Narrative Slices: My weekend shooting Actor Demos with Peter Skagen
One of the challenges of shooting short or feature length films is having to maintain a constant, prolonged focus of all the details across multiple scenes: all those continuity notes, consistent lighting on each location, situational limitations, and the like. What if you were to strip away 95% of the story, of the characters, of the locations, and be left with a single scene or even a moment of story to tell in a minute or less?
That's what I got shooting this past weekend: actor demo scenes, where the name of the game was making new and emerging actors shine in minute sized chunks to help them build out their demo reels.
Peter Skagen is a veteran actor of stage and screen with over 40 credits on IMDb. I first met him at a CSIF hangout, and then later was invited to partake in his weekend acting workshop "Audition Hell" with Scarlett. I was mostly there to listen and support my fiancee, but I absolutely found his lessons and techniques 100% authentic and practical. For a guy who has serious hangups about his own acting ability, I have to say I enjoyed getting up in front of the class under his guidance.
In addition to the weekend course (which he also teaches in Vancouver), he also offers his students an acting demo reel service where he will film and direct them performing scenes (either existing scenes from films or brand new material he writes exclusively for the actor). Peter and I got to know each other a bit more and I expressed how I was missing the fun of shooting narrative content (having been knee deep in more corporate and commercial type shooting and editing- not to say that kind of content is a bore, but narrative film making has always been the true passion for this guy). One thing lead to another, and there I was driving my Rav4 (stuffed window to window with my gear- not recommended !) over to Peter's Air BnB to film the first of TWENTY-TWO scenes over the course of 3 days.
I met some fantastic actors along the way - Brendan, Ryan, Gloria, Alex, Eemaan, Amanda, Marc, Christian, Amelia, David, Chegis, William "Bud" Klasky, Anthony, Manis, Laila, and Ainsley. The crew we had- Nick, Michael, Jonnie and Alex- were true gladiators filled with determination. 22 scenes over 3 days is a bit nuts, even given the short length of these scenes. It's the kind of scenario that can quickly fall apart without a certain level of grit, good humor, technical skill (or, even more importantly, the ability to pick up skills quickly) and **patience**. I was preparing myself to defuse any tempers that could have run hot (and that includes my own) , but it was a pleasant relief when it became apparent everyone had the same vibe; they truly wanted to be there and create
The standout location of this shoot, without question, was the incredible Pink Apartment which you can check out on instagram here . How do I describe this place in simplest terms? I'll try: an enchanting bubblegum oasis with cheeky gothic overtones (...best that I could do Alice!) . Stepping into this apartment was to step into another world! Every color in the apartment ranged from hot pink to lavender purple, dozens of colorful dolls evoking childhood playfulness, and the artwork (almost all of it painted by the owner) just tied together this amazing feminine energy. Just a really impressive achievement. The location paired perfectly with a fun adaptation of a Scream Queens scene starring Laila Blue - and it was the last scene we shot on this weekend.
There's a big job to be done this week in editing all of these scenes together. I think my favourite parts of editing are finding the rhythms of conversations, and color correction + grading. There's a lot to do but I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to get a sizzle reel featuring our favourite parts cut first so Peter can put that out into the interwebs to attract some new acting students. Overall, it was a very satisfying weekend, one of the best shoots I've had in a while.
All this talk of pink saturation and feminine playfulness reminds me that I just checked out Barbie the other day with Scarlett, and I've just now realized that I didn't compare the Pink Apt to Barbie once.