Monday, August 6, 2007

Video and Me

In my book, I talk about things people say to start conversations. Being conversatioanlly handicapped, I pay close attention to things like that. Often, they start with a question, or a statement followed by a question. This weekend, I went to Lake George, where a bunch of my friends are vacationing, and I met Rich and Jackie’s son-in-law.

He said, “I’m a service manager for Firestone. What do you do?” I think he expected me to say I did something with cars, since Bob and I were talking about radiators when he attempted to join the conversation, but that’s not what I said.

Thinking fast, I said, “Actually, I work in the movie industry. I produce adult films. Now, of course, they’re not film at all. They’re DVD. But we call them films. I’ll bet you’ve even seen some of my productions.”

Well, that brought the conversation to a standstill. Bob’s wife Celeste, sitting next to me, said, “Is that true? Or it another bizarre carp story?” For brevity’s sake, I will have to explain “carp story” another time. In the interest of tranquility, I conceded that I was not a pornographer, and conversation restarted with a small bump.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Have you ever filmed yourself? Well, I hadn’t either, until last week.

My publicist at Crown is working to present me to a wider world, as my book moves into the market. Since I’m not a public figure, one of the things media people wonder when she calls is, how does this guy look and sound in real life? Is he a drooling idiot or the next George Clooney?

They’re all too tactful to say that, but I’m sure that’s a good approximation of what they think.

I decided the best way to address that concern was to get a video recorder and tape myself talking about the book. So I did that. And son of a bitch! They were right! I do look like a drooling idiot! Can it be?

Let me tell you . . . if you didn't know me, and you looked at the tape, and someone told you how far I've gotten in life, you would be amazed. Him, you would say? That freak? No way! Clearly, there is a significant misalignment between the reality of my life and what's currently depicted on video. And we must bring those two into alignment, and soon.

So I am practicing reading and talking before the camera, until I get it right. Yet another skill one has to learn to be a successful author. Until I watched, I actually had no idea I made some of the facial expressions I saw. No wonder some kids find me funny, and others run for cover. At least now I know. I always thought it was the bad manners, or the funny clothes.

I have also been studying "Manners for Dummies" and buying new clothes at a feverish pace. A slow feverish pace.

I told the folks in New York I’d have this video last week, but it’s clear I need more practice. A few more days worth, at least. But I’ll keep at it. By the time they see the finished product, no one will ever know how I looked at the start.

And I learned one more thing. Lucrative as it may sound, I would need a whole ‘nother skill set to enter the adult film industry. I can tell people about it at parties, but actually doing it . . . if I can’t even get a good film of me standing still . . . But just listening to me, how would they know? As a child, I learned this secret: The more outrageous a thing you say, the more readily people believe you, provided you say it with a serious expression.

29 comments:

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

Good luck with your videography career, John. It never ceases to amaze me how much the publishing industry has changed---twenty years ago, authors were never expected to also be media stars. Publishing was one once of the few entertainment media that didn't care what its top creators looked like or sounded like. Alas, no more.

(Perhaps in another twenty years, we'll also be expected to be porn stars, but I digress. . .)

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

"one once"

---Okay, reverse those words. I'm dyslexic this morning. . .

Polly Kahl said...

I think you're being too hard on yourself. You are way cute, and no doubt quite handsome in a good suit. And remember, even Clooneyish people think they look and sound like dweebs when they see themselves. The bottom line is, your public will care about you because of your words, not because you're some smoothie.

sex scenes at starbucks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sex scenes at starbucks said...

I have to present at our regional conference this fall. I say "I have to..." I signed myself up and they accepted me. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Now I'm realizing I actually have to present, and they've given us the big room because they expect a crowd...

Doing the presentation before a video camera is a good idea. I hope I'm as brave as you when I practice.

Kim Stagliano said...

Aspergian Porn? Gives new meaning to the term "Poker face." ;)

I can assure your readers and your "people" you are NOT a drooling idiot. I've seen you speak/read in public. No spittle involved at all. How about Mr. Spock mind melds with George Clooney? A bit of both.

Hello, Jill! Did you have your baby?? Good luck.

Holly Kennedy said...

You're being too hard on yourself, John. We've met twice and you are NOT a drooling idiot. Not once did you made odd or innappropriate facial expressions. Within minutes of meeting you, anyone with half a brain will see that you're a kind and gentle soul, attentive to those around you, well spoken, incredibly intelligent, and with a spot on sense of humor. I think what you're doing is admirable but not necessary.

Your friend from Canada :)

The Muse said...

There, there, John. I'm sure you're not that bad...

But here's a hankie, let me wipe your chin!


Woof!

Anonymous said...

Hey John,

If this author thing doesn't work out, who knows what avenues all this publicity may open up to you? Just as with writing, you may have other hidden talents that you have not yet discovered...

Laura said...

That's priceless! Can I use your pretend career spiel the next time someone asks me? Much more amusing than, "Oh, I'm a stay at home mom!" Yawn. When I get to the part about how we're using DVD instead of film now, I'll have them hooked!

I have some film of myself that is horrible to watch. I "starred" in one of my college friend's works for her film class. We all watched it and her other masterwork on a drunken reunion weekend a few weeks ago. When I rewatch that, I think, "Man, you were chunky in college. Shoulda laid off the beers" and "You were wise to not follow up on a film career."

I'm sure you're very Clooneyesque, and will wow everyone! When are you coming to Seattle? I'll bring a video camera.

Kim Stagliano said...

Laura, are you going to Patricia Woods LOTTERY signing??

The Anti-Wife said...

I hate seeing myself on film or in pictures. Someone told me people want to see who they're communicating with because they relate to you better. The latest picture on my blog took 36 takes with my digital camera before I was happy with it. You're a brave man to film yourself and make such a great effort.

Woof!

Chumplet said...

I 'co-starred' as a ditzy vampire chick in a comedy horror set in Niagara Falls. I wore a big red wig and a stuffed bra. I had no trouble watching myself afterwards.

When I was asked to read a passage during my brother's wedding, my father videotaped the proceedings. I don't think I'd care to see that footage. I'd be staring at my non-chin and be horribly aware of my lisp.

It's much better when I'm somebody else.

"Little Bear" said...

You look like a "drooling idiot" because you're talking to a camera, not to a real person. Very few people can look good on camera without some kind of real human feedback - that's why there aren't more George Clooneys. Get someone to actually run the camera who will look at YOU, not the damned viewfinder, and you'll find it easier to appear "normal".

Anonymous said...

It is kind of comical if you think about it. Very few people can appear natural when they are carrying on a conversation with a camera. (Although I disagree, you are NOT a drooling idiot!) I know that it’s just that you adult film stars like your privacy; but perhaps "Little Bear" has a point that was overlooked- that you would indeed look & feel more comfortable with a live, flesh and blood person interviewing you. After all, you also being an adult film producer know that you need other actors to exchange in an intercourse of ideas to make it enticing!

John Elder Robison said...

All of your supportive comments are most encouraging. Thanks.

I'll send you all copies of my best known film, Atlanta Cheerleaders.

But seriously, when I think of movies that depict the lifestyle of the rock-n-roll business when I was in it, the one that comes to mind is Boogie Nights. Just substitute music production for porn production, and that's what it was like. Crazy people, coke dealers with guns, hammering the cars ... and the people going down the toilet at the end.

Luckily, I wasn't one that got flushed.

Drama Mama said...

I have had a long career as an actor, John, and find myself unwatchable. Most people do.

As for that conversation, if your partners were worth their salt, would have delved right in and asked questions, or shared porn stories of their own.

At least I would have.

You sound like someone I'd want to talk to at a cocktail party.

Rock on with your bad self. And don't wear white on camera. Washes you out.
xo

Carolyn Burns Bass said...

Just remember, look the camera in the eye. The camera with the red light, that is.

kyra said...

so funny! okay. good for you for practicing. i tell you, i'd have to do it too. i know it's not the same thing but the video from my wedding is embarrassing with my constant scowl and my incessant clearing of the throat and my blink blink blinking as if i'm tapping out a message. and i was thrilled that day! happy!

Stacy said...

You're braver than I. I cringe whenever I hear myself on a tape recorder; I'd hate to find out what facial expressions I make when I talk.

But really, who looks natural in front of a camera? Everyone freezes up when on tape, unless being on TV is part of their job.

Kanani said...

In a Hollywood parallel, I'm sure you could find a stunt double, then dub in your voice. No one would no the difference, John... really!

Just think ....you could even find one who'd be willing to do those porn films you spoke about, thus providing the PR people a bit more "unusual and interesting" aspects about you to shill.

And then of course, your stunt double could easily have a "transformation" and do action films --though not action in the typical sense. They could do a movie about a guy who sets up shop in motel rooms building guitars for a rock band trying their hardest to stave off middle age. The conflict: will it work? Will he take up with a groupie? Or will he go work on cars?

Yes, I see loads of opportunity for a stunt double John. Also, the dubbing could result in a new single... sort of like Milli Vanilli, only with a better outcome.

appletini said...

Wow! Very insightful...into the world of a child with aspergers.
I have to buy your book :)

Anonymous said...

Very funny Kanani! Who should he choose as a stunt double???

Kanani said...

Maybe when David Hasselhoff is through with America's Got Talent, we'll ask him to double for John.

Kanani said...

I'm just hooked on a feelin' that he'd be just right for John.

John Elder Robison said...

Kanani, don't you go hassling that Hoff. And Blue Swede did that song with my sound equipment, years ago. Hooked on a Feeling.

Polly Kahl said...

That video is hilarious kanani. I got high on believin' just listening to it.

Kanani said...

Yeah, Polly. Appropriately, Hoff does the car thing too.

Michelle O'Neil said...

You are so funny!

The videotape (non porn version) sounds like a great way to teach kids on the spectrum.

Kind of like coaches reviewing the game after the fact.

(Kim S. you are a nut).