Prelude to a Big Break

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Posts Tagged ‘Acting

Introductions…

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Hello. Yesterday morning the lovely introduced my to the Vampire Diaries family, and you, in turn, introduced yourself to me. Enthusiastically. Actually, let me take this a step further: It became apparent – immediately – that all of you love this show more than . Guess what? That’s sensational. I’ve waited my entire friggin’ life to connect with a passionate fan base. My Tweets (and my twitter handle, that I’m very proud of), don’t really tell you a great deal about me. So, let’s do that here. (Boring part first.)

My name is Stephen, and I’m an actor from Toronto. My first credited year in the business was . With all due respect to everything that happened prior to 2010, my career began this year. Not because the projects I participated in prior to now were inferior, but rather because 2010 is when I finally committed myself to the arts like any responsible semi-crazy thespian should.

I live in Hollywood now and I love living there in totality. The proximity to my business, my apartment, the The Power House bar two blocks away with PBR (and only PBR!) on tap for three bucks and, most especially, my friends… make it dynamic and perfect. My friends in California are, collectively, the very best people that I know. At first brush the last piece seems like a fairly obvious statement. I mean, of course your friends, the people who dominate all your happy moments are going to loom large in any instance where you (essentially) rank what’s important in your life. To that I say: “Yeah… but still.” You see, I think my friend group is unique because there seems to be a common goal amongst us: We’re trying to grab a foothold in the entertainment industry. At least one of us is an aspiring singer, dancer, actor, director, editor, photographer, producer, writer or porn star. (Deductive logic suggests that at least one of my friends moonlights for Vivid Video.) The spectrum rips from new (and working hard to establish themselves), to established (and dealing with the absurdity which accompanies even a modicum of celebrity). What I enjoy is the knowledge and unspoken understanding that a career in the arts cannot be adequately measured by the balance in your bank account. You’re chasing something that you’re passionate about, and if that passion revolves around an obsession with one-person shows in hole-in-the-wall theaters, you probably aren’t lining up for a mansion in the Hollywood Hills anytime soon. My friends get that. In other words (though, to be fair, I’ve probably used enough), there are no judgements. We’re all here to live our best life. (If you dismiss that last sentence as corny, I’m confident you hate what you do.)

I’m going to ask myself some questions based on the queries I read on Twitter. It’s a literary trick, not a bout with narcissism. (I hope.)

What do you do when you’re not working? My brother and I have season seats for the LA Kings. I take my dog, whose name is Louis The Dog, on long walks in Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park. Now that the weather is a little cooler and he doesn’t sound like Tony Soprano having a panic attack in the back of my car, I’m going to start taking him to the dog beaches so he can chase tennis balls and drink sea water and barf. I go to movies. (Occasionally in the afternoon since I don’t have a real job.) In the spring and summer I frequent Dodger Stadium because it might be the nicest on the planet earth.

How do you feel about your hometown of Toronto? Umm, okay. When you leave a city certain bonds intensify and others fade away. For example, I’ve never been a bigger Blue Jays fan. (With the possible exception of 1990 – 93 when I watched every game and mimicked each players batting stance for nine innings.) Of course, I miss my family and friends. Beyond that, I’m drawing a blank. To be frank, after a recent visit, I don’t have a lot of nice things to say; so I’m not going to say anything at all.

What do you play on Vampire Diaries? I play an actor on the show. ;)

How’d your 2010 go? Super. I just got done with guest-starring roles on CSI: Miami and NCIS: LA. Through October and November I was heavily involved in the casting for . (That was such an unbelievably awesome experience that I just want to start hugging people whenever I think about it.) Now I’m writing a thousand-plus word missive to the fans of a mega-popular show that I have the pleasure of being a part of. (Good year.)

Why is your Twitter handle CallMePancakes? Every Sunday I host people at my place for the NFL. Games start at 10:00 am on the west coast and it’s my responsibility to make people breakfast (if they bring beer). Pancakes are inexpensive, filling and delicious. My staple is a whole-wheat pancake with milk instead of water, a few flax seeds, white chocolate chips (not too many), blueberries  and (If I’m feeling crazy) banana’s. Then I encourage people to dress the pancakes with vanilla yogurt, jam, peanut butter and syrup with a side of turkey bacon from Trader Joe’s. If you’re lucky, I’ll even make you coffee that could double as methamphetamine in a pinch. In reality, nobody actually calls me “Pancakes”. Thankfully, the handle still makes sense. (Probably.)

And… that’s pretty much it. I’ve been tapping this thing out from 35,000 feet on my way back to Georgia. I’d like to officially thank everyone in The Vampire Diaries community for such a warm welcome; from the cast and crew, to the producers, all the way to everyone who wrote me on Twitter. Thank you.

Written by Stephen Amell

December 11, 2010 at 3:16 pm

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Awake.

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One of the neat things about working is how much I love being on set. I do. I love it. When I’m on set I read books like Will Hunting; I make friends; I become obsessed with new games (in this case I was soundly beaten at Scrabble despite the fact I once semi-seriously called myself a “bit of a wordsmith”); I eat ribs and other rib-like things. Most importantly, the rush of work invokes a monstrous desire to be creative. This is probably why I’m having trouble sleeping. After all, how can you sleep when you are so awake?

Written by Stephen Amell

December 7, 2010 at 2:26 pm

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Notes from a Well-Fed-Artist.

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Getting a job is important. Revelatory, I know. Nevertheless, feel free to indulge my analytical riff. Like any type of analysis, there’s the practical side and the (I’m not sure exactly what to call it which is why I’m going to spill 800 words on it) side. Practical first:

Talk about putting the button on a great year. Saturday night I was toasting 2010 (almost post-script, which is odd since there’s a month left) with at the Kings game. Most of our chatter centered around pilot season (due late January – late March) and how we were going to approach it. There was also a lively exchange on the merits of chili. (We’re both in favour.) On the subject of professional accomplishment, we were both reflecting on a progressive year. Rob wrapped a second season of his television show and a sequel to a very popular prequel — dig it. I moved to the American market, became a resident and notched a few jobs to go with an overgrown pile of moral victories. Cool beans. December was supposed to fall somewhere between preparatory and reflective. Now I’m preparing for the most intensive on-camera action of my career that doesn’t involve a boatload of sand. (Quick aside: Don’t think for a second that I wasn’t snapping photographs throughout my Spartacus screen-test. When I can share them without jeopardizing my ability to make a living… well, that’ll be neat.) December did an about face and I couldn’t be happier.

When you get a job, you make money. I welcome the opportunity to make money because all that’s missing from California’s preliminary tax structure for actors who generate revenue in chunks is Governor Schwarzenegger beating the shit out of you right when you examine what’s left of your pay cheque. (Most of it is retrievable with a good accountant… but still. Money > No Money.)

I’ve flirted with the network I’m going to work for — aggressively — throughout the year. I’m glad we’re finally doing some business together, so to speak. (I’ll stop being dickishly vague about what show I’m doing once filming begins. That’ll be soon.)

Now for the non-practical side: This blog still exists for a variety of reasons, but it began for one: I wanted to chart the journey of a professional actor. Why? Because I wanted to prove that the career arc has the same sort of connective tissue that binds all professional endeavours. The way we measure success for artists (finance-centric) is ridiculous. I can handle that, because what other people think of your career is usually just a reflection of their own professional insecurities. But the characterization that acting is a barren field followed by a transformative star-making “break” or a switch to some sort of grown-up job — with no middle ground — steps past being ridiculous and becomes something I can’t tolerate: irresponsible.

Two weeks ago I had the privilege to speak at Branksome Hall in Toronto. The audience: A film studies class and a Drama class comprised of 40 young women. (Talk about nerves… this guy was terrified.) I was given just shy of an hour to take them through a practical approach to professional acting and then we had a fun Q & A session littered with thoughtful questions. (At some point, I’ll try and reprint two of them and the reasoning behind my answers. The first was a question about why Canadian television doesn’t resonate with, you know, Canadians (!) the same way American shows do. And the second was a really interesting query on whether or not the private persona of an actor can effect the way people interpret their public persona. Fascinating stuff to consider.) The former part of the class was the first time that I’d ever really vocalized the chronology of my first six years in the business. The narrative made one thing abundantly clear: Everything matters. I got this job because I was super-prepared for three other auditions on the same show that I wasn’t totally right for. When it came time for them to make another decision, my work resonated. I believed in these principles before, but now… I have proof. The same strategy that primes a promotion in your office will secure you a three-episode arc on a hit tv-show. These are the facts.

(And to Branksome: Thank you for the gift. It’s keeping me hydrated at 35,000 feet… right now!)

 

Couple of things before I wrap this up: November was the busiest month in the site’s history: 6,691 hits. Thank you to everyone who visited.

(Here’s where you stop reading if a Toronto-centric rant isn’t for you.)

Toronto: Get over yourself. Apparently there’s a new policy at the “hip” restaurants in the city where you can only sit for two hours at a time. I mean… (hang on, I’m getting mad) TO, you’re a lovely city. Really, you are. So stop doing things that make me think you’re an asshole. Sitting down for a 3.5 hour dinner is one of the ways a city generates culture. Limiting the dine-time for patrons paying (WAY TOO MUCH) money to begin with doesn’t make your restaurant cooler. It makes you narrow-minded and greedy; not to mention the fact it wreaks of posturing. Let people sit and eat and then let them sit and talk. And while we’re here… When did a pint of beer start costing $8? When did taxi’s kick off at $4.25 before you’ve even rolled an inch? When did the subway start costing $3 a ticket? Seriously… when did that last thing happen? I want to like the city I grew up in. Stop making it difficult.

The following transmission was written closer to space than sea-level. Wi-Fi on flights!!! Feels like the future.

 

Written by Stephen Amell

December 1, 2010 at 10:05 am

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This afternoon I got a comment from a casting associate in LA for a show I did recently. She had seen my name on a report earlier this week and – like a LOT of you – stumbled onto my blog. (Long aside: This brief / thin brush of, umm, fame… I suppose… scared the living shit out of me for about 30 – 35 minutes. I immediately considered the amount of time I spend walking around my (heavily windowed) apartment in the nude; then I instinctively deleted the entire cache and browsing history on my laptop. If I ever spend a significant amount of time with any tangible amount of celebrity just know that I will make a horrible, glorious, loveable misstep. This hypothetical incident will be bred of enthusiasm. In the aftermath, I will be strikingly honest. This will be refreshing and inviting to the general public. Subsequently, people will gesticulate that I planned this entire (again… hypothetical) incident. Such ruminations will give me great pleasure. That brief window after Deadline broke the story was the only time that I read the comments (from websites other than this one…); somebody actually thought my team planted the story and then filled the comment board with positive reviews of my person. They proceeded to call my blog a series of insane ramblings. I can’t begin to tell you how happy this made me. OF COURSE THEY’RE INSANE! I decided to be an actor for a living… Thank you (and I mean that sincerely) for reading. Your boner for conspiracy theories really made me feel like I’d made it. End Long aside.) Her comment cemented an ideal that’s been slowly forming in my head over the past 10 months: You can’t just count the jobs you get as victories, because they aren’t really victories at all. They’re landmarks. They’re opportunities to learn something new. The real victories come in the quiet (usually) unpublished moments between jobs when you’re faced with a new, grander scenario and you acquit yourself in a way that leaves a peaceful, accomplished feeling. She told me that I nailed the audition. . Up until , it was the best audition I’ve ever put forward. Why? Because three days prior to walking into that room I had to drive the button scene on a primetime show. Two months prior to that day I got to screen test for the executive producer of the most successful television franchise in history. Four months prior to that I screen tested on the Warner Brothers lot without anyone seeing the pee on my pants. Six weeks before that moment I punted all the shit I didn’t need and moved to Hollywood. If you’ve chosen a career in the arts the first step is eliminating the black/white, win/lose, success/failure prism from your spectrum of vision. Everything (everything) is a step forward. Some bigger than others, some more notorious than others… But if you can’t extrapolate the positive, you’re going to fail. More importantly, if you can’t find the good while being mindful of realism and the lessons you need to take away, you kinda suck as a human being. A lot of people have told me to “keep my head up”. Of course… thank you. Support is support and I appreciate it; but understand this: I don’t put my head down. Ever.

And one day, I’ll talk (non-cryptically) about Spartacus: Blood & Sand. The only part about that adventure which makes me sad is that it had to happen in the first place. Get better Andy!

Have a good weekend everybody. It’s cool that you read. SA

Written by Stephen Amell

November 12, 2010 at 4:44 pm

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Internet FAMILY! Thank you for all the wonderful support you’ve shown me since the “thing” was announced on the “thing” and then announced on a bunch more “things”. Do you know that somebody lit a candle for me in Dallas? (True story. Can’t adequately respond.) The response on Twitter continues to be overwhelming. message was especially nice because a quick perusal of her tweets reveals a penchant for watching Christmas movies well before the average person. (Yes, I’m that easily influenced.) Then there was a Canadian friend of mine who sent a screen grab of last night’s episode and called into question my patriotism… How dare you. It’s just a whole bunch of love and positive energy. Again… thank you.

Written by Stephen Amell

November 10, 2010 at 8:44 am

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I’ll tell ya: Last night felt good. There was a Kings game (they’ve got the best record in the league and are a perfect 6-0 at home). I drank a little rum at the game and started between 4 and 620 sentences with the phrase: “If I book it…” I can talk like that with my brother Robbie. He gets it. And he knows that I’d entertain his semi-delirious ramblings for 4+ hours in a nanosecond. Later, it was onto a dive bar. We played beer pong and I hugged a lot of people. I’ve got three photos on my iPhone from the screen test… showing them to people is dreamy. In a week with two Friday’s, no Tuesday, 1,400 crunches, 120 handstand pushups, 17,000 air miles, the biggest day of my professional life, a Kings game, six straight victories at the beer pong table and a whiff of Christmas (!!!) in the air… My favorite moment was watching these two for three periods. That’s just how I roll.

Written by Stephen Amell

November 7, 2010 at 9:31 am

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On set in Pasadena.

Had a wonderful screen test this morning in Valley Village. (The nicest place I know that sounds a little like a discount shopping center.) There was a time when auditioning made me anxious; not so much anymore. Instead, the room feels like an opportunity to grow, to… experiment. The more I audition, the more I realize that this isn’t rocket-science. Far from it. The best actors are the few who have the guts to infuse their personality into a character. Once you color the dialogue with the idiosyncratic elements of yourself, elements that, presumably, led to a life in the entertainment industry, simply add a dash of testicular fortitude and GO. GO!!! Hang something out in the room that allows the producer to think, “This guys got something. Maybe it isn’t exactly what we’re looking for, but at least we know he’s got it.” Sound simple, right? It is. It’s also extraordinarily difficult. Your instincts as an actor tell you to create a character and leave yourself behind. Both of these suppositions are correct, you just need to make a distinction. A very important distinction. A this-is-going-to-be-the-difference-between-a-Career-and-a-career distinction. People in an audition room aren’t watching the finished product on television. They’re watching you, and you, are right infront of them. You aren’t in costume, you don’t have any props, there isn’t a set or another actor to work with… It’s just you. It’s a job interview. And your dialogue is the way to answer a potential employers most important question: Does this person entertain me?

Entertain them.

Written by Stephen Amell

September 30, 2010 at 1:06 pm

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Wanted a job – really wanted it – and didn’t get it. It was me, in one age-bracket, and another gentleman, in an older one. At that point, the debate centered around aesthetics, not acting. There will be more opportunities, on this show, specifically. And, of course, the natural reaction could be: “You can’t book them all.” (Expletive) that. Wanted it… Didn’t get it… Can’t give them a choice next time.

Written by Stephen Amell

September 30, 2010 at 9:54 am

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My alarm clock went off at 5:30 this morning. It was the theme from Top Gun, which is lovely. From 6-7, I walked my dog, Lou. Lou needs to be walked from 6-7 because it’s what the kids are calling “stupid hot” in Southern California. From 7-8 I prepared for two auditions that I have today. Both projects are interesting and I would like to book both projects. In the case of my first audition, I believe that I should book the role if I execute properly for the casting director. At 10, I have a fitting on the Paramount lot. The first audition is at 12 and the second audition is at 3… in The Valley. Wearing jeans today will not be pleasant, but I have to wear jeans. When I arrive home at (approximately) 4:15, I’m going attempt a run in and around the streets of Hollywood. As a result, I will be watching the Monday Night Football game on a slight delay. The Bears are my pick for reasons that I can’t really explain. Tomorrow is the most important shooting day that I’ve ever had as an actor, so I’m going to sleep early. My energy today is bankrolled by coffee that’s almost the consistency of tomato soup and a six-inch Meatball sub that I saved from yesterday. Happy Monday.

Written by Stephen Amell

September 27, 2010 at 7:22 am

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I like numbers.

44 days - That’s how old my terrific beard was when I shaved today.  When the hair on your face is substantially longer than the hair on your head, it’s time to move on.  When you start to look like you should purchase a van with tinted windows, it’s time to move on.  When you give serious thought to being one of those guys with a bushy beard and shaved neck, it’s time to move on.

28 3/4 years – That’s how long Toronto was my home for.  I’ve lived in other places: LA in 2000 - 01, Calgary for the fall of ’08, Aurora in 1999 – 2000, my brief stint in prison, Turks and Caicos for the winter of ’05 and – memorably – Belfast in the spring of ’06.  I suppose those were just places that I stayed.  Toronto was always my home-base.  Let’s hope that I was profound jinx on all the sports teams.  Seriously.

3 - That’s how many home cooked meals my friends Angela and Tavis have crafted for me while I’ve been home.  If memory serves we had Mexican-ish, Steak and some sort of Lamb Risotto WineWineWine combination.  They’re the example I can cite…  If this post listed every instance with friends of mine treating me like Mo’Nique at an Awards show, we’d be staring down the barrel of an 8,000 word post.  Don’t think I wont attempt it…

Yeah, you know what?  Screw it.  A tiny sampling:

  • Andrew and Ilana had me over for dinner and a visit with their two lovely kiddle’s.  I got to be Uncle Steve for almost 45 minutes.  People who frequent this space haven’t met Uncle Steve; he’s a solid guy.  This is to say nothing of Andrew and I commiserating over drinks at odd hours.  Those are the best times. 
  • Jenn and Tim didn’t flinch when I ordered a Poutine / Chicken Wing death spiral at The Rebel House.  This was preceeded by an afternoon on Bay Street with gentlemen who drink (same corollary as “ladies who lunch”).  They also let me emcee their wedding.  So, there’s that, too.
  • Chris Bolton rolled me into the original Terroni on Queen West for a coffee.  When Chris goes to that restaurant he’s greeted like some combination of Norm from “Cheers” and Phillip Seymour Hoffman from “Owning Mahoney.”  (I don’t care if only, like, four people get that reference.)
  • Warren, Peff (read: Jeff) and a special guest appearance from St. Andrew’s Jr. High Graduate, Lauren, made for an improbable Beaconsfield, Drake Hotel, Dakota Tavern combination.  That night solidified the utter uselessness of making plans in advance.  It was a beautiful night.  (By the way…  In keeping with the theme of this site, Lauren and I were in the “Wiz of Oz” together.  My very first organized production – 1994.  One thing that I didn’t mention to Lauren: How bitter I am - to this day - over not being cast as the Lion.  That should eventually lead to a self-shot YouTube clip of me singing “King of the Forest” somewhere in Griffith Park.  In other words, we’re all winners.)  Lauren is putting on a play this spring called “.”  Feel free to pre-order some tickets.
  • Hobbes the Cat, and his basement, put themselves in my “Watching Football Pantheon” along with the living room at 198 Millwood and Barney’s Beanery in LA.  Hobbes also wins a prize for unabashedly wearing Molson Canadian labeled clothing.  He’s earned it.
  • My sister Andrea wins a prize for helping me relearn the fundamental truth for any New Years Eve related activity: House party or bust.
  • Tim (SCH) and I rocked the 6th Annual Syracuse Road Trip (Est. 2004) with a ferocity that harkened back to a time when the Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series in 86 years.  Bonus points to Tim for suggesting a Sunday stop at The Anchor Bar in Buffalo.  Double Bonus Points for our trip being the only game that Syracuse Basketball has lost this year (21-1).  We’ve still got it.

1 – That’s the only instruction I need to give the person cutting my hair.

0 - This number has something to do with the Toronto Star, but I don’t want to be quoted.  I’m not seeking publicity.  I am, however, looking forward to the bankruptcy of that newspaper.

64 - The number of days I spent in Toronto.  Not sure if it felt like a fortnight or five years.

To everyone mentioned in this post, thank you.  To everyone I forgot, sorry.  I’ll be bidding a beer soaked goodbye to everyone Wednesday evening.  Thursday I’ll drop a massive photo blog, otherwise known as the fourth installment of “God Bless Friends.”

EDIT: After a quick review, I realized that this post may have been a little too serious.  There are more numbers.

6.3 - That’s the number of times I watched “Inglorious Basterds.”  I’ve already written about Christoph Waltz; German for brilliant.  Right before Christmas this movie reached “I’m watching it before I go to bed status.”  “IG” was usurped by the second viewing of “Mad Men” Season 3 late last week.  What a run!

.5 – Number of NFL Sunday’s I missed from early December until now.  Tim and I were navigating through a blizzard for the 4:00 games on January 3rd; that being said, none of them had any playoff implications.

5 - The number of months I waited to take my MacBook in to repair the trackpad.  It’s ironic that I waited that long because, much to my suprise, it was under warranty.  Don’t think you can out-stupid me.  You’ll lose.

3-ish - Number of weeks I’ve been waiting to hear about a job thingie.  An interesting job thingie.

7 - Seconds I’m able to keep my eyes on an episode of “The Bachelor” before having to turn away.  The internet is littered with rants about the stupidity of reality television.  These rants are unoriginal and, often, spiteful for reasons the author doesn’t fully recognize.  With all that being said, I honestly believe that “The Bachelor” is going to destroy our society.

(Hyperbole Alert!)

This show is a perverted, soul-sucking television experience.  If you aired an explicit video of Secretariat’s greatest ejaculations, there’d be more educational takeaway than this program.

How are they positioning themselves?  Is it supposed to mirror real life?  Does everyone realize that the female contestants model their reality show habits after the Season 1 “Newlyweds” performance of Jessica Simpson?   Do adjectives want to file a class action lawsuit after every “date” scene?

I could go on.

6 – Number of consecutive weeks that the traffic has increased at Prelude to a Big Break.  This is a really neat thing for me to witness.  I’m writing less and I’m not advertising the site, with the exception of an occasional Twitter update.  I don’t know where the people are coming from, but I know they’re reading and that makes me feel great.

2 - Number of times I saw “Up In The Air.”  Can we skip the five year waiting period and elect Ryan Bingham into the movie character Hall of Fame?

How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life… you start with the little things. The shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks, then you start adding larger stuff. Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, your TV… the backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger. Your couch, your car, your home… I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office… and then you move into the people you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your brothers, your sisters, your children, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack, feel the weight of that bag. Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.

98 - That’s the percentage of “stuff” that I no longer have.  I’m going to California with one bag.  5 weeks later, Louis the Dog is coming.  That bag will be filled with every material possession I have left.  It is an outrageous, wonderful, life altering feeling.

I don’t agree with the middle section of Clooney’s monologue, ultimately, neither does his character.  Friends and family are desperately important.  Even more pressing?  How hard you try to figure out who those friends are.  I know who my friends are, and I know who I am. 

It’s the only thing you can take with you.

SA

Written by Stephen Amell

February 1, 2010 at 4:52 pm

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