JD: The Gifted Director
It has been a little bit since my last blog entry. I have been a little distracted. A portion of that time was consumed with shooting the next “Stuck” experience, called Textually Active.
At the end of this blog post, I have embedded the film for you to see. If you haven’t already seen it, we’d love for you to take a peek. We’re pretty confident that you’ll enjoy yourself. OK, enough of that; let’s take you to your regularly scheduled blog reading, so you can see why I’m calling myself a “gifted director”.
Last week I saw the film ‘Beginners”. What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? OK, watch the trailer here.
I loved a great many things about this film. I love that it was shot in mostly natural light. I loved the subtitles for what the dog was thinking. I loved the effortless chemistry of the actors. These things are not what this blog is about at all, however.
After the screening, there was a Q&A with the director, Mike Mills. Of all the wonderful things he said, one stuck out to me. He said that as a director one must “be like a host of a really great party”. This theory seemed to work well for him as the film is expertly crafted.
As a truly gifted director, I felt like I needed to add a different perspective.
Don’t click the email button to chastise me about my arrogance. Seriously, hear me out. I meant “gifted” in its lessor used, verb form. As a director, I find it an important job to collect, organize and choose from the many gifts that are bestowed upon you by cast, crew and acquaintance. In shooting “Textually Active”, the gifts were plentiful and amazing. Let’s start by saying that everyone involved gifted their time and energy, and for that I am supremely grateful. Let’s examine some specific gifts.
The gift of “now”
Steffanie Siebrand has given many gifts to the project. Her talent as Dr. Verfasser as well as her home and studio are among the big ones. She didn’t even realize it at the time, but the biggest gift she gave to this production was the “now” factor. She has asked me about shooting another project and it hit me that I hadn’t shot anything in a long time and that we should do something to unveil on my birthday, which was less than three weeks away. A simple question started about 3 weeks of insanity!
The gift of “location”
Like I said, Steffanie and her husband Jason Wissinger are always so generous with their Stormmaker Productions studio and their home. What we didn’t have was a restaurant, which was important to the script. Luckily, my friend from way back in Kalamazoo had her birthday dinner at Marla’s Café in Venice. I saw it and loved the look and feel of the place. It was perfect and when I contacted Marla, she was willing to let us shoot during the slow part of the day. Phew…crisis averted with a beautiful location.
The gift of “sanity”
Pssst….pay attention to this advice: Always have someone around you who knows you and can tell you things straight and get on you, when needed. I am lucky to have that in Andria Farrell. She is an expert makeup artist, but I needed her in a new capacity, as producer. It didn’t matter what was going on, if I said “Andria”, she handled it.
Andria also gave us the gift of sound. Since we were a skeleton crew, she did double duty as the boom mic operator.
The gift of “spice”
Directing and shooting are really just the raw materials for a film. A lot of the magic happens in editing and I’m fortunate to be able to trust my editing artist, Aldo Lara, who cut this and the original “Stuck”. He has a knack with matching music and sound to the footage that constantly amazes me. We talked about some of the cuts and others were all him. The film is watchable because of Aldo’s many gifts.
The gift of “Lights, Camera, Action”
The camera and lighting equipment that we would normally use were being productive on another project, so while scrambling, I remembered that Jesse Coley has recently bought a DSLR and lighting kit and she already had a nice lens collection. None of us involved had shot a project like this with a DSLR, so we had a bit of a learning curve, but Jesse and Aldo came through big time.
The gifts of “placement”
Placing the products of respected friends’, is a fun opportunity to me. The girls of SingleTease have been so great to me that I wanted to put something of theirs on camera. When we discussed the wardrobe for Mara’s “Angelica” character, it was obvious that she should wear one of them. It’s the pink shirt that says Just Ask Me (out). It fit perfectly…on the actress and in the story!
Another great company I recently came into contact with was Leucadia Red Winery. I met them at the Santa Catalina Film Festival and they were so gracious with their wine tasting. I **had** to use them and thus Kylee and Shaun were presented with Leucadia Red’s Pinot Noir by Paige in the restaurant.
*note – these placements were unpaid and done out of respect and relationship.
The gift of “music”
That beautiful jazz song that plays during the big texting scene is “Wrinkles” by another Kalamazoo artist located in Los Angeles. Jaye Q. has been a friend for years and I love using his music. He creates under so many genres that there is always something that simply works.
The gift of “face”
Gabriella Banda is always willing to help me out when she can. She makes these beautiful women somehow look even better. Professional skills aside, it is always amazing to have positive energy on set. The makeup artist sets the mood with the actors since she saw them and worked with them before I did.
The gifts of “acting”
What would we have without acting. Watch for these gems…
- Jesse Coley as Paige – some time ago, Jesse and I discussed her acting career and I asked her who she liked that she thought she was similar in vibe to. She told me and we discussed it. I wrote her lines with that thought in mind. We never rehearsed and it flowed out of her. It was perfect out of the box.
- Jennifer Thompson as Sue – I had seen some of Jennifer’s work where she played a mean girl, but I’ve always know her to be sweet with a air of innocence. It was that air that inspired her character and the scene with Paige, which was written about a week before shooting. She gave so much Disney sweet and we loved it!
- Eric Carrigan as Maître D. – I have seen Eric break into this character in a group discussion so I kind of knew what I was getting. The gifts are that he delves deep into the character so you never know exactly what you’re going to get…sometime I don’t think he knows. The lines are all perfect, but the little touches like the way he places the menus, are pure gold.
- Mara Marini as Angelica – Mara is a force of energy. She can pull that character from her bag in an instant. For those not in the know, to subtly do a reverse compliment on a woman and then go into sweetly flirting with her husband without the actress playing the wife lunging to kill, is a skill. I hope Mara uses these skill for good! My favorite moment of hers is when she tells Kylee that she looks…nice, when she obviously doesn’t think so.
- Steffanie Siebrand as Dr. Verfasser – Dr. Verfasser could have easily been just a small, forgettable character, but that was not a question when we shot “Stuck”. Steff went all out with the “out there” character who has a German accent when angry. In this one she and Andria, our producer, added the hand routine for “no talking” while they were running lines. That gesture paired with the intensity of her expression, is priceless. All of these gifts happened on set between takes.
- Femi Emiola as Kylee – I don’t know if you can call chemistry a gift, but we seem to have it, which is important because the stories make us clash. There are two acting gifts that I hope other people notice because they I love them every single time I see them. The first is in Dr. Verfasser’s office when she says “Hmmm…Interesting” to the no talking suggestion. Her face and the way she nods are something that I don’t have the words to describe, but they are exactly right. The second is one of her faces while texting in the restaurant after I check out Paige walking by. That angry text with the animated text kills me every time. There are more, but I’ll just throw in when she starts to rip off my clothes. I mean that wasn’t written or rehearsed, but it added instant intensity!
Mr. Mills was correct that it is like being a great host at a party, but it is better if the party guests bring gifts. My party guests brought more gifts than I can name here and this blog is my public “thank you” card to them all!
Before I forget, here is the short film “Textually Active”
RELATED: Check out the feedback I got from a girl I met from an online dating site. http://singletease.com/blog/2011/06/romantic-comedy-or-tragedy/
Posted on June 10, 2011, in Acting & Entertainment and tagged Aldo Lara, Andria Farrell, DalyDose, Eric Carrigan, Femi Emiola, Film, Gabriella Banda, Humor, Jaye Q, Jeff Daly, Jennifer Thompson, Jesse Coley, Leucadia Red, Mara Marini, Marla's Cafe, Mike Mills, short film, SingleTease, Steffanie Siebrand, Stuck, Textually Active. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.