|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.”
|UK-based writer Joanna Penn and I connected through email to talk about her creative writing. Penn describes herself as a writer-entrepreneur. Her body of work includes fiction and nonfiction. “I write thrillers under J.F. Penn and non-fiction under Joanna Penn.” |
Penn’s three-book thriller series centers on psychologist and ARKANE agent Morgan Sierra. “Set against a backdrop of early Christian history, archeology and psychology,” says Penn, “the fast-paced ARKANE thrillers weave together historical artifacts, secret societies, global locations, violence, a kick-ass protagonist and a hint of the supernatural.”
|Tom Magill, co-founder and artistic director of the Educational Shakespeare Company (ESC), uses drama and film to heal the trauma so deeply rooted within criminal justice and metal health settings. Centered in Belfast, Northern Ireland, ESC works to enable those mired in brutal circumstances to understand and transform their lives through the creative process. The plays of Shakespeare, most prominently Macbeth, feature strongly in this healing process. ESC describes itself as an award-winning culture and arts education charity specializing in storytelling through drama and film.|
“The majority of people I work with,” says Tom Magill, “are carrying trauma. Trauma is a wound from the past that is still haunting the present and preventing them from taking meaningful action to enhance their lives.
“Often, as a result of this experience, many traumatized people feel unable to create. First,” Magill says, “we must enable this creative capacity that everyone has. Through experience, I have developed certain skills, as a writer, director and actor, that I can share with people and put at their service, when we are engaged in the creative process of recording their traumatic stories on film.”
Growing Up With Violence
Tom Magill comes to this work with firsthand experience of violence and the prison life.
Magill grew up in the time of “the troubles.” In Northern Ireland, from the 1960s through to the Belfast “Good Friday” Agreement in 1998, the troubles claimed the lives and spirits of many young men, in one fashion or another. It was his own violent behavior that put Magill in a British prison in the early 1970s. Assigned to deliver and retrieve food trays from prisoners’ cells, Magill steeled himself to enter the cell of Frank Stagg, accused republican IRA member and, as such, Magill’s avowed enemy. He was poised to kill Stagg, rather than have him attack first.
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|In Jenny Milchman’s debut mystery novel, Cover of Snow, she uses a first person point of view, with several chapters interspersed of third person point of view to establish further perspective. It’s a relatively rare technique. I asked her how that came to be as she developed her story.|
“The first thing I should probably share is that the words developed your story give me a wistful sort of laugh. Let’s just say that what feels most accurate is the story develops me.”
A Tenacious Author
“Cover of Snow hit twenty-two drafts before it was published. I was not just a seat-of-the-pants writer, I was writing without any pants at all. The good news about that approach is there’s apparently a fair amount of suspense and surprise in my book, and no wonder. I was surprised every day I sat down to write. The bad part is…well, twenty-two drafts.”
|Theater, especially black box, is most often an intimate experience, both for the audience and for the actor. Award-winning playwright Raegan Payne talks about her playwriting and what attracts her to this kind of storytelling.|
A Poor Man’s Art Form
“I like being forced to tell a story with just dialogue and almost no resources,” says Payne. “It’s a poor man’s art form, anyone can do it, that’s what I love. Inversely, it should also be accessible for the poor to see and often times it isn’t.
“Also, theatre has an immediacy as well as intimacy that can be missing in other art forms. And the audience influences the work - actors hear their response to their performance and that motivates them to change what they’re doing. Both sides of the stage are affecting each other.”
Feeding the Muse
“I think my ideas come from a few places,” says Payne. “I read a lot - news, fiction, non-fiction books. Sometimes I’ll find humor in a dark news story or maybe I’ll want to rewrite a story for a modern audience. It depends on my mood.
“My writing secret is that I always have more than one project going at a time. I don’t get writers block. If something scares me or I can’t work on it that day I jump to another project. My rule is one page a day at least, but I don’t say what subject.”
Acting on the Web
Payne acts as well. Her experience includes a number of episodes on the web series Lonelygirl15. She comments on the web series as a story medium. “Working on Lonelygirl was great because we were kinda inventing the form as we went along. It's a legitimate medium that needs to be treated as it’s own beast.
“Not all of the rules of TV will work, some of the rules of theatre will. It’s an intimate person-to-person entertainment form. I think fewer characters, deeper more ‘private’ moments or reveals work brilliantly online. I’m really looking forward to seeing some inventive new work in that medium.”
The Female Perspective in Art
“Women are under-represented on the stage,” Payne says, “as playwrights, producers, directors, and as executives in Hollywood. I think lack of the female perspective in artwork helps propagate disrespect. I remember being a young student at Groundlings and being told there were eight places for men and two for women in the troupe. When I asked why, their explanation was basically, ‘Well girls just aren't funny.’ That idea needs to disappear.
“Girls are often told that they shouldn't talk about certain things because it isn't ladylike. Women need to be free to express themselves just like men.”
Raegan Payne’s plays: The Reaper just finished a run in Santa Monica, California; Things Unsaid goes up in Hollywood and Washington, DC in October.
Check out her website, her blog and her IMDb page.
|UK-based cinematographer Ben Cole, whom we interviewed a year or so ago, recently shot an innovative new viral ad for European retailer Carphone Warehouse. Cole, along with director Sid Wheeler, initially interviewed several classical musicians who were using new software that helps design an app for their phones/tablets. This, in turn, aids them in being better musicians. The instruments used were a cello, a French horn, and a flute.|
“No need for a human teacher nowadays,” says Cole. All you need are “… apps from tuning your instrument to scale teaching software that judges how well you play your scales to an app that samples a French horn and loops it so (the musician) can build an orchestra from just her playing.”
“Then,” says Cole, “we go into an amazing club in Brick Lane, East London and set up a live collaboration between a DJ and these classical musicians. You should have seen the club members’ faces when a bunch of classical musicians – including a bass opera singer - walked onto the club's stage. They began to make a surreal operatic melody which was sampled live by the DJ on his iPad, and then sent back with a few new app tricks and, hey presto, a fusion of drum and bass aka operatic classical dub.”
Cole says he shot all the action “… on my Red Epic at 5K mounted on a Steadicam, two Canon D5s and my Nikon D800, plus of course the new GoPro 3 Silver mounted on the DJ's chest.”
Cole can’t hide his excitement about this shoot. “So get this - the future of night clubbing is a few eclectic musicians on stage with many people wandering around with their iPads sampling the music and sending their mixes to the master DJ to play for the house. No one knows at any moment who is mixing the tunes. Now that’s collaboration!”
See photos of the shoot...
|“Writing can be a solitary pursuit. Directing gives you the social outlet you need, as well as being extremely satisfying work. The combination of the two skills allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds.”|
|Last month I posted part one of an interview with Irish writer and filmmaker Frank Kelly. Several of his films are Derelict and 140. Today I follow up with part two: Kelly’s thoughts on the new wave of filmmaking in Ireland.|
Ireland has long been known for its strong tradition in writing and theatre. I asked Kelly if Irish filmmaking is finding its own place in that tradition. “Yes, I think so,” he says, “especially right now. There are a bunch of new filmmakers emerging, who are making great work, powerful work that’s rattling some cages. I definitely think that Ireland is in the middle of a new wave. There has never been a huge tradition of filmmaking in Ireland, not like in the UK, for example. There are great films that have come out of Ireland, and great filmmakers, but there have just never been the resources or finances here for sustaining an industry of a comparable scale.
“However, we’re always at the Oscars for technical ability. There’s always an Irish guy in the SFX awards, always an Irish short film in there. The animation industry is world class, and right now, the films that are coming out are outstanding, unique and coming from strong young voices.”
|One of the core truths of writing a web series: it ain’t television or movies.|
Sure, they have common elements. As Mildred Lewis, co-creator of the web series Etiquette, says, “Good writing is good writing is good writing. Plot, character, setting, conflict, compelling ideas, engaging emotions all remain crucial.”
That being said, the audience experiences a web series differently. “On the web,” Lewis continues, “you're writing for a viewer who is going to have a more intimate experience. Most people watch web content alone, often on small devices. Funny has to be funnier! You can't ride a laugh track or laughter in the room.”
|My First ‘Oner’|
Steadicam operator and Local 600 member Jessica Lopez talked with us about her work with Steadicam rigs. Lopez takes pride in what she does. “One of the best experiences on set was shooting my first ‘oner’. It was an eight-minute shot that took place in a one-story house. It involved a wife coming home catching her husband wearing her lipstick.
“The shot mainly followed the wife as she scuffled through the house curious, confused, and upset. There were some great moments where I would whip pan over to the husband to catch his reactions before the wife would be re-introduced to the shot.
Lopez says shot rehearsal is critical. “It took us a day and a half of non-stop rehearsals to nail down all the acting key points and all the Steadicam moves. Even today it is still one of my proudest jobs because of the challenge and the praise I received from the cast and crew.
“It's a great feeling when everyone is at video village watching and cheering you on for your hard work.”
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