Saturday, June 8, 2013

Why we LOVE SELF-PRODUCED PROJECTS, or “I Am My Own Best Friend”

Hello, and welcome to my blog! Each blog entry will do its very best to include some useful advice for actors (and perhaps New Yorkers at large), as well as one music recommendation (because I can’t help myself). Comments welcome – as well as sharing with your friends!

OK, I’m just gonna say it:  I’ve always been jealous of self-starters. You know, those people who dream up an idea of doing something creative, and then actually go through with it. I’ve seen friends start theater companies, found and finance short films, and even put up a musical or two. "WHERE DO THEY GET THE ENERGY?!" I asked myself, incredulous. “It’s hard enough trying to get into OTHER people’s projects!”

And then, about two years ago, my friend Lindsay Warren, herself a self-starter ( shared a really funny video on my Facebook wall: My Drunk Kitchen’s "BRUNCH?"   In addition to being hilarious, MDK’s very simply produced web-clip (all filming and editing is done by creator Hannah Hart) inspired me to put into practice a dream I had had for a while, ever since watching BalconyTV online: making my own music-recommendation show.

As I shared this idea with more and more friends, it magically grew:  from being a small video, to be shot in my kitchen on my little Canon PowerShot and edited on my laptop, it became Maayan’s Music Minute, a Web Series whose pilot was shot on location, outside a music venue in Brooklyn, on a DSLR camera, and then edited professionally. It was directed and co-produced by my friend and fellow actor Pamela Karp (; shot by a professional DP, Ronald J. Lewis (who happened to be a friend of a friend);  we were assisted by 2 volunteer PA’s (that’s Production Assistants  - a lovely music-loving friend and my wonderful little sister); and the clip even offers a free music download, granted by the artists.

How did I find the energy to get and keep this whole thing going? All I can come up with for an answer is this: optimistic, almost Pollyanna-like, ENTHUSIASM. The more I spoke about the project, the more excited I got – and despite the predictable (and some unpredictable) troubles and delays, we kept at it and I am very proud of the end product, which now has the added benefit of serving as my host reel.  I’m happy to say, MMM: Episode 2 (now easier to produce, as we had all developed a shared vocabulary and a sense of ease in working together) is already complete and up on YouTube as well. Huzzah!

Other inspirational self-starters worth mentioning are actor and tech-guru Gary Ploski, who co-produced the film Rising Star; fellow Neighborhood Playhouse alums, the multi-talented Jefferson Rogers [] and Maggie Levin []; and all trained and talented actors, who decide not to wait for someone to open the door for them– but rather to draw a door, open it, and walk right in. You can do it too – all it takes is an idea, some friends who believe in that idea, and lots and lots and LOTS of energy and patience.

Here’s to you and your self-produced project!

And now for some music:
Of all the wonderful modern-folk music deluged upon us from near and far, I’d like to spotlight a fellow who many consider the Godfather of the “New Folk” rebirth in London – Johnny Flynn.

Mr. Flynn is a trained actor, like us (he performed opposite Mark Rylance in Jerusalem, Twelfth Night and Richard III  in London, all to great acclaim); however, unlike us (well, unlike me), he also plays roughly 500 instruments, including ones as varied as the violin, the dobro and (wait for it -) the trumpet (!) A talented songwriter, his lyrics are clearly influenced by voracious reading - anything from Shakespeare to Catholic religious rites to traditional folk poems. In my mind, Flynn is the most troubadour-like of the new-folk musicians from across the pond; he is the kind of singer-songwriter you can easily imagine hitchhiking along deserted country roads, carrying only a knapsack with Gouda cheese in it and a guitar case.  Johnny Flynn used to tour with both Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons, but now headlines his own tours, and beautifully so. I got to see him live twice so far, and while to me “Howl” is his most impressive song (as in it he sings and plays guitar AND trumpet), I think a lovely way to start getting to know him is the beautiful, world-weary, “Barnacled Warship”. Enjoy.