Sunday, April 09, 2006

More Lessons Learned

Wow. I'm going to be chewing for a while on the lessons learned from yesterday's all-day immersion into the Portland theater and film worlds. The best I can go here, at the moment, is make some rambling critical notes:

• My audition for MACBETH: when I rehearsed my monologues at home, before going to the audition, they were brilliant, subtle, heartbreaking; when I put them on their feet for Jeremy Lillie, they turned to sawdust. This is more or less to be expected, but there are a couple of things I need to do, in the future: 1) do not let ANY expectations creep into my attitude before going to an audition, because they are so subtly corrosive to the work; 2) no matter how 'good' or 'solid' I feel just prior to an audition, my job, before going on, is to ground myself--put my feet on the ground, get on my breath, tune in, focus on objectives--and NOT to schmooze with auditors and actors. Schmoozing is fun, but to not focus before working is to rob myself of any context out of which my monologues need to be delivered.

(There is good news about this audition: although I'm quite unlikely to get either of the parts I so much wanted, I'm not beating myself up, as I would have done a few months ago. This is one sign that I really do have my eye on the work itself rather than on my own pittiable desire for 'success.' I like this new attitude. It's more interesting.)

• THE TROUBLE WITH ANNE: Things I learned by doing this film: 1) if it's not in the script, it's not going to be on screen; 2) actors have to be director proof, which means, in particular, that they have to bring onto the set an established sense of place and objective so that their performance doesn't get lost when lack of direction and other filmmaking elements do not support them (thanks for this, Neal); 3) try like hell not to work for any director who is holding the camera himself and doesn't have a producer or line producer; 4) etcetera.

• The Portland film world: Most people in the Indie film scene cannot take critical discourse any better--and often worse--than people in the local theater scene. This means that when they make films, they forego the great opportunity to make COLLABORATIVE works, which benefit from the meshing of perspectives and talents. Their films end up being the empty products that will inevitably come out of an echo chamber in which everyone says, "yes, that's brilliant," regardless of the truth. How else to explain David Walker's film, UNCLE TOM'S APARTMENT? This man is a film critic by trade. He watches good films every day. But, he makes an utterly incompetent film (which robs me of a couple hours of my life) that displays no understanding of acting, film craft, basic story development, or the internal logic of dialogue. I can only assume that he's working in a vacuum--a vacuum created by lack of genuine critical give and take--so that he ends up filming what amounts to a crude draft of what, in other hands, would go through revision after revision before getting made. This is inexcusable. (A note about Walker's publicity for The Longbough Festival: he wrote in the Willamette Week that there were no bad films in this festival, cross his heart and swear to God; now that we know that is a bald lie, how do we take his film criticism seriously? And, if Walker is to reform himself, maybe he should stop writing the word "fuck" in every review.)

• A bright side to the day: We had a good performance of OPPENHEIMER for another appreciative, full house. I felt good about my work in it.

Good Lord. What a day.


Update: It strikes me that I should take responsibility for my performance in THE TROUBLE WITH ANNE. It was not good. I was terrified the entire time I was on camera, so my lines were monotonal. My voice was thin, and my posture was stooped, both signs of fear and lack of training (since shooting--last September--I've gained much more vocal resonance and more more precise diction, and I've begun to pay serious attention to my posture and movement. The pay-off for my vocal work can be heard in OPPENHEIMER, for instance. I have some--not all--nights on which I can make the whole room resonate.) I can blame the filmmaker for a few VERY unflattering angles--which accentuate one very strange, rather fey head bauble and rolling of the eyes--but for little more. Mea Culpa. I truly sucked.



Signore Direttore said...
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Signore Direttore said...

"Good Lord. What a day."
I second that emotion as well as some of your thoughts on yesterday's filmmakers and their films. Yesterday's filmmakers - ha! might be pretty apt. Bet they would like to think of themselves as tomorrow's filmmakers.
Maybe they are. It's not up to me.
Oh well.

In defense of Walker, much of the acting was very good, including his own.