life

Life, Like A Fingerprint (or: Why Ted Never Wanted To Be Marlon Brando)

In my very late teens, I took up acting by chance. I had been interested in movies (grew up on foreign cinema), and had no direction in my life (aside from snowboarding), and it fell into my lap in the way most things do. One part, get out of trouble card, the other, channeling the trouble. It was sort of necessary, however brief.*

One of my earliest teachers, Ted Jones (an alias) was a white-bearded man in his sixties. He had bit roles in several major movies, and did regional theater most of his life. And for extra money, he was a licensed taxi driver. He emphasized that the profession of acting was an ill-advised path, whether you “make it or not” and like many actors, he found the line of work accidentally, to get out of trouble himself. Nevertheless, he was good at it, and I believe he actually liked it. At his point though, he might not have had a choice, habits are hard-worn.

One day after some standard, silly actor exercises, while we sat in some weird meditative sit down position, while giving a lecture, Ted Jones blurted out tangentially, “I would never trade my life for Marlon Brando’s”. I felt he had ruminated over this many a time before. Marlon Brando was of course, at that time, and to this day, regarded as one of the greatest movie actors in cinema history (if not the greatest). This is of course, a consensus popular type of “greatest” because people hardly ever know what they are talking about when describing performances. But Brando was mythicized in acting circles, much of that owed directly to the hands of director Elia Kazan, most notable, when Brando played ex pugilist & has-been Terry Mallow in the exceptional film, ON THE WATERFRONT. The myth was solidified, specifically in one scene romanticized to death, that in which Brando plays with his co-stars (Eva Marie Saint) glove in a naturalistic, off- the-cuff, improvised way. To this day, there is neither a film school nor an acting class unwilling to sell you on the regurgitated magnitude of this moment, frozen in time. Kazan was certainly a sound director (a personal favorite), and one that became infamous in the black listing scandal during the McCarthy era, which seems to be in the zeitgeist again. Brando of course rose to fame prior, playing Stanley Kramer in A STREET CAR NAMED DESIRE, first on stage, then on the big screen.

Brando always disparaged his profession whenever given the opportunity (as do other well-known actors, possibly as a mimetic homage to other great actors, or possibly something more internal, though I don’t want to speculate), and barely prepared for his roles as his career went forward and fame overwhelmed. A story comes to mind is that he had a microphone in his ear, reciting lines feed to him over radio waves. Though, he certainly was a natural, and his naturalness was something we like to see on screen. That’s usually what differentiates actors that we prefer. Something about the personality and ease in front of a camera. The rest of it, the spectacle of losing weight or becoming physically something altogether different, those actions have a tinge of superficiality attached, though they make great press and help win awards. But that extra stuff often has less gravity then a mere smile, a face never too pretty nor too ugly, and a certain charisma we call star power for lack of the right words.

But coming back to Ted Jones remark - Brando’s life was full of tragedy. He hit the highest highs, and the lowest lows, and for Ted, life was more than a career. That kind of thinking is irrational, or rather, incomprehensible for a 20-year-old would be artist. Glory is after-all, the immortality that we seek. To change the world, blah blah, ego blah! But, we all learn of the tradeoffs of these grandiose illusions as time marches forward, and with every level up, after a brief period of ecstasy when going up, the psyche neutralizes and you deal with life in much the same way as any other period. There is a clip of an older, more mature Mike Tyson dismissing all his championship belts as meaningless. And a life filled with excessive tragedy and suffering, even when the highest peaks were reached, was too much of a net negative tradeoff when the macro lens was applied as far as our subject Ted was concerned.

Of course, there is an additional argument to be made here, one that we can’t skip over, one in which the great writer, & lover of the twitter argument Nassim Taleb calls an example of “sour grapes”. That Ted Jones, never achieving the status he craved consoles himself through an illusion, or rather, delusion to protect his ego. Of course, this is a psychological possibility, but also, a weak, projected judgement about the wants and needs of another human being, with another fate, and an individual path like a fingerprint, as valid as all others, and inseparable from all others. All of the upside, and limited downside is nice, but the universe is a trickster. (a side note here, Taleb has major distaste for actors and the acting profession, which is ironic in that it is the king of Lindy when it comes to professions).

Which brings me to this: the highs will bring the lows, and like a roller coaster, up and down it goes.

*Post script - I quickly found my way out of that career because the auditions I got called in for and the opportunities at the time where horrendous (terrorist shit). I had decided that my stories where essential & no one but myself could tell them (immigrant shit), so I moved into another realm, just a hop, skip & jump away. This trajectory is partly why I have such fondness for John Cassavetes to this day.

30 Days to Equanimity - Things w/ Amir Motlagh Ep12

In this episode, we talk a bit about how we can develop a practice to increase overall equanimity, and bring more peace into our lives. The episode functions more like a podcast (its long, pacing is slower which fits the theme), so if you prefer, drop in your own background music if it helps. I didn’t want to force you into anything.

This discussion has no political overtones, nor does it try to usurp therapy or other methods. It has worked for me after a long search and experimentation period and is very simple and extremely easy to implement into your routine. It has also worked for several friends who sought assistance.

What is important here is that you stick through it for 30 days. The science into the why's is less important than the practice. The practice and its focus are what will bring about an easier way of handling the constant stressors that is life itself.

The video also dropped out after a few minutes due to a technical glitch, and you are left with photos of doggos (Roscoe + Buckley), which again, made the edit more in line with a podcast, and less jump cut orientated. I think this accident made for a much better video in either case.

Have a lovely day.

THREE WORLDS pre-order is live!

Our second feature film for 2018 (Three Worlds) is now available for pre-order! Please show your support by committing early & locking into our lovingly easy pre-release rates. 

Available on Vimeo On Demand (worldwide) starting Sept 7th, 2018. (i think we'll let it drop Thurs ;) )

Premieres on Amazon Prime Video in the latter half of Sept, with a full digital rollout in the following months.

The full OST (soundtrack) by Julian DW Brink premieres on all music platforms Sept 14th, 2018.

This release marks the conclusion of the "Three Marks, Too Many Signals" series of works. 

PS: If you haven't yet watched MAN yet, now is a good time, after you pre-order this! 💚

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Synopsis

Three Worlds is a psychological science fiction drama that explores the three lives, or 'worlds,' of a man who undergoes an experiment that triggers haunting memories and alternate life 'memories.

Credits

Written & Directed by Amir Motlagh
Produced by ANIMALS, Amir Motlagh, Charles Borg
Director of Photography: Amir Motlagh

Starring:
Amir Motlagh
Samantha Robinson
Rey Deegan
Keaton Shyler
Gregory Linington

Editing: Bryan Tuck, Amir Motlagh
Original Score by Julian DW Brink

Sound Designer & Re-Recording Mixer: Stephen Holliger

Media Quotes

“It’s always exciting whenever a distinct new voice makes itself heard on the indie landscape. Amir Motlagh is such a voice.

honest and soulful.. ”

— Adam Schartoff FILMWAX RADIO

“It’s rare to mix rawness with beauty.”

— Pinnland Empire

““These unique experiences are made even more exceptional for their Iranian-American perspective.” 

...the experience of both films (MAN + Three Worlds) is one that any film connoisseur must have. To sit with an awareness of the film, and, an awareness of how you are watching it, is a surreal act that can only be described as “art.” Motlagh’s work is definitely a piece of art in the medium of film.”

— Jonita Davis THE IRANIAN

“there is without a doubt a definitive boldness to “Three Worlds”, both in its tone and aspirations, and it will certainly require viewers to lean in a little closer, which is never a bad thing…..a curious and fascinating watch.”

— David Fowlie KEEPING IT REEL

The Passing of A Friend - Things w/ Amir Motlagh Ep10

Was not going to do one of these this week, but then I figured that, knowing Chris, he would have been like, "fuck you dude, do one of these on me!" 

I just pulled up our last text message, in which he states that I owe him a Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles dinner. I can't seem to recall why?

Still working out some audio drop-outs, but I think I figured that out. If you're interested in getting your weekly (bi-weekly) dose of these, please subscribe. 

Christopher Ad Castillo: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1779820/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Celso Ad. Castillo: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0145036/?ref_=nv_sr_1

MIRS video we co-directed on the set of his film LosAngeles7: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_lyA...

RIP Christopher Ad. Castillo

Rest in Peace - Christopher Ad. Castillo

Chris loved cinema. He passed doing what he loved, (though that which he loved was immensely stressful), a quiet consolation. I hadn’t talked to him in quite a while, making this a bitter sting. He came from cinema royalty, his father being Celso Ad Castillo, the “enfant terrible” of Philippine cinema. Chris grew up as an actor, famous in his native country before making his way West and deciding that writing/directing was his calling.

Of course, I’d been meaning to call him for months now, to bury minor hatchets, every day putting it off for the unknowable future. He was in great spirits the last time I saw him at our mutual friend Rey’s play in Pasadena. Chris was one of the first people to screen a film of mine in LA (Still Lover), at a series he was curating at the ArcLight. He was also an OG member of LADS (L.A Death Squad), & had many great stories of 80’s LA punk street life (pretty hardcore stories I’d add).

May he rest in peace, the same peace he found on the 2d screen & while working to fill the flicker in his heart. A combination of sweetness and unpredictable anger rolled up in a soft Filipino shell. Rest in Peace, Christopher Ad Castillo. 

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Post Script:

While Chris was shooting a feature film (i had a minor acting role as MIRS), we teamed up to co-direct this MIRS music video (i just remembered  the name MIRS was, in fact, his suggestion after bouncing the idea of a solo music project I was pursuing). We had collaborated a few times prior & after, but this was my favorite, mostly because of the spontaneity. We shot the performance in-between setups for his narrative feature project. That project never saw the light of day I believe, but nevertheless, it was an interesting time & actually fun in hindsight (time softens blows). Chris had caught the DIY bug from a sort of bubbling cabin fever from having multiple projects fall through the Hollywood development crack, and without letting anything get in his way, he steamrolled through the project, much to his cast/crews terror. But it was a grand learning lesson for him, and a jumpstart to being prolific after many years sitting on the sidelines. 

The Beauty of The Desert

I went out to Joshua Tree several days ago. I've been there many times in the past few years but, surprisingly, while it was never too far away from where I have been mostly living in my adult life, it took me many years to actually make plans and follow through. From that point on, I try to make it out into the desert whenever feasible. Both an escape, and more importantly, a meditation. 

Joshua Tree is a famous place. U2 named an album that went multi-platinum after the tree that gives a name to the location (The Joshua Tree). I just learned that Brian Eno produced the album. Feels like something I "should of" known. "Should of" of course is one of the most insidious utterances in the English language so beware. It feels appropriate here though. 

I went with some old friends who I rarely see. We hiked under the full moon. It's probably not advisable to go hiking into the Southern US desert at night (especially when you don't know what the hell you're doing), but, the once ever so often Blue Moon lit up the landscape in a way that was, to say the least, surreal. 

I'm sure I saw a Desert Bobcat running swiftly across the landscape, but the rest of the party won't corroborate the story. Finding truth is similar. You see it, but you're not 100% because you're alone in finding it. A quality of faith reassembles the partial vision into totality. 

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of YOUTUBE episodes and other expletives for the month of JAN....

Ok, so, here we are nearing the end of the first month of 2015, a wild month politically, and certainly, personally.

One thing that I promised myself, and I've made that socially clear as well is that I am going to commit to consistent communication. And Youtube is one of those streams I want to cultivate.

The only challenge now, is that while we at ANIMALS have been developing super material for the web, we have not figured out how to engage on a more simplistic, communicative level on channels like YOUTUBE

So, here and now, I keep to my word, while at the same time searching for ways to build the puzzle. Bear with me for awhile, since its not going to be pretty, but, soon enough we'll get into a flow .

For now, if you haven't, please subscribe. Do it. SUBSCRIBE NOW, not later. See, I'm not putting it off, and neither should you.

Enjoy this train wreck of a first attempt while it lasts.

the curious case of the James Francos.....

Whether you like it or not, JAMES FRANCO is the character of the future. He is constant, consistent & working in PRESENT TENSE. Franco is the stream. And that stream is not going away because the stream demands stuff now.

Gone are the days where you could sit and toil on a concept for years, or turn a MALICK and show up 15 years later. Gone are the days where you could do or be ONE THING (however, if you  love that one thing, more power too you).  Because the world is turning so fast, if you don't pivot when you are required too, the media you are on top of will turn into OPERA, and then you'll be bitter. And pivoting becomes increasingly difficult as time goes by. It's as skill you must learn to survive. 

Franco and his cohorts are also the few characters around who are almost completely immune to criticism. This is not unprecedented. Woody Allan has already mastered that art, by the only effective method. By not giving a shit and immediately moving to something else. The new school just does it faster.

In a world where media is completely ubiquitous and a million paths of communication exist, dealing with a bad review is akin to wiping your mouth after eating a bowl of spaghetti. Who gives a shit. And if you do, well, you're fucked.

The LEAP towards Youtube in 2007 or scared shitless of bad comments....

It's hard to believe that Youtube is not even a decade old. It seems to have been with us from the beginning.

What is more astonishing is that Youtube stars are more popular with teens than even the biggest top down celebrities as this Variety Survey documents. Poor ol Leo sitting in last place.

Now, these are the biggest of the big, but Youtube works in more lateral ways, and in smaller and smaller tribes, who remain vibrant and relevant. But this relevancy is different than what we were conditioned to understand. As Kevin Kelley described in his now famous (and in internet terms, dated) manifesto, "1,000 True Fans", relevancy is really only important to the people who care.

And you don't need too many people to care about what you bring to the table, as long as you're bringing something to that proverbial table in the first place. As Seth Godin would state, something REMARKABLE. Now, remember, remarkable is a shifting phrase. Pewdiepie is not remarkable to baby boomers, but he sure is too millions of teens. And that's the damn point.

So, this gets to my original thought. Back in 2007, while I was going through the ringer of an MFA program at this place, me and my pals (pretty much the whole class of fairly bright kids), all kind of shrugged our collective shoulders about using this new platform to reach out.

In the world of the higher arts, it was prestige less, a self publishing platform for people who couldn't find support in the business. A bunch of self absorbed people talking about non-important things, or terribly produced home videos with nothing to offer.   

What a fucking absolutely rubbish thought that was! And that's the difference between leaping fearlessly forward, or sticking to the status quo. You rather jump, watch somebody else jump, or sit on the sidelines watching other people take initiative and change the world.

So, here is a lesson for anybody reading this. Nothing is sacred in the arts or business, and all empires fall sooner or later (much sooner now). So, when an opportunity(really an obligation) presents itself, jump of that cliff and maybe it will work. Maybe it won't. But it's much cooler to be an explorer than a hesitant wimp. And Youtube won't last forever either. In fact, on the internet clock, it's running out of time, while a host of new platforms are springing up left and right. Are you experimenting, or rolling your eyes again? It's a choice.

So, cheers to a great 2015!