Monday, May 2, 2011

I Sighed A Million Sighs, I Told A Million Lies To Myself...To Myself

My Spring Semester at NYU has been the best, most productive period of my life. From acting in my friends' Sight and Sound: Studio and Film projects to meeting and receiving advice from writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby), it's been an incredible ride. The most rewarding part of my semester - writing, directing and starring in a personal project outside of class titled With Love, Marty - has just officially wrapped, and I am happy to say that the shoot was extremely successful, thanks to the hard work and help from my friends and collaborators (particularly my extraordinary cinematographer, Ben Dewey; my producer and assistant director, Erica Rose; my sound mixer and sound editor, Bobb Barito; and my art director, Madeline Wall). But before I discuss Marty, I want to write about some noteworthy moments from the semester.

On April 22nd, I directed my final Sight and Sound: Studio project – a scene from Martin McDonagh’s great play The Pillowman. I adapted the scene and first presented it to my class in mid-March, and after I returned from Spring Break, I held auditions at NYU’s Todman Center, and cast three very talented actors in the roles of Katurian, Tupolski and Ariel. I rehearsed diligently with the three actors for a few weeks before the shoot, and then, finally, on April 22nd, we shot the scene in a three-camera television studio on the 12th floor of the Tisch School of the Arts (the television studio more or less became home for all of the students this semester). My three actors - Hunter Rodgers, Danny Pudelek and Armen Armazza - gave wonderful performances during our two-hour shoot, where I managed to get three takes of the scene (which is pretty good, considering that set construction, lighting, and camera rehearsals take a significant amount of time). Here is my final project:

The Sight and Sound: Studio class was one of the most rewarding and fascinating classes I’ve taken at Tisch – it is every bit the compliment to my Sight and Sound: Film course. My professor, Alex Sichel, was a wonderful teacher, and she really prepared me as a director with my first three Studio exercises, which were entertaining but ultimately uneven. With her guidance and great criticism, I was prepared for a more ambitious, ultimately successful final project. My peers in the class were some of the finest people I have had the chance to work with, and everyone in the class formed a lasting bond together. I will miss them, but I look forward to working professionally with them in the years to come.

On April 11th, my friend Lucas Loredo stayed with me for a week in New York City before he traveled overseas for a semester abroad at Oxford University in England (Lucas is about to finish his third year at Stanford University). The trip marked Lucas’ first time in New York City, and I wanted to show him the best possible time while he was visiting. Among many other adventures, I got us tickets for live tapings of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. It was fascinating to watch the behind-the-scenes production of these great shows, particularly as the television studios were not entirely different from the studios we use for our Sight and Sound: Studio production class. Before the taping, both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert greeted the audience and answered questions from the small crowd. Lucas, always one to rise to the occasion, conversed directly with Mr. Stewart and asked him some fascinating questions.

As Lucas and I reminisced about our glory days as Red Dragon Players at Austin High School (by my count, we were in six plays together under the direction of Mr. Billy Dragoo), I wanted to show him the best theatre that Broadway had to offer. We lucked into some fantastic seats for the infamous Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, which proved to be an enormously entertaining - if not entirely coherent - night of theatre. But the show that really floored us was Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherf**ker With The Hat, starring Bobby Cannavale, Chris Rock and Annabella Sciorra. Lucas and I landed front-row tickets to this extraordinary play, which recently received six Tony Award nominations, including Best Play, Best Director (Anna D. Shapiro) and Best Actor for the devastating performance from Cannavale (who I last saw in the Off-Broadway production of Trust last fall).

During his stay, we also had a chance to walk through Central Park, visit Rockefeller Center and NBC Studios, enjoy ourselves at Lincoln Square, explore Greenwich Village and the NYU area, and make our way through Times Square more than a few times. We saw an NYU student production of No Exit, a French play by Jean-Paul Sartre, which was directed by my good friend and fellow film student Erica Rose (she most recently served as Producer and Assistant Director for my new film, With Love, Marty). She's an incredible talent, and her play was impeccably directed, staged and acted. Lucas also had a chance to be an extra in my friend Morgan Ingari's final Sight and Sound: Studio project, which was a great chance for Lucas to see some of Tisch's great facilities.

The weekend before Lucas arrived, I had the honor of working as Assistant Director for my friend and roommate Bobb Barito's film Lead Me To The Clouds. For the film - a student production outside of class (very similar to my own film that I shot in late April) - Bobb assembled an incredible crew of Tisch students, and we successfully shot his movie over a three-day period at a variety of locations all over the city. Bobb is currently in the post-production stage with the film, simultaneously sound editing both his project and my movie (I am incredibly lucky to work - and live - with somebody who is so brilliant regarding the art of sound mixing and sound editing).

On March 23rd, the Dean’s Scholars were invited to see Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo on Broadway, a brilliant new play by Rajiv Joseph, starring Robin Williams and directed by Moises Kaufman. After the play ended and the audience cleared the theatre, the Dean's Scholars were invited to come to the front of the stage and meet privately with Mr. Williams, who has been a huge supporter of the Tisch School of the Arts. Mr. Williams could not have been more gracious and kind to our small group of scholars, particularly after giving such an arresting and exhaustive performance. The show itself is one of the finest shows I've seen on Broadway yet - a truly incredible piece that unfortunately did not pick up as many Tony nominations as I would have expected. Pictured above is my good friend and fellow Dean's Scholar, Nicole Cobb, and me with Mr. Williams after the show.

The Dean's Scholars program has led to amazing opportunities throughout the semester, and it's resulted in a great sense of community among the students. Professor Chris Chan Roberson and Anita Gupta, the leaders of the program, organized the first ever Dean's Scholars Collaborative Projects in March, where two scholars from different Tisch departments worked together on creative collaborations. This project was largely, to quote Roberson, "designed to capitalize on the interdepartmental tours and scholars meetings" that we have participated in during the school year. Kiah Victoria, a freshman in the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, and I collaborated on a short music video for her song Find Me. Kiah wrote and performed the song, and I filmed the movie, shooting footage of Kiah in Washington Square Park and incorporating one of my silent Sight and Sound: Film projects from last semester into the film. I have posted a link below to our video:

On Thursday, April 28th, I was invited as part of the Dean’s Scholars program to attend the Alec Baldwin Luncheon, where eleven Tisch scholars had an hour-and-a-half lunch with actor and Tisch alum Alec Baldwin in the office of Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell on the 12th Floor of the Tisch Building. Although every student prepared questions for Mr. Baldwin, he was very interested in talking to us about our backgrounds and our passions. Mr. Baldwin has always been a huge supporter of the Tisch School of the Arts, and his incredible career advice was so valuable. Although I asked him a serious question about his career, I also had to tell him that he absolutely owned Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) with only ten minutes of screen time. Mr. Baldwin, of course, modestly replied that nobody should ever try to 'own' a movie, but it's very true - his brilliant supporting roles in films such as Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (2004) and The Departed (2006) are every bit as memorable as his leading roles (I will admit that I took particular pleasure in hearing Mr. Baldwin impersonate Scorsese, and also talking about his experience working with Robert De Niro on various projects, including 2006's The Good Shepherd). Overall, it was an absolutely wonderful experience to sit and have lunch with one of the most respected actors in the film business. Pictured above are the eleven scholars and Mr. Baldwin.

This semester, I produced the Tisch New Theatre mainstage show Last Exit No Toll with my friend and fellow Tisch New Theatre Executive Board Officer Alex Fofonoff. The play, written and directed by sophomore Rachel Music (who previously directed me in her short play Consciousness, for which I received my first Off-Broadway credit), premiered at the historic Kraine Theatre on Wednesday, April 27th and ran for five performances. We were able to use the Kraine Theatre before the nightly performances of the incredibly talented New York Neo-Futurists, who regularly perform their brilliant show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind in the Kraine at 10:00 PM on Friday and Saturday nights. The company of Last Exit No Toll was thrilled to share a performance space with some of New York's most talented artists.

The rehearsal process began in early January, and it was an incredible experience to assist the director and performers with rehearsal space, assemble a technical crew and manage the concerns of the company as a whole as the play slowly came to life. I have to thank my friend and professional partner Alex Fofonoff, who helped me enormously as a first-time producer. In the end, our fundraising efforts (we raised over $1200 for the show with a Kickstarter campaign, from very generous donations from our supporters) and our successful production of the play made us both very proud. Working with the very talented cast and crew was an honor and a privilege. Here is a link to an article the Washington Square News wrote about the production of the play.

This semester has been incredibly productive - I've never felt more at home and surrounded by brilliant, amazing people. I have much more to report, and so I will continue my thoughts and anecdotes in another post in the very near future. In the meantime, I need to continue editing and fine-tuning my new film With Love, Marty - the production that will be the focus of my next entry.

No comments:

Post a Comment