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Archive for April, 2009

Short films are my bread and butter right now; I do more of them than anything else.  They’re a lot of fun, somewhat low pressure, and over with quickly.  They’re a great way to hone your craft before presenting to a large audience.  A lot of trial, error, and experimentation goes on in short film.  It’s an amazing learning opportunity.  I actually belong to a short filmmakers’ club, which is who I shot this latest one with.  I’ve been in the club for a little over a year now, and have met some great people.  Because everyone knows everyone before we get to set, we’ve got great camaraderie, and can really just play around, relax, and be more creative.  Some shoots are more demanding than others, but this one was very easygoing and relatively unstressful.

The basic premise was the whole “big brother is watching” idea.  I was playing part of a couple who were unknowingly under surveillance.  I volunteered for this one just to get back on set for a day.  I’ve been feeling a bit stagnant lately.  Last year I was averaging about one film per month, and until last weekend I hadn’t shot anything since Christmas.  I’ve been keeping busy taking some classes and auditioning for professional gigs, and at the film club I’ve been working on getting one of my screenplays produced.  So while I’ve been busy doing other things, I was nonetheless feeling like I just needed to film something.  It’s very much that “if you’re not moving, you’re falling behind” type of feeling.  This shoot ended up being a fun day and helps me feel like I’m back in the swing of things, so I think it did it’s job.  I’ve got another shoot scheduled for late May, so hopefully things will keep on trucking.  I’ll keep you posted on that one!

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Writing…

One of the things I like about acting is the obvious creativity that comes with it.  The more projects that you see and do, the more new ideas you get of things that you want to do.  For me, this frequently gets channeled into writing.  I have no formal training in writing, but it’s something that has become an increasing hobby of mine over the years.  I started off by brainstorming a couple of play ideas, have finished one stage play, and for the last year or so I have been working away at writing short screenplays.  I find this genre very appealing right now as most of my projects lately have been short films, so it’s a style I’m fairly familiar with, it allows for storylines that the stage does not, and best of all, they’re short.  This lets me bang one out in a couple of weeks, as opposed to months or years.  It allows me to practice,  develop an idea, and then quickly move on to a new idea and new film.  I thought I had written just a handful so far, but last time I actually counted, I think I had around 10 different screenplays on the back burner, two that I’m currently trying to get produced, and three new ones that I’m outlining that have come to me in the last two weeks.  A slim majority of my stuff is probably comedy, but the rest is more dramatic.  Comedy tends to be better suited to short film, as there isn’t much time to develop characters, create a story arch, and get people invested in a dramatic story.  I’m trying my hand at both, however, and so far am pleased with my results.  Quite often I will tap into an idea, and I will just have a compulsion to sit and write it down before the idea passes.  It seems to just pour out of me, and frequently I end up with a few pages of an outline.  Once I’m satisfied I’ve got the premise and key pieces, I can leave it for a bit and keep going back to it later as inspiration hits.  If I ever actually get anything made that I’ve written, I’ll let you know.  For now it’s good practice, and a fun creative outlet.  And as an actor, the best way to get a good role is to write it.

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Yesterday I had the good fortune of auditioning for a commercial.  My agent arranged it for me, and I headed over to the casting studio in the afternoon.  I filled out the usual paperwork and waited in the lobby with the other actors until they called me in.  I said a quick and friendly hi and I took my mark in front of the camera and waited for my direction.  There were no lines for this piece, so instead the casting director asked me a few questions about my plans for the weekend.  I made up (not too far fetched) a little story about how we were planning a girls getaway in Niagara Falls for the weekend.  Realize, casting people don’t actually give a flip what your weekend plans are.  They’re just trying to get you to show some expression, personality, and see how you look on camera.  It was a fun commercial spot, so I tried to mirror that with a fun activity.  I tried to be animated, expressive, and personable.  While I was chatting with the casting director, I noticed the two other people sitting behind the table watching the monitor were whispering back and forth.  I’m hoping that was a good sign that they saw something worth discussing.  It was over pretty quick, as commercial auditions usually are, and on the way out the door the casting director thanked me for coming in and said “You’ve got a real cute face there.”  YAY!!!  So now we keep our fingers crossed and we wait.  It’s a numbers game, and the odds are always against you.  But every now and then you get lucky.  Maybe, just maybe…

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“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

~ Lao Tzu

I gave my first official performance at the age of four.  I can still remember it.  It was in my nursery school class, and was a production we were putting on for our parents.  Our class was split into two groups: the boys and the girls.  There were many more of us girls, and few boys, and this resulted in the girls receiving TINY parts in our collective piece, while the boys got lengthier verses.  I found this quite unfair, and it was likely my introduction to gender inequality in this business, and perhaps life in general.   

Before I continue, you may find it amusing to know that my premiere performance was also the occasion of my first fashion faux pas.  For my big day my parents had purchased me a delightful new dress.  It had mint green short sleeves and collar, and was covered with a white jumper with mint green polka dots.  I loved it.  I walked proudly into the room with my new dress on, went to take my place in line, and discovered to my surprise that the girl standing beside me had on a new dress with mint green short sleeves and collar, covered with a white jumper with mint green polka dots.  UNBELIEVABLE.  I honestly can’t remember how I felt about it, but I would guess that I was either slightly upset, or else found it amusing.  Either way, I believe we had our picture taken together to savor the moment. 

For our performance, all of us girls were lined up in a long row, and each said their piece in order from stage right.  I can still remember my line: “Mice crawl.”  That’s where it began.  My first scripted dialogue.  And in truth my performance was not without fault.  While I knew my line down cold, and had practiced numerous times, it seemed like every time it was my turn, whether in rehearsal or during our performance, my teacher would need to prompt me with “Mice…”  This infuriated me to no end, in part because I knew what my line was, and by her repeating half of my dialogue, it made everyone think that I didn’t know it, and in part because I couldn’t figure out why she kept needing to prompt me since I did in fact know my line.  I can remember thinking about this aspect of my performance even at four, and it was only years later when I realized what the problem was.  I knew my line; I didn’t know my cue.  I was so busy waiting patiently, keeping quiet, looking out at the crowd, that I wasn’t listening effectively for when the girl beside me had said her piece.  At that point I didn’t know what a cue was and no one had bothered to explain it to me.  If someone had taught me to pay attention to when the girl beside me was finished, or wait for the line “_____”, then I might have had a more seamless performance.  But I digress…  What I took away from that experience was the confidence of knowing that I knew my line, paired with the desire to better my performance.  I believe that’s when my dedication to this craft began.

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