Today is Monday and last week we finished filming Acting Investigations. I’m sad filming is over, although it was quite a bit of stress, a lot of organisation and people management. I was really surprised and delighted at people’s willingness to help, particularly actors. Of course I had left some things to the last minute and so needed extras for a café scene, I posted notices up on FB acting groups and BAM had lots of interest! Luckily I was able to get three people to come very late notice and be extras, they were very helpful, good to work with and was so willing to contribute their time, which gives me a whole new appreciation for extras! (One of them was an acting friend and I’m so blessed that he came along, he made the scene shine with his hilarity!)
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On film sets extra’s are at the bottom of the rung, which shits me because I think people should be treated equally. Yup their not the ‘big star’ or whatever, but they are living, breathing, human, flesh – just like you and me – not cattle or breathing props. Without extras films would suck, literally – no one would watch them and be drawn into the believability of the story, because who’s going to believe a scene is taking place in a café when we only have the main characters there? Oh so no one else goes to this café? What about an action film, there’s a massive earthquake and no one comes storming out of the building apart from the protagonist? Doesn’t make for a believable scene does it? Nope. Extras are integral to filmmaking, so is every part of the film creation machine. A film cannot function and exist if one of the cogs is missing. So I really believe extra’s should be given more respect, they make the scenes believable, living, breathing.

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Another talented actress!

After AI was finished filming, I thought more about extras and how I’ve shunned extra work because I see myself as an actor – not an extra. I should clarify – often extras are actors just starting out or people from the general public who think it would be fun to be on a set – so I’ve not always jumped at the opportunity to be an extra – also because you’re treated somewhat second class, especially on large film sets. I’ve had some actors turn down extra roles on my webisode because they weren’t speaking roles, which is fine, we all have standards to uphold but I think there’s something really important and supportive about helping fellow creative’s out in your city on their projects, if you’re the lead actor or not. It’s a bit of a humbling experience. One I do need from time to time! Honestly, I would usually not turn up to be an extra on a random person’s film, unless it’s a really organised, high quality production and I might learn something from watching the filming process. But if I had the time I would be an extra in acting/filmmaking friends personal projects from now on. I know how much they would appreciate it, as I’ve appreciated it greatly! And I remember who was willing to lend a hand and help, if they were on screen or off, actor or not.

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I think good actors make good directors!

I have a filmmaking friend who has really taught me about friendship and supporting each other in this industry. Before I even knew her very well she came and watched my production of “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein” when I was at University. I remember being so humbled and grateful that she had come to support me. An audience really has no idea how much it means to actors when they come to see you perform (especially friends/acquaintances) honestly, it means more then they will ever know! Since that time she’s taught me lots about supporting other creative’s, we really do need it! Without the support of my personal friends, filmmaking friends and Brisbane’s filmmaking community I would not have had a chance in hell at making AI! I could never have done it alone. It’s very humbling and gives me renewed hope of this world we live in. If we can all work together and support each other, we really can make all our dreams come true. And I still believe that, at the age of 27. I am not yet completely jaded haha! Perhaps I am naïve, regardless I choose to surround myself with people who can make and dream and love and support together. Its so lovely to make art together!

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Lovely ladies on set

The day after AI was done I went and supported a local filmmaking group taking on a whole lot more then I am to bring their sci-fi creation to life! I was an extra and all you will see of me is a blur, but that’s ok. I was there to bring breath and life to the scene. The crew was really professional, the director was amazingly lovely, down to earth and easy-going. It was a real joy. I also met some very interesting people whilst on set. That’s the thing about film – you always meet so many different people and learn so much, I love it. I actually talked to a man who used to be a spy, not even kidding. So I asked him a few questions – things that will definitely help me in writing the next few episodes of “Acting Investigations”. Life has a strange way of educating us. Even when I’m not acting there are opportunities to progress, learn, make contacts and improve yourself as a human being, performer and artist. I think that’s so great! And exciting and serendipitous.

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Lending a hand

I can’t say however that going to be an extra was a completely self-less act, unfortunately I don’t think anything we do, no matter how selfless we try to make it, can be completely without benefit to us. I did go to network a little, but also to learn more about the cogs of filmmaking. It was great to see the DOP work with the lighting crew, see what they used to light the scene, how the DOP worked with the director in getting the shot that he wanted, the negotiation and team work of the sound recordist and boom operator, the relationships and energy from different team members. And being an extra also gave me the opportunity to act and improve my performance with every new take. So it was a great time all around.

Now that production for AI is finished its of course post-production time. The guy who said he would edit the work has unfortunately (or fortunately) been unable to, which has given me the great opportunity – and one which I honestly wanted – to learn how to use final cut pro and to edit my own work. I know lots of people say “directors shouldn’t edit their own work” or whatever, but I think it’s a good idea for me. I don’t know if I’m getting too many of my fingers in this metaphorical pie? I wrote the show, performed in it, produced, directed and now am also editing it…haha. Whatevers! I like it. If I had the money I would have definitely hired a producer, but I think the lack of funds has made me just be more creative and use all the skills I have at my disposal. Seeing as I want to make more of my own work I think it’s a good idea to be able to do most of it. Even things like lighting, knowing how to work a camera, at least at the basic level. I just feel its important as a director and actor. It does give me more of a voice of authority when it comes to directing. I know what looks good, so its good to know how to bring that to life. Because sometimes people will say “that’s not possible” or “that’s going to be too hard” and then I need to be able to say “well let’s try it this way” or “I know how to make it work”.

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Directing a great actor

I’ve really REALLY enjoyed editing. I literally have to DRAG myself away from the computer. I get so psyched about editing that I can’t sleep, cause I’m thinking about how to creatively solve this problem through editing, or how I can make this scene work better. Haha. Once I’ve cut everything together roughly, I’m going to go through it with a fine tooth comb, several times. Then I would like to get in another set of eyes – preferably an editor or someone whom I trust and I’ve worked with before. I’ll sit down with them and go through everything, take onboard what they say, heck even let them edit stuff…maybe haha. I’m a slight control freak. But it could be good to get a different perspective and angle, something fresh.
Well I’ve got a few more short film projects coming up with film friends and I would like to get back to writing the rest of Acting Investigations. I need to go look for some funding, or something….I really think AI has the potential to go further then just a no-budget community film project – not that there’s anything wrong or lesser in value then that – its what I’m doing right now and I love it! But I do believe AI could do with a platform such as the ABC with a few bucks thrown behind it. The only thing about going ‘global’ or whatever is that people will try to change what you have made. For instance with Quentin Tarintino, he sold one of his scripts and people made it, changed lots though, he hated it. I know what that would be like. I would HATE to sell AI and then for them to change it into the usual cookie-cutter-seen-it-before-fare which is so prolific on TV/Film these days. So I can completely see how in keeping my work low budget, I will remain to have ownership and creative power over it, instead of selling it out to someone else.

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Proud moment

Doing this project has also garnered me a bit of attention from other filmmakers and actors in my city, which is great – networking, we can make work together! It’s kind of a shame though as I am moving to Melbourne in February next year, but who knows, I can pop out heaps of work before then if I really work hard!

It’s funny the one thing I really remember being taught at University, that I think is actually applicable and relevant to me is “Make your own work – that’s how I’ve seen others achieve – they make their own work”. I think this is great, cause in making your own work you’re not handing over the power of your creativity to someone else, you’re not waiting on someone to say ‘yes I want you, you are good enough’, you are saying ‘I know I am good enough and I’m going to give my voice a platform’. I think that’s really empowering, creative and freeing! It’s really utilising all your skills, like what Shakespeare did back in his day. He wasn’t just a writer, or actor, nope, he and his gang ran the whole shebang! Wrote, directed, performed, produced! Uta Hagan talks about it in her book “The Actors Challenge” – this weird and disempowering notion of the actor just being an actor, whereas it was always actor-producer. Modern actors have given away their power by choosing to only act, instead of create and produce their own work. They are limiting themselves, their voice and creative expressions and talents. Well I’m taking the power back! Join me!

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Set dressing got real
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