I’m thrilled to be returning to the Graduate Acting Program at NYU to direct “The Three Sisters” for next year’s Chekhov Film Project. The play will be somewhat more challenging to film than last year’s “The Seagull”. This mainly results from the number of multi-person scenes in “The Three Sisters” as opposed to “The Seagull’s collection of intimate, two person scenes. As yet, there is no location for the filming and it’s possible the entire thing will be done in one of the studios at 721 Broadway. Filming commences in February and I’m beginning to storyboard ideas for the scenes. It may be that a location will become available shortly before filming, so I have to keep my plans very flexible. Last year we filmed on the grounds of a house in Croton on Hudson as well as in the studio. For the actors, the studio and location offered distinct advantages. Filming on location gave everyone a real, living sense of place. The location was beautiful and seeing it in the finished project lends a feeling of reality to the production. On the downside, we had to contend with extremely cold weather and our time was much more limited than in the studio. On location we had time for between 1-3 takes per shot. In the studio we did 3-6. The best takes tended to be the second one, regardless of where we were shootingt. However, there was less pressure to perform in the studio, and having extra takes in the editing room was very helpful in putting together the strongest possible performances. This is a fact of filmmaking (in at least many kinds of productions) that most actors are unaware of. While each actor will always have a “best” take, what they really need to accomplish is a collection of great takes that will contribute toward a wonderful performance. When it comes to editing scenes, the two toughest situations are where there are too few takes with no coverage, and when there are many takes with ample coverage and all the actors have been brilliant in each take. The latter problem is far better than the former and we encountered each while editing “The Seagull.” Given that actors don’t always know whether the’ll get one or multiple takes, it’s wise for actors to develop an approach that leads to authentic, powerfully present performances in each take. This is the single most important thing that film actors to do.
On a technical note, the camera we used for “The Seagull” was a Panasonic GH2 with a my set of Lomo cine lenses. We recorded sound with a Zoom H4n recorder and boom mic. This year we’re using a Black Magic production camera, Lomo lenses, and a Tascam DR-60D. The greatest asset to “The Three Sisters” will be having more time with the actors in advance of filming. We’ll use the time for rehearsal and blocking but mainly for training. I want to help give the actors time to acclimate themselves to being on camera and to learn how to adapt the skills they’ve been working on in a theatrical environment toward a film environment. In last year’s project I found myself instructing the actors “on the fly”, in the midst of our shooting days. It was exciting but this year, I know I’ll be able to help them even more and am very much looking forward to it.