Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Actor Friends. Part 6 That's A Wrap.

Most of you who read this are artists. Even if you don't produce art in the classic sense, as a painter, writer or sculptor, you creatively express yourself. It may be a hobby, but it is much more than a simple pastime. Me? I'm an actor. I may not be the best actor in the world, but I am trained, and I do enjoy it.

We wrapped shooting yesterday on, Cold December. The production had been working all week, but I was only called for the last two days.

As most of you know, films can be prohibitively expensive. The financing for Cold December comes entirely from the director/producer/writer/Cameraman Brian Wright's (pictured here) pocket. When your chosen medium is movies, you can't always wait for some exec to give you forty million, so you tailor your script to what you can afford. Often, making stylistic and artistic choices due to lack of funding.

We shot with a skeleton crew of Director/Cameraman, Boom Operator and Assistant Director/Script Supervisor. Three people, more or less, essential to filming. Director/Cameraman's need is obvious. Normally, there would be a laundry list of departments, from art to make-up, costumes, props, lighting, etc.

The Script Supervisor's job is to keep track of everything that is being shot. Organizing a list of shots from close-ups, two-shots, masters, medium shots, reversals, so the director knows what needs to be, and what has been, shot. Also, for the editor (who is our director/producer/writer/cameraman, as well.) to use as a guide when editing. The Script supervisor also helps keep track of the set, where things are and what was used, in an effort to maintain continuity. It is a very difficult job, performed excellently by Annie, a recent Northwestern grad pictured here.

The Boom Operator is required for quality sound. It is a demanding position calling for very close attention to details, like sound levels, surrounding noise and actors mumbled performances of dialogue. Among other things, there is physical strain. Holding a mic above our heads for ten to fifteen hours a day is no easy task. (On the left, Mike, our boom operator, and Brian work out the challenge of shooting in a bathroom with confined space and multiple mirrors.) I boomed on a feature film in LA when I first arrived in town. I was grossly under qualified, but desperate for work. I left the shoot with a high respect for the job.

It was especially nice to work with Chris again. He trained with the same coach I did in L.A. and uses, mainly, the same techniques. One of the challenges of acting in a film, compared to performing a play, is the nonlinear schedule. There is no organic build as in performing a play from beginning to end. Actor's in films have to pay close attention to the given circumstances of what is being shot at that time. An actor must internalize those circumstances, (Which I call "prep", but it could have many names depending on the actor.) then allow that to infuse their performance, dialogue and relationships with their fellow actors characters. This is often called "subtext." or "internal monologue." The circumstances change throughout the scene. Within your "prep" is what the character "wants." The changes in circumstances can be called "obstacles," to those "wants." The best actors have a very strong "prep" and are endlessly creative when making "choices" based on it. "Choices" are what the actors use to overcome "obstacles" and also to create a full character. Marlon Brando famously sliced an orange peal and put it in his mouth, pretending to be a monster, to entertain his grandson in The Godfather. He could of done anything, but what is brilliant about that "choice" is he accomplishes a "want," (entertaining his grandson) and clearly describes his character. (Who is, in fact, a murderous, greedy monster that controls a criminal empire.)

I'm getting alittle ahead of myself. There are volumes written on acting technique by much smarter people then me. Suffice to say, I felt good about the work being done and I look forward to the finished product.


Grant Miller said...

Congratulations on finishing the project. I hope to see it someday.

And thanks for considering me an artist. Although I like to believe that I live the art that I cannot write.

Chris F said...

I'm sorry my naked ass will make an appearance in this film. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product. We'll all find out if I can really carry a film.

Phil said...

Grant - Thanks, I often think the same of myself. One day you will and I look forward to reading it.

Chris - I think you can.

Badcock said...

What's the plan after photography & editing are finished? Ship it off to film festivals and hope it gets in and impresses a distributor in the audience?

Phil said...

Badcock - Yep. I'm not sure wht his timeframe is for completeing the editing. I do know he is efforting some music for the film.

Megan said...

Congratulations and good luck, Phil!