I Cast Jeff Daniels

13 Apr 2006


For my job, I belong to a national marketing association. I don't really benefit much from my membership, but I guess it looks good on the ol' resume. Plus, the company pays the tab, so I figure what the heck. Anyway, we have a listserv to ask each other questions and network. Usually, it's pretty dry stuff (e.g., "I'm hiring an assistant basket weaver. How much should I pay him/her?") But, every now and again, the listserv heats up with something of actual interest.Often, it's because I've said something "shocking" that pisses off half of the other marketing directors on the list. (I seem to have a talent for doing that, unfortunately.) The last time I was flamed for my contribution to a dialogue within my own professional field was when I advised a colleague to go out and buy a digital camera. Shocking, I know.

Apparently, I was doing a huge disservice to professional photographers in the world by suggesting that this marketing director take up photography on her own instead of hiring a pro. My rather verbose argument hinged on a few key observations: (1) that, by doing these photos herself, she won't get mired in all of the copyright issues involved in using a professional photographer; (2) her results would be immediate; and (3) that photography isn't exactly rocket science, anyway. Well, you know, you just can't say something like that in this day and age.

I'm sorry, but that's my official opinion. If you're shooting the cover of Rolling Stone, yeah, maybe you do need to be a professional photographer. But, if you're simply taking a picture of an ugly building your company built so that you can pop it up on your dumb little web site that no one's going to visit, then does it really matter? (I didn't even mention the fact that half the reason pro photos look so damned good is that they use great equipment. Try taking a crappy photo with an 8.2 mega-pixelSLR digital camera -- which can be purchased, by the way, for roughly the same cost as what a pro would charge you for a day of shooting, anyway.)

At this point, I'd like to say that I'm not one of those people who believe that people must be singularly talented in life - i.e., that they have to be pigeon-holed into being either, say, an analytical business person or a creative type.It could very well be the case that there are people out there who are pretty good at a lot of things. I'll bet you any amount of money that there are, say, actuaries out there (i.e., the assholes who compute stochastic algebra problems all day so that mega-HMOs can legally disallow my mother's health care coverage just because she takes a friggin' blood pressure pill every day) who would no doubt be among the very best photographers in the world if they'd just discover that talent within. (And, conversely, there are no doubt professional photographers out there with amazing abilities in other areas -- even, gasp!, in probability theory.) And, there are also plenty of people who suck at photographyAND math. It's a big world; there's room for all possibilities.

I guess I'm just going to have to admit that I don't often have a full amount of respect for certain professions. Maybe I'm an egotistical jerk who thinks he's good at a lot of stuff. Or maybe it's just the opposite (i.e., we're all a bunch of morons). Take my own profession, for example:Marketing.I honestly think any idiot could do my job. So, my lack of aforementioned respect includes my own livelihood. Does that make me come off as less of an asshole? (I'm starting to remind myself of a long history of getting into hot water over this type of issue. I nearly received detention once from my high school English teacher when I suggested that the Trig teacher should, in theory, make more money than she did because "trig is harder.")

Don't take this seriously.As my wife continually reminds me, I'm just "talkin' out my ass" anyway. So, how does this all dovetail with Jeff Daniels?Good question. Let me get to the point.

Another job in the world that I guess I naively think I could do with relative ease is casting. I mean, how friggin' hard is it to find the right actors for movie roles?Sure, sure, there would be administrative challenges. You have contracts to negotiate, schedules to accommodate, "riders" to deal with (such as the amazing one on The Smoking Gun recently -- as I read about on the Mayor's site), diplomatic issues, and so on.You're going to run into those "related" burdens with any job, though.However, at the core, casting is simply finding an actor who looks the part, can act well, and has the right chemistry with the others. Right? (I'll admit I could be completely wrong here, as someone who has never once been west of Denver.)

So, please don't be offended if you're a casting director.I'm probably just jealous; it sounds like a fun job to me. Back to the point, though.I was watching a great film the other night called The Squid and the Whale -- about these two kids who are dealing with their parents' divorce.As soon as I saw Jeff Daniels in the role of Bernard Berkman, I said to myself, " That's my lead!"It's as simple as that. (*All around top-notch acting in that film, btw.*)

Last year, I wrote a dark comedy screenplay called Wood's Confection in which the lead character (whom I've now cast with Jeff Daniels) is a retired marketing executive whose latest entrepreneurial pursuit -- developing a candy bar in the shape of Jesus -- dovetails with a bizarre string of events involving his younger cousin's circle of criminal friends. Okay, okay, so it's not "high concept" and would in fact probably alienate and/or anger a large number of people.(I heard Kevin Smith even got death threats during Dogma.) Still, if I ever hit the Powerball, I think I'd make the movie.For now, I'll be happy to simply post this blog entry and leave it there in perpetuity. Maybe Daniels will happen by it someday and actually want to read the script. Weirder things have happened.

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