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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Creative Dream Work: My interview with teacher Kim Gillingham

Kim Gillingham leads Creative Dream Work. She coaches professional artists of all mediums toward the creation of singular, authentic work and has been doing so for over eleven years. Kim’s experience coaching world-class artists combined with her interest in Jungian psychology has yielded this powerful approach to creative work, performance technique and personal development. She continues to study with the eminent Jungian analyst and author Marion Woodman and was once a protégé of acting coach Sandra Seacat. Kim is based in Los Angeles and teaches throughout the world.

Corey: How did you discover the work? What was that experience like for you?

Kim: My origin story begins with Sandra Seacat.  I went to see the movie “Frances” at the movie theater one afternoon by myself and I was like “What was that?” I watched all the credits go up at the end and then I saw, “Acting coach to Jessica Lange- Sandra Seacat.” And I said, ‘I don’t know who that is, but I’m gonna find that person.’

And then, as these things boyfriend at the time -was doing a television show and on it was someone who was connected to someone who was working for Sandra and through this I met Sandra. And I was like, ‘what is this? And what are these people doing?’ It was in the days of Sandra’s giant Culver City class. I had no idea that acting could be that. So then I really fell in love with ‘the work,’ from an acting point of view and I studied with Sandra and I went to Italy with her, to Montecatini and we worked really closely there. We were there working for four months and those months changed my life.

And then, life goes on it's way. I always stayed connected to Sandra. And then I got pregnant and once I had my son in my belly, I just didn’t want to act anymore. And I was so surprised at that turn. I began, with Sandra - she would send me people to warm up and then work with. And I was like ‘I don’t want to be a teacher.’ But little by little I did, she would send me people and I would just start working. For which I’m forever grateful. 

And then I had the great fortune of also working with a Jungian analyst named Marion Woodman. I went to a workshop with her and again was like, ‘now who are these people? And what are they doing here?’ And that’s for analysts, but when I was there I was very much agog , ‘this is the best rehearsal method, the most amazing acting work I’ve ever seen. So then I entered a study program with her and I was trained in her work for 6 years. And then I came back and…all the while I was teaching. So since my son was born, and he’s 17 now. I’ve been teaching in some way or another. And now I am weaving in Sandra’s work and Marion’s work and some other things that I found along the way, as far as meditation and breath and voice, kind of all mixed in there together.

Corey: Did you ever hear of or have any interaction with Sandra’s initial dream worker, Alvaro Lopez Watermann? 

Kim: I think I met him once, but I knew Gabriella [his wife]. And I worked with Gabriella and she was the first teacher I went to as far as dream work goes.  I remember going to her and saying, “I want to learn how to do this.” I remember getting sessions with her on how to do it. She was my first dream teacher. But I never worked with Alvaro. Did you?

Corey: Yeah. I met him through Sandra in workshop in New York. I started working privately with him in 1987. I worked privately with him for about 5 years in Galisteo, New Mexico. 

Corey: My next question is about the receptivity of the actors that come to you. Do you have to deal with their skepticism at all?

Kim: For sure.

Corey: How do you approach it?

Kim: Well, I have some people I work with who don’t do the dream work so much. We just do script work. But even in that, my penchant acting-wise is like, ‘well, where’s that familiar to you?’ Or ‘what’s that hitting in you?’ So whether or not you go into dream material, I always think the acting material is like a dream and will carry you to yourself. And anyway, I guess, like I always say you can come and see if it’s for you and then once you have an experience then you just keep sniffing around and see what’s there. And if it’s not the right thing then go find what works for you. And I’ve really understood that we need different things at different times. There are times when you really need an analytical teacher, and times when you need other…but for me, I’ve really come to understand that working in this way, your creative work becomes a companion to your individuation process. And it’s a gift and a wonder to have your creative work being part of your individuation process. So if you’re showing up just to be better, then either you’ll leave or you’ll get into the process and work. 

Corey: Do you feel that no matter how you’re working, if you stay true to the actor’s instrument, that the individuation is going to happen as you follow your work? What force do you feel is behind that inevitable growth process?

Kim: I think that’s the thing that just makes me bow down again and again. The genius of the Inner Self, the reliability of the Creative Source, it never stops being like, “I’m right here.” 

Corey: And thank God that we don’t have to ‘will’ the whole thing.

Kim: Yeah. I think that’s the most profound of discoveries on the work is that, the swapping of effort for trust. And more and more…if I reach my hand out, something will be there. And the practice. From my understanding, this really is a practice. The more we practice it, the more vital what is there is there. 

Corey: Have you had times when you realized how well Sandra did all this? How well she mirrored that faith or trust?

Kim: Oh, my goodness! Completely. I remember her sitting in her chair just calm, like a mighty fountain of faith as we worked. 

Corey: There aren’t a lot of teachers like that. 

Kim: Yeah, I don’t know where her ego was. I have that seared in my mind, in my being. Thankfully. 

Corey: As the inner work occurs inside the artist, would you talk about the tools that can get it into the body, into expression?

Kim: I think that’s one of the things I believe in the most. I remember being an actor, I literally remember having hours of time and being like, I don’t know what to do. Like what am I supposed to do? That was back in the day of driving around with your headshot and your reel. I look back on that now and I think, while you have that time, what needs to be done is work with the body and work with the voice and work with the instrument. Stanislavski has an amazing quote saying there is no time to do it once you get the show. You have to do it beforehand. 

Now I understand that when in doubt, lie down on the floor and breathe, lie down on the floor and make sound or work with open sound. Or let the body become pliant enough for what is coming through to come through. And that really is the artist’s or the actor’s work for sure. Keep the channel open, as Martha Graham says. we do a lot of work with gestures, I guess  taken from Michael Chekhov. I think Sandra was practicing that early and then it’s interesting, I work with someone who studied with her later and she was saying, ‘we never did that work.’ But I find that work super helpful. 

And then Marion’s oeuvre of work is how to bring the unconscious through the body. So there’s a series of exercises that I bring to our classes that are exploring that. They are very much about letting the creative impulse come through the body. Again the practice of feeling a creative impulse and letting it come through, that’s what we do in class, we just practice becoming able to recognize it and allowing it to express itself freely and fully.

I believe the more that we stay sourced creatively, the more I am painting or drawing, or working with clay, or knitting or singing, the more that spring is open…the more will come through. And I’m a huge believer in cross-training, and if you’re an actor, then you paint; if you’re a painter, act. I’ve really seen interesting things happen and all the preciousness of, “I am an AC-TOR!” really gets discombobulated. I have an actor that I work with, he just comes and paints with me witnessing- with the idea of a private moment. Can I do this without indicating that I’m doing it? Can I just be involved with the creative process that I’m involved with. And it’s been remarkable to see how it’s impacted his acting. It’s all about the cross-training. 

Corey: Do you see the ways in which the value system in L.A. can alter how an actor thinks about themselves?

Kim: I think any time you get into the dreams and the individuation process, it’s going to bring us smack dab into whatever belief system you’re working with and it really is a wrassling that out of those hands and onto the mat, into your creative work. Then the work becomes about allowing yourself to be expressed. I don’t know if where it comes through is as worrisome as that it comes through. But also maybe just don’t buy into it. 

Corey: It’s not always easy. You know, you start out doing your own thing, but the agent or casting director or producer, or executives that you come into contact with as you audition, callback, and test and book over and over- you can start changing over time. 

Kim: You sure need…a strong relationship to something bigger than you. You sure need that. I think. For me. I need it. 

Corey: Since you have worked around the world with your teaching, do you see any archetype of what the American actor is today?

Kim: Oh that’s a great question. That’s a cool question. Can you say a little more, what do you…?

Corey: In 1951, Streetcar was released in movie theaters and Brando became the embodiment of the American actor. Then James Dean became another embodiment of that archetype. By the late 1960s and early 70s things changed. There was Pacino and Hoffman, but there was also the archetype that had developed of the American actor as the lazy and indulgent actor. This negative image is not entirely gone today, according to some people. But I think today’s actors are much more informed, with all that’s available on the internet and in media, so they can be more proactive today. There is the eternal comparison with British actors as well.  What do you see as you work with American actors?

Kim: I think the thing I do see- it’s different where you go in the world and who you meet in the world. Perhaps one of the things we have going for us in America, is that we’ll try things. I think there is a little more willingness to bash things around and try. I do see that. 

Corey: What do you see alternatively to that?

Kim: I did a workshop in Europe, in a country where there was a lot of skepticism. There was “What is this and why would we be doing this?” Literally someone saying, “what’s the point of this?” And resistance. You know, ‘acting is THIS.’ Period. But for me, if an actor comes my way, they are usually at the point where they are saying, ‘what else is there…’ I assume people come to me with a certain amount of base training, they have their basic skills. The same thing like when I went to Sandra and the ceiling flew off, and I was like, ‘there’s more than just trying to be ‘good?’ I do see that an actor who comes to me is usually like, ‘what else?’ “What else can happen here? 

It’s a good question, it really makes you think. I do see that the idea of being a movie star can be completely stifling to the creative process. And that the vanity that sometimes goes along with that is very stifling to the creative process. In that way Europe has us beat, because they have a much wider idea of what beauty is. 

Corey: It sounds like that willingness to try and to bash stuff around is a significant part of today’s American actor. 

Kim: We spend the summers in Europe and my sister in law who came to America and fell in love with Joshua Tree and the desert, and she said when she went back to Europe, she felt like all the buildings are so old there and the old ideas there were so concrete. It really did make me think. If you came here as an immigrant, most likely you or someone in your family was saying, “I wonder what else we could do.”Granted there are also people who were brought here against their will. We can  it turn away from that.

Corey: Yeah it makes sense. If you look at the actor who is a seeker and who tries, there is a big difference between that and the actor who is closed off, closed minded, stuck in concepts, unwilling to try, unwilling to step into the unknown.

Kim: I’ll tell you how can answer that. When we went to Montecatini, we did a trade with the Actors Studio in Italy. Whatever that is. I remember there being a super resistant actress there. I remember Sandra taking them through an exercise and it was one dream image, and the person was like, ‘this is ridiculous, please get to the Chekhov.’ Then Sandra took them through this sensory exercise and in the end the actor got it, and was like, “Oh! Oh!” It was revelatory. 

Corey: Would you talk about auditions?

Kim: Sandra tells the story of an actor who just didn’t know. He went to an audition and was seated at a conference table. And all the white men were there. And the actor said to the people in the room, “Oh great, you sit over there! And will you be the guy who comes in? And will you hold that there for me?” The actor created in the room, just made up. Now that’s a brazen act, but…maybe not. And maybe there is something to coming in and doing your creative work in the room. Instead of, as a friend tells me, “I’m always auditioning to be the assistant or the secretary.”  I’m trying to be good, and prompt and know my lines, and maybe you’ll get the job as the receptionist that way. But what would you want to do with the material? 

And I very much believe and I work a lot with people auditioning and when I know their work and I work with them in an ongoing way, I will say, “What’s this audition a ritual for?” Like this is you, and you get a chance to work with this material and say whatever needs to be said to this particular energy and deal with the feelings that come up as if it’s in the container of the ritual. 

Leave the audition and sit down. And what I learned from Marion is afterwards to write what came up. How did I handle it? What voices got activated inside of me? What would I like to work on for next time? What did work? And then I leave. I have done my work for the day. If I try to make something everyday, which I highly recommend that everybody do, well then I made something that day. And if I get the job, great. And if not, as we know, I wasn’t meant to get it.  

Corey: I’d love to hear you talk about script breakdown.

Kim: I work with the script as Sandra taught us. So we work with them like a dream. If all goes well, we go through the whole script as if it was a dream. And what are the energies that you’re working with, who are the key relationships within the dream. And I was just saying that in the end I hope that we have a card for each scene. Like this is my baloney sandwich from dream. This is my memory from childhood, but also this is the narrative, this is what the scene is about, and where I’m coming from and where I’m going to, and this is what I want. I do believe in those basic tools. 

In the best case scenario, we definitely have time to drop onto the mat and drop into the unconscious and work through different scenes and see what comes up and explore the dynamics. Someone was saying, “Oh I understand, if I understand the dynamics and the who these people are, you shake it up and respond in the moment.  

I’ve been talking a lot lately about the paradox of preparation. And the difference between preparing and planning. And how when we plan what to do, it just gets very rigid and steeped in ideas. And what’s the preparation that inspires you? Or what’s the preparation that gets me aroused imaginatively? And can I trust my preparation with my prepared instrument, can I trust the preparation and show up and throw everything away and go moment to moment? It’s an incredible art. 

Corey: It takes trust. Developing trust, because the fear can come up.

Kim: I know but it’s the practice. If I practice that when I’m in a moment of stress, I’m actually going to soften. You wouldn’t want to try that for the first time when you’re on set with the sun going down. But if you have a practice with it, you have a shot. As we know that’s when the most delicious things come through, when we can collaborate with the unknown. 

Corey: Would you talk about the work of creating a role?

Kim: The architecture of it is you would do a dream to hear like what is the essence of how I am similar to this character or what am I struggling with that they are. And then mine through that material and come up with your material sourced and ready to go. I’m interested in how do you bring your authenticity through a dialect or a physicality, and I’m interested in what does the dialect or the physicality allow you to express. I think in the end, someone said to me- a British actor was saying, every role either you’re reaching to the character saying, come on, I’ll help you or the character is reaching to you, saying, come on, I’ve got this piece you need let me help you through

And then like Jung says, you would not have this dream if you were conscious of the material that was in there. The dream wouldn’t have to arrive. And if we take the scripts in the same way, you wouldn’t have the role to play unless there’s something in there that you’re unconscious of. That this will give you the chance to embody…

Corey: Your blind spot…

Kim: Yes. And again this is a well orchestrated, a lot of Shakti around it, a ritual for you to embody this aspect of yourself. 

Corey: I’m so grateful to talk with you. The work that you are doing is so rare, from my experience. There are many ways to work on your craft as an actor, but few involve the embracing of individuation in the work. 

Kim: There was a time when I came out of the closet, and I started using the word, “God” in class. Now I’m wholehearted, we open the class by opening an altar. And I just do it. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine- I don’t disparage the way anyone wants to work. But it’s what I want to do. 

The artists must take their attention off of ‘he who shall not be named.’ The artists must bring the attention back to the well. And sit here by the well with our ears open and our hearts open and wait for the new material to come through, because the culture needs it so badly. When we as artists are looking to the culture and seeing what they want and feeding back what they want, it’s like a terrible narcissistic loop. There is something about the artist sustaining the pull away from the culture and waiting for the material to come, like ‘I have a tuned instrument and I can deliver this to you. That’s our work. We see it again and again and then the culture is like, “What? Wow.” Jung has a thing where he says, ‘the artist prepares the civilization for the shift.’ We need to be in touch and bring the material up and offer it to the culture.  Turning away from the culture and turning toward the creative source is everything. And that’s certainly what I’m interested in doing. 

Corey: And the artist has to be willing to accept the wound and what can come from it. 

Kim; Yes, Marion used to say, “Now pull up your socks and learn something from it.” It was like with Sandra, pulling up your socks may mean doing a ritual. It’s no easy thing. Weren’t we lucky to have that? 

Corey. Yes. And I still have a friend from those days and I can run my dreams by him. We bring dreams to each other and we ask each other, “Tell me what you see.” 

Corey: Thank you Kim!

Kim: Thank you!

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Pay to Play Scandal with some Casting Director Workshops in Los Angeles

After an investigation begun last year, the Los Angeles city attorney says that five workshop companies and 25 individuals are facing criminal charges for an illegal pay-to-play audition scheme.

The Los Angeles city attorney cracked down on Hollywood's pay-to-play casting workshop scene on Thursday, announcing cases against five prominent casting firms and 25 individuals allegedly involved in schemes that violate the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, a rarely enforced state labor law.
City Attorney Mike Feuer's ongoing undercover investigation became public in July 2016 after the Casting Society of America told its members in an email that colleagues had been contacted about their participation in workshops.
"I want to underscore what the rules are," Feuer said Thursday morning at a press conference announcing the new criminal charges. "It's unlawful to charge any performer for an audition, even if that supposed activity is disguised as a workshop."
He continued: "I'm here to announce the results of an investigation that began last year into alleged scams. Today we filed charges. I hope the filing of these charges against five casting agencies, these so-called casting workshops and against a number of individuals — more than two dozen altogether — will send notice that any talent scam will aggressively be pursued by this office. And as a result, this will cease. I will name them. Each defendant could face jail time and significant penalties."
Feuer added: "Aspiring performers who pursue their dreams should be treated with respect and never be exploited for profit."
Also at the podium at the press conference was Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, general counsel for SAG-AFTRA. "On behalf of the members of SAG-AFTRA, we're extraordinarily pleased with the action that was taken to handle this problem," he said. "These workshops prey on the hopes and dreams of people that want to work in this industry. No one is more committed to addressing this problem than this office and Mike Feuer. Our members and our future members are the people who are victims of these scams. It's essential to take action. These people's dreams were taken advantage of. These are not people of means. These are people barely getting by. So just to be considered for a job, it's a real abuse."
Feuer offered new details of how the investigation transpired. To uncover the alleged pay-to-play schemes, the city attorney's office used an undercover professional actor, who attended 13 casting workshops. "This investigation was conducted very thoroughly," Feuer said. "It was conducted by an investigator who was actually an undercover informant for this office. This informant attended 13 workshops by five companies. The results were then verified by an independent expert."
The prominent casting workshop companies — Actors' Ally, The Actors Link, The Actor's Key, Your Studio Productions and The Casting Network — were named. (The Actors Link is now known as Ace Studios.) The owners and operators of each of these businesses were charged, as were casting associates who work with them.
When reached by The Hollywood Reporter after the press conference, Richard Hicks, president of the Casting Society of America, offered the following statement: "The CSA fully supports the work of the city attorney's office. Along with SAG-AFTRA, CSA stands in support of treating actors with dignity and respect, and those CSA members who teach should do so only with workshop companies which are fully compliant with both the workshop guidelines and the Krekorian Act. CSA members who teach workshops are expected to adhere to the workshop guidelines and the Krekorian Act. Members who are found to be noncompliant will have their membership status reviewed. CSA has been proactive on this issue, including holding a town hall meeting last year to which it invited all of its members to learn about the guidelines and the law, as well as providing the resources and tools for their operation and management."
The action comes 10 months after THR first brought renewed attention to the pervasive and persistent if previously neglected issue. (While exchanging money for the prospect of employment is illegal in California, there had been no prosecutions against workshops under Krekorian since it was enacted in 2009.)
In the ensuing tumult, one prominent practitioner left his post on CBS' Criminal Minds the day after THR's investigation was published, then later closed his own workshop business; a longtime Vampire Diaries casting director canceled his classes under scrutiny; and the CSA itself set up a blue-ribbon panel to self-scrutinize. By this past September, Will Stewart, who most recently booked parts for Scandal, had sworn off the practice, claiming, "Workshops are dying."
Indeed, a statistical comparison by THR between the same monthlong period at the beginning of 2016 and 2017 found a 46 percent year-over-year drop-off, according to a tally of the total number of offerings enumerated on listings service (Still, that leaves 211 classes.)
The CSA has registered continuing concern about rife noncompliance with its own stringent workshop guidelines, sending an email to its members on Monday (obtained by THR) that reminds them to "provide their own specific lesson plan and not rely on a 'one size fits all' lesson plan provided by the workshop studio." It also enumerated other problems, including advertising that "appears misleading about our members' credits" and the omission of the required disclaimer reminding attendees that this "is not an audition or employment opportunity."

Court Docs:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Checklist by Milton Katselas


What follows here is referred to by the students in class as "The Checklist".  It has evolved over my years of teaching as a series of tools any actor can use to help approach their work on a scene. A very successful actress who has been a student of mine for a long time insists she uses this checklist on every gig she gets.  It is not strictly necessary to dwell upon the entire checklist every time you work--any one of the tools may be the one that unlocks a scene for you.
--Milton Katselas, Acting Class,Take a Seat

1. What is the event?
What's going on in this scene? Not the theme. Just what's going on. Have I experienced anything like that? Yeah. And how did I behave? Some ideas there. Okay.

2. Evaluation
Am I on fire? Are the choices hot enough, alive? This scene is loaded. The stakes are high. Am I ready for that, or do I need to assume the position? Okay.

3. Behavior
What am I doing physically in this scene? I can't allow myself just to sit here and say lines. What else can I do to be more alive? Push-ups? Clean the room? Put on makeup? Okay.

4. Physical/Emotional State
Am I drunk? Enough? Do I feel sexy? Am I drugged, in pain? Or am I supposed to be feeling great? Just had good food, feeling exhilarated? Am I really nailing this? And is the state consistent throughout the scene? Is it cold the entire time? Or do I warm up during the scene? How do my emotions vary in the scene? I've got to figure that out specifically. Okay.

5. What happened before the scene?
Did I just finish the New York Marathon? Did I just get fired? Is it raining outside? So am I wet? Out of breath from the stairs? And how does that change now that the scene has begun? Am I tracking that clearly and logically? Okay.

6. Creative Hiding
Can I play part of the scene into the tablecloth? Weep into it? Play with my hat as I woo her? Or play the sunset instead of her eyes? Can I be freer through fiddling with the scarf? Okay.

7. Be a person
Am I like an actor on a stage or am I like a person? My character is a person. Is my behavior coming from the real life of the character? Am I just trying to be emotional, or am I a person trying to control their emotions, as on the six-o'clock news? Okay.

8. Inner and Outer Life "The Cover"
Play the clown for her and pretend the pain inside is nothing? Or play the pain more and less charm? Get more personal and specific with inner turmoil? I know I'll lose her-- feel that? Or play more the social, easy behavior and attitude and let the inner pop out later, surprise myself and them? I need to ensure I'm not "playing the cover" without anything cooking underneath. Okay.

9. Who's the author?
Who wrote this? Woody Allen? Bertolt Brecht? Tennesse Williams? What is this author after? What is his or her specific point of view on life? What is her style? What is his sense of humor? What other works are there by the author? Have I read them for clues? Okay.

10. Improvisation
I'll pretend I'm going to marry Ophelia, and we'll improvise my proposal and see where that takes us. Shakespeare's language is tough-- let me say it in my own words for a while, then get back to the Bard. Let's improvise the first night of our honeymoon, see what that does for the scene. Or just be silent for a while, let hte scene be within us. Loose and easy, don't push for the scene. Okay.

11. Humor
Am I using humor? People use humor all the time to deal with hardship-- am I doing that? Is it too much to suddenly act lIke Noel Coward, as Brando did at the end of Last Tango in Paris? Cover that pain with a put-on, humorous. English accent? Joking with her? Yeah, that can work. All the great performances have humor, they have charm, they have irony. Okay.

12. Trust
So I believe in my choices? Am I having fun? Am I confident in what I'm doing? I know it will be there, I will make it be there. I've got my choices. I understand this guy. Let's go. Okay.

13. Being Personal
Am I personally involved in this scene? Am I telling the right story? Being personal doesn't mean I decide the character is from my hometown. This needs to cost me something: My emotional involvement.

14. Pathology
How sick is this character? How compulsive? Am I giving in to the violence? I have some seed of this in my life. Use it. Expand on it. Remember, he will do anything to possess her. Okay.

15. Objectives
The character wants to be king, don't deny it. Do I want it enough? I know what it means to want something. Go for it. Remember, at any cost, he wants to seduce her, so am I doing all I can to get her? Caution is not my friend. Okay.

16. Specifics
Is this my Hamlet, personal and specific? Do I have the father? Is he real to me? The image of my mother in bed with my uncle-- do I have that? It's late at night. Do I have the specific feeling of late at night; not tired, but hyper? The choice of Hamlet's angry explosion, do I have that nailed? Really? Okay.

17. Use of Objects
Am I using physical objects to connect myself with this environment? Maybe some of my own personal objects will make me more comfortable. Or how about one that has more emotional value for me? Yeah, let me use one of those. Any inner objects I can think of that will help me connect with moments in the scene? Okay.

18. Arbitrary Choices
Kazan says, "Character is revealed through contradiction." What inner struggle is my character going through that might be revealed through an arbitrary choice? Some kind of illogical choice that actually fits the truth of this guy? Okay.

19. Moment to Moment: Belief
Can this scene be tracked? Am I responding to things moment to moment? Am I really listening, taking the time to respond as a person would? Am I discovering each moment as it happens? The more I experience, the more I'll believe, and the more I believe, the more I'll experience. Okay.

20. Moment to Moment: Alternatives
The script says my character leaves his wife. But have I explored the opposite? That he stays? Maybe he tries to stay, but at the last second he can't. Real people go through tough decision making before choosing the way to go. So as an actor, I need to go through that process, even though the final action has been determined by the author. I have to participate in the process. That needs to be part of my performance. Okay.