Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Another Master Dies

Michelangelo Antonioni

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Master Dies

Ingmar Bergman


We've been having a conversation with our son about expressing your true self with your friends this afternoon. How the real cool kids are the kids that really love the things that they're into, rather than adjusting their taste according to peer pressure. He wanted to write a letter to a kid from his class that moved away. We were talking about the things we've been doing this summer that he's enjoyed to include in the letter. We listed berry picking and going to the farmer's market, among other things. He had a little panic that his friend wouldn't think those things were cool. I told him not to assume that, especially if he really liked doing things that might be perceived as being dorky. Our son is not a dork. He may stink at baseball, be a really good reader and love video games, but he's not a dork. He loves music and drawing. He can hear a song once and sing it His simple drawings evoke complete worlds. He's very excitable and sensitive. Some of his friends that are already little social fascists tell him he's annoying. I reassured him that being emotional isn't always easy for others to understand, but it has many benefits. I related that I was the same as he, and that as much as I've had trouble with it in life, it makes me the storyteller and person that I am. His response was amazing: he raised his fist in the air and shouted: We're related!

Folk Wisdom 029

There is no total answer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Master Says 205

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

Winston Churchill

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Taking It Easy

As a parent there's a certain level of stress about Summer that's akin to Christmas. A pressure to make it special. At the playground parents ask each other how the summer is going, adding a tentative, "Planning any trips?"
Our summer trip is in the bathroom we just had remodeled. Which looks beautiful, but cost three times what we were told and took half the summer to complete. It's actually not complete. To get a toilet seat that is isn't oak but has metal hinges, you must special order it and wait four to six weeks. So to use the commode in the interim, you must be comfortable with a decidedly non-American mode of direct contact with porcelain. I've lived in Mexico and spent a lot of time in Japan, so it's not a big deal. For now.
In spite of no big summer vacation on the horizon, I'm having a wonderful summer. In addition to spending a lot of time with the family, I'm doing a lot of hiking, walking and bicycling. Hikes in the Gorge and Forest park. Walks downtown for appointements or weekday matinees at Fox Tower Cinemas, up to Mt Tabor and along the Esplanade. I've been cycling the Spring Water Corridor and up Mt Tabor. We spent two and half hours in Laurelhurst Park yesterday. Maisie played in the kiddie poolfully clothed the entire time. While June toddled around the play structure and played with a friend's baby, before falling asleep in a swing. Henry made some puppets at the crafts table with his friends. I chatted with an old friend that I knew from fifth grade through high school and hadn't seen since. She recognized me and it was good to be nostalgic for grade school friends. Her son is nine and made friends with Henry without an introduction. A thing to smile about.
We had a simple barbecue the other night and spent an evening at Oaks Park earlier in the week. There's also a small but wonderful farmer's market near our house on Thursdays where we eat, buy food and listen to music while chatting with people from the neighborhood.
I'm not doing much else. Some very limited, but efficient work on finishing projects. Like getting a shot of Joey for Made Crooked before he moves to New York in a few days. We did that against a green screen in the park yesterday. Ive been reading a few books about the filmmaking of Woody Allen and Bertolucci.
I rented my camera to an indie movie for a month, which is allowing me the time to relax and enjoy the summer. I think it's important for the kids to experience the whole family having a moderately lazy summer. Moreover, I'll be forty in three weeks and I feel as if I deserve to experience that milestone with some quiet perspective and serenity.

Signore Direttore

The Master Says 204

There really has to be a feeling of wanting to learn that's more important than wanting to succeed.

John Cassavetes

Friday, July 27, 2007

Good Ol Craigslist

I really want to respond to some of these postings and ask these people what in the fuck they're thinking.
This first one is in basic violation of a lot of SEC regulations. Quite a public offering.

"FourTwenty film seeks funding ASAP!!!! estimated at $23,000

If interested email me for budget/executive summary"

And this one is just ridiculous:


Hi, We are looking for a volunteer male actor of age 20-27 to play the main character in an upcoming feature film. We plan to start shooting soon, so we need responses back as soon as possible.


A mid twenties burn out kid who is somewhat of a misenthrope. He takes alot of abuse from work and everyone else, but also somehow manages to get by and have a good time whenever, but sometimes has a mean streek. He looks like more a regular guy and not so pretty.


Someone who can demonstrate facial emotion well (Fear,shock, surprise, etc.)
Someone who can be relied on, and is fun to work on.

ABOUT the film

The film will be shot independintly and guirilla style.

Please send a resume with a picture

It would be a good idea to attach your phone number so we may contact you if interested.

As a plus, please give a quick run down of your film interest."

I recently posted in the gigs section (the place to post for non-paying stuff) in need of a post-sound guy, explaining that we have no money. I met a guy that did a great job on the sound and music for Klepto and was happy to do it. I met another guy with an amazing resume that is interested in helping with Made Crooked. And I got an angry response from a guy telling me I was an exploitative jerk for asking people with specialized skills to consider helping with my no-budget projects. That I should realize people need to make money for their work. I checked the guy out and found that he does a podcast having to do with music or record collecting. I can't imagine he makes any money doing that. Which is fine, but why is it okay for him to do this community oriented thing with his spare time while not okay for me to invite people to get involved in my small community of filmmakers. Hopefully he's reporting the FourTwenty guys to the SEC and hassling the Vancouver wannabes about their spelling, but he's probably using his downtime searching the non-paying crew gigs section for paying gigs and sending angry replies.

Signore Direttore

The Master Says 203

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.

Lloyd Alexander

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Master Says 202

When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men's minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Master Says 201

Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Master Says 200

There is no beginning, there is no end, there is only the infinite passion of life.

Federico Fellini

(The Master Says 001 Reprise)

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Master Says 199

I have many stories and it would be fine for me if films became a way of life.... unfortunately there is still a kind of barrier of glass to break... I said glass because behind it everything moves as if in another world, one passes into it and then turns back out, it is always like this.

Bernardo Bertolucci

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I failed to speak up at David's bon voyage/anniversaire last night. I have some lame excuses as to why I didn't raise a glass in his honor, but I truly wish I would have paid him the respect.
Here's a belated toast:

To you David,
For teaching me, pushing me, learning from me, supporting me, scaring me, offending me, listening to me, praising me, judging me, trusting me, not trusting me, depending on me, confronting me and loving me.
You believe in me more than I do in myself. Sometimes I wish you would knock it off and fear the worst as I try to persist in doing. It seems there's no chance in that, which forces me to keep showing up.
I know you're not surprised my toast for you has a lot to do with me. Let me close by saying this about you David -- No matter what I think or say about you, it won't change your determination to pursue excellence in everything that you do.

Signore Direttore

The Master Says 198

If you're going to shoot. Shoot. Don't talk.

Tuco (Eli Wallach)
in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Un poem 003

In Search of Mystery

How I wanted to escape far
from Rome, without saying anything
to my family or to the other people
who greeted me along my way,
something can be seen moving
on the cheeks and in the eyes
of a mother -- how the seated figure
of a happy and dark-haired youth
shines and glows
in a photograph!

Forgive me if you know how to love the unworthiness
of your son, I intend to suffer
out loud, to make myself heard.

Bernardo Bertolucci

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Master Says 197

You must always leave a door open on the set through which an unexpected visitor may enter. That is cinema!

Jean Renoir

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Master Says 196

Style is something that's extremely important, but it must grow naturally out of who and what you are and what the material calls for. It cannot be superimposed.

William Friedkin

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Master Says 195

The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.

Philip Roth

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Master Says 194

If you're too worried and too controlling of the gesture, then you're not gonna be addressing your intuitive side, your subconscious, you'll only be able to do what your conscious mind tells you to do. You're going to be bound by psychology and meaning, not gonna be experiencing the stuff experientially.

Willem Dafoe

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Master Says 193

I find that I must live through the relationships a film creates in a direct way, without logical or rational references.

Bernardo Bertolucci

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Master Says 192

A baseball swing is a very finely tuned instrument. It is repetition, and more repetition, then a little more after that.

Reggie Jackson

Friday, July 13, 2007

Eye :: Camel as Needle :: Rich Man

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
- Henry David Thoreau

I came across this quote this morning. Seems well connected to the things I was blogging about yesterday. And about the things I've been working on for some time. Namely ceasing trying to be all things to all people. Lately things have been slow in terms of paying work. I recall the acting studio and the modest income it provided doing something that I often enjoyed. The modest income would be very welcome in these lean times. I quickly reminded myself that I need to make conscious, careful selections of activities, situations, and people to whom I devote my attention. And while I can teach acting, doing so involves me in a situation that diverts my energy from directing actors to coaching actors. I don't want a relationship with actors that requires me to motivate them to learn their craft. I want to focus on working with actors that are sufficiently self-motivated to learn their craft. Certainly there are always a few such actors in any studio, but to earn that modest income you have to coddle a lot of insecure, fearful and entitled wannabes. I can afford to leave that dynamic well alone.
Coaching acting is not all that separates the centered, serene me from the harried, fragmented me. I'm regularly bombarded by myriad requests for some form of personal involvement. The temptation is great to attend to first one thing and then another, passively and superficially. Or worse yet, with both barrels blazing in some situation that called for a pea shooter at most.
My life is enriched only when I commit myself to a deeper level of involvement, and to the few, rather than the many. To whatever extent I possess talent, it will shine forth only to the extent it's being nurtured, coddled, encouraged. I cannot nurture, coddle and encourage other aspiring artists while trying to offer the same to myself and to my family. I and my children provide quite enough resistance to loving growth, thank you very much. That is asking way too much of myself. When I am harried I become more the stern task-master than the encouraging nurturer. To expect that I will somehow find fluid support in an unbending mindset is a prime example of non-integrated thinking. Distraction promotes resistance - the bubbling brook. Still waters run deep. We must become immersed enough in a project or an experience to lose self-conscious reservations if we're to discover the real weight of our talent. We know ourselves fully only when we're able to let the talent within define the posture without. It's a bit of a chicken and egg conundrum. Though certainly not so black and white. Little by little, back to those baby steps, we practice allowing ourselves enough space to find our centers. The wonderful secret about being centered is we always have a center if only we allow ourselves to experience it. As we practice this, we begin to allow ourselves to experience our authentic selves.
Even now as I write, there's a child singing and a child crying at the breakfast table. There are email alerts sounding and phones ringing. There are appointments looming throughout the day. Perhaps I shall stop this entry here and tend to the rest of my wonderful life.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Klepto Update 7/12

Finished color grading Klepto on Monday. Finishing to DVD tomorrow. If we can make a decent conversion to Quicktime we'll post it here and on YouTube. The actors will get a DVD copy. I plan on submitting it to 10 or Less Fest and maybe to NW Film and Video Festival.
The film is very simple. So much so that I want to offer qualifications. Do I really need to mention that it isn't perfect?

Signore Direttore

London Crawling

It's been two years and three months since we shot a film called London Calling. A short film with a page count of twelve and a running time of something slightly less than that. There are scenes in the film that are beautiful where everything comes together. And there are scenes where things don't come together. And there's problems with sound throughout.
Sound has been a terrible obstacle in the way of completing the film since we wrapped. Not the only thing certainly. The darkness that is perfectionism, false pride, terror, procrastination and all sorts of other life-long nasty habits is at the root of the unfinished film including the hiring of an inexperienced sound person. Sure the guy misrepresented himself, but I didn't check him out. Ultimately, it's on me. Or maybe it isn't on me in any sinister way. Maybe it was my responsibility and I learned a tough and lasting lesson from my error in judgment, but it doesn't have to be something for which I don the hair shirt of shame for the rest of my life.
I screwed up a lot of things on London Calling. But I also did a lot of things well. The truth is that it has sat for a long time because I can't bring myself to let the warts show. I was full of arrogance when making that film -- cock-sure of showing everybody just how bad ass I was. Oh the posturing and shouting and anguish of not being understood! It was a mess, we were all in over our heads. It's hard not be in over your head when the expectations are set so high. And spending a lot of money. I spent three or four times the amount of money on London Calling that I did on either Made Crooked or Dangerous Writing.
I wasn't yet able to handle transitions or coverage very well. I didn't monitor sound or picture. I was promised a video tap that never happened. I kept saying, "I trust you" to the DP. My ego trusted him because Gus Van Sant had said such glowing things about him and the week before we shot he was featured in the local weekly about being a rising star on the local film scene. My false pride wouldn't allow me to acknowledge my lack of experience. My lack of experience blinded me to the need to not be blinded to the action as it was framed. I probably didn't know enough yet to see all the things were I monitoring that I missed watching with my naked eye. I recall being so tired in every manner as we shot the last shot that I just went through the motions. It shows.
That's enough flogging. Someone is working on finishing it with me. I need the impartial eyes of another editor. She has her frustrations, but when she can't get Matt/Mick from the exterior to the interior of the anarchy mobile I suggest a fade in/fade out and viola -- no more anguish. At the time of filming, I adopted the purist approach of the DP and would have rather died than resort to such a transition between scenes let alone within a scene. Film gods forbid! Well, I think I'll stop worshiping false gods and just finish the damn thing. I have to warn you, there will be some impure transitions.
Before I continue, I want to clarify my comments on the DP. He's done a lot of work to inform his perspectives and attitudes concerning film. They are not arbitrary. He has also done a tremendous amount of film making to merit the praise heaped on him by Gus and the local press. It was entirely on me that I hired him to shoot my film, doing so based on what others thought of his films rather than what I needed for my film. That said, I learned a lot from working together beyond that I need to leave my ego out of such decisions. I wanted to impress him and while that certainly caused some problems it inspired thinking about the film that resulted in some things of which I am very proud. We had our difficulties, but much of the film is quite beautiful and he had a big part in making it so.
One of the main things I see in the film is a clunkiness that is a result of rushing things. Eager to save precious film, I often called cut too quickly. I also cut too quickly because I experienced a certain disbelief that it was even happening.
I'm just discovering this about myself more clearly. When in a situation where I become excited, something is triggered in me that causes me to shut down. I've used drugs, alcohol, anger, cigarettes, women, dishonesty, food, false pride, chatter, coffee -- whatever means of avoidance it takes to keep from experiencing myself. I first noticed this with smoking. I was back in New York in the midst of a very productive period of making films, writing, directing theater, acting, coaching and writing. I noticed that whenever I got to a place of clarity or even a point where things would start to open up I would call for a smoke break. I would be at my edit station, writing on my laptop or in a rehearsal, things would be going well and I would get the urge to interrupt it by taking a smoke break. Here I was starting to discover the importance of being in touch and then willfully disconnecting every hour or so.
There's something beyond craving for nicotine at work in this dynamic. Because it's been over five years since I quit smoking. It's like getting a Mustang from Hertz and finding they've put a limiter on the accelerator. I'm cruising along and when my creativity wants to floor it, there's a limiter. Something telling me not to go any further. "Don't you dare." I know who's doing the voice over, but that's for a later entry.
I will say that the DP on LC gently commented on my tendency to call cut too abruptly. I have been working on it since. There were many times in DW that I let the camera roll for thirty seconds or more beyond where I could have called cut. There were also many times that I called it too soon. The difference being that I realized it immediately. But as Lyle Lovett says, "There are things you say and do that you can never take back."
And as Marcus Aurelius says, "Anything that happens at all, happens as it should."
KR and I are working on editing London Calling on Wednesday afternoons. I'm not going to get ahead of myself about the sound or the this or the that. Each week we'll visit it for a few hours. It will tell us what it needs from us as we go. Baby steps. Gotta learn to crawl before you can walk.
False pride cuts those innocent little baby steps off at the knees.

non colpevole,
signore direttore

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Master Says 191

I will say nothing to an actor that cannot be translated into action.

Elia Kazan

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Duly Noted

The desire for composition cannot be denied, without it cinema would not be able to survive the anarchy that exists outside the frame.

Robert Kolker in his book Bernardo Bertolucci

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Master Says 190

I let reality take over, most of the time. I set up a situation, and then make a sort of cinema-verite about the characters, the real characters I find in front of my camera. In the case of Tango, I felt as if I was interviewing Brando and Maria, seen within the narrative context of the film. Thus what results on the screen always represents the fruit of the relationship I develop with the characters, and of the relationship I develop with the things and the spaces I find myself filming. It is through the camera that I begin to understand the things and the people. That is why I am constantly open to learning and absorbing into the film that which the filming itself reveals, even if that should be in contradiction with what I have written into the script.

Bernardo Bertolucci

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Back to Bagdad

Yesterday I had breakfast with my producing partner who was in town from Los Angeles. I have decided to let the original Made Crooked stand on its own and to make a new different film next Spring instead of remaking MC with a Hollywood cast. This is not news to my partner. He's been busy with other stuff and isn't the type to get anxious about this sort of stuff. He had seen a treatment for another script that he liked. He's the kind of guy that will get excited when it's time. He has a lot of faith in my writing and my ability to crank out scripts. For which I'm very grateful. It's nice to have someone so centered and accomplished believe in you. I told him how Last Tango has been haunting me. That I wanted to figure out a way to keep our principal cast small and bring actors up from LA for short supporting stints rather than ensemble work. I said I couldn't work on it right now anyway, because I need to get some editing done.
I didn't plan for it, but it happened anyway. Almost as soon as I said I couldn't spare the time for it, a new story went to work on me. It rattled around my head for most of the day yesterday, mostly feeling derivative of Last Tango. In the evening I sat down and made some notes, just to get it out of my head. The notes took a little more shape towards a treatment than I would have thought possible. I had to force myself to recall I wanted to stay close to Last Tango as the story took its own form. I worked on it again this morning. I told my wife the story. It continued to work on me as we strolled down to Junior's and back for brunch.
Then I did something I haven't really done before. I went to the library and checked out a few books that qualify loosely as research material for the script. I have to say how much I love our central library. It's so beautiful. Almost everything I ever want is on the third floor. Everytime I make the long climb up the cool marble stairs I wonder why I don't spend more of days there. I wish there were more people reading books than trying to get on a computer, but there's still plenty of books. I walked out with pile of them today.
Usually I do any necessary research on the internet in the interest of getting the script finished as fast as possible. Another thing I do is tell myself the story in terms of what might best fit the three-act structure. I resisted doing that this time and allowed myself to explore my recall of the influential events and some of their sense-memories. I allowed myself to explore and honor whatever came to mind. No logic to follow. There's no script to plug them into. I can enjoy the free-association for awhile. There's no hurry. I can trust the process. Slow and steady.
I came home and read in the back yard for the rest of the beautiful summer day, pausing to play catch with Henry, to push June in the swing and to listen to Maisie's conversations with her imaginary older sisters.
All I'm willing to say about the story is that a conversation that I had with my father one night many years ago has never left me and has become the fuel for this story's beastly fires.

Signore Direttore

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Beastly: Brando, Bertolucci, You, Me, Everybody

I recently watched the new TCM 2-part series on Marlon Brando. I highly recommend it to all movie fans and especially to anyone interested in the craft of acting. Of all the films they showed clips of and discussed, one continues to work on me. I haven't watched it in a few years and I almost don't need to, its mark is so hauntingly indelible. The film is Last Tango in Paris. It's almost too bad that there was that unsalted butter bit in there, because that's all anybody ever seems to remember about the film. That's like saying Sgt. Pepper's is all there is to The Beatles.

I've been thinking a lot about the film this week. It's so beautiful. The camera tells us so much as it dances with the characters. And I'm not talking about the tango scenes. I'm talking about the apartment interiors. Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider move about independently and the camera both brings them together and underscores their separateness. Brando slumped against the wall, his distorted body forming a strong composition. He does nothing and commands everything.

It's also a lot about what the camera doesn't see. There's a lot of distorted shots through textured glass that are very painterly. Sometimes the distorted images are Paul's (Brando's) memories. The painterliness wasn't an accident as Bertolucci and Brando visited the Francis Bacon show up in Paris at the time. They directly quoted Bacon's compositions and alluded to the way in which the painter renders his figures compositionally.

In the end the film is about how truly grotesque we can be when every bit of our sophistication and pretense is stripped away.

As the truth always sets us free, there is absolute beauty in our monstrosity.

Signore Direttore

Light and Shadow 009 - Bacon

Friday, July 06, 2007

Folk Wisdom 028

You don't get harmony when everyone sings the same note.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


This movie is awesome! It's the exact opposite of any film I hope to ever make and I will never ever put it on my Netflix queue. However, I absolutely recommend going down to the biggest screen in your city and munching on some popcorn in front of this CGI tour de force. Eye candy doesn't even begin to describe this whirlwind.

My only disclaimer is that if you expect anything resembling a story, stay home and watch Hannah and Her Sisters again.

Signore Direttore

Light and Shadow 008 - Carravagio

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Last Days

This is where my father grew up. I took this photo yesterday. The barn is caving in on itself. The fields have been sown with grasses as part of a Federal soil erosion prevention program. I witnessed the butcher of the last of the chickens in the bottom right of the bottom photo, right where that t-shaped handle rests, when I was there for the summer of my eighth birthday. That was the last of the livestock on what was once a bustling farm that supported a family of six.
Two of my father's three sisters still live there with my grandmother. My father was disinherited. Probably just as well. I've written a script that involves the dismantling of the old barn that my grandfathers built in the late 1800s. I hope it lasts until I can shoot the film, which will be another year at least. My father's family is very devoutly Mormon. I don't think they'll let me make a film on their property that uses foul language or has any sex in it.

Coffin Nails

Throughout the making of Dangerous Writing and in the wake of picture wrap I've been asked a lot of questions directly and indirectly about individual performances and my overall satisfaction with the film. I've overheard some handwringing and fretting that some actors didn't feel they "nailed" things.
I have a very different take on this stuff. I don't want anyone to nail anything. I don't like the association with adreline fueled, pursuit of perfection that nailing something brings to mind. To me acting is about understanding the given circumstances of the text and then trying to get under it. As an actor, I welcome many takes - not so much to try many things, but to explore my experience of the scene, discarding and adapting as I venture forth. It is the only way that I know to connect and commit to exploring the imagined world of the story. If I hold onto to some idea about how it should be, I sacrifice my freedom to find out what it could be. As I remind actors of the given circumstances they latch onto them as direction. I'll suggest what it might be and then observe my suggestion getting played when my intention was to start a dialogue rather than end one.
I too want the film to be good, but not as much as I wanted to experience its creation honestly. Honesty is the most reasonable yardstick of creativity. Was I honestly working from the best I had to offer each day of filming? Or was I operating from a place of ego with the expectation that my involvment with DW was going to lead to something else?
If we can each answer those questions, we will know how "good" we were. I think many aspiring filmmakers and actors go into a new project with the hope that they are going to overcome their mortality and that the imagined and hoped for greatness of their egocentric insecurities are going to be fulfilled at last. Rather than trying to reinvent myself, I am looking for opportunities to find out who I am as a filmmaker. What are my strengths and weaknesses? Where do I need to adjust my focus?
In making DW, I had two primary goals regarding my process. One was to let others assist me in making the film. There are many things that I know how to do faster and better than the crew can do, but is that best for the film? No, it isn't. It drains my energy and focuses my attention on light stands and microphones rather than the story's possibitlites. I did a better job of letting go as we went along. My work in this regard is far from over. One of the things I have to get over is the idea that the crew will think I'm lazy if I'm not working alongside them. Another difficulty is to look on at someone fumbling with something I can do with my eyes closed. My most successful day of letting go was at Ristretto. Since one of my oldest and closest friends owns the place and was present, I would have thought I would have been vigilant about things working efficiently. Somehow I walked past a lot of blundering and kept a smile on my face. I noticed a lot of it, and I checked my watch as things dragged on with the crew, but I didn't take it on. I transitioned from micro-managing to managing that night.
The other thing I wanted to do on DW was to stop coaching actors on set. If an actor doesn't know how to do something, I would rather not teach them how to do it. After teaching acting for five years, it's a tough habit to break. As many of the actors in DW were former students I could sense their frustration at letting them flounder. In the long run, we'll all be better off for it. As I work with more experiened actors, a poorly timed acting lesson may well alienate a trained professional. It has probably irritated my former students at times as well. And my former students won't come to rely on coaching from other directors. Especially since most directors are not former acting coaches or even familiar with acting technique.
What I want to do as a director is sit back and watch the actors work. I want to remind them of the starting and end points, and perhaps a mile marker or two. Then I want to be surprised and entertained. I want to fall in love with them. I want partners in crime. I got that at times in DW. For sure. I personally ruined a couple of takes by bursting out in laughter. I would like to see more of that ownership on the part of the actors. I would like to see and hear less concern with being good. I would like to hear more questions about the story. I don't like "Should I ..." questions, they betray the desire to get it right. I also would like to see actors learn to hit marks and hold their blocking without cutting themselves off. I noticed a lot of energy getting put into not moving and holding marks rather than behaving within the boundaries of marks. Then there are those that ignore marks and blocking for the sake of more organic perfomances. Well if it's not in focus, it's not much a performance.
All of these things I mention are skills gained with experience. I don't look back on DW with finger pointed at this actor or that for failing my genius vision. Hardly. I cast them because I like them and I knew they would do a good job and be enjoyable to work with. That's especially important on a micro-budget film. Everyone succeeded in that regard.
Every experience is different. DW is a minimalist film. Getting the sizzle isn't important. On another film, the actors might need to stir their molecules a bit more. With more closeups, they might need to focus their energies better. But that's another film's challenges, I wish them the best in meeting those future challenges as well as they met the demands of Dangerous Writing.

Signroe Directtore

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Master Says 189

I am not interested in actors that don't need me. I spend a lot of time talking to them, getting to know them, and loosely discussing the story.

Mike Figgis

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Orson's Shadow or Why I More or Less Hate Theater

The play wasn't terrible. Let's start there. There were a few minutes in the first act and a solid chunk of time in the second that things were firing on all cylinders. Michael Mendelsohn was pretty great as Ken Tynant. Though his role had to carry a lot of expositional back story. Which is where I get a little annoyed. Theatre goers are considered of a higher intelligence. If that's so, why do we need so much tidy, comprehensive information? The play seems to ignore that there are a dozen biographies of Welles widely available. That you can Google him when you get home to fill in any blanks. Instead of stating anything new or challenging us to experience anything with Orson, we get a wordy biography delivered with sliding dialects.
The out-of-towners playing Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh were very good. I liked Olivier's haricut, but his moustache confused me throughout. Todd Van Voris as Welles was good at times. He got the boom of Orson's voice, but missed the soft lilt. I would say he missed all of Welles's feminitity. Lauren Bair as Joan Plowright did a fine job, though her costuming was awful. And the other supporting actor; oh my I think I'll let that one go without further mention.
Maybe it was the writing, but Van Voris seemed to bellow and boast from the surface more than he allowed us any experience of his or Orson's viscera. I've read the biographies and I realize it's not entirely clear what kept Orson from living up to his genius. I do think it's the task of the playwright, the director and the actor to make a strong choice in representing that protrayal. In this production we got a lot of single-mindedness and finger pointing. If that's a true representation of the historical facts, and I know it isn't limited to such facts, it makes for more squabbling than drama.
Everytime I go to the theater I feel like I'm at the ballet or the opera -- upper middle-class supporters and the prodcution co-signing the stuffy reputation of culture and art regardless of the quality of the performance. If I had to pay forty bucks a ticket for that, I would be pissed. Even with our comps I felt like I was being held prisoner at times.

Popcorn anyone?
Signore Direttore