If only I had more friends (preferably with acting talent)...

Most people don't know this about me but I love acting.  While my family was planning for me to be a scientist or professor or something putting my brain to use, I fantasized about all the magnificent parts I wanted to play on the stage or screen.  I starred in local plays from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Romeo and Juliet.  Alas, it was not to be but that's a whole other story.

It's been more than a decade since I was on stage.  I just was always too scared to try and ingratiate myself in the local community theater and I'd much rather take science courses than acting ones.  While I don't regret these choices, I do feel as if something has been missing from my life these years.  I still have that longing.  

It's hard to explain to people why I enjoy acting so much.  I'm painfully shy and it's a great difficulty to muster up enough courage to merely talk to others.  Why would someone like me like to be on the stage?  Escapism.  Acting allows me to pretend to be other people, people who are often different from me, who may live in different times.  In simplest terms, it's an escape from reality.  

My ingenious plan: write my own plays for me and my friends to perform.  I get complete creative control over the characters.  I get to use the old noggin in actually writing a play which is good for all kinds of things. (I can't tell you how many people I've told off, guys I've gotten, amazing adventures I've been on and even killed off people in my fiction.)  There are some problems writing plays for friends to act out if you, say, don't have many friends or ones that can act.  Writing two character plays is a difficult task.  It's so tempting as a writer to throw more characters into the mix.  So I decided to just write what I wanted and ignore that I only know one other person who loves to act (CT is an amazing actress!).  I still always am cautious about the number of characters I use in the incredible instance that I am actually able to make one of these plays into a film.

I always admired John Cassavettes' approach to filmmaking.  He's the guy that made Chrisptopher Guest and Mumblecore movies possible.  He would use mostly friends as actors or cast unknowns.  He would create skeletal plots (I'd only loosely call them "scripts") and only the most bare bones characters.  The actors would not only have the ability to flesh out their characters and come up with most of their own dialogue but also the trajectory of the plot by doing so.  Cassavettes would film hours of actors ad-libbing.  Some of it was pure gold.  Some of it went on too long.  He was always willing to take risks because he saw value in everyday human interactions.  

Naturally, when Mumblecore films started coming out, I was an immediate fan.  From what I understand, the creative process is similar to Cassavettes.  The directors use friends, people involved in the production or unknowns as the actors.  The dialogue is stream of consciousness.  The film quality is poor.  The camera techniques are unimpressive almost as if they plucked some guy off the street and got him to hold a camera for free food.  The films may be tedious at times but can also be quirky and original.  Unlike Cassavettes films, Mumblecore movies are much lighter in subject matter.  Rather than plunging into the depths of human psyche, Mumblecore movies just want to show that our humdrum lives are worth filming.  The humor is organic and the dramatic situations mirror our own.  The actors in Mumblecore possess less acting talent for sure but that only makes it seem like watching real life unfold.

So why can't I be doing this stuff?  Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture was tightly scripted and had that Mumblecore feel.  I need friends to help me make movies.  It really pains my heart to think of selling my scripts to some studio that may butcher them.  I love my characters.  I hate to think of farming them out.  

144 views and 1 response

  • Apr 4 2012, 8:16 PM
    Jeff Hammel responded:
    I'd love to do movies with you. I've been trying to get friends for half my life at this point to be in movies with me but with one exception have not been able to get anyone to make movies with me. (Ironically, several of my friends actually liked to make movies, just not with me around. Nice.) Unfortunately, I don't know anyone either. The price of being antisocial. But if you want to some time, just bring the flip camera and we can do something, anyway.