Have spent a lot of time on film sets this summer. Time and circumstances have given me the opportunity to do some acting on different local and regional film projects. (Let me clarify that all of these projects, while referred to as film – the art – have actually been shot on digital video – the medium.) They’ve included:
THE SLACKS OF DRACULA, directed by Craig McAllister, a feature about a low-rent horror film produced by a couple of bumbling actor/brothers who get funding through a porn producer. I play the producer’s accountant, who’s shanghaied into playing Dracula to save money. The film started production in Fall, 2009, and is scheduled to resume production later this summer.
ROE (formerly BAIT), a short horror film aimed at The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland in the Fall. It’s directed by Christopher Jordan, who had a short in last year’s Lovecraft Festival. It tells the story of a shiftless bum, Earl (played convincingly shiftlessly by yours truly) who finds a ring (on a severed finger) that causes the crazy stuff to come. Shot (in freezing weather) in Sullivan, MO and St. Louis in February, and re-shot (in boiling weather) in Sullivan and St. Louis again in June.
THE FIRST EXECUTION, directed by Patrick Murray, a hired-killer-quitting-the-biz short, shot in St. Charles. I play Spencer, the retiring killer. The short is just a few shots from completion.
BUBBA MOON FACE, directed by Blake Eckard, a feature shot in Stanberry, MO. In an ensemble cast, I play Gus, the murderous patriarch of a low-rent family in methland Missouri. I understand the film is all but finished, and may be heading soon for Festivals. I have some high hopes for this one; Eckard has finished several features which have done the Festival circuit in the past, and he has maintained a strong, reality-based aesthetic, seeped in the blue collar poetry of his home. I think BUBBA has some elemental raw power that could just make it sing. For more info on Blake’s previous films, visit their websites for trailers and more: backroadbluesmovie.com and
EDEN IOWA, directed by Derek Elz, an experienced DP and Director in town. (Derek’s documentary, the last interview with late great sculptor Ernest Trova, was part of the recent St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. Shot in St. Louis, a horror feature focuses on a scientist’s search for a cure for his ill wife. The scientist is then lured to the dark side by an evil stranger who promises immortality. I play a small part, the scientist’s boss, head of a research lab, who’s knocked off early by the evil stranger. Not sure the next steps for this film.
And, this year, also finished production on EXHIBIT, which I wrote and produced based on a play I wrote for OnSite Theatre last year. The film played The St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. (More info on these projects are, or will be, available on Midnight’s new Film page.) I’ve truly enjoyed this work, the collaboration with new and serious artists, the story-telling, the acting challenges. I’m not saying I prefer film work to stage, but it’s its’ own sexy beast, and I’ll do more. Here’s a few things I’ve learned during this year of filming:
1) Here’s the difference between stage and film acting:For stage, you work for a month, in a private space, with a support group of other actors and crew, rehearsing and refining. Then you open a show and go every night to an air conditioned or heated space, where you’re with your compatriots and your own built-in support system, sipping tea before the show, scotch after, garnering applause and praise, doing the same exact thing every night that you’ve been rehearsing for a month. It’s not easy, but it’s seldom uncomfortable. In film, you drive hours to a remote set in the dead of winter or the heat of summer,meet a lot of new people that will be working with you, get handed clothes, are made-up for an hour to replicate disintegrating skin, then told to run 200 yds in the snow towards a barn, stop at the door, turn, say a few words (don’t matter which ones), then leap in the barn. And, oh yeah, they didn’t tell you, there’s a few horses in the barn. But they’re friendly. Repeat for 20 hours of a 24-hour day.
2) Here’s the payoff, theatre vs film: For stage, you work a month, then perform a month, put in hundreds and hundreds of rehearsal, prep and performance hours, and when the run is over (especially if it’s produced in St. Louis), and often before the run is over, the show is forgotten, buried, never to be acknowledged by any one, ever again. In film, you work very, very hard for a short time. But then, the film lasts FOREVER.
3) Dennis Hopper did just a bit of theatre before he got into film for the rest of his life, This is what he said about theatre: “Where’s the fucking close-up?”
4) Perceptually, for younger directors, there is a vast chasm between stage and film acting. Several of them have told me they didn’t want me to do any of “that stage acting,” and when they refer to it that way, they roll their eyes, wave their hands and move about as if in a fit. They seem to think all stage work still stems from ethnic touring companies in the 1920’s. On the other hand, one thing I’ve learned is that all this local film work could benefit greatly from recruiting talented St. Louis stage actors. I don’t know if any of these actors want to work so hard, for little money and no Kevin Kline or Donna Weinsting recognition, but trained stage actors’ ability to memorize lines, give them some depth, and hit marks with disciplined movement could truly enhance a lot of films.
5) If you work in small, local, independent films, you’re going to get muddy a lot.
6) This may sound like a bad thing, but it’s probably a good thing; directors care nothing about any other movie you might be involved in. They only care about their project. (That’s probably necessary, to have the focus and drive to achieve their vision. For people who complain why there aren’t more good movies, I like the Hollywood veteran who said people should realize just how hard it is to make a movie, much less a good one.)