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Tony Hale Talks Veep, Arrested Development and Chicken

Tony Hale Talks Veep, Arrested Development and Chicken

tony

Tony Hale asked me to moderate his interview on Apple TV’s “Meet the Filmmaker.”   Here’s some of the wisdom he shared (not all of this made the final cut of the show.)

Gracious Leaders Inspire Creativity

Armando Iannucci, creator of HBO’s Veep, built a brilliant team of genuinely friendly and supportive people, which gives the cast a great deal of freedom.  The actors don’t need to be cautious to tiptoe around egos.  This fosters a fun, relaxed environment that encourages risk-taking.

I would imagine that kind-hearted actors are also required for the show, since much of the comedy comes from hilarious, caustic insults, certainly to be true to life inside the beltway.  One of the first audience questions was “What’s your favorite Jonah insult?”  Turns out it’s a barb from Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character, speaking to Matt Walsh about Timothy Simon’s character: “You let that unstable piece of human scaffolding into your house?” Critics agree — that berating ranked #3 on Hollywood.com’s list.  If you’re still considering your favorites, reference the research from the Chicago Tribune and Rolling Stone (headphones are suggested for this video).

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Early in his career, Tony was acting in plays and  TV commercials in NYC as he focused on his dream of working on a sitcom.   After he finally landed the role, he realized it didn’t offer the satisfaction he had anticipated, and later reflected that there was no way the experience could ever live up to the expectations he had imagined.  He had missed out on being in-the-moment and truly enjoying some of his earlier experiences.  This lesson of contentment inspired him to write a children’s book, Archibald’s Next Big Thing.

Follow the Fear

Tony shared insight into some of the scary moments in his life.  One was on the morning of the 2013 Emmy awards, when  Julia Louis-Dreyfus called him with an idea for a comedy bit to use in an acceptance speech.  A last minute, unrehearsed live routine in front of 18 million people — what’s scary about that?

The other fear that controls Tony’s life:  Claire Underwood.  BuzzFeed documented the brutal Twitter threat-down.

ClaireUnderwood

Watch our discussion on Apple TV or download via iTunes “Meet the Filmmaker” episode 25.  https://itun.es/i66n8RD

For more on the poultry theme, watch Tony as the mustachioed video store owner-turned detective and Andy Richter sidekick in one of the best ever TV comedy episodes in the history of the world.  Andy Barker P.I., produced by Conan O’Brien.  “Three Days of the Chicken, available on Hulu+, Amazon or iTunes.

Andy Barker P.I.

Catch Veep on HBO, Sundays at 10:30 PM ET.

UPDATE:  Tony Hale on The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable

, on being content where you are.

Veep_Tony_Julia

 

Sharknado: Social Media Gold

The only wisdom I have to offer at social media conferences is this:

BtoBsharks

But it works in B2B content marketing.  And this week, Hollywood confirmed this maxim, proving images of selachian fishes captivate an audience even without a good script or a decent story idea.  Nielsen pegs Sharknado’s TV audience at 1.4 million viewers, on par for other SyFy Channel original movies, which cost an average $1.5 million.  Syfy Digital SVP Craig Engler reported that  the hashtag #Sharknado appeared 387,000 times on Twitter on Thursday night, hitting 5,000 tweets per minute at its peak.  The social media success, including celebrity tweets, created press coverage for the film, and I would image helped to build a large audience that will make the film one of the most success reruns on the network.

Although the Dollar Shave Club’s CEO revealed to the WSJ All Things Digital that the critical success factor for a viral video is to use a bear,  Tina Fey clarifies which beast is best.

If we’ve learned anything from Shark Week on Discovery Channel and literary classic characters like JabberJaw, if you want content to connect with an audience, just add sharks.

Special thanks to  Oakley Boren for creating this image at the Social Media Explorer OC conference.

social media shark quote

Image by Oakley Boren

sharknado

 

UPDATE:

7/30/13 The Poke: Blog of the Day:  Sharks Make Movies Better.   Hat tip Oakley Boren

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost in Room 217: Stephen King and The Shining

Our ghost tour guide, a Colorado University student, unintentionally convinced me that we were in the presence of the paranormal during the Stanley Hotel Ghost Tour because the only time she seemed to be relaxed and unscripted was when she was talking about the ghosts nearby.  (See New York Times article about “Scary Mary”).  I’ve been fascinated by the story of Stephen King’s failure, which led him to a frightening night in room 217, which then led to the novel that put him on the map, The Shining.  It’s a beautiful and redemptive reminder to me that failure is a necessary part of the creative process.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to write and produce a dark comedy about the story.  For now, I’ll use it as the topic of a new YouTube series: Better Marriage Through PowerPoint.



The Atlantic reported,

“Jim Carrey requested 217 during the filming of Dumb and Dumber, but checked out—so the story goes—after only three hours. “That’s a shady one,” says the hotel’s tour guide Kevin Lofy. “What happened to him in that room, we don’t know. He’s never spoken of it.” A fantastic, if apocryphal, image: Carrey the rubbery actor-medium, the channeler of presences, windmilling out of the Stanley in a post-ghost panic.”

Room 217

This year at the Sundance Film Festival, director Rodney Ascher premiered his feature documentary “Room 237” which explores Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of the story. (BTW, the hotel asked Kubrick to change the room number for the film.)  Another Stephen King feature was announced last week — “The Breathing Method.”  Congrats to my creative partner from the mainframe videos, Scott Teems, who wrote the screenplay!

Special thanks to Barbara Barna Abel and Ann Handley for the creative support and encouragement on this PowerPoint video series.  Thanks to Garth Beams for the animation, and Justin Balog at HOSSedia for this eerie shot of room 217.

An Oscar in the Shorts

Actors struggle with limited paths to break into feature films in Hollywood. Buzz Lightyear got his foot in the door working as an extra, playing a stormtrooper in The Phantom Menace. Woody’s first on-camera gig was “Saddle Soars,” a :30 second commercial for a medicated ointment. But now, another avenue — the short film — is getting more exposure and respect, leading to more opportunities for filmmakers. This Oscar weekend I emceed the Shorts Awards at the Soho House in West Hollywood.  Shorts International honored John Lasseter with the Lifetime Achievement award, and recognized the Oscar nominees in all three short film categories: animation, live action and documentary.   We also handed out a few short film visionary awards to Melissa Leo and voice-over actress June Foray best known for playing Rocky the Squirrel and Cindy Lou Who. Hopefully the press coverage, which included the Washington Post, ABC News, and the  Hollywood trades will help more short films find the funding for production.

The Inklings

While sitting at this table 70 years ago at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, England, C.S. Lewis encouraged a reluctant young writer to publish the work he shared with the small group of friends, The Inklings.  

That young writer was J.R.R. Tolkien and the unfinished story he shared was “Lord of the Rings.”   I’m guessing Lewis had no idea the film trilogy would go on to earn 30 Oscar nominations and $2.9 billion worldwide at the box office — he probably just thought it was a neat story.

We’re studying The Inklings at Wedgwood Circle,  a group committed advancing the good, true and beautiful in arts and entertainment.  I emceed our conference at Shutters in Santa Monica, where we got a peak into some behind-the-scenes stories:  Sean Astin on making Tolkien’s film (and The Goonies), Michael Flaherty of Walden Media on the Chronicles of Narnia, and Kiel Murray & Phil Lorin on Cars and their short film Kilo.

Shutters

It inspired me to work harder to try to create more of the good, true, beautiful and ridiculous.

Night of a Thousand Stars

To be fair, it wasn’t a “thousand” stars, but more like two or three.  And, it didn’t happen all in one evening, but was spread out over almost a fortnight.  The celeb-fest kicked off when I had lunch with Spider-Man creator Stan Lee in Santa Monica.  He was attending a small storytelling conference in Santa Monica, where I was speaking on a panel about comedy film. 

The following Thursday back in NYC, I went with Daily Show producer Ian Berger to Carnegie Hall to see Ricky Gervais, as part of the New York Comedy Festival.   We went backstage after the show, and had the opportunity to critique Ricky’s act, and a few episodes of “The Office.”  Also met Todd Barry and Janeane Garofalo, who is a lot less political in person.  We hit the After Party at the Empire Hotel Rooftop bar.   I don’t think I’ve stayed out that late since senior prom.

NYCF After Party

Photo: the WSJ gang Rhona Seymour, Melissa Magdits, Nancy McDonald and Ian Berger. 

Then, Friday night, my wife and I attended the NYC premier of THAT EVENING SUN.  Hal Holbrook and Ray McKinnon were at the theater for a Q&A.   On Saturday night, I saw the film for the fourth time, and had drinks after with Scott Teems and Carrie Preston.

THAT EVENING SUN Opens in NYC

UPDATE: selected as New York Time’s Critic’s Pick, The Hollywood Reporter says Holbrook deserves an Oscar nom, and Hammer to Nail compares Teems favorably to Clint Eastwood!

I first saw THAT EVENING SUN at a screening in Tribeca.  The second time I drove three hours to the Newport Film Festival.  (Disclosure: part of the reason was to hang out with writer/director Scott Teems, who is also my comedy filmmaking partner.  Scott wrote a part for me in the film — a stand-up comic bombing at the nursing home, but the scene was cut before shooting.  Not to brag, but the director said I would have been “perfect for this role.”)

Characters such as Abner Meecham (Hal Holbrook) and Lonzo Choat (Ray McKinnon) reminded me of some of my own flaws that I’d prefer to hide from myself. I saw a story of how regret can crush a man and fuel hatred making forgiveness almost impossible. Because of this film, I’ll work harder to extend grace to others, and to myself. The movie also stars Walton Goggins (“The Shield”), Carrie Preston (“True Blood”), Mia Wasikowska (Tim Burton’s upcoming Alice In Wonderland), Barry Corbin (No Country for Old Men), and Dixie Carter.

The film won at SXSW and about 10 other festival awards, received a glowing review from Variety, and several of the Hollywood critics added to their Oscar prediction list Holbrook for Best Actor, and Scott Teems for Best Adapted Screenplay.   It opens this week in NYC at Cinema 123; purchase tickets online from Fandango. There will be a Q&A with the cast and director after the 7PM show on Nov 6th and 7th.  I’ll be there on the 7th, for the third and fourth time.

See the trailer below on YouTube, or in HD on Apple.com


THAT EVENING SUN wins SXSW!

THAT EVENING SUN, the feature film written and directed by my comedy filmmaking partner Scott Teems won its first awards yesterday, as reported by Variety. Its premier at SXSW in Austin this week earned it both the Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble Cast and the Narrative Audience Award.  And the fun is just beginning, if film critic Eric Childress is on target:

Over the years we’ve seen some actors get that one big role late in their careers. Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond, Paul Newman in Nobody’s Fool, Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story, Peter O’Toole in Venus and James Cromwell in Babe, Oscar nominees one and all. And some may consider Hal Holbrook’s nominated turn in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild to be that role for him. Certainly the best thing in that film, but director Scott Teems has gone a step further and done for Holbrook what Thomas McCarthy did for Richard Jenkins last year in The Visitor – given one of our great character actors a chance to shine in a lead role. And shine Holbrook does in That Evening Sun.

I trust there will be a meaty role for me in the sequel, as Holbrook’s tax accountant.

Follow Me

The human characteristic which holds the greatest potential to change the world is the ability to encourage others.  And I absolutely love it when Hollywood uses its reach to do this.  One of the best recent scenes comes from  Peter Berg in “Friday Night Lights,” when Coach Taylor convinces his player Smash before his college football tryout.

You listen to me. You listen to me closer than you’ve ever listened to me before. You remember that Rutledge game? Fourth quarter. You came into that game. You took over that game, play by play. You owned that game.

I watched you that day and I said to myself, ‘that kid is going to go all the way.’ Right now, right here God has placed you to do what you do best.

Go all the way.

I’ll soak up this scene again before my next big audition.

We’ve been having a blast at work, producing some fun animations for the smarter planet initiative: