Japan 2017 – Day 3 March 20

Today we got up early due to the time difference, even though we are NOT morning people. By 8:30AM, Kaz, Rick, and John Jack had gone off to teach acting class.Actors Headshot Los Angeles Photographer

After poking about and having morning coffee, checking email, and reading a bit of the ever depressing news from the States, our friend, Seri came by and we nosed about Shinjuku a bit before going to hang out with Kaz and gang.

There were a few actors who had signed up to get head shots done, so I was busy doing that while Kaz translated. We were in a hallway of a building and I was checking out the light there but had decided against shooting there. As we were leaving the area, I looked down and there on the floor was a very special necklace that I had given Kaz years ago. Somehow it had simply fallen off and I found it. Weird.

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After a LONG day of waiting for the teachers to stop chatting with actors, we headed off to the “Robot Restaurant”. It’s a huge production with robots “fighting” dragons, and other robots, and dancing ninjas, and crazy mad costumes of all sorts. It was a formidable costume and light show with lots of loud music. First of all, allow me to clarify…it is NOT a restaurant in any way, shape, or form. It is an amazing, wonderful, colorful, fantastic show….if you are 8-10 years old. Otherwise you will feel completely ripped off. Maybe we’re jaded because we are from LA LA Land, but it takes more that costumes, lasers, and jumping around for me to be drawn in.

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We got a kick out of that and wound our way out of Robot hell to try and find a bar. Dan, Rick’s brother, mentioned there was a fairly famous bar nearby. It’s the Albatros Bar and was visited and recommended by Anthony Bourdain when he was in Tokyo.

When we got there we were informed there wasn’t much room left except a bit in the upstairs loft overlooking a small part of the city. That was great for us, so we headed up the stairs.   The group of Californias asked us “Did you take JAL from LA on Friday?   We were sitting in front of you guys.”   We found out they were at the same show at the Robot Restaurant.  AND one of them were living in SF – where Dan works, and his cousin lives in Little Tokyo in LA.    What are the odds, eh? In all of Tokyo, we ran into them 3 times.

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We had a good laugh, tried to join them for drinks but there wasn’t enough room where they were or where we were the next floor up….so who knows, maybe we’ll run into them again in LA.

When in Tokyo, it’s hard to keep track of time because everything is lit and even at 2 or 3AM people will be scurrying about the city, so at some point we made it back to our house just a little worse for wear.

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Japan 2017 – Day 1 – March 18

Journey to Japan – Day 1

Boarding a plane bound for Japan is an exercise in mixed feelings. We’re SO HAPPY to be going but dreading being trapped in an aluminum tube at 37 thousand feet for 12 hours.Michael Helms Los Angeles Headshot Photographer
I’m jealous of those who can sleep on planes…I can’t. So, I have found the best way for me to pass time is to catch up on all the movies I haven’t seen. “LA LA LAND” was first on my list. What a horrid film…slow paced, predictable, schmaltzy, and I’m sorry but Emma and Ryan are neither singers or dancers. Watch Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire…listen to Julie Andrews or Judy Garland sing.
On the other hand, I LOVED “Moonlight” and feel it deserved to win. Well shot, directed, acted, and a wonderful story that walked a tough line concerning a sensitive and current topic. Sadly, the people who SHOULD see it, probably won’t.
I saw “Doctor Strange” – liked it a lot and recommend it. I’d watch Benedict Cumberbatch read a phone book.

We arrived at Narita Airport and on our way to pick up our baggage, Squi was running through the airport, tripped, fell, smacked his face on the floor and got a black eye. Great….we hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come.

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We got to AirBnB rented house in Shinjuku around 3 in the afternoon and Kaz had to leave soon after to go teach an acting class. Squi and I decided to have a treasure hunt, so we went out on our own and wondered around. The “treasure hunt” consisted of taking photos as we went so we could find our way back home. I think it worked better than bread crumbs. But ultimately we were too tired to walk very far, so we found our way back home, put our feet up, and watched Sumo Wrestling!
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John Jack, the head honcho at The Stella Adler Acting Academy arrived that evening.
So when Kaz got back, we started our first food search.Los Angeles Headshot Photographer
We knew of a teeny hole in the wall restaurant in an alley in Shinjuku called Shinagawa Tei. The restaurant has room for about 8-10 guests and is owned and operated by a little old lady and her son. It’s a VERY popular local eatery and is practically impossible to get reservations but the last time we were there we just walked in at the right time and got seats! So we thought we’d go by and just say hello. As fate would have it, we got there just as they were opening and we got to eat there again!!! When we walked in the little old lady looked at Kaz and said, “OH….Matamura-san!!” We were stunned that she remembered us but so happy to get to have more of their wonderful food.Los Angeles Actors Headshot Photographer

We love Japan and I’m pretty sure living there part time will be in our future. Also – MANY of these blogs will mention food! Food you can’t get in the US, food that you can get in the US but is WAAAYYY better over there, and food served in a way (both in terms of service and presentation) that you can’t find here in the US.Los Angeles Actors Headshot Photographer Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

After our meal, we wondered around a bit in Shinjuku before we met up with Rick, an instructor  from Stella Adler, who was also coming in to join the teaching forces.
We’d been up for a LONG time, so after a snack and too many Asahi beers, we crashed  at our house, happy, full, and excited about the days to come!

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Year 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR

So, we have said goodbye to 2016. One thing that is always good this time of year is that we all get to start 2017 with a clean slate and good intentions. New Year’s resolutions aside, it is a good time to see what was positive in 2016 and continue doing whatever it was with renewed vigor. We get to fix what was broken and keep what worked.

In the business of being an actor, it’s easy to let things slide because you are your own boss. Not too many agents in LA are going to call you up and ask how you are, how was your day, and how they can help get you more work.

Most agents these days just want to cut contracts. As harsh as that may sounds, when you look at it from their perspective, they have a huge pool of people who want to be actors and very little time to develop and guide individuals. YOU have to get the work and then they will do the contract deal. That means you have to make sure they have all the tools they need at their disposal. Your resume, reel, and head shot must all be up to date and available.

In less than a year, if you are going out much at all, most casting directors will have already looked at your head shot. Whether you got an audition or not, your photo has been out there and, hopefully, circulating. With that thought in mind, your head shot can become “stale”. If you are being submitted (or are submitting yourself) but are not getting any auditions, then you need a new head shot. If you have five head shots and only two of them are getting you called in, then replace the other 3 with something new.

Point is, your head shot is your first point of attack, your first calling card, and your first opportunity to get in the door. To let that slide is to undermine your career from the get go.

I look forward to seeing you all in 2017. Start the New Year with a fresh shot and listen for opportunity to knock!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Michael Helms

 

Happy New Year -

Happy New Year –

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Shooting engagement in Nashville!

We are going to see my parents in Nashville in September to cerebrate Squi’s 3rd birthday!

So, while we are there – I thought I should shoot some artists!   Contact Kaz via email to make an appt!

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Charlie and the Big Bad World

AH yes…social injustice… a familiar bell ringing in my old hippie ear. Shall I wade in?? Well…I’ll go in ankle deep here, OK.

This is not a problem that has a solution. At the very best, it has only agreements to disagree.

I disagree profoundly with the KKK but I defend their right to free speech and, yes, even when it points it’s boney finger of vitriol my direction because of some of the beliefs I hold dear.

I have an idea…”Hey, Muslims, if you don’t like Charlie Hebdo cartoons, don’t look at them” because there are MILLIONS of your brothers who are peace loving, free speech defending, and TRUTHFUL practitioners of your “faith”. Matter of fact, a police officer that these guys murdered was a Muslim.

In a society, we have to have rules, laws, and boundaries. I could possibly drive 50MPH in a 25MPH zone but there are laws against that because at some point in time, lawmakers decided the risk to reward balance was too great to drive faster than 25.

Even though I am (confession alert!) a bit of a voyeur and even a bit of an exhibitionist, I don’t have or watch sex in public because there are laws against it (damn!). I SHOULD be able to freely copulate in a city square, but some Bible thumper took exception to it when someone did it once, so lawmakers did their thing.

This silly analogy can be extended to the extreme, as it was/is with Charlie Hebdo.

The French have laws against veils, crosses, etc etc for a just that particular social reason. Frankly, I’m iffy about it, but if I were Muslim, I’d abide by that law because it is the law of the land I choose to live in. Don’t like it? MOVE, or get involved in the accessible French system and lobby for changes you deem necessary and acceptable.

Terrorism has historically not worked and now the Muslims have an even BIGGER PR problem. Even folks who disagree with some of Charlie’s provocative tactics, have now come to defend their “right” to publish what they will. Millions of dollars have now poured in to keep that magazine running and people are flocking to want to work for the publication.

A blog I recently read stated, “And as I write this, I get this feeling the third world war has already begun, and nobody has quite understood that yet (and I also hope I’m wrong).”

The hope I maintain is that we are now coming into an age where people are more informed, more educated, and more world aware. With education, statistics suggest, religion dissipates and it’s power shrinks. Not in my lifetime, I know, and probably not even in the lifetime of my children, but if humanity survives, my hope is a larger awareness of the consequences of actions will precede the actions themselves. That is my HOPE.

In the meantime, I turn 65 in March and am able to see more clearly the scope and limitations of my own sphere of influence to make this hope become flesh. But as I have produced two children who now share and spread this hope, Mr. Jihadist just had a litter of 7.

Rather than take up more space, I will simply refer you all to the Bard, who said it best.

Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” Act II, Scene VII   http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/you-it-act-ii-scene-vii-all-worlds-stage

Charlie Hebdo

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Headshot Photography Workshop –

Special Intensive Weekend Workshop:

Saturday, September 14 –
Sunday, September 15 –
(9 AM to 5 PM)

Saturday, 9 AM to 12 noon – Introduction
Saturday, 1 PM to 5 PM – Basic 

Sunday, 9 AM to 12 noon – Intermediate
Sunday, 1 PM to 5 PM – “Starting up as a business” / Special Guests

Two Days for $350

Individual Workshop:
Introduction $120
Basic: $150
Intermediate: $200
Seminar: “Starting up your photography business”: $120

Question?  email

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Japan Trip – Glass Making

A day after the funeral, we decided to do something creative to cheer us up.
My GF’s friend, Seri, set up the glass making class for me.

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Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer My cheek hurt … it’s hard to get the bubble going, but once you do, then it gets easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLICK HERE for Michael Helms – Glass Making Video
Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

I decided to make a bowl. I chose a kind of teal color with a red rim. Here we are shaping it a bit before blowing again to enlarge it.

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

 

 

Here I’m expanding the opening in the bubble to create a bowl. It takes a little pressure at first and getting the bowl perfectly round is tricky.

 

 

 

Still expanding the bubble to form the bowl while the glass is red hot. Then I changed the angle of the tongs to flare the top of the bowl a bit.

 

In these last two photos, you can see the finished bowl. It has a bubble in the glass, a flaw but some glass blowers think of it as character and leave them in. I like the “flaw”.

Also…my bowl isn’t perfectly symmetrical, but

again, I like it. Gives it character.

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

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Untitled

Today’s Odd Journey

I flew hang gliders for about 34 years but officially retired about 6 years ago. It was a sad day and I miss flying terribly. Today I drove over to the place where all the hang gliders land.

Soon as we exchanged greetings my friend Joe offered,”Hey wanna fly this glider?” and I said “Nah, I don’t have a harness” then another pilot/friend, Fred volunteered,”I’ve got a harness”. Me,”I don’t have a helmet”. Fred,”I have a helmet, too!”

Next thing I knew, I was headed up the mountain with a truck load of fellow flyers. We quickly set up our flying machines then ran off the mountain into the beautiful sky. I visited places a few miles away that I hadn’t seen in a long time and watched as a Red Tailed Hawk circled in an updraft hundreds of feet below me.

So many memories from hundreds of hours floating thousands of feet above the Earth were flooding my brain.

One particular memory was  meeting my dear friend, Wayne Yentis.  I met Wayne 25 years ago in the hang gliding landing zone (LZ). He was a tall lanky man with a twinkle in his eye and was most probably the brightest individual I have ever met. Truly a renaissance man… he was an artist, a photographer, an electrical engineer, a musician, a computer genius, an inventor (of  the Clavitar) and a host of other things. He knew more about more than anyone I have ever known. Wayne had a recording studio in his house and was constantly sending me files of music he had written, played, and produced. Beautiful music.

One particular day I was in his studio and we were having a beer…or two…or many… and I got this goofy idea to take Karaoke music and substitute hang gliding lyrics. It was utterly silly stuff that made no sense to anyone other than another hang glider pilot but in our compromised condition, it seemed a marvelous plan.

I said to Wayne “How about “I got VG?” as I sang the tune of “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher.  He beer giggled.

For non-hanglider pilots, VG stands for “Variable Geometry” and refers to a string a hang glider pilot can pull that changes the shape of the wing in flight.

Then I started singing “On the Road Again” just like Willie Nelson, except I sang “In the Air Again.”

More beer giggles as Wayne recorded and mixed it.

The following week, I played one of our recordings for a fellow pilot who unwittingly believed we were serious and asked for a copy of it! Nothing feeds a gag like having an audience so I drove back to Wayne’s house with more beer, more Karaoke, and more silly lyrics. We recorded 15 songs, 12 of which made our cut onto the “Pelican Tunes” CD. When word got out, the local pilots bought them like hotcakes, then the Editor of Hang Gliding Magazine somehow got his paws on a CD and gave it a rave review in the international magazine! We were amused that pilots enjoyed the absurdity and got the jokes. Orders started coming in and we sold this CD all over the world.  That was over 7 years ago.

Today after about an hour of flight, I touched down and chatted with the guys in the LZ, when one of them mentioned “Pelican Tunes” had been used in a video of the European Hang Gliding Championships. I was shocked to say the least. SO…I did what any irresponsible gag writer would do, I Googled it…and wow….there it was…

I  seriously considered doing “Pelican Tunes 2” but Wayne Yentis passed away this Wednesday January 23rd, and with the passing of my partner in crime, my motivation is gone. The lyrics in my desk drawer will have to collect dust as the ink fades.

But have a beer and enjoy our goofy time together on YouTube.

Here’s to Wayne.

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Repost – Japan Trip 2011 – Day Two – 11/12/11

Los Angeles Photographer Michael Helms goes to JapanYesterday was eventful. I spent pretty much all day at a local studio. My gf, who does a lot of management, PR, scheduling, office duties, and a host of other things for my business, worked out a deal with the 3 owners of an art studio not too far from where we are staying at the Shinjuku Hilton.

We arrived at the studio, and the first thing the head dude said to me was he knew me from DA and was a fan. That seemed to me a good way to start but the next words out of his mouth were asking if I’d shoot some nudes of HIM! OK….awkward moment. I assumed the other two guys knew my work also (figured he told them) so I said,”Sure…no problem”.
I spent the entire day shooting the 3 guys and doing wacky images of them and of course, a nude of the leader of the pack. Part of the deal is, I had to shoot photos of their studio for the web. They moved into this new space just two weeks ago and were pretty excited to get the ball rolling on renting and doing their art thing. I was impressed at some of the paintings and sculpture around. There was a five foot long and 4 foot tall walking fish that was equally amusing and creepy.
Another deal that my lovely gf worked out was for me to shoot a few photos in exchange for my tour guide services and translator. So after spending the entire day shooting, I was ready to take a break.
BUT… a dinner was held here at the Hilton in honor of my friend Jim Beaver who is here with us. I mentioned in my last journal, he is one of the lead actors on “Supernatural”. I have never seen the show, so I had no idea of it’s popularity but I’ve been educated by the people mobbing him. Poor guy. He is ever so gracious to his fans.
Again, my gf did the event planning, so the dinner was wonderful. She had scheduled him time at every table, so not one fan was disappointed. Each fan got to ask him a couple of questions, have a photo op (guess who took those photos?), and be generally in the presence of someone they admired. I DO have to say that I never really understand the whole star struck thing though. Guess I’ve been living in LA and rubbing shoulders with enough celebs that I have a clear idea about them being just ordinary people with extraordinary jobs. Jim however, is an extraordinary guy.
He walked around Tokyo yesterday site seeing by himself. But it seems his iPhone GPS signal was bouncing off the buildings so was horribly inaccurate. He got lost. He was a bit frustrated but decided to sit, have a meal, and figure it out. Thing is, he had bought a rather expensive gift for his daughter and didn’t have enough money to pay for lunch! LOL His Japanese is sparse, so he struggled and struggled to try and tell the poor waitress his issue. He finally returned to his iPhone and a translation app, and was able to tell the story. The waitress was fairly upset because she said the owner would be upset at her. It was a tiny lil hole in the wall place (where the best food is always found), and so they didn’t take credit cards. He wandered around FOREVER (his words) to find an ATM, then went back and paid the balance. The waitress was ASTONISHED Los Angeles Photographer Michael Helms goes to Japanthat he returned. I’m not… it’s exactly what I would expect of him, and of course, exactly what I would do.
He got lost on his way back to the hotel, but finally made it in time to shower for dinner.
After dinner, I was surprised to find out one of the fans had GIFTED us all with a “nice” visit to the local KARAOKE bar!!!! Can I just state for the record, how much I detest even the IDEA of karaoke?? OMFG. SO…off we go, and I ordered copious amount of Asahi to survive. Self medication was MY approach to surviving karaoke. I could write 27 entire journals about the evils of karaoke, but the Japanese are freaks for it… well, that and panchinko….but that’s another story. So there we sat, Jim, my gf and I, and a bunch of Japanese fans of Supernatural, in a room with a HUGE video screen, two unfortunate microphones, lots of beer for me, and OMFG… (you really can’t make this stuff up)…TAMBORINES!!! I no longer have any fear of hell because I certainly have been there.
Los Angeles Photographer Michael Helms goes to JapanAfterwards, the three of us strolled (well, THEY strolled, I staggered)  back to the hotel, through streets of hookers, temples, BAD American fast food (yes – you CAN get a SPAM burger here at the local Burger King), and shop after shop of souvenirs.
How the tour guide/translator, one of our friends, Jim, my gf, and someone I still don’t know, all ended up back in our room drinking, I have no idea….but I fell asleep…content with another madhouse day in Japan.

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re-Post – Japan Trip 2011 Part 1 – “Off to Japan”

Nov 6, 2011, 11:44:12 PM

Los Angeles Photographer Michael HelmsWell…My girlfriend and I are off to Japan next Wednesday, the 9th. We’re pretty excited. Although we’re gonna be there for more than two weeks, I think we only have two days off. We have speaking engagements teaching engagements, and I have shooting to do. We arrive in Tokyo and then head West to Osaka and Okayama. We’re gonna speak at the Osaka Mode Institute of Beauty. Then to Okayama to visit a Sake brewery that we are trying to help bring their distributorship to the US. I’ll probably shoot some of the corporate dudes there.
Then we’re off to Nagoya to visit another institute and speak. Back to Tokyo for a second then on to Sendai. We’ll stop by our house there and take a few pix and check the harbor we loved so much. Most of it is probably destroyed but I’m gonna shoot a lot there and try to get some record of the recovery efforts taking place. After that, we head North to Akita International University. My girlfriend and I are both speaking there to students about characteristics of successful international entrepreneurs. Her topics will be “body language, image, and cultural norms in corporate structure. My topics will include image making, demographic identification, and marketing – all of course with emphasis on photography. I’ll also be shooting some actress there who is evidently well known in Japan….geeez…I don’t know.
Then we’re heading back down to Sendai and Minamisanriku, which was pretty much earthquake ground zero. 95% of the town was destroyed and 50% of the population is gone. I’m gonna try to focus on the recovery and not the devastation. If you go to Google Earth and type in Minamisanriku, it is a sad sight to see.
From there we head back to Tokyo where I’ll be teaching a head shot workshop. We head home the next day. Somewhere in there we have a day off I think.If you are in Japan, please stalk us!! :) OK….I mean let’s have some SAKE!!!!
Here’s our itenerary:[link]

Maybe I’ll even get lucky and get a shot of a cute Harajuku girl! I’ll be there too!

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