You Are Responsible For What You Create

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Creativity, art, storytelling and cinematography  is a fascinating world with seemingly no limits. It can heal, harden or soften hearts in ways nothing else can. With this ability comes great responsibility.

CREATIVE FREEDOM

Most of us are fortunate enough to be allowed to create whatever we want. As wonderful as it is, it also creates the potential for danger and room for abuse. Hence the stigma of artists seeing themselves as above society’s rules and seeing no need to abide by them.

This entitlement for creative expression is often a breeding ground for selfishness and not of use to anyone. The options for artists to create are limitless and should by all means be explored, because it can simultaneously be a breeding ground for beauty.

MANUFACTURING CULTURE

Creative freedom shapes a culture and its humanity. One could almost say artists manufacture culture, because they help define cultural attitudes.  Art, (in this case film), is the most accessible form of art and is not exclusive to certain social classes or ages.

There are countless movies which have impacted society and led to a change of law, culture or perspective. To name a few, after the release of Fatal Attraction, divorce rates dramatically decreased, Anti-interracial laws were abolished at the release of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Philadelphia provided a platform to discuss the taboo subject of HIV/AIDS, and the Star Wars saga was undoubtedly a contributor to popular culture.

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OUR RESPONSIBILITY

And as present and future culture manufacturers, we have a responsibility towards our audience for what we create. Don’t simply create something without taking its consequences into consideration.

Filmmaking is hard work. And if you’re already putting so much effort and work into it, why not make it about something that will contribute to the betterment of humanity? Think about what your story promotes.

NO COMPROMISES

I’m not advocating you push for a certain message, because then your art becomes manipulative and self-promoting. It’s not your responsibility to change the whole world or create something which is forced. By all means, don’t produce something that is not genuine. Don’t compromise your uniqueness, but ask yourself if your uniqueness is being used to edify your audience.

MY PERSONAL INSPIRATION

A wonderful example of someone who has a great balance of art, personality, edification and truthfulness is Taika Waititi, director of Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilder People and  and most recently Thor: Ragnarok.

Waititi doesn’t apologize for who he is, but he doesn’t use his uniqueness to prove himself to anyone either. His stories are relatable and humorous, but they carry so much emotional weight. It doesn’t feel like he is trying to push a message on his audience, but they are left with food for thought, or at least a softened heart.

CONCLUSION

Your viewers are responsible for what they take away from the movie as well. But you’re still responsible for what your audience gets to see.

It is a great gift to create, and I admire everyone who is bold enough to create and vulnerable enough to show it to others – but, just be aware what your audience is left with when they go home after having seen your film.

You have the power to be an inspiration – whether is it temporary or long term – so let it move your audience to contribute to the betterment of humanity, no matter how big or small.

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Check Your Heart: How Do You Celebrate The Victory Of Others?

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Being an actor simultaneously requires extreme vulnerability and an extremely thick skin. When auditioning for roles, you’re the product you’re promoting, and so it’s easy to take rejection personally and evaluate yourself against the other candidates.

This in turn, will make room for discouragement and comparison and ultimately transform into resentment and bitterness – not a place you want to get into, for your own sake and for the sake of others.

Because of this, it is important you continually check your heart and motives. A good way to check if you’re heading in the right direction is asking yourself the question:

Am I able to genuinely celebrate other people’s (or, in this case, actors’) successes?

We all know envy is not a positive virtue. Once it takes hold of you, it spreads like cancer. If you need a visual reminder, watch Amadeus and look at the effect envy has on Antonio Salieri’s character.

I can’t promise you its absence will be a guarantee for a successful acting career, but what I can promise is it’s necessary for the sake of your own heart and creative life.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

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At the end of the day, you’re responsible for your own heart and actions. And as an actor you don’t want to numb your sensitivity through subtle jealousy.

I find the art of acting and creative storytelling so beautiful, delicate and precious. If done well, actors can change and heal the hearts of their audiences through their own vulnerability and honesty. They can explore, challenge and reform humanity like no other artform.

What I find inspiring about films and plays, is the teamwork it requires to realize a vision. The entertainment industry is all about teamwork and that is, in my opinion, what life is all about. Realizing dreams together through community, cooperation and relationship with one another.

This requires humility and choosing to love one another even if we don’t feel like it, celebrating one another’s successes and being united in an attempt to make this often cruel world a bit better.

I’d encourage you to be on guard against feelings of resentment and jealousy, even if they seem subtle and take action on your behalf to combat it with love and turning it into a motivation to pursue more excellence in your own creative craft.

 

You don’t want life to be easy – trust me!

BY ANNETTE LANGE

If actors didn’t struggle, they wouldn’t be able to represent the human race. I came across an interview by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation with Matt Damon in which he recounted his early endeavours with Ben Affleck to pursue an acting career.

After having no place to stay, “Ben showed up […] and that was when we were really running out of money. He was on our couch and […] he didn’t fit […] and all this shit was in our living room […], so we got really serious about writing. And that was the place where we sold the script [of Good Will Hunting].”

This was also the script that then won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Their sticky situation was a blessing in disguise for them and ultimately for us who watch Good Will Hunting and get an opportunity to understand characters like Will and Sean.

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All aspiring actors and creatives risk poverty and uncertainty when they choose to pursue acting/art/writing professionally. When successful actors are interviewed, it’s almost a guarantee they’ll be asked about odd jobs they had in the past to make ends meet.

I love to hear those stories. First of all, they’re hilarious. Second of all, it takes them off the pedestal I automatically put them on. Experiences I can identify with bridge the gap fame creates between celebrities and myself. It gives me hope. A hope to create something I never deemed possible.

A career in the film industry is hard – no doubt about it. It’s unpredictable, financially insecure and you will face rejection, criticism or concern from your family and friends. It’s highly possible you’ll have to defend your choice again and again and continually choose not to give up – the battle in the mind seems unending.

But, that being said, I am so glad this is the case… in theory more than practice…

However, times of desperation build our character. They force us to endure and to cling onto hope – if we choose to do so. Desperation causes us to wrestle with questions we want to avoid asking…

Are my current aspirations worth pursuing?

Why am I here?

What is the purpose?

What really matters?

Why am I who I am?

What is worth fighting for?

What do I want to see happen?

Where do I want to make a difference?

What can I offer to make that difference?

Boy, am I glad pursuing art is hard…

Art reaches hearts like nothing else can. It rises above being mere entertainment because it comes from a place of struggle. Not always financial struggle, but emotional, creative and/or philosophical  struggle.  When art comes from this vulnerable place – we can all identify with it to some extent or another.

Struggle makes you re-evaluate your choices. It brings the best – and the worst – out in you.

Desperation can be the biggest source of creativity – if you choose to channel it right.

In his pursuit to become an actor, Sylvester Stallone got to the point where he had to sell his dog to get by. That was also the time during which he wrote the script for Rocky. This in turn, garnered three Academy Awards… and he got his dog back.

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Jim Carrey discovered his gift for comedy during his teenage years when his family lived out of their van for several months because his father lost his job. Because of his boldness and commitment, we are able to enjoy his comedic and dramatic stories he tells.

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Charlie Chaplin grew up with an alcoholic father. His mother was mentally unstable and he spent most of his childhood in orphanages, yet that did not seem to hinder him from becoming the iconic actor he became. All his wealth “didn’t seem to derail his artistic drive” either.

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Dustin Hoffman “lived below the American poverty line until [he] was 31.”

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Halle Berry was a struggling actress in the beginning and found herself jumping from homeless shelter to homeless shelter.

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Morgan Freeman never fails to give absolutely believable and profound performances. But bear in mind, it took him 50 years of perseverance before getting ‘success’ in his career, if you count fame and awards as success.

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Obviously, these are success stories of actors we all know. They have a platform to share their experiences. But I always wonder how many success stories there are that we just don’t know of because the end result wasn’t fame, or an Academy Award.

Now, I do not wish poverty, depression or misfortune on anyone, but I do want to encourage those that are struggling to view this as an opportunity to rise above your circumstances and to channel your desperation towards creativity. Don’t dwell in desperation, but use the growth that comes from it to reach others.

Oftentimes comfort is the biggest threat to creativity.

Comfort and wealth isn’t bad. But don’t see it as the ultimate fulfillment of your life, enjoy it when you can, but don’t let it be a blockage to your creativity.

Failure, mistakes and struggles are so valuable – yet we’re so scared of them.

Desperation is a blessing in disguise – if you let it be a blessing. For all else, it keeps you down-to-earth, allows you to be human, allows you to learn from mistakes. It can be the most helpful springboard to reach and exhort others through your unique experiences and creativity, or you can let it define you and be a curse.

Channel desperation right. Choose to treat it as an opportunity. Celebrate the highs and lows of life – your own and those of others.

Viola Davis put it better during her Academy Acceptance Speech:

“I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”

Don’t give up fellow Actors, Creatives and Dreamers!

Participation Awards and How to Have Tenacious Creativity

BY BRENDEN BELL

I don’t know if anyone truly transitions into their adulthood with the mentality that they’re ready for whatever life has to throw at them. I most certainly did not.

 

Achieving adulthood was a messy, prolonged labor for me, and in some ways, only now is she starting to crown.

 

I made a major career change into filmmaking five years ago and it has taught me so so much about life and what my place is in it as a Millennial.

 

While I’ve never been given the titular “participation award” for anything, I understand the concept. I’ve expected great things to happen to me without actually sacrificing time and investing hard work into something. It’s the double edged sword of growing up in a culture of instant gratification.

 

It’s conditioned me to believe certain things about the nature of life and how I should be treated. Hard work that allows years to create something is an extremely unattractive prospect indeed.

 

Working in film has helped me recognise some of those tendencies within myself, and how to combat them.

 

It’s OK to Fail

 

This may sound like a strange point, but hear me out.

 

I think the biggest lie behind this idea of participation awards is that failure is not an option. You always win even if you fail.

 

A failure without the consequence of failure sets up an unrealistic expectation in the child that they will always win. So, when an adult inevitably fails at something and feels the consequences of that failure, they will not be emotionally equipped to deal with that failure.

 

The way I learned filmmaking is the “kick you in the deep end of the pool and hope you swim” style of learning. As you can probably guess, it involved a lot of missteps and some straight up failure.

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To this day, I fail in some small way at my job every day.

 

When I first began this work, those little failures would kill me. I would forget to post something on Facebook and feel like I didn’t belong on the team anymore. The more I failed and was still trusted with work, the more I understood that it was OK to fail as long as I owned up to it and made it right.

 

I am now more comfortable with failure and happier for it. It has positively impacted every area of my life and has made me more OK with taking risks, because I know that failure is a normal part of life and doesn’t have to be the end of a story.

 

Romanticising the Adventure

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I fell in love with the idea of being a filmmaker when I watched the behind the scenes of The Lord of the Rings. The level of camaraderie and pure creativity they all appeared to have was intoxicating, and I wanted to be a part of it too.

 

I romanticised the idea of being a filmmaker and struck from my memory every mention of “years of development”, “failure” and “nervous breakdown” that I heard. Filmmaking was a grand, enjoyable adventure one can go on with their friends.

 

When I went on the journey of making a film myself, I had a rude awakening. It’s a lot of hard work. You don’t always like the people you work with. The thing you thought was your passion becomes the very 9 to 5 drudgery you joined film to avoid.

 

If people are handing out awards for showing up, it’s easy to come to believe you don’t need to put in a lot of effort in order to get what you want. This was most definitely the case for me when it came to filmmaking.

 

Everyone in my generation has a dream, but few want to put in the day to day work needed to achieve those dreams.

 

What Then Shall We Do?

 

What’s left to do? How do we as a culture set aside our participation awards and become tenaciously creative?

 

Being OK with failure and being willing to put in a lot of hard work are both part of the equation. However, I think the biggest solution is embracing pain and suffering as a normal part of life.

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So much of life as a Millennial is about finding ways to avoid or subvert painful and vulnerable experiences. If we want to be successful in our craft, we are going to have to be ok with discomfort and pain in order to get what we want.

 

I’ve wrestled a great deal with what separates a child or adolescent from an adult (or what should, more than age or higher brain function).

 

I’ve decided it’s someone who is willing to suffer in order to see their goals met in their career and and to see their family succeed and thrive. The adult suffers so that the family can be at rest and enjoy.

 

It is those who are willing to suffer and never give up that are truly triumphant and deserving of awards and our respect.
Do you have a dream and failure or life has gotten you down? I hope this article gives you some inspiration to take that next practical step to make that dream a reality. Dust yourself off and become the tenacious creative that you can be.

DIY – WORK YOUR ACTING MUSCLES

written by Annette Lange

 

The following acting games do not require extensive, if any, preparation or props.  So, whether you want to grow in focus, spontaneity, improve your improvisation skills or just to think of acting exercises on the spot, here is a number of acting games and exercises that will not only be helpful, but also make your stomach hurt from laughing.

 

What if?

 

This is a great game to warm up and ‘get into the flow’ for rehearsal. It sparks the creativity and requires your imagination to live out fictional life. It makes you more aware of your body, how it works, how you express your mood physically etc. This can be done to music, but is not essential.

 

Here’s how:

 

Have the actors walk around the room. The group leader/narrator will call out different “what if’s” which the actors will have to respond to.

E.g. Narrator: “You are walking as if you’re late for a meeting.”

“Walk as if you have just heard bad news.”

“You are walking as if your arms are numb.”

What if you had no bones, and your body was made of Jelly.”

“Walk as if you are discovering your legs for the first time.”

“You are moving as if you’re flying.”

 

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Same scene – Different circumstances

 

One can definitely see how different circumstances alter a performance drastically through this exercise. This exercise will require spontaneity, good reaction and creativity.

 

Here’s how:

The title says it all. Actors are given either a scene they have to act out. The same scene will be acted out several different times, but every time they are given a different set of circumstances.

 

E.g. Scene: A newly-wed couple is going shopping for their new apartment.

First time: Performed with ‘normal’ circumstances.

Second time: The husband desperately needs to go to the bathroom.

Third time: The husband and wife are spies who think they are being followed.

 

Mirror

 

This exercise is great for practicing focus and exercise.

 

Here’s how:

This is to be done to (preferably slow) music. Have two actors face each other. They are to keep eye contact at all times. One actor will start with movements which their partner will have to copy as if they were looking at a mirror.

 

The aim is for the movement to look as smooth as possible in accordance with the music. After a while, the other actor needs to initiate the movements without verbally communicating it. The audience should not be able to tell who the leader is at the moment due to the smooth transition. The intense eye contact might be uncomfortable for some towards the beginning and might trigger some giggles, but that will pass.

 

E.g. Two actors stand across from each other and they stare into each other’s eyes. The first actor slowly reaches out his right hand, while the other actor reaches out his left hand in the same manner. After a while, the second actor will slowly move to tap his head and the first actor will follow at the same time.

 

If you’re really good, you won’t even know which one of you is leading because you’re so in sync. Make me proud!

 

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Freeze – A classic

 

Freeze is an improvisation game that can easily be used as an ice-breaker or a time-filler, and of course, it is a lot of fun.

 

Here’s how:

Two actors are given a scenario to which they start acting. After they have established their story and played a while, any participant can shout “Freeze!” at any given time. The actors will have to freeze in their positions, and the third actor will swap places with one of the two, take on exactly the same position the previous actor froze in and introduce a completely new scenario through his actions. The second actor has to go along with it and react until the next “Freeze!” is called out.

 

Variations:

If only the same few people seem to initiate, the leader can call out “Freeze!” and choose the next actor who has to jump in. In this way, everyone gets involved, and the shy/less confident actors will have to step out of their comfort zone.

 

Objectives – Exercise

 

One thing you learn as actors is you have to know what your character is going for at every moment: what his needs, wants and goals are, namely – his/her objectives.

 

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This requires you to prepare a list with objectives to choose from.

 

Actors are given a scenario and they will have to start improvising. Throughout the performance, the leader will give each of the actors different objectives at different points in time. These are written on pieces of paper so the other actor in the scene will not know the objective of their partner and in order for the audience to know what objectives they were given.

 

The actors will have to incorporate the objectives into their scene subtly so that the flow of the scene will not stop. The objectives should never just be read out.

 

E.g. Scenario: Two tourists meet in a foreign country and decide to go to lunch together.

 

One actor will be given “Convince him/her they’re your long lost sibling” as the objective, while the other actor might get “Encourage them to stop smoking” as their objective.

 

As the scene goes on, more objectives will be introduced. It is especially funny when the scene partners have competing objectives.

 

I hope these few games and exercises helped you! They are also not confined to acting, but can generally be a good source of fun when you get together in a group.