Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Making Notes...

Note to self:  Be patient and brave with love and art.

When last I posted, it was 2011, so… Happy New Year STILL! Around and around the globe we go… after tinseling and bubbling for the holidays in Paris & London, skype’ng and working for 7 weeks back in LA then finally tripping on 3 jetlagged days in Berlin, you guessed it, I’m back in India and just in time for chai.

After spending 8 months out of the last 2 years as a photo-journalist in Mumbai; fixing my lens and sharpening my pencil on my (photography) book about Actors here, I jokingly told a friend of mine last year, with a slap on the back, “... 2012 may just be the year of my acting comeback!” Strangely enough, my recent return to India has been just that, has an Actor… playing the role of a Journalist!

Now, I sincerely have no interest in pounding-the-pavement for an acting career anymore, yet after having been tenured in Theater and Television from 1993 to 2003, I am finally doing my first feature film.

It’s an American production called "The Letters" with an astonishing international cast telling the life story of Mother Teresa, played by the miraculous Juliet Stevenson. Penned and directed by Bill Riead and shot by Academy Award winner Jack Green, it is set in the late 1940’s and also stars the venerable Max Von Sydow and still rugged Rutger Hauer. I play an ex-war correspondent and the only reporter who got close to MT (loosely based on Malcom Muggeridge) and scribed her famous line, “I am just a pencil in God’s hand.” We’ve actually been shooting for the last month here in Goa.

I’ve also been using this time to go back and forth to Bombay, completing my work on the book: transcribing the last 25+ remaining interviews and shooting a few more actors of various levels to flesh things out and broaden the perspective.

Unfortunately, I did hear back from the two mega-stars I had hoped to feature in the book, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, neither of whom are willing or able to participate at this time. So, as they say, “The show must go on!”... and who knows, a “No” today could be a “Yes” tomorrow- crazier things have happened.

Yes, 'we are all pencils in ‘God’s’ hand'… writing & rewriting our stories, signing contracts, penning poems for love and of course… making notes.

Until next time… Be patient and brave,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Third Leg

My Dad has always said, “A life without change, is a life half lived.”

Mumbai… December….. I am rounding the corner in the 3rd leg of the race, which back in my 400-meter High School track days, always seemed like the most unexciting leg, but now in retrospect it is exactly the leg where everything starts to get difficult. It’s the beginning of the end; the turn where you are the farthest away, even though you are more than halfway to the finish line. The cheers are now faint or gone, all the excitement and speed of the first two legs are also gone as your thighs start to grow  into thick lead blocks, heavy as an elephant… your mind starts to chatter with blurry hesitation and the cool clean air that was entering your lungs has suddenly been replaced by thin prickly needles of defeat.

Of course, that does not accurately describe this trip at all… naturally, Mumbai doesn’t have cool clean air to begin with! Honestly though, this trip has proved to be a much harder race than I expected- in least in terms of finishing work on the book. I was prepared that it would again be a lot of waiting, texting, calling, waiting, texting, waiting, calling and more waiting. I mean, these last few actors that I would Love to have- actually, absolutely need present in the book are the biggest stars in the world and ridiculously busy, coy and generally hard to get in touch with!

All good things take time and luckily, but somehow unfortunately, I have no pressure from anyone other than myself, my toughest critic. Humbly however, my friends here have again proved to be Saints… such unending warmth, support and love; without them I wouldn’t be here or able to sustain life and sanity!

So, what have I been doing? Well, in the last 2 months, with my amble spare time I started taking Hindi classes, learning to read and write as well as speak. I felt that I needed to out of respect for the country that I have burrowed into and the culture that has resuscitated my creativity and purpose, plus I simply wanted to know the language for myself, my friends and conversing with all the many people here that don’t speak English. My goal is to be fluent for the book launch. I also started exercising again, watching films, even acting a little for friends and generally planting seeds here beyond my Living the Dream book, thinking ahead to a possible life here in India, at least part-time.

One big basic change on this trip is that I’ve been living alone the majority of the time in large very quiet 2-bedroom apartment… compared to last time where I was living with 3 amazing people, but never had a moment to myself and barely time to take a breath from my then ignorant immersion into ‘Bollywood!’

Now, I gratefully know tons of people, know my way around the city, have famous actors direct numbers in my cell-phone (not that they return my calls!) and yet, it’s just been a very different and I dare say, relatively lukewarm creative experience, something I never expected in the 93-degree heat and intensity of Mumbai. I simply have yet to click back into the hypnotic, ‘Bollywood’ heartbeat that gave me and everyone who has supported me here such a magical sense of accomplishment and connection. Having said that, I did return with 93% of the book already shot and there simply hasn’t been the same push to shoot everyday, like before. What can I say, change is and always will be inevitable.

So, for an official update on The Book… A few weeks after returning with a confirmed book deal, Penguin told me they had now decided that they would not be able to publish the book, that they were looking to move away from doing photography books altogether here in India. Deflating? Yes, a little, but they have a saying here… “If it works out Great, if not, Even Better!”

Truth is, as good as their banner is, I was secretly beginning to wonder if they might not actually be the right publisher for the book… that it actually needs to a broader global perspective. Europe already has an inferred knowledge and opinion about ‘Bollywood,’ it feels like that could be a better option, as to achieve more of the humanistic and sociological subtext that has been the seed of the book from the beginning.

With just one week left… and rethinking what this book is really about, the heart and soul of Living the Dream is and always will be… It’s a book about Community. People, Dreams and the Community that unites and divides them.

Now as this 3rd leg winds down I’m reminded of some of my favorite lyrics from the 80’s - The Psychedelic Furs, “…You can never win or lose if you don’t run the race.” Plus, a little something from Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin!”

Here’s to staying simple in complexity,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Back and Back and Back again... I arrived in Mumbai last week and though the heat and smell have been staggering, the rain has been Beautiful!

After spending most of August shooting and traveling: Seattle, Portland, Zion Nation Park, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas… then working back home in LA a few weeks before flying to NYC and work-shopping with the my mentor David Alan Harvey and a wonderful band of photogs at one of Harvey’s amazing loft weeks in Brooklyn-… I then happily flew to Evansville, Indiana for a busy 3 day shoot: photographing acting students at the University of Evansville… and then finally caught on a quick 18 hour flight from Chicago to Mumbai.

As my stomach and circadian rhythms re-adjust, the hours seem to creep slowly by while the days now seem to be flying! I’m still getting back into the Indian groove (takes about a week or two), catching up with old friends and readying for the next wave of work, which will include meeting(s) with the publisher, editing photos and transcripts, a few re-shoots and ‘touch wood’ photographing the last few remaining A-list actors I want for the book. At the top of the list are two of the biggest stars in the world (though most Americans have never heard of them): Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan as well as the actor best known actor to American audiences from “Slum Dog Millionaire,” Anil Kapoor

I’ll also be meeting a slew of students and struggling actors in the coming days, searching for more unique stories of inspiration and insight. Plus, time to now re-examine and define what the book is really about; re-align with its original cord, balance and fine-tune its intention and composition… and give it more Heart, as I dig for more creative truth in myself.

All this as the cacophony of Mumbai calls out. CHALO MUMBAI!!!

Signing off and signing in,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Back and Back

Funny, I told a friend of mine that ‘I stopped doing Yoga when I got to India’ and they responded, ‘Ohhh, you’ve become a real Indian!!’

I know, it’s been a while since my last post… so, where am I now?  Los Angeles.  Home… 
and 20 lbs heavier than when I left for India last November.

My return to Los Angeles at the end of April was thankfully gilded by mounds of work then followed by heaps of decompression time, which started to feel more like the slow healing bruise of the post trip blues. Of course, that’s ostensibly the best time to get productivity with knife and fork on the dinner table, but for me it turned into the skipping of dinner and slothing straight for dessert. I have come to terms with the fact that I can be very lazy sometimes, but I guess, the truth is that after 5 months of intense focus and work, down-time was what I really needed - to step back (eat everything) and give my brain and being time to process… I’d like to say, I was giving the seeds of the project vital room to digest, grow and shift into their destined shape, but the other truth is I’ve just plain needed of a real vacation and didn’t feel like doing anything until I got one!

So 2 weeks ago I brokered life’s ‘pause’ button and got my dearly needed real vacation at Breitenbush Hot Springs (, near Detroit Lake in upper Oregon; a worker-owned cooperative and intentional community on 154 acres of wildlife sanctuary in the
 Willamette National Forest... it’s Amazing! I’ve been there 9 times in the last 2 ½ years. After a week of soaking, reading and resting, I then traveled to Canon Beach with dear friends for the 4th of July weekend… a true toast to ‘found’ family!! Now, after being vivified by the bounties of Oregon I am back and ready to start re-looking at the Book.

The newest “Living the Dream” news is that out of all the publishers I met with in Delhi 2 weeks prior to returning home, I’ve chosen Penguin Group to publish. And luckily they have chosen me too. So, we are looking at a 2012 release in India and are currently seeking for a suitable co-publisher for the worldwide release. Also, writer/director/producer Karan Johar ( has agreed to do the Foreword of the book and remarkable, maverick casting director Shanoo Sharma (my partner-in-crime and the one who has really made this book possible) will thankfully do the Afterword.

I also was very fortunate in getting quite a bit of press before leaving Mumbai as well thanks to my munificent friends: Bhavna Oberoi who connected me with Kunal Kishore and Gunjan Saini at Value 360 Communications ( I had fun being interviewed and elaborating on the project in that context and it’s endlessly fascinating to me too what the interviewer actually writes and gets printed. I guess it is like going to a photographer and getting your portrait taken- then later, you see what they actually shot- how they in fact got you or didn’t get you… always amazing to me- everyone's different interpretation of what was actually said!

Anyway, my favorites, for various reasons, were from the Wall Street Journal’s blog ( and The Times of India ( And this one from Mail Today… 

Until next time…
Be well, grateful and kind-

Friday, March 25, 2011

First Entry...

Whether you searched or stumbled, welcome to the blog.

The site is dedicated to my current book project “Living the Dream: The Life of the ‘Bollywood’ Actor.” It began in January 2010, during my first trip to India as a simple comparing & contrasting photo essay between the acting communities in Los Angeles and Mumbai or affectionately “Hollywood and Bollywood.” I was in Mumbai for only 2 weeks, after having traveled up north for 3 weeks and by great serendipity met a then kind-stranger/ now best-friend film producer, Guneet Monga, who introduced me to about 20 actors in one week. I returned to the States with the dream of turning the photo essay into a book project and concentrating just on the acting community in Mumbai. I journeyed back to India in mid- November 2010 and with the selfless work of many, most notably casting director, Shanoo Sharma, who’s love and dedication to the project in combination to my own has turned into the makings of a full-fledged book. It is the first documentary photography book of its kind on the subject of actors and my hope is that it will serve as rich and layered introduction of the acting community here in Mumbai to the United States while simultaneously serving as an abbreviated super masala style encyclopedia of actors for ‘Bollywood’ fans the world over. Not to mention being the ultimate actor book for actors themselves!

Before becoming a photographer I was an actor for 10 years in New York and Los Angeles, doing everything from Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” with Sir Ian McKellen to “VIP” with Pamela Anderson. In 2003, by chance I stumbled onto photography and within 9 months was making my living from it and feeling more creative and confident than ever before in life. I quickly became one of the top headshot photographers in LA and about a year or two into it met National Geographic veterans David Alan Harvey, Alex Webb and Eugene Richards. These guys are some the greatest photographers / visual storytellers in the world. I would get completely lost in the depth and honesty of their images, how they experienced and captured the world visually. One day at a workshop in Virginia, D. Harvey and I were talking about book ideas, he was telling me with all the actors I know in LA, I should do an honest-to-God documentary photography about the actors ‘real’ life…. and I recalled when I was an actor, I truly felt like no one outside of the industry had any idea what my life was really like… all of the stuff that actors go through before they even get an audition then everything they go through after they get the audition. With the thought of a book on the horizon I began to see how I could now tell the story of the actor’s ‘real’ life and to pay homage to a community that I always loved and called ‘home’ for 10 years of my life.

So, why set this book in Mumabi when I live, work and was an actor in Hollywood? I didn’t grow up on Hindi cinema? When I came to Mumbai last year, the only Indian films I had seen were Mira Nair films and ‘Slum Dog...” none of which are ‘Bollywood’ or new wave Hindi cinema… in fact, at that time, I didn’t know who any of the top stars were let alone all the working actors and character actors. I didn’t know anyone!! But, for some reason doors kept opening and I kept walking through them. Maybe there’s something to be said for ignorance and genuine curiosity? Approaching it with earnest eyes and a candid camera, nakedly looking at the actors without any bias. But more than that, I believe actors are actors wherever you go; they share a universal commitment to story telling by hiding and revealing their lives at the same time. It's this dichotomy that provokes the purest interest to me and it's that needle of curiosity which threads the fabric of this project: the documentation of an acting community in its totality, from student to star. This life of an actor is the story of many that only few know.

Now, a note about the word ‘Bollywood,’ I am taking into account the multi-layered sentiment the word provokes. To some it is harmless and precise, to others it’s derogatory and offensive- even though the entire community knows and understands that the world uses the name and knows ‘Bollywood’ to be synonymous with the Hindi film industry. I am also fudging with the word a bit, using it has an umbrella for the acting community as I have (working) titled the book, when in fact ‘Bollywood’ only refers to film actors from commercial cinema, not independent cinema or even TV. This is a alteration that I also hope to be forgiven for. The truth is that I have never thought of the name ‘Bollywood’ as kitsch in any way! 

In the past 4 1/2 months I’ve photographed about 100 actors... covering a huge variety. Everyone from Dev Anand to Ranveer Singh, Salman Khan to Nasseriddin Shah, Kareena Kapoor to Deepti Navel and Shabana Azmi to Rakhi Sawant and EVERYONE in between- Students, Strugglers, One-hit wonders, Fallen stars, Etc, etc. It has been months of phone calls, texts, waiting, more phone calls, e-mails, rickshaws, taxis, more e-mails, trains, meetings, more waiting, cancelations, rescheduling, lunches, coffee's, make-up trailers, interviews and of course thousands of photographs. 

The legendary actor Amibabh Bachchan recently said in his blog entry on the subject of family, "We are all islands of singular individuality... but what has been fascinating for me is the fact that we reached out and held each others hand, in a unique gesture of being one..." I completely agree and know from my know experience of the world, that community is family and family at its core is binding love. I sincerely hope the hand of this project will touch fans all over the world.