Monday, October 3, 2011
On camera workshop bridges the gap between theater and film
by Beth Miller, Community Ambassador for the Patel Conservatory
This morning I was pleased to find a message waiting for me on Facebook from a cinematographer asking if I’d like to help with a short film.
Recently, I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the local film industry, and I’m pleased to report that such a beast does exist around these parts, and, yes, even in Tampa.
Let me backtrack a bit. Many moons ago, I had dreams of being an actress and a writer. I loved movies, so off I went to a fine performing arts college, but quickly became distressed by the fact that I had no experience whatsoever. My teeny little high school never had a drama club or even a school play.
I tried to plug into the theater department in college, but they were jazzed about studying Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare and had loads of performance experience. They sang and they danced. I did neither. So I took film classes, where I struggled through classes about light meters and f-stops. The complexities of how to work a camera also escaped me.
There was definitely a division between theater and film. Unsure where I belonged, I graduated with a blanket mass communications degree. I continued to take community acting and dance classes when I moved to Tampa, but mainly focused on writing.
Fast forward 15 years and four kids later, and now my kids are finally all in school and I revisited the idea of acting when I found Eugenie Bondurant’s on-camera workshop at the Patel Conservatory.
Alas! Finally! Here was the first acting class I’ve ever taken that actually married acting with film. It was a practical class that allowed us to get in front of the camera and see how we looked. In all my years of acting classes, none had ever given me that opportunity.
What was even cooler was that, as we got instruction and guidance from our super enthusiastic teacher (who made each one of us feel like the best actors ever!), each of us did improve 100%. It was a really neat transformation to watch.
We’d get in front of the camera and read our copy. Eugenie would then give us tips and we’d do it again, and the difference was remarkable.
A few months after that workshop, I interviewed Ashlie Stevens for this blog. Ashlie was a classmate from Eugenie’s workshop who had landed a lead role in a local independent film. Inspired by her success, I began again to investigate the local film industry. I joined websites and email groups and Facebook pages that posted auditions.
I found a team of filmmakers who needed a writer for a filmmaking competition, then spent a weekend making a movie with them. To finally see my words on a page transformed into a film and see it on a big screen was pretty cool. The script was transformed by how the director saw it, then transformed again by the editor. Some shots I envisioned differently. Some were left completely out. But it didn’t matter, I loved the entire collaborative process.
I was involved with a film project from start to finish - and I met some pretty cool people. And, most importantly, I learned that independent films are being made in our area. It can be done. Who knew?
Last week, I was an extra for the Hollywood production of Parker, which was shooting a scene in Sarasota. While being an extra is far from glamorous, I’m thrilled to have had two paid acting gigs locally. And I’m working behind the scenes where I can to meet people in the business and acquaint myself with what’s going on in the local film industry (which is how I got that nice little message on Facebook this morning).
In the meantime, I highly recommend that if you’ve ever thought about acting for film, try our on-camera workshop. Certainly, I’m not discouraging classic theater training. Rather, these workshops help anyone interested in being in front of a camera learn practical things like how to slate, what’s your mark, what’s an eyeline and other industry lingo that you won’t get learning Shakespeare monologues.
And you will get solid training. Eugenie is a certified Meisner instructor. For me, personally, her experience and instruction bridged the gap in my mind between theater and film. She was able to provide training and even incorporate theater tools in a way that made sense for the camera.
While some people fall into a swoon over Rogers and Hammerstein, for me, it’s the sound of, “Roll speed. Sound. Action!” that does it.
Now if those four kids of mine could just start driving themselves places, I’d be all set. ; )