Arts Education

“I’m not an actor, but okay, I’ll do it.”

This about sums up the attitude of the amazing teens I have been helping in the Film Institute program at CPBN. I am working with a teacher who is focusing on the overall organization, structure, and technical aspects of the class, while I am teaching specifically film acting.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a group of teens at various levels of experience and interest in film production. I will say, I was pleasantly surprised by what they had to offer.

When I arrived at my first class to teach, I was understandably (I think anyway) nervous. I have worked with teens dozens of times, but they can be a  tough crowd. They aren’t quite adults yet, but most of the sunshiny everything is awesome attitude of children is starting to fade fast. They see through BS, but they are still optimistic. They WANT to see the best in themselves and others. I think it’s an honor to work with them.

Anyway, I show up and I figure, the best way to show you’re serious is to dive right in.  The first scene we had to film was a kidnapping scene, shot in noir style. So I had them “Run for their lives” with me around the entire floor of the building (yes, we did get yelled at, but I took the blame as such the responsible adult that I am..cough..) and do a bunch of exercises (I was actually out of breath before them) to get them INTO their bodies. Actors know what I mean by this, but if you don’t..there is a myth with people that acting is just in your face and how you say something. I wanted to shake this idea out of the kids as soon as possible. And just by doing something to get their minds off the actual scene, this was accomplished.

I was very impressed by how quickly they took notes and adjusted them into a scene.  This keeps happening! Every time we shoot something new, they jump right in. They are goofy, sure, and they talk in between scenes, but when we are rolling, EVERYONE is serious. If someone messes up, they don’t make fun of them. They encourage each other and each of them truly want to produce the best work they possibly can. And they LISTEN. Think about the last time an ADULT actually LISTENED to you.

When we aren’t filming, I have had the interesting opportunity to hear them discuss films with their  teacher, with complex ideas and terms that most adults don’t even understand.

I have spoken one on one with some of the students who have a passion for filmmaking and acting running through them. It’s strong and they want guidance and I hope to help them out the best way I can. It is too easy for parents, teachers, and authority figures to say “Be realistic! You can’t make money doing that! You can’t major in artistic pursuits! You need to have a better plan!” To that I say SCREW. THAT. These kids are still malleable and I hope that if anything, I can be cheering on the sidelines, encouraging them to keep the dream alive. The status quo is not a way to measure success.

This has been a really big wake up call. Many schools in the country are getting their funding cut from their schools. I attended a salon in Hartford a couple of years ago and was told that there were NO arts, music, or after school programs in Hartford Public Schools. Disgusting. I cannot BELIEVE this is reality. I was so lucky to be exposed to nearly every single after school activity and cultivate my creativity in a supportive environment.

I would just like to put it out there that if you have any power in any way to support high schools with arts programs, whether it’s music, drama, yearbook, WHATEVER! PLEASE remember…some of these kids don’t have any other way to express themselves. Some of them don’t even believe they can get into college. They need this, it is vital. Life is not just about math and science. It is about creativity and we can’t evolve as a society without it.

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Something’s Brewing!

Hey everyone,

Thank you so much for your support of John Henry Soto and myself in our latest endeavor with the Something’s Brewing podcast. Our goal is to give you the freshest updates with the indie world artists, with hopefully some tangible advice you can take and apply in your life, whether you are an artist or just a generally creative human being, which we all are on some level!

For the latest podcast, with horror filmmaker Nick Ortiz (JUST in time for Halloween!), check it out below:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/somethingsbrewing

2014 and how I got here

I read this amazing, kick-in-the-ass blog from Talent Manager Jenn Lederer this morning.  I was having one of those weak actor moments on the couch, by the fire, wearing three layers of clothing, bundled up with my dog and sort of resenting myself for over-analyzing every move I am making in my career.  I also blame my inertia on winter weather and the arctic blast, but I’ll leave that to someone else to blah blah blog about.

Just then I decided to take moment of reprieve from my pity-fest and saw an email come in from Jenn Lederer that absolutely grabbed my attention and made me say, “Well that’s a weird coincidence,” considering I was going through exactly what she was detailing in her blog post.  The next words I read?  “don’t even get me started on coincidences, btw.”  

I had taken a seminar with her this summer that was extremely moving and encouraged me to just plow forward with my career in brave, new ways.  This email was a much-needed brush up.

You see, I normally go into a new year without TOO much of a plan.  Yes, I make vision boards (laugh if you want, but call me up and I will convince you to make one in less than 5 minutes) and yes I am all about working hard with goals in mind, but this was the first year EVER that I had already acquired employment in December as an actor for the first 8 months of the following year.  WHAT?!  All I could think was, “Gee, last year I did say I wanted to teach to supplement my income.  Gee, I did want to do this and that and this.   Maybe it’s all just working out.”  WELL, here’s the thing.  It’s important to remind ourselves that we  didn’t just magically end up where we are right now.  Whether it’s on the 100th floor of an office building, or sitting on the floor playing  games with kids, or driving cross-country to pursue our dreams.  No, we make our lives.

Jenn also points out in this fabulous blog post (yes I will provide a link so you can read it too) that we tend to think that the GOOD things in life just “happen” to us, while the bad things that happen to us are the only things that we are responsible for.  But what if we adopt the idea that WE are responsible for everything that “happens to us?”  And find the goodness in that!?  Holy crap, it’s a mega-mind shift.

Several years ago I was in an accident in which I was hit by a truck while crossing the street.  I had finally processed what had happened to me, and I was talking to my friend Jim Hetrick about it.  He said, “The thing that people don’t seem to realize is that everything in their lives…everything that happens to me, everything that happens to you, we bring it upon ourselves.  We attract it to us.”  I had JUST started to feel that was true, but I needed someone else to say it out loud.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking.  “I didn’t ask to lose my job!  I didn’t want a disease!” etc.  Yes, some EVENTS do happen in our lives that we do not personally control. BUT…what if you just accepted the idea that you have the power to change events in your lives?  That you weren’t just floating along through space?  Cause if that’s what you think, that’s what you get.

Obviously, I wasn’t thinking to myself “Gee, when will I get hit by a truck!  I really feel like eating some asphalt!”  BUT you know what I  WAS repeating to myself for YEARS?! “Nothing ever happens to me.  Nothing ever happens to me.  My life is so boring.” I was ungrateful and I needed a really huge wakeup call.  Well guess what?  Sometimes that’s why accidents happen!  And they aren’t coincidences…

Anyway, back to my worried self.  I thought about all the good things that are happening for me right now, and I decided to embrace them entirely as my own creation.  Then I spent an hour and a half laying out the groundwork for what I want in the new year.  Here’s what I ALREADY have laid out for myself this year:

Teaching Kids, ongoing acting as a patient at Yale Medical School,  shooting a short film, “Tracy on a Bench” with the magnificent John Henry Soto, releasing “Holding” for all the world to see, oh yeah…and going to Cannes Film Festival for a  production internship.

So I noticed that after the holidays I was feeling kinda down.  Like…what power do I have to actually shift my career to the next level?  When DUH, it hit me that I already am responsible for all of the great things I already have laid out for the year. And if I want more, I can go get it.  And obviously, I want more.

NO MORE EXCUSES.  NONE. ZERO. ZILCH.  No more thinking that good things just happen to me.  Cause I’m bringin it to myself!  And I wish you the same for 2014.

Also, check out the blog I was speaking of earlier (even if you aren’t an actor, this still applies to LIFE my friends).

http://jennlederer.com/blog/

Cheers.