Videos: Fall 2019 - Class Projects - Acting for Film and Advanced Acting for Film

The final scenes from the Fall 2018 Acting for Film Class and Advanced Acting for Film project 'THE JURY' Based on '12 Angry Men', the original 1957 teleplay by Reginald Rose.

How to Make the Camera Fall in Love With You By Casey Mink

The camera is the apple of every film and television actor’s eye—but sometimes it can play hard to get. However, the best onscreen actors know exactly how to lure the camera to them and keep it there. 
Eyes are the windows to the (camera’s) soul. To achieve solid eye contact, focus on your scene partner’s downstage eye. Yes, there is an ‘upstage’ and a ‘downstage’ when working on camera, although ‘stage left’ becomes ‘camera right’ and vice-versa. (While there are still some directors who use the terms ‘stage left’ and ‘stage right,’ it is becoming a less frequent practice when directing for the camera.)
“Inexperienced actors often look shifty-eyed, as they move back and forth between another actor’s two eyes. Depending on the tightness of the shot, this may not be an issue. However, you should be very careful if the shot is extremely close and intense. By focusing on the downstage eye (the one closer to the camera), your performance will have more stillness, which both directors and audiences prefer to the shifty-eyed look.” —Brian O’Neil, acting career coach, consultant and audition coach.
The camera will love you as you are. 
“The camera is, in fact, your biggest fan. Because it stands very close to you, it doesn’t require you to use any of your well-honed theatrical skills like precise diction, vocal projection, or any indication of where the jokes lie. If you want to do something extremely subtle, the camera will be there to see, understand, and record it.” —David Dean Bottrellactor/teacher
The camera knows what’s on the inside.   “On stage you have the opportunity for much more external business and your body and voice play a big part in who your character is. But in TV/film, where stillness is at a premium, you need to look within and find the qualities of yours that connect most powerfully with the words on the page. And when it’s go time, you need to be able to just talk and listen with a minimum of movement, relying on the honesty of your decisions to shine through from behind your eyes.” —Craig Wallace, creator of the Wallace Audition Technique
Show the camera your every nuance. “Set yourself free. Do the things you would do if you were alone. Scratch. Get the hair out of your face. Set free natural nuances to happen so that you are working from a real ‘living human being’ area. Allow yourself to feel ugly, imperfect, even boring. Everyone actually looks better in a relaxed mode, as your face and body get a beautiful, natural glow and flow. It will look like you are doing nothing, but tiny nuances will begin to happen that warm up the whole scene. The more you do this, the easier it gets to trust that all the good stuff happens in this zone.” —Cathryn Hartt, founder of Hartt & Soul Acting Studio
These are the three keys to the camera’s heart: “To define the difference between acting for the stage and acting for the camera, all stage actors are trained in two channels of nonverbal communication: the body and the voice. However, what separates the on-camera actor from the theatrical actor is the on-camera actor must know the three channels of nonverbal communication: the body, the voice, and the face.” —John Sudol, acting coach and author of “Acting: Face to Face: The Actor’s Guide to Understanding How Your Face Communicates Emotion for TV and Film”
The camera will tell you if you’re being too general. “On camera, limitless possibilities translate as general. Human limitations translate as a clearly-defined character. Human beings, and therefore characters, are defined by their prejudices which limit the ways they see and respond to the world. Watching a limited human being or character clash with the world is what makes a story interesting. The ‘you are the character and the character is you’ approach would actually work if actors isolated specific qualities or character traits (or character limitations if you will) that they themselves possess and let those specific qualities dictate how they play the entire scene.” —John Swanbeck, author, speaker and director

Film ‘New Americans’ to focus on Columbus, immigrants

Keida Mascaro
Two filmmakers are making a movie shot and based in Columbus called “New Americans.”

Two filmmakers set out last year to tell a story that is “uniquely Columbus” — based on where it will be filmed, where it’s set and whose story it tells.

The story is called “New Americans,” and filmmakers Keida Mascaro, 45, and Jeffrey Newman, 47, are passionate about the difference they think the film can make locally and nationally.

“The film is about reclaiming our identity as Americans,” said Newman, of Los Angeles. “You tell the story of Columbus through people who live here. The diversity is rich. ... The diversity that comes out of here is part of the healing we need to do as a nation.”

Newman hopes the film shows people that, even in this divisive time, “we are all connected.”

“This is a story of identifying with similarities rather than looking at differences,” he said, adding that everyone wants safety and prosperity for their families, a point on which people should be able to relate.

The film, made by Mascaro and Newman’s Columbus-based company, Rich Street Productions, tells the fictional story of a Congolese refugee arriving in Columbus in 2018 and follows him through the first several weeks of his time here.

Written by Newman, the refugee’s story is based on a composite of stories of real-life immigrants and refugees who the filmmakers interviewed in Columbus. The film details the fictitious main character’s past as a child soldier, life in a refugee camp and his search for stability and eventual discovery of his own identity.

Deba Uwadiae, 54, of the North Side, was one of the immigrants Mascaro and Newman interviewed. He also is a creative consultant on the film, as well as editor and publisher of New Americans Magazine. Uwadiae came to the country in 2011 and literally wrote the book on what it is like for an immigrant settling here, titled “The Immigrant on Columbus Way: Notes on Early Life in America and Citizenship,” published in 2014.

Originally from West Africa, Uwadiae came to the U.S. with his family through a visa lottery program. He hopes people begin to understand immigrants through the film.

“I hope they will be able to think back to when their parents or their grandparents or their forefathers were immigrants, so they’re able to understand everyone is working for the good of any community he or she finds themselves in,” Uwadiae said. “The good thing is for us to be able to understand each other.”

Mascaro, of the North Side, and Newman plan to shoot the film — which also will examine post-traumatic stress disorder, barriers immigrants face when starting a life in the U.S. and American identity — in the summer and release it in 2020.

The two met in Los Angeles 20 years ago. They have worked on films together before, they said, but nothing like this. Mascaro reached out to Newman about the film in late 2017.

The vibrant immigrant and refugee population adds to central Ohio’s diversity, they said, from tech professionals from Asia to people from Africa who came fleeing war. The city is home to about 40,000 Somali refugees, second only in size to that of the Somali community in Minneapolis.

“There are a lot of people in this city who don’t know that,” Mascaro said. “There’s a lot of people outside who certainly don’t know that.”

Columbus is “imminently relatable” to people around the country, and makes a perfect backdrop, they said.

And they want to make the city a character in the film, not just a backdrop.

In almost every film shot here, “Columbus hasn’t been the focus of the film,” Mascaro said. “It’s just been a convenient backdrop.”

The filmmakers are working now to raise $500,000 of the film’s overall $3 million to $4 million budget, they said. The $65,000 raised in phase one helped Mascaro and Newman interview more than 50 local immigrants and refugees. They plan to use the money from phase two to secure actors and launch pre-production.

The two believe the film, which they hope to fund primarily through local investors, will raise the city’s visibility nationally and be a springboard for it to get more business opportunities, increase infrastructure, create talent and compete nationally in the future.

“We want to enrich the community and keep the community enriching itself,” Newman said.

dking@dispatch.com

Craft Notes by Ed Hooks

Glen Larson, Creator Of Battlestar Galactica,
Knight Rider And More
"Show them how it will be..."

Producer Glen Larson died November, 14, 2014 in Los Angeles at age 77.  I was fortunate to know him and to be one of the character actors in his go-to list.  It is no exaggeration to say that, without Glen Larson, I might not have had a Hollywood career at all, and his death brings a rush of memories, some of which may be instructive for my students and readers.  Let me tell you how I landed my first job with Glen, on the TV show The Fall Guy.  It was 1981, and the auditions were held on the 20th-Century Fox lot.   It was a typically high-pressure situation, me plus ten other actors that looked like my twins sitting in a waiting room while the casting director called us in one by one.  Most of those other guys had a lot more TV experience than me, which was in itself intimidating.  I had been in LA for four years at that point but still listed on my resume more New York stage credits than TV or film.  My competitors were mostly already routinely working Guest Star roles.  But I pretended not to notice, burying my head in the script sides.

The role - I forget the character's name -  was a guy behind the counter of rural small-town liquor store, and the action in my scene included me taking a Lee Majors knock-out punch to the jaw.  The only biographical background I had on the character was that he was a Viet Nam vet.  He talked non-stop, one of those annoying people who want to talk about anything at all, and don't know when to shut up.  That is what led to the knock-out punch.  Lee was knocking me out for my own good, to protect me from the episode's bad-guy who was standing next to him and getting progressively angry at what I was saying.  When it was my turn to audition, I entered with the casting director. Typical of movie-lot offices, the place looked more like a living room than an office, complete with sofas and a big coffee table. Half a dozen men  were lounging around when I entered, flipping through stacks of 8x10 glossies, and I waved and greeted everybody.  They mumbled amiably in my direction, and the audition began.

It didn't go well.  I read the scene as if Arthur Miller had written it, trying to make my character as smart as I could.  Like I say, there were a lot of lines for a one-day role, and I justified every one of them.  After I finished, there was silence in the room and the auditors looked at one another.  One of them, who I would later learn was Glen Larson, said, "Did we write that?"  They assured him that they had indeed written it, even as awful as it was.  In that moment, my career turned a corner.  I knew from past auditions that the next words I would hear would be a polite and perfunctory, "Thanks very much.  Appreciate you coming in."  Something snapped inside me that roughly equated to a survival mode.  "Listen," I said, "Would you mind if I improv on the scene a little?  Do it again?"  The men deferred to the guy who was Glen who said, "Sure, go ahead. Do whatever you want." This kind of thing makes casting directors nervous because the actor is suddenly in charge of the room.  I admit that I enjoyed the sensation.

I tossed the sides on the coffee table, faced the casting director and made a bold acting choice, totally opposite of what I had done the first time.  Instead of justifying every line a la Death of a Salesman, I played it as a recluse basket case.  I added lines, chatted away with the casting director, who did not have a clue where I was going with this.  I took the one thing I knew about the character, being a Vietnam vet, and amplified it.  I decided I was working at a small town liquor store because I was too screwed up by Vietnam to be functional in civilized society.  I babbled on and made no sense at all, suddenly unable to make eye contact with other humans.  Somewhere mid-scene, I became aware that the men on the sofa were almost weeping with laughter, literally slapping their knees.  It crossed my mind that maybe I had gone too far, but it was too late to turn back now.  The casting director had given up all attempts to interact with me. Then, suddenly, it was all over and the room fell silent.  Glen wiped tears from his eyes, picked up a script and handed it to me.  "Yeah, that's it!  Do it like that!"  Still in a semi-shocked state of mind, I waved good-bye and returned to the waiting room, the casting director following behind me.  When we got out there, I asked her if there was going to be call-backs, and she said (...exact words, I'll never forget them), "No.  You got the part.  It's yours."

And that was how I got my first job for Glen Larson.  It also was the only time I ever had to audition for him.  During the following fifteen or so years, I worked a lot for him on various shows, and the drill was always the same.  My phone would suddenly start ringing off the hook:  "Glen Larson wants to know if you're available to go to Palm Springs (or Long Beach or Phoenix, whereever...) next week.  He's doing a pilot, and he has a role for you."  A short time later, the wardrobe department would call.   Half the time, I didn't even know what role I was playing until the wardrobe person called.  It was a wild experience.

Ours is an industry of relationships, and there is no "right" way for those relationships to be formed.  For me, it happened because I tossed caution out the window in an audition at 20th-Century Fox, in front of one of television's busiest producers.  Instead of trying to be what I thought they wanted to see, I showed them how the role would play if they cast me.  It is a practical lesson that you can take to the bank.

Glen's shows were never nominated for Emmy's.  Most of them were built around ideas that had previously shown up in feature films.  No matter.  They were immensely popular with the TV audience and, thanks to Glen Larson, I got to be a familiar face.  Ours is an industry built on relationships, and there is no "right" way to create them.  The take-away acting lesson from my experience is, "At an audition, do not try to be what you think they want to see.  Show them how it will be if they cast you."

RIP, Glen Larson.  With gratitude.

BOOK OF THE MONTH

The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors: Conversations with Over 100 Casting Directors on How to Get the Job (revised 2016)

Karen Kondazian's newly revised and edited The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors, compiles valuable inside information from over 100 premier casting directors, as regards to both Hollywood and New York film, television, theater and commercial auditioning. Bonus conversations included are discussions on film acting, with award-winning directors James Cameron and John Woo - and interviews with renowned acting coaches ‘to the stars,’ Larry Moss, Milton Katselas and Jeff Corey.

Great casting directors have the talent to identify which actor will fit that one role, filtering through hundreds of 'potentials,' eventually delivering that actor into the hands of the decision makers. This in-depth book about the casting process informs actors what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk, what each casting director likes, dislikes and is searching for in the audition process. 

The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors exists to educate, inspire and empower actors because far too much in this business is out of their control. You have at your fingertips an invaluable resource that serves the actor in any number of ways - one unique example being, it includes a photo of each casting director. (How many actors are in a daze when they walk into the audition room wondering if they are auditioning for the casting director or their assistant - now they will know). 

Karen Kondazian’s experience as an award-winning actor and author (The Whip, inspired by a true story) and her previous long running column for Backstage, enabled her to ask questions on behalf of actors everywhere. The answers Kondazian has garnered for this book will hopefully give the actor real knowledge and confidence, so that when they walk out of the audition room, they know that they did their best.