level shifting

In case you’re wondering, the improvisational feature film went very well. I am still recovering from the insanity that was capturing a full length movie on camera in three days. Three long, long days. It was amazing though, probably the most challenging, rewarding and level-shifting cinematic project of my career. And isn’t that the point? To elevate?! That’s my new goal, to elevate. To grow. I am indebted to the crew and two other actors for all of their immense talent and incredible support. It was tricky to BE the film and I couldn’t have done the work without the mastery around me at all times. There was a patch of time during one scene’s set up where the DP and SIT were taking some stills (as the shot was clearly going to provide them with the poster image). I will pop this up on my site (and maybe here) when I get it. But for now, here are my two favorite images from the shoot.

So now that my head is deep into the cinematic world, a conversation about this week’s episode of LOST (the only show I watch with any consistency) reminded me that the first season’s final DVD had all these casting sessions or audition tapes from the actors eventually cast in the show. She in the spirit of raising the bar… here are a few of them and some random musings or commentary.

Evangeline Lilly audition tape

I’m listing this one first because I remember reading that she was pretty new to everything when this show was first casting and I completely dig the coaching taking place at the beginning. Evangeline Lilly is getting direction or guidance that she absorbs and incorporates into her work. I also learn from her stillness. In contrast to the more overtly or inherently necessary emotional work of Rachel McAdams below, she doesn’t really move around much and simply lets the fear and pain register on her face. Yes, it’s a different type of scene than the other but still as present and powerful.

Matthew Fox audition tape

Now if you aren’t a fan of LOST (or haven’t watched any episodes) this first point will not really resonant. The first half of this clip is Matthew Fox reading for a different character than he was eventually cast as on the show. And it’s so interesting to watch his take on the character, especially seeing where the prep is the same as how the role was eventually portrayed and where it is different. The cool thing about this read (and the second which is clearly the role he’s meant to play) is the small shifts and subtle changes in his approach to the two very different men. What I’ve learned from this is that you have to do full out, but full out with depth. People often talk about film being a “small” type of acting than stage or that you have to “do less.” I have thought about this quite a bit as I float back and forth between the two mediums and I think the advice to “do less” or to “be smaller” is actually inaccurate and ends up leaving you with a weaker, less interesting and less committed performance. I think the trick is to imagine that while your work doesn’t change, the viewing of your work has shifted. The best examples I use is the literal truth- instead of bouncing your performance from a stage into seats (whatever the size of the theatre) you are sending your performance into this lens that is usually no more than five feet away from you. It had the capacity to capture the work much more intimately. To be super lame, I think about it as having a conversation with someone sitting right next to me versus someone sitting across the room. So while Matthew Fox is playing his game full on here, it is not forced or phony because he is simply playing the role in appropriate context to the medium. Does that make sense?

Navin Andrews audition

This one is also two short scenes so you get to see him finish one, drop it all, get asked to do the next side and pick up the character again to move forward. As with Matthew Fox there is an ease to the read, a sense of preparation and confidence. The mark of a working actor who knows that this experience should be viewed as a chance to act, an opportunity to bring a character to life and tell a story but NOTHING more. This genuine present presence is captivating.

Okay, I am realizing now that this might not be so fun to watch if you don’t watch LOST so here are two more. The first is my favorite audition video and the second is a new find from today while I was drafting up this post.

Rachel McAdams audition (“The Notebook”)

My favorite thing about this- besides her passion, commitment and sheer presence- is that is clearly has her purse on her shoulder. Whether it is a character choice or simply because she is just being put on tape in a random office and that’s the way it rolled out, I love it. It reminds me of the truth, of reality. It’s a less than perfect industry. Sometimes you are ushered into a tiny room with thin walls and you have one minute to do your job. One minute that could end up being a monumental shift in your career, a point of ignition. Maybe they all are, or at least that’s how I’m going to treat every audition and every project (hell, everything) from now on. It’s all a game changer. And I’m getting ready. And it’s also so cool that you see the final performance in this audition/reading. Now I know that the clip also has parts of the real film in it (I don’t mean that) but besides that… it is just so full. So invested.

Hugh Laurie (House audition)


I suppose what I’m taking away from this is 1) I’m doing it right, breaking it down, diving into the role and bringing it to life the same way as all other professional actors and 2) you just never know when a role might cause a cataclysmic shift in your career so you have to love all of it. Enjoy each opportunity and chose work that you love because if you focus on “maybe this one will make me a star” then you will be missing out on the true, honest and transformative power of film (and theatre as well, of course). If you watch any of the above, it sure doesn’t look like any of these actors had even a vague notion of what the role might do for their career, they were focused on the character and the work and the story. And that’s what makes the difference.

It’s a beautiful day in New York so I feel compelled to get my butt outside and enjoy some of it. I hope it’s lovely where you are.

Until next week,


THINGS I’M DIGGING THIS WEEK: Up in the Air (finally saw it) & Believe

DREAM ROLE: something in Eugene O’Neill perhaps…. maybe this is timely…

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