|:: More photos from the NaFF'08 ::||
Nashville Film Festival ~ April 21, 2008
"Actor Turned Filmmaker" Panel
Thank you to Tashafallen for sharing her photos and her day. Thank you to Enaka for sending it in to us.
|:: Photos are Copyright Tashafallen 2008 - Sale of reprints are prohibited without permission ::|
|Vincent and Tashafallen|
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Actor Turned Filmmaker Panel
Nashville Edge, 4.24.08
by Kendall Mitchell
Four notable actors turned filmmakers gathered at the Nashville Film Festival to share their experiences and offer their best advice on working in the film industry in front of the camera and behind it.
The Nashville Film Festival, all this week at the Regal Green Hills Cinema, not only shows some of the year’s best independent documentaries and short films, but also provides panel discussions on various topics with some of the best in the business. One in particular that I sat in on yesterday gave great insight into the business for those seeking a career as an actor or filmmaker as well as just great stories on the most legendary filmmakers of our time told by four Actors Turned Filmmakers. Michelle Paradise, Joey Lauren Adams, Robby Benson, and Vincent D’Onofrio sat with a theater full of aspiring Nashville actors and filmmakers and told the stories of their ups and downs in the film industry as actors and how they journeyed to the other side of the lens. Allow me to share with you some of their best advice and entertaining stories that they shared with us.
Paradise and Adams both crossed over from acting into writing once they grew tired of waiting for the right roles to come to them. Adams recalled seeing the film Notting Hill and it being one of the series of events that led her into writing. Julia Roberts was at the height of her career then and as an actress Adams realized she couldn’t relate to this film or any others at the time. And this was supposedly her goal and what she was trying to become. In her own words she said, “If Notting Hill is Mecca, I don’t know if I can make this pilgrimage.” She just couldn’t relate to any female roles being written. She could no longer wait for her next Chasing Amy, which was her break through role and her most challenging and brilliant to date, but was in 1997. She joked that, as an actor, she disappeared for awhile and her life took an “E! True Hollywood” turn. She realized one day that she didn’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and she had no one to blame but herself. This was some of the most thought provoking advice and insightful stories she gave. I always felt that we cannot sit around and complain that our ship has yet to come in, when we were given two hands, resources, and the creative minds to create our own ship and set sail on our own free will. Instead of complaining that women aren’t being written as strong, intriguing, complicated and multi-layered characters, Adams and Paradise took action and began to write the roles they had been waiting for.
Robby Benson wrote his first film at sixteen, which received Cannes recognition, but he also received his first backlash of the industry. Due to his fragile and naïve age, the credit was taken from him and given to someone else. He never gave up nor developed bitter feelings toward a sometimes harsh industry. He had a passion and continued to “write the types of movies he wanted to see”, which is one of his best pieces of advice. He also said “failure is the best way to learn”. The other three quickly agreed. They all shared war stories and bad experiences they had on set with directors and crew, but all agreed how much more they learned in those situations over the ones that were good.
Vincent D’Onofrio started the conversation that many directors don’t know how to relate or deal with actors and that actors turned directors can be the most ideal. They can see things from an actors perspective, nurture their cast, and read each individual actor and how they prefer to work. D’Onofrio added that actors should be treated delicately while on set, like glass, because if you break an actor before or during their performance, that performance is dead.
Some directors just aren’t meant to work with actors. Some of the most genius of directors don’t even speak to their actors. D’Onofrio talked about a movie he did with Stanley Kubrick where after he finished one of the scenes, Kubrick just looked at him as asked, “was that it”, that’s what you’re going to do”? Also, decide on the type of director you want to be, and don’t be anything else. And don’t pretend or talk in metaphors. Good directors do half their work in casting. If you hire great actors who know what they are doing then you should never have to coach them in a scene. Some actors prefer to never be spoken to on set. When they arrive in the morning, they don’t need to know how the director felt about last night’s American Idol. All they need is trust. If you trust the director’s vision and their talent, and you know what is expected of you to bring to that vision, than that is the only relationship necessary. But some directors, like Benson, like walking on set and saying good morning to everyone, usually because they were once an actor who liked that kind of relationship with a director. Although the styles may be different, there is no denying that filmmakers who were once actors have something to bring to the table that other directors don’t. Adams talked about her empathy for her cast. Being an actor herself she knows what it was like when the director didn’t have everything ready or was late getting a scene ready, all the while the actors sit in trailers for hours in makeup waiting, just to have the scenes changed on them or be sent back into makeup once they are ready only because so much time has passed since they first had their makeup done. That is just a small example Adams gave to describe what actors deal with on set and how an actor turned director would be mondful of. The fact that they have been there, they can gain instant trust with their cast.
Don’t hold on to one script or concept for a film your whole life thinking that this is your only chance. Benson talked about how his best work has been sitting on his shelf for 25 years. And some of his worst was picked up just like that, and as he recalled, made even worse. Finish one thing and immediately try another. You never know what might sound good to someone else or which one of your ideas actually works out. You can never stop believing in one project, but don’t let it be the only thing you create. And that brings me to another excellent point they touched on, make excellent use of your free time. The best time for an actor is when they actually have a job, but if you are in-between work, don’t waste it waiting for the next job. D’Onofrio said that actors are lazy by nature, which is why they usually don’t spend their downtime well, when they should be broadening their creativity. “Try things, and just see if they work”, he says. Try your hand at writing, videography, or editing as Adams recently learned to be her favorite part of filmmaking. Paradise adds, if you are inspired by something while doing another, go ahead and do it. It is all about creating, just in different ways.”
As a director, your role on set is to be a leader, everyone’s rock. “Think of a movie set as a tribe”, Benson explains, “the director has to be the Alpha Dog.” “Not so much as to protect your cast, but to challenge them and make them better.” It is important to recognize the ideas of everyone so they feel a part of the tribe, or movie, but maintain the role of the ultimate visionary. He supports this with a quote from the great director, Paul Newman, who would tell his cast and crew, “I want to hear all of your ideas….once.”
When asked for their thoughts on getting the most out of a career in acting or filmmaking, the four had this advice to share.
D’Onofrio, “Take any job you can get.”
Benson, “Agreed, it’s all about taking something away from every experience that comes your way.” Benson also said something humorous in his advice for a writer. He said, “if you write a screenplay and don’t want your words changed, write a novel. If you’re a novelist and don’t want your words changed, write a diary.”
Adams, “Read every script that comes to your door, the moment it gets there.” “As a writer, I know what it is like for the other side to send out a script and have the actor never get around to reading it.”
Paradise, “And keep busy, no matter what it is you’re doing.”
And the unanimous decision on the best advice in Hollywood was ….Be Nice To Everyone.” The assistant on the phone today is the agent/director/studio-head tomorrow whose attention you will be desperately seeking. And people remember you and how you behaved toward them. In fact, panel moderator and successful LA casting director, Laray Mayfield said she keeps a file of people she has come across in her career that acted like complete jackasses to her or someone else she knew of. Bottom line, get over yourself. You’re not entitled to anything from anyone, so in the words of Vincent D’Onofrio, “don’t be a d*ck.”
|Interview with Vincent D'Onofrio and Joey Lauren Adams after the "Actor Turned Filmmaker" panel on 4.21.08.--by Kendall Mitchell|