Kim & Chris

This is a scene we worked on in one of our workshops. It was written by Chris O’Reilly and performed by Chris and Kimberlee Connor. We filmed it simply, using master, over-the-shoulder and single shots. These shots are typically employed in our workshops as a means of preparing for on-camera acting in traditional productions. Built into the filming in the workshops and in Kim and Chris’ scene is a degree of improvisation around a text as well as a focus on continuity of action and intention. Apologies are in order for the funky music at the opening and closing. I couldn’t resist.

May 2014 Update

The first section of Billyans’ production concluded last weekend and the footage is fantastic! The Film Practice is currently underway on some post production that will enable this exciting project to move forward with the further phases of production later on this Summer.

Some videos and photos will be popping up in the next couple weeks as our marketing campaign for this project starts to gain momentum.

Stay tuned for more updates and thank you all so much for your support!

March Workshop!

Announcing the next workshop at The Film Practice!

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This workshop is for actors who are dedicated to an authentic, powerfully present way of performing on-camera. We meet twice per week and work on prepared and improvised scenes and monologues. The group is limited to ten people. Each actor works on-camera during each meeting.

Workshop Meetings – John Desotelle Studio, 300 West 43rd, 3rd Floor

Sundays, March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 (12pm-2:30pm)

Fridays, March 7, 14, 21, 28 (12pm-2:30pm)

Price

260 (discount for returning actors)

 

Getting Work

The training we do at The Film Practice is geared toward performance (speakers, presenters, actors) in live and on-camera events and productions. We train new as well as experienced performers. Several of the new actors have asked me about getting work. This post is for them.

As a professional actor, you need to identify the kind of work you’re trying to get.

It’s not enough to say, “I just want to act”.

One way to get work is to have an agent submit your headshot and resume to a casting agent, who then decides whether she’ll call you in for an audition. Getting the audition, you walk into a room of people you don’t know and do your thing. The chances of getting cast if the filmmakers don’t already know and your work is slim.

A surer path is for actors to become part of the independent film scene.  Rather than waiting for auditions and hoping to get cast, actors should build their own relationships: relationships that lead to work. That might seem daunting, but it really isn’t different from what any of us already do in our personal lives. Most of us like having friends and making friends with like-minded people. We like to stay in touch and look for opportunities to have fun with our friends. Actors who have those kinds of friends in the business work all the time.

Friendships are not stable. They’re always in the process of becoming more or less close. Friendships thrive in an environment where there is good, open, authentic communication. If you don’t communicate, your relationships suffer. Actors who take care of their professional relationships are basically engaged in marketing. Effective marketing can’t happen without good communication. Actors need to keep in touch and nourish their professional relationships if they want to work.

So how do you meet people in the independent film scene and make friends? The same way you make all  your other friends: You get out of the house and go to places where the kinds of people you want to be friends with hang out. Those people will be there for the same reason you’re there.  They want to connect with old friends, meet exciting new people to be friends with and have fun together. Meeting people you genuinely connect with always leads to other connections.  Connections lead to work, and since the friends you’re making will have similar tastes, there’s an excellent chance the work you’ll get will be the kind of work you really want to do. If you’re an actor who wants to meet and befriend filmmakers, an excellent place to start is at film festivals.  Volunteering at or working for a film festival is one of the best, most direct, and cost effective ways an actor can make friends in the independent film scene. Another way is to become involved in an organization that supports filmmakers such as The Independent Film Project (ifp.org).

Once you’ve made professional friends and contacts, how do you keep in touch? What do you say to your contacts if you’re between jobs and have no great news to report? The answer lies in the way we conduct our most personal friendships. When we have good news, our best friends are always excited for us. When they have good news, we’re excited for them. So when you have nothing big to talk about, find out what your contacts are doing and tell them you’re excited for them. How do you find out what your contacts are doing if they don’t tell you?  Keep up with them online through professional resource sites and social media (imdb, casting about, FB, twitter, linkedin, etc).  When you find they’re doing something exciting, reach out and let them know how excited you are for them. It will nourish the relationships and lead to work.

As a film actor, another important thing to do is to have a project in development. It can be a short film, webisode, script, etc.  These kinds of projects are far easier to engage in and complete than most people realize. Having a project in the works keeps you moving in the right direction, keeps you engaged and excited, and maintains your momentum forward. This works equally well for actors who are new to the business and experienced veterans.

Headshots

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Actor: Christie Monteleone

Acclimation to the camera is one of the benefits of the training we’re doing. Every time The Film Practice meets, we work at being present, being ourselves, engaging with and advancing our own interests and desires. This month we’ve been doing headshot sessions for each actor in addition to our on-camera scene work. It was not surprising to see the ease and presence each actor is finding in taped scene-work also appearing in still photo shoots.

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Next Up

The work the actors have been doing this Fall is going wonderfully. Everyone is advancing, getting stronger and making strides toward getting work. Several people are either in film projects or are exploring avenues into the independent filmmaking scene in NYC. The Film Practice is still very young and I’m bringing it along slowly.  This is partly a function of time. In addition to running the workshops, I’m also teaching at Hunter College, holding down a full time job, developing a feature film production (tentatively scheduled for April), preparing to direct the Chekhov Film Project (January) and doing freelance photo work.  Yet even with more time at my disposal, I wouldn’t want The Film Practice to grow more rapidly. It’s important to proceed in a way where the focus remains on the actors rather than on promotion and growth. That’s the goal. However, there are plans in the works for something big. In meetings with Kelly Morgan (founder of the Mint Theatre, a great acting teacher and friend), we’ve discussed teaming up in order to create a larger version of The Film Practice – an organization that would train and promote actors as well as produce theatre and film projects. So there may be big, exciting changes ahead.

But for now…

We have three more sessions left in the current workshop and I’ve started to think of what to do in November and December. I’d like to continue to bring new actors into the work we’re doing but also want to advance the actors who’ve already been training. To that end I’ve committed in the next three weeks to getting everyone in the current workshop either a headshot that will get them in the door, or a taped monologue for their reels. For actors who continue training into November, I want to take the do a workshop dedicated to film production.  The actors have already been writing scenes. As a means of de-mystifying the filmmaking process, I’d also like to involve them in more areas of the film production process, including editing. This is basically taking what we’ve been doing a step further and creating scenes that will help get the actors work.

So I’m preparing to do two groups beginning November 7th and am excitedly looking forward to the work. I can’t wait to see what we come up with next!

Chekhov on Film

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/64483234″>Chekhov Film Project 2013</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user314552″>Dan Cordle</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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.

Fall Workshops

 

On Monday we finished the last of the summer on-camera acting workshops at the John DeSotelle Studio and I’m thrilled with the way they went. Seeing the actors work and the advances they made over the course of the workshops was incredibly rewarding.

The next Film Practice workshop starts on September 9th. As opposed to meeting for only four weeks, as we did this summer, the workshop will once per week for eight weeks. This will lead to a deeper exploration on the work where the actors experience of taking scenes from initial readings through blocking and filming. The anticipated days and times we’ll be meeting at are on Mondays from 5:30-9:30.

Most of the actors I work with already have a good deal of actor training. But I also love working with people who are new to acting and/or acting on-camera. So I’m offering a four week Emerging Actor workshop, meeting on Thursday afternoons.

I’m also very excited to be doing a writer’s workshop in October. In that workshop, writer/filmmakers will see their scenes rehearsed and performed by actors who’ve been training in the Film Practice workshops. This presents obvious advantages for writers, who often work alone and don’t get to see how well their writing works until their screenplays are produced.  This workshop also presents the potential for creating a company-like filmmaking environment, where produced work evolves from a collaboration between writers and actors. This  is the kind of thing I really enjoy doing.

 

 

“Good Will Hunting” and “Hacker”

We’re in our last week of the first round of workshops and have completed filming two more scenes. The first was the excellent bedroom scene from “Good Will Hunting”. The script for “Good Will Hunting” is very good, so good that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone hasn’t adapted it for the Theatre.

We filmed the second scene yesterday, entirely outdoors. Shooting outdoors in NYC is always an experience. The scene, “Hacker, is one I specifically wrote with the actors in mind.. My intention was to write a scene that would falls within their strengths as well as to write characters that they would be considered for in film and television. The dialogue is loose and intended to be adapted by the actors. (See below for the text)

On Wednesday we finish by filming monologues and after we’re done I’ll edit together a scene and prepare it, and the monologue for the actors to use as part of their reels. Creating, shooting and editing scenes that actors can use for their reels is obviously a huge advantage for the actors seeking work and I really enjoy when I work with a group that’s small enough to allow for this kind of work.

July 29th is the start date of the last workshop of the summer. We’re meeting on Mondays from 5:30 to 9:30pm (four sessions). I’m hoping to have another small group so as to film as well as edit more work.

“Hacker”

(BEN emerges from an office building and stands against a wall. He looks around nervously and then glances up at an elevated enclosed glass walkway connecting his building with one across a busy avenue. He turns his attention back to the sidewalk, and looks to see if he’s being watched. He glances back up to the walkway and sees a woman (KACEY) standing there. Kacey sees him and looks away. Ben wipes perspiration from his face and walks away from the building. Kacey watches him cross a busy intersection. Independently, we see Ben and Kacey walk toward a meeting place in Central Park. Both of them make sure they aren’t ollowed. Kacey arrives at their rendezvous location first. Ben arrives and stands near her. He looks around nervously.

BEN

Your phone off?

KACEY

It’s at the office.

(pause)

Allright…

BEN

He suspects.

KACEY

How do you know?

BEN

It’s obvious. You’ve seen him.

KACEY

How much?

BEN

Enough. It’s blown. I think it is. We have to call it in and get out.

KACEY

No way. We’re this close.

BEN

If we call it in they’ll send someone else. We can transition out. If we stay-

KACEY

I’m not calling it in.

(they pause as someone passes by)

Where’s Chris?

BEN

Monitoring – what do you think?

Look, it’s over. We have no room to maneuver.

KACEY

You should have followed him.

BEN

Don’t lay it on me.

KACEY

You should have. There was every reason.

BEN

I have a life, okay?- It wasn’t scheduled. How was I supposed to know he was going to move it?

KACEY

You should have been there.

BEN

Kac-

KACEY

You should have! Now we don’t know where it is.

BEN

I didn’t sign up for this! I’m a hacker. Tracking hardware is someone else’s department. My job is to get in.

KACEY

That’s how you see it? Like some fucking 9-5?

BEN

I’m just the hacker -that’s it! It’s someone else’s– Maybe it’s your job to follow these assholes around.

KACEY

People are going to get hurt.

BEN

I would have been there if there had been any indication! You know I would have!

(pause)

KACEY

I’m not calling it in!

BEN

We’ve got to!

Kacey, lets get the fuck out. It isn’t safe!-

(Kacey leaves and Ben tries to stop her)

BEN

(cont.)

Kacey! – Fuck.

(She’s gone. Ben looks around to see if he’s being watched. He’s about to leave in opposite direction but then has a thought. Ben follows Kacey at a discreet distance. Climbing to a high point in the park, he sees her emerge from a line of trees and exit the park. Kacey looks behind her for a few moments. As she turns to walk away, she brings a cell phone to her ear and speaks into it. Ben reacts to seeing the phone and leaves in the opposite direction.

Happiness

Yesterday was our first session and it was a great success.  We worked on a scene from Todd Solondz’ screenplay “Happiness”. I’ve used this scene before in on-camera workshops and am always impressed by how wonderful the writing is. We rehearsed on-camera doing multiple takes, using a Master Shot, Over the Shoulder shots and Singles. On Wednesday we’ll film the “Happiness” scene and then move on to a new scene (likely from Jean Luc Goddard’s “Vivre Sa Vie”. Below is the scene from “Happiness”:

JOY and STUART from “Happiness” by Todd Solondz

(In a café, diner, or restaurant)

JOY

Stuart?… Are you okay?

STUART

Yeah. Sure. I’m fine.

JOY

Good. Well. I had a really nice time.

STUART

Yeah. Me too.

JOY

Of course, you know I’ve always had a nice time with you.

STUART

Same here.

JOY

But…

STUART

Yeah.

JOY

You understand.

STUART

Unh.

JOY

And you don’t hate me?

STUART

No.

JOY

‘Cause you know I could never hate you. At the same time, I just

don’t think I could ever…you know…you.  In the way you should be…

STUART

Yeah.

JOY

And deserve to be.

STUART

Unh hunh.

JOY

Well. The food here was excellent–

I’m gonna recommend it to my sisters! How many stars did it get?

STUART

Three and a half.

(Stuart cries.  A pause.)

JOY

Do you feel better now?

(STUART nods)

Me too.

STUART

I’m sorry.

JOY

It’s really good we had this talk.

STUART

Yeah.

JOY

Before things went too far… You know, got too serious.

STUART

Yeah. I’m sorry. I’m too serious.

JOY

No, you’re not.  It’s me.

STUART

No, it’s me.

JOY

Okay. It’s you. I’m sorry.

STUART

Okay.

(Pause)

JOY

‘Cause I mean…

STUART

I know.

JOY

The thing is, I want to do what’s right – for both of us.  I spent

a lot of time…examining…my heart. And I felt that you deserved

my honesty.

STUART

Thanks.

(Pause)

JOY

Now I just want to make you whole again.

STUART

I’m whole.

JOY

Really?

STUART

Really.

JOY

…’Cause I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to be friends anymore.

STUART

(laughing, sort of)

Oh, Joy!

JOY

Oh, but you know how it is. And well, most guys…

STUART

I’m not most guys.

JOY

I know. If only most guys were

like you.

STUART

But then I’d be like most guys.

JOY

(laughs)

Oh, Stuart. If only I felt the way I’d like to feel with you… Life is

so unfair.  It’s all my fault.

STUART

I know.

(a beat)

Are you sure…?

JOY

Yes.

Pause.

STUART

Is it someone else?

JOY

No, it’s just you.

Pause.

STUART

I want to show you something. I got for you.

JOY

For me?

STUART

(hands her a gift)

Open it up.

JOY

(discovers a pewter ashtray)

Oh, but Stuart. This is…oh, this is beautiful.

STUART

Thanks. It’s a Gaansevoort reproduction. Boston, late 1800’s.

I sent away for it just after we had our…first date.

JOY

Oh, I just love it.  It’s a…it’s a collector’s item.

STUART

Yeah, it is pretty special.

JOY

(laughs)

It almost makes me want to start smoking again!

STUART

Look at the bottom.

JOY

(examines more closely)

Ooh.

STUART

Forty karat gold-plate inlaid base.

JOY

Oh, Stuart. Thank you. This really means something to me. I’ll always

treasure it…as a token…

STUART

No, you won’t.

(retrieves his gift)

‘Cause this is for the girl who loves me. The girl who cares for me,

for who I am, not what I look like.

I wanted you to know what you’d be missing. You think I don’t appreciate

art. You think I don’t understand fashion. You think I’m not hip.

You think I’m pathetic, a nerd, a lard-ass fatso. You think I’m shit.

Well, you’re wrong. ‘Cause I’m champagne. And you’re shit.

And till the day you die, you, not me, will always be shit.