Blood Sky at T. Schreiber Studios

Blood Sky at T. Schreiber Studios
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“There is an enormous amount of space for further experimentation and I’ve found myself left with the desire to see what else is possible with the material.” -Eric Norcross

Today is the first installment of what I hope will be a useful new series for many of my readers. In an effort to expand my understanding of the craft of writing, directing & acting, I have taken to including live performance as part of my studies. I’ve been reading, watching and dissecting various plays, performances of such plays and the theater world as a whole, to better understand the medium. Youtube has been a major part of this exploration, thanks to all of the friendly actors and producers who have put up videos of their productions over the past few years. I feel that by understanding theater and all the different approaches and techniques adopted by theatrical writers, directors and actors, I will greatly improve my storytelling abilities on screen. For many years I’ve required that the actors I cast in my films have some sort of theater experience and training. This policy was always meant to weed out the idiots who are trying to be movie stars from those who have an interest in the integrity of the craft.

From this point on, I’m now requiring it of myself, as a writer and director.

Tonight I had the privilege of experiencing an early performance of Blood Sky at the T. Schreiber Studios. It’s a wonderful and extremely experimental work by house playwright* Yasmine Beverly Rana. Set in rural Mississippi, the story involves the upbringing of a young girl named Joley, who is portrayed by three different actresses, all representing Joley at a different age (14, 18 and 30).

Directed by Terry Schreiber, the play features Kristin Eli Smith, Kelly Kolatac, Jimmy Alexis Cintron, Samantha Rivers Cole, Timothy Weinert, Victoria Guthrie, Brian Shaffer and David Hamzik. This season’s interpretation of the play is its second run since it premiered at The Looking Glass Theatre in 2003 (under the direction of Justine Lambert). Schreiber clearly has a lot of admiration for Rana’s work as the studio closed out their 44th season with Rana’s original play The Fallen and it’s clear in the execution of the material and his direction of his incredibly talented cast that he’s taken great care in bringing the play to life.

While this is not a play that would work well in the mainstream Broadway circuit, it certainly has a future of being interpreted and re-interpreted by some of the more “avant-garde” producers in the theater community, provided Rana is open and willing to let some of these cats give it a go. There is an enormous amount of space for further experimentation and I’ve found myself left with the desire to see what else is possible with the material. I’ve already begun making plans to see the play again at the latter half of its run and I will be following up this article with more information on how the play has developed over the past month.

The T. Schreiber Studios is about to celebrate its 45th season and I am pleased to have been able to experience some of the great things they are doing there. I urge anyone in the NYC area who has an ounce of interest in the performing arts to check out Blood Sky before it ends on April 6th. Lastly, the T. Schreiber Studios is dependent on donations to keep their theater operational. With rising costs, they need the public’s help more than ever. If you’re interested in making a donation, please visit their donation page at: http://www.tschreiber.org/the-studio/donate/2013-challenge/

Other Resources

More info at: http://www.tschreiber.org/

Purchase tickets at: http://www.tschreiber.org/productions/now-playing/

Check out the press release for Blood Sky

As usual – Looking Forward,

-E

http://www.EricNorcross.com

*May or may not be the “house playwright” – I couldn’t gauge whether the person I was talking to was joking or not. :)

Filmmaker Profile: Matthew Harrison & Tiprin Mandalay

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Matthew Harrison & Tiprin Mandalay

Los Angeles based filmmakers Matthew Harrison and Tiprin Mandalay ventured out to Staten Island to talk with me about their film MY LITTLE HOLLYWOOD which recently had its North American premiere at NewFilmmakers New York. Matthew is an NYC native and got his start making Super 8mm films. He has won numerous awards including a Jury Recognition for Directing at the Sundance Film Festival.

MY LITTLE HOLLYWOOD was shot in 1996 on 8mm analog videotape in the style of Reality TV, before Reality TV came into existence. It stars Shawn Andrews (Dazed & Confused) and Tiprin Mandalay. Recently Matthew, with the help of Tiprin, rediscovered the footage and edited it into this unqiue feature film.

More on Matthew Harrison and his work at: http://www.filmcrash.com/

Direct Link URL:  http://youtu.be/KFINplo0VCE 

A Loophole For Finding Professional Actors

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March 01, 2011

A Loophole For Finding Professional Actors

Hey all, this installment is for the kid who wants to make his/her first movie but has no idea where to get true talent.

The worst part of making movies is of course dealing with all the legal super powers like the film commissions who issue permits, the money people (if you’re lucky enough to have money people) or worse… the unions. SAG is notorious for demanding more than most independent producers can afford. The clerical costs alone (whether your film is distributed or not) is immense because of the consistent reporting you have to do. My company Norcross Media was a SAG signatory for about three months and we couldn’t produceANYTHING.

One loophole that I’ve found to be successful in finding professionally trained actors without having to sign these terrifying agreements is to cast stage actors. These actors are union, but they’re Equity. Equity is the union for actors who perform on Broadway and film and television is waaaaay out of their jurisdiction. While some try to be SAG and Equity at the same time, there are some Equity actors who aren’t part of the Screen Actors Guild but still want to do film on the side. These are the highly talented professionals you should consider auditioning. They take direction extraordinarily well and know how to project themselves. Heck, you may even pull in a few classically trained talents and there’s no better actor than an actor who knows Shakespeare.

If you’re not living in a large city, then most smaller towns have community theater organizations. You may not find professionals but you’ll certainly find passionate people, many of whom are supportive of local “fledgling” filmmakers. Trust me when I say, casting these folks are better than giving parts out to your friends and family.

Learn more about the three main actor’s unions.

Actor’s Equity: http://www.actorsequity.org/
Screen Actor’s Guild: http://www.sag.org/
American Federation of Television & Radio Artists: http://www.aftra.org/

I hope this was useful or at least opened your mind up to new ideas.

-E

There’s More To Your Part Than The Character

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October 08, 2009

 There’s More To Your Part Than The Character…

Thinking about working on an indie-film with an extremely low or no budget?

You’ve gone through your check list, right?

-Don’t expect the world even though the filmmakers expect the world from you.
Let’s face it, you’ll be giving a lot more than you’ll be getting. Most indie-filmmakers want to conserve what little resources they have to enhance the production value on a technical level, rather than paying an appropriate fee to their actors up front. Some will offer deferred pay, others will offer no pay or low flat rates. Know what the deal is before signing on because whether or not your getting paid, if you agree to finish the film either by signing your name on paper or with a handshake, you’re locked in.

-Pack your own lunch as a precautionary measure.
The likelihood that you may not like the food the filmmakers have to offer (if they offer anything at all) is slim. The best food for being on set: hummus and crackers, it’s light yet keeps hunger down plus extremely cost effective.

-Keep your schedule “open” regardless of the shoot schedule.
Let’s face it, if you’re spending all of your time on a film of any scale, then there’s not point in not finishing it the way it should be finish. A lot of independent films don’t go through the development process that major studio projects are provided, so re-shooting scenes or shooting additional scenes can happen a lot more often. Keep your schedule open to these “pick up” days, because you don’t want to have wasted your time on an incomplete film.

-Be prepared to do some marketing work.
Wait, what was that last one? Oh… you didn’t know? You’re not just an actor anymore there friend, you’re also working uncredited in the marketing department. You see, the tragedy of independent film is that it requires that everyone working on the project to participate on the marketing front in some form or another. So you can understand why there’s often bad blood after a film has wrapped. It’s not usually what has happened on set, it is usually what is not happening after the film is shot. When you have actors who refuse to post still images of the film on their social networking sites or are untagging themselves because they think they look fat (Facebookians know what that means), relationships can become very sticky. 2 out of 8 actors working on a film will send out a mass e-mail to their contacts whenever a new clip goes online or a premier announcement is made. The majority however, have participated strictly for the credit and copy and many have admitted that they never wanted to see the project go anywhere. They went into the audition seeking footage for their speed reel.

So with that, I have a few tips for filmmakers auditioning talents for their indie-films. Acquiring a great cast of talented actors is half the battle, but getting a talented cast that will help you promote thebegeezus out of this thing… well that’s another.

The first test is to interview them. Why waste your time auditioning massive amounts of people when you can hold quick interviews and get to know people first? Get to know their intentions? Interview them as if this were a quality job with high pay. After that, call or don’t call for an audition. It’s just as important that you know who you’re dealing with as is the person’s talent. Take the time to gauge what the person knows about their past projects. How much they contributed on developing their characters and making the production run smoother. If they helped condense six scenes into four in an effort to help the producers make their film better, great. If they helped to condense those scenes because they didn’t want to work the extra two days it would take to shoot, that’s a different story. When scheduling the interview, get their resume/credits and go through the titles. Get relevant info on each film and find out if they contributed to any of the online chatter (if any). The internet is an amazing tool, use it to your advantage.

The second test is always necessary, have them sign an audition release form. It’s a great test because there’s really no reason for it unless you plan on publishing the auditions (which you wouldn’t need to unless you cast the person, who would then sign a release form anyway). An actor giving you jive about a release is the first sign that they a. don’t trust you, b. are maybe a little self-conscious andb. are in it more for themselves and not necessarily the project.

Next, bring them in for audition 2. Request that they read for another part. Most actors won’t give you jive about this, but if they do then it’s clear that they’re not looking out for the best interest of the project. I’ve had actors on an audition call that I admired very much and have offered them alternative parts on the spot. All too often they seem offended and decline without further consideration. I would explain that the film would be better served as “you” portrayingthis character rather than that character. Most of the time they would say they’ve been in the business long enough that they feel they deserve “meatier” roles. At that point I usually discontinue communication with the individual.

There’s a lot you can do to test your applicants. A film, regardless of budget, is your baby. You have to treat it like one, that means anyone surrounding it should be screened and screened and screened again… after all, would you let someone around your baby who didn’t care about it in the least?

-E

Audition Etiquette

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This past week I’ve begun auditions for a feature length independent film as well as a sitcom my production company shoots for a client out in Long Island. It’s important to me to mention that my company is growing in reputation and that everything we produce is seen as product. We always finish our projects and pump as many resources into them as we do with our client’s projects. This past series of auditions has been rewarding but it also has been eye-opening. For years I always had the mentality that a producer can waste an actor’s time by auditioning him or her for a role they clearly aren’t meant for, but what didn’t occur to me is how an actor can waste a producer’s time by using an independent film audition as practice for a big studio audition. In addition, some actors I’ve found to go to the audition, realizing it’s not a big film and bail after realizing it really is an indie film. I say “really is” because some big films disguise themselves as some indie projects to keep the lines down and some actors know this.

Good etiquette is to audition for producers if you’re truly serious, regardless of whether or not it’s an independent film or studio production. When it comes down to the REALLY talented actors that we wound up making offers, only 20% of them actually take the offers. Some of them wanted to negotiate the offer.  Even though they’re starving out of work actors, for some reason, the remaining percentage decided that they’re now too busy. Which is absolutely BS and a little irritating. After some investigating, I had realized that many of them were still auditioning for various productions around the city, clearly looking for that “studio” project.

I have three theories: they end up not liking the script or they get intimidated. But the script theory isn’t really solid because most of the time, the breakdown of the story and plenty of sides are made available for the actor to gauge whether the script has legs.  Intimidation gets nixed because they’ve already auditioned – that’s usually the hardest part for a performer.

Perhaps they are just using our small productions as a practice session for something bigger? They won’t admit what the real reason is and I’d very much like some input from actors on what the issues at hand are. Sometimes I do get honest responses. My favorite rejection to one of our offers came from a potential leading man: “My girlfriend doesn’t want me kissing another girl in a film unless I’m getting 1% above scale”. My goodness.

-E