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Goodbye, Roy February 11, 2008

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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Roy Scheider passed away this weekend at the age of 75, after battling cancer for two years.  He is famous, of course, for playing Police Chief Martin Brody in Jaws, as well as starring in dozens of other films. And, although it seems to have been overlooked in his various obituaries, he also starred in a movie with me.

In parallel with my lengthy IT career, I also moonlighted as a movie extra back in the ’80s.  For the princely sum of $40 a day (less $4 to my agent) my acting services were available to any and all production companies choosing to film in the Orlando area.  Over a period of several years, I performed in Disney travel videos, commercials, and training and marketing films known as “industrials.”  I got to meet Michael Eisner, and I even danced in close proximity to Downtown Julie Brown, which qualifies as my only foray into the horror genre.

My career peaked with my performance with Roy in Somebody Has To Shoot The Picture.  In this film, a wrongly convicted man awaits his fate on death row while Roy attempts to exonerate him before it is too late.  Not to spoil it or anything, but Roy just a bit too late and the man is executed, a dramatic indictment of our inherently unfair criminal justice system.

I appear in the very, very, very last scene of the movie.  As Roy walks out of the prison, head down and dejected, I can be seen with some other woman and two nuns, kneeling in prayer beside the walkway.  Roy walks right next to me as the credits start to roll.

We shot this scene at night, and it took all night to get it right.  We spent a lot of time hanging out at the caterer’s cart, feasting on the excellent free food. As the shoot dragged on, the writer of the movie, an authentic Left Coast Liberal, polled the crowd of extras to see if we agreed with his political views.  When he asked how many people on the set opposed the death penalty, not a single hand went up.  This was at a time when Florida was trying to execute Ted Bundy for his serial killing spree, and also trying to legislate a mandatory seat belt law.  T-shirts emblazoned with “I’ll buckle up when Bundy does” were popular.  The poor writer had no idea of the kind of crowd he was up against.  For $40, of course, we could set aside our political differences and act like we opposed the death penalty.  Remember, there are no small parts, only small actors.

In hindsight, I realize now that shooting movies is a lot like most any IT project.  It takes a lot longer than you originally estimated.  It takes a lot more people and equipment that you originally thought.  You’ll be up all night at some point.  You have to do some parts over and over. And the most important aspect of the project is the quality of the free food they provide.

“…I’ll never go hungry again” January 6, 2008

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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The other day, in a planning meeting, I was suddenly moved to channel Scarlett O’Hara and shared her core sentiment: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” followed by “Tomorrow is another day.” I was met by blank stares. (This happens a lot to me in meetings but can be disconcerting nonetheless).

I probed for some cultural connection, someone in the room who knew what I was talking about. No takers. Is Gone With The Wind that far removed from current culture? Is there anyone under 47 who knows this movie? Is it important any more?

I like to think that there are certain cultural elements that are consistent across wide swaths of our society, but I am beginning to think that fewer and fewer of them exist. Conversely, it may be that there are just as many of these touchpoints, but I am not getting the memos to keep me in the loop.

I worry that a culture that lacks these binding elements is actually no culture at all. We are shifting from a world where 50,000,000 people see one movie and remember it collectively, to one where 50,000,000 see 50,000 blogs and videos and break into 1,000 subcultures.

I’m thinking that this internet thing may have some unforeseen side effects.