Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Dr. Is In

Brian Razzino is one of the saviors of this movie in various ways. First of all, he delivers an outstanding performance as the sinister Dr. Chase. His scenes were so fun to edit that I wish I'd have written an even bigger part for him. Secondly, the man decides to join the cause and invest a significant amount of capital in the project to ensure it's survival. For the past several years he has done everything he can to support this movie and keep me motivated. (YOU ROCK, DOC! THANK YOU!!!)

His latest contribution is this generous offering to our blog:

To say that I am a fan of Dan Poole is a little like saying “The Godfather is kind of a good movie”. It is woefully inadequate. Dan and I first met, five years ago, over a DVD. He had e-mailed me asking me to audition for his film, “The Photon Effect”. This was one of those out-of-the-blue e-mails from someone I had never met. But, he had sent the script and his enthusiasm, even in writing, was palpable. I couldn’t make the audition in person since I was currently in production for Edward III at the Washington Shakespeare Theatre in DC. So, I video-taped my read and sent it to him overnight mail.

Now, before I get into our actual meeting and work together, let me give some backstory. This was in 2006 and I was just out of theatre school. Two years prior (2004, for you mathematicians ;) I had finally screwed-up enough courage to honor and pursue a long hidden passion (acting and theatre) of mine and make it a reality in my life. This meant placing my other career more in the background (I am also a doctor in clinical psychology, which translates to 9 years in a university, a master’s degree, a doctorate/dissertation, 2 years in post-doctoral training, and several more years doing research, teaching and clinical practice. If you Google me, you’ll find some of my research publications). I had left my faculty position at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Opened my own practice and was doing what I had always wanted to do, acting on stage. It was a joyous time.

Enter Dan Poole. After receiving the DVD audition, he seemed to really like, he offered me the part of Dr. Robert Chase. One of those juicy roles, playing a criminal mastermind that hijacks science, creating an army of soldiers with lightening-generating capabilities, to serve his own greed and need for power. I mean, really… How’s a boy gonna say “no”?! So like any trained actor, I learned my lines, studied aspects of the psychopathic mind and criminals (Did you know Al Capone was actually beloved by the Cicero (Chicago) community he lived in? I mean the man was considered a saint and a hero!). When I joined the crew for shooting, it was the first time Dan and I had met. Here is this tall, good looking, athletic guy, with the energy of a five year old, and the imagination to match. To him nothing was impossible, everyone was welcome to the party, and ideas, like toys on Christmas morning, were things to be celebrated and enjoyed. He was pretty damn cool. Now, don’t misunderstand, shooting and working on set wasn’t without its hang ups, delays, interruptions, and disappointments. Independent film making, as Dan will happily relay, has a slew of hurdles. People don’t keep their commitments (often they are volunteers, or paid little. So when other higher paying jobs come by, the independent project or favor you are doing a friend takes a back seat), equipment fails, scenes take longer than anticipated, and sometimes you wait the day and your scene is not shot. So patience, flexibility, and good spirits are requirements, not virtues. Given all these, Dan maintained his level of energy, humor and optimism. It was infectious. As an actor, it made a world of difference. There are plenty of directors, on much bigger budgets, that can drag down the whole project with pettiness and ego. Dan floated past these pitfalls with a laser-focus and love for his craft.

Now, at this point, you might also be wondering how I became a primary investor on the Photon Effect project. It’s one thing to be an actor. Commit that time and energy to a project. What made me want to separate myself from so much money and give it to some guy in Baltimore, with an early 1990’s Spiderman film on his resume, making a movie about, of all things, superheros!? You might go on to say “a couple years earlier you were steeped in science, dealing with IMPORTANT questions. Questions that require pragmatics, cold, hard reasoning, and above all else, a sober, buttoned-up approach to life and the world. Superheros!? Independent film making? Making pretend you are an evil genius bent on world domination? Uhm, Dr. Razzino? Maybe you need to check in with a shrink of your own?” And so I will smile, laugh a little to myself and whisper to you: “how many times do you get to live your own dream, and help make someone else’s come true?” This was the case with The Photon Effect and Dan.

The actual moment of truth came on a shoot in Frederick Maryland. Dan and his crew were scaling these electrical towers several hundred feet high. Doug Adams had just arrived and I sat down next to him as I waited for my upcoming scene. I think I was eating some chicken salad Dan’s mom had made for “craft services”. Curious, I asked Doug why he thought The Photon Effect would be well received. As we talked, we watched Dan repel down the tower, climb back up for another shot, repel again, climb, repel, climb. The sun and Maryland landscape behind the tower. Shadows danced on the ground next to us. It was magnificent. The physical feat, the courage, the personal risk he threw himself into. For his dream. It was the most concrete example I had ever come across.

Dan forced me to look at myself that day. Did I believe in myself? My choice to get into acting? The character I portray in the film? The story? How much do I stand behind my own dreams?

The other night I sat down to watch the movie with another friend in its final version. The opening scene had been significantly revamped and is wildly improved from the original. I had chills. To see the feeling confirmed in the eyes of my friend was only topped by his outburst, “God. That was awesome!” After viewing the film in its entirety, seeing the story unfold, revealing its secrets amidst the visceral music, stunning effects, and shocking ending I sat quietly, my mind reeling with delight. It reminded me of my honeymoon, sitting with my new wife, Robin, after a glorious meal, savoring gelato in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

There are times when you just have to put your money where your mouth is. I thought I knew this going into Photon. Dan taught me how much more I had to learn. About perseverance, trusting yourself, believing in your dream.

So I put it to YOU: how many times do you get to live your dream AND help make someone else’s come true? What are you willing to do to make it come true?

- Dr. Brian Razzino

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