Saturday 25 September 2010

Taking It ONE Failure At A Time

Most of the time, working in film is rejection. You didn't get the role, they didn't accept the script, the pretty production assistant doesn't want your number. The thing to remember is that each one is its own unique, individual experience. Okay, when I say it that way, it makes it sound even worse-- but my point is, the fact you didn't get a role in the Adidas commercial last month has nothing to do with the short film you didn't get a role in this week. But we tend to add them up in our heads until we feel like one big, giant failure. And it shows.

When you apply for a role today, or send your script somewhere, or whatever it is you do - remember, this is a brand new experience, with a brand new bunch of humans behind the project whose only wish is to work with amazing people. Don't try to be impressive, don't try to shapeshift into what they need, be yourself and believe in yourself. This is a new experience, and you are perfect for it.

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Thursday 23 September 2010

Actor Director Friendships - DO YOU HAVE A ROLE FOR ME?

I have friends who are actors. I have actors who I've used in numerous short films. These actors, naturally, not only want to be my friend but also want to be in my films.

And that's fine, it's a privilege to have friends who like my work and think it could help their career in some way. But sometimes, I come across an attitude of expectancy, or even that they've 'earned the right' to an acting role, and it's most bizarre to me.

When I made a zero budget short film when I was seventeen, it was an opportunity for me to grow as a filmmaker. It was also an opportunity for a young actor to get a much needed on screen appearance. We both collaborated, we did a job. But sometimes there are actors who think this entitles them to a role in an upcoming film, because they were 'there from the beginning.'

The sad truth is-- directors always have roles for actors, but actors never have roles for directors (unless you're the biggest actor in Hollywood and hand pick your directors). So the emphasis is always on "is there a part for me?" and the burden is always on the director to say yes or no. And no translates often as a personal insult.

Casting is such a delicate and tricky process. Often I am casting for the same 'type' as one of my actor friends. When they see the film, they feel pissed that they didn't get the role. And even feel it's 'because we're friends' that they didn't get the role. Again, there is a certain burden that falls on the director being pushed to have to explain themselves when, really, there needn't be an explanation. A movie is being cast, it's someone's art; and choosing the right person, even between thirty identical-ish actors of a same 'type' is a tough thing. And to privilege a friend, when choosing a role, is a silly thing to do.

I have had friends ask me straight out, "why didn't you cast me in your last two films?" -- it's a weird thing to be asked. Sometimes the answer is "Youre not right for the role," "you're not funny enough," "you're not energetic enough," "I wanted to go with more experience," etc -- but for a friend, it's difficult to answer these questions. But perhaps the question shouldn't be asked at all.

Sometimes I use actors for three films in a row. Sometimes I use someone once, think they're amazing and never use them again. Other actors I think are incredible but I've never had the right role for them. It's just how it is. But sadly, often, an actor friend will take it personally.

Should actors and directors be friends? Definitely. Are actors more likely to get roles if they're friends with a director? Possibly. I like to have actors who feel human and real, and that's easier to get when I know the actor personally. But even so, it's entirely possible there will never ever be a role for the friend. To expect more is, I think, not friendship, but instead; ruthless climbing. Attaching yourself to someone who can provide you with roles. I think this is fine if you state your intentions, "I really want to be in your films and that's why I want to know you," but such honesty is rarely the case.

My last two short film projects, for example, had five actors in total. One is a guy I've used three times. Another was an actress who auditioned for me and never got a role. Another is a close friend with no previous acting experience. The fourth was a guy I found suddenly the day before the shoot who fit an unusual casting description, and the final one was a girl who wowed me in a short film I saw a few months ago. It's a big bag of random, as you can see --- but it's how films get made and cast.

I would love to cast my actor friends all the time but unfortunately: some of them never seem to quite fit my characters, some don't grasp my style of dialogue, some don't perservere enough with their craft, some constantly expect roles that it becomes pressurizing and offputting, some I am very excited about for future projects that I have in mind. The closest of my friends understand this implicitly, and our collaborations are wonderful. In fact two of my closest friends who are actors I am in constant collaboration with-- I film their audition tapes, edit their showreels, they read my scripts and make tea on my sets. Sometimes they pop up on screen in my films but mostly they don't. Luckily, they get it, they understand casting and they understand friendship -- and it makes everything a bright beautiful breeze.

Note: Written at 3am on a phone without a spellchecker. I hope this made sense!

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Monday 20 September 2010

Sitting In The Front Row

Sure, it hurts your neck, but that's the price you pay. When you're a Kid In The Front Row, it's just YOU and THE MOVIE. Nothing else matters. There's no dude two rows in front picking his nose. There's no woman in front of you whispering actors names to her Mother. There are no teenagers making out....... it's just YOU, and THE MOVIE.

And yes, I know I know, you have to keep looking left and right and up and down, trying to keep up with what's going on. But again, that's the price you pay. Rather than just watching and viewing like some middle aged film critic, you INTERACT with the beautiful motion picture doing its dance right in front of you. You are a participant. You get as much from it as you put in. And when you're down front -- you get to see the beautiful detail that the cinematographer has slaved over, you get to see the bags under the eyes of the actor who did his fifth night shoot in six days, you get to see all the beauty, ugliness, pain and passion in ways you never had before. You get to be in the movie.

"Shall we sit in the front row?" one friend will inevitably say to the other, before they both laugh and sit in the middle row. The middle row has many pluses, like comfort, and a wide, pretty frame, not to mention the cute girl in row six; but that's not why you go to the movies. You go to the movies to be a part of a motion picture which, if you sit close enough, you become a part of. You get to experience a living and breathing movie unravel before your eyes.

Go be a Kid In The Front Row. It's better than you think. It's better than you remember. You loved it before some boring old friend/lover/relative/film critic made you sit in row eleven. The neck pains are your war-wounds. They're there to remind you that you made the effort. You went where the magic was.

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Saturday 18 September 2010

Don't Keep Your Talents At Home!

It's easy to think you're a writer, easy to wait for a directing gig, easy to be an actor who types data for a living. But you have talent --- you've studied things, you've picked up things, you've had amazing life experiences and you have IDEAS and you have DREAMS.

You need to GO OUT INTO THE WORLD with them. I am no good just sitting on Facebook, you are no good just reading blogs. Whether it's putting on a spontaneous play in a parking lot, or reading a screenplay while sitting on a mountain, or practicing directing with a little video recording app on your phone... whatever it is, go out into the world and do it and be it and try it and fail at it and then do it again!

You literally could find a video camera tonight, and then go out into your local town tomorrow and make a short film, or make a documentary, or video some interesting buildings.

The world does this funny thing to us sometimes, where we feel like it doesn't want filmmakers and actors and painters and all the good things, we feel like we don't belong or it's not quite right for us at this moment in time. But it always is! There is always a friend who will help, always 32 views on YouTube when you make something, always a park just down the road ready to have you film there, or sit there and write, or walk around dreaming and concocting.

Go out go out go out and CREATE. FORGET about the 'business,' forget about only doing things that are part of a routine or plan or marketing strategy. Go out into the world and do a documentary about a local hero, or do a drawing of the place you played outside when you were young, or write a script with a friend in the coffee place in town. Decide to live in a world where you get to decide when to be creative, when you get to truly express some part of who you are. Because that stuff is going to have a little piece of magic every single time. You don't need big cameras, you don't need perfect sound equipment, you don't need the newest Mac. Most of all, all you need, is you.

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