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?

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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!

SIFF Crash Horror Film Challenge

Last Saturday, October 26th, 2013, I had the pleasure of participating in the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) Crash Horror Film Challenge. The Crash Film Challenge is a bi-monthly film-making challenge: to make a short film in 8 hours. If you are looking to get experience making films, but don’t know where to start, THIS is an excellent way! Just sign up on the SIFF website (for a small fee of $10) and show up! (The next one is December 14th.) I had never done it before and didn’t have a group so I was placed in a group with all the other newbies. It was tons of fun and a great way to meet people and get more experience.

At 9am we met at the SIFF Office and got our groups assigned and the instructions for the day: write, film and edit a 3 minute film by 5pm.  The confines for the film were also drawn out of a hat:

Character: Michael M
Action: waving goodbye
Prop: a spoon
Line of Dialogue: “To be really dead, that must be glorious.”

This is what we came up with. Enjoy!