Don’t Neglect the Bargain Bin









What stars Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, David Moscow (famous for playing David Jacobs in Disney’s Newsies,) future Mentalist star Simon Baker, and former Cosby kid, Malcolm-Jamal Warner? Well, that would be a movie I found in the bargain bin at Walmart back when I was in college called Restaurant (1998.) In fact, Adrien Brody received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for his role in the film about the lives of struggling actors working in a restaurant. It’s actually a really decent film, and I was surprised to find that a film of good quality could end up in the bargain bin.

Julia Roberts has even had movies end up in the bargain bin, one of them being her film debut in Satisfaction. Roberts co-starred alongside Liam Neeson, and Family Ties star, Justine Bateman (whom the film was geared around as a “star vehicle.” ) In the end, it was Julia Roberts who became the household name, but not because of this film. It’s cheesy, but it’s also really interesting as an actor to see how stars, as we know them today, have evolved and grown since their earlier work. I previously blogged about the movie Deeply, starring Kirsten Dunst. I also found that movie in the bargain bin.

I’ve found television series that I used to love as a kid, B-movies of my favorite actors, and some classic films as well. Some stuff is really really bad, other stuff is really good. But the bargain bin should never be neglected. Target has some great deals on really great movies and they usually start at $5. I cannot tell you how great it is to be able to afford some of my favorite movies, and discover new ones too.  One of my acting teachers has always told me to watch bad acting, watch good acting, observe your fellow actors. From an audience’s stand-point, a movie is in the bargain bin because it’s “bad.”From my acting stand-point, I feel bad that others perceive bargain bin movies as awful.

Early on in Julia Roberts career, when she made her film debut in my future bargain bin purchase with the movie Satisfaction, it was more than likely, the biggest break she had in her career at that point. She was making her film debut with Liam Neeson who had already established himself in some fashion, and the “it girl,”  Justine Bateman who was starring on Family Ties. If I were Julia Roberts, I’d be freaking out if I got a part like that with someone who was established on a well-known television series.  Who knows how she feels about that project now.  The way I see it, all projects, whether blockbusters or not, are learning experiences that we can grow from as actors. Plus, when you’re on a budget and you’re a struggling actor, the bargain bin can be awesome.

Cheesy Made-For-Television Movie Actor: Kellie Martin

Tori Spelling and Kellie Martin in “Death of a Cheerleader” (1994)

I have a confession. One of my career goals is to be in a made-for-television movie. Preferably on the Lifetime “Television for Women” Network. I’m already able to cross the cheesy re-enactment series off my list, but the made-for-television movie has been hard to come by for me. What I wouldn’t give to cry uncontrollably in the bathroom with a bottle of fake pills and smash a mirror. Or cut & dye my hair and smash a mirror. Those are the cheesy moments I live for as an audience member and what I want to experience as an actor, at least once.

Several actors I have previous blogged about have been in made-for-television movies, movies-of-the-week, or “Cheesy Lifetime Movies.” Kirsten Dunst, mentioned in my previous post, appeared as a teen mom before it became “cool” to play one, in the movie Fifteen and Pregnant. Two-time Oscar winner, Hilary Swank, starred as a violent teen in Terror in the Family in 1996. Teen stars from TV seem to gravitate towards doing  the made-for-tv movie( maybe because they feel at home on television): Melissa Joan Hart, Candace Cameron Bure, and Nancy McKeon all became well-known for doing several movies for television.

In my opinion, one reigns supreme, with so many TV movies to her credit, I stopped counting when I hit 20.: Kellie Martin.  She has 63 television credits, most of which are TV movies. I remember seeing her in the 90s, in movies like Death of a Cheerleader and The Face on the Milk Carton. A lot of the movies were “based on a true story” or “inspired by actual events.” She’s played a killer, a mental disturbed teen, a young abused mother–pretty much every character description under the sun. Here are some samples of her work:

And just for fun, here’s the trailer for future Oscar-winner, Hilary Swank’s TV movie, Terror in the Family:

It just goes to show ya kids, don’t knock a TV movie, there might be a future Oscar-winning in it.

Canadian Connection: Kirsten Dunst in “Deeply” (2000)

Kirsten Dunst as Silly in “Deeply” (2000)

Every once and a while, I notice some weird indie films on an actor’s IMDB page that intrigue me simply due to the fact that they are rarely, widely released films. Oftentimes, when I am looking up an actor’s credits whom I admire, I realize that, yeah, they do the work whether it’s “successful” or not. It’s work. I’ve also noticed that, many times over, actors seem to gravitate towards movies that are produced in Canada. There was a great article written by about the benefits of filming movies in Canada (whether they are Canadian or American produced.) The thing I find interesting about the article is the fact that there is a tax break on digital effects by 20% given that one of the two highest paid actors is Canadian.

Not only that, but due to the fact that it is simply cheaper to film across the boarder, many American television series film in Canada. Fringe, although set in Boston, filmed in NYC for the first year, it moved to Vancouver, British Columbia for its second season, and has remained there ever since.

So, it’s no wonder that American actors seem to go to Canada to find work. Actress/director, Judith Ivey, reportedly worked in the Canadian theater for six years during the course of her career.

In 2000, Kirsten Dunst went up to Canada to film the German/Canadian produced film, Deeply, co-starring the late Lynn Redgrave. From Canadian director/writer, Sheri Elwood, it is an interesting indie film.

A mythic memory play in the vein of The Wicker Man, Deeply is the story of a traumatized teenager, Claire McKay, who is brought to the Island of her ancestors in the hopes of she will recover from the sudden death of her first love. Claire encounters an eccentric writer, Celia, who tells her the story of another grief-stricken teenager, Silly, and the curse which has haunted the Island since the days of the Vikings. As Celia recounts the story of Silly and her great loss, a story that is yet without an ending, Claire relives her own trauma and undergoes a catharsis which sets her spirit free, healed of the grief and horror. As Celia said, a good story does indeed have the power to heal. But the ending to Celia’s story has still to be written…  (From IMDB)

I must admit, this film can be a tad confusing upon the first viewing, and Kirsten Dunst’s accent is really wonky and all over the place, but all in all, it’s a film worth checking out. If not for the acting, for the cinematography. Oh, and there’s what I’m calling a “Jack & Rose from Titanic Moment” in there too. You’ll just have to watch it to find out what it is.  Thank you Canada for all you do for Hollywood.