Before "Arrow in the Head" was born, I had a two-year stint in film school, followed by 3 years in acting school. Soon thereafter, I worked on French films/TV as an actor here in Montreal, graduated to English gigs and have been trying to broaden my stuff to the USA ever since. Over the last couple of years or so, acting suddenly took a backseat for many reasons. Yes, I focused my efforts on screenwriting, producing and getting my directorial debut off the ground, but it's really becoming a journalist (or whatever you want to call me) that was to be the biggest obstacle in terms of me remaining a "working" actor.
Although working on the website has undoubtedly given me access to a larger pool of high profile contacts in the movie business, it's also given me an added hurdle: being an actor and a journalist at the same time raises a mammoth conflict of interest. On the one hand, filmmakers won't take me seriously as an actor and see me as a journalist pretending to be an actor. And on the other side of the dagger, my journalistic integrity might be questioned if I wind up acting in a movie that I review or cover positively. Acting and journalism go together like hookers and the Pope. Luckily for me, I recently managed to overcome that obstacle and lock a small role in the upcoming video game film adaptation: Alone in the Dark. Let me give you guys a peak at how it can go down.
GETTING THE PART
When I first interviewed German director Uwe Boll on my site for the now released House of the Dead film, we kept in contact for obvious reasons. I'm a journalist, he's a filmmaker and we both dabble in the same pool which is the horror genre. After much back and forth, Uwe offered me a role in his next film "Alone in the Dark. Sure, the part of Agent Yoneck was a small one, but that was enough for me to want to fly down to Vancouver BC to do it. Why? Cause I'm that guy!!
Unfortunately for my clichéd "starving artist self", I was flat ass broke around that time. So I had to make a decision here. After thinking about it long and hard, I figured that small role in a high profile flick was worth putting myself deeper in the hole that we call debt and eating disgustingly cheap 75-cent noodles for the next two months. So after bumming some green off a bud (thanks Berge, I owe you...well...too damn much), I got my plane ticket and found myself the cheapest hotel in Vancouver BC to live in.
A note on my hotel, if I may. It was in the heart of East Hastings. For those of you who don't know about this (I didn't, silly me), East Hastings is the worst gutter in Vancouver. I, for one, have never seen so many crack whores, smack addicts, bums and hookers all collected in one neighborhood. DAMN! I felt like I was on the JoBlo.com message board (just kidding)! You should've seen my face when my cab pulled into my hotel at midnight-- I was like "You've got to be shitting me! Somebody needs to NUKE this place like now!!"
After surviving 2 nights in my rathole hotel (I blocked my door with a chair and slept with a kitchen knife) and killing two days exploring Vancouver (great city, except for all the no-smoking laws), the day that I was to shoot came about. Thankfully, production had a driver pick my ass up at the hotel to bring me to the shooting location (it would've been a long walk otherwise). Once there, I immediately went and got my make-up done (met Christian Slater along the way, kool guy, nice tattoo dude!), munched down at the craft table (finally...real food!) and eventually made my way on set to shoot my scenes. Director Uwe Boll greeted me warmly. This was the first time we had actually met in person and I was taken in by his positive aura and friendly demeanor. He was a class act. I also talked shop with amicable screenwriter Michael Roesch, briefly met producer Shawn Williamson (too bad I met him on my way out, would've loved to talk to him more) and yes, bad boy actor Stephen Dorff, in all of his surfer blonde haired glory. All good people all around... which is always a plus. They made me feel comfortable.
Then came the pleasant curve ball. Uwe, in all of his wisdom, decided to expand my part of Mr. Yoneck and gave me more lines. I was basically handed 5 pages of dialogue on the spot (some of it, pretty technical) and had to get comfortable with it in about five minutes because we were ready to shoot my scene now! I felt some pressure since I'm usually religiously over-prepared before any acting gig, so to connect with all that text so quickly was quite a challenge. I did my best and that's all I could do. Did I ruin one of Stephen Dorff's takes because I blanked? Yes, I did (he was kool about it, good sense of humor on that mofo) Did I improvise and invent my own lines? You bet I did! Was I fully content with my performance when all was said and done? Hell no! But I know I did my best taking into account the situation, so yes...at the end of the day, I could look at myself in the mirror without spitting on it.
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT MYSELF
One thing that I'm very happy about and for which I have to thank the extensive experience I got working for JoBlo.com, was that I was not intimidated by the "stars" around me and more importantly, not intimidated to act with one (Dorff). Throughout my years on the site, I've been getting less and less star-struck. Every time I meet an actor or a director nowadays, they seem like people to me. So that played in my favor when I had to act with Stephen Dorff. So even though he's the biggest star with whom I've ever shared a scene and the fact that I'd seen most of his movies as a fan, on set...he was just another fellow actor to me. I'm glad to have reached that level. Thank you, JoBlo.com!
After I was done with my day of shooting, Uwe took me and other guests into his trailer to show us "dailies" of the film. I was pleasantly impressed. From what I saw, the flick had a grim and mature tone to it that I really dug and there was one particular massive shootout involving soldiers and "Now you see them, now you don't" creatures that had me grinning in a fanboy "Fuck yeah" kind of way. Let's hope that the movie comes out as good as the dailies looked. After the disappointment (for me, anyways) that was "House of the Dead", this might be the film that pushes Uwe Boll to the next level as a filmmaker. You can check out the film's teaser trailer right here.
On a personal note, I had a lot of fun on my "Alone in the Dark" gig. Did it render me penniless? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. I believe that as an actor (or any other title in this business) you have to do whatever it takes to get up "there". You have to create opportunities and when they come, you have to seize them, because if you don't...the 500,000,000 other people in line behind you with the same aspirations, will. You want to be in the movie business? Ask yourself this: Are you willing to live paycheck to paycheck, take a bullshit job on the side to pay your rent, owe money to friends, family, creditors, eat freaking 75-cent noodles day-in, day-out...all in the name of your career? That's the worst case scenario, but it can happen, trust me...I know.
Thanks to photographer and class-A dude Chris Helcermanas-Benge for the on-set pics
"ALONE IN THE DARK" HITS THEATRES ON OCTOBER 10, 2004