideal. “One day, I’ll be successful…” It’s easy to lose perspective on the here and now, to get distracted or disinterested. When I get like this, I start walking in endless circles, I build my own cage and sit in it. It’s not until I realize the foolishness of this self-imposed prison that I’m able to reconnect with the bigger picture. We all have a place in the big picture, but sometimes we stare at our one, small square for so long we miss the rest.

Recently, I’ve become fascinated by the sport (or better, the art) of boxing. Athletes and fighters must have incredible mental fortitude. They must push themselves in training, they must stay focused, ready, committed. Then they step into the ring and the outcome of months and years of dedication is decided in minutes… sometimes moments. In that bout, there can only be one victor. Muhammad Ali said this:

Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.

On this day, 38 years ago, Muhammad Ali reclaimed the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World from George Foreman, arguably the sports upset of the century. Until that day, George Foreman was undefeated. The crowd and commentators couldn’t believe it. Even Foreman couldn’t believe it. But Ali could. He already had.

Success is in the mind. So is failure. In one of my favorite interviews, Tom Selleck said he had to “make friends with failure” before he could move forward.

As I reflect on where I am, what’s behind me, and what’s next, I’m reminded of the importance of outlook (and inlook). A bold current of emotion, passion-fueled dreams, suggests the direction I’m heading. But my success doesn’t arrive in some distant conclusion, it’s with me through mindfulness: an “attention to intention.” Remembering this, I find joy in the present and enthusiasm for the future.

Feeling attuned

Headshots

Just had some amazing new headshots snapped by the effortlessly intuitive Antonio E. Pedreira. From his raw talent and keen eye, to his relaxed work environment and subtle direction, I cannot recommend him enough!

Check out Antonio’s online portfolio at www.AntonioEPedreira.com and contact him if you’re interested in setting up a headshot session. He’s based out of the Westwood area in Los Angeles, near UCLA.

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A Wall of Cameras, a Tour of Duty, and a Film Festival

So what’s been happening the last few weeks? A fair bit.

I wrapped filming on Attack of the Tropes on July 3rd (which, rumor has it, is nicely stuck into post-production), and drove down to San Diego the following week for a gig with Sony Computer Entertainment (just happened to be the same weekend as Comic-Con, but fortunately for all involved, I left my Princess Leia outfit at home). I was hired to have my head “scanned” into an upcoming PS3 title (I don’t know what it is, and even if I did, Sony would put a hit on me if I told). The whole experience felt very Tron-ish – a wall of cameras were lined up to photograph me from every possibly angle simultaneously (except, when they didn’t – “Misfire!”) I had to contort my face into dozens of different configurations to help the game designers build a repertoire of character expressions. The expressions tended to be at the extreme, and a few times my jaw felt like it might come unhinged. Who knew sitting in a chair and getting photographed could give you muscle cramp?

Several auditions and a birthday later, an opportunity came up for a role as a soldier in a U.S. Military training video, produced by Poya Pictures. We filmed out in Santa Clarita at the prolific Blue Cloud Movie Ranch (where notable scenes in Ironman, the TV series JAG, and hundreds of other film, television, and commercial productions have done location filming). There were 5 of us playing soldiers on the day (and would you believe it, two of us were Brits playing Americans!) I don’t have any pics of me in Kevlar and camouflage (hoping to get some from the on-set photographer soon), but fellow soldier on set (and former U.S. Marine!) Javier Lezama kindly let me post a few of his snapshots (see below):

Javier Lezama

As you can see, Javier is the real deal.

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Cast and crew took home hundreds of leftover bananas!

On August 1st, the romantic-comedy short Moving Boxes (which wrapped filming in April), premiered at Prescott Film Festival. Moving Boxes has also been selected as part of Prescott Film Festival’s monthly series, with a screening on August 15th.