Monday, August 8, 2011

Believing (A Goodbye/Thank You to the MFA Class of 2011)

Spend any time at all on one of my social media sites and you are likely to deduce that I enjoy helping the FSU Film School find people and things. Pigs? Babies? Restraining Straps?

Yes, you heard me right - restraining straps. And here's how the conversation went. A Sunday, around 1:30 p.m. in advance of filming the following day in which said straps would be needed:

Film Student: Can you please call Tallahassee Memorial and see if they have some brown leather straps like you would use to restrain someone?
Paula: Um, sure.
[Paula calls TMH]
Volunteer on Duty at TMH Main Desk: Hello, Tallahasee Memorial Hospital, how can I help you?
Paula: Hi! I am a community volunteer with the Florida State University Film School and I am wondering if you have any leather straps, you know, the kind I could use to restrain someone with?
Volunteer on Duty at TMH Main Desk: Well, you'll need to call back tomorrow and speak to public relations about that.

The straps were needed for this scene in Heather Gillman's Medea:


(Alana Dimaria in Medea)
Photo Credit: David Barrow Wiley
See more of David's work here.

I still wonder what the TMH volunteer really thought about my request!

At some point during this class's time in the MFA program, I was on set with each member, as an extra or volunteer. Before you all go off to the next stop on the journey, a few thoughts.

Having a community volunteer with no formal film training must, at times, be sort of like having a curious three-year old around who can find no end of questions to ask. Thank you, Heather Gillman, for answering my questions about acronyms and terminology even though I may not ever be asked for a quarter CTB again in my lifetime - at least if I am asked I'll have a clue!

Another target of my many questions-to-which-I-don't-SERIOUSLY-need-to-know-the-answer-but-ask-anyway is Hillary Lavin. As a set design volunteer through several films, I came to appreciate the difference that attention to details can make. For instance, you don't want to create an anachronism by placing a "Cars" (released in 2006) themed toy in a little boy's room if the film he is in takes place in 2005. Hillary also answered her fair share of questions I asked about technical stuff, just because I was curious.

This class is the first one I have worked with on pre-production. I still marvel at how much I like something that involves two things I hate - 1) asking people I don't know for unusual things and b) returning things. But something about doing that, with a group of people I genuinely like so much, has alleviated some of my fears. Even if TMH won't take my calls anymore. :-)

I will always chuckle when I think about Jim Ed Wills asking me if I would be okay with having eggs cracked over my head when I was an extra on Playback Henry (the answer was yes).

I thank Faren Humes, whose vision for her thesis film touched on a time and topic that is difficult to address and equally difficult for viewers to process. But it takes courage to lead people out of their comfort zones into a deeper understanding, and Our Rhineland did that. Behind the scenes, I learned a lot helping to recreate Berlin out of Tallahassee and Pensacola, providing casting assistance, and helping locate a cemetery that would permit a night shoot (hint, don't ask in Tallahassee).


"The Red Truck" - The Curse

Matt Ryan produced Our Rhineland and then Faren produced the thesis film that Matt directed, The Curse. (This is where the pigs come in.) I am pretty sure the first email I sent after reading the script was, "we need to find livestock for this?" (Yes.) There were other fun challenges in being a "Curse" volunteer: finding an infant under six months old, researching for multiple location needs, finding a red pick up truck (done!), and locating a barn with a basement. What stands out to me about my interactions with Matt is that he included me in components of the process, such as watching the audition videos of the prospective actors, and asked my opinion. That meant a lot to me and made me even more invested in the final outcome.

There is one other conversation I had with Matt that summarized so succinctly the essence of good acting. We were talking about the search for a German-speaking actor during pre-production for Our Rhineland and somehow digressed a bit into how you know when an actor is going to be effective. Matt said, "you can tell when they believe." It's true. You can take lessons about many parts of the acting process, but letting yourself believe begins somewhere inside.

The best directors and crews bring that belief out and help us viewers believe too. I have faith that every member of the MFA Class of 2011 does that and will continue into the future.

Keep doing what you do.


The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind. - Kahlil Gibran






1 comment:

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