Just feeling this way, today.
Hi everyone. Happy Fall! It feels good to be working on our movie again. I have been working on a documentary with my friend Juke for almost a year now. The idea to do this started about five years ago, almost as soon as I met Juke and started to hear some of his stories and I realized what a great story teller he is. He reminds me of an animated grasshopper, because he jumps around so much in his stories; one idea leads to so many others.
Our documentary is called John “Juke” Logan: Players & Groovers. It is of course, about Juke, and about being a professional musician for over forty years. Spanning four amazing decades, from the 60′s to the new millennium, what it was like to work and tour and play across America and Europe with acts such as Leon Russell, Dobie Gray, Albert Collins, Screamin’ Jay (pictured) and so many more. It’s about the relationships a Player has with his audience, the Groovers. It’s also about how not being a “star” can be a good thing. To quote Willie Dixon, ” I have seen things that kings and queens have never seen. That kings and queens don’t even know about”.
Being on the west coast, in TV land, led Juke to some unique opportunities. His session work for one composer in particular, led to Juke being involved with the Roseanne Show for eight years and creating the distinctive harmonica sounds that millions of people know and love. That led to work on Home Improvement and being a member of Tim Allen’s Tool Time band for that show’s long run. Then there was his collaboration with Ry Cooder on the film Crossroads. All amazing opportunities.
We have been shooting interviews when we can, here in LA and at Juke’s pad in Joshua Tree. It has been going kind of slow due to Juke having had esophageal cancer and working around his treatments.
This summer he was declared cancer-free, and we celebrated big time. Juke even had a big party for his 66th birthday out in Joshua Tree in September. It was a great night and I interviewed a lot of his old friends and musical partners in the 1947 airstream trailer Juke has been refurbishing.
Unfortunately our joy was short lived. A few weeks later after some follow-up tests, cancer was again discovered in his esophagus – for the third time.
So now Juke will undergo another round of chemo treatments to try to, as he says, “send these bastard cells back to hell where they came from”. We will work around his health and his treatments as we try to shift and shape this movie into the cool story it is.
In a few weeks we hope to have our teaser video complete and launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to tell this story. This will be a huge undertaking, involving many people and many favors. It will be a full time job to tell this story in the manner that it deserves. It’s a challenge I gladly look forward to taking.
I will keep you updated here and on the soon to come Players and Groovers website, facebook page, twitter handle, etc.
Thanks for checking in and I can’t wait to share more news about this soon.
Last night was the opening night of the Hollywood Fringe Festival and my first of five performances of No Boundarys. The show went off very well and I am glad, after all the months of planning and rehearsing and pounding the drums about it, to finally do it.
Those sixty-minutes I am on stage doing the show are the most fun any actor can have. It’s the best role I have ever played. It’s the culmination of years of work. In fact, a lifetime of work. All the stories are true. All the details pulled from my memory. Exploring the idea of personal storytelling has been very liberating.
I had a reviewer from the Tolucan Times comes see last weeks preview and a very positive review was published on opening night. That was good timing. You can read the review here:
Please, if you have a chance, come see the show. If you want me to put you on the guest list, let me know what night you want to come. I’d be happy to see you there.
More details below. Happy Fringe-ing!
writer/performer of No Boundarys
Hollywood Fringe Festival 2012
@Theatre Asylum 6320 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, 90038
Thurs June 14 @ 7:00pm – SOLD OUT!
Sat June 16 @ 5:30 – SOLD OUT!
Sun June 17 @ 8:30 – SOLD OUT!
Thurs June 21 @ 8:30 – SOLD OUT!
Sat June 23 @ 1:00pm – TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE
for more info: http://hff12.org/772
I recently was cast in the lead role of an adaptation of Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea. I was attracted by the treatment presented and the fact that this would be shot on 35mm film and would have some really fun stuff like underwater shots and fighting an eight foot marlin.
The DP, creator of the project is Conci Althouse, a graduate student at the American Film Institute in Hollywood. This is her last AFI project before graduating next month. AFI attracts some of the best filmmakers from all over the world to come and study at the graduate level and work with some of the best teachers and filmmakers in Hollywood today.
Conci, working with her director Adam McLean and producer Deniese Davis, did an amazing job and put together a fantastic three day shoot. Day one was in a bathroom and bathtub in an old house in Echo Park. That’s where the old man is first seen and where he takes his final breath. Suffering from dementia and a bad case of melancholy, he lives out the last few minutes of his live remembering his biggest battle.
Day two was shooting the fantasy battle scenes with the marlin in a pool in Malibu. With a team of underwater camera operators and specialty underwater lighting equipment, the shoot was flawless and well executed. It was my first time working underwater and I have to say that acting while holding your breath at the bottom of a pool leads to some very real work.
Day three was a sunrise shot at the beach. It went very well and props to my director and co-star Adam who walked into the ocean with out flinching not once, but three times. Way to go.
As if all that wasn’t perfect enough, when we called wrap, a school of dolphins appeared and swam up the coastline near us. With film in the camera, Conci rolled and they were committed to cinematic history.
Loosely adapted, artistically composed, and beautifully shot, I anticipate the footage will look beautiful. I can’t wait to see it and add it to my reel.
For my first AFI film shoot I had an excellent experience and I look forward to more shoots in the future. Thank you Conci, Adam and Deniese, I look forward to working with you all again soon.
I recently participated in a directing workshop presented by the Director’s Guild of America. Yes, I have been directing theatre and film since the late 80′s, but I jumped at the chance to be a part of this amazing event. I had the opportunity to work with four very talented and well-respected directors, along with about 40 other guild members who participated. Like me, many of them have a great deal of experience. Some of the participants have major feature and television credits. It was a great group to work with.
In the seventy-six year history of the DGA, there have been other workshops and master classes by directors, for directors, but the last one was twenty years ago. This event was put on by the special events committee and led by director Jeremy Kagen. Other directors participating included Randal Kleiser, Jon Amiel, and Mark Travis.
The eight-week workshop was presented in two parts. Meeting Saturday mornings for three hours, the first four weeks consisted of lectures by each of the four directors. The last four weeks would be twelve scenes presented by some of us to be worked on and critiqued in class.
Jeremy Kagen started off week one with a talk about directing styles and techniques, and set the tone that this workshop would be focused on the director/actor relationship and getting truthful performances. The workshop wouldn’t be about what lens to choose or hand held versus dolly shots, but getting great performances from actors. Jeremy covered a lot of ground in three hours, from what an actor does (an actor speaks the thoughts of a character) to rehearsal techniques and why we should know about Jungian archetypes.
Week two was presented by Mark Travis. Mark presented his Interrogator technique of directing. It was a fascinating three hours that included two guest actors. The actors did a scene from American Beauty. Then Mark rehearsed with them, “jumped in the sandbox” with them, showing us how the technique works. The Interrogator is designed to create authentic characters and performances by shifting the focus to directing the character, not the actor. It was the first time I saw this technique and I really liked what I saw.
Randall Kleiser presented week three. He spoke mainly of his work at USC with famed actor and teacher Nina Foch. He shared clips from a documentary he made with George Lucas called The Nina Foch Course for Filmmakers and Actors. Nina had a lot to say about acting, and a very straightforward way of saying it. One quote I really liked is “…the camera is a machine that watches you think.” Also, she had a lot to say about a theme that came up repeatedly, don’t direct for results. Directions like, ” be happy, get angry, feel sad” have no place in a director’s vocabulary. Longtime collaborator, actor Bruce Davison joined Randall for part of his presentation.
Week four was with Jon Amiel. He called his presentation, I Am A Camera. Jon had some wonderful things to say about auditioning actors and rehearsing. He spoke with great admiration about actors, and how hard he worked to make them comfortable and really connect with the actor at an audition, as opposed to just putting them in the hot seat, listening to a scene he’s heard too many times already, and judging their performance. Instead he prefers to just talk with actors, or improvise with them, and see how they “play”. He said “… performing and acting are two very different things.” About rehearsal he said, “…it is not about achieving the scene, but getting consensus about what we want to achieve in the scene.” And by moving around the actors during rehearsal, getting closer or farther from the actor, you become the camera, you get a sense of what the camera sees, and the actor instinctively knows if he is in a wide shot or a close up.
Part two, like I said earlier, was scene work. Twelve participants, from those who applied, were chosen to present a scene they worked on outside of the class. There would be three scenes a week and each week would be led by one of the four directors. The scenes would be presented and worked on in front of the group. I applied and was chosen to present a scene. I was assigned to work with Jon Amiel on week six, the second week of scene work. I know it wouldn’t have mattered, but I was really glad not to have to go on the first week of scenes.
Mark Travis facilitated the first week of scenes. He worked with each director and scene skillfully and patiently. I saw he had a keen eye for the little moments that make a scene sparkle, and an easy style. His Interrogator method was so easy to watch and produced spectacular results. He was able to really key in on the truth and relationships in the scenes.
For my scene, I chose to write an original short film that took place in one location. I knew it had to be 5 minutes or less, I knew I wanted it to be a comedy, and I knew I wanted to play with the idea of “status”. My scene was called The Interview, and it was about two shady producers interviewing directors for their next picture. Through a series of events, their young intern gets the job. I cast four really wonderful actors; Michael Coleman, Peter Hulne, Circus*Szalewski, and Erin Tudron. Unfortunately, being so busy, we only had one rehearsal before presenting our scene to the group. I say unfortunately because I find rehearsal so much fun.
My scene was very well received. The acting was outstanding. My directing wasn’t so bad either. But Jon showed me how to bring even more into it. His keen eye and ear heard where it didn’t work and had some great suggestions for improving it. My hour in the spotlight was a bit nerve racking, but so very fulfilling. I learned so much.
Maybe even more fun than presenting a scene, was watching the other eleven directors present their scenes.
Jeremy Kagen ran week seven. He has an easygoing laid back style. But his sharp questioning of both the actors and directors cut straight to the problems of each scene. Unique problems of each scene led to new ways to fix any scene. Some of Jeremy’s techniques I really liked and will use include relationship building exercises, the idea of real age vs internal age, and pushing a character to an exaggerated emotional state, just to feel it, then bring them back again.
I was sad to see week eight arrive. I was really enjoying spending my Saturday mornings at the DGA in the company of other creative directors. Randal Kleiser led the scenes on the last week. Three very interesting scenes were presented and Randall, like the other directors before him, helped shape and shift and tweak and bring out the truth. Through a combination of staging and rehearsing, and blocking with a camera, every scene was better at the end than when we first saw it.
When asked by the DGA for feedback on this special event, all I could say was “this was great…please offer more”. One of the biggest problems I face as an independent director is the amount of time between projects when I am doing everything else but directing. I love the writing, and the producing, the editing and even find the challenging hunt for financing fun; but nothing beats actual directing and working on set with actors. This workshop made me think like a director. See like a director. Listen like a director. It was only three hours a week, but I carried it with me from week to week. I can’t wait till I get back on set and start directing again.
Hi, my name is Noel Olken and I am responsible for this blog. I know, you are probably wondering, “who the fuck is noel olken?” Well this site will answer that question with a good old American answer like, “C’est moi, bien sur!”
I used to have a different website. I looked at it recently and saw I hadn’t touched it in three years. Imagine! The nerve of me to ignore myself for three years like that!
So I started a new website today. This is it. There isn’t much “here” here, but there will be soon. Lots of the stuff from the old site, but I’m more excited about all the new stuff that’s coming.
Photos. Music. Reels. Clips. Links. Writing. Jokes. Pictures.
LA Casting – resume, clips and a reel.
Waitergonebad Productions - production company of my feature film, Meditations On Trafficking
Meditations On Trafficking a look at human trafficking. Against it, of course. But fascinating to look at.
Cup Of My Blood a film by Lance Catania, produced by Noel Olken