Living The “Slices” Not Written

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Your agent sends you the scenes for your audition, and if you’re lucky, the script too. You take the time to read the script and it gives you information about the story, the characters, and the relationships. Then you start to work on the scenes that were picked for the audition. You feel prepared as you go into the room, but your nerves take over and everything that you worked on goes right out the window. Now all you’re left with is FEAR.

I am here to tell you how to fix this problem. Preparing the audition scenes and reading the script just isn’t enough. It’s so easy to get stuck in your head. To get out of that, you start thinking about the moment before. But then the moment before becomes just that – the moment before. It’s not enough to make you believe the most important part – “I am this person living this life.” The scenes, (I like to call them “slices of life”) which are NOT written, are the ones that allow you to sew the pieces of the quilt together. Without those unwritten scenes, there is a whole part of the life that is missing, causing you to “act,” not live the life.

 

Actor preparing

 

I have been fortunate enough to work with thousands of actors over the past 35 years, not only at the Haber Studio in Los Angeles, but throughout the world. Most of them have gone to many acting classes that have taught them intellectual preparation, “What is my overall objective? What is my back-story? What actions do I need for every line?” And guess where all those questions land you? In your head! The worst thing for an actor is to live in their brain, versus experiencing our lives all through our body. At my studio, we teach all of our classes on-camera and work on audition “slices.” The camera works as an X-ray- allowing us to see what’s working and what’s not. What always works is being specific. And to create specificity, the relationship is the foundation, not the story nor the character. The journey in life and in acting is taking a dance with the other person, not shutting yourself off to play your idea. By living the slices of life that aren’t written in the script, we also get to use the muscle of imagination that never fails us.

My student Rochelle Aytes has starred in ABC’s “Mistresses” for three seasons now. One of the keys to her success is that she loves to live the slices that are not written. Rochelle says, “before I shoot my scene starting on page 10, I ask the actor I am working with to improv the imaginary slice that happened between pages 8 and 9. It really puts the ‘gas in the car’ and makes me believe I am currently in the middle of this life. I remember last year working with Margie on the slice where my daughter runs away. The next scene in the script had me at the police station screaming for help. Margie had me live the slice that wasn’t in the script where I was driving to the police station, calling all my friends and praying to god she was safe. It fueled me so much that when we shot in the police station, I was already filled with the images that we created. There was no time for me to be fearful of “doing well,” when I was fearful of losing my child!”

Student Emily Swallow shares another example of living what’s not written. Emily worked as a series regular on “The Mentalist.” She loved living the slices of life that we built from our imagination, not just the ones written in the script. Emily shares the following experience: “I was nervous being the new character on the show and I had a “slice” where I was an undercover cop seducing a suspect, so I was also nervous about putting the moves on someone I hadn’t even met yet.  Margie told me, ‘If you think you’re nervous, can you imagine how nervous the guest star you’re seducing is?!’ Because we both had to whisper scandalous things in each other’s ears in the scene, Margie suggested that I whisper some fun and sexy things to him before we shot the slice.  When we met on set, I suggested we get in the mood by whispering whatever the hell we wanted before the camera started rolling. He was so grateful that I broke the ice that way and we wound up laughing and having the best time. It was a lesson on how important it is to create the life that is not written.”

There is an expression, “The truth will set us free.” When you create the slices not written in your imagination, you start to believe the circumstances and play an idea. Your life is filled with images and senses that you have created and will not forget. You know what is the best part? You will enjoy “LIVING A LIFE” and have fun again! Isn’t that really why we became actors in the first place?!

 


 

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With 40 years of experience, Margie Haber is known as Hollywood’s top audition coach. What is it that Margie teaches? The answer to that question is within title of her book:  Margie teaches actorsHow to Get the Part Without Falling Apart.  Margie takes away the “three p’s”- Pain, Panic, and Performance Anxiety- from the cold-reading & audition process and gives back the “Big P” – POWER- to the actor.  She teaches actors her philosophy, “Stop Acting and Start Living the Life”, using her unique 10-step approach to breakdown the slice of life physically and emotionally, rather than intellectually.  Her revolutionary Haber Phrase Technique has helped thousands of actors use to use the page without losing the life, while supporting relationship and purpose. MargieHaber.com (310) 854-0870

 

Comedy is a Serious Craft! (PART TWO)

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Being aware of what makes up your personal “funny,” finding the comedy in yourself and your everyday life, is vital to becoming a successful comedy actor. As I mentioned in PART ONE, in order to be funny you must tap into your Funny Gene. And where does your Funny Gene come from? Your sense of humor has a number of influences, which include your family and your environment.

Let’s begin with your family. You inherited your sense of humor either from your mother’s side of the family, your father’s side, or both.

If you can’t look back into your biological family history, look to your environment (your upbringing) as it also plays a major role. Whether your sense of humor was inherited or comes from your environment, or both, it all starts with family.

So look to the family that raised you. Is your mother funny? Is your mother’s mother funny? Is your father funny? Are your grandparents funny? Do you have an aunt with a wicked sense of humor, a cousin who plays practical jokes, a flamboyantly bitchy uncle or a shameless sibling who “marches to the beat of their own drum?” Or do you have all of the above?

Who made you laugh? It’s important to know. Because funny starts with your family and it goes back generations. But what is the primary source of their humor? Where does it all ultimately start? Well, comedy starts with pain. That’s right, comedy comes from conflict, desperation, oppression, repression and persecution. It comes from unadulterated, horrific deep-seeded pain.

What?!

Stay with me. It is a fact that many of yesterday’s and today’s top comedians and comedy writers come from generations of disenfranchised and persecuted people, be it for their cultural differences, beliefs, customs, or philosophies. The history of the world is made up of groups of people who have faced oppression at some point in time (some more than others). One way to deal with that pain is with a strong sense of humor. The idea is either “you die, or you laugh about it.” They could have chosen to be miserable and depressed about their situation or their individual and ancestral experiences (some have and continue to do so). Others chose to find the humor in their hardship. This can be said for any group of people that has faced generational repression and persecution. Every race and culture has something painful in their ancestry that can be tapped for comedy.

Our sense of humor doesn’t just come from our ancestral pain.

It also comes from the pain we experienced growing up and the pain we feel on a daily basis. Our individual sense of humor comes from our environment, our upbringing and our personal experiences. All of these play a major factor in how we perceive life, death, family, society, ourselves…all of those wonderful comedic topics.

I had two parents who were funny. I had a mother who was smart and sarcastic, and a father who was a well-intentioned, overgrown child. Before they were divorced (the second time, that is), I remember them constantly arguing. It wasn’t funny to me as a child, but looking back now as an adult, it’s hysterical.

If I were to pitch my family to a network as a sitcom, I would say my childhood was kind of a cross between “Maude,” “The Middle” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” It was at times tumultuous, but there was always humor, sometimes intentional, sometimes not. At no time was this more evident than during the holidays. Oh yes, those wonderful holidays!

In my family, Thanksgiving and football did not go hand in hand. One Thanksgiving, my Dad, once again going against my Mom’s very strong wishes, not only insisted upon watching the game but actually rolled the TV set into the dining room! Upon seeing the TV, my mother got so upset that she picked up the whole cooked turkey and hurled it across the dining room…breaking it into pieces. My father’s response? “Well, at least now I don’t have to carve it.”

Funny, huh? But it came out of pain…my mom’s pain, my dad’s pain and my pain (the hungry participant, observer and future storyteller). My parents were funny characters and they helped me form my own sense of humor. Humor became my weapon, my way of dealing with my pain, and it derived from my parents and from my upbringing. Think of your own life. What’s funny about it? What about your childhood was funny? What’s funny about your life now? Who in your family is funny? Who among your friends is funny? Combine all of that with a Funny Gene, some ancestral and personal pain, and you have your sense of humor!


 

Whether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors; and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at ScottSeditaActing.com.

 

© Ron Rinaldi Photography www.ronrinaldi.com Scot_Sedita_logo

Nurture Yourself And Find Your Hidden Talent

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I get calls from Hollywood agents and managers all the time asking me if I believe a certain actor has talent. Very rarely do I say, ‘no’ because most actors have talent. I remember Stella Adler once said, “You have to have a talent for your talent,” which means: do the work. Everyday fulfill the steps you need to take that will bring you closer to your dream—which is to be a working actor. When you are consistently booking roles, you are using your instrument all the time. It’s in tune. When you are not regularly working on a television show, in a film, or on stage in a play your instrument can get rusty very quickly. Think of it as taking yourself to the acting gym. It’s a workout! You have to do the work before getting the work. Working out in an acting class is where you get the chance to flex your acting muscles by working on plays or screenplays that are right for you. Try exploring characters you feel that you would never get cast as, but that would stretch, expand, and strengthen you as an actor.

Actors need to constantly be working on material that excites them. Having a sense of community or access to a group of talented peers you can call and say, “Hey, let’s get together and work out today; or let’s pick material and work on it.” is a great phone call to make. You have to nurture your acting talent by also working on your voice as you mature as an actor. With the mic or boom so close, it’s a mistake to think that voice is not a priority. Working on your voice enhances how your acting performance comes across and energizes the room. Having verbal will is important as it sends the text in to action!

Garrett Backstrom, the young actor that played ‘Herman’ in my movie was shooting one of his pivotal scenes. It was a night shoot (4 a.m. to be exact). He chose to keep himself awake with energy drinks. When I test-screened the movie, the audience was not as moved as I wanted them to be. That was because in that climatic moment, Garrett’s voice was not aligned with his body properly. I decided to rehearse and reshoot with him that same scene with an emphasis this time that would be more vocally driven… and yet, once again with the final screen test to make sure it would have the overall effect the scene needed. It was a success because his voice was connected to his body this time!

Find a vocal warm up that you do everyday so that your whole body can be an emotional vessel for the expression or impulse that is moving through you. Do exercises in acting that have to do with sensory and triggers. They are your pushups! Work on three senses everyday. Try the basic sensory such as drinking a hot drink, discovering a specific scent in nature, or hearing an intense sound. Create scenarios for yourself that may trigger your ability to recall emotional experiences that you can use to walk a character into a scene using your five senses. Develop and work on them everyday. They are your tools!

Flexing muscles in acting is equivalent to pianists’ playing a piano. There’s a lot of fine-tuning, practice, discipline, and focus for this pursuit. The only way to feel your potential as an actor is to find a way to act everyday. An actor acts. An actor sees. An actor takes in everything and receives. Try to expand your horizons. You have to experience as many things as you can—go to movies, watch or read artist interviews and biographies, visit museums, attend festivals. Contribute something to a cause or volunteer. That is how you nurture your talent.


Michelle Danner is a renowned acting coach who works with A-List Actors privately as well as on set. Michelle trained with Stella Adler and Uta Hagen and was voted favorite acting coach by Backstage readers and featured coaching Andy Richter on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.  Michelle has two books coming out in 2016, The Daily Ritual and The Golden Box.  Please find more about Michelle and her acting classes at michelledanner.com.

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Be Like Mike — Michael Jordan’s Gatorade Commercial and The Power of Dedication

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You may have noticed Gatorade has been running a “Be Like Mike” revival campaign over the last few weeks. The classic Be Like Mike spot aired 23 years ago, and it was a ubiquitous marketing operation that proved to be a rocket launcher for Gatorade’s stock. The premise of the spot is that everyone wants to be like Mike. Everyone wants the fame, the adoration, the game, the money, the lifestyle just like the one and only Michael Jordan. “I dream, I move; I dream, I groove like Mike. If I could be like Mike.”

However, most of us would rather not think about what it took for Mike himself to be like Mike. Michael Jordan had enormous athletic gifts when he entered the NBA in 1984. With his highflying dunks and competitive nature, he quickly took the Bulls to the playoffs and became a fan favorite amongst basketball aficionados. But, it’s important to point out that it took MJ seven long years to win his first NBA championship. And in order to achieve that goal, he had to work tremendously hard because, as gifted as MJ was, certain aspects of his game needed improvement. His jump shot, for instance, was beautiful, but it wasn’t automatic. Consequently, he worked on his shot until it was money. There were some who argued that Michael was a liability on defense early in his career; as a result, he worked on his D and became the Defensive Player of the Year in 1988. Mike’s post game was basically nonexistent when he entered the league, but seven years into his career, he was a holy terror in the paint.

It’s important to note that even for someone with tremendous talent, hard work is a must. What are the areas of your career that could use some work? Should you be in scene study class or fine tuning your improv skills? Do your networking efforts need to be increased, or perhaps a more regular routine at the gym could reinvigorate your career? How about your command of different dialects? That  part of your game need work? It might be helpful to write down the aspects of your acting enterprise that might need improvement, and then get to it!

The real question is, are you doing everything in your power to succeed? Are you promoting your areas of strength while working to improve your weaknesses? Are you seizing every opportunity that’s available to you? And are you making best use of your time? Because if you wanna be like Mike, you gotta work like Mike!

Here’s to your highflying, slam-dunking acting career!

Casting Frontier’s New Way to Connect with Representation

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Earlier this month, Casting Frontier changed the way that talent adds their profiles to managers’ and agents’ rosters.  Casting Frontier allows agents and managers to view actor profiles in a “pending” file.  Agents and managers can choose to approve that talent’s profile or decline it. Either way, talent will be immediately notified via email of their status with that agency or manager. This format gives talent the reassurance of staying informed of their status with prospective representation. Actors are also made aware if they’re still pending with that agency in the event they haven’t been informed of an updated status.

Casting Frontier proudly continues to innovate and create new tools to assist actors, agents, casting directors and their clients in their quest to make the casting process as simple as possible. Wishing you continued success in your acting journey!

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My Truth Is Different Than Your Truth

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There is a phrase that I love… “The Precision of Pain, the Blurriness of Joy.” This phrase hits on a universal truth. When we are joyous (our natural state), all seems well and flowing.

The flow stops with the awareness of pain. It is often challenging to do anything without healing what is causing the pain. School is in session.

As actors, we can use this as our gateway drug into the character. Our actor’s instrument, if sensitive enough and trained correctly, responds to a false moment as if it were pain. We are out of the flow of truth. This is our unconscious letting us know that we have encountered a locked door to the mansion of the character, that when opened – will reveal a whole other wing that we may not have even knew existed. Using a different intention, a different tactic, playing opposites, or building in a stronger backstory are various ways to go through the problem without skirting the opportunity.

As in all areas of our life, if a problem presents itself and we choose to ignore it, the lesson will continue getting louder and louder, more and more painful. We might as well deal with the problem in it’s infancy (and before it buys a gun!).

A brilliant performance is simply the accumulation of many small brilliant moments. If one moment is false or faked, the audience loses trust in us. As one of my Gurus, Judge Judy, always says “if you lie to me once, I can’t believe anything that you say.”

The truth isn’t casual or easy, but it is interesting. We don’t get truth from our journalists, politicians or religions. The actor’s job is to bring the truth to the table. We make the imaginary true, which is not the same as lying. Not the same at all. Lying is just saying words, acting is living truthfully in imaginary circumstances as if it were happening to you for the first time in the given moment (and that is much easier said than done).

My truth is different than your truth. I believe in God and find evidence of his existence everywhere. Someone else is an Atheist and finds evidence of his non-existence everywhere. Who has a stronger grip on the truth? The reason that we love certain actors is that their sense of truth aligns with ours and we REALLY believe them. Actors stock-in-trade is truth, it is our everything.

The world needs truth now, more than ever. Please share yours.


 

Jeffery Marcus has worked as an actor on television series’, in features films, on Broadway and regional theaters. He has taught acting classes and coached in Los Angeles for over 25 years, and also does media coaching for celebrities and executives. Visit him at JeffreyMarcus.com.

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‘Knight of Cards’ Seeks Discoveries through ‘Torpedoing’

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Terrence Malick’s impressionistic drama Knight of Cups made its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February starring Christian Bale. The elusive Malick, who refuses to be interviewed, is a highly regarded American film director known for his unconventional approach to filmmaking over the course of four decades. And Knight of Cups is no exception to his unorthodox approach.

“He didn’t tell us what [the film] was about,” Bale shared at a Belinale 2015 press conference. “He just gave me the character description. We worked on the character a great deal, worked on his backstory.” Indeed Christian asserted that there was no script to refer to during the production. “I never had any lines to learn, but I’d see other people , and they’d have pages.” Every day on set was a new experience for Bale because he never knew what kind of situation his character would be placed in next.

Christian Bale plays the role of a Los Angeles scriptwriter named Rick with the personality traits of the Knight of Cups tarot card. That is, he is addicted to success, artistic, inventive, refined, and represents change; he likewise is constantly bored, reckless, and unreliable. Rick plunges into a life of decadence amidst a landscape of glitzy Hollywood hedonism.

The director would “torpedo” or send a variety of unannounced actors as well as real people at the performing cast member in hopes of capturing a fresh and genuine response.

Other top-billed actors include Antonio Banderas, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman. Banderas told Collider he wasn’t sure if he played himself or his character. He described the shoot like this:

“I arrived to the set and basically what [Malick] said to me, ‘Antonio, we didn’t send you a script because we don’t have a script and so this monologue that I gave you,’ which literally didn’t make sense whatsoever, ‘I’m gonna shoot it in nine different locations and I’m gonna just improvise with you, and I’m gonna send you something that I call torpedoes.’ And these torpedoes, they were people that came in the middle of the monologue and started improvising with me. He sent me a beautiful woman, he sent me an ole lady, he sent me a bunch of three guys that are rappers. I ended up in a pool with three ladies with my tuxedo.”

Natalie Portman plays the part of one of Rick’s love interests. Working with Malick just before she was to start production on her directorial debut in A Tale of Love and Darkness, she expressed gratitude for the lessons she learned while performing her brief role. “[Malick] actually reminded me that the rules of filmmaking are not necessary; the way we do things, the rituals that we have aren’t necessary.” Portman said, for example, “If it starts raining, then you shoot in the rain, you don’t change the schedule to shoot something different, which you would normally do in film.” She learned to go with the flow on set, saying, “Allow the mistakes, and welcome the problems.”

Does this idea of torpedoing interest you? How do you do when there is no script to refer to, and all your scenes are improvised? While this technique in not new in comedy, it is a unique take on a dramatic film. And what are the most innovative, unconventional, or experimental projects you’ve worked on as an actor? Was it liberating or unnerving? Please share!

Happy Holidays from Casting Frontier

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casting-frontier-happy-holiday-toy-drive.jpgAll of us at Casting Frontier would like to thank you for choosing our digital casting technologies, and extend our warmest wishes to you and your family this holiday season.

Here’s to a New Year filled with an abundance of auditions, a bounty of intriguing roles to play, and consistent work!

In addition, here’s a reminder of our Holiday Toy Drive which benefits Children’s Hospital:

Imagine the difference your gift can make to a hospitalized child.

You can spread joy by bringing your unwrapped toys to Casting Frontier’s office until 5:30 p.m. on Monday, December 22nd. We are located at 6565 Sunset Blvd., Suite 200 in Los Angeles, CA 90028. Click here for a list of items we are gathering for the children.

For questions about the Toy Drive, please call us at (323) 300-6129, or email us at [email protected]

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday!

Casting Frontier’s Thanksgiving Sale

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40% Off a Yearly Premium or Premium Plus Profile through Thanksgiving!*

All of us here at Casting Frontier want to thank you, the aspiring talent, for taking part in our incredible success! More and more casting professionals are migrating to our site to access our ever-expanding actor database, and they are putting their trust in Casting Frontier and our digital services for their casting needs. Consequently, a Casting Frontier premium profile is more valuable than ever. And as a token of our appreciation, we are offering actors a whopping 40% off on yearly Premium or Premium Plus upgrades through Thanksgiving. We appreciate how hard it is for talent to break into the entertainment industry, and to maintain a competitive advantage; so this year, we are giving you a leg up with this significant discount.

We hope this sale will bring you much to be grateful for in the months to come. Here’s to you:

  • Adding more headshots to give you the ammunition to book the next job.
  • Showcasing your authenticity and experience in the industry via your actor reel.
  • Accessing unlimited Public Submissions connecting you to current jobs.
  • Making unlimited changes to your profile to help you stand out as a pro.
  • Maximizing your Casting Frontier membership.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from Casting Frontier!!

* Credit offer for a 24-month period. Valid for first-time Premium upgrades only, and requires a 24-month commitment to a Premium or Premium Plus profile. Customer must choose a 24-month term to receive all credits. Offer expires 11/28/14 at 11:59 p.m.. Savings are compared to a monthly subscription.

Wayne Brady Shares His Struggles with Depression

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Comedian, actor, singer, and television personality Wayne Brady knows how to leave people in stitches with his impromptu comical songs, one-line deliveries, and overall brilliant talent on shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway?, The Wayne Brady Show, and the CBS hit game show Let’s Make a Deal. He’s won Emmy Awards, and many would describe him as an exceptionally gifted, multi-talented, charismatic, and fun-loving person. It’s fair to assume he’s pretty much one of the last people you’d expect to be depressed.

But Brady has courageously stepped forward to share that he’s battled clinical depression. He opened up to his friend and reporter Nischelle Turner from Entertainment Tonight saying, “Nobody wants to out themselves, so to speak. Or if they out themselves, it’s in a very Hollywood way….If someone says, ‘I’m clinically depressed,’ that sounds like someone’s making something up.”

In contrast, Brady describes his 42nd birthday as being the rock-bottom point of his debilitating depression, painting a stark, unHollywood-like picture for us: “I was there by myself, in my bedroom, and had a complete breakdown. When I say breakdown, go ahead and imagine for yourself. Just a brother in his underwear, in his room crying. On that birthday was the beginning of ‘Okay, I’ve got to make a change.'”

His depression had already impacted his marriage which ended in 2009. Wayne describes dark days on which he didn’t want to move, accompanied by a feelings that “This is what I deserve because I am that horrible of a person.” But he kept everything hidden and continually masked his suffering in jobs that require smiles and good humor. “I just did my 1,001st show of ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’ But then I would turn it into this thing of, ‘Man, I’m doing “Let’s Make a Deal” when I could be doing a sitcom.” He continued, “Folks think, ‘Wayne Brady’s always happy.’ No, I’m not always happy–because I’m human.”

The recent suicide of Robin Williams who likewise suffered from depression served as an inspiration for Wayne to publicly share his personal struggles. “I think that when you keep these secrets, and something that you learn as you read more and go into treatments and get help is, that these secrets kill.”

He credits his ex-wife, Mandie Taketa with whom he has an eleven-year-old daughter, with helping him in his recovery.

“I talked about it [because] I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a support system to talk, and you may have a wall up that stands between you and help,” Wayne said. “It may be pride, cultural stigma, shame or just plain old ‘I’ve got this!’ I’ve had all the above! If me talking about my personal journey helps someone, it’s all worth it. I’m very blessed to have a great job and family. I can now appreciate all of it much more. I love being able to bring those laughs to other [people] daily and laughing for real myself.”

The World Health Organization estimates 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide. That’s a whole lot of suffering! And some studies reveal that comedians and actors are prone to have the mood disorder. We applaud Wayne Brady for stepping forward, sharing his story, and hope that by doing so he helps others who are struggling with depression. Not only has he raised awareness, but he’s revealed himself to be a person who has greatly benefitted from getting help.

Aspiring to great heights as an actor can be a daunting challenge, and there are times when the uncertainty or rejection can get even the best of us down. If you reach a point where the simple pleasures in life seem dull and futile, it might be time to reach out to family and friends, and perhaps health professionals, for a helping hand. And if you do reach out, consider yourself a very brave soul who is certainly worthy of help.