|“I’m looking for complicated characters dealing with complicated issues.” So says director/writer David L. Johnson when asked what he looks for in a script.|
Recognize a Story That Moves
“Personally,” Johnson says, “I have no preference. I think a lot of directors get hung up on fitting into a genre, but the greatest directors have stepped out of their box on occasion. Although these experiments don't always equate to box office success, I think it's important to learn how to recognize a story that moves and to see the potential of what you as a director can bring to that narrative.”
Johnson, a graduate of Howard University and the American Film Institute, has been named one of ten black directors to watch in 2014 by Paste magazine.
Directing is a Process of Discovery
I wanted to know how Johnson directs actors through their character arcs. “I love directing,” he says, “because I love the process of discovery. There are some directors who literally tell the actor what to do and how to do it. When that's the case, that actor was likely mis-cast.”
|“Every (action) shoot brings elements of uncertainty. For me, there are things I can do to increase certainty. And in the case of a rappel shoot, it was scouting. Going to the location a couple of times and looking at it with different light afforded me a strategy to approach the cliff.”|
Los Angeles-based action DP/camera operator Lawrence Ribeiro talks about shooting action, and about changes in the film industry. In a particularly challenging shoot, Ribeiro rappelled down a cliff to shoot a rock climber.
|“The heart of an engaging story resides in the heart and mind of the person writing the story. It is passion and where that passion takes you as a writer.” |
So says Don Vasicek, the founder and owner of Olympus Films+, LLC, a global writing and filmmaking company. “This passion is reflected through the writer’s characters and the story. Each character, each location in the story, and each occurrence that takes place in, with and between the characters and in the story, should reflect that passion.
|“I warm up on the subway en route to a gig,” says voiceover artist Debbie Irwin, “and engage with people in the elevator on my way up to the studio – to put a smile on other people’s faces, which makes me feel good, and is a great vibe to bring into the recording session.”|
|A black SUV pulls up to a farm-style complex in upstate New York. Out steps a man in a long black coat, signature long red beard, a red do rag under a worn, comfortable felt hat, and sunglasses. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons walks forward to shake hands with his host, Daryl Hall. After a few words of conversation, the two are jamming inside Hall’s expansive music room.|
|“I personally appreciate extremely dark humor,” says Dublin-based comedy writer and performer Valerie Ní Loinsigh. “I think that it is an Irish trait to be enormously dark in your humor. I don’t appreciate superiority humor or humor at the expense of others quite as much. I like self-deprecation and black comedy.”|
|All creative artists reach a point where they have to let go of their created work. Publish it, display it, sell it, screen it. Let it go. |
For some artists an even deeper sense of abandonment is at play in their creative process.
Several years ago I attended a performance of Euripides’s The Trojan Women, his epic indictment of war written in 415 BCE. Outside the black box theater, located in the arts district of LA, a street art mural publicized the current production. The artist – I don’t know who – created the piece knowing that it would only be there for a month or two, then be painted over for the next show’s ad.
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|Author and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg insists that every writer have a mentor. When a student bemoaned the fact that she had no one to mentor her, Goldberg said, “(Authors) are your mentors… Enter their minds. Don’t let any obstacle keep you away.”|
Here’s a piece I wrote on opensalon.com back in November of 2010 about a writer I consider to be a mentor: Meyer Berger of The New York Times. His writing still shapes my own.
Reporting on a Mass Murder
On the morning of September 6, 1949, a mentally unstable war vet, armed with a Luger pistol, walked up and down his own block in Camden, New Jersey, shooting men, women and children. He killed 13 people and wounded more before he ran out of bullets and police captured him.
Meyer (Mike) Berger, a New York Times reporter, got the story assignment just before 11 a.m. that morning. He jumped on a train to Camden, interviewed 50 people, wrote a 4,000 word story, and submitted it at 9:20 that night, in time for the printing of the first edition the following morning.
|Designer Brianne Gillen (disclosure – Brianne is our daughter) talks about her costuming work. Most recently she costumed a stage performance of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses.|
COSTUME SUPPORTS THE STORY
I wanted to know: whether in recorded media or live performance, how does costume design move the story forward?
Costume designer Brianne Gillen
“Costume design is hugely important for the story,” says Gillen. “Often, what a character is wearing tells the audience a lot about them before they even say a word of dialogue. You can tell a character’s socioeconomic status, sometimes their profession, the time of year, the city they live in – all by what they have on.
|Creating Story continues its focus on web series, with LA-based actor and acting coach Claire Winters sharing comments on developing and acting in a web series. Classically trained, Winters’ many roles include the bipolar disabled daughter of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the HBO mini series Empire Falls, and a wealthy uber-feminist film student in the comedy feature Filmic Achievement.|
Film professor Mildred Lewis has said of web series, “(Viewers) can watch legacy media or take advantage of virtually unlimited, less well-known content.” The question for Claire Winters: in an open environment such as a web series, do actors need to call up a different skill set? “Good acting is good acting,” says Winters. “Each web series has its own tone and genre, so a particular acting style or skill might be needed to best bring the story to life. But if an actor has built a solid on-camera skill set through training or on-the-job experience, she’ll have the necessary jumping off point for any web series.”