Thursday 27 May 2010

Auditions & Rejection.

Most trained actors have two distinct skills. One, is acting. The other, is moaning about rejection. I sympathize, I do. But there is a lot to focus on other than the rejection.

Take for example, a film I've just cast. For the lead female role alone, I had 300 applicants. 220 of those weren't applicable, they didn't fill what was needed. I didn't reject them; they just simply didn't read the breakdown. Many of these actresses will feel like they were rejected.

Then I sorted through about eighty possibilities. I had to think about where they were located, how they would fit with my potential lead actor, their experience, how friendly they are and numerous other factors. 'How friendly they are' is a big one. About forty of the actresses were either impersonal, seemingly disinterested, or rude. Disinterested may seem like a strange thing, you wouldn't expect it from a young actress-- but it's common. Or maybe it's disillusionment. It normally comes in a covering letter that says, "Hi Mike. I'm interested in the role, I have lots of experience, Lucy." To begin with, my name isn't Mike. Secondly, when someone is really interested in a role, they express it. So at this stage-- many actresses are either rejecting themselves, or rejecting the idea of being cast in the film.

I mention disillusionment because many actors, after, say 50 failed applications, start to take it out on the process and the person they're emailing. They may have spent a month writing beautiful crafted, inspired and personal covering letters to casting directors for various projects, with no success. That's sad, it's disappointing, but it wasn't the fault of me or my project; yet, the after-effects of the actor's previous failures show up in the emails I receive. World-weariness is not an attractive feature in a potential collaboration.

The audition itself is a fascinating process. I'm very aware of the strange rank that directors have. Whereby, I could be a car salesman by day, but if I call myself a Director by night; I am afforded a strange superiority in an audition room. Many Director's play up to this - making auditions difficult for actors. That's usually down to ego, or inexperience, or both in a Director. For me, I don't use this power - certainly not in the way many others do. Instead, I'm just excited. There are, say, seven actresses coming to read for us -- and I'm excited because, having filtered through 300 people, I've found seven of whom I want to meet and see if they're what we need in the film. Already, the seven actresses have achieved something incredible. Any actor who ever gets an audition should be aware that they are doing magnificently; they are rising far above the crop of literally thousands of competitors. The mere fact you have an audition means someone involved in making a movie sees something in you that they want in their project. The more you have online in terms of headshots, videos, and details, the more you can be certain of your success-- despite a chance to be rejected for your look, acting, experience, hobbies, height, weight, weird feet, whatever-- despite all that, you're wanted in the room. You are an amazing success!

The problem is: when I audition seven people for a role, I can only use one. By this point, myself and the people helping me cast need to figure out; what actor is right for the role? Do they fit the energy of the film? Will they 'fit' opposite the other actors? Do they have the right coloring to fit in with the family members we cast? Usually at this point, 3 or 4 are out of the picture due to various answers from those questions. Those that are left, cause much pain for casting director's because they're all so great, and everyone is divided on who to cast. "Cast Donna with Michael, they'd look so amazing together!" "No no no, cast Katharine, she's got that perfect face for a monster!" "Hold on, what about Eva?". Etc etc. What is happening here is not rejection, it's figuring out who fits, figuring out how to make it work.

So we cast Eva. But I want to keep in touch with Donna and Katharine. I email them telling them that they're completely awesome, and that we should definitely do something soon. Unfortunately, Katharine and Donna may very well see this as a rejection. Of course, they didn't get the role, and that's disappointing. But is it the big thud of rejection that they're currently feeling as they consider changing careers? It's not. They were WONDERFUL, it's just that I can only cast one person, and even though they may very well be perfect for the role, it just so happens that someone else has a similar nose to the person playing their Dad, or they have the opposite hair color of their partner, or the costume people just rang up and said we can have the bigger size monster costume for free as there's one going spare, or a million other reasons.

Rejection is the worst possible term you can use when you don't get a role. The majority of the time, it's not rejection. And if you insist on calling it rejection-- be aware, along the way to whatever particular rejection you received, were many many positives. And there is always one more time.

Care to share?

Tuesday 25 May 2010

A Quick Acting Excercise.

Pick up a book. It has to be fictional. Preferably one you like. And it has to be written in the first person, i.e "I was/I am/etc". Read two pages.

After you've done that: read the same two pages but read them out loud.

You'll probably notice a big difference. When you just read it, it sounds perfect in your head. When you read it out loud, it's likely to sound a bit fake, a bit detached, even a bit over the top.

This is the challenge! Keep Reading it out loud until you are satisfied that it sounds as good as in your imagination. Keep doing it both ways-- why does the version in your head sound better? What is it doing differently to the spoken version? How can you make them the same?

Let me know how this excercise goes. You don't need to be a pro actor to do this!

Care to share?

Monday 24 May 2010

The Missing Voice Of Women In Film.

A couple of days ago I wrote an article Women, Men & The Film Industry. I am really grateful for the responses-- some interesting points were raised and are definitely in need of further discussion. However, I must say, I think at times I was a bit too vague about what I perceive to be the problem. So allow me to be a little more concise.

There is a voice that is MISSING from the world of film. And it is the voice of women.

Yes, Sofia Coppola made a couple of good movies. Yes, Kathryn Bigelow made THE HURT LOCKER. Both of these things are GREAT. But, they are exceptions. I am aware, also, that I am a male filmmaker. And I am aware that, industry-wise, I am not necessarily a 'success.' So I feel there may be many men like me, who have yet to carve out the careers we want--- so it seems odd to make a big thing about a 'lack of opportunities' for women when we ourselves are struggling for opportunities. That is a valid point and that is a discussion which I think we can have at some point. But this is an issue far bigger than my personal career.

For me to make a statement that we are missing the voice of women, that would of course insinuate that film is dominated by the voice of men. So what exactly is that voice saying? James D, in response to my previous article, said "Bigger films expect scantily-clad women and dashing men, but do women directors want to shoot that?". Another poster, Simon, said, "I think women are cut from the profession because the movies that draw in box office--predominately crap horror movies and romcoms--are unbearably sexist." I agree with these remarks. Of course, not all films are like that. But as generalizations go, these are pretty accurate.

I was holding an audition today for my next film. A friend of mine, an actress, is helping me cast. We were having a conversation about casting-- when she brought up, without my prompting or mentioning these blog articles-- a troubling experience she had recently with a man who was casting a short film. At the audition, he pushed her to do things that were not in the script, things of a more suggestive nature. And then, in the days that followed, he sent her many texts saying they should 'meet for drinks' to discuss the project. The more he told her about the project, the more troubling she found it.

The issue of the voice of women being missing in film, and the fact that so so many actresses have to deal with this bullshit in auditions and castings are NOT separate issues. They are connected, albeit at a distance. In the comments to the previous article it was great to see people engaging in a difficult subject, one that's hard to grasp and discuss because, it never really gets discussed. It gets mentioned, then passed over. I noticed in the comments, just like when I've talked about the issue with people face to face, there is a feeling that, "hopefully THE HURT LOCKER'S success will change things," or "Maybe actresses should be more careful," and these are very passive points of view. There's a feeling of helplessness. That for this issue to be taken seriously, Spielberg needs to deal with it, or Julia Roberts needs to start a campaign; rather than us exploring the notion that we play a part, as writers, directors, actors, bloggers, etc.

YES, the industry, even the viewers; tend to value scantily clad women. I won't lie, I loved Megan Fox in TRANSFORMERS. It wasn't because of her acting. But there is also a view that seems to permeate, a view that women, given the chance to direct, want to make Meg Ryan weepies, and movies about sisters coming to terms with grief. I think the point we need to wake up to is that, this is not entirely true. As it turns out, I, a guy, wouldn't mind making a Meg Ryan flick, and many women, as THE HURT LOCKER so aptly proved, have a lot more to say than the industry allows them.

I think, as an industry, we marginalize women - and, in the main, give them fluffy rom-coms to make. And we have a tendency to think that, if it's a big franchise or an 'important' movie, we give them to the men to make. I think this is wrong.

It is also true that nearly every young, upcoming actress, has had an inappropriate audition. Or maybe two of them. Or six. I have spent many years lecturing actress friends about their naivety, giving them tips on how to spot director's with bad intentions. But, actress naivety is not the problem. Just because you're a fresh, enthusiastic and beautiful 21 year old actress, it doesn't give men the right to abuse that. But they do, ruthlessly, every day-- across our industry. If any of you feel this is an exaggeration, perhaps I could get some actresses to give examples, even if anonymously, because the frequency of its occurrence would, I'm sure, surprise many of you.

My hope is that we can start to understand and begin to appreciate the depth of this issue. It's not simple, there are many layers to it. My hope is that, we can begin to see it as something that affects all of us and is caused by all of us. And my belief is that, by being more aware and by discussing it - we can begin to change things.

Care to share?

Saturday 22 May 2010

Women, Men & The Film Industry.

"The statistics of women in film are rubbish across the industry apart from hair and make-up, production assistants, and cinema cleaners! Perhaps one reason why few women move into directing films is that they don't see as many films from a female's perspective or female directors as role models."
-Rachel Millward

Our industry favors men more than women. This is indisputable. In Hollywood, 94% of films are directed by men. At Cannes this year, out of the twenty Palm D'or nominees, none of them are women. This is one element of the problem.

Here's something else. Nearly all actresses I know have had an experience where they've turned up at an audition, only to find out it's in some guy's apartment, and as it turns out; the scene she has to read is a little more sexual than expected. That's one example. There are many that are far worse. Of all the male actors I know, none have been presented with this problem. I have talked about this before, in my article 'Something All Young Actresses Should Be Aware Of'. "There is one magic way to meet women. And not just any women, but the most beautiful women you could find. It's a very simple sentence, "I'm casting a movie."" Absolutely anyone can hold auditions for a film. Anyone can register on, Casting Call Pro or Talent Circle - and there are people who abuse this.

Immediate thoughts come to mind such as 'This is a problem with society, not with the film industry' or 'I am a good guy, I don't do anything wrong.' This is a very convenient position to take and one that I, as a male in the film business, have often taken. When a newspaper reports that women are not getting their films funded, or that there are no meaty acting roles for them, I use my privilege as a man to disregard the matter; to not see it as my concern. By using this privilege, by not being accountable for it, I am becoming part of the problem. I'm being a bystander; ignoring a very real and very pressing problem in our industry.

Bringing awareness to this topic is new to me, and there is so much to be looked at, discussed, and processed. A good way to start would be to hear more. In what ways is the film industry unfair/prejudice? (i.e. acting roles, directors, etc), and in what ways are women potentially manipulated and put in danger? (i.e. unprofessional auditions, nude scenes, etc). I'm sure there are many, many things that I am not aware of -- and that's exactly why I'd encourage you to share them with the readers here.

I'd really like to hear from you all - men and women, on this topic. By hearing more around your concerns and issues, we can then go deeper into them. This is a discussion that needs to happen more in our industry, but generally doesn't. So let's start.

Care to share?

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Want Friends, Will Write

This blog has grown steadily and quietly over the last year-- it's been really exciting for me. The industry is full of fiery film geeks who can name the budget of Transformers 2 and can list the entire crew list of Pulp Fiction-- but it's hard to have a nice conversation about Billy Wilder, or a space to delve into deeper issues like creativity (or lack thereof), blocks/inner critics, and other inspirational things.

This site has given me the privilege of being able to focus on those things, and have you all along for the journey. You are all, it seems, very much like me. I am not the only one who spends sleepless nights watching Jimmy Stewart films from 1938 (or your own equivalent)-- we all do. There's something really powerful in that.

But I'd like there to be more of us. Part of that is the achievement driven side of me wanting a more successful blog. But far over-riding that is the part of me that feels more people would value this if only they knew about it. It's been great recently to have numerous guest bloggers, as well as interviews with some of the professional I admire the most, such as Joshua Malina, Scott Rosenberg, etc. I'd love their inspirational words to reach bigger audiences.

So I'm asking for a small favor. I'd really appreciate it if you could email five of your friends, and tell them about this blog and why you think they might appreciate it. Invite them to look at the site, or maybe even recommend a few particular articles on it.

Many of you already do this, and share articles on your Facebook walls, and for that I am extremely grateful. If you could personally recommend and invite five of your friends to come here; and others do the same, I think it would really add something to what we have here. It's strange how I get to know you all through the comments and emails. I look forward to more of it.

Care to share?