Monday, November 30, 2015

Buddy the Elf Becomes an Adult

As I write this, I am sitting in a top secret production meeting for a TV pilot that will be filming over the next couple of weeks! Aside from delivering coffee and passing out schedules, I am staying out of the way, so I wanted to take a moment to fill you all in...

Inside the secret meeting
Since the internship program was an extension of my college education, I am bracing myself for the fact that my "adult life" will begin officially on December 12. No more tests - yay! No more essays - yay! No more assurance of a bed to sleep in or a cafeteria to get food - boo. 

If you know someone who is looking for a roommate or tenant in the Los Angeles area, please send their contact information my way. I am sure all my past and present roommates would give me a raving review (shoutout to Zachary, Alex, Brock, Logan and Gerardo)! I will pay on time and clean up after myself. 

As of late, I have not done as fantastic of a job cleaning up after myself because I have been filming "Keith Shaves His Beard 6," so my room is cluttered with costumes of all my different characters. I have about 80% of the video finished, and I am very happy with how everything is turning out. My Grandma would be proud, because I assembled many of the costumes myself with a good ol' needle and thread. 

Sewing Buddy the Elf's coat
A favorite moment from filming was when I went into an In-N-Out dressed like Buddy the Elf and ordered a cheeseburger. As I stood in line inside the packed restaurant, I yelled, "CONGRATULATIONS, YOU FINALLY DID IT! THE WORLD'S BEST CHEESEBURGER!" I thought everyone in the establishment would catch the reference and burst into applause, but instead my outburst was met with dead silence. I could have heard a pin drop. Here is the video, filmed by the remarkable Jason Crossman. The audio from my iPhone was not the best, but you can definitely catch some of the confused faces:

Keep your eyes peeled for Keith Shaves His Beard 6, as well as more updates from my thrillingly unpredictable life :)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Getting What You Want and Being Thankful

In one month, my internship program will be over and I will start doing what some people call, "living in the real world." Today I cashed in on my Christmas presents early by having my mom place an Amazon order with $80.00 worth of costumes for my next crazy video. I guess this means I will be making my entrance into my adult life in full Keith fashion.

I have been thinking a lot about a speech I made at graduation where I talked about how difficult it is to share my friends with the world. I am so thankful for Facebook and getting the chance to stay updated about everyone's life, but it also makes me sad. Sad because I want you all to be here with me, right now! Geography is a sucky thing. But you know what would be even more sucky? Having friends I didn't care about. So I guess I'll just use geography to my advantage...One of my goals in the next 25 years is to have close friends in all 50 states. This will give me a personal look at what is going on all over the country, and it will be a lot cheaper to travel and not pay for hotels :) (You've had your warning: get that guest bedroom ready for me.)

The last couple of weeks, I have learned a ton at my internships just from observing meetings and professionals in their natural habitat. For example, my next project at one of the internships is helping film a TV pilot that some major networks have expressed interest in. We have regular pre-production meetings at Marie Callender's where I get to eat pie for breakfast if I want (!) and listen in on what aspects of the project are going smoothly and what hiccups needed to be addressed. It is amazing to watch a legitimate Hollywood production meeting in action, where participants take turns talking and work their way down a list of bullet points until the meeting is over. I wish I could say that every meeting I've ever hosted has been that organized.

Another time, I got the chance to listen to some pitches for television shows and then watch them get critiqued by a panel of judges. What I learned from this experience can be applied to any area of life where a person is trying to get something: make it personal. If you are pitching a movie, tell the executive how the story is rooted in an aspect of your own life. If you want your mom to give you a cookie from the cookie jar, tell her how your childhood was shaped by the joy of eating homemade cookies. If you want a car salesman to cut you a good deal, well...there's probably nothing you can say that will help your cause. But this advice will help you get what you want in most situations. You're welcome. 

To do this week: 
- Go on a walk or run to at least give myself the illusion that I am staying in shape.
- Not confuse a lane of parked cars for a right turn lane. To anyone reading this who was behind me that day when I had to put my car in reverse and change lanes: I am sorry.
- Remind myself to be thankful for everything the Lord is doing and has done in my life. 

As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope you find some time to be thankful, too.

Oh, and if Batman ever retires...I've got you covered, Gotham City! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

An Intern Having Fun?!

My goal was to write three blog entries for you each month, but October slipped away almost as quickly as the supply of Gatorade I brought with me from Indiana! I guess that means I owe you four entries in November :)

Many of you saw my Mr. Bean Halloween costume. (Thanks for all the love, Facebook friends!) For those of you who missed it: 

The highlight of my weekend was going to a Halloween shindig with Justin Bell. You know you've made it as an intern when you are going to parties with your boss!

Mr. Bean with Blinky from Pac-Man
The best thing about going to a dance party dressed like Mr. Bean is that you can make an absolute fool out of yourself and it is 100% socially acceptable.

This group knows how to party!
However, I started looking less and less like Mr. Bean as the dance party continued, as my bathroom mirror selfies will tell you...

In this one, I have realized I will have to fight to keep up my Mr. Bean persona:

An hour later, I have given in. I am no longer Mr. Bean. I am a very tired and James Dean version of Keith:

I'd better be careful, though, because I don't want you to get the impression that I am not working! I stay very busy as an intern...

Pushing air conditioners!

Scrubbing cement!

Holding important objects!

And - occasionally - stuffing my face at the crafty table!

Well, I think that catches us up to speed...I am working hard and making time to have fun, too. Sending virtual hugs from California! Or, if you're in California, come on over and I'll give you a real one. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Human or Dancer?

As I write this, I'm wearing red pants. What does this mean? Whenever I put on my red pants it signals that I have run out of all the good clothes in my closet and it’s laundry day whether I like it or not. Last weekend I was on a film set for four straight days, so this weekend I have been trying to catch up on some rest. But dirty clothes wait for no one!

This morning I went to a church called Mosaic and the pastor’s sermon was about living in the here and now. We should live these present moments to the fullest, because they are what make life count. It reminds me of the quote, “Life ain’t a dress rehearsal. This is it, kid – you’re on!” Often, I find my spirit living in the here and now and my mind planning for the there and then. I think we should strive for a healthy balance of enjoying the moments at hand but also considering how we want our lives to play out in the future.

If I may step out of the here and now for a moment, I would like to talk briefly about the there and then of my life. As I was getting my things ready to come to California, I decided to pack everything I would need to stay out here, just in case. My amazing mom even put together a little apartment box for me. As time goes on, I am feeling more certain that I want to permanently locate in Los Angeles after my internships are over. I am continuing to keep my resume updated and expand my professional network so that this transition is as smooth as possible. I’m blessed with a supportive family who promises to love me even if I don’t make it back to the Midwest for a while. Thank goodness for FaceTime!

I have had the song “Human” by The Killers on repeat lately. It speaks to the season I’m in right now:

“And sometimes I get nervous
When I see an open door
Close your eyes
Clear your heart
Cut the cord…
Are we human?
Or are we dancer?”

Those last two lines are a mystery even to fans of The Killers. But to me, it shows the tension between fretting over the future (something humans tend to do) and living in the moment (a trait exemplified by dancers). I know the steps ahead will be filled with moments that are very human, but I hope I can dance my way through them and enjoy ‘em for all they’re worth.

A favorite recent moment was meeting executive producer Ken Wales. Ken produced Peter Sellers comedies like The Party and Revenge of the Pink Panther. He also played a key role in introducing his friend Blake Edwards to Julie Andrews, and he was the best man in their wedding. Whoa.  

The TUHIP guys with our adopted grandpa, Ken Wales.

Time to get back to the here and now…my laundry is done. See you in a few weeks, red pants.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The "Who Knows" Box

When I organized my basement over the summer, I had a "Who Knows" box I threw things in that looked too important to throw away but too random to have a proper home. 

This blog post opens up the "Who Knows" box of my West Coast adventures.

Item 1: Pepto-Bismol 

There are certain experiences you want to avoid at all costs in LA traffic, including (but not limited to) left turns, rain, digestive system that is having a particularly volatile day. I've said too much already.

As I was driving to my internship on that fateful morning, I had a feeling sweep over me. You know exactly what I mean. Below is a transcription of my words - some in my head and some spoken aloud - from the car ride I will never forget.

This is not good. No, this is not good.

Siri, take me to the nearest public restroom.

Okay, no problem. I'll think of something else...Siri, take me to the nearest McDonalds.

What do you mean?! This is the 21st Century, there should be a McDonalds on every street corner!!!

Siri, take me to the nearest ANYTHING.

We'll settle this later, Siri.

I'll call Grandma to get my mind on something else.

How's life, Grandma?

Grandma, I have to go. It's an emergency.

Now I know what it feels like to be in labor. 

Our Father, who art in heaven...

I can't pull off, I am going to be late for my internship.

Do I have any buckets in this car?

NO! Keith, don't even go there. You are going to pull off, even if it makes you late. It's the humane thing to do. 

Yes, I pulled off and found a divinely-placed grocery store not far from the exit. I arrived at my internship on time with my bottle of Pepto-Bismol hidden out of sight in my sack lunch. Probably not the beverage most people would choose to smuggle in and "drink on the job," but that day it was my lifesaver.

Item 2: Chocolate-covered peanut butter balls

At my internship one afternoon, my supervisor called me into the kitchen. It was a special occasion and they were all celebrating by eating homemade chocolate-covered peanut butter balls. I was in close quarters at this tiny table with a big name director, equally prestigious producer, and two other industry professionals. We were just popping these chocolate-covered peanut butter balls into our mouths one after another and telling stories. It was like a Christmas party in the middle of September with people you aspire to be someday.

Item 3: A stuffed bunny

I observe the oddest things when I am behind the wheel driving through the city. I am almost always talking to my mom on speakerphone when this happens, so I describe to her what I am seeing in vivid detail. I try to snap a picture, too.

I recently saw a stuffed bunny hanging from a telephone wire: 

Or how about this jeep that's all armored-up for the zombie apocalypse?

My personal favorite was an itty-bitty car that had all of a person's belongings strapped to the top. It was like the sleigh from How the Grinch Stole Christmas after the Grinch raided Whoville. I would have been absolutely terrified if I was driving behind this guy. 

Not my picture, but it captures the spirit of the moment.

I could probably find a few more items if I kept rummaging through this "Who Knows" box, but I'm sure the Pepto-Bismol, chocolate-covered peanut butter balls, and stuffed bunny will give you enough to chuckle about until next time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Less Say, More Do

As I work hard at my internships here in Los Angeles, a quote from my documentary Making a Mark comes to mind regularly:

"An entertainer, or a performer, is there to serve." -Mark Fauser

Sadly, I feel like much of our lives are spent trying to get ahead of the guy next to us who is a little faster, a little more popular, and a little better. One might say that it's just "healthy competition," but if we are being honest with ourselves, this mindset bogs down our quality of life and our capacity to love.

I hope our culture does not lose sight of how invigorating it is to serve others. Why do we resonate with Saving Private Ryan? Service. Why are we so thankful for our teachers? Service. Why do we feel compelled to give to those in need? You get the idea...

Jesus's "disciples" were fishermen and tax collectors who followed him around and were always bickering and griping about who was the best. I'm sure the author of the Bible left out many of their arguments about fish size, Jewish girls, and figs consumed in one sitting, but we should have pretty good reason to believe that these boys kicked up the dust every time they got together.

When it comes to the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet, most people comment about how dirty feet were in those if the amount of dirt was what made it an act of service. I would argue that Jesus washed their feet as a silent response to their years of trying to one-up each other. His behavior beckoned them to say less and do more.

In my relationships with others (especially in work environments), I am trying to ask the question "What can I do?" far more than "What can I say?" Saying things usually leads to telling people about my awards, my next big thing, and my opinions. Doing, however, encourages me to consider the bigger picture and the well-being of someone else. Healthy doers make people feel valuable, take the initiative on least-favored tasks, and fight for another's goals.

This blog post doesn't just apply to my work here in Los Angeles. It applies to you, too. Take Mark's quote at the top and fill in your own field.

"A baker is there to serve."

"A mechanic is there to serve."

"A _________ is there to serve."

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Scootin' Along

Today I walked 26,605 steps. Just in case you need proof:

I am so tired right now that I'm seeing two or three of every letter on my keyboard, so perhaps this story would be best told with lots of pictures.

Last night, I visited the legendary Egyptian theatre with my Taylor group. Since I arrived early, I decided to take the opportunity to be a total Hollywood tourist. I started strolling down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, reading the name on each star. In New York City, you can recognize tourists as the people who are staring up at the skyscrapers. In Los Angeles, the tourists are the people hanging their heads down and bumping into things because they're trying to read the hallowed engravings on the ground. 

At the Egyptian, we watched the 1953 version of War of the Worlds followed by an interview with its leading lady, Ann Robinson. I caught her out in the lobby before the show to snag a picture. Of course, I forgot her name (it always happens when I meet anyone remotely famous), so I just said, "Oh my gosh, can I get a picture with you? My name's Keith. Thank'am...for all your wonderful contributions to American cinema." 

After my late night outing, I set my alarm for 4:45am. It didn't seem like ten minutes before I got up, took a shower, filled my car with gas, invested in a car wash (which did NOTHING, by the way), and pulled into Starbucks at 6:30am to pick up coffee for the set of a commercial. A commercial for a revolutionary new scooter that will be released in the coming months. 

My first job of the day (besides parking and re-parking a lot of cars) was overseeing craft services. Thank you, Mom, for providing such excellent catering for my own films and teaching me how a true craft service biz should be run.

Another job was taking a lunch order for about 18 people. I do not have a picture of this to show you because I was too busy trying to read my handwriting aloud to the lady across the counter who was ringing it all up. What a sweetheart. Angie, if you are reading this, thank you for your patience and sense of humor!

In the afternoon, we moved from our Pasadena location to a different area in downtown Los Angeles. Most of my work in during this time was transferring props, clothes, and food from one place to another.

I had the opportunity to be on set and help operate a GoPro drone later in the evening! The guy who owns the drone, Warren, also likes to use it as a handheld camera source since it has its own built-in "Steadicam" function. He watched on the monitor as I chased the talent up and down the block. (Now you know where most of those steps on my phone's pedometer came from!)

So thankful that the producer, Justin, is letting me shadow him this fall and teaching me the tricks of the trade! 

The rest of my day is kind of a blur because my bod was saying, "I'm ready to call it a day." There were a few creepy alleyways, a few parking frustrations, but I as I write this I am sitting in my room eating leftover Chinese cuisine. I'm happy. It has been a good day.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Week One Adventures

It's hard to believe that after anticipating my arrival in L.A. for months, I already have a week of work under my belt. And what a week it has been!

On Monday, I learned about the joys of parallel parking in downtown Los Angeles. After I successfully landed my car in the allotted spot, I was faced with an even more daunting task...getting out of the car. I immediately ruled out exiting from the driver's side, because traffic was zooming past me and I knew that the moment my leg left the car it would get sliced off by a SoCal motorcyclist. I didn't have a skylight, so that method of escape was not an option. The passenger's side door seemed like the best way to go. Unfortunately, it barely opened a foot thanks to a curb that could have protected a small fortress. As I squeezed my way out of the car every lever, bolt, and wire in my Buick's door dug into my first-day-of-work outfit. What's this, a car grease stain on my shirt? I'd better make sure my backside is presentable. To all the people who walked passed me at that moment, no, I do not regularly check out my butt in the reflection of my window. Just trying to make a good impression on the first day of my internship. 

The eventful start to my morning turned into a wonderful day working with my producer, Justin. He is currently marketing a Paramount film, Captive, and he needed me to go through interviews and pull sound bites for a promotional TV documentary. I waded through a lot of material to find some solid clips, and most of them made it into the final documentary! 

Tuesday was a ball. Oops Doughnuts Productions lives up to its whimsical name, because the moment I walked into the office I was greeted with posters, movie props, and toys from wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. And the view isn't too bad, either (check out my Facebook cover photo). My favorite part of the day was taking a field trip to Hollywood Center Studios, where we got to watch a rehearsal for the Disney Channel show, Liv and Maddie. During the run through, the producers and writers took notes about jokes that got laughs and which ones they needed to rework a bit. I am definitely going to go on a Liv and Maddie Netflix binge so I can appreciate the experience even more next time! 

After the trip to the set, the Oops Doughnuts staff went to a meeting with the director and put me in charge of the desk. When guests came in, I offered them water and made sure they were comfortable. Then the phone rang, and about twelve lights on the phone started blinking. I momentarily panicked because I did not have any experience with phones in a big office. After I gained my composure, I decided the pick up the phone. "Oops Doughnuts!" It was an executive from Disney. "I'm sorry, so-and-so is in a meeting right now, but may I take a message?" I have never been more nervous in my life, but I felt so proud of myself when I hung up the phone. 

Time to say goodbye, because I am going with the other Taylor students to a screening at the Hollywood Bowl tonight. We need to get there early so we can find a place to park. (And then check out our derrières in the reflection of the car, of course.)

One of my jobs yesterday at Oops Doughnuts was organizing their colossal library of DVDs! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Keith in Hollywood

My first trip to Hollywood in 2006. I thought the people at Warner Bros. would like me
more if I wore my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory shirt.
A spirit of entertainment has been bottled up inside me for as long as I've been alive, so when I visited Hollywood for the first time in 2006, I was in utopia. On a Warner Bros. Studios tour, I saw the alley where Spiderman kissed Mary Jane upside down, a backlot where Eddie Murphy's Norbit (a truly atrocious movie, I've heard) was then being filmed, and the gravel road where the Jurassic Park Jeep was chased by dinosaurs. I asked so many questions our guide couldn't even finish the tour, but I didn't care. I had been bitten by the movie bug, and I knew I would make it back to Hollywood someday.

Now it's 2015, and Hollywood, I'm back baby! And I'm a powerful, suave, cover-of-Variety, electrifyingly exciting *cough* intern *cough*.

In all seriousness, I could not be more excited to be in Los Angeles this semester brushing up against movie magic once again. I am already learning that in the real world, "movie magic" is synonymous with lots of Excel sheets, hair pulling, parking tickets, high blood pressure, and caffeinated beverages. But at least once a day I feel a wave of pure adrenaline pulse through my body and I think, "I'm in Hollywood right now, on track to do what I have always dreamed of doing. Thanks Lord!" The perseverance of those in my field often results in an end product that leaves consumers feeling entertained, inspired, and motivated to live their lives in a better way. This thought makes me delighted to face L.A. traffic in the morning. 

I now have two internships that are helping me move towards my goal of becoming a film producer. For one of my internships, I am an assistant to a film producer who is currently doing what I would love to do in ten years. The second one is a development internship with Andy Fickman's production company, Oops Doughnuts. Andy directed comedies such as The Game PlanPaul Blart: Mall Cop 2, and my personal favorite, Parental Guidance. I won't go into a lot of detail about the internships in order to protect the privacy of the companies, but I look forward to blogging more about where my own LA journey takes me! 

And...cut. Check the gate. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Senior Night Remarks

How can you sum up in four minutes a friendship that has lasted four years?

When I was a senior in high school, I determined I was going to find the right college for me no matter how long it took. I turned to page one of U.S. News and World Reports and started making my list based off things like religious affiliation, geographic placement, and (let’s be honest, guys) male-to-female ratio. My dad took a look at the list and said, “These are all great, but there’s one I think you should add. It’s called Taylor University.” I had never heard of Taylor, but I wrote it down because I thought it would be the nice thing to do for my parents. Flash forward to now, and I guess I want to start off by saying, “Thanks, Dad.”

My Taylor University experience is branded by friendship. Class of 2015, we laughed together at every presidential reading of, “Twas the Night Before Finals.” We cried together when we only had ten minutes left of that movie and our P.A. announced, “Open house is over.” We supported each other when we woke up one morning to find no Bob Craton emails in our inboxes. We watched as new buildings were constructed around campus and our landscape changed. Since freshman move-in day until now, we have done life together. 

As I am faced with the fact that my time at Taylor will wrap up in a matter of hours, I bet I’m not the only one in this room who feels like I’m suddenly losing someone very close to me. It’s like when that childhood friend you’ve shared all your secrets and stories with moves away. The thought of going forward without that friend by your side is painful.

I tried to think of a mature, sophisticated analogy to help me articulate these emotions we’re all feeling, but I decided that the best choice is Toy Story 3. I don’t need to give you any background on the characters; we all grew up with Woody and Buzz. At the end of Toy Story 3, Andy has to leave and he can’t take his collection of friends with him. He makes the decision to give his box of toys to a new little girl, Bonnie. What makes the ending to this movie so perfect is that – even though we are filled with sadness for Andy – we’re happy because we can only imagine the adventures Woody and Buzz will have with this new child.

My time at Taylor University has changed the way I view serving others. Service still means the obvious things, like mowing a lawn, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or washing someone’s feet. But tomorrow, an act of service will mean opening my hands and sharing my collection of friends with the world. There are so many hurting people out there who need a friend. Although goodbyes are difficult, it brings me happiness to know that saying goodbye after graduation will mean that someone else in the world gets to say “hello” to a Taylor Trojan who will show him or her the love of Christ.

Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Sometimes, God’s work within us is heartbreaking. It means relocating and adjusting and making new friends. But the end of this verse is a reminder that one day this idea of friendship will be completed as we worship Jesus together forever.

Thank you, Class of 2015, for a great four years. I’m glad we’re friends.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fifty Shades of SpongeBob

I usually don't voice extremely strong opinions about what's showing at the movies. Thanks to free speech, we can go see whatever we want at the neighborhood cinema (unless North Korea gets involved). Heck, that's why I want to make movies! I want to say what I want on that screen. However, Fifty Shades of Grey being billed as a "romance" on Valentine's Day makes me uncomfortable. In school as a substitute, I hear kids talking about taking their dates to see it on the 14th. Huffington Post writer Carey Purcell voiced my sentiments in her article "Fifty Shades of Feminism" when she said, "I sincerely hope that […] the Christian Grey ideal of romance is not one that will be perpetuated throughout our culture." I can tell you right now that if I took a young lady to the movies I would not want her to think my idea of love went hand-in-hand with abuse, objectification, and pornography.

Are petitions and picket lines going to prevent people from buying a ticket to this movie? This blog post is about how to successfully boycott a film. And not just Fifty Shades of Grey, but any film you don't want to see succeed at the box office. And you might even have a little fun in the process. (No, the answer is not to buy the film from the studio and burn it...a tactic Evangelist Bill Bright tried when The Last Temptation of Christ came out in 1988. Crazy.)

Here is a passage from Andy Crouch's book, Culture Making, where he quotes Barbara Nicolosi: 

"Any publicity is good publicity. Protests not only fuel the box office, they make all Christians look like idiots. And protests and boycotts do nothing to help shape the decisions being made right now about what movies Hollywood will make in the next few years. (Or they convince Hollywood to make more movies that will provoke Christians to protest, which will drive the box office up.) Some suggest we simply ignore the movie. But the problem with this option is that the box office is a ballot box. The only people whose votes are counted are those who buy tickets; if you stay home, you have thrown your vote away, and you do nothing to shape the Hollywood decision making process regarding what movies will make it to the big screen" (p 70). 

So how do you cast your vote against a movie? The answer: go out and see a different movie. The vote that speaks loudest to Hollywood producers is "the power of cold hard cash laid down on a box office window on opening weekend." I promise you that the studio executives will laugh at the online petitions and hit "delete" from their e-mail inbox without reading past the subject line. But they will take dollar signs seriously. 

So this Valentine's Day weekend, consider seeing…
Kingsman: The Secret Service (Action)
The Last Five Years (Romance/Musical)
Selma (Drama)
Paddington (Comedy/Animation)
SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water (Comedy)

Come on, you and I both know SpongeBob is destined to become the Valentine's Day classic of our generation.

The studios think audiences will like to see the sexy faces of Jason Dornan and Dakota Johnson on Valentine's Day. But what the executives want to see are the sexy faces of Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson, Grant, and Franklin. And you can choose to do whatever you want with those faces when you pull them out of your purse or wallet. Choose wisely.