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“31, Numb, but the Hurt is Gone…”

Friends,

I’m 31.

31 stony grey steps toward the grave if I’m looking to be poetic and needlessly morose.

It’s certainly been a full 31 years, but even in light of everything I have experienced thus far, I feel in some ways like I am just getting started.

Not at life, mind you, but at living.

This is gonna be a big year for me. How do I know?

Well because it has to be. I can’t keep on the way I have been thus far or I will keep getting what I have always gotten.

And I’m bored of that.

2015 was a big year for me. Monster was my operative word. It was my theme for the year if you will. It was on my tongue for everything I wanted to do career-wise.

And, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy: It was my biggest year in film (such as it was), and certainly I could have kept said momentum up and kept growing, albeit in a linear fashion.

But that didn’t seem righteous to me. Essentially, there were other areas of my life I had been neglecting during my entertainment pursuits, most notably my aspirations as an adventurer, and to keep on the same way I had been would have been to repress those longings.

So I donned the sombrero and poncho of el peregrino and made my first foray into Latin America where I partook in ayahuasca and shot a film. This satisfied my longing for adventure while reassuring me that I wasn’t losing too much professional momentum. I got two birds stoned at once as it were.

But now I’m back home. Back for over two months actually, and I stand at a bit of a crossroads: Where do I go from here? I could go back into that linear progression but it doesn’t feel righteous; that is to say I don’t find myself pulled in that direction. After all, do I really wanna spend the rest of my life only telling other people’s stories? No, mine must be the priority.

I feel on a very deep level that to keep pursuing the same things, the same way in the same place is to do myself a disservice and squander my potential while ignoring my passions.

If the theme of 2015 was Monster, the theme for 2016 is Evolve. I have known this…felt this, since mid-2015. I’ve recognized this need for a quantum-shift for that long.

So how do I plan on evolving?

Well, I am precipitating said evolution assymetrically and on many fronts simultaneously, developing existing aptitudes and even trying my hand at new endeavours not strictly film or even adventure related. That’s a big step for me.

So what are some of my approaches?

Well, there is another adventure documentary in the works which will be my greatest undertaking yet. I can’t speak too definitively about it right now simply because I’m not producing/organizing it (which is kind of a relief), but if it doesn’t get deferred until 2017, it will begin this October. Stay tuned for that.

But, I’m kinda sorta almost hoping it does get deferred until next year because my back-up plan is pretty damn sweet too. I’ve started making some inquiries about this one but I can’t start making arrangements until my new passport comes in over the next couple weeks…

On the home front I am starting a collective which at this moment I am simply calling ACCESS. It will be a first furtive step in the direction of embodying a set of values important to me and my partners in the project, values such as sustainability, abundance, collaboration and skill-development to name a few. We are still selecting the property we wish to purchase for this endeavour, and there is a strict set of criteria it must meet, but I am confident we can have that portion of it sorted out before any departure I may be inclined undertake in the fall. This will be a long-term project that will grow and develop as my partners and I do, and I’m excited to begin living values that I have thus far just been discussing.

With regard to strictly creative endeavours, I’ve done something I’ve been meaning to for some time now which  is to lay down vocals for a hip-hop track. Director and Rapper, Matthew Luppino is producing it and it should be out over the next few weeks. I love rhyming and playing with words and so this is a long-overdue step. I want to challenge myself to write a few tracks a year as a way of harnessing this skill. I’m nice at writing bars. Now the world will see this.

Film-wise, I haven’t been applying for auditions but I have kept busy enough through referrals and the like, and for about a month of my time home I was pretty goddamn busy doing stunts on Blood & Fury: America’s Civil War. This latter was actually really important because it gave me that feeling of still being in the game which is so useful for combating feelings of idleness during this period of reflection.. But the whole time I’ve meditated constantly upon how to evolve. A seemingly obvious step would be to finally look into getting an agent but I’m not 100% sold on that…yet. I think there are other ways in which I can transcend where I’m at before I allow that influence into my life.

Finally I am going back out to comedy shows after a lengthy hiatus. This time however I am more aware of how I present myself on stage and going to try new means of delivering my ideas which will hopefully add to their efficacy.

Like I said earlier, I’m 31. I am LITERALLY in the prime of my life when all factors are taken into consideration. True, my body may have some wear and tear (I was in the army for 10 years), but that is mitigated by eating well and keeping fit. And really, from a physical fitness perspective, I’m still easily in the upper 20th percentile of North American men my age. But even if I wasn’t that lack would be offset by the fact that I’m smarter, wiser, more focused, more established and freer than I’ve ever been. I am at a singular moment in my life where I can do ANYTHING. So it’s very important that I don’t squander this time with vain pursuits because I will never be able to achieve like I can achieve now.

Evolve.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Deconstructing the Abortion Debate

Friends,

Tomorrow I will be shooting a short film where I will play an eccentric drug dealer who counts among his hobbies protesting abortion clinics.  I’ve been a little bit apprehensive about this role because I am going to portray the character as a lovable rogue and his predilection for said protest might be decoded as misogyny which would be discordant with the type of character I am trying to cultivate. And while this project was originally intended to be the pilot for a series, it may very well end up being a one-shot which means I might not get a chance to explore the character’s motivations further than the one-page script. So, my challenge has been looking at my dialogue and plot arc and trying to figure out a way to illustrate that my strong feelings regarding abortion aren’t strong feelings at all but rather borne out of a desire to be a shit-disturber who may very well protest pro-lifers the next week.

So we’re clear, my difficulty is with how I will cultivate a happy-go-lucky character who makes sense to me.

However, thinking about my misgivings regarding the portrayal has led me to question the cause of those misgivings. Certainly from a young age my mother, a self-identifying feminist, always told me I was pro-choice and encouraged me to voice that position whenever my (Catholic) school would hold fundraisers for various pro-life organizations. It was an interesting challenge as a child to make pro-life posters for school (marked assignments) which didn’t betray the convictions I held dear due to my mother’s influence. Perhaps my first exercise in diplomatic, political writing.

Pro-Choice
However, I don’t want to give the impression that I saw no logic in the pro-choice position and that I was only parroting my mother’s position. In truth I saw then and still do see the merits of the position, but only within the current temporal context of our socio-economic system. After all, having a child is an explicitly social and economic undertaking and it often precludes other social and economic goals. Therefore, the decision about whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is very often (if not always) a social one and, tragically, an economic one.

Pro-Life
So where does that leave pro-life? Well, in my estimation, those who maintain a strict, unwavering pro-life position espouse a wonderful, idealistic outlook that is not tied to the world we actually live in.  I don’t think they are wrong  in any absolute sense, but that is mainly because I don’t put much stock in concepts like right and wrong. Rather I think they look at the folly of doing harm in an immediate way (abortion) in the hopes of preventing greater harm (social or economic) at a later time.  In other words, they don’t think the ends justify the means, and I have a lot of sympathy for this position. After all, how many pilots on bombing runs would cease to pull the trigger if they focused on the immediate act of murder they were about to commit rather than the vague, amorphous ideal (freedom, democracy, etc.) which they were fighting for in the long-term? We live in a culture that is obsessed with the notion that the ends justify the means, when instead our means should…must justify our ends* if we want to progress as a species.

The Conflict
So which side of the debate do you subscribe to?  Both sound awesome! After all, I love life and I love choice, but unfortunately I can only pick one. After all, if the laws are in favour of pro-life and abortions are banned, then the pro-choice camp is gonna say that the rights of women are being infringed upon. On the other hand, if the laws are in favour of pro-choice and abortions are legalized, the pro-life camp is gonna complain that the rights of fetuses are being infringed upon. So to me its simply a case of rights vs. laws. But here’s the thing: so-called rights can be taken away by any entity which exerts force or power over you while so-called laws will be broken by anyone with a will to do so, so in reality pro-life vs. pro-choice equates to “imaginary privilege” vs. “imaginary constraint” on the back end

Ultimately I’d like to see no fetus aborted because I think it is an act of violence but we don’t live in that world yet; there is still economic disparity which makes raising a child an imposing undertaking, there are career aspirations which would be threatened by having a child, and there is a lack of information about contraception in many parts of the world. Many pregnancies are going to be unwanted and summarily dealt with. However, before we presume to pass judgement of any human being for their perceived transgressions in our eyes, we should remember the maxim, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Or, more plainly, if you don’t like women having abortions, stop supporting a socio-economic system of inherent corruption, scarcity, and systemic disadvantage which leads a woman to have to make that most difficult of choices.

Don’t get too bogged down in the polarizing abortion debate because there is a truth that unites us all and mitigates such squabbles.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*For more on this idea, check out “The Rules of Chaos” by Stephen Vizinczey

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“Glitterati” – One Weekend in the Big City

Friends,

I opened up this window intending to talk about the Toronto International Film Festival premiere I almost just attended but it occurred to me that I could do with talking about the weekend as a whole because it was full of movie magic.

FRIDAY
Friday I departed for Toronto early so as to be on set for 11am to shoot a short film called The Prostitute.  Although it was all above-board with regard to permits and such, it had a very guerrilla feel to it due to the fact that the director had the actors helping out with things like blocking traffic and such.  I didn’t mind this because I think film-making at the indie level is, by definition, a collaborative effort, but towards my 8th hour on location without being called in front of a camera I got the sense that such delegation was symptomatic of a deeper disorganization.  The crew members confirmed as much to me as it was starting to get dark.
Now when I’m on set I plan on being there all day so I wasn’t too perturbed about not being called for hours, but there was another lady accompanying her 5-year-old daughter (one of the principals) and as it started to get dark she was getting visibly agitated.  I felt for her because she had also taken the day off work and when it was all said and done neither of us had gotten on set at all.
As it stands, the ADs are going to aim to schedule another shoot date where they will have organizational control and the director will simply direct and not plan.  I think this will be a good arrangement because as a director I think he really has a vision and is someone who knows how to coax the best performance out of his actors.  I look forward to going back and finishing the project.
This project is also significant for me in that it will be my first on-screen kiss.  I met my on-screen girlfriend on Friday and getting to know her and doing blocking with her had a vaguely first-date feel about it.  Hopefully this chemistry translates well to the screen because my IRL girlfriend, Chelsea is not thrilled about this arrangement, and we wouldn’t to be in the doghouse for naught, would we?
Oh, and then I went to go get my bike after we wrapped and someone had stolen the seat from it.  I hope it helps them in their endeavours.

SATURDAY
Saturday, I had two auditions: The first was  for the part of a reluctant neo-Nazi; more frustrated young man than racist ideologue.  He is actually the protagonist in the story and it worked well because I already have a shaved head (which is entirely incidental BTW).  They also had me do a cold read for the antagonist, the leader of a skinhead group named Ian.  Something of a charismatic orator, Ian has a hard-on for hunting blacks so I ad-libbed some of the oration dialogue employing everyone’s favourite N-word.  I only bring this up because it was my first time saying “nigger” in an audition and I would be saying it again in an audition before the day was through.
The second audition was one of those ones you go to that you don’t really remember what part you are trying for and you can’t even go back and look at the original posting because the filmmakers have already taken it sown.  So I walked into the meeting room and the filmmakers gave me free rein to deliver some prepared dialogue (monologue), but to ascertain the kind of character I was trying so so I could better inform my selection of monologue I started asking some sneaky questions like, “How do you see this character,” and “Give me your take on his motivations.”  They were happy to talk at length about the character; they even lauded me for hitting the nail on the head as to how he should be played when I wrote my cover letter for the audition (“Oh…yeah…my cover letter :-|), but unfortunately their explanations didn’t give me a clue to which monologue I should go with so I said fuck it and just went with a brand new one I had adapted from this classic scene from The Wire.
Well, my gambit paid off as it turned out both casting directors were big fans of the show and really liked my Avon impression (which, in case you were paying attention was my second and third utterance of “nigger” in an audition setting that day and ever).  However, they wanted to see another side so I did one of my more recent favourites which is the “Mongoloid” monologue Sheriff Earl McGraw delivers at the beginning of From Dusk ’til Dawn.
Overall I was happy with how both of these auditions went and I feel like if they go with someone different its because I didnt look the part or someone else just did way better.  That’s the best way to feel I find because that way you don’t have to torture yourself worrying about how it could have gone better.

SUNDAY
Two more auditions.  The first was kind of lukewarm due to the fact that it was a cold read and the first role I read for was not really a character who was suited to my particular talents.  They asked me to read for another character though which went a lot better so we’ll see.
The next audition was actually a callback which I should have memorized but did not and I ad-libbed some of the dialogue which would have been okay under normal circumstances but these particular filmmakers wanted a more faithful read-through of the script.  Even worse I think I threw off the guy I was reading with.  Fortunately when I went back out to the hall I practiced it a couple of times and when I read through it with the next guy it was a lot better and verbatim from the script with my own added flair.  They seemed to appreciate this so we’ll see how it goes.  I was kind of disappointed in myself for coming in there all reckless like I did but hopefully my 180 in the span of a few minutes impressed upon them some adaptability on my part and made me a little more memorable in their minds.
**************
Afterwards I made my way down to TIFF to meet up with Matt, Nita and Danny to wait in line for the premiere of Gravity.  For three hours we waited and when we were close to getting in, there came the announcement that Rush seating had filled and that we would not be able to get in.  This was disappointing but I certainly didn’t regret hanging out for three hours with some cool peoples.

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That said, as soon as we got the info that the movie was a no-go I took the opportunity to break out as quick as I could and head back to the home I hadn’t been to since Friday morning.
All in all it wasn’t a horrible weekend: nothing on film, four solid to good auditions, stolen bicycle seat, lost earphones and three hours chillin’ with my peoples.
Can’t wait to see what next weekend holds.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Lights, Camera, Action

Friends,

   What have I been up to lately?  Well, I am glad you asked cause in truth there are very good reasons for me not blogging as prolifically as I would like to.
First of all, my computer finally shit the bed on me and stopped working  a few weeks back.  That has really cut down on my computer time, buuut evidently I still do have some computer access (I am typing this blog) so I can’t really put all the blame there.
Then there has been some minor writer’s block too; sometimes I’ll have a post that has been mostly written for weeks but I have trouble getting back into and finishing it up (see Life Imitating Art).
But mostly my prolonged absence from the game is an indirect result of attending the Art-o-Con on May 5th (2013).  My friend, author Harrison Wheeler had a booth there promoting his book, Jester’s Incognito and while there we happened to sit in on a presentation put on by the horror movie magazine, Fangoria.  This presentation had 5 panelists from the Canadian horror film industry, three of which were producer, Kelly Michael Stewart, director Torin Langen, and actor, Robert Nolan.
I found myself getting very involved in the presentation asking many questions and becoming genuinely fascinated with the thriving Canadian film industry.  I guess I had always figured there was some stuff going on in Canada film-wise but I figured it was spill-over from the US industry, i.e. Hollywood filming up here cause it was cheaper.  But to hear these guys talk I was starting to realize that not only was stuff getting made here (and really, they were only talking about horror and not even delving into other genres) but that it was GOOD stuff too.
After the presentation I made ended up speaking briefly with a couple of the panelists but I had more of an in-depth conversation with Robert Nolan.  He was a cool guy whose story I kind of admired.  Rather than groom himself to be an actor his whole life, he was someone who had done a lot of living before deciding to take on acting as a profession.  In his estimation, this had actually helped him by giving him a broader experiential base when plying his trade.
I confessed to him that pursuing acting as a career was something of a pipe dream of mine but it seemed like kind of an overwhelming undertaking because I always assumed I would have to pack up and move to Los Angeles.  Seeing how the industry was thriving here in Canada I was beginning to see how much more accessible the dream was.
Robert was great and really supportive; he gave me some pointers about what I needed to bring to the table to be considered by directors and sent me some links I could use to look for auditions.  We even became Facebook buddies lol.  Most importantly, he said that if I thought I was an actor, I was, end of story.
So basically for the past month and a half now I have been going hard trying to break into this world that has always seemed so foreign and mysterious to me.  I have had some early success  (which I owe mostly to being well prepared for auditions.  Thanks Robert!) but enough rejection to keep me humble.  It’s a lot of fun too; I find myself in Toronto for much of the week, living on my sister’s couch and whipping around the city to wherever the auditions are at.
Now if you are a follower of my blog, you may remember that I quit my full-time job back in February because I hated it and I was miserable there.  I literally used to stay up late on Sunday nights (and drink) because the thought of going to bed and resigning myself to Monday morning and a new workweek was too depressing.
Now, in a weird sort of twist I actually look forward to Monday mornings as, after the lull of Saturday and Sunday, Monday is typically the time that the casting websites tend to get flooded with new job postings and casting calls.
Today is sort of an appropriate day for me to update you guys in my film-related pursuits too, because if all goes according to plan, my first production should go up online today (finger’s crossed).  It’s the pilot for a web-series whose working title was “What NOT to do in a Zombie Apocalypse” but the director had talked of changing the title so who knows exactly what it will go up as.  I guess I will see in a few hours.
In the series, I play Stan, the leader of the survivors of  the recent Zombie Apocalypse.

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The Survivors (from L to R): Jeremy, Darcy, Lydia, Chris and Stan (Moi)

   What attracted me to this project (aside from being an up and coming actor who will take what he can get lol) is that it had a pretty clever script.  And the way the director, Ana Sani, described the style she was going for (fast, witty dialogue and quick cuts) made it seem like it would be pretty damn good.  Having seen only the first draft of the episode, I’m pretty happy with it and I think we have set ourselves up for some good character conflicts down the road.

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Me killing a zombie and being filmed doing it.

   There are a few other projects I am in contention for which hopefully pan out, and even in cases where I haven’t gotten a certain part I feel like I have made a good impression so we’ll see how it goes.  Anyhow, its Monday morning and I have yet to check the new audition postings.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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