Friday, January 27, 2012

Movies I've Never Seen #6: The Gundown

The Gundown

In which I fully describe the plot of a movie I've never seen and know nothing about, based solely upon its Netflix picture.

Screenwriter Mikey McCaffernathy had a problem. He'd just polished up the last draft of his new feature-length script, The Shootout. It was a Western, something he'd always wanted to write.

But it just wasn't working.

He hit all the right points: the reformed ex-gunslinger, the hooker with a heart of gold, the ranch under threat of bandits & foreclosure. But it was boring. It lacked heart. It lacked the edge that would make it stand out from a pile of scripts on a producer's desk.

Mikey took a long walk one evening, thinking about anything but his script, hoping inspiration would strike from the ether. And friends, strike it did. "What if," said a ghostly voice from the back of Mikey's brain, "gunpowder had never been invented?" Mikey fell to his knees. He knew he'd found his answer. His edge. And his tagline: In a world with no bullets, the man with the heaviest gun is king.

The Gundown is an alternate history of the classical Western. Slim Hopkins is a champion gunslinger who's turned his back on his gunslinging ways. But in this world, with no gunpowder, he's literally a gun slinger. Gun fights here are fast, furious, and short, because it's just a bunch of guys throwing guns at each other.

"But why invent guns? Wouldn't they all just carry swords?" you ask. Well, stop asking so many questions kid, you're bothering me.

The Gundown only grossed $53 domestically, but fortunately Mikey McCaffernathy didn't stick around to see its abysmal failure and resultant rash of suicides. Turned out that strike of inspiration was a massive stroke. Mikey went home, revised his script & sent it to his agent, then dropped dead.

Friends, let this be a lesson: sometimes that voice in your head is The Muse, gifting you with an artistic vision. And sometimes, it's a blood clot in your brain shutting down the activity in your prefrontal cortex.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Job Journal: Temp Office Assistant, private preschool in Manhattan

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Temporary Office Assistant, private preschool in Manhattan

Duration: 5 months

Year: 2008

While technically a temp job, this is one of the few long-term temp assignments I've done. I believe there were more temps than, um, perms, in the offices of this school. They were interested in someone with decent computer skills who could research things for them. I got hands. I can Google. Hired.

I got dropped right into this one. I didn't have any day-to-day regular tasks. From day one I began working on projects, the first being to research bus companies in the city and get a ballpark on how much it would cost to transport the 20 or so kids whose parents had expressed interest in this service. Short answer: good lord would that have been expensive. Had they been a fully chartered kindergarten, subsidies or something would have played a part, but that had yet to occur. Fun fact: there are approximately three companies who actually run bus service in Manhattan. You've no doubt seen at least ten different names on the sides of buses, but trust me when I tell you that every call I made got routed to one of three people.

Shortly after I wrapped that up, we moved our offices closer to the school and I began researching things for the new facility they were planning to move into. You may currently have an image in your head of adorable little desks, and hutches for their jackets & lunchboxes, and like paper. Allow me to disavow you of that image. This was a Reggio Emilia school (think Montessori). As such, I was researching things like climbing walls, giant soft geometric shapes, and insanely advanced whiteboards.

Around the same time, they decided to start sending me over to the school to man the door during the changeover from the morning class to the afternoon class. This gave me a chance to meet, and be terrified of, some of my favorite actors, whose children attended this school (ahemBillyCrudupahem). More importantly, it gave me a chance to be incredibly awkward around and somehow more terrified of their children.

These kids didn't know me. They weren't introduced to me. There was never a "hey everyone, this is Colin, he'll be in the hallway at lunchtime now!" moment. No, one day there was a strange, quiet man stopping the children from running out into traffic or the arms of waiting kidnappers.

I got comfortable at this job. I had my own desk, that no one else ever used, for I think the first time in my working life (age at time of job: 28). I started my own snack/candy drawer. They let me move my schedule around for auditions and/or classes. It was a good setup. I'm concerned I may have comforted myself right out of a job though. They increased my hours so I could get more done. I don't think I got more done. When the semester was up, that was all she wrote.

In future posts, I'll tell you how much I learned about urban gardening, how much I bonded with a gecko, and I'll introduce you to Tiger, the excited old English Bulldog.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Job Journal: Outbound Customer Service, Call Center in Oak Ridge TN

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Outbound Customer Service, Call Center, Oak Ridge TN

Duration: Two months

Year: 2002

It's tough to say if this was my worst job. Had I remained for close to a year, I'm guessing the answer would be yes. As such, I stayed at Dillard's for far too long and they win.

I'd been at my campus job at the Alumni Association past graduation, and felt like I needed to take a step towards adulthood. That meant getting a job (dun dun dun) OFF-CAMPUS. My friend Mark and I applied here at the same time, in response to a classified ad. We had to take placement tests; being more tech-savvy than I, he was placed in tech support. Being an actor with a good phone voice, I was placed in outbound customer service. At the time, this call center's client was BellSouth—specifically, BellSouth Fast Access DSL. That phrase rolls off my tongue now, but it took some effort getting there.

My duties were to sort various accounts in a queue into the appropriate subcategory (read: a lot of clicks on a computer). The only category I remember now is Pending Facilities. What that means is that a new customer awaiting their BellSouth Fast Access DSL service to start up is going to have to wait a little longer. That further means that I get to call them and tell them this. My stomach still turns at the sight of the words "pending facility." Ugh.

I would have a hard time believing this job is not now automated. There wasn't a true quota that I remember, but you definitely wanted to keep the number of accounts you sorted as high as possible. That meant a lot of repetitive actions, eight hours a day, five days a week. No music. No conversation, even though you're surrounded by people doing the same thing. And I had the good fortune of sitting near my boss, who was a furry.

No, seriously.

There were people in my training class who were surely, legally, mentally deficient. Nice people, but they could not wrap their heads around all the pointing and clicking we were being told to do on these computers. The training supervisor, sensing I was not in fact mentally deficient and maybe was getting the hang of this, had me take one of these poor souls under my wing. I did. He stayed on. One week after training. The first time we got paid, someone asked me what they were supposed to do with their paycheck. "Umm, you could deposit it?"

"I don't have a bank."

"Funny, you don't look like an Amazonian tribesperson."

The same guy marvelled at my ability to say "Hello, this is Colin from BellSouth Fast Access DSL," without, I don't know, chipping a tooth or something. I should've known something was wrong with him on the first day, when we were talking about the weather and he said that something about rain made him drive faster.

In future posts, I'll tell you more about ruining people's day via phone, the one redeeming thing I got from this job, and the glorious day I quit.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Job Journal: Student Assistant, UT's Alumni Association

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Student Assistant at the Alumni Association, University of Tennessee

Duration: 1.6 years

Year: 2/02-10/02, 12/02-October 03

This was the first job I got through a recommendation, and the first of several jack-of-all-trades positions. A secretary at the Honors Department was friends with a secretary at the Alumni Association. I had come back from Christmas break with no intentions of returning to the library, which surprised my supervisors there. I was weakly sending out feelers for jobs and this came back to me.

It was typical office busywork: filing, mailing, lots of things involving paper. It was, and still is, located in the Tyson Alumni House on campus. It's a beautiful house that's been on that site since the late 1800s. I worked out of a big room with five secretaries, all hardcore East Tennesseeans. I learned two oddities of East TN grammar there: you'uns, a variant of y'all (the thickest of accents would rhyme "you'uns" with "buns"), and "I don't care to do that" with the meaning of "Yes, I would be happy to do that." I would interpret the latter as "I don't care for you and I don't want to do that job." But hey, what do I know? Kind of a lot, actually.

They were all great women to work with. I think they lived vicariously through the students who worked in the office (there were sometimes up to four of us in there) and they always took an interest in what we were doing with ourselves. One of the secretaries, Michelle, kept a candy drawer, and she occasionally brought in homemade beef jerky. I've never had better. This mama's boy handily made the transition from living at home to living on his own and working with five surrogate mothers.

The best part of the job was the state car. I have fond memories of cruising around on various errands listening to the radio, in no particular hurry. We started with a Chevy Malibu, and moved up later to a bigger Dodge. We'd use it mostly for on-campus mail runs or other various deliveries, but sometimes we'd get to drive across town to the university's mail facility. Depending on traffic, you could count on up to an hour of hanging out in the car listening to the radio. I became very familiar with Mancow's morning show at this job. The car also got me into trouble a few times, but more on that in future posts.

Overall I enjoyed this one, though I remember feeling a little stagnant after I'd been there a while. I stayed on well after graduation and really had no business at a job like that as an "adult," but the die was firmly cast in favor of acting so anything else I moved on to would just be killing time as well.

I left this job for two months to work at a call center, which was of course a huge mistake.

In future posts, as mentioned, I'll tell you about that car trouble as well as what this job taught me about walking into new buildings, how the RIAA probably could have prosecuted our office, and how I got black lung.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Gospel of New Year's Eve

And so the Ball did drop; and the tourists did look upon it and see that it was good. Thus did the holiday season end in the City of New York, and the tourists did scatter back to the four corners of the United States. The people who did live in the City of New York came forth from their homes and looked about them, as if waking from a long sleep. They saw the streets were empty. Gone were the cheerful wondering looks and slow paces of those from Elsewhere. They saw that it was good.

And the residents of the City of New York did rejoice, for they once again had dominion over their own streets, free to walk without fear of interrupting someone's photograph, free from telling someone they were on the wrong train and then explaining the intricacies of the Authority of Metropolitan Transit. Free to scowl and flee down the streets as if late to the birth of their Child.

There was rejoicing in the Financial District, where the sidewalks did flow like streams and rivers, where no tourists did look for Ground Zero.

There was rejoicing in Rockefeller Center, for Brian Williams freely strode where once there was a tree, and a sea of Nebraskans to admire it. Radio City once more fell silent.

There was rejoicing in Herald Square, where no Santa did say "ho ho ho" in Macy's, nor did any tourist shout "They have TGI Friday's just like home!"

There was no rejoicing in Times Square, for it was cursed by a dying hooker long ago to be forever an orgiastic den of commercialism and billboards. Such will it ever be.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.