Monday, January 30, 2006

The Master Says 015

A shot should be like a line in a poem: self-contained, with its idea crystal clear.
Sergei Eisenstein

More Entitled Than Thou

I've got a bitter taste in my mouth beyond the lack of opportunity to brush my teeth. Would you ever consider going to a grocery store, filling your cart, taking that cart through the check-out, loading the groceries into your car and then on the way home phoning the store manager to tell her you think their prices are too high and that you expect a credit to your account but will not be returning the items refunded? Would you ever think to do that? No, you wouldn't. If you don't have time to go to Trader Joe's and just have to go to Zupan's in a pinch, you might cringe at the prices and vow to make more time for shopping. You might even comment on their high prices to anyone willing to listen. I really, truly doubt that you would ever expect a refund on something you purchased and expect to keep.

This is the nature of my job. I deal with Production Coordinators and Managers that want everything last minute, consistently sending their orders in at end of day for the next morning. I then work after regular business hours to supply them with an order form that states all prices clearly. They submit their order. I send them an estimate. I pack the truck and acquire any specialty items requested. Routinely they call back after they pick up the truck and begin their jobs and say it's too high and want to remove some items from the invoice. I've gone to great lengths to insure our rates are comparable to rental houses all over the country. Production supplies are not durable goods. By the time they pay for themselves, the profit window is very small before they have to be replaced. Since we're supplying equipment to production companies that are making commercials, you know selling things, I don't think it's out of the question to expect to make a profit on our end.

I have a problem with entitlement. These people are producing a television commercial. There were phone calls Sunday morning to me about this. I'm being disturbed to discuss saving some corporation/ad agency/production company a thouand dollars. On an average national commercial budget of 250,000, that's 4/10 of 1%.

No thank you. I don't want anything to do with this shit. Especially since part of my recent raise depends on that profit margin. Without a share in a reasonable profit, I'm an over-worked, highly stressed wage earner that gets phone calls from a poncy PM making his full day rate.
Are you working from the good of your heart on this mate?
Nuh uh. Seriously thinking of putting in the notice today.

Full of vim and vinegar,
Signore Direttore

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Shout Out 002

This one goes out to Zachary Ray Sherman.

Zach sent me his version of a headshot -- xeroxed pictures of him and his infant nephew -- in response to a project I was casting. I told my wife at the time, I don't know whether to call him in and give him a spanking or send a limo to pick him up.

The things he has done for me and the friend that he has become are immensely appreciated and dear to my heart.

Thanks Zach.

Your loyal friend Colonel Kurtz

The Master Says 014

The true artist is known by the use he makes of what he annexes, and he annexes everything.
Oscar Wilde

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Master Says 013

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Master Says 012

There are two ways of thinking about painting, how not to do it and how to do it; how to do it -- with much drawing and little colour; how not to do it -- with much colour and little drawing.
Vincent van Gogh

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Film Gack

Gack is a new slang term for junk on local film sets. I don't like it, but it fits well regarding the movie titled Film Geek. Made by local indie veteran James Westby, the film -- NO! it is not a film, there is nothing vaguely cinematic about it -- rather, the moving picture proclaims a love for cinema, but insults it by its very existence. Westby has been around for a long time on the local scene and frankly I expected much more from someone so long dedicated to the medium. After all, John Pierson the Godfather of Independent film quoted him in his book, Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes. (A good read for the indie lover/aspirant.)
This thing he made is putrid. The lead character is a pathetic one-dimensional loser obsessed with film. Really he reminded me of the older brother in The Squid and the Whale (Not at all a putrid film) that honks about Kafka and other literary greats but hasn't actually read any of it. I thought to myself while watching Film Geek; how could someone so in tune with the beauty and nuance of so many cinematic treasures be so clueless about his relationship with the world around him?
Nothing was good about this film. Music, acting, cutting, lighting, camera work, writing, mise en scene -- all very amatuerish at best.
The friend that I saw it with, in an effort to say something positive about it, complimented the fact that Westby finished it. I wish he hadn't.

Calling em like I see em,
Signore Direttore


I have an audition for a national spot later today. Physical comedy. I was rehearsing yesterday. That is very hard work. How did Belushi, Dangerfield and Farley stay so fat? A few trips and falls and I was beat.
I called my friend Russell Stienberg in LA for some tips. He is a triple-threat song, dance and comedy man that would be the king of the borsht belt were it still around. He's making a pilot for Mtv based on this wacky alter-ego character he does -- Johnny Fayva. He actually paid me a confidence building compliment that I would probably do better than he does on these things because I'm so vested in playing the reality of situations and events, whereas he admits to being a slave to the schtick.
Going on auditions for these things is more than just getting a shot at the money. I don't have a lot of time to get involved in acting in theater or films. But to be on a professional set for a couple of days a year is very helpful in keeping my head out of the clouds when it comes to coaching. As if an architect put on a tool belt and joined the builders for a day.
Of course I've yet to go on the audition. It's very easy to get ahead of oneself. I look forward to the audition for much the same reason - it's very easy to coach the process, doing it presents another opportunity to heed my own advice. In the commercial world the audition is not as corrosive as it is in the film world. There are no rehearsals for commercials and commercials sell products; so why not cast the person that sells it in the audition?
As always, I will let you know how it goes.

Signore Direttore

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Asking Requires Great Responsibility

That's my attempt to infuse "Be careful of what you ask for" with more direct action.
I've found that I ask for things from people and the universe with the thought that they won't go for it. Or that they will, but I am asking them without considering my options. Not to say that getting what you ask for is always a terrible thing.
But if I have any personal integrity whatsoever, I do need to follow through on my part.

So it goes with my jobby-job. They gave me a considerable raise and I will be staying on full-time. I'm not apprehensive about it in any way aside from needing to be ever more mindful of my most precious commodity - time. In many ways I believe that I will be more respectful of my time with more demands on it. The extra money doesn't go that far, of course. Extra money is somewhat of an oxymoron. The raise does tie me to the performance of the business and profits me as the manager. Like most humans, I don't stay very focused if not invovlved more directly in what I'm doing. Raising the stakes as well as the salary.

My time at Gearhead has been good for me. In addition to providing support for my family, my attitude toward my studio has changed. I have been able to trust that the work is the most important. I can afford not to suffer fools. I've never been much for suffering them, but in my efforts to build a critical mass at the studio I would let some string me along with promises to pay or trade for tuition. I would grant this favor and then be resentful. No more. Policy is posted and exceptions, while still possible, are not easily granted. I need not to be an ogre about this. I can simply smile and remind them of the policy. This is easier said than done, but I'm working on taking responsibility for the terms I set forth. In terms of my approach, more demands on my time has motivated me toward greater diligence in creating my curriculum. As I've reported, I'm bringing Scene Study rehearsal technique closer to my approach as a director. I've assigned Ibsen and Tennesee Williams for the first time. I am going to lean toward such works in building a core of scenes. For one, I don't have to listen to all the hullabaloo about tracking plays down, as they are all in the library. In New York when asigned a new scene, we would walk to Drama Books or Sam French after class and that was that.
Another factor in assigning more stalwart works is to build a stock of material so as to know the material well and allow students to stumble through it as much or as little as I like. Just as they will discover new levels of awareness in their third and fourth reads, I and the students that have previously trudged through a particular scene will discover new levels of awareness on our fortieth and fiftieth reads. Such is the density of the great plays of the likes of Ibsen, Chekhov and Miller. Greater familiarity with these works is essential to actors (and directors) who hope to devote their lives to theater, and film; albeit to a lesser extent, though dramaturgy is of extreme importance to storytelling in any medium.

A year ago or so ago I was putting a crew together for London Calling. I didn't really know who to even call beyond a few names. Those that I did call were not very open to discussing an Indie rate. As a result of being at Gearhead, some of those same guys have commited to working on But A Dream for free.

Speaking of But A Dream, I need to take responsibility for some asking regarding casting. I've disregarded auditioning before. It is a colossal undertaking. I asked David to do High Desert Psalmist and then backed out of directing because that decision was one of the factors that betrayed my desperation regarding the project. As much as David might have been initially flattered and subsequently understanding that he wasn't ready to carry a film, I was still in the wrong. Once more I've cast someone prematurely. I am dreading telling this actor that I will be going with someone else.
I have the responsibility of protecting the hearts of the actors that are my friends and students. I mustn't be sentimental nor must they be thin-skinned, but by following customary casting practices I will save them and myself the unnecessary pain.

My bride is in New York with Baby June. I have Henry and Maisie. Today marks day thirteen of no rest. I am preparing to integrate a fitness regimen into my crazy schedule. I know that sacrificing an hour in the early mornings, and I do mean early, will give me more productive hours in later my days. That has been the case with the commitment I made to spiritual development and taking a seat at 7am to watch the sunrise. Setting the alarm an hour earlier some mornings to do yoga and pilates at 5:45 will likely yield the same results. Before my leg injury I could have just gone for a quick run in the mornings or during lunch. No more.
Being a responsible big boy hurts almost as much as missing a tendon.

Signore Direttore

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Master Says 011

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius --- and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
Albert Einstein

Bloody Social Mask

In class the other night I reminded the class that we do our best to get out from behind our social masks in the studio. That we speak from our hearts and our guts. That we look the world in the eye and tell it what we want. That we trust that whatever happens in each moment. That we give up our sophistication and our labyrinthine approach to inter-personal communication.
Later in class I mention the action to seduce in connection with a male student-actor. Snickers and giggles. Seduction can be ideological and many other things beyond sexual matters, I asserted. I gave an extreme example of white supremacy and a mundane example of the type of tea one drinks. Bristles in the room regarding the extreme example. (Would there have been laughs instead of bristles had one of the new students not been African-American? JB is Pacific Islander. JG is Asian-American. I am a Greek and an Honorary Jewish Texan. Our less marked non-Aryan presence may not have prompted disdain and fear of the mention of Nazis. ) I continued my discourse on other forms of seduction suggesting that I will charm C into a hearty Seig Heil. That really got the bristlers bristling. New student, JB nor JG didn't seem to bristle. Nor did I. (Funny thing, most Nazis I've known despise white liberals more than folks of color.)
Later in class, two students were doing a repetition and relating exercise. (I have all but abandoned strict Meisner work as it seems to promote getting it right.) I instructed the male to tell the female something he didn't want her to know. He said he didn't like her wedding ring. I know what he meant: that he thinks she's hot and wants her to be available. I know that it may have made her insecure about her engagement ring. His inability to say he thought she was attractive in a forthright manner may have caused her shame or hurt.
I didn't say anything. I kept my mouth shut not for pedagogical reasons, but because I feared confronting the situation. I hid behind my bloody social mask.

One amongst many,
Signore Direttore

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Welcome to the Hurlyburly!

John William DiLorenzo III born New Year's Eve 2005 to Leanne and John DiLorenzo.

The Days Are Staying Gray Longer

I'm not one to offer up the Seasonal Affective Disorder Blues, but wowza it's been 22 of 23 days of rain. Not your usual Portland drizzle, but rain so big it looks like backlit movie rain. Anyway, everybody I run into seems to be a little low energy.
I get up most days and take a seat where I can see the sun come up. The sky has been going from black to gray. A very Ansel Adams time of year, though I'm not seeing any clean white clouds in the sky to complete his zone system.

Last night in On-Camera we did a pretty neat-o exercise where we used those hard one word lines like Please, Yes and What. We got our direction, such as on the action or one beat after Action. We did different actions saying the same line: face-to-face, holding hands, shoving, hugging, straddling. Player B was instructed to take the first thing verbally from Player A's line. Player A, in turn, was directed to respond to Player B's reaction non-verbally. We covered it in a 2 and a CU.
I didn't see anybody take any chances or use the camera very effectively. Certainly that's why they're in class. Most notably, nobody asked for another take nor claimed to own their ideas or impulses. We have work to do.
Rather than assign a scene this month, we'll be going back to the simple one-line scenes and work on putting it through the lens. Being available is but a beginning on-camera.

I told my boss at the day job that I either need to work less yet retain my health care or make significantly more money. I think I'll be working less, initially at least. Which is just fine by me.

A River Dertchee,
Signore Direttore

The Master Says 010

The cats I like best are the cats that take chances.
Thelonious Monk

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Master Says 009

Whatever happens at all, happens as it should.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Map :: Terrain

The map is to the terrain as the script is to the scene. We did an exercise in Scene Study the other night that explored the relationship between a map and the terrain it charts. A map of the four blocks surrounding the studio was given to each student. They were told to prepare a one to two minute presentation from the info they got off of the map. One by one they came out to where I had the camera set up. About half made up a monologue remotely related or faintly situated to the four blocks. The other half was divided between two who spoke of their experience at the studio and the two that gave a discourse on Portland and the transformation it is undergoing.
They were then instructed to walk each of the streets slowly and carefully, observing the terrain with all of their senses. They then returned to tape a second monologue. Each was more grounded beyond the ease of having done it already. However, few sought to do much in the way of really letting the actual terrain inform them beyond an intellectual experience with their senses.
There was no wrong approach. I had hoped for a more profound experience to be had, but I refrained from saying as much. Instead I let the exercise inform me of how in touch each of them is. I saw some growth in a few of them and a lot of fear in others. I was surprised by an apparent lack of sensuality in a couple of long-time students.
I'm exploring a new approach to the text this year. Loosely based on Stanislavsky, we will explore the circumstances and events of the text extensively through improvisation and active analysis before first reads. I have long done a form of this in my own rehearsals as a director, but for some reason I have not integrated it into my coaching. Until now.
We'll see how it goes. I am wary of essentializing, which will be a likely pitfall of the coaching method that isn't a problem in directing as I manage the so-called spine of the script in that case. As always I will adjust as necessary as we go through our in-class rehearsals.

Signore Direttore

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Happy New Year!

Blogging in the New Year with a sleeping baby on my chest.
The first thing I wish to express to you and myself this year is a blessing from Jonathan Swift:
May you live all the days of your life.

Rehearsals commenced yesterday for But A Dream with Heath Lourwood and Joey Boyd. I brought their wardrobe but wouldn't allow them to put it on until they earned it. Just as Heath is playing a corporal, he will have to earn that rank. I instructed them on a few important aspects of military life. I would teach Heath how to prepare their uniforms and gear and expect him to instruct Joey. I would leave the room and upon my return they were to come to attention or parade rest and greet me according to my rank, indicated by my hat worn to the front or the rear. I made them stand at attention and answer questions, do pushups and explore the given circumstances. I tossed hand grenades into the room and taught them how to respond. With only movies to inform their knowledge of the military, I felt it important to challenge their preconceived notions. In Heath's case, I challenged many of his ideas about the character within our boot camp improv without having to discuss them. It served as an excellent introduction to the physical life. When I released them, I could see their bodies change back to the way they were when they walked into the studio. They really had become recruits. By my own physical response I could tell that I too had been hard at work.

I saw King Kong yesterday. I truly try not to be a film snob. To prove my point, I would have rather watched The Fast and the Furious again than see King Kong. I really tried to stay with it, fighting off judgment of the melodramatic, representational acting. At times I was rewarded, though mostly I was held prisoner by its oppresive length and lack of story.

David Millstone, my friend and student, is away at Shakespeare and Company's Month-long Intensive. He's giving an excellent recapitulation on his blog Notes On Acting. (Link at right) Every morning I've excitedly gone to his blog to read his latest post. I am blown away by the steps he's taking and the frankness with which he's expressing his experience. I'm inspired in many ways by his words.

I've some reading to do today. And I'd like to see another film. The Squid and the Whale or Breakfast on Pluto should wash my eyes and my soul of Jackson's Kong.