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Confessions of a B-Movie actor

Billy Garberina – Rennaissance Man of the Low-Bud movie world. Actor, Writer, Director, Editor, Fur-Bikini Clad Barbarian.

This cat has done it all, and I do mean all. Anything goes with Ol’ Bill, which is exactly why I was so excited to get him on board for The Hollywood Hand-Off and, kids, he does not dissapoint. Now here’s Mrs. Garberina’s favorite son with his reflections on a career spent in the trenches of moviedom

(and just a little advisory here… this is certainly NOT FOR BLIND KIDS as Irwin Mainway would say… meaning NSFW boys and girls. Be forewarned)

Hollywood Hand-off

Billy GarberinaWhen Axel reminded me to write a piece for this column, I’d just spent half the previous day having fake sex with Desirae Saetia, and the current day with a fake rubber dong sticking up through a popcorn bucket trying to convince Ms. Saetia’s character to “try the popcorn” while thesping a very bad Sly Stallone impression. Classy times. Truly Kodak moments.

I wish I could say that my experience with fake humping and rubber dongs was unique to the set of that movie. The truth is I have somehow found myself an old hand at it. A veteran of the rubber dong dry humpin’ wars, as it were. I could practically teach a master acting class on the subject actually.

Humping girls with your pants on is always a dodgy proposition. If you don’t get a boner, is she upset because she feels like you don’t think she’s hot? If you do get a stiffey, is it awkward because this nice actress you’re inadvertently rubbing your junk on is becoming a little more familiar with your measurements than you planned? Was it really all that inadvertent? Will she call me in the morning?

Actor problems; they manifest in the oddest ways.

DEATHBONE – ’nuff said?

I remember trudging off a plane from Rochester after playing a delightfully villainous and sexually ambiguous character in Frankenfurter drag named “La Femme La Douche” in the unfortunately titled WET HEAT. It was my first movie shoot in upstate New York and my first of what has become many adventures hanging tough with the LBP gang and head auteur Chris Seaver. I got picked up at the Albuquerque Sunport (yes, it’s really called that) and found myself complaining to fellow filmmaker Craig Butler that I had less than 36 hours to get my head together and take care of business at home before flying to Wisconsin for another lead with a whole other group of people I had no previous contact with (big shout out to Autumn Night Studios, Lazarus Entertainment and writer/director Krist Rufty). He sort of chuckled and poked fun at me accusing me of having terrible “actor problems”.

Of course he was right. If you count the total number of feature length movies shot in any given year of ANY budget, then subtract the number that make it past principle photography and reduce that figure to the number that ever get finished & distributed you’re looking at a really, really tiny number of opportunities. The simple truth is there are WAY more actors than there are parts to go around and any opportunity on any set is exactly that: an opportunity. Craig reminded me of the actual suffering and struggling of actors in Albuquerque and scolded me for being lucky to have the problem of a 36 hour turn around between gigs.

As The President Of New Mexico in DEFECTIVE MAN!

So I get to Wisconsin and am on the set of the still unreleased PSYCHO HOLOCAUST, in which I get pissed on, raped and then raped to death while Trent Haaga giggles and stuffs his face full of canned chicken and Raine Brown (nailed to a chair) shriek-wails in her own inimitable fashion. Sometimes in an actor’s life you might find yourself with a seven foot tall Scot in a weird mask rubbing his junk on you and things kind of snap into and back out of focus. “What the fuck am I doing?” is not an uncommon question arising in one’s interior monologue. Not that I could give voice to that thought, as I was also gagged with an American flag. I think Rufty was going for a family friendly piece.

After reading that last bit I’m not quite sure why that movie hasn’t been released. I mean, I’d pay to see that scene. Wouldn’t you?

Another time, I barely finished a brutal shoot directing STIFFED (my next feature premiering in Albuquerque in mid October) with only enough time to get to the airport. I was summarily tossed on a plane, leaving my Albuquerque team to finish a few 2nd unit odds and ends over the next few days without me. About 8 hours later, I stumbled off that plane, ferried to a set somewhere in Greenbay, Wisconsin where I was thrown into another car with Samantha Novak. “Billy this is Sam, Sam; Billy”. Sam, a lovely and fantastically talented actress in her own right then performs a delightful head-bobbing-and-riding-me marital affair scene before I even have time to review my lines. We were both lucky I had the presence of mind to ask for Tic Tacs.

Billy takes a beating in STIFFED

Still shooting WICKED WOOD a few days later I’m getting to know Sam a little better now that we’ve already been rather intimate.  Call me a romantic, but I like to get to know the actresses I’m thrown into a back seat situation with. I get a call a close friend’s wife got killed in a bus crash in Mexico and my step dad’s dog that lives in the back yard of my house got mauled to death. Separated by distance, dollars and a “show must go on philosophy” I have little choice but to trust my family and friends in Albuquerque and finish up the shoot.  I get home to Albuquerque to that mayhem and to find everyone is pitching in on some 5th unit shooting for Don Adam’s DOZERS. In that one, I get a little extra screen time as a crazed EMT who chokes a topless red head to death in a Jacuzzi. In this case, said redhead is a friend who has appeared in several projects around ABQ.

In a very direct way, this is actually all my fault. When I set out to be an actor, I wanted to actually act. I wanted nothing less than decent sized, “meaty” roles in projects and not to be the third guy on the left behind Val Kilmer. I figured out that to be an actor in LA is actually a horrible, horrible thing. In the year I spent there, I had a few jobs, a few auditions…but in the end my connections and work was all  predicated on two people; a friend from high school and a friend from college who were both living there.

In acting, there are at any given time in a city like LA a minimum of 20,000 of whatever it is you are, your “type”.  And all of them are something more than you…taller, shorter, uglier, better looking, blue eyed, green eyed, darker skinned, fairer skinned, fatter, muscle bound, slightly-more-blowing-the-director-than-you…everything. And they ALL have been living there five, ten, fifteen years longer and know the agents, the scene, the auditions…the infrastructure. I say all this as a warning and a road map to actors everywhere…they also ALL have a “dream”.

Getting “down n’ dirty” in Scott Phillips’ GIMME SKELTER

I swear to the HighHolyBabyChristmasJesus that actors need to get over “believing in themselves” and their “dreams”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the best thing in the world to have a dream, to have passion…but the reality is that two million grains of sand can’t all push through the pinhole at the same time if the sand is wet and the hour glass is upside down.

I got into this racket specifically because I wanted to be an actor and a writer. What I’ve found is that actors and writers put themselves at the mercy of a system that doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. As an actor/writer you are always waiting for someone else to make things happen for you.

Someone else has to provide an audition. Someone else has to read the script. If you make it past the audition to the call back, do you get the role? If you get the role does the project fall apart in pre-production? Production? Post? If it makes it past post, will it get screened? Go to festivals? Win awards? Get distribution? And after all that, is it worth a damn? Is the movie any good? Was your best footage left on the cutting room floor? A writer and his script parallels this torturous journey but is worse because writers actually spend time working to generate scripts which then get gangbanged by everyone starting with the producers and ending with the editor. Somewhere in the middle, the actors get to throw some load on it too. And your reward? Anxiety, poor fiscal gains and the swift kick in the guillunes that you have to start over from scratch…more auditions, more writing. Ad infinitum.

Roughin’ it in the upcoming THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED

What I’m getting at is that if you’re going to be an actor or a writer, you have to make your own opportunities. I have never had so much contact with the LA or NYC industry since leaving those places to go back to Albuquerque to make my own movies. Hollywood is not a geographic location so much as it is where YOU can make YOUR movie…for me that’s the hometown.

So over the last ten years, I’ve directed five features, produced seven and appeared in something like thirty plus features, mostly leads and featured characters. This was made possible because I stopped whining and waiting for someone to figure out how brilliant I am and decided to take control of my own career. When I did that, I met and was summarily subjected to people with my same unfortunate set of aesthetics.  Moreover, these were and continue to be people with the same can-do attitude that makes independent cinema possible.

Co-written and Co-directed by… Billy Garberina?!

That being said, cinema and acting being the totally stable and reasonable life choice that it is, I’m actually living in NYC right now, going to NYU…to get a graduate degree in social work.

This actually serves several interesting aims. In social work school, the instructors all chuckle that people don’t get into an MSW program because of the money. Hilariously, the median salary of a professional social worker is light years ahead of say, broke independent filmmaker, or destitute actor. Also, in social work, I get to interact in a helpful, meaningful way with drug addicts, alcoholics and the mentally ill. This is the perfect primer for working with people you find on any given film set. Not to disparage anybody I’ve worked with in social services…they are actually usually more personable and better adjusted than most industry folk.

Zombie epic STINK OF FLESH co-starring… Billy Garberina?!

I suppose I am all over the map here. The life of an actor seems to consist of professional work with the chemically addicted and mentally ill. You need a command of a variety of technical skills, emotional attunement and rubber dildos. It’s also nice to introduce yourself to a young lady before committing to some depiction of the primal scene en flagrante.

I have not now and will never quit making movies. Most people think they need hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a movie. I feel if me and my gang can make something TRULY GREAT, then people will take notice…I’m just not convinced we’ve made it yet, but we’re getting there…take by grueling take, project by unforgiving project. I’ve got a ton of great stuff in post and even more stuff in development for the future. Never surrender, never say die and never ever quit.

 But do yourself a favor and cultivate a reasonable day job in the meantime…even actors have to eat, convince people to have real sex with them and pay off their bookies now and again.

Hard at work on GIMME SKELTER? or proctology exam gone horribly awry?

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