Directors

26 06 2016

I am working on a new show for CMT right now, playing Gladys Presley – MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET.  The director of all the episodes, a brilliant move on CMT’s part, is Roland Joffe.  You can see his imdb profile here:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0423646/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

He directed one of my favorite movies of all time – THE MISSION.

This is the first time in my career, probably besides with the film SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME (coming out in Feb 2016), where I have had a significant enough role to where the director has really spent time with me.  There is something about being a day player, or a weekly player, or a secondary character, that means you kind of need to nail it the first time – every time.  There is not as much discussion, interaction, and collaboration.  It feels more like trying to be sure to be super professional, stay out of the way, and DELIVER.  This is a necessary part of the process – there is so much to be done on set, and a director has to reserve their energy!

So, initially, the collaborative spirit Roland works with was disconcerting for me.  I felt like I was failing at giving him what he wanted.  But then I realized, this was more like I felt working in the theatre as a professional.  In the theatre, it was a given that I had something to offer the production.  It was a given that I possessed the talent necessary.   It was a given that I would be prepared and emotionally available.  The director and I then became a team, and worked together, to create a nuanced, truthful, performance – with his/her guidance to be sure each scene lined up correctly with the arc of the show.

I haven’t had that feeling in quite a while, and so I didn’t recognize it.  But once I did, it felt so good to feel like I have a champion and collaborator again.  At one point, Roland said to me, “Annie,” (I love it that he instinctually calls me that), “if I don’t say anything, it just means I love what you’re doing, ok?”  I smiled big at him.  We are 7 episodes into working on this show, and within our first few hours together I felt completely safe putting myself in his hands.  I have my own ideas, sure, I have done my research, and I am ready to be raw and real and available.  But, I don’t feel like I cannot seek his guidance without everyone thinking I am not worthy to be doing this work – which is how you are made to feel (sometimes) in lesser roles.  Like no one can to be bothered with you.

This is bliss for me as an actor.  I crave the eye of the director, the one who sees objectively what I cannot.  And Roland is a master at specific direction – not the specific micro-managing kind of direction (which makes you feel like a neutered robot in a cardboard cut-out world).  His direction is SPECIFIC, and SIMPLE.  A few days ago, he said to me, “I think this is much more casual.  I think you are just doing this side work, and you are delivering this advice to Elvis, and then it is just conversational.”  The result?  It opened me up in a gorgeous way, and allowed me to just deliver the scene from the heart.

In another scene, it was quite emotional.  I was getting where I needed to emotionally, just by taking in the circumstances and the setting around me – but I would get stuck when I tried to look back at Elvis.  Roland simply said, “Annie, I think what you’re doing instinctually is quite lovely – you don’t need to turn back to him.  Keep staring at what you are looking at.  Stay there.”  And it worked – brilliantly.

It takes a combination of brilliance, sensitivity, intuition, and an ability to let go of ego for a director to move an actor in the deep way he moves me.  In some cases, directors want so badly to be sure their work is seen, that they control everything, that their fingerprint on the project becomes more of an giant anvil squashing any instincts the actor has.  In this case, Roland pays such rapt attention, and sees the layers of what the actor is trying to create… then he helps the actor bring the truth out.  The result is – he IS an auteur – and his fingerprint is light, but indelible.

I am so thankful.


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