Rising Up

What kind of people spend 12 hour days in the woods, or sitting on hay bales, or at ski resorts, or in the mountains, and then end the day with pizza hot tub parties and a lil rose?

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My kind of people.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Yeah, well, so is glamour.

Filming and everything that comes along with it is super appealing to me. My teenage self would be like YES this fulfills all type A personality / challenge traits I seek in life as well as the ultimate creative goals of individuality and group projects. Check. Check. Check.

Sometimes, though, you meet a group of people who seriously change your life.

*Cue the music*

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I’m sorry, but I can’t help but think about how this would make a great series. Me, talking about these people I met on set, and how our lives all intersected and how we got to where we are, and then we flash five years in the future and it’s awesome and you know, I play myself because. Obviously. OK back to what I was saying.

What became overwhelmingly obvious after spending only two days with this group of people was that we all had been experiencing huge life changes. Each of us in our own way, had made some kind of decision and then bam – this project popped up.

For me that included a complete decimation of my former life, including my home, relationship, and career focus. Never has the phoenix rising from the ashes held so much meaning for me! Fitting I’m posting this on Easter. My career, my mood, my health and overall well being have improved immensely. And I really believe that my new friends have had a big part to do with it.

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We all come from different backgrounds, are different ages, and have different life experiences. But as I have had time on the long days to talk with these people one on one and share many non-stop laughs as a group, I realize that we have way more in common than not.

The weird thing about working in film is that you meet people and you spend a ridiculous amount of time with them. You become closer than say you would with a normal acquaintance who maybe you have a beer with once a week or see at a party. The film goes on for several weeks and then it’s over. Every project, whether it’s been film or theater always feels like a break up at the end. You get together, you have this weird routine that will never be replicated again and then suddenly….gone.

I guess my point is that we all spend a lot of time trying to find the right people to have in our lives, when I have realized that all the best people have just come into my life by me just letting them. I really believe good people attract each other and we all have something to learn. Sometimes you gotta just let people in.

IMG_1187I love my life and I am so happy to be around people who really care about what they do and don’t take themselves too seriously.

This next week is going to be a wild ride. From filming, to Tribeca, to major changes, my life is full. So thank you to those people who have been helping me transition into the most beautiful place I have had yet to be so far. I couldn’t do it without you.

*Cue music*

Medium Shot: Casey chortles to herself, pets her dog.  End Credits.

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Frank the Bastard or Being Ready to Act When You Most (or least) Expect It

from "Frank the Bastard"
me as Mrs. Gast with hubby Mr. Eddie Gast

So on a balmy August day in 2011, I woke up at 7am, my eyes burning and my vision blurred. I had just slept for exactly one hour and I felt like a melting mass of protesting muscle.

You see, I had just been on set for over twelve hours the previous night, working on a film called “Frank the Bastard.” It was fun. It was creepy. I was working in scenes with talented actors like Lance Greene, Rachel Miner, William Sadler, Jennifer Engle, Chris Sarandon, etc. When I was wrapped at 4:20am, I didn’t even have the ability to fully let it sink in that I would need to be on set at 10am on the CT shoreline for my OWN project.

Fast forward to now and “Holding” is completely wrapped, has been in festivals, and just this past weekend, “Frank the Bastard” opened in select theaters and on itunes, which basically means, everywhere. This film was especially important for me because it made me realize a couple of things.

1) You just never know what can happen and

2) You just never know what can happen.

A scene with Lance Greene.
Me in scene with actor Lance Greene.

When we filmed this, I was not expecting to have multiple scenes, or close ups, or multiple days on set. I really thought I was just going to be on set for a day as basically background. Which leads me to my first point: You just never know. I was on set for multiple days, in scenes with actors like Ellen Albertini Dow, who asked if she could “act with me.” I was told there would be a close up of me witnessing the unraveling of my husband, Eddie Gast. And the shots, literally, just kept coming! The director, Brad Coley, pulled me aside afterwards and thanked me and said I was a “true actor.” It was the best feeling in the world and nothing I would have been prepared for if I hadn’t kept the open mind that just because I assumed my part was one way, didn’t mean that it wouldn’t be used for the overall story in another way.

After we wrapped on this film, I was so excited. But then, nothing happened. I didn’t hear about the film until there were rumors of it on the film festival circuit…

That is, until last week. I heard it would be released in theaters and luckily on itunes! Would my close up make the final cut?

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Ulitmately, the majority of my scenes were cut. And they weren’t MY scenes anyway. The parts that were there to serve the story were kept, and that’s all that matters anyway.

which leads me to my next point: You just never know!

So, what was my takeaway from this experience?

I love working in film. it is the best job in the world. Watching yourself in a film is only an inkling of the true joy spent on set for hours with extremely talented people, and finding the magic at 1am for a last minute closeup and rehearsing with the other principals with a kind and focused director who creates a perfect environment for an ensemble of characters. Nothing beats that feeling for me, and honestly, that is what it’s all about.

So, if you are an actor, and the next time you’re on set, keep an open mind. Whether you are the lead, a background actor, a stand in…be prepared, keep your ears open, and remember to play. Because you just never know what part you could play next.

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.

Cannes

Cannes

I love this photo because it’s taken from right in the midst of the Cannes Film Festival, right on the red carpet. My new friend Asta, from the UK and I are standing on the steps to the Grand Theatre Lumiere (I’m short, but not THAT short haha). Cannes was a whirlwind of me assisting a producer, running around from one thing to the next, red carpets, after parties, meetings, and an amazing amount of truly inspiring moments. It was just what I needed as the boost of energy to catapult me to the next stage in my career. So grateful for the experience!