Sunday, February 23, 2014

Streaming: Ian Roumain/Michael Schwartz's THAT GUY... WHO WAS IN THAT THING

For anyone interested in the profession of on-screen acting -- movies, TV, cable -- or in the industry in general, this recent documentary (from 2012) ought to be shoo-in viewing. THAT GUY... WHO WAS IN THAT THING (clever title!) documents the lives, professional and otherwise, of some 18 "character" actors ranging from the quite well-known (Oscar-nominated Bruce Davison, shown below, and Emmy-winning Zelko Ivanek) to oft-seen but not-so-oft remembered by name (Timothy Omundson and Wade Williams).

Among these, there is but one black actor (Rick Worthy, shown below) and -- hello -- no women whatsoever. Well, the filmmakers do interview briefly a female talent agent and casting director, along with a couple of male counterparts. Perhaps, even as I write this, they're working on the sequel, That Gal...Who was in That Thing. But don't bet on it. For whatever reason, the percentage of white males in this movie generally mirrors the views of powerful Hollywood suits a propos the place of blacks and women in the industry.

All this is not to say that this smart and entertaining little documentary, put together by first-time filmmakers Ian Roumain and Michael Schwartz, isn't quite interesting and often a lot of fun. It's both -- and more -- as it probes these guys for the skinny on their careers, hopes, dreams and disappointments -- and how they juggle all this to manage a decent income and maybe a family life.
Some are more forth-coming than others (Mr. Williams and Mr. Worthy seem the most talkative), but there is little we hear that isn't worth listening to as, one by one, these guys ring bell after bell about acting, friendship, jealousy and, yes, depression. Some of this might even give certain younger viewers second thoughts about entering the acting profession. Almost all the guys hate auditions (some things never change), but few of them seem willing to stop what they're doing and are happy to have -- or have had -- their career. (One of them, Stanley Kamel, shown above, has died since the film was completed.)

The devil, as they say, is in the details, and there are plenty of those here. We learn that Ivanek, above, is color blind, and that he also has an action figure made for one of his roles. And yes, most of these guys have appeared in one or another (or several) permutations of the Star Trek franchise -- which, for whatever you may think of it, has at least provided many actors with a lot of work

Craig Fairbrass (above), Xander Berkeley, Zach Grenier, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert Joy (below) -- they're all present and accounted for, and each has his own special post to fill and story to tell. One of these stories, repeated by several, is all about how pay for acting jobs is going way down, while what you are expected to do and the hours you must put in continue to rise.

One of the most interesting sections of the film is told us by that woman, talent agent Donna Massetti, who leads us through the maze of auditioning for a TV pilot, along with what happens (or doesn't) afterwards.

A real "learning experience" and a must-see if you want to discover what's behind some of the many male faces you've grown to know and love over the years, That Guy...Who Was in That Thing, running just 78 minutes, is available now via Netflix Streaming and perhaps elsewhere, too.

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