Boom Headshots!

Day 80. When I was at Guildhall in the final year, there was a lot of fuss about headshots. I got skinned for £400 cash. I’ve never paid so much before or since. The photo she took captured something though. I had been sat in a graveyard for 40 minutes waiting. It was a popular hook up spot, and there were guys quite visibly and consciously wanking in my eyeline – (not in my eye thank God). I had £350 cash in my pocket. I was wondering what I could get for it by the time she arrived. I was a bit weirded out and I’m pretty transparent so it showed in the shoot. Which fortunately was a useful thing for the first few years of my career – the pre-apocalypse time. It was a marketable, characterful, but expensive photo, and got me a particular sort of work. After the shoot I gave her the arranged £350 and she said “I’ve put it through the books so it’s £400”, and marched me to the cashpoint. I vowed never to spend that much again.

Post-apocalypse I’ve had a load of shots taken – looking for the holy grail. Without much profile it’s hard to get in the room, and if your agent doesn’t fight your corner it comes down to your headshot alone. Someone looks at your photo for a couple of seconds and puts it in yes, no or maybe. You need to be in the yes or you won’t even get in the room. I don’t really like the process. The context is all screwy. You are having to be yourself in a situation that is not familiar to yourself. I’ve got pretty good at it now though. I’ve had loads of shots taken over the millennia. I’ve been to studios in King’s Cross and Soho, a corridor in Brixton, a park in Southwell, a studio and alley in Croydon, a very expensive house somewhere I can’t even remember, a flat in Manchester, a garden in Hampstead, a little flat in Putney.

One time I was given a list of three photographers to go to by my agent. Two of them were people I trusted. I didn’t know the third. I told my agent the other two were friends, and he told me to go to the one that wasn’t. I went with his judgement. The guy doubles as a casting director. “It’ll be good for him to see you.” He had my CV up before I came in and had noticed the same company name comes up 6 times with very varied parts. His instant assumption came out in his first question: “So is Sprite your own company then.” It isn’t, of course. They re-employed me repeatedly. Way to deflate someone at the get-go. His assumption unseated me immediately. His tone continued to be odd right up until towards the end of the shoot when I mentioned a volunteer program that I work for. He actually said “Oh, but they use good actors!?” as if I had surprised him. Then he took a couple of reasonable shots at the close of the session. The rest was a write off. I was unseated and he only started looking at me at the end. But then what do you do? I couldn’t afford more. I had to roll with them until I could. But it’s harder to earn if your photos don’t sell you.

I’ve never gone back to the same place twice. Until now.

My last load of shots were taken by David Drew, and not only was he well priced in the market, having recently moved in from fashion, but he also has a fantastic eye. If you’re on my Facebook, my profile pic with the beard and hat is his, taken while chilling out at the end of the session. Coming from fashion he keeps the chatter throughout the shoot. It’s nice as you can react to the wildly varying pathways he talks you down. And he’s neither jaded like some of the people who have been doing this for years, nor is he making assumptions about relative value in the marketplace. He’s looking at the face you’ve got plastered over the front of your skull and he’s trying to take a good photograph of it.

I had a session with the beard, but I’ve now shaved it off, so I look about 12 and need some more. I immediately rang him. For full disclosure, I ought to mention that David is almost family. I’m his honorary Father in Law. I walked his bride down the aisle and then had to do the Father of the Bride speech, which was a huge panic solved by saying a few happy true things about my friend and then busting out Sonnet 116.

Since he’s family I got it on credit until someone pays me (Come on universe). I’m not recommending him to you out of nepotism, though. His work speaks for itself. This one is his wife and one of my oldest friends. It’s a beautifully captured moment and looks just like her. There’s something enigmatic about the smile…

Gioconda_(copia_del_Museo_del_Prado_restaurada)

Joking aside,  If you mention my name you’ll get a whopping discount. He’s building up a portfolio. Which as far as I’m concerned means it’s a good time to go. And he’s great.

He does pet portraits too. Here’s a lovely one of his dog, Cicero. And below are some examples from his website. I don’t know the subjects.

Cicero

Smiley guy

Big eye lady

Caffeine

Day 79. I drink a vast amount of coffee. I love the stuff. It makes me bounce around all over the place. As soon as I stop for a day or so I feel heavy and slow and weird. I’ve been walking around with a vague sense of foreboding and a splitting headache all day. Not necessarily the best time to be applying myself to a new project. Today we started looking at Jack’s Beowulf script. I think my heaviness killed him as right now he’s asleep on the sofa. Although people frequently come round and end up asleep on the sofa. Maybe it’s something to do with my company… But then why do they keep coming back? Maybe the sofa is just too comfortable…

So my business partner Jack has written a Beowulf script and we’re throwing it around. It’s an ambitious and tough story and Jack has approached it in an ambitious and tough manner. He’s mixing nonsensical monsterspeak with songs and skaldic verse. On the surface the original tale goes “Big tough hero hits a monster then hits another monster, then a monster hits the hero, but he hits the monster too.” I love monsters, but what the hell are they? If monsters are just inevitable bad things that want to harm us, where’s the satisfaction? That’s just mirroring the rhetoric people use to buy our freedom. Monsters are people too. Maybe we can use Stanislavski: “If I were a 600 tentacled kraken with hyperintelligence, and I had been called ugly by little meat things on planks for hundreds of years and then I got hungry, what would I do?” (BTW There is no kraken in Beowulf, I just like a good kraken.) Also what the hell is a hero? Is he just a square jawed thug with a loincloth and a big sword bashing things if they look different from him? Why would we care about him? It’s not the eighties.

Usually I’m full of caffeine while I’m making stuff. 10 minute breaks have me running to the nearest place that sells espresso. It’s useful to know that I can be just as foolish without coffee: “How do we perform a blood eagle using every day household objects?” “Let’s make a scene puppeting Batman and The Flash as Beowulf and Brinna. We can use this beanie dog as a stand in for the giant fish.” This week is likely to be less hectic with random day jobs than last week unless I get some unexpected phone emails, so I can throw stuff around. We’ve ended up using my flat to work in, which saves on transport and makes healthy lunch easier.

I’m off to see Jack in Romeo and Juliet this evening. That’ll be why he’s sleeping – he’s getting his beauty sleep. He just got back from the USA touring with Actors From The London Stage, which is a glorious group of people that make things. I went round with them doing Much Ado a couple of years ago. It’s telling, now I think about it, that in every one of the cities I went to I can tell you where a good place for coffee is located. In fact I think coffee is one of the most frequently used words in this blog. Hmmmm coffee.

Maybe this headache is worth it. I’m clearly addicted.

COFFEE

Out of the Woods

I met a girl a year ago. I’ve seen her twice since then. I asked on Friday if she wanted to come to a hut in the middle of the woods with me for the weekend. We’d met once on purpose since I was back from LA. Go big or go home. Her response was “Say What…!? Woah… !! Ermm…ok…” The proviso, which was smart, was that it should be for one night, not two. Sensible – It’s a three hour drive to where we were staying. You never know. We might have discovered that we couldn’t stand each other. Or I might have been an axe murderer. If I was an axe murderer, keeping this blog would be awkward. Or would it be the perfect cover…?

 

We got on really well, and not just on the journey down, and her head is still attached. After all, we went in her car, so if I’d been an axe murderer I’d have had nobody to drive me home.

The place was a converted horse box in a field by a wood. It’s far enough away to feel isolated and near enough to the bothy that you can have a shower without too much of a walk. The owner of the property had a big marquee in the garden that stank of petrol and you could see that he had a number of projects on the go. There were two boats outside it, and a gigantic army truck parked in the drive way. I asked him about it: “I’m going to turn it into a Campervan,” he told me, and started talking me through his plans. “I want to take it to Glastonbury.” That’s bloody brilliant. He just likes turning things into homes. I wanted to see the inside of his house. I bet it’s full of cool things that have been changed from one thing to another.

The hut he had made us had everything we needed. Cooking facilities and things to cook, radiator, fridge, toaster. And a fire outside and woodburner inside, both of which of course I lit at the first opportunity. At night while we were sleeping the hut was surrounded by deer. The petrolhead told me it was amazing to see from a distance. It must be the warmth of the woodburner inside. I heard them scraping their flanks against the metal as I dozed in the small hours. Last night we slept at the centre of a circle of deer.

We spent the day wandering from patch of heat to patch of heat. We hung out with horses in scrubland, doing yoga and occasionally being harrassed for carrots. One horse in particular started actively trying to eat us. I think he’d been fed too much by visitors and now he thinks of them as food. We later saw the same one chasing a guy ages for an apple. This is the sort of day we had. Chilled. Bucolic. English. And utterly lovely. I’ve made a deep connection with a new person, and I’m off to bed happy and calm, ready for the next week.

TRRRRRRRRR

 

 

Cabin in the woods

This is where I’ll be sleeping tonight.

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After all the random urban unfamiliarity of last week, how better to relax than random unfamiliarity in the new forest? It’s only a few hours drive from London after all, and there are horses in the roads. There are deer right by the cabin. They come and spy on us when they think we aren’t looking. I’ve already made a fire despite it still being light. I found a two page spread of pictures of Trump and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. It’ll be waiting for us as the cold closes in.

We’re only here for one night. I had a credit from airbnb and had to use it somehow. But reception is really spotty. It feels like it really is the middle of nowhere. Bracken and gorse, birdsong everywhere. The sun is fallen behind the trees and I have no doubt this will be the deepest sleep I’ve slept for months, so far from the road.

I’ve already ticked all the boxes regarding what was going to make this lovely. Fire, food, good company, space, tree climbing. I feel a lot lighter.

It’s important to get back to some approximation of nature when you live in the big city. So many of the plants in London are sootblack and strangled, and you see so many different people in the course of a day that you start to switch off to their individual humanity and just start thinking of them as obstacles in your rush to get to wherever you don’t really need to go.

I’ll be back in town tomorrow evening refreshed and happy, ready for a week of whatever the city throws at me. But for now I’m going to enjoy being here, get off the blog and try to post the damn thing. Here’s a picture of a tree by way of making up for a short blog. See if you can spot the Al.

TREE

Army

After three hours sleep last night I jolted awake exactly one minute before my alarm and mechanically threw on my armour. I shuffled and grunted my way to Clapham Junction and fell onto a train with all the other zombies. On the train, finally drinking coffee that I must have autopiloted, I tried to remember why I was on this train in the first place. Essentially I woke up a second time. “Uuuuuh. What am I doing?? Oh yesss I’m recruiting for the army. Yes that’s it, the army. Good. The army. That’s all. I’d forgotten. Wait whatttt? Recruiting for the whaaattt?” *pinch* *pinch* “Definitely awake.” *stares at coffee*

So yeah. I totally just spent the day recruiting for the army. If I’d told that to my fifteen year old self, he’d have punched me. Then he’d have fallen over clutching his hand, apologising and maybe even looking for someone to help him. He wanted toughening up, he did, that lad. He’d have done well listening to his teachers and getting stuck in, rather than sitting up trees reading all that poncy bloody poetry. Should’ve joined the army. Plenty of opportunities in the army. It’s not just about the fighting you know. Look at that James Blunt. He was army and now he’s singing all them songs. And he were in ‘t room next door to me at posh school.

I was in a school with “houses”. My house was the army house. Yep, that’s a thing. I didn’t fit in there. There was a diminutive psychopath no bigger than my thumb who once dragged me out of bed while asleep just to stamp on my head. He was a pathetic example of humanity, but people followed him because in the absence of a quantifiable “cool” level, the one who shouts loudest wins. I suspect that hiding inside the abuser was the abused. There was also a boy made out of oozing crusty liquid and fear who spat in mouths. He was okay. He was just being mean because he was disintegrating. At the time though, you don’t read into the other person. I had three years of mutual incomprehension punctuated by people telling me in serious helpful voices that I had to find my “niche”. I learned honesty and loyalty despite myself under the guidance of a wonderful stern hidebound army Colonel. If someone had told Ross Becket that I would one day be recruiting people for the army, he’d have died on the spot. I would never have picked me to talk about the army and neither would any of my teachers. Principally because they knew I’d have got distracted by things and gone off on wild tangents. But also because I was an angry scruffy undisciplined strange child, not to be relied on. My parents friends used to call me Damien, The Antichrist from The Omen.

So this morning the grown version of that weirdo talked about the army to people the weirdo’s age. He even caught himself occasionally putting on a bluff countenance, downflecting and making questions sound like statements.

It went better than it should done have in theory. I learnt some things about the army. And it felt like some form of closure on that pretty strange patch of my childhood.

I got home to an empty flat with dinner in a bag. I put the oven on. I started to wind down and shake out all of the random of the week. But it wasn’t to be. It’s a friend’s birthday party and she’s Danish and we’re making Beowulf. So I’m writing this on the overground on my way to Canonbury and the guy in the seat next to me just farted. I hope he reads this over my shoulder.

So I’m kind of boozyworking again this evening. My business partner and I are going to throw some ideas at a Beowulf script he’s just completed, and combine it with this birthday party, while talking to Anna about some R&D. I remember commenting in LA about how much business is done over a pint in this town. This is my last night for a month I can do that London boozy working. Or eat meat wheat or dairy. I’m off on a detox. For now I’m in a good old English pub.IMAG0088

Ley Lines

75. Some of you may have noticed, if you’ve been reading a lot of these, that I frequently think of people, places and things in terms of their energy. I think through a spiritual frame and care about the things we can’t see and can’t prove. My belief structure is both inclusive and exclusive and likely infuriating to the dogmatic. People thousands of years ago understood some things more profoundly than we ever can with all this concrete everywhere, perpetual light in darkness, and the other convenient perks of our species and its war on nature. I think it’s more interesting and more positive to try accept and process ideas if they do no harm than to dismiss them.

I’m back at The Globe Theatre again, working underneath the stage. This is a building that has called me back again and again to work. Sometimes performing or rehearsing with The Factory or reading a forgotten Jacobean play for academics, or doing a sonnet walk, sometimes consuming and celebrating the work of dear friends, sometimes, as now, entertaining people after dinner.

It’s a pleasant way to earn a buck, although it can be strange. Often the diners are very drunk, sometimes they speak no English. We try to tailor the show to the audience. One time i played Oberon in a potted Dream to about 60 loud Russian oligarchs. A bald man that could’ve ripped my head off with his little finger leapt up at the end. He had me in a bear hug and then he punched this huge glass of freezing vodka into my hand. I hadn’t touched alcohol for months on one of my abstinence binges. We were intimidated into chugging the stuff as he roared with laughter and battered our backs until we choked. This is great vodka, I thought through the pain. Soon the pain didn’t matter. I’m surprised I didn’t fall in the Thames going home. It’s not always so raucous but I’ve got used to expecting the unexpected.

With my unstructured spiritual leanings, I allow myself to believe it’s no coincidence that the place keeps bringing me back. Sam Wanamaker was very interested in the ancient ways, and things that we might term mysticism. He was very aware of the significance of the site of the theatre,  just over the river from St Paul’s, right on a convergence of Ley Lines. In his correspondence about the plans for the project and the placing of the building, the Ley Lines come up again and again. Who’s to say that there’s nothing in it? I certainly feel glad to be here now, so soon after returning from my little journey of self discovery.

I’m really early for work so I’m sitting in the underglobe behind the stage writing this on my phone and hoping that being here at the convergence of all this energy will help me to recharge. I had a lovely meeting today that could help transform the way things work for me in terms of life and earning so now i just want to tap into some positive forces and forge forward, and hope that if I work in tandem with the universe, good things will come my way.

While I’m topping up my spirit level I’ll get to speak the words of one of the greatest mystic poets in our culture. And eat free dinner, and get paid for it. I’ve an early start tomorrow though so hopefully nobody will make me chug a pint of vodka.

It’s a weird place, the underglobe, despite the ley lines. In fact, the upstairs space hasn’t had a very pleasant run of it lately, if we’re talking in terms of energy. But perhaps it’s all part of some greater plan. If you’re going to be spiritual, you might as well be groundlessly optimistic.

Here’s a photo of some guy doing a sound check near a plastic tree.

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I’ve worked out how to schedule posts. If all things go according to plan this will automatically pop up at 8pm LA time while I’m sleeping. It means i can cheat if I’m going to live in a cave for two days.

The Future

74. If any of you have been wondering what the future of law is in this country, I can tell you it looks pretty good. I’ve spent the day at one of the top law firms in the world, banging up against the CEO, helping find the next generation. Kids in the final year at school deliberately selected to be as diverse as possible. They all come to head office in The City of London for an assessment day. 200 of them. I am one of the assessors. It’s the sort of place where they have people whose job it is to lay out fruit like this:

FROOOT

I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that my job was to mark and channel these young’uns. I worried about it, considering who I am. But I think it’s right. I know nothing about law. I know next to nothing about working in an office. But I know people. That’s my special skill. Socially awkward or not, I have a pretty well honed perception because that’s been my focus. I’ve pointedly followed my instinct for years in order to run interference on my overactive mind. When my mind drives I crash. When my instinct drives, I fly. And I’ve flown to some interesting places. And right now I’m letting my instinct have the helm in the day to day. Mindface can have the blog-party, and overanalyse things in tranquillity.

So this morning there am I in the City of London wearing my trusty three piece (Which has also been places) and I’m engaging with these awesome young adults. They’re all taken out of context, they’re all working with people they don’t know from totally different backgrounds and perspectives and cultures. It’s interesting and beautiful to see them negotiate the minefield of the unfamiliar. To see them sink or swim. To see some of them rise up within themselves and find out that here, in a different context, they can really be whoever they wish to be. That that’s okay. I’m observing them, marking them on numerous different criteria. It’s hard to put numbers to people, and as I’m doing it I am contemplating what we all know. That a mark is an arbitrary measure, but the accumulation of these arbitrary measures can make or break a person’s future.

Tomorrow I have a meeting on a level that I haven’t had before. I’m trying to work out if I’m nervous about it or not. I think I probably am, on balance, as it could positively affect my future. I’ll be wearing my three piece, which is essentially like being constantly hugged by my own clothes. And this experience today has hugely helped me contextualise things. I’ve been assessing young adults while they forget they’re being observed. I’ve noticed that the people that most interest and engage me every time are the people who are just themselves, and getting stuck in. So I’m going to take the cue from these young adults and get stuck in tomorrow. Take me or leave me.

But I am pleased to report that there were some brilliant, creative and diverse kids who will be the next generation. In the Q&A both groups asked what the panel of lawyers thought about Brexit. The answers were diplomatic, but one person said “Well in the short term it’ll make more work for people in our sector.” What I loved is that, in both the morning and evening sessions, one of the few questions from these young adults was motivated by politics.

So if English law remains the dominant law as we isolate ourselves, if we don’t get nuked as collateral of transatlantic warmongering for profit, and if the UK doesn’t shatter and everyone relocates to Scotland, then the future of English law looks great.