Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dashing off to the office.  Gloomy and drippy out.  Fall is here at last.  (Break out the sweaters! Yes!)

My Stonehenge audition on Sunday went okay I think.  I cut a line to relieve some of the time pressure and went with the dressier outfit.  Took Ken Arnold's advice and directed my monologue just to the left of the camera.  It helped that it was a little lighter in the studio this time.  At the June audition the room was so dark all I could see was the light in my face.  I could only guess where the camera was.  Anyway, looking forward to seeing how it turned out in 6 weeks when it's posted to the Internet.  Also hoping they will let me have the high res footage to keep.  The organizers typically discard it, but last time I got lucky - they still had it and emailed it to me.

This is my second and last Stonehenge.  The organizers had a great idea in putting it together and it's a wonderful opportunity to connect with a lot of promising young filmmakers and build a demo DVD, but my plan is to move on to bigger union productions in the spring, which means taking my show on the road so to speak.  That's going to be a challenge.

For now, still working on clips for my demo.  Submitting for a taped book promo today.  A couple of auditions coming up.  Waiting for more details on the short film I'm doing the end of October.

Saw Michael Caine in The Statement over the weekend, one of his lesser known films.  What a terrific performance!  He created a very complex character in what could have been a more one-dimensional villain.  Noted some of the mannerisms he used in his more recent Harry Brown, which I also liked, although I thought Emily Mortimer was miscast.  Also reading Caine's autobiography, What's It All About?  (Very funny!) He says early on in the book that he developed a belief in God from all the many times when good fortune appeared out of nowhere.  I have experienced that too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Still struggling with the monologue for Stonehenge, but I put my 1950s Mafia widow into a different outfit and it made a huge improvement in my delivery. Initially I put on a loose, floral print dress, beige cardigan, low-heeled shoes, drop earrings - what I thought looked vaguely “Italian.”  Trouble was, the dress kept gaping at the buttons down the front when I sat down and the beige washed me out and I just felt uncomfortable. 

And if you feel uncomfortable nothing works. 

So I decided that there’s nothing in the script that necessarily says this woman is a frump and radically changed her look to something more upscale – high heels, black pencil skirt, black/gray sweater, black/white polka dot scarf, double strand of pearls, button earrings.  The pearls still say 1950s.  The monologue went much better.

So, we’ll see how it goes on Sunday.  This may be my last Stonehenge audition. The one I did in June has been very helpful in getting some big roles in small, non-union productions, but I’m hoping to join one of the unions in February and that will change what kinds of work I can accept. 

For now I’m just happy to be making progress toward my goal of having 10-12 significant on-camera roles by the end of the year so that I can put together a decent demo. 

So far I have 8.  I’ve played (or will soon play) a police detective dealing with a hostage situation, an elderly widow with a late-night visitor from her past, the mother of a troubled teen, a grandmother holding a family together after the death of her daughter, a corporate executive regretting her life choices, and a judge who must rule on a man’s sanity.  All dramas.  I’ve also been a hotel gift shop clerk and shopping mall information officer in two industrials and was the telephone voice of a kidnapper in another short film (good roles, but still up in the air as to whether I work those into the demo.)  

Somewhere in all of that has to be three minutes of good face time.  I might even use a few seconds from the Stonehenge auditions, if it makes sense to do that. Then I’ll need to find a video editor who will work with me to achieve exactly what I want.   No standard-issue demo. I’m a contrarian.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Monologue Needs a Lot of Work

Spent the morning with actor Ken Arnold at Studio 333 in Baltimore, going over my monologue for the next Stonehenge Audition.  Ken is a great guy and, as it turned out, I had his undivided attention as the rest of those expected to show up bailed at the last minute to attend an open casting call.

The monologue needs a lot of work.  I'm beginning to wonder if it's really right for me, whether it's too far out of my comfort zone to pull off successfully.  Certainly the Italian accent wasn't as good as I'd hoped.  Maybe I have Anna Magnani/Sophia Loren so much in my head that I'm unable to work through Kathryn Browning.  That's the down side of doing a monologue from film.  You actually see somebody do it first.

Wrapped on Clear and Sunny Skies early in the week.  Shooting had a bumpy start and a few miscues, but eventually came together and I really liked the footage I was seeing.  All of the interior scenes were shot in a charming, cottage-style restaurant in North Beach, Maryland, called Bilvil.  The owner and chef gave us use of the place for the day and even made lunch for the cast and crew (fabulous food!)  North Beach is right on the Chesapeake Bay and town officials have offered to host the CASS premiere in November, which would give me the opportunity to introduce my husband to a  lovely little town and a great restaurant.  It's also being shown to financial backers on November 6th in Arlington, Virginia, and I have it on my calendar to attend.

Once I get past Stonehenge I'll be focusing on playing Justice Rider in Richard Volin's new thriller Commitment, which is now in pre-production and begins shooting in October.  Very intriguing script with a twist.  Looking forward to getting started on it.

For now I'm just bushed.  Too many long days beginning at 5 a.m.  Too many hours on the highway.  Turmoil at the office.  Husband not feeling well.  Nice talking to Ken though.  He was just in a film with Alfred Molina and auditioned for a part in Tom Selleck's new television series.  Two of my favorite actors. I am green with envy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beloved Meisner

I don’t know what to make of this. I have been reading Sanford Meisner on Acting, anticipating at the outset that I would be as excited about this book as I was in reading Harold Guskin’s How to Stop Acting. Just read what’s on the back cover:

Today Sanford Meisner, who has been a fixture at the Neighborhood Playhouse for fifty years, is the best-known and most beloved teacher of acting in the country. This book, written in collaboration with Dennis Longwell, follows an acting class of eight men and eight women for fifteen months, beginning with the most rudimentary exercises and ending with affecting and polished scenes from contemporary American plays. Throughout these pages Meisner is a delight – always empathizing with his students and urging them onward, provoking emotion, laughter, and growing technical mastery from his charges.

With an introduction by Sydney Pollack, director of Out of Africa and Tootsie, who worked with Meisner for five years.

“How lucky we are to have this glorious book for actors and everybody else. O rare Sanford Meisner!” Maureen Stapleton

“This book should be read by anybody who wants to act or even appreciate what acting involves. Like Meisner’s way of teaching, it is the straight goods.” Arthur Miller

“If there is a key to good acting, this one is it, above all others. Actors, young and not so young, will find inspiration and excitement in this book.” Gregory Peck

“This is the best and most illuminating book on the process of acting I have ever read – and I’ve read them all.” Robert Whitehead
“A fascinating glimpse into the creative mind of a wonderful teacher, a primer for beginners and a refreshing reexamination for the professional.” Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson

“delight” “beloved” “empathizing” “urging them onward” “glorious” “rare” “inspiration” “excitement” “illuminating” “best” “key” Clearly this man made a positive impression on some very famous people.

So why is the book such a hard slog? Dennis Longwell’s “you are there” approach to capturing Meisner and his technique is almost impenetrable and, worse, reveals the master as condescending, dismissive, often cruel to his students, and overly fond of criticizing his competition at The Actor’s Studio and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Well, it was a different era.  I’m going to try to finish this book, but I hope the students Meisner summarily dismissed from class had enough sense of their own ability to continue acting.

Update 10/6/2011:  I have now taken a class in the Meisner method and I will say that for all his seemingly bad behavior, he was onto something.  The improvement in the performances of the actors in class was remarkable.  This training is worth pursuing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Disappointed I Can't Work Everything In

Missing another acting workshop. Last time it was Geoffrey Soffer, casting director for Ugly Betty, The Beautiful Life and a whole long list of TV and theatre hits. This time Studio 333 in Baltimore is bringing in Kathleen Randazzo, acting coach and drama teacher at Sanford Meisner’s Playhouse West in Studio City, California. As it happens, I’m reading Sanford Meisner on Acting by Meisner and Dennis Longwell. It would have been good to see his technique in practice, but I’m booked the whole weekend. Disappointed I can’t work everything in.
I signed up for the next Stonehenge Audition coming up the end of this month in Baltimore. I want to finally do my monologue from the 1958 film The Black Orchid - a part that was written for Anna Magnani (above left), but went to Sophia Loren (such is the movie biz.) It will be interesting to see what I can do with it. Hoping to get out to the Studio 333 Actor’s Group to run through it and get some feedback, even if I don’t get an audition lottery slot. The monologue I did in June was cool and controlled. This one is more ethnic and emotional.
Getting up early tomorrow to take the train to Philadelphia and record “The Voice” for Anthony Fletcher’s film Deadline. Sunday my husband and I drive down to Richmond to do some background research for a novel he's writing (one with a dynamite title and wonderful, quirky plot). Monday brunch with our son and his wife and a drive over to Herrington Harbor. I want to get a feel for the place before filming begins on the 13th. The weather forecast – so far – is indeed for “clear and sunny skies.”