So Shiloh and I have been acting forever, but in a weird (self-hating?) way, I think I've always internalized the stereotype of actors as a narcissistic, self-indulgent group of people.
The truth is, bad actors are narcissistic and self-indulgent - the superficial, "I want to be an actor without all that...acting" kind of actors.
Good ones are miracle workers. And I know it seems ridiculous, but it's taken directing for me to realize this.
Last night, we shot our first dialogue-heavy scene. When you're directing, you've made so many choices in pre-production, and you're constantly making choices as you go, that you really haven't had time for a while to think about character moments in depth or how you want lines delivered. You're head is spinning with other things - what the frame will be, which lens, which shot should be done first, how those lights in background will pop, if we're catching a boom shadow in the wall, whether you drank too much Red Bull...
And then these people walk in front of the camera and they make a whole series of incredible choices you didn't even know had to be made. They take risks, they commit their literal being to the story. It's a miracle.
In a way, watching these actors was an extension of the writing process for me and Shiloh. When we wrote this thing, we were constantly discussing motivations, characters, jokes, emotional nuance. Then we've had to move on to so many other considerations that I think we almost forgot the root of this story. And watching our cast go back to what is, really, the most important part of filmic storytelling - the human element - was the greatest high.
You can get away with almost anything in filmmaking and make it a stylistic choice. Shoot on your iPhone. Use the sound of your washing machine as a soundtrack. Make cheesy make-up effects "your aesthetic."
But you can't get away with bad actors. It's the one production value you can't sacrifice, and unfortunately, it's the resource least available to student filmmakers and people working outside of LA or NYC.
Shiloh and I are fortunate to have too many choices in this area. And that only comes from living in LA and having worked with a lot of talented folks over the years.
We asked them to help out, and oh my God, are they delivering. This short would be a one-note joke without them.
Our cast of hipsters "slumming it" as geeks:
And our band of adventurers: