HOW TO START A DRAMA SCHOOL or WRITERS CIRCLE in your living room.
Imagine a COMEDY WORKSHOP in your living room or in a local church basement. Imagine a FREE ACTORS’ CO-OP that you and your show biz oriented pals ran. Among your chums are people that have been to the best, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner or Jack Garfein at the Actors’ Lab. If any of your actor pals have seen a good coach at work, they could lead the group. Actually nobody needs to lead a group. Students can critique one another, just remembering the rule, critique the believability of his choices and not the choices. Nobody is expected to be Stella Adler.
Of course you can invite writers to participate and instead of improves, rehearse their scenes.
The ball will get rolling once you start. HOW TO START? This is so easy. First, I would make a killer flyer. Have graphics of actors if you want to do the actors’ co-op, just Xerox movie stars from PEOPLE MAG. If a writers’ group, Xerox Shakespeare, writers with recognizable faces, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, make a WREATH of faces, then put words in the center. ACTORS GROUP NOW STARTING! Or ATTEND FREE WRITERS’ CO-OP, Have tear offs at bottom with phone, or an EASY WEBSITE or EMAIL.
If you’re handy with PC, you can get better graphics online, B+White, high contrast, create the wreathe, then SET WORDS in there, print your own master, or all the flyers.
PUT these FLYERS at UNIVERSITIES, THEATRE ARTS dept, English
Dept, then at public LIBRARIES across entire town, barrio TOO! Barrio or inner
city writers are frequently GENIUS HOT PISTOLS!
WRITERS are found in USED book stores. They’re usually poor and can’t afford new book stores. LUCKILY used book stores will hang your FLYER! BORDERS won’t! Health food stores have smart clients. NO BOZOS eat health foods! Their bulletin boards are the BEST!
NEXT, the reasons you might want to have such a group? To get everybody in town who loves films, script writing, books or television writing or even cinematography ---together as a team to befriend one another. Did you know CHICAGO had at least four dozen little theatres once? Mostly comedic. These created the BELUSHI epoch.
AS A TEAM, you not only can run a commercial group, by that I mean where people pay, although MAYBE FILMING COMMERCIALS is a great idea, too. See, with such talent you could as a group create an ad hoc ad agency! SHOOT commercials for corporations in town! (That in itself is a script idea!)
What is more, you can all ACT doing roles in those commercials This accomplishes several things: A.) You get the film on yourself, necessary to get real jobs, later. B.) ACTING ON A SET will make you more focused in the future, either when on stage or film, or shooting commercials.
Stanislavsky taught that FOCUS was the most important thing in acting. To have a mind like a lser, focused on the action going on ….on stage. The ability to shut out the audience, to entirely fasten on what is happening in the scene with belief. Your belief produces the audience’s belief. Those kind of horse blinders on the actor would create the “third wall” and would make the actor relaxed, make him MORE himself, -- therefore MORE INTERESTING to watch.
You might also do this to start a FILM LOCATION OFFICE so that when FILMS shoot where you are, you guys can do character bits in the flick. OR A FILM COMMISSION which helps HOLLYWOOD film companies use your area. The Chamber of COMMERCE loves when people do that. You have city hall and all the local hostelry at your feet!
Now, WHEN YOU NEED A DRAMA CLASS, the going rate is 150$ a month for four classes, in L.A. is 175, ... These teachers really STICK it to the hungry wannabes, don't they? Well, if you're in LA or not, let's do ourselves a BIG favor. START YOUR OWN GROUP. SERVE THE COMMUNITY. DO IT OUT OF A LIVING ROOM, TOO. If I lived in LA I'd do it, as I went to classes for years, years on end. So have most of the actors in town around you who NEED the FREE ACTORS' CO-OP, so get them to assemble in your living room. I needed a writing group, I started my own, the L.A. Free Screenwriters' Co-Op. In my living room. I let it be known with an ad in DRAMALOGUE magazine that we were starting this group, and a free ad in some magazine that's in every healthfood store in L.A. can't recall what it is, the WHOLE LIFE JOURNAL or something. Go to WholeFoods and find out what it is. They put your ads in for free if it's a free group. YOU WILL HAVE MORE PEOPLE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE. CALL YOUR group the L.A. FREE ACTORS' CO-OP.
BEFORE you put out flyers, make certain one of your group has a nice sized LIVING ROOM. Everyone leaves their shoes at the door, in the entry hall so the carpets don't get old. Serve punch and cookies. First month or so, do improvs only. You know what an improvisation is? If not, don't worry. The other actors will and you'll be doing it sooner than you imagine.
Then, when 'you're all pals,' start on SCENES FOR ACTORS, you know THE RAINMAKER, OUR TOWN, the usual suspects. $. (You can train the group to be SPY SHOPPERS with the smaller version spy camera or ipod, and they can each make l00$ a day.)
THE GROUP itself plays the part of the teacher and cooperatively 'critiques.' Most of us have been in some drama class and know 'games to play' and what a 'sense memory' exercise is. We do not need a teacher to critique us. The group can usually do it charitably enough. And members of the group will 'show up' who can direct a little. EARLY in the game, remind them, that if you want to be a director one day, help out by directing other actors. Remember the rule, never criticize what they did. Only how they did it, whether believably or not. Whether third wall was up, whether concentration was absolute. And maybe most important, whether the actor was relaxed. OR SEEMED relaxed. And the last….DID HE HAVE ENERGY??
Everything actors know is summed up in four words, concentration, belief, focus, relaxation and ENERGY. The concentration is about focus. Everything comes out of that, the listening, the not being up in your head (a terrified actor who is planning, but a REAL PERSON, really in that situation doing some genuine reacting, genuine feeling. When you concentrate there is no audience, there's a third wall there. There is no camera. Getting free to be alone on stage when there is an audience or a camera is what it's about. so FOCUS is FREEDOM.
NEXT, ENERGY. That's almost totally conferred by diet and exercise. Stars are energetic people. They are healthy. They don't mumble. They're intense, alive. THEY STICK OUT. You can learn to have energy though, and practice SHOWERING the room with energy when you're on stage, and when you get free, you'll learn to work BIGGER. But mostly filmwork or tv doesn't require REAL BIG, energetic work, so don't worry about this one. NEXT, the directors who have video shoot the actors doing scenes they've prepared so you have FILM ON YOURSELF for auditions at studios. Directors want to see you on film. They can't imagine what you're like just in person so FILM is good. Video is super cheap too. So these are things we can create, do practice and all without paying $175 a month to some coach.
INSTEAD use your hard earned money for good B&w headshots, photographs, If you don't have to work so hard and long earning $175, right away you free up some time and money to go to agents, to get signed. Then the interviews come. If you're in LA.
In another city, you could even start a FILM BUREAU and let all the studios know what your town looks like, so they can use it on locations. Digital graphics of the rocks in forest, the river, the factory, every salient feature.
GETTING UP AND FUNCTIONING with VIDEO could lead to doing a student film. Here are some NOTES ON using VIDEO from SONY 'STYLE' MAGAZINE. Sept l999 issue. Condensation of the article. "German documentary maker Ulrike Koch shot SALTMEN OF TIBET in 1996. It was filmed on a SONY DCR-VX 1000, the first digital video camcorder, edited on a desk top computer and transferred to 35mm for theatrical release. Director Koch was able to shoot with only three other people on the crew, check the sound and image by simply playing back tape. Cost was not a problem.
Small size, weight was a help in TIBETAN locales. Philip Dolin has done music videos, just did B MOVIE using VX 1000. A tale of two park rangers who find a Hippie Community. 12 days, l7k cost. DV is fast, too.
Bennett Miller used one for THE CRUISE, showed it LA INdie film festival, and got distribution. Camcorder gives flick an intense, graphic quality, Director said "I over-exposed back (fill?) adjusted aperture on camera, enhanced contrast to emphasize effect. (Edges of this article are torn, as I ripped it out of a magazine that I didn't buy. I destroyed COVER so no one else would buy it, either.
Danish director Thomas Vintererg did THE CELEBRATION with a SONY DCR PC7, pocket size predessor to today's PC1. Budget 1 million. Star Wars Episode 1 utilized some DV. Karen Weissman did 'LOVE IS DEAD, a low budget zombie movie with VX 1000. Lance Weiler and Stefan Avalos did LAST BROADCAST, with a VX 1000 and with a 50$ Tyco child's video camera. This can be viewed at http://www.tebweb.com/lastbroadcast/ Weiler was asked to re-do it on film and refused.
A basic set up for an hour of film is SONY DSR-PD100 DVCAM camcorder for 3k, an hour of profes. DV tape, 30$, desk top computer, editing software, 7k, then transferring the final edited video to 35mm is the studio's cost, maybe 40k. l0k is artist's cost to make the video film. Never worry about transferring it to 35mm film, it's the studio's cost. They buy your film, they do it.
COST OF VIDEO SET UPS. Cameras. PD 1000 is 3k, VX 1000 is 4k.
Last, when we started THE LOS ANGELES FREE SCREENWRITERS' CO-OP we advertised it in freebie ads as "the place where you will learn "How Absolutely Anybody Can Write and Produce a Movie EVEN IF you THINK you CAN'T WRITE!" (Today, I’d have put this ad at CRAIGS LIST!)
Ad said " Attend one meeting and you will be convinced. Meetings are inspirational. They will show you that you can write and sell. Meetings will keep you at it. These are an "O.A. meetings for screenwriters" where you will meet writers who persevered and made it, struggling artists like yourself.
WRITERS on every step of the ladder visit THE WRITERS' CO-OP as guest speakers. There are execs from the business: Baby moguls, agents, studio execs, famous screenwriters, D-girls as well as beginners just like your who've wedged one foot in the door and who are starting their climb. From all of these 'experts' you'll get tips on how to start, and how to persevere, ways others have made it, tricks, tips and industry needs NOW.
THE WRITERS' CO-OP teaches the 'Writing from the Unconscious Method' that does not require great knowledge of the so-called 'craft' of writing.
The CO-OP members are conversant with film. Everybody has seen a million movies. Everybody unconsciously knows what the film media requires of us, and what a movie plot entails. What we teach is HOW YOU CAN pull an interesting, convoluted PLOT from your own unconscious in one session. The techniques are part psycho-dynamic, part metaphysical, and easy to learn. See, we believe a great film story is in there. IN YOUR UNCONSCIOUS. You just have to know a few, easy techniques for drawing it out in sequential fashion.
THE WRITER'S CO-OP teaches producing, too. Yes. As you wrote that maga opus, you own the script's rights & YOU can be included in the studio deal with an on screen credit as PRODUCER and producer's fees on top of your script's sale price. And, if you turn out good scripts regularly you could get yourself a production deal with a major studio. Studios have learned that 'the play's the thing. So don't think there are limits on what you can do. There are not. So ask yourself, do you think you're feeling lucky?" We got loads of people. Then we started our own “LITERARY AGENCY”, and got the HOLLYWOOD FILM COMMUNITY book, with a list of every studio, indie prod in LA and NYC. And we submitted scripts to studios and books to publishers. We found 99% of the studios would read scripts we submitted without considering if we had a bonded agency. WE COULD get submissions in. They were that hungry to read every script in town!
THERE IS POWER IN NUMBERS. SO get
those flyers out at libraries, used book stores, on craigs list. Create your
ARMY! Orson Welles did this (Mercury Theatre) and it worked for HIM!
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