Sunday, March 11, 2012

That Her Face, At First Just Ghostly, Turned A Whiter Shade of Pale

Although I still have many things to report from my fall semester and winter break, I want to write a little bit about my spring semester thus far. Starting in January, I have been interning at Martin Scorsese's office, Sikelia Productions, which is nothing short of a dream come true for me. If you know me, then you know that Mr. Scorsese has been my hero since I was eleven years old. In my review of Hugo, I wrote: "I await a new Scorsese movie the same way some anticipate a sort of religious experience. His work is such a fundamentally important part of my life that there are times when I don't know how much I originally found similarities between my personal demons and Scorsese's work, and how much Scorsese's work ultimately influenced my behavior." In short, it has been the honor of a lifetime to work at his office this semester. Here's a link to a recent CBS News look inside Mr. Scorsese's office.

In February, I auditioned for and was subsequently cast in Tisch New Theatre's Spring Mainstage production of Alan Ayckbourn's Round and Round the Garden. I have written in many previous posts about my enormous love for this play, as I starred in Austin High School's 2007 UIL One-Act Play production of Round and Round the Garden as Norman, and the other cast members in that production became some of my best friends to this day (including Lucas Loredo and Cora Walters). That production of Round and Round the Garden advanced to the Texas State Championship (the first Austin High production to do so in eighteen years), and along the way, I was named Best Actor at the Zone, District and Area competitions, and won All-Star Cast awards at the Regional and State competitions. Out of the twenty-three plays in which I performed at Austin High, Round and Round the Garden will always remain closest to my heart.

I am incredibly excited for this new production, in which I am playing Reg. The other five cast members are brilliant performers, and our director, Daniel Hasse, is doing a fantastic job. The performance dates for Round and Round the Garden are April 5th, 6th and 7th at 7:30 PM at the historic Kraine Theatre in the East Village (last year, my friend Alexander Fofonoff and I produced Tisch New Theatre's Spring Mainstage production of Last Exit No Toll at the Kraine, and so it is nice to return to a familiar stage). Last semester, Daniel starred in my Intermediate Narrative film The Wheels; now the tables have turned, and he is directing me.

Tisch New Theatre recently put up our IndieGoGo fundraising page for Round and Round the Garden, and I highly encourage you to contribute to this fantastic production if you can! Here is the link to the IndieGoGo page, as well as our promotional video:

Finally, after one final ADR session last Friday, my Intermediate Narrative film The Wheels is completely finished. I sent the following update to my wonderful IndieGoGo contributors just a few weeks ago regarding the current status of the film:

Dear Contributors,

It’s been about three months since my crew and I finished shooting The Wheels, and now, the final film is nearly complete. I wanted to update all of you regarding its production status as my team and I head into the final leg of post-production.

About two weeks ago, my cinematographer Benjamin Dewey began color-correcting the film in a finishing suite at Tisch. After fine-tuning the colors over the course of several evenings, Ben succeeded in giving the picture a haunting, faded look, similar to that of an old photograph or a distant memory. I sat in on the process and watched as Ben worked his magic, and I feel so lucky to have him and so many talented others working on this project.

After the color-correction process, Ben helped design the closing titles to the film. We are meeting for a final time tomorrow evening to tweak some small picture details in After Effects. Ben recently posted his new Cinematography Reel for Fall 2011, and it includes some color-corrected footage from The Wheels. If you have a chance, make sure to watch his reel below, which features clips from many outstanding projects that he shot last semester (including The Wheels). Here is Ben's reel:

Ben is also currently working on the poster for The Wheels (he created a beautiful poster for my last film, With Love, Marty). As soon as the poster for The Wheels is completed, I will send the image out to all of you.

My roommate, good friend and sound designer extraordinaire Bobb Barito is currently putting the finishing touches on the sound design, and his work is extraordinary. Once that is completed, The Wheels will be entirely finished. Once again, thank you all so much for your support of this project – it means the world to me, and my wonderful crew and I would not have had the opportunity to make this movie if it were not for your generosity. I very much look forward to showing you the final film.


Jack Kyser

My classes this semester are absolutely amazing. My favorite class is Directing the Actor, as my professor is Rebecca Miller, the acclaimed writer and director of The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005) and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), wife of Daniel Day-Lewis, and daughter of Arthur Miller. I was hoping more than anything to have Mrs. Miller as my directing professor, and she is an outstanding teacher. Two weeks ago, I directed a scene from Michael Mann's The Insider in front of Mrs. Miller and my Directing the Actor class, which was a thrilling experience. Her comments and criticism of my direction were invaluable, and the two actors I cast in the scene were enormously talented.

I am also taking Developing the Screenplay, a wonderful screenwriting class taught by the great writer Ken Dancyger. He's a brilliant professor, and, after pitching my feature screenplay in front of the class and meeting with him privately, I feel motivated and energized to continue writing my feature script. My other classes include Intermediate Editing, where I am editing Ben Dewey's Intermediate Narrative film Quitting (I was also the Assistant Director on that film last semester) on AVID; Introduction to Performance Studies; and History of Modern Ireland, a class at NYU's Glucksman Ireland House.

I have served as Assistant Director on two projects so far this semester. Most recently, I was the Assistant Director for my friend Nicole Cobb's Intermediate Experimental film Athanasia's Waltz, one of the best projects I've had the privilege to work on. After weeks of location scouting in Red Hook and across Brooklyn, as well as sitting in on rehearsals with Nicole and her two very talented actors, the picture was shot last weekend in Brooklyn with an incredibly supportive crew. As soon as I receive the production stills from the set, I will post them on this blog. In the meantime, here is a link to the page for Athanasia's Waltz on Nicole's website.

I also worked as Assistant Director for Ben's Intermediate Short Commercial Form project Don't Try This At Home in late February, with a small crew that included Ben, Bobb and Jon Annunziata. On the last day of February, I presented my Dean's Scholars Collaborative Project to the Tisch Dean's Scholars, where I collaborated on a small project with another film major and a photography student. That incredible program, to which I devoted an entire post earlier this year, has some amazing events lined up for this semester that I will share in the coming weeks.

With regard to this year's Academy Awards - first of all, I was ecstatic on the morning of the Oscar nominations, as Hugo led with eleven nominations, and both The Tree of Life and Terrence Malick were nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, respectively. Yes, there were many omissions (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Margaret, Take Shelter, Shame and Young Adult were completely ignored), but the triumph for Hugo lifted my spirits - at least until the Oscar ceremony.

My heart was a little broken this time last year, when David Fincher and The Social Network lost their Oscars to a less deserving picture. But this year was much worse. I hadn't been this close to the Oscar race since 2007, when Scorsese won his first Best Director Oscar for The Departed. There is no question that Scorsese deserved this year's Oscar - not simply because he has a long history of losing to inferior films, but because he made the best film of the year, Hugo. Although I was very happy to see Hugo win richly-deserved Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects, nothing stings as badly as watching the most deserving film lose the top awards - particularly when it loses them to a charming and inoffensive silent picture that appeals mainly to people who haven't seen many silent films. Oh, well - history will be the judge. The Artist joins Dances with Wolves, Ordinary People, Chicago and Rocky. Hugo, meanwhile, joins Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Gangs of New York and The Aviator.

Additionally, for the second year in a row, many performers who deserved to win the Best Actor Oscar (Leonardo DiCaprio for J. Edgar, Michael Shannon for Take Shelter, Michael Fassbender for Shame) were not even nominated. Meanwhile, the extraordinary performances that were nominated (Brad Pitt for Moneyball, Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, George Clooney for The Descendants) failed to win the Oscar. On a positive note, I was very happy that Christopher Plummer, Woody Allen and Alexander Payne all received Academy Awards.

I have seen several films since I returned to New York City, including two outstanding holdovers from 2011 - Asghar Farhadi's A Separation, which deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus, a brilliant and brutal Shakespeare adaptation with incredible performances from Fiennes, Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave, who unquestionably should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars. New 2012 releases that I have admired include Paul Weitz's Being Flynn, with an unforgettable performance from our finest living actor, Robert De Niro (a performance that will hopefully result in an Oscar nomination for De Niro, after his astounding recent work in Stone and Everybody's Fine went overlooked); David Wain's ferociously funny Wanderlust, delightfully full of that unmistakable Wain humor (the best bit, besides an outrageously funny mirror-monologue from Paul Rudd, is a morning news show with Wain, Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black doing their thing); and Tony Kaye's Detachment, an immensely powerful film with an excellent lead performance from Adrien Brody. Note: Michael Showalter is a professor at the Tisch Schools of the Arts, and when I see him at Tisch, it's hard not to express my enthusiasm for his work, from the brilliant Wet Hot American Summer to his appearance in Wanderlust - so, instead, I'll express my love here. Mr. Showalter, you are a comic genius.

Finally, here's a comedy short for which I served as Assistant Director last semester - Surprise! - from the new sketch comedy group Unlikely Allies. My friend Mike Cheslik directed the short, and Bobb did the sound - take a look!

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