Posts Tagged ‘Mark Gumbinger’

Pictures In Motion

October 7, 2012

Saturday October 6th, 2012 – Des Plaines, IL

   There’s nothing like having done something yourself to generate a special appreciation of those who are doing it now. Those who were waiters or waitresses themselves tend to tip bigger in bars and restaurants because they know exactly how hard those people work. They’ve experienced it.

I received a call this afternoon from my director friend Mark Gumbinger asking if I’d like to go to a movie premiere in Des Plaines, IL this evening. He’d been given two extra tickets and didn’t know who else to ask that might enjoy something like that. It was a local production, and I love a chance to support something home grown whenever I can. I know how difficult projects can be.

It can be even more difficult to get anyone out to appreciate the finished product, and I’ve been in that uncomfortable situation more times than I want to count. Nothing is an ego stomper like a venue full of empty seats. It drives home the point that out of more than seven BILLION people on our planet, less than fifty chose to sample your product on a given day. It’s pretty humbling.

I know what it’s like to put my heart, soul and ego on the line, so I felt I owed it to the universe to go and support the people who put the work in on this project. Actually, there were four films on the bill and I enjoyed them all. The first three were not more than probably ten minutes each.

The main event was about a 40 minute feature called “The Just”. It had a lot of interesting plot twists, and for what it was I really enjoyed it. I’ve seen or been a part of Mark’s productions for a while now and I know how much effort goes into putting something like that together. It’s brutal.

There are all kinds of things going on behind the scenes that those who watch the final product never get to see, and it’s an education and a half being a part of it. It makes a person appreciate a bad project a lot more, as the amount of work that went into it is probably as much as with a hit.

It’s very easy to be a back seat critic and rip the hell out of something, but I am reluctant to go there since I’ve had so many of my own projects disappoint me. I went in with low expectations, and they were exceeded. There were a few technical snafus as can likely happen, but all in all it was a very pleasant experience. I could see the work that went into all four films, and I respect it.

Mark pointed out that the people who made these films have the same problems he faces – lack of budget and lack of star power. It’s hard to get any kind of heat going without any recognizable names to attract either viewers or buyers. Maybe some of these people will hit in the future, but it doesn’t help a lick now.  It doesn’t mean there wasn’t any talent there, just nobody was famous.

Welcome to the shallow world of showbiz, baby! There’s never a shortage of wannabes but the amount of actual “bes” has always been and still is extremely low. That’s just how it is, and I am facing the same game in the comedy world. Wait and see how funny I’ll be if I ever get famous.

Actually, I won’t be any funnier than I am now but people will THINK I am. That’s how it will be with these films. If anyone in them hits it big, they will be ‘classics’. I’m glad I came tonight.

Magnificent Monday

July 6, 2010

Monday July 5th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI/Chicago, IL

Back to the kind of Monday schedule I love. Most people hate Mondays, but when mine are like this it’s my favorite day of the week. It’s jam packed with things I love to do, and I get to hang around quality people who are of a like mindset. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

First it was lunch in Kenosha, WI with Mark Gumbinger’s regular lunch group. Mark is the movie director I worked with in ‘Dead Air’, and he has a regular lunch scheduled at a Chinese buffet for all who can attend. My friend Lou Rugani from WLIP played the main character in the film and he’s a regular along with Mark’s brother Mike. It’s a fun group.

They’ve taken me in their circle of friends and I’m glad to be included. We enjoy each other’s company and laugh a lot, and the food is reasonably priced too. I ate right and was a good boy at the buffet. Lots of vegetables and salad and melon for dessert. Lots of water too. It’s getting easier and easier to eat better, mainly because I want to make it happen.

Tonight it was back to Zanies in Chicago for a double dose of comedy class and hosting the Rising Star Showcase show. Both were absolutely stellar, and that kind of energy will keep me going all week. This is how every day should go, and it’s a great way to start any week. Being around creative people gets my own vibe flowing and it’s a win/win for all.

This was an especially good class, according to Bill Gorgo who taught it. The members were a little older, and had more life experience which is always good. They got their four weeks of lessons as promised, but I like to give bonus classes whenever I can and this was one of them. Since I was going to be there anyway, I wanted to have a session with them.

We talked about the big picture of comedy and some people asked questions and I had a few guests sit in like I usually do. I like to offer people a chance to sample the class as it’s the best commercial I could possibly do. They get to feel the energy that flows when class starts hopping and we had a great one today. Bill and I and the students totally hit stride.

The same rang true with the Rising Star Showcase. WOW, what an audience. It was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, and it was packed all the way to the back of the room. Maybe it was the weather, and people wanted to escape the heat. Zanies is air conditioned and it was comfortable in there all night. Whatever the case, this was a super hot crowd.

My job is easy when it’s like this. All I really had to do was say ‘That was’ and ‘This is’ and sit back and watch them laugh. It’s not always like that, but when it is it’s a night off. Nobody heckled. Nobody left early. I wish these people would all follow me on the road, or at least tell their friends. They had the vibe all audiences should have. It was a blast.

Nights like this give me hope. I love being in class and feeling that energy and to follow it right up with the high of a hot crowd is a combo platter I could handle every night. In a perfect world, I’d be able to do it every night – not just Mondays. I feel productive and on point with my life’s purpose. I wish every day was like this, but I’ll settle for Mondays.

My Film Debut

April 9, 2010

Wednesday April 7th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

No limousine. No tuxedo. No trophy babe hanging from my arm. Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience to attend my first movie premiere in which I had a part. There was a nice crowd on hand at The Brat Stop, even though it wasn’t sold out. The weather was a problem, as it was rainy and cold, and it was a weeknight too. Still, it was an adventure.

Mark Gumbinger is a good guy and worked very hard putting this whole event together. I know how difficult it is to get people in a room for anything, so it was a rousing success just based on that alone. There were a couple hundred people there, and that took effort to get each one of them. Many were there to see the star, Lou Rugani. This was his vehicle.

The program consisted of me opening the show with thirty minutes of standup comedy, then Dr. Destruction’s band The Dead Leathers played for thirty minutes, then it was time for the actual screening of “Dead Air”. That’s a lot of entertainment for a $7 admission.

It was funny to see the mix of people in one place. Dr. Destruction had a part in the film so he brought his audience, many of them punk rock fans with Mohawks, tattoos, pierced parts that don’t normally get pierced and ripped clothing. Lou Rugani’s fans listen to him on WLIP and are mostly over 50. The looks on their faces at the punk fans were priceless.

Mark hosted the evening and brought me up to do my opening set. There was band gear all over the stage but I worked around it and did my time. They started out a little uptight, but I got them rolling after a while. I kept it clean because that was the right thing to do in a situation like that. I don’t get filthy anyway, but for this event cleaner was appropriate.

After me the band went on and the fans that were there enjoyed them, as did I. Dr. D is a true artist, and even though I’m not a huge punk fan, I thought they were entertaining as hell and a lot of fun. Not all of the older people thought that and many got up and walked around in back trying to escape the loud noise. It was a funny scene, and I soaked it all in.

Then it was time for the movie. Mark brought us up one by one and interviewed us for a minute or two, then he told a couple of stories about what went on behind the scenes that added some depth of insight to the experience. It was exciting to be a part of it all. I sat in the back of the room so I could enjoy not only the movie but the reaction of the audience.

Lou was absolutely amazing. He’s a major talent and it was fun watching him play such a lout of a character when in real life he’s such a great guy. He has a presence that attracts attention much like a Gene Hackman or Morgan Freeman and I thought he jumped off the screen with believability. The other actors did a great job too. The crowd enjoyed it too.

As for my part, I’ve always hated watching or listening to myself. I’m my own harshest critic but everyone said they liked it so whether or not they did doesn’t matter. I wasn’t in it for anything else but fun, and there was plenty of that to go around. Now I can say I was in a movie with a real live speaking part, not just an extra with that hussy Sandra Bullock.

Viewer Discretion Advised

April 7, 2010

Tuesday April 6th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

What person’s bucket list doesn’t include attending the glamorous world wide premiere of their very first movie? Everyone dreams of being in Hollywood and climbing out of the limo with a trophy babe and having cameras go off like a strobe light as they proudly strut down that red carpet to be interviewed by Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight.

Most people never get to experience it, but I have to believe that’s how everyone thinks it would be if it did happen. I know I did. That being said, I will be driving up to the Brat Stop on Highway 50 in Kenosha, WI to participate in the premiere of the film “Dead Air” which was directed by Mark Gumbinger tomorrow night and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Mark is a friend of my radio co-host Dr. Destruction and he brought Mark in to promote his last film “Time-Men”, which also debuted at the Brat Stop. I wasn’t able to attend that one, but I respect anyone who has the guts to hang in there and make a movie. I never for a minute thought it was easy, and I always like to help promote a local artist of any kind.

One thing led to another and Mark asked me to be in his new film “Dead Air”. It has an excellent cast and the main star is Lou Rugani, an amazingly talented guy. Lou has one of the best radio voices on Earth and works at WLIP where I do The Mothership Connection on Sunday nights. He provides the voiceover for the station and our show too. He’s great.

Lou has always been a wonderful person and is about as humble and laid back as a truly talented person can get. His acting is superb as well, as is the entire cast. I got a chance to watch some of the scenes being filmed before I was on and I was impressed. Mark knows what he wants and I thought he was very easy to work with. He directed me and I did it.

The premiere is going to be a fun event, and I sure hope lots of people can attend. Mark is charging $7 which is dirt cheap, and it includes not only a viewing of the film but some standup from me up front and a set from Dr. Destruction’s band The Dead Leathers. I am flattered and honored to be a part of this, and I know how much hard work it took to do it.

If anyone wants to go, I have some discount tickets to get in for $5, and that requires the inclusion of a non perishable food item to give to people in need. I’m going to stop before I get there and bring something myself, as I think that’s a classy thing Mark is doing here.

There are local people in the film like Carol Strempfler who plays Lou Rugani’s wife in the film. She is a regular caller to all the shows on WLIP and she did a great job not only on camera but on the set as well. I’m excited to be a part of the event because I love to see someone’s dream become reality. Mark put his sweat into this as did everyone in the cast.

I was also in my friend Bob Richards’ son Kyle’s movie a while back, but that premiere has been pushed back a little. No worries, I’ll be glad to go to that one too. But for now, it looks like my world premiere in movies is going to be held at the Brat Stop and somehow that seems to be a perfect fit for Mr. Lucky. I’m not complaining at all. It will be big fun.

A Hectic Day Off

January 15, 2010

Wednesday January 13th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI/Kenosha, WI

Today was supposed to be my only day off this week, but I ended up putting in a sixteen hour work day. How did that happen? I’m about ready to drop from exhaustion but I have to be right back up tomorrow morning to pick up Jerry Agar and drive to the Beverly Arts Center to begin final rehearsals for our play “You’re On The Air“. I’m running on fumes.

The new car smell of 2010 has worn off and now it’s just another year. Two weeks of it are gone already, and I feel myself getting totally overwhelmed. I’m in this play way over what I thought it would be, and fun or not it’s draining all my free time. I didn’t expect it to be this all inclusive, but it is. Today I went to Milwaukee to scour some thrift stores.

I know thrift stores very well, and can usually find what I need if I look hard enough for it. Usually I look for books or audio programs, but not today. I was trying to find costume pieces to go with the characters I play and it was a real challenge. I did it on Monday with Chicago junk shops and today I covered as many in Milwaukee as I could. It was a chore.

I know my way around Milwaukee and it’s thrift circuit quite well, but spending the day doing it is an energy drainer. I walked up and down row after row of junk seeing if I could find anything that jumped out at me that would fit into the show. That takes concentration and determination to keep focused but I hung in there and did it. This is our big weekend.

I was exhausted after that but I needed to get to Gateway Tech in Kenosha to appear in  the film “Dead Air” by Mark Gumbinger. He’s the director and co-writer and we’ve had him on our WLIP Mothership Connection radio show a few times. He’s been asking me to be in a film for a while now, and today was the day. It’s only my second movie role.

Mark has done a lot of directing of both feature films and documentaries and he’s a real pro. The schedule changed a couple of times, which is to be expected. He’s trying to get a big project done on a small budget, and if anyone can relate to that math problem, it’s me.

I was running a little late, but so was the shoot. That’s also to be expected. I had a much bigger part than I imagined, and quite frankly I hadn’t memorized any lines. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I just showed up willing to do what I needed to do. We ended up doing quite a bit of filming and I didn’t get out of there until almost midnight, but it went well.

I played a ‘stern but likeable’ radio station manager. Do any of those exist? I would bet I’d see a two headed albino leprechaun with webbed feet riding a unicorn before I’d see a ‘stern but likeable’ radio station manager. That was a challenge, but I think I pulled it off. Mark was very easy to work with and seemed happy with what we did. I’m glad I did it.

This is all a lot of unexpected effort I didn’t expect to be putting in, but I think it’s very worthwhile so I’m doing it anyway. It’s like a quarterback calling an audible at the line of scrimmage when the defense changes. I have an opportunity to gain some experience and learn different things so I’m investing time and energy while the situations are available.