When to look for an agent (and how not to get dumped by one)

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Actors often ask me when is the best time to look for an agent? I always say, anytime except the holidays when agents are usually not in the office. An agent’s roster can experience fluctuations (actors leaving the agency) daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. We don’t know exactly when what actors and their type are coming and going, so you simply have to always be on the lookout for an agent.

But, there is a time of the year when the odds of signing with a new agent may be more in your favor than any other time. The end and start of the year! This is the time when some agents “clean house.” They purge from their roster those actors that unfortunately, get auditions, but don’t produce enough callbacks due to their lack of on-camera skills. Agents make money when the actor makes money. So, if you are not producing at least four callbacks out of every 10 castings (average ratio of audition to callbacks to bookings based on agents interviewed), the actor eventually gets dumped, or stops hearing from their agent (which is worse because you think you have an agent but you have really lost them and did not get the memo).

Some actors get dumped for the most foolish of reasons. They get auditions and won’t go on them! Yes! 20 to 30 percent of actors actually blow off their auditions. They overuse the excuse of, “I’ve had a family emergency and won’t be able to make it.” Agents have occasionally expressed on their social media accounts and welcome packets that any actor who misses auditions, will have their contracts terminated. These are top, highly respected agents that meet and sign “hobbyist” actors that are seeking castings only when it’s convenient for their schedule. My actors always hear me say, “Dreams are usually never convenient. You have to make room for them.”

Therefore if you don’t want to get dumped by your agent, never skip your castings and always book out when you are not available, which is another way to lose jobs – and your agent!

 


mikepointerBooking Coach Mike Pointer of Hey, I Saw Your Commercial! Has helped thousands of actors over the last 17 years book hundreds of national television commercials as well as television and film work. Coach Mike, a successful commercial actor for over 28 years himself, teaches outstanding, cutting edge strategies that has helped hundreds of actors quit their day jobs, and build a successful career in TV commercials. Coach Mike’s powerful on-camera techniques and outstanding business strategies has set a new standard and cutting edge approach in the on-camera commercial training industry. These classes are highly recommended by top commercial agencies as well as top Managers, and Casting Directors that also teach classes!

Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman Seek to Create Change in Hollywood

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Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, co-executive producers and costars of the HBO limited series Big Little Lies, are hoping to inspire change for women in Hollywood. They seek to open the entertainment industry’s eyes with their show which portrays a group of complicated female characters and deals with the topic of women supporting one another.

Big Little Lies is based on the 2014 novel of the same title by Liane Moriarty which features several kindergarten moms whose “seemingly perfect lives unravel to a murder mystery that takes place during a disastrous parents’ night at an elementary school fundraiser.” It’s described as a dark comic drama told from the perspective of three mothers played by Shailene Woodley, Witherspoon, and Kidman.

Witherspoon has been outspoken about women being underestimated in the industry like when they are limited to portraying only girlfriends or wives on screen. Indeed, she owns her own production company, Pacific Standard, and has attempted to paint a more varied picture of females in film by producing Gone Girl and Wild. Reese has spoken about her convictions to produce female-centric storylines, saying:

“I’m passionate because things have to change. We have to start seeing women as they really are on film. We have to. And not just in movie theaters on a tiny budget. We need to see real women’s experience, whether it involves domestic violence, whether it involves sexual assault, whether it involved motherhood or romance or infidelity or divorce. We need to see these things because we as human beings, we learn from art and what can you do if you never see it reflected?”

Reese also told the press that she’s tired of seeing the Smurfette Syndrome in Hollywood–that is, the pattern of productions casting all male characters who define the group, its story and its code of values with the exception of adding just one female character. Examples of the syndrome include the George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy, The Big Bang Theory, the 2009 Star Trek reboot by JJ Abrams, most seasons of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, as well as children’s programs like Winnie the Pooh and, of course, The Smurfs. “Who gave birth to all these Smurfs?” Reese jokingly asks. Similarly, the research project conducted by USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative revealed that women played less than a third of the speaking roles in the top movies from 2007 to 2014.

It was Tina Fey’s book Bossypants that first inspired Reese to get into production and create opportunities for other women to tell their stories. “[Fey] said, ‘If I can help one other woman create something in Hollywood, I’ve done my job,'” Witherspoon said, adding that she likewise shares the same goal.

Kidman expressed that she deeply related to Moriarty’s book, and especially to the female characters. She felt the screenplay was unique as it followed five different and in-depth roles for women–something she considers extremely rare in Hollywood.

The two Oscar-winning actresses, Witherspoon and Kidman, believe Big Little Lies represents a more worthwhile representation of women, and hope the show serves as an important step for more complex roles for actresses in the future. They hope Hollywood is paying attention.

Little Big Lies premieres on HBO on February 19th.

Isabelle Huppert on Her Award-Winning Performance in ‘Elle’

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Isabelle Huppert recently won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) for her bold and fearless performance in Elle. She was celebrated for portraying the businesswoman, Michele Leblanc, who is raped by an unknown assailant and then seeks revenge.

The 63-year old French actress has appeared in over 100 films and television productions, and earned many awards over the span of decades in films like The Piano Teacher, 8 Women, and Things to Come. She is among the most prolific actresses who work internationally.

Huppert’s wide range of skills were on display while performing the emotional role of the mysterious Parisian heroine. Dutch director Paul Verhoeven intended the film to be part psychological thriller and part dark comedy, weaving lightness into the provocative and disturbing material. Adapting to the requirements of the scenes, Huppert likened playing the role to an “everyday experiment.”

Verhoeven, known for directing Basic Instinct, initially planned to make Elle in America. Nicole Kidman, Sharon Stone, Julianne Moore, and Diane Lane were offered the lead, but they each turned it down. When Verhoeven was unable to garner enough interest, he returned to France to pursue the film. He came to believe Isabelle was the only actress in the world who could pull off the role, and he did not give her direction. Huppert said, “I had this whole piece of material just given to me as a gift, and I was allowed to fill it up the way I wanted.” 

Through her misfortune, Michele never behaves like a victim, nor does she feel guilty when she reacts in a way “that might seem amoral,” according to the actress. Huppert reveals that while shooting the rape scenes, “the process was very technical because we rehearsed a lot. We always knew that those scenes might be more difficult to watch for the spectator than to do for the actor.”

Huppert has been known to portray morally ambiguous characters over the years, and Michele represents the latest one. Isabelle reveals, “I just play them as normal persons. And so I don’t really–it’s not like I start a movie saying, ‘I’m going to play a morally ambiguous character,’…No, I take them more like most of the time as survivors. But, it’s true that I don’t really bother with the idea that characters should be sympathetic. I just want the character to be as true as possible.” She’s guided by intuition and likes to keep some things unexplained, and tries to maintain a sense of innocence in her characters.

During the backstage interview at the Golden Globes, Verhoeven and Huppert were asked what it was that helped them to surpass the craziness of the film’s plot and create something people responded to. Verhoeven answered, “After finishing the movie and looking at the result, I feel that what Isabelle did was so audacious and so authentic that basically it saves the movie.”

Isabelle added, “Well I think most of the time movie making is all about confidence and trust. There is nothing else actually. And if you trust someone, if you feel like you’re being watched and loved and understood it’s all very easy…Being adventurous in certain subject matters, not being scared of exploring, anything even if it is disturbing, even if it is sometimes difficult to listen or to understand, but exploring the human psyche–that’s what makes cinema most of the time valuable and worth being done.”

Huppert surprised Hollywood when she beat out Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, Ruth Negga, and Jessica Chastain in the competition for best performance as an actress.

Good Actors, Bad Dialogue

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It isn’t always going to be Shakespeare, is it?

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Has this ever happened to you? You get an audition and the adrenaline kicks in because this is what you’ve been waiting for these past weeks; a nice, juicy speaking part in a film. And then you read the material and the brakes are slammed on. The material is just awful. The dialogue is cardboard. The concept is right off of an assembly line. This is not going to be a good project based on what you’re reading. So, what do you do?

Deep breath. Exhale. This happens all the time and it isn’t always as bad as it seems at first. Most importantly, attitude is everything. You could focus on the dialogue and sabotage your audition or you could focus on how to make your audition the best that it can be under the circumstances. Breaking into Hollywood means sometimes doing that project that makes you cringe. Get over it.

When the dialogue seems off, the very first thing you need to do is make sure it isn’t you. I don’t mean that in a condescending way. Sometimes you can miss the point of some of the dialogue or there is a joke in there that causes the lines to sound clunky on purpose.

At least ask yourself if you might be misinterpreting the material. Things aren’t always what they seem. A movie like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil might not have looked very interesting just from the sides, but if you read the whole script you see how it stands out from the usual horror fare.

Practice saying the clunky line a variety of different ways. Sometimes it is that simple. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard an actor in an audition say a line the wrong way when everyone else in the room thought it was obvious how you should say it. I am the first to admit when the script is bad, but actors have to make sure it is the script and not your first take on it.

So, let’s assume you can tell that the material is just plain bad.

Resist the temptation to rewrite the material during the audition phase. Many times the producer is aware that they aren’t going to be in contention for Best Screenplay. You will have plenty of opportunities on the set to spruce up the dialogue. And changing words or sentences is only going to throw your reader. It is important that you come in to every audition prepared to read the scene as written.

However, if one word is really causing you problems, then change it, especially if it is a small word that is easily dropped or modified. If your character says, “yikes!” at one point and that seems clunky, just cut it. But think long and hard first on whether or not the writer put that particular “yikes” in there to reveal character. Consider the options before making even a tiny change. Is there a way to make that word work? Was the writer using the term on purpose? Sarcasm is a funny thing. When in doubt, leave it in.

Often an actor can save a bad line by just throwing it away. Say it and move on. Somebody was paid to write it and there is a chance that they are not going to change it. Say it and don’t let it become an issue. You have an entire scene to perform. Letting one line distract you from the work is a rookie mistake.

And never let them see your opinion of the bad material. Whether or not they are aware of the bad material, and they may be, it isn’t your job at an audition to comment on the script. Book the role and you have at least a shot at fixing the dialogue.

If it’s drama, treat it like drama! I don’t care if you’re auditioning for a soap or Sharknado, if it isn’t a comedy, it’s a drama. As someone who has cast more than his share of horror films, I can tell you that we are vigilant in the casting office for people who don’t take the material, or genre, seriously.

Make the most of every audition, even when the material is weak, and you will find yourself booking more and then you can pass on the bad material. Until then, take lemony material and make it lemonade!

Aaron Taylor-Johnson Wins Golden Globe

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English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson won a Golden Globe for Best Performance in a Supporting Role Sunday night for his performance in Nocturnal Animals. He portrayed the terrifying gang leader Ray Marcus alongside costars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhall, and Michael Shannon. The role marked a distinct shift from the kinds of characters Taylor-Johnson is used to playing. Indeed, Aaron is accustomed to portraying heroes who battle dark forces in films like Kick-Ass, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Godzilla.

While accepting the award, the 26-year-old star said, “Creating this role and collaborating on this journey was an immense joy…I enjoyed every second of it.” He previously described preparing for the nightmarish part, saying, “It was very disturbing, and the process was pretty grueling three months before shooting.”

To transform into the Texan villain, he utilized a dialect coach, researched serial killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, and studied documentaries on psychopaths and murderers for their mannerisms. He noticed that many serial killers had a certain charisma, and he wanted to cultivate that in his character. Aaron grew his hair and fingernails out and lost weight. All the while, he smoked and drank “to feel toxic from the inside out,” and hoped it would show on his complexion–and even his scent.

When first offered the role, Aaron initially paused knowing he’d need to commit to the pursuit of this dark material. After all, he is the father of four young girls along with his wife, director Sam Taylor-Johnson. When he accepted the challenge and started the three months of preparation, he simultaneously took care of his kids; when they were at school or asleep, he delved into the disturbing research. Over time, Aaron developed trouble falling asleep and, at least to some degree, came to feel like a nocturnal animal himself. While shooting the movie, he avoided going home to his four daughters to protect them from seeing their daddy with a frightening appearance and “that kind of aura,” as he described it.

Taylor-Johnson collaborated with director Tom Ford to create the “bold, charismatic, magnetic, and unpredictable” character. Aaron committed to giving  Ford a variety of options while filming. “We were improvising and being pushed to the limit,” he said. While watching the film for the first time, he was stunned to discover he didn’t even remember speaking half the dialogue he saw onscreen. He revealed, “That was quite daunting and kind of disturbing, but also great really. Essentially that I was shocked meant that we really documented something that was like an out-of-body experience.”

During his acceptance speech, Aaron announced, “What a tremendous honor,” and thanking director Ford as well as his costars. He also made a point to thank his wife saying, “Thank you for putting up with me. I was not very pleasant, in this role. You’re my soulmate. I love you very much.”

This victory represents Taylor-Johnson’s first Golden Globe win and nomination. You can see a full list of the Golden Globe winners here.

Have you ever played a character that made you not the nicest person to be around?

Two Ways Actors Can Use Snapchat

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Snapchat’s photo-sharing platform with its ten-second shot restriction, amusing filters, editing features, and geotags are popular among kids and adults alike. But the trendy app can also be quite a resource for actors. Whether actors utilize Snapchat to promote their personal brand or use it to create short movies, the possibilities are endless.

Promoting Your Personal Brand

Promoting yourself can include snapping humorous videos, selfies, behind-the-scenes footage, and glimpses of your personal life. Here are some celebrity actors Snapchat who have open-to-the-public accounts to make sure they stay on the minds of their fans.

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Nick Jonas (jicknonas)

One of the Jonas Brothers, Nick is known for both his singing as well as his acting. He starred in the Disney Channel’s Camp Rock, had a recurring role in Fox’s Scream Queens, and is cast with Dwayne Johnson in Jumanji to be released later this year. Nick often snaps while casually roaming about Hollywood. In this one, he simply gives his fans a quick glimpse of his New Year’s vacation snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain.

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Shay Mitchell (officialshaym)

Shay Mitchell snaps often. Her content includes adventures on the Pretty Little Liars set, her mega workout routines, and moments with family and friends galore. In this snap, she documents her grief while leaving her beloved Pretty Little Liars cast and crew on their final day of shooting. But not to worry; Shay also has snapped about the new movie she stars in, Cadaver, in which she plays an ex-cop who works the graveyard shift at the morgue.

Certainly, not all actors’ careers are quite at the level of Jonas and Mitchell, but snapping about current or upcoming roles, or sharing anything that seems unique or interesting is made easy via the Snapchat platform. And it’s a great way to keep yourself on the radar of those who matter in your career.

Creating Short Movies

Originally, Snapchat provided a platform in which users were unable to go back and edit sequences. But in July of last year, it added a feature called “Memories” which works like a holding bin for photos and videos that can be added to a Snapchat story later on. This affords more editing power for the user. However, before Memories was added, the Tribeca Film Festival partnered up with Samsung Electronics America to invite Snapchat filmmakers to screen their movies at their festival. Entries had to be shot exclusively on the app, and could not exceed 200 seconds. So, with the 10-second shot restriction, and the inability to edit their shots or sequences, the ten winning filmmakers in the festival demonstrated how such tight restrictions could produce imaginative works. Here are two of the winners.

The Secret Stash

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No Pencils

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The top-ten Snapchat movies at Tribeca were described as uniquely intimate and having serious cinematic value. And now since Snapchat added the Memories feature with more editing control, filmmakers have a more pliable medium with which to work. And there’s really no limit as to how long a Snapchat movie can run. In fact, Indigenous Media has already released a feature-length film entitled Sickhouse using the app, and released it via Snapchat and later on Vimeo. While this kind of filming is not for everyone, for those low on technical or financial resources, it has potential.

Comedian YouTube Stars

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Aspiring comedians these days can put their humorous commodity out to audiences without ever having to step foot on a stand-up stage. Thanks to avenues like YouTube, comics can take their creativity and freedom, and connect with potentially multitudes of fans with relative ease. Here are some comic artists who have found a way to follow their hearts and talent, and make a lucrative living in the process.

Internet comedy duo Rhett and Link consists of Rhett McLaughlin and Charles Lincoln “Link” Neal III. Their content includes comedy songs, a daily morning talk-show called Good Mythical Morning, and their YouTube Red series Buddy System. Among their channels, they’ve garnered over 18 million subscribers. A steady output of viral videos reportedly earns them about 486 thousand dollars per year. The two men met in first grade in North Carolina. Because they both were caught writing swear words on tables, they had to stay inside the classroom during recess time. Their friendship was born, and continued to blossom. In middle-school, they signed a blood oath stating: “We will do something together some day.” Rhett and Link attended college together and were even roommates–and their bond remains strong as ever with both men living in Los Angeles running the production company Mythical Entertainment. Here is their Epic Rap Battle: Nerd vs. Geek which has about 34,000,000 views.

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Canadian YouTube comedian, actress, vlogger Lilly Singh, also known as Superwoman, specializes in voices, accents, and impersonations. As her parents are originally from Punjab, India, Lilly often portrays Punjabi culture in her satirical videos. She delves into topics about everyday life, controversies, as well as humorous complaints. Singh also launched a talk-show series called #GirlLove which serves as a platform to promote a support system within the female population. Her videos have received more than 1.6 billion views, and garnered over 10.6 million subscribers. This makes her one of the most successful YouTube personalities yet. In fact, Forbes reported that she earned a whopping 7.5 million dollars in 2016. Singh released her first feature film in 2016 entitled A Trip to Unicorn Island. Before creating YouTube content, Singh was suffering from depression and feeling very lonely during her last year of college. But she discovered uploading a video to YouTube caused her to feel happy. And at this rate, she must be very, very happy.

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Smosh is a web-based sketch comedy duo consisting of Ian Hecox and Daniel “Anthony” Padilla. In the beginning, Padilla built a website called smosh.com to post Flash animations. But it wasn’t long before his sixth-grade science-class friend, Hecox, joined him as the two discovered their comedic rapport. At first, their funny videos were intended for their own viewing pleasure and sharing with friends. But when they received positive feedback for their lip-syncing videos to theme songs like Power Rangers, they decided to create a YouTube channel. Indeed, when they posted a Pokemon-theme music video, it garnered over 24 million views, but it had to be removed for copyright reasons. Smosh then started creating more channels for their YouTube videos including skits like Food Battle; a games section along with video-game themed music videos; they delved into pop-culture trivia; and launched several web series. Most recently, Smosh created the film Ghostmates for YouTube Red which was released in December. Smosh has over 22 million subscribers, 6 billion video views, and reportedly makes about 4.5 million dollars per year.

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These YouTube comedians dared to start their channels not knowing where their adventure would take them. They embraced who they were and maintained a strong emphasis on their personal relationships. When they received positive feedback from viewers, they went with it and evolved over time. And they continue to evolve and expand their horizons, making a good living all the while.

Carrie Fisher and Her Mother Debbie Reynolds Die One Day Apart

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2016 has been a year marked with much loss in the celebrity world, and this past week the passing of the beloved stars Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds has only added to the grief.

Carrie Fisher was born in the spotlight to her famous parents entertainer Eddie Fisher and legendary actress Debbie Reynolds. Carrie debuted in the movie Shampoo in 1975 when she was 18 years old opposite Warren Beatty. But her defining role was playing the iconic heroine Princess Leia in the sci-fi series Star Wars. Her character was feisty, wise, and bold enough to stand up to Darth Vader. Fisher reprised the role of Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the age of 59. She also appeared in more than 90 film and tv productions including Hannah and Her Sisters, When Harry Met Sally…, and The Blues Brothers.

Fisher was also an acclaimed author, writing screenplays and eight books including the semi-autobiographical comedic novel Postcards from the Edge about an actress who is a recovering addict. It was later turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep. And just recently, she released the memoire entitled The Princess Diarist in which she revealed she had an affair with her Star Wars costar Harrison Ford when she was 19 years old.

Carrie Fisher died at the age of 60 due to a heart attack just days after falling critically ill while traveling on an airplane. She left behind her mother, the talented Debbie Reynolds, who in turn posted, “I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop. Love Carrie’s Mother.”

But in a sudden turn of events, Carrie’s brother, Todd Fisher, describes how his mom said, “I want to be with Carrie.” He told the AP, “And then she was gone. She’s now with Carrie, and we’re all heartbroken.” Sadly, Debbie died at the age of 84 just one day after losing her daughter. The cause of death has been described as a severe stroke, but many argue she died from a broken heart. Indeed, Reynolds was at her daughter’s home in Beverly Hills helping to plan Carrie’s funeral when she suffered the stroke.

Debbie Reynolds is most remembered for the iconic role of Kathy Selden in the celebrated musical film Singin’ in the Rain. In one of the popular scenes, a 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds, alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, performs the exuberant song-and-dance number Good Morning which can be seen in the clip below. Other films the multi-talented Reynolds starred in include How the West Was Won, Tammy and the Bachelor, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

The mother and daughter were known to be very devoted to one another through all the ups and downs in their relationship. Carrie had a brutally honest demeanor and spoke openly about her personal struggles over the years. Whether it be her challenges with bipolar disorder, drug addictions, or the strained relationship with her mother, Carrie felt compelled to share these stories with the world. Even in the end, the mother and daughter’s homes shared the same driveway, and they spoke with each other every day.

The upcoming HBO documentary Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher chronicles the unbreakable bond between the two stars over the past 60 years. The HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins told Variety that it’s a “love story about a mother and daughter” which “Carrie wanted to make…for Debbie, and Debbie wanted to make it for Carrie.” The premiere for the documentary will only be set after careful consideration due to the circumstances.

But here are some quotes by Carrie about her mother to give a glimpse of their rapport:

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That’s my word for it. She would go through these amazingly difficult things, and the message was clear: Doing the impossible is possible. It’s just not fun,” she once told the New York Times during an interview.

During a 2015 SAG Awards speech Carrie said of her mom, “She has been more than a mother to me. Not much, but definitely more. She’s been an unsolicited stylist, interior decorator, and marriage counselor.”

And earlier this year, Carrie told NPR, “She annoys me sometimes when she’s mad at the nurses, but she’s an extraordinary woman. Extraordinary. There’s very few women from her generation who worked like that, who just kept going all her life, and raised children, and had horrible relationships, and lost all her money, and got it back again. I mean, she’s had an amazing life, and she’s someone to admire.”

Rest in peace, Carrie and Debbie.

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Underrated Holiday Movies

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Have you been enjoying a few of your favorite holiday movies this season, but are in the mood for more? Not sure what to choose next? Here are a few underrated holiday films to consider during this festive time of the year.

Jingle All the Way 

Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t bench press his way out of the fact that he’s forgotten to buy his son’s favorite action figure, Turbo Man, for Christmas. So, on Christmas eve the Terminator goes on an epic crusade to procure the toy of the year. Along the way, he encounters a determined enemy in Myron Larabee, played by Sinbad, who’s gradually going postal; a lecherous womanizer in the smarmy and duplicitous Ted Maltin played by a deliciously disgusting Phil Hartman; as well as a host of concerned parents, bumbling police officers, and obnoxious store clerks. The insanity of Christmas shopping is in full effect when Ah-nold goes Christmas shopping–just check out the Santa brawl!

Home Alone 2

It may seem blasphemous to rate Home Alone 2 as worthy Christmas faire given its predecessor’s monumental reputation, and the fact that the plot is pretty much exactly the same as the first incarnation. But, the sequel to the Home Alone mega-hit has its own charm and peculiar appeal. Once again we find poor defenseless Kevin battling the Wet Bandits and it seems the rest of New York City, but this time he’s holed up in a posh NYC Plaza hotel room, and he’s macking out like a boss! Haven’t we all dreamed of eating ice cream sundaes and chocolate cake while watching cheese-ball gangster films on a stolen credit card? If not, well, this film is not for you! Favorite exchange is when Kevin’s mom asks the woman at the front desk, “What kind of idiots do you have working here?” to which the proud attendant replies, “The finest in New York.”

Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, has been adapted for the stage and screen with so many different interpretations it’s hard to keep track of its theatrical oeuvre. Indeed, the sad tale of a life wasted on miserly greed and enduring compunction has struck such a chord in human consciousness that the story and phraseology has become part of the very fabric of our collective existence. And there have been many wonderful adaptations along the way, including Alastair Sim’s strange and frightening turn as the old miser; the musical Scrooge in 1970 with a frail and pathetic Albert Finney; George C. Scott cutting a cantankerous and menacing Bah-Humbug; and of course Bill Murray’s unhinged but lovable take on the classic which seems to play every December. But it is Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol which captures the poignant and terrifying essence of a lonely and abandoned boy who found laconic refuge from his suffering in the pursuit of personal wealth. The musical numbers are lively and wonderful, and young Magoo’s “All Alone in the World” just might bring a lonely tear to your eye.

Krampus

There are so few Christmas horror films out there that Christmas horror can hardly be considered a genre, or even a sub genre. But regardless, Krampus does Christmas horror, and does it right. The film revolves around a little boy, Max, who has lost faith in Christmas and unwittingly unleashes the ancient evil of the Krampus on his extended family. What follows is a breakneck battle with Krampus and his demonic elves and malevolent toys. The film itself is unique in that it is funny, heartwarming, and truly horrifying! If you’re in the mood for a different kind of Christmas movie this holiday season, and you can brave the Christmas nightmares, Krampus is a joyful and wildly imaginative romp through hell!

Trading Places

In some circles, Trading Places is not considered a holiday movie. But check out Dan Ackroyd as the beleaguered Louis Winthorpe the Third drunk out of his gourd and brandishing a pistol while wearing a Santa Claus outfit; it’s Christmas time in the city! Trading Places follows Louis (a perfect snob and unapologetic one percenter) and Billy Ray Valentine played by Eddie Murphy (a grifter with a heart for the streets, and a mind for business). Both Ackroyd and Murphy give spot-on performances in this farcical tale of class warfare and holiday insanity. And Jamie Lee Curtis gives a breath of fresh air to the hooker with a heart-of-gold cliche. Yes, Trading Places is a bit dated with its 80s jokes and over-the-top situations, but it’s nonetheless hilarious and heartfelt.

What are your favorite underrated holiday films?

Riz Ahmed’s Determination to Land His ‘Rogue’ Role

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Riz Ahmed plays the volatile Rebel pilot Bodhi Rook in the huge box-office hit Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In this BBC Radio clip, he admits to being relieved when he found out he landed a part in the film. After all, he thought he’d burned all his bridges with the director. Ahmed explains it this way:

“I started spamming [Director Gareth Edwards] really aggressively….He sent me the kind of script to record the audition, and he made the mistake of giving me his email address. And I’m like a bit psycho-obsessive with my work. I love it, but I go down a black hole. It stops even being about getting a result. It’s like, ‘Oh, what if I did it like this?’ So, over the next three days I sent him like fourteen different versions of the scene. I just kept spamming him.”

Right off the bat, Ahmed emailed two approaches to the material. But when he awoke the following day and realized Edwards had not yet replied, Ahmed says:

“So instead of thinking, ‘He must be busy,’ I thought, ‘Let me just send him more.’ I just kept doing that every few hours….I kept doing like different accents and different costumes.”

Continuing, he says Edwards eventually emailed him back, writing, “Thank you for sending me all the auditions. Please stop sending me all these auditions. I’ll let you know.” A few weeks later, Ahmed was offered the role! Ahmed now jokes, “It’s amazing that I’m not in prison with a restraining order to be honest.”

Ahmed’s career is certainly on the upswing these days. He also starred in HBO’s critically lauded crime drama The Night Of playing accused murderer Nasir Khan opposite John Turturro. Indeed, both Ahmed and Turturro have received Golden Globe nominations for best actor in a miniseries or television film for their performances. Ahmed is stunned by the popularity of the eight-episode series, describing the process of getting it made “a rollercoaster.”

Riz Ahmed was born in Wembley to Pakistani parents who moved to the UK in the 1970s. His breakout role was in Nightcrawler as Rick, a jittery sidekick of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, the thief Lou Bloom. When first invited to audition, Ahmed was told he was not fit for the role, but was still permitted to audition. One of 75 actors to try for the part, Ahmed managed to stand out. Within the first minute of his audition tape, the director Dan Gilroy grew confident in Ahmed’s capabilities. Ahmed also recently played Aaron Kalloor, CEO of a social media enterprise, in Jason Bourne.

Additionally, Ahmed is a rapper known as Riz MC–half of the hip-hop duo Swet Shop Boys along with Himanshu Suri. Riz MC is featured on The Hamilton Mixtape performing in the song Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) with K’naan, Snow Tha Product, and Residente. This means two of Ahmed’s projects are simultaneously rated number-one: The Hamilton Mixtape nabbed the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart, and Rogue One ranked number one on the movie box-office chart.

It’s most likely unwise to “spam” a director you’d like to work with, or even a casting director or a producer. But it’s clear Ahmed’s single-minded focus and determination has yielded significant results in relation to his career goals. Riz has made a habit of trusting his talent and instincts with both acting and music–and it’s certainly paid off.