Archive for the 'film' Category

The Urgent Email

Sometimes, as a writer, the universe just throws something into your lap. All you gotta do is recognize it. Like the emails I go recently from a fledgling director studying film at NYU.

The messages I got were marked URGENT.

I have changed the name of the director to protect the innocent. (Or is it guilty?)

The First Message:

Hello, everyone! My name is Joe and I am the Director/Writer/Co-Producer of this little venture. I have been trying to obtain a space for auditions at NYU for the coming week, but since classes don’t begin until the following week, it’s taking longer than I expected to get requests and approvals through the system. I would like to have auditions on Thursday and Friday in the afternoon; should that work out, I will send a message with schedules by Tuesday at the latest. I know that is kind of short notice to prepare something, but the facilities are closed next weekend and I have a very packed class schedule. I wanted to have auditions early so as to avoid having them on the weekend, but once classes start, my only free day is Tuesday, so if they don’t happen this week, the following Tuesday will be the earliest possible date.
As for what you should prepare for the audition, bring whatever material will help you give your best performance in the audition.
Thank you for responding to the casting call, and I hope to see you all next week.

Information I Need To Know: O
Reason for Sending Email: Unclear

The Second Message:

Hello again! I wanted to send this out yesterday, but the Internet in my building went out and hasn’t returned. I had to go to my sister’s apartment to send this out. Hopefully it’ll be back on tomorrow.

An update on the auditions: apparently the audition rooms aren’t open to me until the semester begins, which is information that, for some reason, wasn’t available until I went through the whole application process. Unfortunately, this means that I won’t be able to hold auditions until the 24th and 25th. I know that the weekend is hard for most people, and I will try to arrange a room for that following Tuesday as well (the 27th), but unfortunately the system doesn’t open up until the 20th. I will try to create a schedule that will be easy for everyone.

Also, I’ve gotten messages from several of you asking whether you should prepare a monologue or if there will be sides. The answer is: whatever you feel is best for you. If you want to do a monologue or sides of your choosing, just bring them in. If you want to see the script and maybe perform sides from that, just tell me and I’ll get it to you as soon as possible.
Thank you for your time, and I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

Information I Need To Know: 0
Reason for sending email: Unclear

Dude, skip to the end. What the fuck do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go and when? Figure it out BEFORE you email me. Don’t make me read about your internet, your sister and your application process.

My Response to Joe:

Dear Joe –

I would like to suggest you skip directing and take up writing, as you obviously like to write, even when you have absolutely nothing to say. As I writer, I can tell you that it does not require the organizational skills of a director. If you can figure out which couch to sit on and what hours you will not be watching reality TV, you are good to go on a career as a writer.

The mental machinations exhibited in this email would be hilarious in a work of fiction. But sadly, they are not funny as something someone wrote in order to actually accomplish anything. You are wasting your talents. I have heard NYU costs a mint. I hope your parents are wealthy.



Of course I would NEVER send this. The poor thing. He was over excited. But, I will be “out of town” for the 24th and 25th and will miss the debacle that is sure to be Joe’s audition.

The Torturous Location

Low budget films have to cut out everything but the necessities. So any basic comforts for the actors are out. There is no space, no privacy, sometimes no air. After a long day of filming, I often feel like I have a hangover from being in stifling spaces for long hours. Or freezing ones.

I worked on a film that rented a house for a location. The owners left for the day and figured they’d save money, so they turned the heat down to like 40 or something when they left. It was a frigid winter day in the flat barrens of Long Island. When the actors weren’t filming we were huddled together on a leather sectional under a pile of everyone’s coats.

The director seemed oblivious, as he was probably high on hormones or something. He was in the midst of transitioning from a man to a woman. Everyone had a different pronoun for him/her. I was careful when talking about the director to only use his NAME, as I was afraid of making a pronoun faux pas. When exactly does a he become a she? No one seemed sure.

The owners of the house also left their dog. Were they nuts? Crews are all about their equipment and I doubt if they would have noticed if that dog had slipped out of the house while they were loading in and was never seen again. But Saint Cranky of the animals was there, and I took care of the dog all day. We had nice little walks in the neighborhood together. And the dog was a great belly warmer among the coats.

It was a challenge slipping out from under the pile of coats to go do a scene. From a frozen fetal position to drama in minutes.

Greta Garbo once said, “I WANT TO BE ALONE.” I’m with you sister. I have always found like total utter joy in being absolutely quietly ALONE. Even as a kid, I remember reading books in the living room when no one was home and it slowly slowly got dark outside. I felt utterly content. So being crammed in a room with a bunch of people is not my idea of a good time. But when there are no trailers, no money, this is what happens.   You are all stuck in the one room they are not filming in at that time.

One film I worked on took place in a one-bedroom apartment. So at certain points, there were eight of us in the tiny bedroom together. AND the makeup artist and her table.   I ended up lying on the bed next to a really fun Palestinian actor staring at the ceiling and talking. He made it bearable. He had taught me the Arabic I needed to speak in the film. He was funny. He went on to do a lot of film and episodic television, including the program “24”, a must for any actor who can play a terrorist. He was proof that all struggling actors are really one job away from fame. I saw him in an absolutely terrible show at The Producer’s Club and the next thing I knew he was starring in a film.

For some reason, the director cast me as Middle Eastern. I even had a stone in my forehead. I pretty much look Irish, but she was Japanese, and maybe we all look the same to her. It was a job. I’m not gonna argue. As a side note, everyone was impressed that her Dad was a Zen monk. I was too until I thought about it and realized that in the West it is the equivalent of having your Dad drop out of society and become a fisherman.

Another torturous location is the outdoor shoot. The first time I worked outdoors, I was costarring with a little kid. His Dad showed up with two beach chairs. I thought that was peculiar, until six hours later when we were still there and I was trying to rest by leaning on a stonewall. Smart Dad.

I know none of this sounds hard. But everything in film TAKES FOREVER. So being huddled on a coach for an hour isn’t bad. But being there from 9am until 1am is a different story.

A great actor once said, “ I get paid to wait. The acting I do for free.