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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Article: Pilot Season (the rollercoaster)

This post isn't just about your audition. This is about the moments before and after, the moments when you are waiting. Waiting to hear about...the callback, the notes...



Waiting to hear about the test, the numbers, the casting director, the producers, the executives, a mass of human beings that are doing business. Like traders on the floor of the stock exchange, or an auction...


You are waiting to hear if they really want you, want what you did, want what you do.


Waiting...in the hotel room. Or...you are waiting in your apartment or your house. Maybe you live alone, or you are married with a kid. Or a kid on the way. You are waiting to hear if you will get in the room and have a chance at...the lottery, hope, possibility, a better life. You know one thing. Everything hinges on your work. You wish you could think about something else. You do your relaxations. You go over the scenes, but you don't want it to be stale.

What you do have is time.



What do they think of you? What are they saying? "Actors."  Ruth Gordon wrote about these same actor issues in 1917. The same issues have been around for a hundred years! "Actors."  
If you have too long to think, or if you obsess, then...



You may start wondering:  Do you have "it"? Do you have a career in you? Do you have a great actor in you? Do you have a good actor in you?  Even if you are with people or your friends, family, you are isolated with the knowing that you are waiting, that you could hear something at any moment that changes your life. People ask you about it--"How did it go?" or "Did you hear anything yet?" "It should would be great of you booked that one." For the actor, this is like waiting to see if you have the winning lottery ticket. But the lottery ticket is you.  What you do or did. 

This is where the actor has to turn him or herself around.



You decide all over again that you want to do this, need to do this...acting. You look deep inside, because you want to see what's there before they do. Before those people in the room see into your eyes, into your soul, before the camera sees. When the waiting leaves you time, too much time to think, you must look in private, and you recommit--To your love of acting.


Do you believe in yourself? 
You have to. You must.




I don't think anyone can understand the existence of the actor who brings himself in to the room time after time after time. Unlike a musician, he has no instrument to hide behind. Only sides. Paper. And your choices. What to act, how to act. Who to be. (Be Yourself.)

In the room, so much depends on you, but there is so much that depends on them. You can't control other people. They might get you, they might not. 


You bring the life of the character as you see it. You bring it to life.

                           
Nothing must stop you. 


To deal with the fear, the anxiety, you must reconnect with your heart, your purpose and you move forward. Let nothing stop you. Instead, nurture yourself, take care of yourself, have compassion for yourself. You don't know what they are thinking. You focus on what has meaning to you. You rediscover your sense of purpose.

Let them see what it looks like when you speak the truth through their words. Bring what means something to you. 


Create the specific world that you want to bring in to the room. Let them feel that your world (the fruit of your work on their text) is being created right before their eyes and ears.

Let go of the goal being to get the job. It brings too much tension. Make the goal to do the work, to let them see you do the work you love. Let them see your love of acting. Of creating that world.



Ultimately, it is not the network or studio or anyone else that torments us as actors, when we are waiting. It is our own mind, our own fear, our own inner voices that we must become aware of and approach with the intent to soothe, and to heal, to truly empower . Work on yourself as a human being, not just your acting. It will pay off, in whichever direction you are headed.


Peace.


~ Corey


"I never look at the consequences of missing a big shot. When you think about the consequences, you always think of a negative result."


     Michael Jordan


"My attitude is, if you push me towards something you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength."


                                          Michael Jordan


"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."



                                          Eleanor Roosevelt







http://www.backstage.com/backstage-experts/how-survive-pilot-season-without-having-nervous-breakdown/?utm_campaign=backstage-daily&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=12122933&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8LAH1tT4kECQf9vNoiZV0mkx8NwwAMDQd3Q3m3-g3cubVo0w7SMcGScGZ3JlbwNmNw2JmlmJ-5dKEYdJQWQwzNuVkc9Q&_hsmi=12122933




Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interview: *Sculptor Bill Beckwith



I first met William Beckwith at the Brooks Museum in Memphis. We were at a screening of Mike McCarthy's "Native Son," which features Bill (and in which I make an appearance.) He is an incredible artist, and I asked if he'd answer some questions for the blog. His website is http://williamnbeckwith.com.  
As an actor and teacher, I find the entire interview to be a wake up call to my and my approach on a day to day basis. It makes me want to see my own art the way he sees his, or atleast to be influenced by his passion, discipline, humility and irreverence.

       begin: 

Beckwith interview by Corey Parker in the year of the dead Mayans, 2012
       
       You ask “What is a human being?” - Good question, probably best answered by your dog!

How do I see my subjects?  I suppose as poems or ballads, movie scripts told in flesh and blood.  The trouble comes with translating the information of that mystery, comedy or tragedy back into the static three dimensions of clay and bronze.


The sculpture in my dreams? It would be of vague female torsos, erotically twisted Muses, active, firm and stout with a familiar beauty beyond words or time. They come to buttress and fortify in times of attack; to reinforce in the heat and lust of battle; their kisses are anti-venom, their weapons honed and tempered.  Their gestures range from seductively playful to threateningly angry; from sublimely quiet to agitated and loud.

The state of art world?  We need to sober up and get back to the real job at hand. We live in a time unparalleled in disconnects: a time of wars on many levels.  Contemporary art has become so masturbatory, so personal, and so irresponsible. The time is ripe and screams for socially responsible and politically aware activism. Why spend a lifetime perfecting all of these skills and say nothing useful?  What could be more heroic than those in this Orwellian, corporate snake-pit, making a statement without retreat, excuse or shame- not from a selfish strategy, but from a higher place of faith and instinct in an attempt to maintain some form of dignified sanity for us all?  Please believe me, they nip at our heels!

You ask what supplies it takes to build a monument.  A lifetime of patience, of observation, of failure and focus, of physical study in the face of cheap distractions and pitfalls, lots of profanity and fury, blind faith and dumb trust, executed with the most expensive of energies.  All of this despite mechanical repetition and meaningless manipulation by governmental robots and drolls put on this earth to distract, obstruct, hinder and impede.

Music? Yes, music plays its part- medicinal: slow the hemorrhaging, consoling: you ain’t the first or the only poor fool, encouraging: this makes as much sense as anything, elevating: she sings her beauty just for me. It is a conduit to a better plane, to the great studio in the sky, where the Masters produce perfect form in perfect light with abandon… and the angels clean up the mess!

The curse of the sculptor is to find a working composition from every angle, to give form and meaning to the ambiguous dichotomy of truth, beauty and life- a vigilant, sacrificial sailor lost with only instinct and trial and error for a compass… or to impress the girls.

The further apart the subject matter from the content of a piece of art, the more successful, engaging and rewarding it becomes- (of course with respectable proportions of head, heart and hand).  

We all love levels of discovery on a good journey, with no explanation necessary: “Show me some truth I missed.”; “Get me out of the stupid.”; “Give me reinforcement.”; “Touch me, make me feel.”; “Let me hear your voice.”; “Make me pause- help me lose myself, if even for a minute, and I shall thank you forever.”










Friday, February 22, 2013

Article: Acting and Dream Work

Interview: *Scott Coffey on directing Adult World (starring John Cusack and EmmaRoberts)

                         director Scott Coffey directing John Cusack on set


                              directing Emma Roberts and John Cusack



I have known Scott Coffey for many years,  we both studied with Sandra Seacat and David Schermerhorn. Scott has experienced the actor's reality in Los Angeles and has made that rare move: becoming a successful director. His first film, Ellie Parker, has its own post on this blog--with a link.

Scott has completed Adult World with Emma Roberts and John Cusack. It has been selected by the Tribeca Film Festival 2013, but he is too busy editing to take notice of such things. I am very grateful that he has taken the time to answer my questions for this blog. These questions and answers took place via email. The first thing that strikes me about this interview is his honesty. 



Corey:


I really would like to hear about your journey from being an actor to where you are now as a director. To tell your story and perhaps inspire other young actors to follow their desire to direct, and not stop at fear or doubt.


1. What was being an actor like for you? Where did you train? What training was the most helpful to you?

How do you see the process for the actor in LA?

Scott:


I had a hard time as an actor truthfully. I think I didn't have the training to feel confident and solid when I was young and became successful at it. A lot of that I think had to do with the material that was available for me. I had a couple of really great experiences when I worked with directors that were sensitive to the process but it took a lot for me to get out of my head and be present. By nature I'm a pretty self conscious person so sometimes acting compounded that. 


Finally I found a technique and a few teachers that allowed me to find my footing and I began to work more honestly and deeply as an artist. David Schermerhorn and Sandra Seacat initiated me to myself in a way and I discovered a whole new way of working that I still draw upon today as a director. I always felt something was missing,  and I learned to access myself more fully and that really helped me move onto becoming a director which I love and feel fully engaged in. 


I think LA is a hard place and it's so important to stay mindful and present and not become unhappy by comparing yourself to other people's success or failure. It took a long time for me to learn that.


I have a huge love for actors and acting and the kind of stories I'm interested in are character driven and therefor all about the actor. 



2. What was the first thing you directed? What were the major obstacles that you had to overcome and how did you?


Ellie Parker was really the first thing I directed and in a way it's really my story and my valentine to actors and LA but also expresses my horror and ambivalence about LA and acting. I wanted it to be fun, satirical but also truthful. It was hard to juggle those tones. 


3. There are many young filmmakers with cameras and spunk who have watched a few movies and think they are directors now.

how do you distinguish between an amateur and a genuine filmmaker?


I guess that's a hard thing to judge. Again I think truthfulness and personal investment. I shot Ellie Parker myself on a tiny camera without a crew and in many ways I guess it is amateurish but I think that expresses a certain kind of life that a lot of young artists experience before they discover their voice. I wanted the movie to feel that way. I wanted it to have that kind of tension - to flirt with a narrative shapelessness that expressed a shapeless time in a young actors struggling life. But I also wanted to do it with humor. 


4. How did this latest film come about? How do make a project happen?


I just directed a movie called Adult World and it's a small movie compared to a studio movie but much much bigger than Ellie Parker was. It deals with many of the same themes, finding an authentic voice and being true to it, not comparing yourself to others, the danger of relying on outside approval for your self worth... clearly this is some of my struggle. It's fun to put it in my art and try to illuminate that but poke a little fun at it. These seem like very American problems. I was given the script and rewrote it a ton over a year, on and off, and we finally got the money to make it. 


5. What do you want from an actor on the set, when it is time to shoot, bottom line?


MOST IMPORTANTLY I WANT THEIR TRUST BUT YOU HAVE TO EARN THAT. Their trust that they can try anything and not be afraid to fail or make a "wrong" choice". To me one of the most important things a director can do to gain that trust is being a great audience. Watching. Empathetic watching. A kind of empathetic love. It's hard but it's great when that vibe is there. It's a true intimacy. I want experimentation and a sense of adventure. 



6. What are the most frequent obstacles for actors in giving their best work?


GOD THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS. Often it's the insensitivity of the process from other crew members and producers. Apathy can be poison on a set even from a person that is just on the peripheral of a shoot. Creating a sacred space for the actors to work in and them knowing your in there with them is crucial. Again empathy. 


7. How do you handle the actors?


HA. VERY CAREFULLY. 



8.What is next for you?


I have a pretty ambitious project that has a lot of parts in it and I hope to make it this year. We'll see. It's about religion and home and sex and drugs and how we try to find home. 


 9. What advice do you have for a person starting out with a camera to shoot their first film? 


Just pick it up and start fucking around. Learn how you see things and try to capture that with the camera.    

                  
                    TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. 

                  SHOOT PEOPLE WITH LOVE. 



10. How do you make it safe for actors on set emotionally? Do you utilize any Sandra/ David techniques as you talk to actors? How do you talk to them?


THIS IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST THING TO SO . IN SOME WAYS I THINK BY JUST BEING THE BEST AUDIENCE FOR THE ACTOR EVER IT HELPS THE DIRECTORS JOB. 


LISTEN. WATCH. LET THEM TAKE THE SCENE IN A WAY THAT MAYBE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT. 


ALLOW ACCIDENTS TO HAPPEN. THAT'S WHERE THE ART IS SOMETIMES. 



DAVID AND SANDRA TAUGHT ME TO USE EVERYTHING. ALLOW ALL THINGS TO BE PART OF THE SCENE AND LIVE AND ALSO TO ALLOW AND EMBRACE EMOTIONAL OPPOSITES TO HAPPEN. IN FACT ENCOURAGE THEM. SOMETIMES SUBTEXT LIVES HERE AND THAT IS TREASURE. 


(Scott on Opposites: "What I mean by opposites is that -  and this is a hard thing to explain without experiencing it - as an actor you'll read a scene with a pretty clean dynamic emotion. Let's say you just found your mom died and you're shattered. That's a big challenge,  to not just aim at the result of the emotion and instead, sometimes experiment with the opposite extreme-- emotion can get you to the truth of the moment. Big emotions and extreme feelings can all have really similar textures. By playing with the opposite extremes you often spontaneously can come to a bigger truth of the scene you're playing. Also this can add so many dimensions and subtext to a scene. Something is NEVER just sad only or happy or scared. A million things can be happening emotionally.") 

YOU HAVE TO TALK TO THEM AS YOU WOULD YOUR DEEPEST INNER SELF. WITH LOVE AND COMPASSION BUT HUMOR TOO. NOT TAKING ANYTHING TOO SERIOUSLY.








Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Question: Avatar Producer Jon Landau: answers my question


Jon Landau (right) with director James Cameron on set

Academy Award- and two-time Golden Globe-winning producer Jon Landau has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to oversee and deliver major motion pictures. He currently holds the distinction of having produced the two highest grossing movies of all-time, Avatar and Titanic. The combination of Landau's thorough understanding of the most complex state-of-the-art visual effects technologies, his experience working hand-in-hand with the highest caliber of creative talent, and his ability to motivate people have all enabled him to play a significant role in numerous major motion pictures.

In addition to Avatar and Titanic, Landau produced Steven Soderbergh's Solaris; he also co-produced, under his and James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment banner, Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy and the family comedy hit Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Throughout the early '90s, Landau was Executive Vice President of Feature Film Production at Twentieth Century Fox where he supervised production on all major motion pictures, including Die Hard 2, Mrs. Doubtfire, True Lies, Power Rangers, Aliens 3, Last of the Mohicans, and many more.


Question: How do you work with friends in production and maintain the friendship?


"Making a movie is never easy.  Working with friends or relatives is never easy.  Put the two together and things could get a little rough.

As with anything in life…family always comes first.  That having been said, when working on a movie with close friends or family, it is important to compartmentalize the film and your personal life. Often times the roles (and hence the dynamics of the relationship) are different on the film than outside of it.  Both parties have to understand AND accept this.

For me, when working on a film, it's not what’s best for me, or what’s best for you.  It’s what’s best for the film.  If both parties can live by that philosophy, then any of the hiccups in the relationship wont be taken personally.  And therefore, they should not effect the relationship outside of the film."







Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Interview: Manager Marc Epstein: To Die For





Marc Epstein worked with film producer Elliot Kastner from the early 1970s, and then became story editor at United Artists. He started managing actors with Bill Truesch in New York. His next move was to LA in 1986, when he partnered in the management company Mclean Epstein. He moved to the Sandy Gallin Company and then partnered with Brian Swardstrom and Mickey Liddell. He then worked at Propaganda films. He represented actors Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Sam Neill, Rupert Everett, Corey Parker, Janet MacTeer,  Dan Hedaya,  Sam Trammell, Kathleen Turner, Peter MacNicol, Julia Sweeney, and  Martin Donovan.


Marc Epstein:

'Being a talent manager from the 80's to 2006, all the actors I worked for came entirely from belief. My belief in them and their belief in me. I always felt that my talent was in my ability to enter a room and make others feel comfortable. And I always had a meticulous approach to detail when handling a deal--when an offer was received, whether for a film or a pilot.  It’s not always an easy process. Sometimes I would make a call and I just received an offer, other times I had to fight very hard to get my client seen and then go from there. You have to change people’s minds. There was one time while I was managing Nicole Kidman, that I found out that the great screenwriter Buck Henry,  (The Graduate, Catch 22, What's Up, Doc?) had written a new screenplay entitled TO DIE FOR.  I have always been a fan of his, so the moment it was delivered to my door, I turned off the phone and sat at my home in the Hollywood Hills; for that time, all I knew in the world was that script. I wanted to really absorb the essence of it as well as the characters, and the dynamic of their relationships. Half way into it, I knew in my gut that the lead role was right for Nicole Kidman.  I called the producer, Lauren Ziskin, but  she replied, "I don't think so Marc, we want Patricia Arquette. "  This is the moment that a good manager follows his gut and brings transformation. (You never know, but you believe and follow that belief.) I said, 'No, there is no one else but Nicole for this role.' 

Laura felt there was a stigma with Nicole--who was married to Tom Cruise at the time--being ‘Miss Cruise.’ I left the conversation with a smile. Something deep down inside me said, “Marc, you are going to get this for her.” 

So, I sent Nicole the script with the news that the producers wanted Patricia, but no offer was out yet.  Nicole was very driven, as much as I was.  After she read the script, this is what she said, "Marc there is no one but me for this role. You must get this for me!”

Now, I believed and Nicole believed. I called my assistant and asked him to find Gus Van Sant , the director, so I could turn this deal in a better direction, to find my way in.  The next day Gus Van Sant called me back in my office.

I said, “Hi Gus how are you?”  Silence.  “Gus, please know how much I adore your filmmaking and if you could just have one phone conversation with Nicole, you will know why she is right.” Finally, he spoke. “ OK, here is my number, have her call me.”

I immediately called Nicole to tell her, she was so excited and was going to make the call.  I am sure she was in character on the phone with him, that character is not much different from who she is anyway. Then I had a really constructive call with Buck. Next thing I knew Gus was calling me. "Marc, I cannot believe the call I had with Nicole, you are right she is the only one!”  

The news was delivered to Nicole and we both felt hope. You see, then the Studio had final say, along with Ms. Ziskin. But Gus could not see anyone else. He had been stained with her drive and willingness. The intensity of her will is quite remarkable. Her discipline and hard work have come in handy with many directors, convincing them of her ability and potential in each and every situation. She does not quit.

But the deal isn’t over yet. It is just beginning. Over the next 6 weeks or so,  Laura would tell me, "I still want Patricia. I will let you know if things would change."  I knew it was time to bring in Michael Ovitz, who at that time ran CAA and was considered one of the most powerful people in Hollywood.  He eventually slam dunked this for Nicole. It is a coordinated effort. Neither Mike Ovitz nor Nicole’s agent, Kevin Huvane had taken any notice of this script, or made any calls until I brought it to her. This is part of what a manager does, he works his ass off, paying attention to the details that will offer the client opportunities to shine, opportunities that would have been missed.   

In Cannes, TO DIE FOR premiered to great reviews for Nicole. She told me to go take a vacation in the south of France and that she would let me be.  I did go to a small village facing the sea. It was truly a great moment.  Only one thing, Nicole never stopped calling me, thanking me and, of course, telling me of her reviews--one at a time.

“I love you!” she said, as I stared at the sea. It was time to start thinking about going back to LA, about the next script, about being always in pursuit of the scripts and of the actors that made me believe.'




Cannes