WHAT STARRING IN A WEB SERIES TAUGHT ME

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My fortune cookie tells me all the important stuff…

As anyone incautious enough to read my emails knows, I star with Ross Marquand in The Impression Guys, a comedy which can be seen on the SoulPancake Channel on YouTube.

Here’s that link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsZBaDaW7Nc#t=331

Over the course of the creation of this series, I had some experiences worth sharing, and from which I learned some important lessons.

PARTNER WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE DECISIVE

Ben Shelton, who writes, directs and also edits The Impression Guys is always under the gun to get things done, and yet he makes his deadlines and never seems rushed.

His secret: be decisive.

I think it comes from his experience as a basketball player.  I have never played much basketball, but I notice there isn’t a lot of time spent in a huddle. Most plays seem to happen in about a fifth of a second, too fast for any discussion, or even to take a quick vote.

If you’ve worked with professional people, you’ll know that they share Ben’s method; they quickly make a decision, which makes room for the next thing to happen, and the next quick decision to be made. Pretty soon, a lot of progress has been made.

This doesn’t mean they are always right, but they adjust quickly, too. Their rate of decision is just running at a higher velocity. It’s very refreshing. It’s a symptom of that rare condition, “Confidence”.

We’ve all experienced the discomfort of being part of a show or an activity where the people in charge can’t seem to choose. Even the simplest of assignments drag on indefinitely. It’s one of the things that makes the modern world so frustrating.

Of course, many things in life should be exhaustively worked over and over, with care taken to make the right choice. If it’s a murder trial, sure. Defusing a live bomb, definitely. But please, not entertainment!

USE THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPERIMENT

I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing my name first on a callsheet lately, so it was nice to have something to do in nearly every scene of The Impression Guys.

With that fact came a lot more responsibility. Since our crew was limited, Ross and I had to wear extra hats, like doing our own makeup, hair, wardrobe and continuity.

In a big movie shoot, there are people reminding you all the time what shoes to wear, dabbing at your face with brushes and puffs, and straightening your collar when it gets flipped up in the back. Sometimes you have three people all doing things to your body at the same time, while you are trying to concentrate on the next take. Here, we didn’t have that luxury. Although Ross did flip my collar down a couple times for me.

To maintain continuity, we had to have a very clear idea of what was going on at any point in that whole first season, since we were shooting out of sequence; we had to think with what had just happened BEFORE the scene we were about to shoot, even if we hadn’t shot that prior scene yet.

That’s something that all big movie actors have to think with. For me it was a rare opportunity to dive in and see what I could do to take responsibility for creating the illusion of sequence in time, and to support the story.

By being responsible for all the action of my character, plus the wardrobe, prop handling etc, it helped me get deeply into the character’s viewpoint in the scene.

Also, since I was in front of the camera so often, and not waiting in a trailer somewhere for my one scene to come up, I was very comfortable with experimenting, which isn’t how I feel on a big budget shoot where I’m not going to be there very long, and don’t want to be remembered as the guy who tried something offbeat and slowed everything down.

It’s actually easier to have more to do than less; doing one little scene is much more stressful than doing an entire day of work– it’s the only chance to score!

Without the stress, I got more playful, and that in turn helped my performance.

LET IT BREATHE

It’s a kind of a hallmark of amateur actors that they seem to be in a big hurry to get their lines out, even to the point of cutting off the lines of the other actors in the scene. In The Impression Guys, we could take our time to play each beat and didn’t have an eye on the clock.

The important thing is, of course, telling the story believably and entertainingly. Since we weren’t in a big frantic rush, we could explore the moments more and really let the scenes breathe. That was something I quickly got used to.

I should mention at this point that the whole cast are all really terrific and honest actors that naturally strove to make the most of the material. I learned a lot from working with Ross Marquand, Dana DeLorenzo, Matt Jones, Piotr Michael, Amy Castle, Angela Kinsey, Christina Bianco and others in the cast and seeing the level of their involvement as characters. Pretty inspiring for me.

ALWAYS BE READY

Being physically prepared was a major factor in our shoot. Our shoot days weren’t murderous, but they were a good eight-plus hours. We had a lot to cover every day, and doing multiple takes due to fatigue would cost us.

By getting enough sleep, vitamins, and good food, and by keeping prepared with studying the script, rehearsing, (and in some cases, continue to write material for my celebrity impressions) I was able to accomplish what I needed to without crashing.

Again, decisiveness was a factor; Ben would drive us hard, but not beyond a point that was practical. Can you tell I’m a fan of his work ethic?

Mainly, pacing myself and getting food and rest were key things that helped me get the job done.

TELLING THE WORLD

It’s no good doing a wonderful series if you haven’t gotten the word out. Thankfully, our producers at SoulPancake have done a wonderful job of letting their subscribers know about The Impression Guys and spreading the word.

But there is so much product out there that you really have to get fast, clever and busy to get attention. I’ve done everything from contact radio, press and blog people to Tweeting to Shakespeare societies, inviting them to have a look. Happily, I had some success and we have a growing fan base of pretty passionate viewers.

I posted a lot of daily videos from the set of The Impression Guys so that we could share the experience with others.

I’ve had postcards made and am sending them to casting agents. These people I definitely want to know about this show.

And even then, it’s a struggle to let more of the world know, at least the English speaking world, who have Internet access.

So, how much promotion is too much? I’ve never even come close. You have to make noise when you have something to make noise about, right? 

And with the proliferation of digital filmmaking technology and a renaissance of ideas, it’s only going to become more competitive.

Have YOU seen The Impression Guys yet? Here’s that link again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsZBaDaW7Nc#t=331

Will we have a Season Two? I hope so. It sure looks good right now.  Hope some of this was helpful to you.

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Back to Santa Cruz

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This weekend I had the good fortune of being invited back to Santa Cruz again, where I spent most of my college days.

The UCSC Alumni Association was kind enough to hire me to come MC and do some of my JIMPRESSIONS at an evening of music by local alums at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, one of the nicer jazz clubs in Northern California.

The performers were: Ebony Lewis, a gospel singer who sang a joyous a capella set, a group called The Uke Ellington Quartet, featuring ukelele’s, bass and vocals, a very gifted guitarist named Carl Atilano who created an amazing guitar version of the Radiohead song, Everything in its Right Place (which is impossible), Kendra McKinley, a recent grad who is a marvelous singer/songwriter, and lastly, two guys (Casey Dayan and Sean Campbell) that make up a band called Moo. 

So you can see how an impressionist fit right in there.

I had a wonderful time.  There were alumni from across the decades of the University’s history, from the 70’s to present day.  Everybody enjoyed the terrific music from the performers that were there, and I had a great time introducing them, doing comedy and bits from my show.

Thanks to my old roommate, Bruce Leshan, for forwarding my videos to Allison Garcia of UCSC, which lead to my being invited.

The weather was uncharacteristically warm and dry, and it really was a perfect little getaway.  Afterwards, Tamra and I watched “The Wolf of Wall Street” and we laughed and laughed… who knew it was a comedy?  I guess I missed that. 

The next day we took a few hours to enjoy the natural beauty of the seaside, and local redwood forests.  Man, it’s a lovely place to visit.

We just made it home later that day to go to the Parks & Recreation season six wrap party, which was nice.  We didn’t stay long, but got to see everyone I know on the show. 

Busy little weekend, with a lot of variety, so it seemed longer than two days.  Which is good, since they stiffed us an hour this weekend due to Daylight Savings Time.

Hope you are enjoying The Impression Guys on YouTube.

Published in: on March 9, 2014 at 3:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jim Meskimen Interview

meskimen:

Very kind article here, and a link to a recent interview… nice to know I have at least one fan in Wales!

Originally posted on Rhys L Griffiths:

I’m a big fan of Rob Paulsen’s podcast Talkin Toons. For those of you who don’t know, Rob Paulsen did the voice of Yakko Warner in Animaniacs, Pinky from Pinky and the Brain, Raphael in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and now he voices Donatello in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. He has voiced hundreds of cartoon characters. He also does a podcast called Talkin Toons where he sits down and chats to other people who make a living out of doing silly voices. One day I was listening to his show and he was doing a live version and his guest was Jim Meskimen. Now a lot of the time with voice actors you don’t know the persons name but you certainly recognise their body of work, so not knowing the interviewee doesn’t put me off the show. Anyway as he spoke to Jim I…

View original 392 more words

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 8:38 am  Leave a Comment  

The Impression Guys Series on SoulPancake is LIVE!

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The Impression Guys Series is LIVE

I have to say, it’s been very heartening and unexpected to get such nice remarks from my friends and fellow actors about The Impression Guys.

Wayne Brady, Jenna Elfman, Maurice LaMarche and others have Tweeted their approval of Episode One, which was very kind of them.

In fact, people have been going out of their way to let me know that they found the show especially enjoyable.  Man, that’s great to hear.

For me, it’s so autobiographical, my life thru a kind of funhouse mirror, that I don’t really consider the content all that remarkable; beautifully produced, edited and presented, but not very far off from the little comedy I inhabit every day.

Of course, there are tremendous variations on life as I know it; my wife Tamra plays someone else in my life, Angela Kinsey of The Office inhabiting Tamra’s real life role of Jim’s long-suffering wife (nice of her to bear the burden for a few days!)

But no matter the coincidences and variations on the theme, it’s great that so many are going along for the ride.  Happy to have the audience to play to.

I think if you liked Episode One, you will like the remaining story even more.  The uber-talented Ben Shelton wrote and directed; it’s an adventure he dreamed up, with a little input from me and my co-star, Ross Marquand. 

The Impression Guys is beautifully developed with a lot of surprises all the way along.  You will be impressed, I promise.

And SoulPancake, Rainn Wilson’s company, is responsible for green-lighting the project and getting it made and hosted on their popular YouTube channel.  If you haven’t already, go ahead and subscribe.

Let me know what you think of the rest of the show!

Episode Two will launch today, Monday February 17 at 4 pm pst.

WRAPPED ATTENTION

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This week we completed five days of shooting MORE material for season one of The Impression Guys this week, and I came away feeling really wonderful about the project.

Finishing up work a show can be bittersweet, you’re exhausted, spent, your clothes are all over the inside of your car, you’ve drunk too much coffee for too many days in a row, and you feel that you can’t stand to be with your fellow actors a second longer. 

Happily, in this case, only the part about clothes and coffee were true.

The Impression Guys is the brainchild of filmmaker Ben Shelton, who I met through mutual friend Skyler Caleb.  Ben has thrown himself into this project with incredible energy, balanced by hard-won knowledge of film, and sprinkled with a terrific sense of humor and fun.

My other half in this series, Ross Marquand, is a brilliant and facile impressionist on one side of the ledger, and a strong and convincing dramatic actor on the other.  I’m very lucky to have him to play beside, and I’m always impressed by the reality, and the choices he brings to his role.

The other cast members have entered this process with the same enthusiasm, and their performances are top notch.  Piotr Michael, Tamra Meskimen, Dana Delorenzo, Amy Castle, Angela Kinsey, Christina Bianco, Skyler Caleb, Tom Ayers, Tiffany Hutson, Dylan Mooney… you are doing to love getting to know them.

The crew are… just delightful.  I’m crazy about them.  They work really hard, they know their business, and they keep it light and fun.  How the heck they do it, I don’t know.

But that’s all behind the scenes.  All you need to know is that the show is fun, funny, has many surprises, excellent guest stars, and a ton of impressions.

When can you see it?  I’m reluctant to say… today.  There have been a lot of strategy meetings and changes in the release schedule.  But I will let you know as soon as it is confirmed.  Believe me!

In the meantime, just know that we have a fun series from SoulPancake for you to binge-watch very, very soon.

Thanks again for reading!

GRACED

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I’m just taking a brief breath between days of shooting some additional material to flesh out Season One of The Impression Guys, our soon-to-be-released web series, and I’m marveling once again at the serendipity of my life.

We are very fortunate in this latest set of scripts to have some really amazing guest stars, which are bringing the quality of our story and the general mood way, way up.  First, Erika Christensen agreed to do a funny cameo, and she is wonderful.  I have known Erika for years, and she graciously made time in her busy life, in between shooting the popular TV show Parenthood, to play with us.  She may not be an impressionist, but she always leaves a memorable impression.

Then, feisty, funny and talented Christina Bianco happened to be out here from a break in her busy Broadway career and accepted our invitation to play–what else?– an amazing impressionist!  I’ll be singing with her in various voices in an episode we will shoot tomorrow, (you can see us rehearsing part of it when you click this LINK.)

There is another very exciting bit of “stunt-casting” coming up… but it’s too soon to let that cat out of the bag.

But with Erika and Christina, plus our current cast which is already top-heavy with talent, including Dana Delorenzo, Matt Jones, Melissa Villaseñor, Angela Kinsey, Angela Hoover, Eamon Brennan, Jason Lewis, Tom Ayers, Tamra Meskimen, Portis Hershey, Piotr Michael, Amy Castle, Skylar Caleb, Dylan Mooney, Brandon Routh and others, The Impression Guys is shaping up to be an embarrassment of riches.  Which is my favorite kind of embarrassment, frankly.

I’ll keep on keepin’ you posted.  Thanks for your patience.

Back In Production

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Well, the new year is already speeding ahead like a car you left in the driveway of your old house (after you’d been drinking) without putting the emergency brake on, and it rolls down the driveway until it piles into the bushes of the house across the street and… not that I’ve ever DONE that.

Anyway, we are about to launch into ANOTHER five days of shooting for season one of The Impression Guys, a new web series that I have been told will launch in the beginning of February.  Of THIS year.  So that’s very exciting, because I think, based on the edit I watched last year, it’s pretty doggone entertaining.

As usual, the writer/director, Ben Shelton, who works best under mammoth pressure, has pulled off a miracle and given us some scripts that are full of marvelous opportunities for myself, my talented co-star Ross Marquand, and an amazing group of guest impressionists, actors and even a few celebrities to really have some fun.

I’ll be taking lots of photos and posting them to my Facebook page, so you can keep tabs on us.

The Impression Guys is produced by Rainn Wilson’s production company Soul Pancake, which has its own very popular YouTube Channel, and where I speculate you will be able to watch the entire eight episode season of the show in the comfort of your own laptop or 76” Smart TV. 

I can’t say much about the show, except that I really think it will show off both my and Ross’s talents very well, it will be very entertaining, and… there will be Shakespeare.

Please help us spread the word, if you like.  Here’s a link to the pilot episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4RGvLnhvfo

If you enjoyed it, pass it along to others in your world.

Little by little, we build our massive following… Or not.  But we ARE having fun.

Thanks!

Bullets Dodged

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I just finished narrating a very well-written, but ultimately depressing autobiographical story by Blake Bailey, entitled The Splendid Things We Planned, about a dysfunctional family.

I guess one could say that the family I had growing up was dysfunctional, although what labels like that actually accomplish, even so far as differentiation of any useful sort, is dubious.

We were functional, and then at times not so functional… I imagine almost any family could be described like that.  An ideal family has yet to trod the Earth, I reckon.

In any case, immersed as I was in the telling of this story, I began to appreciate how very, very fortunate I am to have the kind of family that I do.

The story is told from the viewpoint of the younger brother of a fellow named Scott, who at a young age suffers merely from being a bit selfish, insensitive and arrogant, but ends up a completely dissolute, wasted and worthless criminal who commits suicide in prison at age 43, after decades of ridiculous behavior, punctuated by moments of endearing lucidity.

It’s a portrait of the tormented life that many have unfortunately lead, owing to the abuse of alcohol, especially,  and drugs, coupled with no real knowledge or tools for handling life.

It brings to mind Act III, scene 1 of Hamlet, the part of that famous speech:

“… but who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely (harsh treatment)

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay

The insolence of office, and the spurns

that patient merit of the unworthy takes,

when he himself might his quietus make

with a bare bodkin?”

This question of Hamlet’s seems ever more fitting and pertinent.  Especially after reading this story about a guy who, in the end, decides that “to sleep, perchance to dream” is his best and only option, and ushers himself out of this universe.

(Don’t worry by the way, I’m feeling FINE.  I’ve been studying Hamlet’s speech not because of any philosophical conundrum, but because I mean to work it into a JIMPRESSION video very soon.  I feel great!)

There is the expression, “There but for the grace of God go I…” and I wish there was a better, non-religious one.  But it communicates.

I had my first steps on that same path to utter worthlessness, and then by sheer luck, love, good fortune, God, and/or my own quiet ambition, I got help, and skittered back off the verge back onto a road that lead to somewhere worthwhile, and, eventually, an enviable family life.

I’m pretty sure you had a less melancholy Sunday than I did, pronouncing every syllable of this captivating, at times sardonic, yet very sobering cautionary tale. I hope so, anyway!

And I hope that you and your family will have a lifetime together that is pleasant and mutually rewarding, and devoid of the heavy drama that seems to rise up like a summer storm for some, as it has since the very earliest tribes.

Sheesh!  More laughs next blog, I promise!

Published in: on January 12, 2014 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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HELLO, HORIZON? WHATCHA GOT FOR ME?

Me & Tam, sunset

It’s now about a week or so into the new year, and I’m very relieved to report that I have recovered my lapsed ambition.

I had lost or misplaced it in December, and it was amazing how much things slow down without it.

Last year was an amazingly varied and rewarding one. I did a lot of very unexpected things, had adventures all over the map, and met some really delightful people. It was almost all unscheduled, or at least in January of 2013, totally over the horizon and out of view, so I can only assume that the marvelous things in store for 2014 that are likewise invisible to me will soon fill my vision and cause my eyes to bug out. Exciting!

I am of course not leaving anything up to chance. I’m planning and scheming and dreaming, and in every way I know, flexing my refreshed ambition.

I think I was just a little spent!  America’s Got Talent, Parks & Recreation, Jimpressions, animation, TV appearances, interviews, audiobooks… Sheesh!

The main thrust for 2014 is, to create many more entertaining, enlightening and fun things to show you, and to collaborate with other artists to bring about some new works that will stun and amaze, and make the world at least a tiny bit better place for all.

I’m planning on pushing myself a lot, doing things that, frankly, will take a bit of doing. It’s time for me to reach far, and push myself farther and harder than ever before. I’m not just giving myself a pep talk here, I am actually only interested in doing something new and challenging; I can’t be bothered to do the same old things anymore.  Been there, done that!

So, to that end, here are some of the targets:

•     The NEW live JIMPRESSIONS show–upgraded, revamped, retooled and supercharged. Watch for JIMPRESSIONS 2014 sometime in March and get ready to ACCEPT IMITATIONS!

•     Eight episodes of season one of the webseries, THE IMPRESSION GUYS, starring myself and actor/impressionist Ross Marquand, written and directed by the talented and hard working Ben Shelton, to be released very soon.

•     Weekly hilarious videos at www.youtube.com/jimmeskimen that explore my impressions, characters and creations in a bigger, better way. More from Professor Knestor, of course…

•     A book about doing impressions for fun and profit…

•     Speaking engagements, live shows, readings, MCing events…

•     And, somehow, someway, more paintings & drawings.

Then of course, there are those as yet unseen things over the horizon– I wonder what they will bring…

In short, life is in me today, and I don’t plan on wasting any of it.

I’m glad you are sharing life’s abundance with me!

What about you?  What do you insist your 2014 will contain?  (You have to insist, you know…)

Happy New Year!

THANKS, EVERYBODY!

Sunset, THANKS

Thanks, everybody!

Thanks for paying me the supreme compliment of paying attention!  Thanks for noticing my efforts!

I have never had such a year of such kind attention and generosity of spirit.  Truly.

I promise to continue to strive to earn it.

Thanks for indulging me and watching, reading and listening to me this year, despite the myriad things that would have been more rewarding to watch, read or listen to.

Thanks for remembering my name, while I searched for yours.

Thanks for braving traffic to arrive to the theaters where I was performing on time.

Thanks for laughing!

Thanks for playing along.

Thanks for always being kind.

And may we all build a new and better world for each other to thrive in, every day.

Love, and enjoy the holiday with the ones who mean the most to you.

Sincerely,

Jim

Published in: on November 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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