Thursday, May 18, 2006

Shape Shifting

I feel good about my work on MADE CROOKED, but I want to make clear that I am more humbled than inflated by this experience. Clearly, a film performance--at least one by me--is a collaborative effort. I say that while at the same time I experience acting as akin to playing an instrument in an orchestra. I read my music and do my part as I stay attuned to the whole.

Interesting to me is that I'm happy just playing my instrument, at least for the moment. On the one hand, I'd prefer to be the Alpha Male in the room--the conductor, the guy with the big wand--so that I may feel some jealousy of Neal or Jordan as they marshall those around them. But, on the other hand, I enjoy not being in a position either to tell others what to do or otherwise assume responsibility over them. I feel a bit monkish, interested in exploring and showing to others the condition of my own soul as it shape shifts in response to both the world and my own private travails. We can learn a lot simply by allowing ourselves to see one another's souls. Revealing mine is the best way I know to make the world a better place; at least, it comes more naturally than any form of outright activism (I feel guilt about my unwillingness to engage in political action.)

At present, my interest in stage work is at low ebb. I like the 'beingness' of film as opposed to the 'performance-ness' of stage, especially an outdoor stage, where all nuance is lost.

MADE CROOKED is a turning point for me. Until now, I've been more or less content to make scratching little claw marks at artistic progress, and if I've been given the choice, I've put my financial resources into pleasurable and restoring ventures such as scuba diving, skiing, traveling. But, MADE CROOKED is the first project on which I've gotten a good look at my POTENTIAL as a a real actor. For all the messiness of my performance--er, I seem to be able to talk or walk on camera, but not both at once--it's the first REAL acting I've done; the first sign that I can be more than a dilettante, which has honor, but doesn't interest me. Although I will proceed cautiously--parsimoniously--I'm ready to put money into doing film that otherwise would go into diversions such as scuba. Until now, that seemed a silly idea, the benefits of scuba, et al., being tangible where the eventual payoff of acting remained hypothetical, at best, delusional, at worst.

It's also time for me to get some screenwriting done, so I don't depend on others to provide me with roles, all the time.

I'm not the only one who feels the ground shifting after having shot MADE CROOKED. It seems to have been a pivotal moment in the lives of each and all of the actors, at least (I'm sure it sloshed some water over the railings of the crews' boats, as well, but not to the same extent.) It's one of those moments we'll still be talking about in decades to come....

It's all snapping into focus for me.



David Loftus said...

>At present, my interest in stage work is at low ebb. I
> like the 'beingness' of film as opposed to the 'performance-
> ness' of stage, especially an outdoor stage, where all nuance
> is lost.

This remark stuck in my mind since I read it a week or two ago, and I have to comment. I think it's a mistake to regard stage work -- even an outdoor production such as we are in rehearsal for right now, which requires a lot of blasting -- as "lacking nuance." It just calls for different kinds of nuance, which is not just a function of volume.

(continued below)

When you have to project, and project hard, you turn to pacing, timbre, tone, and other tricks for nuance. Physical nuance is a different matter from film, too, but hardly absent.

I have in my possession a new coffee-table book, _Actors Acting_, which I am supposed to review for a Web 'zine called the California Literary Review. I'd give you the subtitle and photographer/author's name, but the book's at home. The author gave various big-name film and stage actors assignments -- descriptions of dramatic situations which they were to act out while he shot stills of them in extreme closeup. Aside from the novelty and immediacy of the imagery, he allowed them to comment -- not so much on the specific assignments, but on acting in general. It's a fascinating book, especially for a reader who is an actor, and currently involved in a production. I notice that most of the actors -- many of them much better known for film work than stage work -- are almost invariably talking about the stage when the speak of acting. Some are openly dismissive of film work, where, they say, you only ever act for a maximum of a minute and a half, as opposed to potentially an hour or more at a clip. It's fun to watch Roger Ebert try to wrestle with this in his foreward, since he only writes about acting on celluloid.

I'll let you know when my review is finished and online.

David Loftus said...

Correction: the book I am reviewing is _In Character: Actors Acting_ and the author/photographer is Howard Schatz.