Friday, May 11, 2007


I met up with a classmate from my samurai class at Echo Lake Park, just off the 101 Freeway and Alvarado, to work on what our sensei calls the “Vegas” routine. It’s a fight scene that someone had choreographed for a show in Vegas and my sensei wanted a few of us in the class to learn it and, possibly, perform it locally.

We met around 5:30 on a warm, sunny afternoon. A film was being shot just to the north of the park, and so we found a little spot in the middle to do our routine. As usual, a few spectators watched us from afar. After all, it’s not often you get to see two Japanese guys attacking each other with wooden swords in a public park.

Earlier, while crossing the street, a police car stopped me and asked what I was doing. “I’m going to practice in the park,” I said. He asked me what I was carrying and I said it was a wooden sword. “Oh, I thought it was something else,” he said, laughing to his partner as he drove off.

Tohoru is the name of my classmate, and we spent about an hour practicing and another hour talking about the “business.” Tohoru was up for a couple parts recently, one of which was for a BBC TV series called “Warriors.” He and his agent thought he had booked it after being put on “hold” and told to get his passport in order. Last week, my friend Yuji Okumoto, an actor who made his initial fame on a Karate Kid movie, called me to ask about a samurai movie I had heard about. I also mentioned there was a BBC project that was being cast and he said he booked it and was flying off to Japan to shoot it the following Monday.

Tohoru was completely bummed out about not booking the BBC gig (apparently, I broke the news to him), but then he just found out he booked 3 weeks on a Sci-Fi Channel movie that was filming in Louisiana, so things were okay with him.

Tohoru has the philosophy that we are “all doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing,” which is a great attitude and perhaps a cop-out at the same time. But I respect the philosophy and also agree with most of the statement. The part I don’t agree with is the notion that it seems to mean that we are all doing what we should be doing. I just don’t understand what it is that we should be doing.

For instance, I recently mentioned a friend, Chin Han, whom I met at a coffee shop in Hollywood. He was dressed in a suit that day and was looking sharper than usual. I asked him what was up and he said he had had a very important meeting that day. I tried to ask further but he had only received a verbal offer and wasn’t comfortable divulging anything at that point. He just talked about what it must be like for a guy to go from obscurity to celebrity overnight.

A couple days ago, I invited Chin Han to a mixer in Beverly Hills and met up with a couple close friends, one of whom is Pat Morita’s daughter and the other a First AD who most recently finished working on the TV series, “What About Brian?” Chin Han then mentioned to me what project he had booked. It’s the next Batman movie with Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Heath Ledger. He’s leaving for London next week and will be traveling for the next 5 months.

After the mixer, we then went to The Standard on Sunset Blvd. and saw my old Yolk Magazine colleague Celene, who is known locally as DJ Syrena. She’s been spinning Wednesdays at The Standard for a few years now and she’s spinning at Circus (for those who know the electronic music scene) on Saturday. Recently, she was featured in a huge spread on female DJs in the Calendar section of the L.A. Times.

But back to Chin Han. Earlier, I mentioned he was a producer for the Asian Excellence Awards and he also produces and directs mainstage theatre in Singapore. Some of his productions included The Blue Room and Closer. He also was an actor in Singaporean soap operas, which apparently is a pretty common thing to do there, but hardly anyone knows him as an actor these days.

During our coffee meeting, he mentioned that he works very little as an actor, perhaps one movie every two years. “You, on the other hand, work all the time, compared to me.” Well, those are his words, not mine. And sure, 10 print jobs and a commercial or two per year does seem like a lot compared to one summer blockbuster movie. Not! Uh-uh, not even close. He wanted to know how much he should expect to make on a big summer movie and I said that if it’s a good part, he could make well into the hundreds of thousands, just through box office residuals alone.

In a couple of weeks, I’m working at the ad agency where I work on the one-sheets for such movies as Batman. That’s a 2-week gig. And then I have a couple weeks break, then another 2-week gig at another freelance client’s office. I’ll have to “book out” with my agencies for those weeks, but as I told Tohoru, it’s just like booking any other gig where you aren’t available to audition during the time you are working.

I’m thinking of heading to Singapore between gigs. Not to act, but to visit friends Jason Scott Lee and Jimmy T while they film a movie. Who knows? Maybe they’ll let me walk on as an extra.

While barhopping on Sunset Blvd., I asked Ms. Morita what it was like when her father hit the big time. She said it was when he was about 38 and their family of four was struggling to make ends meet. That show that changed it all was “Happy Days,” and, boy, was it. After the show ended, he didn’t work for a while, but then he got cast in Karate Kid, and then life changed for the Morita family completely.

She met pretty much everyone there was to meet, recalling what it was like to meet TV, music and movie idols at the age of 5.

These days, there’s very little that would make an impression on Ms. Morita. But she seemed pretty excited for Chin Han, who was happy to hear the story about her dad. Pat Morita passed away just over a year ago.

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