Keira Knightley is the best…and not cuz of her boobs

Keira Knightley, you all probably know who she is, the cute actress who gets cast in movies because she makes audiences swoon. But that is not why I’m writing this post about her. As good of an actress that she may be, she is equally as cool and kind as a person….and I’m taking that opinion of her just from one detached experience. About 4 years ago, my father, who was terminally ill with cancer, had what was to be, his final birthday approaching. And I took it upon myself to write to about 10-15 of the actors/actresses from the Pirates of the Caribbean films. You see….my Dad was a big fan of those movies and he frequently laughed his way through the horrors of chemotherapy’s side effects because he watched them constantly (HBO played them non-stop at one point in time). I’m not sure how a man could still find enjoyment from watching the same films, day after day…..but then again he WAS pumped full of toxic chemicals and just looking for a good laugh and an escape from the pain.

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Any who… I printed out a bunch of head-shots of various actors from the films and sent off dozens of padded envelopes with letters that said essentially, ‘Hey, my dad is sick. He loves the pirates films. This might be his last birthday….and I want to give him a present of all these get well signatures from various actors from the film.’ A fan letter is a long shot….but I work in the industry and I know that famous people have assistants, secretaries and agents that sort through their mail (and sometimes they actually do it themselves) so I figured…..why not? I’d sent the letters out about 8 months before his birthday. PLENTY OF TIME. I also sent duplicates to some people.

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I waited and waited….hoping to get a few of the stars. I mean….Jack Sparrow surely would send a reply. Or Geoffrey Rush….right? Nope. Nada. No Johnny Depp. No Orlando Bloom. No Bill Nighy. And more importantly…..No Bootstrap Bill. Really? Paul Newman even personally wrote me back when I was a kid. And that was PAUL NEWMAN!!! What did I actually expect though? I went to college with a butt-load of theatre kids. I’ve worked in film/tv for years and I know what actors and actresses are like. So I was being VERY realistic….but I figured….hey come on it was a really nice letter….and it’s a HUGE FANS LAST BIRTHDAY!!! After a while I’d even forgot about the whole ordeal because I’d waited so long to get a single reply. And then about a week before my Dad’s birthday a couple of packages came to the door. Naturally, I rushed out to open them. Boom! The first one was from Mackenzie Crook, you remember him right?…The skinny guy who’s eyeball kept popping out of his head. And the next was from Kevin McNally, Johnny Depp’s right hand man ,Gibbs, in the films, who left my Dad an AWESOME birthday inscription on the headshot. If you ever read this…THANK YOU KEVIN!

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So, I said to myself….ok. ok. Two side characters. That’s awesome! But it kind of sucks because I sent out so many letters and took the time to actually print out the head shots so it’d be REALLY, FUCKING SIMPLE for a person to just sign it. I mean….because they have SOOOO MUCH TO DO. Ya know, read through scripts, choose a project, get driven around by assistants (what I used to be-kind of why I know intimately what their lives are like), socialize at parties, go to nice hotels, eat at nice restaurants with producers and then oh yeah…..pretend to be someone else in front of the camera. Woopdy Doo! I was a tad bit bitter, to say the least. Not bitter for bitters sake (an actors life can be hard sometimes, I know. They deal with an ENORMOUS amount of BS)…..but just bitter because I know from personal experience HOW EASY IT IS FOR AN ACTOR TO REPLY TO A FAN!….just then….another package came. Who could it be? Was it Jack Sparrow!?! Yes!!!!

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Nope. Not Jack Sparrow. You know who it was from?…….Keira Mother Fuckin’ Knightley. Yeah boy! Leave it to the lady to show some respect & compassion. She sent two small, signed head-shots. One of them was even made out to ‘Joe’, my Dad. SCORE for Team McConnell. Hey…I mean….it probably wasn’t even her. Maybe her assistant read the letter and just said, ‘Hey Keira. Sign these head-shots. Make one out to Joe’, and she signed it and didn’t give it another thought. Or maybe the assistant even signed it. But maybe she actually read the letter….maybe she has some compassion for her fans….and maybe she is a really cool and genuine person. Either way…..those pictures & signatures made my Dad’s day. And yes, he swooned for Keira Knightley…..who wouldn’t? Even my Mom swooned. That’s why she gets the work after all. So, Keira….if you or your associates & comrades ever find this on a google search for some un-Godly reason….THANK YOU! Number 1…..you made a dying man very, very happy. And Number 2…..because you took 3 seconds to sign a head shot…you’re way cooler than any of the other ‘stars’ from the Pirates films. Thank you Keira, Mackenzie and Kevin for being part of the 10% of cool people in the industry (Cast/Crew alike….man some crew members are assholes). It’s not always easy for an actor to remember that they’re a regular person living in a fantasy world. Also, part of the reason why I wrote this post is for you unfortunate souls that work in the film industry and trudge through the slop of sycophants ….hey! Here’s a real story from someone else who works in the film industry. And it’s a good one! About something good that happened in the business. Cheers! (cheers as in go drink a beer, or two, or three…because you work in the film industry-not the Cheers! that the English & Australians say)

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Thanks for reading this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. I hope that you take a look at the work of Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Crook and Kevin McNally and maybe even become fans of theirs.  As always. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. Even animals, plants and rocks. It’s a pretty jacked up world so…. do your best to follow The Golden Rule. Have a great day!

 

Joe McConnell’s Film School 102

Alrighty then. I shall continue the free filmmaking lessons that I started back in December. If  you haven’t read part 1 HERE IT IS. Films. Movies. Hollywood. Most people think it’s magic to make a movie. Even I still think it’s magic sometimes, and though some facets of filmmaking are very special, I know better than to think that it’s ALL magic. It’s actually just pretty simple stuff that you can learn without taking out a 120K loan to go to film school. Because seriously….who in their right minds wants to do that?

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Ever seen the film Swimming with Sharks (1994)? Or Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder (2008)? Well…..give those a watch. Now, I haven’t worked on 200 million mega-budget Hollywood films, the biggest budget I was ever on I think was about 1/4th of that, but it’s pretty much the same deal every time. Someone/some company has lots of money. They hire producers to control that money in the film production. One of those producers or production managers is very mercurial, frugal and unsympathetic. They, ya know….kinda like having power over others and get off on it. Usually….that’s your boss. And that boss will put you through hell unless you follow the rules, are ALWAYS prepared, bust your ass and never complain. Even when you’re blocking traffic on a dirt road near a swamp and there are 10,000 mosquitos ripping you apart for 16 hours. Don’t complain. Just do it. Even when you have to drive 2hrs roundtrip to the nearest Home Depot and when you return to set they don’t need the materials anymore….so then you drive another 2 hrs roundtrip to return the stuff….but when you get back to set they need you to GO BACK to Home Depot for something else. Don’t complain. Just do it… with a smile on your face.

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The people at the top aren’t always that bad. But….90% of the time someone in the group of investors, executives, producers and managers will be MORE THAN HAPPY to be a dickwad to everyone on set. If you’re lucky….you’ll only get those 10% of the time jobs when EVERYONE IS SUPER COOL. Anywho……What are those rules and ways of being prepared that I mentioned before? Well…it varies depending on your boss, your position and the production that you’re on (because there are no set rules…just general rules) but what I’ve found to be tried and true are these (if you’re working as a PA or anything comparable), ya know…a bottom of the ladder job. 1) Always have some paper on you. A small pad is fine or just some scratch pieces 2) Always have at least 4-5 pens on you. Producers/Production Managers are always on the phone and they’ll snap at you for a pen/paper many times. If you ALWAYS have them ready, you’ll be their best friend…for a couple of minutes. Some people like to have pens, pencils, highlighters and erasers on them (and that’s great!!) but that’s too much for me and it always weighed me down. So….a few pens and you’ll be golden.

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3) Keep your mouth shut. Keep it shut when they’re filming, when they’re rehearsing….hell….JUST KEEP IT SHUT. There will be time to goof off with friends you’ve made on set during lighting set-ups, lunch breaks and general WTF is going on!?! breaks. You’ll slip up for sure…most people on set do. We’re only human. But if you follow that rule 95% of the time you’ll be A-OK. 4) Have a good attitude. I’ve said this before. You don’t have to smile like a retard all the time….but just have an optimistic viewpoint towards the shit-storm of a movie that you’re working on. After all…it’s JUST A MOVIE. 5) This is the one I hate. Always pick up your phone…IMMEDIATELY. It goes without saying that during work hours you need to always answer your texts and calls….but when you’re off…..ANSWER YOUR PHONE. Yes…you just worked a 14 hour day and commuted home and have 8 hours to eat, shave, do your laundry and sleep. And then production calls/texts you. ANSWER IT. I’ve gotten into trouble with this one a lot because I hate cell phones and dig the off-the-grid style….but hey…..answer your phone.

There are certainly other rules…but those will do for now.

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Whatever department you’re in….you’ll start to pick things up pretty quickly. Within 2 weeks to a month of production work, you’ll know more than most people in film school. It’s not really rocket science. Just do what you’re told, learn from your mistakes and anticipate when the demanding actress will want hot jasmine tea before she asks for it…and you’ll have a friend for life. Being on a movie set is kind of like babysitting. If you’ve spent time with kids, you’ll know that they’re selfish. They could be AWESOME kids….but still, they’re selfish. They wanna do what they wanna do. If they don’t get their way they’ll throw a hissy fit and you’ll have to spend 5 minutes talking them down or they’ll go out and randomly hit other kids. That’s like a film set…..just with a bunch of grown ups.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this M.A.V.B.L.O.G and it’s helped in your film pursuits, your knowledge of the filmmaking process or that it just generally entertained you. As always. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. And have an awesome day!