Thursday, May 31, 2012

And that's a wrap!

Today was the end! I wrapped filming at 6:05 pm to race to rehearsal for Shrew. It was sad, and yet I feel as though I'll be seeing all these people again in the future. The film community here is so small and I can't wait for our next projects together.

Day 5:
Today we filmed scenes in my bedroom. No running, jumping, or climbing. I did do some falling. 

My favorite shot today was a very noir shot where I got to sneak up to my window after it gets shattered. I felt like I was in a horror film, and the crew lit the scene in a really awesome way. I'd describe it better, but I don't want to give away more than I already have in my lasts posts. 

I'll put up pictures as soon as I get the go ahead, and they get all the pics together. I had the most fantastic experience putting this film together. I'm so glad I took that leap of faith and signed the contract. I met some very talented people that I hope to film with in the future. 

Film is an extremely difficult medium. Actors sit around and wait, and the second the crew is ready the actor has to be too. There's always limited time, limited budget, and generally a sense of limited patience. I was very fortunate to not experience the latter too much in this process.  I did learn how important it is to trust your instincts. Sometimes you don't have an appropriate amount of time to think things through before Action is called. I learned a lot about going with the flow--and a lot about what not to do on film.

I'm so excited to see the finished product. I still have such a high from being on set, I can hardly believe I won't be going back tomorrow.

I will be going back to film an interview. There's going to be more publicity coming up in the next couple months that I'm looking forward to as well. I'm proud of everything that everyone put into this project.

I feel so lucky to have found a script that included so much action. My favorite part of the whole process was the stunts. I know the next time I'm filming something I'll be relearning all my lessons from college filming that I didn't have to use in this film because it wasn't centered on acting.  Of course, now that I know how much I enjoy stunt work I'll be looking into doing that in the future as well.

Now it's time to move onto the next. 

We start blocking Shrew tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sascha and The Face Touch

My co-star told me this would be a great band name for me. He derived it after we finished filming a scene where we touched each other's faces at least thirty times. I like it, but I doubt I'll start a band.

Day 3:

On Monday we finished filming all our stunt scenes. We began the day inside with me harnessed again. After the disastrous amount of bruises I received from Day 2, Director and Stunt Coordinator came to the decision to get me a new harness that actually fit me. It was wonderful in comparison, and allowed me to wear my real costume + an extra pair of pants.

We spent a good two hours shooting scenes with me hanging from a rooftop inside and being pulled up by the robot. This time my SC harnessed himself to be my counterbalance and we went up and down together. I absolutely adored the stunt team I worked with. They were not only experienced and very talented at their jobs, but they were honestly working to make me wonderful at mine. I learned so much from them.

Since we had an afternoon call, we broke for dinner before moving outside for our night shots. This is when the fun stuff really began.

Parkour: An athletic discipline, in which practitioners traverse any environment in the most efficient way possible using their physical abilities, and which commonly involves running, jumping, vaulting, rolling, and other similar movements.

When we got outside Director told me I would be launching myself off the wall with one foot, onto a makeshift cinder-block wall (7ft high) where I would deftly land before turning and using a pipe on the wall to scale to the roof.  How awesome is that?

So I scaled the wall first (only going as high as 14ft, which was limited by the insurance policy). It took a while to get the hang of because if I actually used my feet against the wall like I was supposed to look like I was doing, then I would swing like a pendulum uncontrollably. The pipe I was 'grabbing' couldn't actually bare any of my weight, so I had to use my toes to guide my climb while pretending to grab the pipe while not placing my weight anywhere.

When we finally had that shot down we moved onto me sprinting at the wall and vaulting myself off. This was my favorite part of the night because it was the only time I didn't have to be harnessed all day! It was really fun to do a stunt without the harness because I was physically capable of doing it.

We filmed every part of the sequence separately, then at the end of the night, Director wanted  to try and film the whole sequence in one shot. Now, this was a challenge for the stunt team because of my momentum from the first wall to landing on the second. In the end, we weren't able to get the whole shot, but they rigged a system to vault me from the first wall up to the second. Because of the force of my push, they rigged a 'brake' to my harness to stop me once I soared past the second wall (because it was impossible for me to land on it). That brake hurt. More than anything else I'd done previously. It wrenched my waist backwards, but it looked really cool. By the end of the night I had a significant amount of bruising, and I didn't care one bit. I had such a great time, everything was as safe as it could be, and the footage looked fantastic.

Day 4:

I woke up today and discovered that my bruising was worse than I thought. It took us a good fifteen minutes this morning to cover my mid section and legs.

Today we filmed our inside action scenes. I climbed onto the roof (the one that I had supposedly scaled yesterday, but a set version of it) with a heel hook (and secretly a boost from my producer laying on some mats--did I just ruin the movie magic?). Then we took some shots of me running to the edge of the roof before my jump across which was fun because I got to do some sliding stops--for about an hour.

We filmed a lot of closeups today. Because the stunt work had taken so long the last couple days we're behind in our schedule. They're hoping to wrap tomorrow like we're supposed to, but I think there are going to be some pickup shots they'll need in the next couple months to tie everything in. So it's looking like, even if we 'finish' tomorrow, I'll still be working some more in the future with this crew. I'll be very surprised if everything can be fit into the schedule tomorrow for a wrap.

This entire experience has been indescribable. It's been so long since I've felt so invested and inspired by a project. I think it's because it's stretching my creativity and challenging me artistically in ways that I haven't experienced before. It's new and exciting and I'm having a wonderful time.  I don't know what the end product will look like, or if it will be completed in the next year, but I do know that I've learned more than I thought possible just from one film. I've learned how important it is to have a director that knows exactly what they want. I've learned that I'm very green when it comes to film acting. And I've learned that I have an extreme passion for stunt work. I've loved every second of physical activity I've been allowed to do on set--as much and sometimes more so than the acting I've gotten to do. It pushes me in new ways, and every bruise has been worth it--except maybe the bruises from that brake (good thing we only did six takes of that).

I'll have photos up as soon as I can. There are so many wonderful moments I've had during this process, and every single second of them is recorded in a photograph. Tomorrow I'll be filming all the acting bits we haven't gotten around to yet in my nice clean bedroom set.

I started Shrew rehearsals tonight. We did a read through and discussed the cutting of the script and the scansion we'll be working on. Tomorrow we're going to start table work, which means line by line deciphering and picking apart the script to derive meaning and intention. I'm stoked.

Audition for my next film: this Saturday! Too excited.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Camera Rolling And Action!

Day 1:

Among other things, this is what I spent yesterday listening to repeatedly. It might be my new favorite sentence. I was called to set at 9 am for hair and makeup. When I walked into the studio I was greeted by the Assistant Director who couldn't wait to escort me to my dressing room just to show me the present my Director insisted I have.

A star on my door! Now, as adorable as this was, I'm actually the only actor in this film. I have an actor in a green suit playing my robot counterpart, but he's going to be edited out in post production.  I was introduced to the entire crew before getting into wardrobe--and there's so many of them. I definitely can't remember all the names, but I'm trying my best. By the end of the day I knew most of the camera crew intimately from spending hours on close-up shots less than a foot from my face.

We spent most of the day in my 'bedroom' on set. The scenes we shot included my wall being broken through, my bed breaking, and me being carried around in a very tall man's arms all day. I learned a lot about reactionary acting (my director likes to refer to it as King Kong Acting). In film, they shoot a master (a wide angle shot of the whole scene), and then they'll shoot other angles and close-ups for the editing in post production. Since this film is an action film, there were a lot of close-ups where my director would say, "And the robot just burst through your wall--Action!" This was definitely a challenge, but after watching the footage I'm very happy with the outcome. It was nice to be able to watch the footage before another take, so I could see what looked good and what didn't.

The other challenge of the day was acting with a man in a green suit.  He has no facial expression, no lines, and face. Surprisingly, most moments I found it easier than if he had been uncovered, because I could create whatever I needed in my mind to work off of.

As per usual we spent a lot of time rehearsing the shots to make sure everything would look the way the director was planning. This crew, specifically, likes to roll film while rehearsing in case they can catch a great shot. It was very interesting for certain takes, such as the first time the bed actually broke. We had been practicing it a couple times and they couldn't get it to break. When it breaks I'm supposed to be surprised and then laugh. Needless to say, the first time it actually worked I wasn't expecting it and they received a very surprised and natural laugh as the result. Unfortunately I also fell backwards, so it will have to be reserved for the outtakes.

The actor playing the robot is a very experienced athlete and we shot a scene today where I've fallen on the ground and I have to get up and run out of frame really fast. Now, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it, but then he showed me some great tips to make it even better. The end result made me look like an action star--and really quick!

Film is such a hugely collaborative art form. Everyone on set is working towards one moment at a time, trying to make it the best it can possibly be. Camera operators, directors, producers, PA's and even grips can have a say in what might help make a shot better. Of course, this is an independent and the process could be entirely different on a feature length film. As an actor, I generally try to stay out of the logistics unless it includes my acting, but it's terribly exciting to watch so many people come together in a genuine effort to make art.

Day 2:

This is my chair.
This is a fabulous crew, and they are all so supportive and encouraging. It has been a very different experience for me than theatre has previously been. I'm being catered to left and right, and it's really strange to me. Do I need to sit down? Here's my robe to keep me warm. Should I get your water bottle? Would you like a break from your harness? Are you comfortable right now? How can I make this easier for you? She needs some lotion! Someone go buy this for her!  Really, I've never been so taken care of in my life, and it's been a surprising, humbling, and interesting experience. I'm working hard to assure everyone that I'll ask if I need something, but they make it their job to make sure I'm able to do exactly what they need by giving me everything I need. Without taking time away from their other jobs--making the film.

My makeup designer is constantly touching me up, and someone is always there with anything I might need, thinking four steps ahead of me. My director is great about immediate feedback to move the scenes along, and is quick to make sure I'm enjoying my work as well. There's a wonderful symbiotic relationship on set that I really appreciate. Everyone is giving and taking in tandem. And we're staying on schedule--who could ask for more than that?

Today I was harnessed up to a flying rig system for the rooftop scenes. The crew built an indoor set of rooftops to shoot these, and we'll be doing location shots tomorrow to fill in the blanks. My costume for this film is tight cropped pants and a cutoff white tank top that shows my stomach. Today we discovered that my harness was going to cover my stomach making all of yesterday's footage obsolete. The producers did some quick thinking and went to the store. They came back with a nude girdle and larger white tank tops to cut off. I ended up putting on one pair of my pants (I have multiples of all my costumes, one set for every day), then my harness, then the girdle over top, then we cut holes in the girdle for my rigging, then another pair of pants over that, then the cut off tank. So basically, the girdle was acting as my stomach to hide the harness. They got a size too large for my harness and we had to tie it down, then gaff tape it with white tape to match my shirt.

It was intricate and difficult to get in and out of, so I spent the day trying not to drink too much water so I wouldn't have to take it off a lot. It ended up acting as great body armor when we tried a couple scenes of my falling into a wall sans mats.

This is part of the rooftop set before my rigging.
We shot scenes of me running and jumping off a rooftop. I don't quite make it to the next rooftop and I try to catch myself. I got to do some slow motion shots mid air. We tried a really cool shot with the camera rigged to follow me and fall off the edge of the roof with me. My stunt team was absolutely amazing and I had a great time working with them. My stunt coordinator said he'd like to keep in touch for future projects, and I'd really like that to work out. They've all worked on some features and other independents in the area. He told me last week he set himself on fire for a film--who wouldn't want to learn to do that?

The other scene we shot today was me trying to pull myself onto the rooftop after not making it. All in all, I'm only slightly bruised up, and that's more the fault of my harness being a size too big. The metal bits fit directly over my hip bones and the pressure caused some bruising. I had such a fun time today getting to fling myself everywhere and generally being athletic. I've been dying to do this kind of work on film and it's even better than I imagined. I can't wait for tomorrow.

I'll be stealing production photos after the shoot is complete (Wednesday), and I'll put them up as soon as I'm legally allowed. They take so many pictures of me I feel like I understand what it's like to be followed by  paparazzi--in a good way, sometimes.

The director plans to have the film edited and completed in 6-9 months. Then it will be submitted to as many sci-fi festivals as possible for about a 12 month circuit. After this, they're hoping to have enough fan support to give it a YouTube premiere! To make sure all this happens there will be a Kickstarter campaign coming up in a couple months, so look out for my soon to be repetitive pleas to check out the campaign. We'll be doing a series of interviews and behind the scenes shorts for publicity as well, if everything goes according to plan.

Rehearsals start Tuesday for Shrew, and I might have my next film already lined up--fingers crossed!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

All Harnessed Up!

Last night I met the full company for Greenstage's 2012 Shakespeare in the Park. Henry VIII and Shrew all got together. We introduced ourselves, learned names and roles, and then spoke towards how this season will run. We'll be travelling to many different parks, performing in all kinds of weather, and will generally be having a smashing time. We'll open with an Outdoor Theatre Festival in which 7 different companies perform their outdoor works, and the season continues from there.

I'm incredibly excited (even more so now) to be a part of this company for a small amount of time. This will be the 24th season, and they only have two more shows left to perform before they complete the cannon. I'll be working with some amazingly talented members of Seattle's theatre community, and I know that I'm going to have fantastic stories to tell.  I had my measurements taken, saw one of our numerous performance spaces, and then went out with the casts afterwards. I really can't wait to show you pictures of my costumes. They sound like they might be as epic as I imagine them to be. Specifically the butterfly that will somehow be perpetually hanging above my head.

Today I had the opportunity to meet with the crew of my upcoming film. Let me tell you, I felt like a real professional today. I walked into our studio (yes, STUDIO--give me a moment) to see our set already coming together. The director walked me through the different scenes we'd be shooting, and which parts I'll be harnessed for. I can't WAIT to do the stunts in this film! I met my stunt coordinator and we talked about practice times for some of the movement scenes. I'll be scaling a wall and jumping an 8 foot gap between rooftops! I even get to do some slow motion mid air reactions. I met the PA to be assigned to the actors, and stood beside my 6'8" robot counterpart. He's just so tall. It will be nice to have someone to work off of in a green suit, instead of staring at pieces of tape on the wall.

I have a five day shoot, with one night shoot scheduled from 9pm-Midnight. I believe I even have a scheduled shoot in the rain. I can't wait to be a part of this process.

And of course I start rehearsals for Shrew the last two days of filming--Overlapping Excitement Abounds.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Full Speed Ahead

Hoodies Up! opened and closed on Friday night. It was an amazing experience. Stepping into the project after being cast, I walked into a lot of logistical issues. Four actors dropped out, and I was the only original cast member to stick with it. We had a total of two rehearsals. Somehow someone was usually late. The production itself, made up of seven short plays beyond the one I was in, was having casting issues.
Normally, I'm not one to quit on a project. However, I think under different circumstances this might have been the first time I would have considered it. The whole thing seemed like it was going to be a nightmare. But something stopped me from even thinking about dropping out.  The people involved were all so passionate. Everyone had the cause (Trayvon Martin) in common, and they were working so hard to be good--to make the audience listen and think.

It's been a really long time since I've had a cast that I clicked so well with. The first time we (finally) were all able to get together, it was as if we'd been rehearsing for weeks. I had the opportunity to work with some truly talented ladies, and I'm so grateful I got to meet them and act beside them. My director was also wonderful. I had a marvelous time sidestepping obstacles with him through the duration of the process and it worked out so well! At then end he complimented my work ethic and my talent, and he told me he hoped I stick around this city because he thinks I can do amazing things. It was high praise and I felt great not because of what he thought, but because, for the first time since moving here, I felt like I made an impact. On my peers, on my audience, and with myself. I really needed this experience. We ended up raising over $1,300 for the Trayvon Martin Foundation. We had a full house, and they were a really responsive audience. I enjoyed every script put on stage (which could have been different), and everyone did a great job.

In other news, after my second wardrobe meeting today, my designer, director, and I have finally nailed down my costumes for the film. I'll be filming this upcoming weekend for five days! I'm extremely pumped to be moving forward with this project and these people. I hope to have wonderful stories to tell next week.

This week I have a full company meeting with the Shrew crew, and with my film crew as well. I'm excited to meet everyone involved in these two projects. I have a feeling I'll be making a lot of friends.

Rehearsals for Shrew start up next week Tuesday. It looks like we'll be doing almost a week's worth of table work, which I'm very happy about. Table work means we'll all sit around a table (who'd have thought?) and discuss the play, the characters, the director's/playwright's intentions, and other creative and logistical nonsense. This is the time we get to all make sure we're on the same page and fully understand where the play is going to go before we jump into blocking rehearsals.

I'll be doing a lot of work this week on my lines to prepare for rehearsals. I hope to be off book (completely memorized) before we start!

This week was a rough one. I had my beautiful dog adopted by a loving family from Canada. Unsurprisingly,  it took an intense and challenging acting lesson with Acting Coach to pull me through the rough patches. It's amazing what art can do for a person emotionally. Somehow he managed to tie the adoption into my Desdemona monologue and equated our shared heartache and feelings of betrayal. Amazing. I also got to hear some great stories about Stella Adler whom he personally studied under. I should have written all this right after my lesson (but I had the show opening, so I really couldn't) because now I can't remember many of his wise words.

He did tell me that he believes me when I become emotional. That's something I worry about as an actor. He told me he thinks it concerns me because I think it should be harder to access. It's funny because, since Rabbit Hole, many emotional scenes in plays have challenged me. Acting Coach made me realize that I've been more hard on myself than I need to be. He said that's not something I have trouble with at all. But I do need to work on personalizing my emotional responses to a more specific degree. As in, I need to create scenarios or characters to base my reactions from, instead of emotional recall and other 'nonsense'. Stella Adler (and hence, my Acting Coach) don't teach emotional recall, and refer to it as detrimental to an actor's health. Since emotional recall is extremely difficult and unnatural to me, I'm completely okay with this outlook. And I'm always ready to try a new tactic.

I'm ready for the summer to pick me up and carry me through August. I hope I'm so busy I won't breathe until then!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

April Showers bring May Flowers

Sorry for the long absence. My mind has been busier than my body, and it needed some time to create coherent thoughts.

It's been quite the whirlwind since my last post. As they say 'When it rains it pours.'  I went on a lovely road trip for my birthday. I took some time in Leavenworth to clear my head and find my priorities. It was really nice to finally have some me time.  But I won't bore you with the personal stuff--I'll get right to what this blog is supposed to be about!

I was personally invited on an exciting audition for my birthday in the San Juan Islands that I was able to accept because I had the day off work. I received the sides two days in advance, prepared myself and then made the trek up. I met with a wonderful British couple who own this theatre company that I've been dying to work with. I had a really fun audition reading for Puck in Midsummer. I was lucky enough to be offered the role the next day, and I had to do some hard thinking since I was already cast for the summer in Taming of the Shrew. In the end I stuck with Shrew because I had worked so hard for the role, and it's a better career move for me to stay in the city my first summer. 

I have to say it was really difficult for me to weigh the pros and cons. I wanted so badly to live on an island all summer and do great theatre with this company. In the end, I know I made the best choice for me and I'm grateful to have had such a wonderful opportunity so early on in my career here. I'm fortunate and hope that it bodes well for my future here.

In the next couple weeks I met with my Shrew cast a couple times to get to know everyone and talk about the direction of the play. I'm really excited to work with this group and I'm definitely going to learn so much. I'm the only person in the cast who has never performed Shakespeare or even seen Shrew. We did get together to watch a really interesting version of it though, which was helpful.

Acting Coach has moved me from A Doll's House to Tartuffe and now onto Othello. He tells me we can do a couple monologues from Shrew to help me out, and I'm really excited to be doing some one on one Shakespeare work before I start rehearsals. Acting Coach is really good at Shakespeare. I had a lot of fun working on Ibsen and Moliere respectively these last couple weeks. I learned how to scan verse which I had never been taught before. It's SO useful. Scanning is a technique used with Iambic Pentameter (10 syllables to a line) to show an actor which syllables in each line are stressed and which are unstressed. Without this technique, a lot of older works written in verse can be interpreted in a way they were not originally intended. 
Now that I've learned how to do this it makes Shakespeare so much easier to understand from a technical stand point. 

I've been offered the lead in a small movie short that's being filmed locally. It's the same script I was doing test shots for months ago. It turns out that the director liked my work so much that he asked me to accept the part sans audition. I'm really excited because I've been dying to get more involved in the film scene. I want to start building a professional reel that I can use to land more roles. In this film I'll get to work with a green screen and do some stunt work. It's definitely my kind of movie. I'll be helping my wardrobe designer shop for my costumes next week, and we'll start principal photography at the end of May. It's a five day shoot unless they need some extra work, so it will go pretty quick. I get to work in one of Seattle's premier film studios, and with a professional crew. I'll have a PA assigned to me for in between takes. I feel like a pro even though this movie is going to be 20 minutes long tops. I even have stunt rehearsals! Whoot!
Other than that, I auditioned yesterday for a new work play festival based on the events of the Trayvon, Martin shooting. I was cast and I'm excited to work with new artists on something so meaningful. All of the proceeds are to go to his family. Theatre for a cause is a powerful thing.

My rehearsals for Shrew start at the end of May. Katie is leaving next weekend for Boji. It's crazy how time flies these days. I've been working a lot, taking more time to spend with my dog, and trying to appreciate things as they come. I bought a bike to commute to work this summer, which I'm so excited to do. And I've been taking more time to really focus on me and get my head on straight. It feels really good these days.