|Photo Courtesy of Tina Rodriguez|
"I think one of the privileges of being a filmmaker is the opportunity to remain a kind of perpetual student."
I had the privilege of working with two very talented teams of filmmakers yesterday: Jpixx from Virginia Beach and final.revised based here in Richmond, Virginia.
I am currently part of the Richmond team, final.revised, and look forward to a long, productive relationship.
This was my first time working with Jpixx.
Hopefully not my last.
In case you haven't seen them, the two projects I helped create with final.revised are:
2011 ~ final.revised ~ 48 Hour Film Project
Winner of BEST use of line. BEST editing. BEST acting. BEST writing. BEST directing. BEST FILM. Audience Winner Group C.
|Me as Tyler Hampton, Summer League, 2011, Photo Courtesy of final.revised|
To watch Summer League click on the word funny.
2012 ~ final.revised ~ 48 Hour Film Project
Winner of BEST costumes. BEST ensemble acting. Audience Award Winner Group B.
|Original Poster created by J.e.Matzer.|
To watch Foot Patrol click on the words more funny.
The photo above is from the beautifully crafted In Captivity from Jpixx. Winner of The 48 Hour Film Project in 2011.
Please take a minute to watch their work after reading this blog entry. You won't be sorry. Just click on the title of the movie highlighted above.
Creating a film is a roller-coaster ride. Creating a film is like the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark...an adventure where there is a giant boulder chasing you every minute.
But... 48 hours to write, cast, shoot and edit an eight minute movie?
Are you kidding me?
It's a crash course for anyone...novice or professional!
The three films above are a testament to those who gathered to create them. Amazing teams. Amazing. Such talent! In front of and behind the cameras.
Yes. These were long, hard days but they were long hard days bursting at the seams with creativity from start to finish.
And...to have the opportunity to work with both of these teams?
It took all of about two seconds to agree to taking part of this opportunity when I received an email at the beginning of the week.
Of course I had to consider my health.
Could I really take part and not be a hindrance or distraction?
I would risk it. How could I not?
I just had to make sure I wouldn't be jumping off any trains..or bending over to put on socks.
I wonder if directors are able to watch films objectively or do they scrutinize...criticize...what they are watching? Are they able to watch but not see?
Can a chef go to dinner and just enjoy the meal?
I ask those questions because even after my own limited experience, I find myself looking at movies, television shows and even commercials with a different eye now. I have a whole new appreciation...understanding...respect for the medium.
I guess in the long run, it all depends on the individual. Some, I suppose, are able to distance themselves and enjoy.
Maybe it's the writer in me who is listening more carefully now to the words the actors are speaking...the artist in me who is noticing the cinematography and the actor who is watching every nuance of the performances.
I guess maybe we all do that thing.
You know. That thing where you watch someone do something and you wonder if you could do it differently...better.
Or...once again...is it just me?
As I just said, I have a new profound appreciation for the process of film-making.
First off, as a creative person, I love it. I love the collaboration...sitting around a table and throwing out ideas...chipping away all the excess til we have honed something special...magical...that will entertain.
Again, I understand it's all about perspective. I have been extremely fortunate to work with the teams I have worked with over the past two years. I know not everyone has the same experience.
This is art...a creative process. Personalities, opinions and egos are at play.
I've been lucky. Except for one instance, I haven't seen any of those things.
Certainly not in my experience yesterday.
Maybe it's that I am doing small, independent films. I would imagine things are much different in Hollywood.
Hollywood. Hollyweird. La-La Land. Tinseltown.
For there on the West Coast the process of making a film is much different than what I've been experiencing. It has to be. Everything there is amped up to Level 1000 where movies may take a year to film and budgets may soar over a hundred million dollars.
These wonderful short films I am taking part in are a great way for me to dip my feet into the pool...test the waters....and hopefully learn how to tread water without sinking to the bottom.
Andy Garcia used to know how to swim.
I wonder what happened.
I like Andy Garcia. Lately, though, it just seems like he's doing Andy Garcia doing Kevin Spacey doing Al Pacino. SERIOUSLY. What was with that Southern accent in Smokin' Aces? Who was your voice coach, Andy? Foghorn Leghorn?
But...sadly...Garcia's ass is at the bottom of the pool...right next to Vince Vaughan...Michael Cera (SAME GUY-EVERY MOVIE!!) and Kristen Stewart (CONSTANTLY LOOKS AS THOUGH SHE HAS POOPED HER PANTS).
I know. I know. I know.
Who am I?
Where do I get off?
I've done two movies and I'm passing judgement on these actors?
Yes I am.
It's my blog.
Still, I know exactly where I am at this point in my burgeoning acting career. I'm a beginner.
I do know I have talent but that's not enough. I need to learn how to use that talent. I am learning about the process. More importantly, I am learning about myself.
Sometimes its hard.
Seeing myself, for instance, on the small screen that is my laptop (and on the big-screen of The Byrd Theatre for the screenings of Summer League and Foot Patrol) is like looking into a mirror. I notice everything and I am my own worse critic.
As much as I love the process of film making, I have to be honest and say I hate seeing myself on screen. I've heard other people say the same thing. About themselves. I mean I've never heard anyone say they hate seeing me on screen.
Why? Have you heard something?
Is Andy Garcia running his mouth?
See...the difference between me and all those other poor souls is those people don't have my head. I mean...I have an enormous melon. You could show drive-in movies on my head. It's a big, big head.
Stewie on Family Guy? Modeled after photos of me as a baby.
I hate hearing my own voice too. I have a Kermit-the-Froggy sort of voice.
I don't even like hearing my own voice on an answering machine. Its one of the reasons I never call myself.
“Laugh at yourself, but don't ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don't leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.” ~Alan Alda
I have to get over being so self-conscious.
Trust me. I have no allusions of ever being a leading man.
I'm a character actor and I am very okay with that.
"I was never a leading man. I've always been in the outer concentric circles in the company, being a character actor, which is a good place to be. It gives you that diversity." ~Geoffrey Rush
"What's great about being a character actor is you know that you can survive forever. It's not about the gloss of your eyebrows." ~Martin Short
I need to be more comfortable in my own skin and be more comfortable seeing that skin on screen.
Not how I meant to say that.
The project I completed yesterday is, as of today, still an unnamed project.
This was the first collaboration between folks from final.revised and Jpixx. We don't really know what we're going to do with our effort when we finish or, for that matter, when we'll finish. It began as a very organic process and will continue in the same fashion until it's in the can.
I like to think of this untitled project...this collaboration...as a first date.
One of those first dates that goes really well..where you feel like dancing while you're on it and for some time after it.
It wasn't one of those first dates where you pick up your date and you step on dog poo in her front yard as you're walking towards the front door...and then..when you're at dinner...you eat shellfish because she's trying to be cute and before you know it she feeds you one of her lobster poppers like you're a baby because she doesn't know you're allergic to seafood and then you spend the rest of the date purple, bloated and throwing up in the men's room...and then...as you're walking back to her front door you step into the same pile-albeit more pressed into the lawn-pile of dog poo...and then just as your about to make your move to kiss her goodnight...you throw up just one more time...before noticing your zipper has been down all night.
This was one of those first dates. One of those first dates that when it was over...and you say 'goodbye' you are smiling a big, goofy smile and you know, as soon as you slide into your car, you know you want to go out again.
“I know very little about acting. I’m just an incredibly gifted faker.”
~Robert Downey Jr.
I consider myself a professional and I bring a certain level of dedication...drive to what I do. Whatever it might be at the moment.
I'm in the process of learning about Jody the film actor.
I certainly hope that process never ends.
"I always tell the truth. Even when I lie." ~Al Pacino
Well. I can't lie. I learned something new about myself as an actor yesterday while filming.
I learned about sacrifice.
Sacrifice. That's a big word with a lot of meanings.
I do know, now especially, that as an actor, you have to be prepared to make sacrifices.
Stay with me for a second...
Daniel Day-Lewis just won an OSCAR for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Speilberg's Lincoln.
When you talk about sacrifice for a role, you have to mention Day-Lewis, because his preparations and sacrifices for movie roles are legendary. It is the reason he is one of our best actors and I say actor-even though he works primarily in film-and not movie star.
Here are some examples of how Day-Lewis has prepared for and sacrificed for some of roles:
- Last of the Mohicans: 1992: ...lived off the land for six months, learning how to fish, hunt and even skin animals. (I would also wager he spent some time on a treadmill)
- In The Name of the Father: 1993: Daniel Day Lewis slept in a jail cell and only ate prison rations.
- The Crucible: 1996: He lived on location, in the replica village, without running water or electricity and even built his own house with 17th century tools.
- The Boxer: 1997: Daniel Day Lewis tattooed his hands and trained as a real fighter, twice a day, seven days a week, for nearly three years. It has been said he could have turned professional.
- Gangs of New York: 2002: ...worked as a butcher, picked fights with strangers and even caught pneumonia because he refused to wear anything but period clothes.
I know that.
I have immeasurable respect for him...and all other actors who are able to do what they do.
It is truly not as easy as it seems.
Acting in a film, television show or even a commercial is not just saying words in front of a camera. There are so many things going on...so many elements of the process I'd never really ever thought about.
Well. That's not entirely true, I guess. I had thought about them...just not as a participant...only as a viewer.
Walk a mile in a man's shoes...right?
Immersing myself into the process of creating a film...as writer and actor...has opened my eyes to a whole new world.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
I would imagine that there are few instances where a scene in a film is shot once and the director yells 'Cut! Print! Let's move on to Scene..whatever!"
You're going to shoot several takes.
You've got to and in each, you have to bring it. Bring it!
Maybe the director wants you to improvise a little.
Maybe you're working with a director who wants the exact same thing you just did but different.
Magic can happen when you least expect it, whether its TAKE ONE or TAKE 20.
Remember the diner scene in Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally?
Recall the scene in which Meg Ryan simulates having an...oh...how do I say this?
Totally improvised. And the woman? Rob Reiner's mother.
So you never know.
You just have to listen to your director and do the job. Check your ego at the door and roll with punches and remember it's not about you...I know...hard to believe...but it isn't. It's about the bigger picture. It's about getting the best possible shot...capturing the best moment on film and honoring the story.
It is written in The Book of Guiness Records that during the filming of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, it took 127 takes to shoot the scene where Shelley Duvall's character swings a bat at Jack Nicholson. Now there is some disagreement in regards to the number of actual takes, but whether it was 127, 140 or 34, that's still a lot of Let's-do-it-again's.
Blame it on Kubrick's perfectionism, Duvall, the fact they were using a Steadi-cam, a new technique for shooting film in 1980, or a combination of all of the above.
We didn't have the time to shoot 127 takes for the same scene yesterday. That is not to say we didn't have to shoot a few takes for a particular scene.
Yogurt. Why Did It Have To Be Yogurt?
Let me just say, I'm not a big yogurt fan. I'm not a little yogurt fan.
I like some yogurt-based sauces.
I have had frozen yogurt.
I have never, let's say, just sat down and eaten almost 16 ounces of yogurt.
16 ounces of vanilla yogurt. 16. Ounces. That's a lot of freakin' yogurt.
Without giving too much away, I say yogurt plays a key role in our short film and my character has to eat some.
Sure. Some sounds good.
I had to ask myself:
What would Daniel Day Lewis do?
What would Daniel Day-Lewis do?
What would Daniel Day-Lewis do?
"Well," I told myself, "Daniel Day-Lewis would have probably worked at the yogurt factory for a year, then worked as a stock boy in the store where the yogurt was sold and then probably changed his name to Dannon (Yoplait is just a little too French) and then eaten nothing but his namesake for a few weeks prior to filming."
As we have already established, I am not Daniel Day-Lewis.
Here's the thing.
I didn't even know we were 100% certain we were going the yogurt road.We had talked about it. I mean, yogurt was mentioned. It sounded like a great idea. My point is...I just hadn't given much thought to the idea of how much yogurt I might be eating.
Notice I said eating and not enjoying.
Due to mostly to my experience in front of the camera, we had to take numerous takes of my yogurt eating scenes.
Oh the humanity.
The crazy thing is that after a while I was just eating yogurt...whether or not I needed to. That big ol' spoon just kept finding its way to my mouth. I couldn't help it. I was on automatic pilot.
What's up with that?
"How much yogurt can a person eat before they explode," I wondered.
LiVESTRONG.com says there's no limit to how much yogurt a person can eat in one day just that after a certain point, there's no benefit from it.
Dear Kind Folks at LIVESTRONG,
With warmest regards,
Take a nice big spoonful and act like I like it.
Take a nice big spoonful, smile and act like I like it.
We got through it. The director and crew were very patient with me.
It wasn't horrible and I survived.
Although, I have to admit, during the subsequent scenes, my stomach did become a second actor on set.
Just as sound and cameras were rolling and all was quiet...a strange noise filled the bedroom where we were filming.
~weeee oooooo weeeee ahhhhhhhh weeeeeee~
Like a dolphin singing Dylan.
Like someone strangling an accordion with a goose inside it.
It started off as a low grumbling...a tiny little moan...a sigh of high-pitched whines. There was some rumbling. A trembling.
This isn't my house. Please GOD don't let me fart.
This isn't my house. Please GOD don't let me fart.
This isn't my house. Please GOD don't let me fart.
I feared that an alien would burst through my chest wall and go scurrying down the carpeted hallway.
The word explosive kept coming to mind.
I feared the worst.
I feared a priest would come in and start dousing me with holy water.
My poor stomach.
The play must go on though! Right? Right? RIGHT?!
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SOMEONE SAY RIGHT!
CUT AND PRINT!
As the sun set, we hurried to get all the shots needed to finish the day's work.
I don't want to say "It's a wrap!" because there's still some work to do. I'm glad too because it was a good day spent with good...very talented...people.
I made a film.
I made some new friends.
Not a bad way to spend a Saturday if I do say so myself.
and that's 'Jody' with a 'y'
*All Rights Reserved
“Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.” ~ Meryl Streep
|Summer League ~ 2011|
"Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you've got it made."
~ George Burns