Simmering in Seattle

It’s been an interesting summer. For the last few months I feel like I’ve been preparing for something big, without knowing when or how it would happen. I’d get my hopes up, only to be disappointed… again. That is the nature of the business though, right? (I’ve said this before). When you’re in the middle of it though, it can easily feel like not a lot is happening or it’s all going wrong; it’s only in retrospect that we can see all those tiny steps added up to a meaningful journey(at least that’s the way I choose to look at it). Here’s a bit of that journey over the last few months.

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I participated in the very first Green Lake Play Series! Such fun to be a part of stories inspired by this Seattle landmark. Keep an eye out for further development of this production!

I filmed on the set of Force Play, a new feature film by Honey Toad Studio, the same company that brought you Wrecked.

I worked behind the scenes with Mighty Tripod Productions’ film on the Seattle 48 Hour Film Project 2014.

I got to do the whole back-lit, windblown look on a short film I did with a few friends of mine in August.

Continued my trek through reading all of Shakespeare’s works. (Sooooo close to the end!)

AND … I joined SAG-AFTRA!!!

NOW I am in rehearsals for a devised work about Peter Pan and his creator, J.M. Barrie. Performances will be November 14, 15 and 16 at the Penthouse Theatre at the University of Washington.

More exciting announcements will be coming soon! In the mean time, you can follow me on Instagram(my current favorite social media tool).

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5 Factors of Fringe

I started reflecting on my experience doing independent/fringe (in this case-read unpaid) projects, specifically Julius Caesar. Often these types of projects can be absolute disasters, but Julius Caesar was not. This was an ensemble experience for the history books(my history book, anyway)! I am generally wary of fringe theatre. I have all but stopped auditioning for unpaid shows. It takes a play that I love or a company I know to get me to take a chance. For this one I did it because it is Shakespeare. I only took the role, because of the 5 minute interaction I had with the director in the audition room. I had this feeling that she really knew what she was doing and that I would be safe in her hands.
Still, even if the director gives off a good vibe, you never know if they’ll show their crazy later on. You also have no idea who else will be cast and how they will approach the process. There are so many variables, so many things that can go wrong, that those of us who have seen them go wrong many times, stop taking the risk.
But Julius Caesar was different. Not perfect, but one of those experiences that reminds me of the incredible potential of ensemble creations.

Julius Caesar with Handwritten Productions
Julius Caesar with Handwritten Productions

The following factors are what I think made it great!

1. Commitment
It is special when there is an agreement among individuals to meet and create something which would otherwise be impossible. This especially astounds me when it is a group of strangers and no one is getting paid.
2. Talent
Perhaps this goes without saying. In addition to the traditional meaning of the word talent, I would add a curiosity and eagerness to explore. Talent without curiosity is dead. Curiosity without talent is lost.
3. Vision
I have been in plays with committed and talented actors, but without the light to guide them, confusion and/or chaos ensues. With vision, I count organization, clarity of thought as well as artistically mapping the course of the project.
4. Respect
Without respect, there is revolt. (Respect of time, of personal cost, of talent and individual contribution.) As mildly mannered as I am, I have revolted a couple times when I did not feel respected in a cast. Money or not, without respect it is easy to lose the passion with which you started. Without the passion, you can easily lose the drive and then the commitment follows quickly after.
5. Decisiveness
It’s all great having a bunch of wonderful ideas, but if you can’t ever settle on which one to use, the vision is diluted and the process and product suffer.

When all of these factors are at play, I believe beautiful art can be made.

Since writing this bog about Julius Caesar I also participated in the 8 Hour SIFF Film Challenge and the 48 Hour Film Project and I would say that the same rules apply. What about you? Would you add anything? Take anything away? What have been your experiences?

The 48 Hour Film Project

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This last weekend I did my second 48 Hour Film Project and, again, I had a blast!

This time it was Horror themed, one of the first 48 hfp of that kind. IMG_0859At 7pm last Friday, the team leaders gathered to get their designated genre(Gothic/Vampire), character (Dr. Lyle Pentegrass), prop(a pineapple), and line of dialogue(“That’s it! I’m going back to school.”). The writers wrote into the wee hours of the morning. I joined the team at 4:30am on Saturday to drive to our set location in Yelm, WA. The team assembled at 7am to start filming. We filmed until midnight. At that point I went home. The crew filmed a couple more shots and the editing continued through Sunday until our film, “Empty,” was turned in, 48 hours after the whole process began.  Tuesday night, all of us gathered at SIFF Cinema Uptown to watch what we had created. Of course, the quality ranged from “Huh?” to “Wow!” But whatever our reactions, we all had to admire that these films were made at all, and more so, in 48 hours. What a thing to celebrate!!!

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A friend of mine, outside of the industry, recently asked me how he could get started making films. My answer? The 48 Hour Film Project. Not only is it one of the best ways to get started doing film, it is one of the best ways to keep practicing.

As I told you in one of my first blogs, The 48 Hour Film Project was my first exposure to acting on camera. It was one of the most exciting and incredible experiences I’ve ever had…. and I learned so much as an actor! As a film maker, I think the experience would be even more valuable. There are a few advantages The 48 Hour Film Project has over starting out on your own.

  • Time Limits: Everything must happen within 48 hours, from the first word that is typed to the last moment of rendering. This means you can’t labor over your decisions, just do it until you get it done!
  • Content Parameters:  If you struggle narrowing down your ideas, the 48 hfp is great because it gives you limitations. Every team pulls a genre out of a hat (different for each teach) and a character, prop, and line of dialogue are each drawn randomly to be used by every team.
  • Accountability: I don’t know about you, but knowing that someone is waiting for me to finish something, sure makes me work faster and harder.
  • Reward: Your movie is shown on the big screen! How cool is that!? And… you have the chance to win awards, like Best Film, Best Acting, Audience Choice… etc. Pretty cool!

All THAT and it might be your first time making a movie. Whether or not your film wins any awards, I bet you will be glad that you did it! So, if you’re wondering how or where to get started, look it up. Chances are there one near year. Go for it! Make a movie!

L.A. here I come!

It’s been a long time coming…

I grew up in Seattle, making yearly trips to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, attending shows at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, Taproot Theatre and the Bathhouse. I fell in love with Shakespeare at an early age and was easily grasping the language and playing characters by age 9. By Jr High, it was a given that I would be an actor, in the theatre, of course! I grew up a THEATRE snob.

Following my college graduation with my THEATRE degree, I’m visiting a college friend who moved to LA to pursue her dreams. We’re sitting in a sushi restaurant across the table from her fiancé. First thing he asks, “When are you moving to LA?”  I laugh and dismiss the question. “LA isn’t for me. I am not for it,” I declare.

Fast forward a few years.  I was invited by a fellow theatre actor to be a part of the 48 Film Project, where groups compete to make the best short film, all in 48 hours. I have never done anything like this before! We met on Friday night at 7pm, just before this crazy event began. Within the hour the writers were soon typing away. We actors were on-call, with a promise to be contacted by midnight if we were cast. Midnight came and went. I went to bed, thinking I can have a calm and relaxing Saturday, only to be woken up at 4:30 am. “You are the lead! Can you be on set at 10am? Bring x, y, and z for costume pieces.” OK! Being my first time on camera, I was thrilled and simultaneously frightened. But there’s no time to panic. There’s only time to do! I went to set. We filmed my first scene. Changed location. Filmed second scene. Changed location. Filmed last few scenes. And by 7pm I was done! The director spent the next 24 hours editing and reediting the film. Finally, with minutes to spare, we got our masterpiece, ‘The Belgian Pretzel” in on-time!

About a week later, the 48 hour Film Project hosts a screening in a real movie theater and then the awards are given out. As soon as I saw my face I wanted to point and scream, “That’s me!” while at the same time crawl into a ball, just in case someone heard me. The awards…“And Best Acting goes to… ‘The Belgian Pretzel.’” WHAT?! “And finally, the one we have all been waiting for… Best Film goes to…’The Belgian Pretzel!’” Out of 52 groups, we won 5 of the 16 awards!(See complete list here.)

What an incredible experience! I didn’t realize until later just how lucky I was to be in a group of such talented and organized artists who were just at the beginning of successful careers. As for me, I would never be the same. Once you’ve experienced the magic of excellent film-making, you can never go back!

Shortly after that, I landed an audition, which gave me the lead in a short film and a co-staring role in a web series. Since then, my appetite for camera work has only grown and LA started calling my name. About the same time I fell in love and married a wonderfully talented musician who moved to Seattle to be with me. We kept saying, “We’re moving to LA in a couple months.” A few months went by. “We’re still thinking about it.” Another couple months went by. “The time just isn’t right.” Pretty soon, a couple months turned into a couple years. I will spare you all the details, but essentially, my husband turned to me a couple months ago and said, “I don’t want us to get 10 years down the road and you never got the chance you deserve. Now is the time!” And so, I quit my job. My loving and supportive husband sold a guitar, a 1960 Fender Jazzmaster mind you, to help pay for the trip and…. I’m going!

Dear LA,

I don’t know what you have for me, but I’m giving you a shot. I’ve heard you can be cruel and ruthless, but I’m hoping you’ll be kind. I will work hard and give my all, because I know you’d expect nothing less. Here I come!

Charissa J Adams