I work as Entertainment Journalist. Check out a couple of my stories…
In his gently, soul rocking, directorial debut titled Jack Goes Boating, Philip Seymour Hoffman shares a story about the silence, strain, and sometimes magically secure sides of long-term relationships.
“It’s a gut movie,” Philip Seymour Hoffman says about the film, which he also stared in along side acting mavericks Amy Ryan, John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega.
The movie “started as a play that myself, John and Daphne were in,” says Philip. “People talked about it being very cinematic and the group of us decided to take it on as a film.”
The entire cast has “known each other a while,” Philip shares. “My relationship goes back with Amy twelve years. We did one act plays together. John and I have known each other since I was twenty-five. Daphne and I have known each other almost that long.”
Having a long-term relationship with the cast helped Philip transform this film into something compellingly fresh and different from the play that ran at the LAByrinth Theater Company in New York City.
“We rehearsed a lot but the history helps,” says Philip. “I honestly did think ‘let us be us around each other’ and we were. You see that in the movie. The things that are happening in the movie are real. A lot of things we say to each other in the film we mean. That’s why when Daphne lets loose the demon of resentment it was so hard. There is a lot of history but it’s good to let the history be and not let it get in the way.”
After all, “this is really not a play, this is a film. We worked really hard to make it that way, and I’m happy about where we got.” Philip says. “What came out of it was a whole use of visualization. If you can see it, there is a possibility you can do it. That influenced a lot of what you see in the film.”
Under the influence of Philip’s direction, Daphne Rubin-Vega says, “we trusted him implicitly. It came easily to know that he could see what I couldn’t see. I was too busy trying to be, I couldn’t judge it, and he was the best dude that could make that happen.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman helped make the film happen but he, “didn’t direct the play,” John Ortiz explains. Having a new director helped John with “making it new, being in the moment, not in a rhythm, trusting and being specific.”
“I couldn’t coast on something I fell in love with in the play,” John says. “I had to do something different. And Philip is in my face. He’s acting with me so he could see” the difference.
Though the cast benefited from Philip’s keen eye, he had no direction other than himself. “Where was my input? Where as my director?” Philip reflects. “He wasn’t there. I’m not very good at directing myself. No one should be. Acting is much more difficult than directing. Acting is a very vulnerable thing and it’s illusive because it’s subjective. You can’t watch yourself. You have to have someone outside. So, I basically drove everyone crazy. I would walk back and ask… anything? Any money? I did rely on everyone and their input.”
Philip also relied on his tried and true acting instincts. To create his character he tapped into “normal fears and insecurities, the overwhelming life that everyone kind of knows.”
“I just had to be honest about what those things were,” Philips says, “and bring them forth in a way that I don’t bring them forth in life but the character does.”
Bringing forth his vulnerable side posed a challenge for Philip in “the scenes with Amy” where his character, “Jack, was most helpless, powerless to what was happening to him.” Because, “as a director you’re in control, you’re a leader, you’re trying to be strong. To go from that to a place of helplessness,” took added focus.
“There were days when I was more agitated and thank god it was with Amy,” Philip admits. “Because literally she is beautiful and I would just sit there and just look at her, listen to her, take that in, and think ‘what is this?’ Then the powerless would start to come. I would forget that I had to watch anything. But those things were difficult. Definitely the trickiest.”
Trickiness aside, Jack Goes Boating succeeds at plotting a course through both heart and mind. It received a standing ovation at the Eccles Theatre in Park City, Utah, making the directorial debut another solid testament to the talented vessel that is… Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Written by: Kelly Calabrese
My definition of bliss? Watching Michael C. Hall perform in, well… anything! As an actor, he has a way of conveying many layers with a subtle yet dynamic energy. And in his latest film, The Trouble with Bliss, Michael once again delivers acting perfection.
The Trouble with Bliss, Written and Directed by Michael Knowles, tells the story of a guy in his mid-thirties, Morris Bliss (Michael C. Hall), who watches as his life comically unravels after he enters into a relationship with the daughter of a former high school classmate.
The film, also staring Brie Larson, Brad William Henke, Peter Fonda, Chris Messina and Lucy Liu, shot in New York and opens in theatres March 23rd. So go see it!
Until then, NYCastings has a treat for you. An inside glimpse into the mind of Michael C. Hall’s award-winning acting choices.
I am thrilled to present, my conversation with Michael C. Hall…
Q: You have the ability to make seemingly unlikeable characters very likeable – how do you approach these roles to make them so relatable?
I don’t have in front of my mind some desire to make a character likable. My focus is more on why they do the things they do, or why they don’t in Morris’s case. With a character like Morris, I spent some time thinking about what has kept him in a place of suspended animation, has kept him from moving forward with his life. I think the script, how the story exists, has a great deal to do with letting the audience in.
I certainly cherish the opportunity to play a part that maybe I wouldn’t be the first person on a list for. Someone who is notable just because of how unspectacular he is. I think he has potential, and I think we are lead to believe that as well. But he is, on paper, not notable in any way. Not easily capable or afflicted. After spending so much time playing this hero- esque serial killer, it is nice to step into his sort of humdrum shoes.
Q: How did the casting come about for this project? I didn’t see any credits.
I was initially sent the script by a woman named Carolyn Corbett who I went to grad school with at NYU. She is, among other things, a documentary filmmaker. She had made a film that Michael Knowles edited and she had seen the script. She spoke to him about my reading it and got in touch with me. That is how I came to see the script and I read it without any sense of who might be in it and was just really taken with the character and the story.
Q: You have a very calm presence on camera, yet still conveying a lot of energy. How can actors bring out that type of subtly engaging dynamic?
The more you know, the less you have to show – either in your head, or in your heart, or in your gut. There is a Michael Caine book, Acting in Film, that is a great book to read for anyone whowill be in front of the camera. He says to just fall back and the camera will catch you. And it’s amazing what it will capture. Sometimes the more you put out there, the less you communicate. It is a tricky thing – allowing whatever is happening inside you, just tolerating that percolation without suppressing it or overtly releasing it. Allowing that humming bird to flutter.
Q: The film shot in New York, how does the location of a film affect your character or choices?
Well, I lived in the East village. I lived on East 5th street and Avenue B, just a couple of blocks from where Morris lives. And that felt kind of serendipitous and exciting. And I was in New York at a time when I had very little money and didn’t know what the future held. I had a focus that Morris didn’t in terms of my desire to make things happen for myself as an actor, but I knew what it was like to wander the streets of the East village and feel invisible. To feel as if I were a part of the organism that is New York but also lost in the greater sense of it. I could certainly draw on that. And it is so wonderful to shoot on location in New York. So much of your work is done for you. It is the best set.
Q: This movie is a coming of age story about a man who should have come of age a long time ago. Is there anything that you’ve learned recently as an actor that you wish you learned a long time ago?
I wouldn’t say there is anything I wish I learned a long time ago, as so much as there are things that I am grateful to continue to discover. And I’m hopeful that this career and work is one that facilitates a sense of continuous discovery. That is what I love about it. And usually, if I learn something, I am just happy to have learned it. I am not kicking myself for not having learned it before.
Q: In the film, Morris, puts up defensive walls in response to tragedies that have happened to him. How do you channel your own tough times in life to breathe real life and dimension into a character?
Oh gosh. I tend to believe that roles and characters and projects come along at a time when they should. There is something that the script, or material, is encouraging you to investigate in your own unconscious or conscious world. I always try and look for that. Morris is in a way very un-active, yet as an actor you want to find something that is there. I think he is activated in the sense of waiting and being open to the possibility of something. And we meet him at a time in the movie where things, as dicey and nuts as they are, start happening in his world and he is there for it.
Q: Did you bring yourself into the role of Morris?
I work from the inside out and the outside in. I don’t have any hard and fast rules as to how to approach playing a character. I think some things work for some characters and some things work for others. Morris was someone I certainly considered in terms of his backstory and parallels that I could draw between his life and my own. But I will also admit that when I put on that blue jacket in the costume fitting that gave me as much sense as any as to who the guy was. Sometimes, it can be something that simple.
It can be a very competitive environment, or proposition, to try and make things happen for yourself as an actor. But the things that I’ve learned are from the people I’ve worked with, who have shared that sacred space that exists between actors. I’ve certainly learned from John Lithgow, from people who I went to grad school with and I learned from the audience when I did Caberet. I learned how to think of them and let them think of me in an open and loving way, a way that I maybe never was forced to do. That certainly was a learning experience for me. Up until that point I had never been forced or invited to consider my relationship with the audience. They had all been behind that fourth wall and it was a great lesson for me to have to make that wall go away and cultivate a more open and loving relationship with them.
Q: Any advice to pass on to actors?
You’ve got to be wearing a suit of armor but have a liquid heart and soul. If you can manage to cultivate both, then maybe you can survive.
Q: As an actor, what aspects of the craft give you the most trouble and which the most bliss?
There are unique challenges with each role and each task or assignment and sometimes it’s the relationship, or scene, or line, or moment that is the most daunting and struggling initially that turns out to be the place where the real bliss is made. Sometimes, the trouble and the bliss are one and the same.
You know the deal…. You’re palms sweat. Your heart revs. Your inner critic begins to judge at supersonic speeds! And it all happens as you step foot into that audition room. The experience is beyond nerve wracking – it’s an absolute career hazard. So take in a deep breath and get ready to change the way you approach this unavoidable process.
Here are 5 tips for taming that viscous advisory called FEAR at auditions from:
1. DO THE WORK BEFOREHAND
Actor Ingrid Haas has some dead-on right advice. When it comes to calming fears, Ingrid share…
This is a great question. I am doing something different this time around. I have struggled with fear my whole life. I can’t get out of my head. I am always worried about what they are thinking. Do they like me? All of my insecurities bubble up. I consider myself a fairly confident person, but sometimes I get into a room and I am a deer in a headlight. Either I am not talking, or I am overcompensating as the most confident person I have ever been. So really, what I am still working with is trying to center myself and do the work.
If I get the script the night before it might not be enough time, but I am going to focus and do the work. I am going to memorize those lines until I can’t memorize them anymore. I am going to think a lot about the character. And when I go into the room, I am going to trust that I did the work and trust that I can show them what I can do.
What they are looking for might not be me, but all I can offer them is me. So that’s what I do to calm fears. I focus. I know what I am going to do. I know I can do it well. And it might not be want they want, but I am going to do it and have fun.
I am really working on enjoying the audition process and thinking that I am getting to act, which is what I love to do. You never know if people like what you are doing, so just have fun doing what you love.
About Ingrid Haas
Ingrid graduated from Ryerson Theatre School (BFA) & Claude Watson School for the Arts. She is founding member of Charity & Chastity, a comedic duo that sings wicked naughty humor. She played Lady Anne (Richard III), The Duchess (The Duchess of Malfi), Theresa (Brendan Behan’s The Hostage) & Paulina (Jason Sherman’s Enemies). And, Ingrid recently appeared at Sundance 2014 with the premier of her latest flick DEAD SNOW; RED VS. DEAD.
2. TAKE IMPROV CLASSES
Keeping on the dead-on right advice track, actor Jocelyn DeBoer tells us…
When I first moved to New York, I was really nervous at auditions. My legs would shake. And what changed that for me was when I started doing Upright Citizens Brigade. I started performing improv and sketches all the time. After doing so many live performances, and getting scripts the night before you go up, and getting thrown into it – after doing years of that – auditioning became this wonderful thing. I get the scripts two or three days before. They are only 2 pages or 7 pages at the most. And I can actually prepare for them.
I highly recommend getting out there in front of a live audience. In acting school, in my training, we worked a lot on Meisner and other methods that try to get you in the moment. They try to get you to listen and plan on your feet, and that’s hard to do as young actors – especially those who came up through Community Theater and performed in a vacuum. Improv places do an amazing job at zeroing in on that one thing that you have so much trouble with in acting class.
Improv places you in the moment. You are so much faster, and you are listening all the time. You know how to listen and react on your feet. You agree to give up control. You can’t be in control when you are improvising, and that is such good training. I used to plan out every blink in my work, and that isn’t good. Now I feel like improv has broken me from that.
ABOUT Jocelyn DeBoer
Jocelyn is originally from Illinois where she completed Second City’s training program and graduated from the University of Illinois with a BFA in Acting. She is a regular performer of both sketch and improv at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and has been featured in sketches on Inside Amy Schumer (2013) and The Late Show With David Letterman (2013) as well as several CollegeHumor Originals. Jocelyn stars in the popular comedy series “That Couple You Know” on Lorne Michael’s Above Average. And she recently attended Sundance 2014 with Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead.
Thanks Jocelyn. That will help!
3. BE THE CHARACTER, NOT YOURSELF
actor Joseph Julian Soria shares…
The nerves are usually there to some degree, just because I really care. I like to walk in as the character if possible to help me stay focused. I think Brian Cranston said it best. (I’m paraphrasing here) “Don’t focus on getting the job but just focus on the opportunity to do what you love.” Basically, don’t look for an outcome, just perform and give your take on the character. The truth is the reason we get nervous is because we aren’t focused on the work but the outcome. Focus on the work.
About Joseph Julian Soria
Joseph is proving that he possesses the talent, energy and experience to bring memorable characters to life on the small and silver screen. Most recently, Soria was bumped up as a series regular on Lifetime’s top rated series, “Army Wives,” so this year, he continues his role as Private First Class “Hector Cruz.” Although often cast as the bad boy, Soria has proven to have the chops to conquer many other roles, including comedic characters. His latest film Camp X-Ray, premiered at Sundance.
4. IGNORE THE PEOPLE IN THE ROOM
Agreeing that you need to get your mind strait is actor Orlando Jones who believes…
It is not about the person in the room. So my tip is to ignore them. Your best is going to change from day to day, so all you have to give is your best in the moment. So give that. The audition process is about so many things that have nothing to do with you in terms of whether you get the job. They are not rejecting you, there are a million other conversations going on. So realize that as much as that moment is about you, it is also not about you. So be the best you can in that moment and then let the chips fall as they may. And enjoy the opportunity to do your craft. The toughest part is getting the job, so enjoy doing this part of the job.
It is very difficult to say what will bring a role home. For me it is about staying focused on what I want to achieve with the character, while still maintaining the ability to be flexible in the moment.
About Orlando Jones
Orlando is a comedian and film and television actor. He is notable for being one of the original cast members of the sketch comedy series MADtv and for his role as the 7 Upspokesman, and his work on Sleepy Hollow. Recently, Orlando spoke eloquently about the art of acting at aTVfest.
5. HAVE FUN!
Speaking of being in them moment, Emily Bett Rickards shares…
About Emily Bett Rickards
Canadian actress Emily Bett Rickards attended film school after graduating high school, and also attended Alida Vocal Studio. She is known for roles such as Felicity Smoak on the CW network’s Arrow, and Lauren Phillips in Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story. Recently, Emily spoke about her love of acting at aTVfest.