Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Great Acting Blog: "Man In A Box"

This is what I've been doing all week: improvising in this 4 foot high box for a new installation by artist Gail Pickering, which will play at the Purcell Room on March 3rd, and then tour. For my part in the installation, I will be placed in an attic space at the Purcell Room which is only 4 feet high (hence the box in the pic, which is intended as a mock-up of the real room for rehearsal purposes), and play out a scene we have been creating through these improvisations. Further, my performance will be filmed and simultaneously screened for the Purcell Room audience, so essentially, it's a "filmed-live-performance" that the audience will be seeing.

The rehearsals are extremly demanding, although progress is being made. In form, I enter the box and improvise continually for 30 minutes whilst being filmed (largely in close-up although the camera does move to points of interest, as when I do something interesting with my hands for example), it's as it would be on the night then. We don't want any expository narrative in the piece, for example; a man imprisoned, or a man contemplating why he is in the space, but neither do we want the action to be about boredom or trying specifically to fill time, and we don't want it to be about the space itself , as in; "oh look at me, I'm stuck in this strange space", infact, the strangeness of the space is beside the point. What we do want is something objectless but also with object, lacking self-consciousness or introspection, something almost child-like in the sense of being active but whose actions lack a broader meaning, they are of themselves.

And trying to find that right action has been a real challenge. The box itself has had a strange effect on me, during my very first improvisation in there, I felt like a caveman or a savage and the camera seemed extremely hostile, at other times the box has seemed like a prison, intimidating and inhibiting. However, I made a big breakthrough yesterday and felt, for the first time, that I had found something concrete in the improvisation, something truthful which served the piece. I know when I'm onto something because I become properly active, more intense, I work up a sweat, and I long to work because I have a sense of what the performance needs to be. Up until that point however, I am in misery.


Monday, 21 February 2011

Drifting Clouds @ The Sound Of Film

Delighted to inform you Drifting Clouds will be presenting 3 remarkable short films at the launch night of The Sound Of Film:

"Driven" by Yvette Farmer (www.cultivatefilms.co.uk)
"Woodpecker" by Rouzbeh Rashidi (www.rouzbehrashidi.com)
"The Mongolian Barbecue" by Maximilian Le Cain.(www.lecain.blogspot.com)

Hope to see you there.
James

The Sound Of Film - Event Launch

Our very own D-Day is almost upon us!

Yes Folks! The Sound of Film is about to launch our labour of love,
called (rather imaginatively) The Sound Of Film, on Wed 23 Feb 2011
at The Drop, 175 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 0LH.

Myself (Mr Simon) and co-conspirator Mr Smith are both really exited
about our new venture, as we're rather passionate about film, but even
more so about film soundtracks.

So what will our event launch entail? Well, let me enlighten you.
The aforementioned Simon and Smith will DJ film soundtrack classics from
every conceivable era and movie genre - Think Battleship Potemkin, Get Carter,
Once upon A Time In The West, Star Wars, Betty Blue, Cinema Paradiso, Alien,
Bullitt, Psycho, The Piano, The Big Country, Bladerunner, Un Bout de Souffle...

We've recruited the services of Mr Devereaux (Drifting Clouds Cinema Group)
who will curate and screen a selection of short films. There will also be live
performances from a veritable pot-pourri of international artistes. This month
sees hotly-tipped Japanese/English duo O-ARC seducing us with their chilled,
Zen-Pop - www.o-arc.bandcamp.com

Finally, our venerable hostess Miss Du Bois and friends will re-enact a scene
from a movie classic. The first being Brief Encounter, or as they've pointedly
re-titled it, A Briefcase Encounter.

The Sound Of Film events take place on the last Wednesday of the Month with
each event having a particular theme. As this is the first, it's going to be
Movie Classics and we'll be paying a special tribute to legendary maestro
composer, John Barry. So expect to hear an array of Bond classics, Born Free,
The Ipcress File, Out Of Africa, Midnight Cowboy + many more magnificent gems.

Wed 30 March will be Sci-Fi. So we'll be enticing you with Clockwork Orange,
2001 A Space Odyssey, Metropolis, Westworld, Tron, Barbarella, Capricorn One,
Day of the Triffids, Planet Of The Apes, 50's B-Movies...

Wed 27 April will be music from French Cinema.

Forthcoming Future Themes will include Westerns, B-Movies, Bond, Film Noir,
Art-House, the list is endless...Watch This Space!


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Great Acting Blog: "Never Compromise"

 

Checkout the video, it's a 5 minute short film by Mike Leigh, "The Birth Of The Goalie Of The 2001 FA Cup Final".

 

This week, I had a meeting which could've lead to some work, sadly however, when I arrived for the meeting, the director didn't know my name. Oh dear. In any normal business meeting or job interview it is not only encumbent upon the employer,  but in the employer's best interest to know at least something about the person he might be employing. Now, I have a policy that if you don't know my name then I don't want to work for you. Those of you reading this who are not in the acting profession but do some rational work, are probably dumbfounded that I even need to put such a policy in place. However, I unhappily report that such shoddy behavior is not unusual, and implies little respect for the skills and merit of each individual actor, and therefore for acting generally.

Why complain? There are millions of actors out there apparently, shouldn't I simply be grateful for the chance to be seen? Surely everyone has to kiss some ass at some point, what does it matter if you get what you want in the end? I could sacrifice my principles for short term gain (I would question whether you'd actually gain something though), I could do that, it's very easy,  infact, it's far easier to do that than to actually adhere to the precepts I've laid down for myself. But the trouble is, this way of operating eats away at your soul (if you've got one that is), it affects you're mindset, how you view your life and your work. All of the actors I know whose guiding principle is money, are unhappy. All of them. They have little or no interest in acting anymore, they sneer at the use of the term “artist”, they have forgotten why they became actors in the first place, they just don't give a shit.

And here in lies the irony of “The Arts” -  many decide to become actors (or any kind of artist) because they want to escape the 9 to 5 salaried routine, they want more adventure, and they want to dedicate themselves to something which they love, something which gives their lives purpose and meaning. However, once that decision to be an actor has been made, many actors then strive to turn their acting careers into routine 9 to 5 jobs, they want to stamp out (having failed to learn to cope with) the insecurity brought forth by the very adventure they sought in the first place. Any kind of aesthetic, or artistic principle is thrown out the window in pursuit of a salary (that's if principles were even articulated in the first place).

So it is I came away from my meeting feeling a little bit lost. I had betrayed my first principles because I thought I could trouser a couple of quid easily. My annoyance at the guy not knowing my name was a symptom of my unconcious knowledge that I was in the wrong the place, and by my own choosing at that. As with all actors, I'm trying to construct a body of work over time, and I'm doing it the best way I know how, a little straying from the path is not the end of the world so long as we learn from it.  But if I cannot construct that body work within a framework of aesthetic and ethical principles, then everything I do is worthless. This means that the actor must have a point of view on ALL ASPECTS OF PRODUCTION, and further, the actor must look at what type of culture the production he is working on at that moment, is contributing towards, in order to make decisions about which kind of work to do. Rarely if ever will the actor have control over a whole production, he is one part of it and should concentrate on doing his job as well as he can. But he should not be oblivious to the production as a whole, and how it marries with his own point of view. And if the actor developes the strength to continually refer to his principles and never stray, he is less likely to find himself in meetings with people who fail to remember his name.

As I was scratching around for inspiration this week, I stumbled upon Mike Leigh's “Golden Rules”*, and after a 50 year career (and still counting), his number 1 Rule is: -

NEVER COMPROMISE

Good luck.

* Here's the full list of Leigh's Golden Rules. http://www.moviemakerdigital.com/moviemaker/iss91_vol18?pg=90#pg90

Monday, 14 February 2011

Jay Harris Offer A Muscians View Of (An)Other Irish Cinema

Article reprinted with Jay's permission. And if you want to find out more about Jay and his music, please visit www.jay-harris.co.uk/


Thursday 9th February – (An)Other Irish Cinema

Last week, I attended a short-film event put on by James Devereaux for his Drifting Clouds Cinema Group.  We had orginally talked about Lunar Rising playing an acoustic set at the event but unfortunately the bar hosting it doesn’t yet have a  live music license.

Anyway, the event hosted a film-making trio that go by the name of (An)Other Irish Cinema.  As I have talked about before, for the fringe arts to survive it is necessary to collaborate and combine numbers and strength, and this formed the basis of the trio getting together.  In their own words:   ”(Donal) Foreman, (Rouzbeh) Rashidi and (Maximilian) Le Cain formed as a platform for joint screenings, to showcase their work and, in so doing, to propose the possibility of an/other filmmaking culture in Ireland”

I am no film critic and do not pretend to have any knowledge about film, the proceses used or issues that film-makers care about.  I do, however, like film.  All the way from cheesy blockbusters to the deeply strange.  Each film interests me in a different way and offers something, from gaining a few cheap laughs to something really profoundly effecting me.  So, yeah, this isnt meant as a film review (I probably wont even mention film titles) but it is an explanation of what I took from the films in light of my interest in combining and gaining influence from seemingly unrelated walks of life.

From what James had told me, I was aware that the films being shown were avant garde.  I’m not a fan of art that is elitist, or art that is so abstract you need a degree in art history to understand it so it may come as a bit of a surprise that I really enjoyed what was on show.  As the trio of film-makers hinted in a ‘question-and-answer’ session afterward, the films weren’t designed to wrap up an idea in such a deep cloak of mystery that it will never be understood. Indeed, there may be nothing to actually understand.  The works were based around the moment in which they were filmed and took influence from everything going on at the time of filming/editing.  You could even say that the films are a film version of Jazz….  What results is a feast for the senses; The films effected me visually, and most crucially to me, aurally.  The mix of these two mediums in the way presented, rather than being a narrative as such created an atmosphere that immersed me in something I had never experiecned before and also got my grey cells working.  The great thing about such film is that every one takes you on a journey you have never expereicend before.  In contrast, love stories etc take you on the same journey over and over again (which I think has it’s rightful place).

As some of you will know, the main focus of my musical interest is atmopshere.  With Lunar Rising, very much like my bandmates I think, I aim my input to work towards an all-encompassing experience that will hold you for a duration of time and tell you a story without actually telling you anything;  A sense of journey in emotion and immersive sound.  Whether or not I ever achieve this is down to the listener of course!  The lyrics do add a tale but combined with the ambiguity of the musical journey, I find the desired effect is intensified.  With Henry Spencer Project, I aim to create a more physical atmosphere that picks up the listener in rhythmic movement.  With the audio/visual project I am undertaking with Lesley Flower, we aim to make each aspect (audio and visual) mutually bolster the other to create an atmosphere that is intensified by their partnership.

It therefore follows that the main interest I took away from seeing these short-films are the atmospheres they created, how they did this plus how I might translate such ideas using the tools and knowledge available into my own work.

The use of space was very interesting.  Open spaces were used but sounds were intense and right in your face.  Visions of natural surroundings were used with heightened, intensified natural sounds.  The distortion of sounds lent fairly normal images more depth and an altered sense of perception.  Emotive sounds were used that worked in tandem with or against various images.  Lots of contrast and lots harmony in so many different ways.  Maybe I can use ‘normal’ sounds and songs but use anything I like to contrast or harmonise them aesthetically or theoretically with sound and/or image (or using any other of the senses for that matter…).

Also, I have been developing an interest in the sounds around us in our every day lives and how I can merge these to create something that is even more personal to me than the music I write/sounds I create.  To my mind it follows that combining my instrumental self-expression with sounds that I am personally immersed in intensifies my own stamp.  Therefore, the use of everday sounds (or ‘found sounds’) in the work of the films I saw really stood out and, for me, really made the experience complete in a practical sense once combined with my aforementioned thoughts.

Please do take the time to check out the film-maker’s and group’s links at the beginning of the article.  Keep an open mind and expect something more than a film; indeed something very different.  You wont regret it!  If you are unfamiliar with my work then it would be great if you found time to check out the links to Lunar Rising and Henry Spencer Project.  As always, I really am very grateful for any kind of feedback you can offer at all!

Jay


Nuts4R2 Reviews (An)Other Irish Cinema

Here's Nuts4R2's review, republished in full with permission from the legend himself. If you want to checkout more of his work, please visit www.nuts4r2.blogspot.com.


Directed by Donal Foreman,
Rouzbeh Rashidi and Maximilian Le Cain
for details of future screenings and access to these movies.

It was with a curious blend of eager anticipation and equal parts trepidation that I went to James Devereaux’s Drifting Clouds Cinema Group (click here to go there instead) presentation of the first London screening of the film making “group” (An)Other Irish Cinema. Anticipation because it was a night out in London (I don’t get out much these days... too busy writing these things) and I was finally going to get to meet some of those Twitter followers I see popping up on my screen on a regular basis (not least of whom was the organiser)... but tentative of the actual films I was about to be subjected too because... well... like I’ve said a few times before on this blog... I rarely “do” shorts!

The evening started less than helpfully with my friend and I getting lost at least twice on the way to Brick Lane but once we’d found the venue, which has a bar upstairs, and met the aforementioned Devereaux and various wags of dubious description (who look so much larger in life than their Twitter avatars... curiously), things started going a bit better. And the drinks were very... in the parlance of our time... value for money.

On to the screening then.

(An)Other Irish Cinema is a collection of three independent film-makers who live and work primarily in Ireland - Donal Foreman, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Maximilian Le Cain - and who have a quite impressive quantity of shorts (and in the case of Rashidi a fair number of features too) which share, from what I could work out, an exploration of film through less traditional, alternative ways of expression than that which can be found in the more staid narrative styles of mainstream pictures. This small “bande √† part” of film-makers are trying to distribute (or at least screen) their own works outside of a system which would probably, in the current climate, chew them up and spit them out as something far more sinister than the perceived “model audience” would have the time or inclination for... so I think it’s probably a good idea of them to group together and present themselves in this manner and slowly try to change audience perceptions at screenings like these. Kind of like a pocket-sized equivalent of the Oberhausen Manifesto and I say this not to belittle their efforts but to applaud them on their way of doing things. Lets hope these opening shots at a collected, unified front to present an alternative way of celluloid expression gathers mass like a snowball rolling down a hill, getting bigger and bigger until something begins to click with the audiences that go to see them.

In a way, I felt quite privileged to be at that screening, where these shorts received their London premier in front of an audience.

Now, while the different styles of film-making presented by these three directors works were quite groundbreaking in terms of what you wouldn’t see at your common or garden multiplex, I think it would also be true to say that there is really nothing new on offer (at least in terms of short films)... but to assume that there should be would be to rather miss the point I suspect.

However, there is of course the very real “freshness” of seeing three sets of shorts made by three quite highly distinctive cinematic voices. Although the films were screened in an order that grouped together the directors contributions in their own chunks, I think it would be true to say that even if this were not the case, their styles are individually quite striking and unique... you won’t have any difficulty working out which of these short, exploratory pieces belonged together stylistically.

The screening started out with two shorts by Donal Foreman called Pull and Repeat and these two were probably the most polished and less ambiguous of the three directors’ works in that they were kinda of glossy and slick and with a very beautiful juxtaposition of image and sound. The way the music works with and supports the image in these two is great and I have to say that either of these wouldn’t look out of place playing supporting short film to the majority of Hollywood popcorn fodder which flood our cinemas with their torpor inducing, big budget effects mentality.

This in no way describes the effect of Donal’s, quite brilliant, work of course. It’s far from torpor inducing. The energy and rhythm found within the shots make for a vibrant and fun time and sucks you into the picture... in a way I suspect the director would hate, since one of the binding factors of these three artists seems to be their collected rejection of absorption within the film itself and more of a direct visual and audio “prod” to wake up the viewer and let the audience be aware of the act of watching these films. A less passive and more challenging cinema and, frankly, very much in the vein of Godard (spiritually, not stylistically) who I suspect may be one of their celluloid soul-mates.

One set of film-makers I do know are influences on their work (I know this because they did a Q&A with Devereaux after the screening) are some of the more famous of the Soviet directors such as Vertov and Dovzhenko.

The next three shorts screened were by Rouzbeh Rashidi (Anatomy Of Man, Woodpecker and Entity Of Haze) and I can certainly detect an air of Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera in his work. Images which make up impressions of little, almost observations, of individual’s everyday life which collide with each other at 24 frames per second and give you almost an implied narrative thrust... even though there is no specific or overt story element to spell out just what is going on for you.

This is a quality of Rashidi’s work (as seen here) which I think is something he shares with Donal too, in that Donal’s two shorts also give an implication of a linear story arc going on... but the difference between these two director’s works and the works of most directors found in the mainstream is that these films seem to be very much about empowering or at least asking the audience to interact with the images and sound they are seeing and to bring their own narrative interpretations with them and to fit them over these cinematic “coat hangers” with their own togs... no two audience members are going to bring the same kinds of coat but this doesn’t invalidate their right to hang their jacket on these movies and call that interpretation their own.

Maximilian Le Cain, on the other hand, seems to totally abandon the illusion of narrative crutches in the three shorts that screened - Everybody's Favourite Disease, Making A Home and The Mongolian Barbecue. These are much more experimental than his compatriots in that, where Donal and Rashidi may both use metaphor peppered in with their collisions of sight and sound, Le Cains technique seems to be going for the throat in a more direct manner and metaphor is pushed to the foreground as your brain tries to frantically decode the images on screen and assign meanings that may or may not be there.

Le Cain’s films are almost a grimy, poster boy image for that overwrought, 80s design clich√© phrase... “the medium is the message”, as the images throw the viewer right “up close and personal” by making these a more, “first person” visual stance than the previous two directors. That’s not to say that I liked Le Cain’s films any better than the other two directors... in fact I probably liked his the least because they gave me the hardest time trying to digest the images (which may well have been the inherent point of The Mongolian Barbecue anyway)... but from listening to him talk at the end of the screening, I think it would be fair to say that this kind of a reaction to his work would not unduly displease him.

Like his movies, Le Cain himself, or at least the way he presented himself in the Q&A, seems very big on image. He looks, in real life, like an almost overworked graphical cliche of the”working class artist” and out of all three of the directors on show that night, I think he’s the one I’d least like to be chasing me down a street brandishing a big board with a nail in it. Definitely a very larger than life character is my guess.

Actually, that’s probably not the kind of thing I should have got out of the Q&A, but I suppose those last three films probably scrambled my brains up a little.

What I did discover in the Q&A, apart from the nouvelle-vague sensibility of a more involving response to these particular flickers of shade and light was the fact that a big influence on the work of Rashidi is Andrei Tarkovsky (woohoo... and one of my all time favourite directors gets a name check). It took me a little while to work out what Rashidi takes from Tarkovsky’s work and I think, rather than being influenced by any specific visual style, perhaps the spirit of Tarkovsky in the way he observed things without explaining their value to the information being received by the audience as a whole and then letting the audience find the meaning within the frames themselves (or not as the case may be) would perhaps be where the common ground between these two directors lies. Also, perhaps, in the way that time is compressed or expanded within the running time so that you are not always sure whether you’ve been watching for 2 minutes or 10 minutes. The rambling kind of pacing giving you a sense of calming observation rather than a concentration on the passage of cumulative narrative effect.

And then there’s Donal... who comes across very much as the spokesperson of the “group”. Not necessarily because he is particularly outgoing or hard sell... just by way of the fact that the others don’t really say too much. Rashidi stands on the edge of the group looking more like the non-smiling Tarkovsky who is his hero and Le Cain a big, powerhouse of a Bond villain that you wonder where he’s hiding his white pussycat and his mechanical hands with their black iron touch of death. Donal, on the other hand, talks a mile a minute and when he’s not talking he whips out a digital camera and start taking shots and filming... very much the enthusiastic film-maker and a good figurehead for a tongue-in-cheek but resolutely challenging and enthusiastic bunch of filmmakers.

Go here http://anotheririshcinema.blogspot.com/ to find out more about them and try to see some of their stuff on the internet if you can get the chance. This stuff may well confuse and rattle your brain... but at least it won’t rot it! Which is not something a lot of mainstream movie companies could say about their product these days.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Great Acting Blog: "First Response"

Check out this promo clip from Closure Of Catharsis, a new feature film by Rouzbeh Rashidi.

Generally, seeing myself on screen has little or no affect on me. Many actors say they hate seeing themselves act, and some pretend to be indifferent. Others get very nervous at the prospect of seeing themselves up there, or even giggly. But I'm not one of them. It's true that I become irritated when I detect moments of falsity in my work, largely because it's so unnecessary, but even then, I will analyse my work and seek to improve it for next time. I see acting as a task, it isn't a game, it's work, and, as such, I'm always able to view my performances (whether on stage or on camera) objectively, in the same way a carpenter might view a chair. Similarly, I am not a self-loathing actor always berating himself that he could have “worked harder”, no, when my performance is good, I will acknowledge it to myself and strive to understand why it was good, so that I can then proceed with an understanding of the value of what it is I do.
This week I saw, for the first time, Closure Of Catharsis, the new feature film by Rouzbeh Rashidi, in which I play a lead role. The film's about a man trying to remember a trauma from his past which he has repressed. And, as always with Rashidi's work, what we get is not traditional storytelling, but a cinema of moments, created by the poetic interchange of sound and image.  Readers of my blogpost, “A Very Real Mystery”, will know that Rashidi intentionally works without a script, and doesn't even direct his actors, or try to help shape their performance, but instead lets them improvise by responding to their immediate situations. Infact, when we shot my scenes for Closure Of Catharsis, Rashidi was not even present for the vast majority of my improvisation, but deliberately wandered off for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, leaving me to my own devices infront of camera.
When I first watched the film, it was impossible for me to really enjoy the filmmaking or the film itself in the way an audience might, because I was so preoccupied with analysing my own  performance in it; weighing up the value of each movement and gesture, applying my bullshit detector. However, the interesting point with Closure Of Catharsis was that I had to see my work for what it was, I had to take full responsibility for it. There was no script for me to moan about, and I couldn't grumble about a “meddling director”, because here was one who left me to my own devices, my only boundary being the frame within which I had been placed, and sometimes not even the frame as when I stepped outside of it. I quickly realised just how comforting it is to have a playwright or a director I could shovel some of the responsibility onto. But it was also refreshing to have this unfettered view of my work, to really get to the truth of the matter. And I learned a great deal from the experience, primarily that I can afford to be even more patient during improvisation, and that I should trust my imagination more.
Upon subsequent viewings, I got my performance out of my system, and was able to simply relax and enjoy the movie. Rashidi has produced a remarkable picture, one of visual poetry and a dark,  brooding atmosphere, it's a film which I am proud to have participated in. I could say a lot more, but it's difficult to speak about a film in which I was so heavily involved, suffice to say that I screened the film for a few friends who were very excited by it, and I can only hope as many people get to see it as possible.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

(An)Other Irish Cinema - London Screening - Pics

Packed house. Standing room only. What a night. Q and A ripped too. Big Thank-you to all who came out and supported independent film culture (and Mojito cocktail culture). Hope you enjoy the pics, courtesy of Donal Foreman.

Look forward to seeing you at the next screening.

Cheers, James.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Sound Of Film @ (An)Other Irish Cinema

Drifting Clouds Cinema Group presents (An)Other Irish Cinema, PLUS The Sound Of Film

Not only will Drifting Clouds be screening the finest short films in all London, we'll also be playing the best film music via The Sound Of Film...Find out more about this great double act....

"We play film soundtracks and only film soundtracks.

Why? because it is a much neglected and often overlooked art form, yet once heard the response is immediate, positive and awe inspiring.

There's a wealth of film music that is rarely aired yet is an essential component of the film making process.

Film scores are by their very nature evocative and atmospheric. They convey tension, horror, fear, joy, love, lust, every human emotion. Occasionally film soundtracks are more memorable than the film itself.

The Sound Of Film - Celebrating The Art Of The Film Soundtrack

We love film soundtracks and having trawled the internet for like-minded enthusiasts noted rather quizzically that there was a dearth of support for this wonderful and frankly overlooked genre. There isn't even a dedicated radio soundtrack show, which really surprised us.

So we decided to try and right this grievous wrong by curating our own shows composed entirely of movie scores, in order to bring this wonderful art form to a wider audience.

WHERE?
▪ Film Festivals / Screening Events
▪ Music Festivals
▪ Gallery Openings / Private Views
▪ Corporate Events
▪ Brand / Sponsored Events / PR Launches

WHO?
Mr. Simon
Julian Simon is an artiste manager, drummer and music supervisor for film and television. Previously worked as an agent representing film & television composers.

Mr. Smith
Martin A. Smith is a composer and sound designer who has written music for film, television, theatre, contemporary dance and audio/visual installations.
www.martinasmith.co.uk "


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Great Acting Blog: "Actor-Filmmakers"

 

After hearing that Paddy Considine's directorial debut, Tyrannosaur, won a couple of prizes at the recent Sundance Film Festival (a Special Jury Prize for acting, and the World Cinema Directing Award, Dramatic), I was reminded of the sheer number of actors who go on to become brilliant filmmakers. It happens too often for it to be a coincidence, and I have a theory on why so many people who spend their lives learning to act end up making great films, and it's a subject about which I intend to write more fully in the future.


I haven't seen Tyrannosaur yet, and only time will tell if Considine continues to act aswell as direct. In a recent interview, he seemed destined to quit acting (siting his frustration with the lack of control actors have over their work as a major reason why) and concentrate solely on directing (I believe he has already begun the process of making his second feature). If Considine did quit acting, it would be a blow at a time when the profession lacks heroes. However, it could be the case that Considine has developed a sort of Sean Penn-like ambivalence to acting, whereby proclaimed intentions to quit are never fully followed up on, Penn seems unable to break completely from acting, as his continuing body of work attests. And perhaps the same will be true of Considine, acting does have a strange lure once it gets into your bloodstream, it's certainly not a rational career choice. Having said that, I have noticed a dip in the intensity of Considine's performances (which is not true of Penn), and that dip is the surest sign that an actor has had enough*. Whatever happens, I am intrigued to see Tyrannosaur, and even more so after it's success at Sundance, where it's done well to even get a screening when you look at the ludicrous number of submissions they receive each year,** let alone win awards.



And so it is, I offer you the list of my favourite actor-filmmakers, and as so often with lists, it is entirely subjective. I write this from the heart, these are the actor-filmmakers who have affected me the most, whose work means great deal to me. It has got nothing to do with output, infact Laughton and Oldman only made one film, nor star power. Further, I based my choices on their acting and directing work, as oppose to one or the other.Some big hitters fail to make the list, but like I said, this list comes from the heart. I've also put a recommendation in brackets alongside each filmmaker, and it's also worth noting that to qualify for the list, each filmmaker needed to have made his name as an actor before directing pictures, and as such, someone like Jim Jarmusch cannot be included. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the list, and please feel free to write your own, or champion your actor-filmmaker of choice, in the comments section.


The list is in no particular order.


John Cassavetes (Faces)

Orson Welles (Touch Of Evil)

Woody Allen (Hannah And Her Sisters)

Sean Penn (The Crossing Guard)

Gary Oldman (Nil By Mouth)

Peter Mullan (Orphans)

Charles Laughton (Night Of The Hunter)

Takeshi Kitano (Hanna-Bi)




*I noticed the same thing with Mark Ruffalo, and wasn't surprised when he said recently that he now struggles with the intensity of performance. Further, Ruffalo also attempted the switch to filmmaking but found he couldn't make a living at it, and so stuck to acting.

 

**Sundance receives over 3000 feature film submissions each year, and screens only around 120 films.


Tuesday, 1 February 2011

(An)Other Irish Cinema: Maximilian Le Cain

The third and final filmmaker of (An)Other Irish Cinema, and the most prolific, is Maximilian Le Cain....

Maximilian Le Cain (born 1978) has made more than forty short and medium-length films and videos over the past decade. He is also a film critic whose writings have appeared in a broad range of international film journals, most notably Senses of Cinema, and in several books. He is editor of Cork Film Centre’s online experimental film magazine Experimental Conversations.

He has written of his always formally experimental work:

My culture is cinema, including experimental film. There is cinema and what is called ‘reality’. There is the body, mine in this instance, and then there is the night. There are limits, failures and overwhelming sensations. Sound, image, silence: oblivion. It is at the obscure intersection of all these that I jot down my audio-visual sketches. Perhaps a bid to reconcile these elements? More likely, simply a place to exist with accuracy. Movement on the cusp of exhaustion and decay, creation in a time when every film has been made. But the energy persists and the images keep moving, moving in darkness, ceaselessly linking the body and the night in a multitude of shifting rhythms.

For more information, please visit

 

www.lecain.blogspot.com
http://www.expcinema.com/wikien/Maximilian_Le_Cain

For a full filmography, see: