Brilliant. Driven. Disciplined. Obsessive. Tortured.
These are all words that can be used to describe the actor who never phoned in even the smallest of parts and, according to his colleagues, had little tolerance for those who did. From the suicidal, gas-huffing widower in Love Liza to the intensely-focused, withdrawn gambler in Owning Mahoney, Mr. Hoffman had a gift for empathizing with his characters’ vulnerabilities and presenting them in a way that was both authentic and utterly haunting.
In a town that places rock-hard abs and a flawless complexion above discipline and talent, this anti-star “Everyman” proved that content and character are what matters, not vanity or appearance. And he did it by sheer force alone. Fueled by his discipline and relentless quest for perfection, Hoffman willed himself into becoming a leading man, first in 2005’s Capote, for which he received an Academy Award, then in Sydney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.
But Hoffman’s quest for perfection came with a price. Shortly after his affecting performance as “Willy Loman” in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Hoffman once again succumbed to the vicious, downward spiral of addiction. He told a friend that he’d been clean for so long—twenty-three years—that he could risk drinking again “in moderation”. A few months later, he was abusing prescription drugs and back to shooting heroin into his arm. A few months after that, he was back in rehab.
His friends and family were shocked. How could someone with twenty-three years sobriety suddenly decide to pick up and use again? To the outsider this seems unfathomable. But for the seasoned addict, who’s duked out a few rounds with this illness, it’s not just understandable…it’s expected. Regardless of how many years an addict has sober, we are all just one drink, one line, one hit away from the “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization” of addiction. Someone with 30 years clean is just as susceptible to relapse, if not more so, than someone with only 30 days. Why?
One word: complacency—it’s an addict’s worst enemy. The delusion that we will somehow, someday be able to control our drinking or drugging is the great obsession of every abnormal user. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity and death. This delusion that we are like other people has to be smashed. The only other options are jails, institutions, and eventually death. Addiction is a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse never better.
A counselor in rehab once explained it to me like this: “It doesn’t matter how long you been sober. You’re disease is doing a thousand push-ups every day, getting stronger and stronger, waiting, watching, praying for the moment you decide to pick back up again.” At the time this seemed like a silly characterization. It conjured images of some Max Cady-esque character doing push up after push up in front of a picture of Hitler.
Was my addiction really an entity of it’s own, separate from myself over which I had no control? It seemed preposterous. However, after nearly a decade of struggle and one hell of a vicious relapse back in November, I now fully appreciate this simple, yet powerful characterization. The old cliché that “you pick back up where you left off” couldn’t be more incorrect. In reality, you start off way worse and much deeper than where you left off. I’m sure Mr. Hoffman, if he were still here, could attest to this. Unfortunately, he’s not.
On the night of February 1st, Hoffman reportedly withdrew $1,200 in cash from a grocery store ATM, and gave it to two men, whom police suspect supplied him with heroin. The next morning, he was found dead with a needle in his arm.
What Hoffman leaves behind is a body of work unrivaled by any artist perhaps since Marlon Brando graced the silver screen. “He was the greatest of his generation and more,” says Cameron Crowe, who directed him in Almost Famous. “He was an actor’s actor.”
Indeed. Mr. Hoffman reminds me of what my acting teacher, Benjy Dobrin, used to say, which is that genius is not limited to the select few, but exists to a certain degree in each and everyone of us. You just have to be willing to work for it. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have. If you don’t have the discipline and willingness to work and suffer for your art then you will never advance artistically and professionally.
The trick, of course, is to set goals that are reasonable and attainable. By setting the bar so high, Hoffman guaranteed he would never be content with his accomplishments. Such is the plight of almost all addicts. We long lost the ability to do things in moderation. Whether it’s drinking, drugging, work, or recovery, we’re either “all in” or nothing at all. It’s this obsessiveness that drives us to the point of insanity and erodes away the relationships with the people we love. Of course, it also happens to be the driving force behind some of the greatest works of art, such as Hoffman’s beautiful moment in Capote below. Enjoy.
When we were kids, my brother, sister, and I used to play a game in the pool called, “touching the bottom”. The objective of the game was to swim to the bottom of the pool’s deep end, grab the drain with both hands, blow a bubble, and return to the surface. For the pool in our backyard, which was only 8’ deep, this was a piece of cake. But, for the 20’ deep Olympic size diving pool at the Roger Scott Tennis Center, this was quite a challenge. But you had to do it. You weren’t considered one of the big kids unless you could touch the bottom.
Today, nearly 25 years later, I find myself once again desperately trying to “touch the bottom”. But it’s not the bottom of a pool I’m after. No. It’s the bottom of my addiction.
On November 16th, after nearly six years of sobriety, I once again succumbed to the “incomprehensible demoralization” of addiction. Since then I’ve been frantically trying to find my new bottom. Unfortunately, there’s no painted target; no X mark’s the spot; no bull’s-eye. Bottom is a sliding scale that varies from addict to addict. For some, bottom is losing a job or losing a marriage. For others, it can be as severe as losing a limb or losing an organ. The challenge is not to miss and overshoot bottom, by which I mean, don’t die. Death is always a risk regardless of how long and how much an addict’s been using, and can come in a variety of ways; from an overdose to a car crash to liver failure to suicide. So, why not just stop now? Why risk hurting oneself or another, all in a vain attempt to hit bottom? The answer’s simple. Just like the game in the pool, an addict cannot return to the surface until they hit their bottom.
Though it’s only been two months since I first picked up that bottle of Cutty, I’ve put myself through more hell than I thought I could withstand, both physically and mentally. In a matter of eight weeks, I lost my job, jumped out of a moving cab, shattered my ankle, suffered a severe concussion, fought with the police on several different occasions, went to the ER four times, detox’d three times, once by myself (with all the withdrawal symptoms; cold sweats, DT’s, hallucinations) and twice within the safe walls of a detoxification facility. You’d think this would be enough to keep my drinking. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Even after all of this madness, all of this insanity, I kept going. It wasn’t until I was faced with the decision of death or sobriety that I finally decided to raise the white flag of surrender.
I remember the moment very clearly. I was listening to the live version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall
while taking hearty swigs from a bottle of Svedka vodka. It was the part in the album where the Wall was beginning to crumble. After it came down, following the explosion, I chugged the last swig of vodka, picked up the phone, and did something I hadn’t done in six years—I dialed those three magic numbers. An hour later, I was being whisked through the blinding, white halls of the Torrance County Hospital, both wrists handcuffed to the rails of the gurney. I told the nurse I wanted to be “5150’d
” which is California hospital code for “involuntary psychiatric hold.” Be careful what you wish for.
Twenty-four hours later, after being medically cleared by the ER doctors, I was transported via ambulance to a psychiatric ward deep in the bowels of Chinatown. As the EMT’s rolled me toward the front entrance of the ward, I noticed what appeared to be a cage; a box totally enclosed by metal bars and chain link with a sign that read “Man Trap.” Was I at the zoo? Was this where they kept King Kong? No. It was the last line of defense to catch the fleeing patient. If by some miracle, a patient managed to get through the four tiers of security card-coded metal doorways, this mantrap would keep them from reaching the freedom; the 110 freeway. As I marveled at the Chinese ingenuity, I began to realize this was not your typical detox. I was right. It was, for a lack of a better term, the “nut house”. I’m talking One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
here. It certainly wasn’t the 72-hour, spin-cycle detox I had grown accustomed to. No. This was a horse of a different color. In fact, I was one of only three addicts in there. The majority of the patients suffered from some shade of schizophrenia. They whispered nonsense in my ear and spoke of imaginary people standing behind me. One woman, quite old, with wild, staring eyes and thin, wiry hair swore I was her deceased brother. She didn’t leave my side the entire time I was in there. And I couldn’t avoid her. Because of my broken ankle, I was glued to a wheelchair. They don’t allow crutches in the psych ward for fear it will be used against the staff as a lethal weapon. At first, I thought this was silly. Why on earth would I want to beat a nurse to death with a pair of crutches? After the first night, I realized why. The nurses (mind you all Asian) had this annoying habit of barging into the room every ten minutes, shining a flashlight into my eyes, then exiting, leaving the door wide open so that I could hear every single word, giggle, sneeze, cough, fart that came out of their godforsaken orifices. To say, I didn’t sleep a wink is an understatement. Remember how I told you this wasn’t a detox? I meant that, literally. Upon asking for some Ativan to quell the shaking, sweating, and hallucinations, the attending nurse simply replied, “We don’t detox.”
I spent the entire night going through the second worst hallucinations I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I was being tortured in a Red Chinese prison camp. And to make matters worse, my roommate, an elderly gentleman, suffering from some sort of dementia, was utterly incontinent. Every night at precisely 2 am, the room would fill with the acrid smell of urine. I couldn’t let him stay like that, marinating in his own bodily fluids. So, I got out of my bed, sat in my wheelchair, and rolled myself to the nurse’s station to tell them that his diaper needed changing. They were so rude to him. I couldn’t believe it. First, they bickered with one another as to who was going to change him. Then, who ever pulled the short end of the straw, treated him like he was a nuisance; a bug to be squashed and flushed down the toilet. They tossed him on the bed, ripped off his trousers, all the while making inconsiderate comments as they changed him. I wanted so badly to jump on the nurses and bite into their jugulars. But I didn’t. I kept my cool. Shutting my eyes, I pulled the sheets up over my head, and concentrated on the happiest memory I could conjure; flying a kite with my two girls at the park behind our house in Highlands Ranch, CO. I thought to myself, I should be with them…not here…not some psych ward in Chinatown.
It was in that moment that I realized I had finally touched the bottom.
Well, it’s that time of year again. Sleigh bells, mistletoes, carol singers, and eggnog…lights, ornaments, Christmas trees, and wrapping pager. It’s my favorite time of year; a time of giving, a time of receiving, a time to be with friends and family. But it wasn’t always that way for me. In fact, it used to be downright awful. I’ll never forget six years ago on Christmas morning, I woke up in a hospital strapped down by my wrists and ankles. My chin was cut, my head was pounding, and, according to the nurses, my blood alcohol level was approaching the lethal limit. It seems I had gotten too carried away with the "spirit(s) of Christmas" and downed an entire bottle of sleeping pills, not to mention enough bourbon to kill a small elephant. As a result, I was on 72-hour suicide watch at St. Joseph’s hospital, somewhere out in dreary Reading, Pennsylvania.
I remember the nurse came in and turned on the television. A Christmas Story
was playing, which, of course, runs continuously all day on Christmas. As I lay there, watching Ralphie shoot his eye out over and over, I sobbed quietly to myself, wishing the doctors would come in and put me out of my misery. But they never did. They released me only 24 hours later, after I convinced them I wasn’t suicidal, I just mistook the Advil for Trazodone.
I got a taxi ride back to my apartment, but not before having the driver make a quick pit stop at the liquor store. The rest of the day I spent on the phone trying to get into detox, only to be turned down because the facilities had reached maximum bed capacity. I eventually gave up after a few short hours and opened up my only Christmas present that year—a handle of Cutty Sark scotch whiskey. A week later, I was back in the same hospital, ready to do it all over again for New Year’s.
That was six years ago. I’m now four years sober, which it means I had to go through two more Christmases like that before finally hitting rock bottom. To tell you the truth, I nearly didn’t make it. I nearly died more times than I care to remember.
It always seemed to be worse around the holidays. I'm not sure why. Maybe it’s the time off from work, maybe it’s the loneliness, maybe it’s knowing that you’re friends and family are celebrating without you. Whatever it is, it tends to make us addicts all that more self-destructive. As if by numbing ourselves we can get it over with that much quicker. Its no wonder I had such a hard time getting into detox. This is the busiest time of year for rehabs. All the beds are filled up. It seems everyone is checking in somewhere.
Because of this sad fact, I wanted to do something really special for the holidays. I know what it's like to be alone and addicted on Christmas.So, all this week, Monday through Friday, I’m giving away my book, Some Are Sicker Than Others, for FREE on Amazon
I figure what the hell, this is why I wrote it—not to fill my pockets, but to help other people suffering like I suffered. If my story can help just one addict get sober, I’ll know I did my part in giving something back this Christmas.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don't wait. Get into treatment. I know it's frustrating right now trying to find a rehab that's accepting patients. But keep at it. Don't give up so quick like I did. Let this be the last Christmas you or your loved one has to use or drink.
November 30th marks a very important day for me. On this day, exactly four years ago, I arrived in Denver ready to start my new life as a recovered
It was a fresh start for me, a chance to start over. I didn’t know anyone in Colorado, but it didn’t matter. I figured as long as I stayed sober, I’d be okay—my higher power would take care of me.
Since then, I’m happy to say that all the Promises they talk about in AA have come true for me. I met the girl of my dreams—fell in love with her and her beautiful daughter. I began my creative pursuits as an actor and writer. I starred in a couple Indie films and even published my first full-length novel.
Yep, I’d say Denver’s been pretty good to me, which is why after 6 short months of trying to “make it happen” out here in Los Angeles, I’ve decided life’s too short to spend without the ones you truly love. So, once again, I’m packing up my little Toyota Corolla and heading back for the majestic mountains of Denver, CO.
Since this is such a huge milestone for me, I wanted to do something special. And what better way to celebrate than with some ole fashioned American consumerism?
On November 30th (Friday) I’m going to give away a FREE KINDLE FIRE
preloaded with my top five favorite books about addiction and recovery. To win, all you have to do is complete the tasks in the contest entry form below. Each task has a different point value. The more tasks you complete, the better your chances of winning the KINDLE FIRE
. Second prize is a $25 Amazon gift card
. Third prize is a signed copy of my book, Some Are Sicker Than Others
. Winners will be announced Friday, November 30th. But you don't have to wait until then to enter the contest. Start today and improve your chances!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email: email@example.com
I'm rolling out a brand new blog, Portraits of Addiction, the one and only site dedicated to eliminating the stigma of addiction.
Help me "Break the Stigma and Celebrate Recovery" by clicking the link below.
PORTRAITS OF ADDICTION
I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Drew and I doubt I ever will. As far as I know, he’s not a fan of my writing and most likely he has no idea who I am.
So, how could someone who I’ve never met and never spoken to have saved my life? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s simple really. Because he cares. He genuinely cares about helping addicts get sober.
Through his sincere compassion and tireless dedication, Dr. Drew has not only eliminated the stigma associated with addiction, he has given addicts, such as myself, hope for recovery. How has he done this? By showing, in a very public and high profile way, the devastating effects of this debilitating illness.
From the fatal prescription overdose of Alice in Chains bassist, Mike Star, in 2011 to the shocking alcohol-related drowning of Rodney King over this past summer, the patients at Dr. Drew’s famed Pasadena Recovery Center have reinforced for me a very valuable lesson: Addiction doesn’t give a damn who you are or where you come from; it doesn’t care how many records you’ve sold or how many Oscars you’ve won; if left untreated, this illness will destroy your life and everything and everyone around you.
Now, a lot of people have criticized Dr. Drew saying his show is "exploitative and manipulative of its cast members." They say that the cameras only serve to fuel the patients’ own narcissism and self-destruction. And how can anyone recover in that type of environment?
I couldn’t disagree more. Almost anyone who walks through the doors of a recovery center does so with great humility and powerlessness over their illness. I don’t care who you are; a doctor, a lawyer, a musician, an actor. The fact that you’re checking into a rehab means you have been brought to your knees by something beyond your own power. Sure, the people on Dr. Drew’s show were once big time celebrities with lots of fame and money, but when they come through those doors, they do so with just as much hopelessness and desperation as any newbie in recovery.
And those deaths I mentioned above, although unfortunate, reflect the reality and severity of this unforgiving illness. People die from this thing, and they die painfully and horribly. In fact, according to the CDC, a total of 23,199 people died last year of alcohol-induced causes in the United States, while a total of 38,371 people died of drug-induced causes. That’s 61,570 deaths in one year alone! Or, if you prefer, 69 per day or about 7 per hour!
But these deaths are rarely ever publicized. And, if they are, it’s certainly not to the extent that the death of a high-profile celebrity, like Whitney Houston or Heath Ledger, stirs up in the media. Is this unfair? Sure, but that’s just the nature of the media. They seemed to be obsessed with celebrities and all things Hollywood. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from these stories. Although tragic, deaths like these serve a very specific purpose; they remind us of the insidiousness of addiction and the devastating effect it has on not just the afflicted, but everyone it touches.
Now, most of us “seasoned” addicts don’t need this reminder. After all, we’ve lived through it for many years and after many relapses. But, for the young people out there who are just now entering treatment, this message can be life-saving. Allow me to explain.
Even with all of Dr. Drew’s efforts, there is still quite a bit of shame and stigma associated with addiction. And this shame is what keeps a lot people from getting into treatment. However, by showing the public struggle of the people we hold high in our society—heroes like Rodney King, Dennis Rodman, and Jeff Conaway—young addicts are able to see that addiction is not a lack of will power, but a grave medical condition.
As someone who spent the better part of the last decade in and out of rehabs, ER’s, and detoxes all over the country, I know how difficult it can be to accept this concept. For many many years, I blamed myself for what I perceived to be a “weak moral fiber” which, of course, made quitting even harder. You see, I was so ashamed of myself and my inability to stop drinking that I decided the only way out was to drink myself to death alone in my apartment. Fortunately, I had some people in my corner who never gave up on me; specifically my mom and dad, Patty and Randy Seaward.
No matter how fucked up I was or how far down the spiral I had gotten, whenever I needed them, they were right there to bail me out, unconditionally. In fact, they nearly went broke sending me to the best dual-diagnosis facilities all around the country; Oasis, Foundations, Betty Ford…you name the rehab, I’ve probably been there. And every time I went, I promised never again to pick up the bottle. Yet, in a matter of weeks, I was right back at it, driving around drunk, puking in toilets, passing out at work, basically just destroying my brain and liver.
It wasn’t until I really started listening to the stories of other addicts in AA meetings, group therapy sessions, and even shows like Celebrity Rehab, Intervention, and Loveline, that I finally began to accept my addiction for what it truly was; a chemical imbalance. Without this acceptance, I know in my heart I would have never gotten sober. And I sure as well wouldn't have had the opportunity to share my experiences through my writing.
This is why I say Dr. Drew saved my life. Like many of the counselors and addiction treatment professionals I met in rehab, Dr. Drew taught me a very important principle about addiction--that it is a medical condition, a serious, chronic illness, and as such, it needs to be treated with utmost medical care and attention.
In other words, a “healthy dose of willpower” will not solve it. You need a teacher, a counselor, a medical professional…someone who can guide you through the recovery process.
For anyone reading this thinking they may be an addict or might need treatment, please don’t wait. Get help today, from a licensed professional. You can’t do this on your own. Believe me, I tried many times and was unsuccessful.
The Junkie Tales by J.A. Kazimer is a collection of short stories centered around the ‘incomprehensible demoralization’ of substance abuse and addiction. Although fairly short in length (hence the term “short stories”), each story packs so much point of view and so much power that I couldn’t help but devour page after page until I was completely finished.
Like a coke addict on a three day binder, I found myself up all night, helplessly consumed by Mrs. Kazimer’s direct, concise, and almost confrontational narrative. Her characters aren’t only three-dimensional and fully-loaded, they are real people with real problems. In fact, several times, I found myself stopping to ponder the familiarity of the stories. Nearly every character in there reminded me of someone I’d met during my adventures in rehab. It was hard to pinpoint who exactly. I’ve been in recovery so long and have heard so many different stories, after a while, they all seem to just wash together. But the familiarity was there, somewhere in my subconscious, which tells me one of two things; either Mrs. Kazimer has first hand experience with addiction or she’s done enough research to paint us the harrowing picture. Either way, the stories performed for me a very valuable function; they remind me how good it is to be clean and sober. Believe it or not, I still need help remembering. Even though it’s been four and half years since my last sip of alcohol, I still catch myself fantasizing about taking a drive to the liquor store. The numbness, the tranquility, the absolute euphoria….I know it’ll kill me, but god damn, sometimes I just fucking crave it. You know?
But then I read something like this and I am quickly reminded of all the pain and all the havoc that comes with relapse. And I ask myself a simple question: Is it really worth it? Sure, the first few weeks may be somewhat tranquil, but eventually the beast inside will awaken and I’ll end up like one of Mrs. Kazimer’s characters; broken, ravaged, infected, and empty; utterly dependent on something that’s corroding my insides and destroying everything and everyone around me.
So, the answer to the question is NO, IT'S NOT WORTH IT. Not by a long shot. And for that I have to say thank you, Mrs. Kazimer. Thank you for keeping me honest.
Fierce. Raw. Compelling. These are the words I’d use to describe Marni Mann’s gut-wrenching debut novel, Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales
. Written with the conciseness and urgency of a surgeon cutting into the left ventricle, Ms. Mann cuts through all the clichés and false glorification of the typical addiction/recovery story, and shows us just how truly debilitating this illness can be. But she doesn’t do it all at once. Like the proverbial frog cooking in a pot of boiling water, Marni starts us off slowly and deliberately, with small, barely-noticeable spikes in the heat. In the first chapter, we are introduced to Nicole, a fairly innocent, albeit emotionally-scarred, twenty-something college drop-out, intent on numbing herself with benign amounts of liquor and weed. But after moving to Boston with her plutonic, brother-like boyfriend, Eric, Nicole begins to experiment with other “mood enhancers” like shrooms and speed. She soon spends all her money on eight-balls and liquor, only to find herself broke and in desperate need of something potent and cheap. That’s when she discovers heroin. A tenth the cost and a hundred times more powerful, it is exactly what Nicole needs to erase her past.
With gripping precision and hauntingly accurate detail, Ms. Mann describes Nicole’s first descent: “The taste was an odd mix, sweet like kid vitamins and bitter like vinegar, and it burned my lungs. I felt it, slowly, at the tip of each limb and then a rush up to my head. The rush wasn't anything like coke. This, well, this was euphoric—tingles and sparks and melting—like I was being swallowed by a cloud of cotton and the sun was wrapping its rays around me like a blanket. I could feel my chin falling towards my chest, my back hunching forward.”
Of course, as we all know, this feeling doesn’t last. No matter how hard you try, nothing can ever replicate the euphoria of that first hit. Eventually, you wind up empty and soulless, devoid of all human emotion, a mechanism operating on one thing and one thing only; the hunger for the next taste that will make you somewhat whole again.
Nicole experiences this exact same soullessness, while getting rammed in the ass behind the alley by some fat, sweaty biker dude: “Now, heroin controlled my body. And since it had been violated, did it really have any value to me anymore? No. I could whore out all I wanted. I could screw ten guys for a hundred bucks. As long as dope was inside me, I didn't care if a man was too.”
Unfortunately, this type of dejection is right on the money. I should know. As a hopelessly depraved addict myself (now with 4 years sobriety, but only by the grace of God), I can say, without hesitation, that Marni nails the depravity, down to its gritty core.
The pain is real. The hopelessness is real. The only thing unreal is Marni’s ability in getting the details of it so damn accurate. How did she do it?
I wondered, as I devoured page after page of frighteningly familiar debauchery. Was Marni an addict? Did she experience the same hell her junkie protagonist, Nicole, had experienced? I decided to do a little research. To my surprise, I found out that Ms. Mann wasn’t an addict herself, (although she had known many in her life, including one very close who had overdosed.) But then how was she able to write the highs so well if she had never actually injected? The simple answer: research
. Not only is Ms. Mann a gifted writer, she is a fierce investigative journalist.
As she explains in the FAQ section of her website (http://marnismann.com
), “the biggest source of information came directly from the addicts themselves. In fact, most of the addicts I interviewed were high. They were dumping the heroin onto a spoon, liquefying the powder, and shooting it into their veins while I was in their presence. Within a few seconds of pulling the needle out—because that’s how long it takes to get high—my questions began. How did they feel? What did they see? What was running through their head?”
Wow. Now, that’s what I call being a dedicated writer. She didn’t watch some video on Youtube
or pop in Trainspotting
. Nope. She went right to the source; the junkies themselves. No wonder this novel is so gripping. It feels like you are right there with Nicole in that roach-infested Boston motel room shooting dope into your arm. It makes me so happy to read something so brutal and compelling, especially since it's in the same genre I love to write myself. What Marni has done is truly an inspiration. It makes me eager to start working on my next book. Well done, Ms. Mann.
This book is definitely a must read for all addicts in any stages of their addiction and/or recovery. But I don’t think you have to be an addict to appreciate this story. It is written so well and with such precision, that even if you can’t relate directly to Nicole’s struggle, you feel vested enough in her character to keep the pages turning. And you wanna know what the best part is? Oh hell yeah…there’s a sequel!
To check out more please visit Marni’s website at http://marnismann.com
or click on the Amazon links below. Happy reading everybody! Memoirs Aren't Fairytales
Scars from a Memoir
Ever wondered when someone was going to make a film about all those pirates in Somalia? Well, here it finally is! Shot entirely on location in Kenya, Fishing Without Nets
tells the true story of a group of rogue Somali fisherman, who risk everything to give their families the basic human necessities that many of us take for granted.
Over the weekend, I had the distinct opportunity of speaking with the producer of the film, Raphael “Raph” Swann, who also happens to be a long-time friend of my financial advisor and fellow actor, Robert McNeil. Raph explained that one of the challenges of producing such an ambitious project was securing the actors or rather the “non-actors” that would portray the pirates, themselves. Obviously, you can’t just walk around Somalia asking if there are any pirates who wouldn’t mind taking a film crew on their next raid. No. You’d end up in a burlap sack at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. But what you can do is take a couple Somalis from nearby Mombasa and convince ‘em (with enough shillings, of course) to let you follow ‘em around for a couple weeks, which is exactly what Raph and director, Cutter Hodierne, and co-writer, John Hibbey, ended up doing.
“Originally,” as Raph explained, “we were only supposed to be in Africa for a few weeks, but ended up staying for over five months.”
And it was anything but a walk in the park, as you can imagine. In fact, the first night they were there, Raph and friends found themselves handcuffed together and staring down the smoking ends of a couple AK-47’s, while men in military and police uniforms forced them to wade out into the Indian Ocean. It seems, during a late night stroll, the close-knit group of filmmakers wandered out onto the wrong beach front property and were apprehended and accused of trespassing.
“The whole incident was a pretty frightening experience,” explained Raph. “I had just gotten off a plane and the next thing I know I’m being handcuffed and held at gunpoint.”
Fortunately, the whole incident was over in a matter of minutes. For only 150 bucks, the guys were able to bribe their way to freedom. “That’s just the cost of doing business,” Raph explained. “Bribing people, getting robbed by cops, either legitimate policeman or not…those all just administrative fees you have to be prepared for.”
Scary stuff and not something I’m sure I’d want to stick my neck out for. But these guys are a different kind of breed. Artists, first, adventurers, a close second, this group of Indiana Jones-esque
filmmakers don’t mind shedding a little blood for the sake of their art. It’s no surprise they’re going back in only a month’s time to begin principal photography on…yep, you guess it…the feature-length production. It’s gonna take some doing, but one look at the short and you’ll see why it’s definitely worth another round of roughing it in the African wilderness.
Beautifully shot with an uncanny attention to detail and authenticity, this short film feels more like a guerilla-style documentary than a work of narrative fiction. The actors or rather, “non-actors” I should say, are absolutely superb. They live, breathe, and exude all that is Somalia, simply because they are
Somali’s. They don’t need to act. They’re the real thing. And I don’t know about you, but I find this sort of filmmaking so refreshing in today’s big-budget, over-produced, over-dramatized sequel-soaked comic book industry. Getting eye-level with the real thing is so much more enjoyable than watching a bunch of actors in Burbank trying to pull off authentic Somali accents in between takes of sipping Starbucks lattes.
The short has already been making waves (pun intended) in the short film festival circuit. In addition to claiming the coveted Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at Sundance, it is also currently in the running for The Wrap’s Short Film Festival Award
, which carries with it a prize of $60,000 worth of camera equipment from Panavision. You can watch the film in its entirety at http://shortlistfilmfestival.com/films/fishing-without-nets
. And PLEASE PLEASE VOTE. Trust me, these guys would know what to do with $60,000 worth of camera equipment. The contest ends September 3rd. So, vote today!