My Summer Vacation: Acting and Adventure

My Summer Vacation

The film I worked on this summer has now been made available for public viewing on Vimeo. It was filmed in July around Sidmouth, England with an intimate cast and crew. I worked with some brilliantly talented people and hopefully will work with them again. The experience was another life changer for me.

I had given up the idea of ever working in a profession that I’d been hooked on since my teen epiphany that this was the ideal occupation for me. When I reluctantly turned my back on it, I knew that I would never have the chance to prove that I still had the chops for this type of work. I was wrong about that, just as I’ve been wrong about many things in my life. One thing I think I’m right about is, I have always honestly believed that people are born to be actors, writers, directors, et al. I still do.

Just as there are people who have certain party tricks; like being able to imitate Christopher Walken or John Wayne after a couple of drinks, there are others who have a talent that they were born with. They enter the world as a sort of idiot savant. The ability; the talent, exists already. All they need is the opportunity to develop the skill required to polish and hone that innate talent. Like the joke goes, it takes practice to get to Carnegie  Hall.

My month of July 2013 (my summer vacation, if you will) was filled with excitement. Not only did I get to step in front of the camera for the first time in years, I also got to prove to myself that I had not lost the urge, or the ability, to act. It was still a part of me and though I’d turned my back on it, the creativity had not left me. Nor had the imagination needed to “pull it off.”

The end result was a project that I could take pride in. All because Natasha Harmer took a chance to use an old out-of-practice actor, who could have turned out to be  a ham or an actor who could not act. She writes a blog titled Films and Things, which was the name of the production company incidentally, and if you haven’t already, you should go check her out.

For those of you who want to see the film, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, just click on the link. Once you’ve seen it, drop by and let Natasha “Tash” know what you thought. Personally, I think that every single person attached to the film did a bang-em-up job, but I could be a little prejudiced.

My Summer Vacation
In Mandela House July, 2013

The second thing I did in July was to travel to South Africa to track down a couple of sources who’d turned our paper, the Las Vegas Guardian Express (guardianlv.com) onto the news that Nelson Mandela was no longer with us. Despite the huge smoke screen thrown up by the world’s press, based on news released from his children who have their own reasons for not acknowledging the great man’s passing, we received information that was disturbing and obscene. We’d been told by quite a few sources that the man was really gone.

I will not go into the story, you can follow the above link to see the articles written by myself and other journalists in the paper. I was chosen, at the last minute, to fly to the country and search for the truth. I have written about my experiences and will be adding more of what I learned about the country  in the paper itself.

I met people in Johannesburg who watched over me in this dangerous area of the world and treated me like a long lost family member. I travelled around the local areas, saw where the poor lived and the rich. I went to Pretoria visiting  the hospital where Madiba was interred.  I spoke to fellow journalists who were camped outside the hospital waiting for the next act in this tragedy to unfold.

This trip was another life changing event. It  made me realise that I was addicted to the adrenaline rush. The feeling of hyper-reality that comes with the territory of increased heart rate and focussed vision. Johannesburg emits a feeling of underlying danger, somewhat akin to working in the prison service when there is trouble brewing from certain elements. You are on edge and, seemingly, aware of everything going on. Afterward, you are exhausted by all of the hyper-awareness.

I have been incredibly lucky in the time following my near brush last year with the grim reaper. I have, in essence, rediscovered myself. I’ve learned that there are some things in me that will never change. The actor in my soul will never die and my yearning for adventure, aka adrenaline addiction, will always be a constant companion. I have also rediscovered my love of writing.

I’ve written about all the above mentioned  things before, but, I’ve been a bit lackadaisical with my blog of late. My  work for the paper has pretty much overtaken everything in my life at the moment. But I will remember to make time for my inner actor and will soon be preparing a showreel to see if anyone else would like to hire an old “not-so-out-of-practice actor again.

Until then, my summer vacation with its adventures in acting, world news, and dangerous surroundings will be in my memory book. If I close my eyes, I can see South Africa unfold before me just a vividly as the day I arrived. It is amazing that the end result of being so close to death has made me feel more alive than ever before.

I have been truly blessed by whoever, or whatever, is in charge. I thank all of you lovely people who take the time to follow my little blog and who leave comments or like my efforts. May you all find what makes you feel truly alive in your lifetime.

Michael SmithMy Summer Vacation

United Kingdom

18 October 2013

Blogging for Dough, Does it pay?

Writing something!
Hard at work at my new job!

I first started blogging back in 2010. One tiny blogpost and then nothing for an entire year. I restarted in ernest in 2011 but never got any colossal views on the Blogger site. I added Tumblr to my little blog verse and, again, didn’t really set the world on fire. It wasn’t until I made the move in April last year to WordPress.com  that my views, readership (aka followers) and interest picked up.

I have been doing this for roughly a year and three months and I’m only now getting a solid blog set up, with a lot of help from my “real job” working for the Las Vegas Guardian Express.

I had written an earlier blog about the likelihood of gaining employment from writing your blog. It is possible to make money from it. If you’re an author, it is an excellent springboard for advertising your wares and increasing your fan base, which in turn, will increase book sales.  There are ways to advertise on your blog, but my trips down that particular avenue have not been very profitable.

In truth, they’ve been practically non-existent.

I was approached by a company when my views started going up. I was pleased to think that my ramblings could earn me cash. Then reality hit. The money that they offered me was laughably low. It amounted to around $100 for a year of letting them advertise on my blog.  I also took so long to respond that I missed that particular window of, limited, opportunity.

I then tried the “Adsense” route, or the WordPress version of it anyway. I never heard back. Presumably my little blog is too little to count. I then attempted to branch out and go the freelance route. While my first attempt got positive feedback, the finished product didn’t meet their “expectations” and I was left penniless at the end of the day.

The only income from my writing has been as an entertainment journalist/editor for the Guardian.

I would like to say that my blog was instrumental in getting me this nicely paid job.

It wasn’t.

I got the job almost by accident. I had gone to another newspaper, owned by the same organisation, with the idea of posting some of my short stories on the site. While I busily built my profile, I noticed another advert on the site that was looking for writers. It was the Guardian Express.

I applied.Thumbs up!

To cut a long story short, I received training and tips from the owner/founder of the paper, DiMarkco Chandler. I already knew how to write, so that part was easy. What I didn’t know was how to write for the internet world of news. I’d had journalism a million years ago and remembered all the things you must do in an article.

What I didn’t know was how to utilise those rules in an internet format to ensure that people read my articles.

But it was more than the training that got me swept up in the excitement of writing for a newspaper at my advanced age. It was the chance to work for an organisation  that, not only paid handsomely for my work, but one that believed in dreams. Everyones dreams. That, plus a group of likeminded folks, make this a “dream” job!

So, if I was asked by anyone, does blogging for money, pay? I’d have to answer, “Yes and no.” I’ve not earned one red cent from my blog. But writing it and posting several articles a day, brushed the cobwebs out of my very rusty writing skills and helped me to start to develop a singular style.

It was blogging for fun that got me started on this venture and while it never reached the “blogging for dough” stage (well not very much dough was offered at any rate) it hasn’t paid me one thin dime.

But it was blogging that inadvertently and in a very roundabout way led me to my current position. I still think that blogging is an excellent way to polish your writing and a great way to meet likeminded folks who also enjoy writing their creative, and sometimes personal, thoughts and sharing them with the amazing blogging community.

I’ve made some real friends via WordPress and at least one helped realise that I could still act and was instrumental in making me realise that no dream, even one that had been given up on years ago, was beyond my reach.

So blogging for dough, does it pay? Not really. Not for me, at least. But the recompense in making friends, building a following, and interacting with a wonderful community is much more satisfying than making money. Although you can’t pay bills with that sort of recompense.  But I’ve only been doing this for a short time, I may yet make some “real dough” for my labours!

Michael SmithIMG_0229

United Kingdom

23 July 2013

The First 500 are the Hardest

The First 500 are the Hardest

I had a litte moan about 200 followers ago about the fact that after the big 2-oh-0h that WordPress didn’t give you any sort of fanfare for the 300 or the 400 follower mark. Little did I know that they wait until the 500 mark to say a big, “Well done!”

I cannot say that it got here all too quickly, because that would be a lie. It seemed to take no time at all to get to the 200 point and then?

It felt like time stood still for  awhile. But it didn’t, not really.

It was just that things had changed, the way I wrote changed, the amount I wrote changed…my  life changed.

I won’t go through everything that has changed in my life, I did that in my previous post. But I will say this, I cannot begin to express how grateful I am about everything.

But first I have to thank two very, very special people (Actually it’s three, but who’s counting?)

I have to do a huge shout out to Marilyn over at Serendipity she and her other half, Garry, have been enormously supportive ever since I first made their acquaintance on WordPress. She has a wonderful blog and if you haven’t strolled over there yet, just take a second to click on the above link and have a look. You’ll be impressed, I promise you. Then, if you’ve a mind to, hit that follow button. You won’t regret it.

The second person I have to give a singular shout out to is Natasha over at Films and Things. Natasha is a media student, writer, director and producer all rolled into one person. She has given me, perhaps the greatest gift ever, she has cast me in the lead role in her first professional short film, Once Bitten, Twice Shy. As those of you who have been following me for awhile, I’ve written about my love of acting and my frustration at having to turn my back on it, several times. Now I have a chance to get back in front of the camera after a long absence. Thanks Tasha!

I also, have to thank Natasha for putting me up for an award, a loooong time ago, and I still haven’t responded to it! Sorry Tasha, it means loads that you thought of me when it came time for dishing that one out, I will make it up to you, I promise…

But I also need to thank all the other folks who have stuck with me since I started on WordPress. If I thanked all of you separately, I wouldn’t get anything done as the Deputy Managing Editor for The Guardian Express. If you haven’t had a look at our great site, have a look now by clicking on the link. I’ve already been linking articles that I write that have a special place in my heart, either because of content or just because I think I’ve written something particularly well. But I don’t link them all, as we have a lot of writers who all bring something special to the table.

I’m not going to get back on the “apology train” again, but I will get back to something that resembles “normality” on here pretty soon. I’m running around like a headless chicken at the moment, trying to develop a schedule that allows me to donate a little time to everything. I’m getting closer to that goal and you will soon see more “daily” postings of articles.

Until then, I want to say thank you to all my new followers! I haven’t had time to thank you all personally yet, but I will! I’m not so far up my own nether-regions that I don’t think I need to. I’ve just not had the time.

It takes a lot of hard work to do a daily blog. You all know that, I don’t want you to think I am “teaching you how to suck eggs,” but I did want to mention it.   I was doing up to three, if not four, posts a day, now I don’t have the time. But I will get back to at least one per day.

So, in essence, I started writing this about how it really feels like getting the first 500 followers is the hardest part about blogging and, like my life at the moment, it has evolved into something different than what  I had planned.

Thanks to my very special two bloggers (friends) and thanks to the folks that are too numerous to personally shout out. But you guys know who you are, until recently, I always tried to talk to you folks daily if possible. I’ll get back to that soon as well, I promise.

So until I can get on here again, may all you very special folks have the best of today and an even better tomorrow.  I mean that, because you’ve all got a very special place in my heart.

Ciao

Cheers!
Cheers!

60,000 and Rising

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 13.20.22

It was with great joy this morning as I squinted with sleep filled eyes at my stats page and saw I’d finally crossed the 60k mark. With one hand on my ubiquitous coffee mug and the other on my Macbook mousepad, I scrolled down and also saw that my following list had increased.

All was right in the world; God was in his heaven and my blog was continuing to grow.

On a more serious note, I’ve got to say that I am really overjoyed with how things are going with my blog and my writing. On the topic of my blog, I can only say thank you from the deepest part of my repaired heart to all the folks who keep reading and commenting and following my site. You guys really make my day. Nothing is better than waking up in the morning and seeing that my site is continuing to grow while I sip my first of many cups of coffee of the day.

While I still don’t have a huge grasp on what my particular “niche” is, I’m happy with continuing with what I am doing. It seems to be working and I don’t want to rock the boat too much!

TourBadge-AnthologyExtravaganza

I do need to say that my input will be slowing down. Instead of the 3 to 4 blog posts per day, I will be dropping down to 1 or 2. I will also be using some blog space to promote upcoming Tomorrow Comes Media (TCM) hosting events, which I have just started doing and the first one up will be Michael West’s brilliant anthology Vampires don’t Sparkle on May the 16th.

VampiresDontSparkle-Cover

I’ll be featuring a guest post from one of the contributors to this brilliant anthology and I’ll have another event on the 19th of May.

I am currently spending a lot of time writing articles for the web magazines Guardian Express and What Culture! Added to that is the review work and interviews for Rogue Cinema and the research I’ve been doing for my book, so my attention is spread pretty thin at the moment.

I am getting requests from new authors to review their newest work and if you know of anyone who exchange a copy of the latest and greatest book for a review let me know!

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So, intense (for me anyway) workload aside, things are going well (knock on wood) and the film Once Bitten, Twice Shy is still on for filming on the 6th of July this year and if you want to know more about this click on the link above and you’ll be redirected to the film’s website.

So before I sign off here today, I will reiterate how pleased and  grateful I am for the time that you lovely folks in the WordPress community spend supporting my blog. While I am not very good at visiting other sites as much as I should, I continue to try to repay the kindness that you’ve shown me.

Photo on 27-03-2013 at 09.03
I know, I need to update this picture, the chin scruff is gone!

Skoal!

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning in the Middle of Winter & A New Lease on Life

Seems like only yesterday...
Seems like only yesterday…

Okay, not really, it just feels like the middle of winter. Of course the added bonus of the sun shining brightly outside, even though all my toils have been “under-cover” makes my energy levels rise accordingly.

Regardless of how flaming cold it is, and will be throughout the entire month of April the helpful weathermen are saying, my energy level has sky-rocketed. I don’t have quite the high levels that, say, Superman has, but compared to my practically non-existent levels just six and a half months ago, I feel like I should be wearing a cape and my underwear on outside of my clothes. (Any references to a young Madonna will be ignored)

Part of this cleaning frenzy is down to the sunshine and down to the departure of my daughter and her fella who had been living with me. Meg has been living under the same roof as me since she finished uni.  Max was a recent addition to the household while they both searched for their first abode together. I am not intimating that they were messy, it’s just that I couldn’t be bothered to clean around half-filled boxes and piles of items that were awaiting their fate.

The other reason I’ve had this energy boost has to do with the last visit to my surgeon. While I sat there, heart pounding, (which to be fair it always does now after the surgery) we looked at each other wordlessly for a moment. He then grinned and said, “Well, it looks like the tear has healed.”

I sat for another moment, stunned by this information. I looked at him and said, “What??”

He went on to explain that as they could not do  yet another bypass operation around the injured Aorta after they’d torn it, that he decided to “take a chance” and put a couple of stitches in the tear. As he put it, “It couldn’t hurt and at any rate it wouldn’t matter if we had to bypass it later on.”

So, here we are. I’ve been given, in essence, “a break” and despite the fact that I still have damage to my veins and capillaries, etc, that will have to be monitored for the rest of my life, I can now do pretty much anything I want. Even wrestle with prisoners, although with the alarming alacrity that the Prison Service ill-health retired me, I would not want to return to their world.

Call me bitter, but that’s how I feel. I now have to attend some rehabilitation sessions (which they would not book me on before, because they were afraid they were going to kill me) and try to get some sort of work that pays me, before my one-time payment runs out.

I still don’t know what I want to do.

Wow!
Wow!

My options are many, and some, have been most surprising. The wonderfully talented Natasha Harmer over at Films and Things has asked me to be the lead in her new (and first) independent short film Once Bitten, Twice Shy. I accepted with a speed that probably made her immediately regret asking. It will be the first time in a very long time that I have stepped in front of a camera in a professional capacity (I don’t count YouTube). I am excited, nervous and very pleased. I may have to wait for a while as the project is pretty much dependant on the generosity of others for funding.

If you can afford to spare a bob or two (or a buck, guilder, et al) click here and you’ll find the indiegogo site for the film.

I’ve also just started working for the web magazine Rogue Cinema, the main guy what’s in charge Duane L Martin has thrown caution to the wind and allowed me the privilege of writing reviews for his “zine” and I’m tickled to death.

Of course I never would have gotten this great opportunity if it weren’t for Misty Layne over at Cinema Schminema so I have two lovely and talented ladies who are responsible for my life taking a new and exciting turn.

It goes without saying that you really should go and check their sites out and stop by the Rogue Cinema magazine as well. They specialise in independent film and Duane is currently working at a frenzied pace to get this month’s issue out.

Stop by and tell em I sent ya. You won’t get any special treatment if you do, but, it would make me feel good.

In the meantime, I need to cook myself some tea, and then relax. This spring cleaning malarkey is good for building up and appetite and the urge to go lay down on the sofa is becoming too strident to ignore.

Until next time, Ciao and bon appétit!!

Photo on 23-03-2013 at 16.37