Interview with Chain Film Fest on Leia’s Army

The folks had some really great questions about Leia’s Army, and I had some answers. Check it all out here.





Casting underway for “Leia’s Army”

Flying out to DC tomorrow to finalize casting for Leia’s Army, a film about a teenage girl who attend the Women’s March in DC without telling her born-again-Christian, Trump supporter Mom. Be sure to follow us to learn more and learn about screenings!

In which I explain why self-taped auditions can work against you.

The day has finally arrived when taping your audition is simple, fast, and cheap because you can do it at home. Celebrations! Right? Sorry, but no. Getting in the casting room is still going to give you a better shot of getting called back or landing the role. Here’s why:

I need to sense you.

I know that sounds creepy, but hear me out.  When an actor walks in the room, we get a sense of YOU [which reminds me: DO NOT enter the room in character. It’s just weird.]. We want to see your natural presence, how you work with others, how you listen to direction. Sometimes very charismatic people can make that come through on tape, but it’s rare.

When you self-tape, you use an Instagram mentality.

What does that mean — it means you take 8 million takes of your scene, choose one, edit two together, blanche out your face so only your good side is visible, sometimes you add a filter (actually happened). Guest what. You will have zero control over this when you shoot a film. I need to see you when you are controlling nothing but your craft. I know when people do these tricks in self-tapes, and all it does is distract from the performance.

I’m a director and want to direct you.

Part of the “test” of an in-person audition is seeing how you take direction. If you take direction well, I will absolutely make note of that, and it will carry weight in determining if you’re the right person for the job or not. When you submit a tape, you don’t know what I’m thinking. If I wanted to see something slightly different, you won’t have the opportunity to make that happen. Think for a second what a huge disadvantage for you that is. You basically have one take to absolutely blow me away, despite 50 other people being seen for that role in person. The likelihood of that happening is extremely slim.

I want to connect with you.

I like to work with people who will work well with me and the rest of the cast & crew. I can only really know if that will happen if I meet you in person. I like to love my actors. I do everything I can to create a perfectly safe world for them on set. So let me get to know you. Show me you’re a team player. And leave me with a positive memory of you. If this isn’t the right role for you, but I liked you, I’ll probably call you in for the next film. In fact, I’ve cast people even without making them audition again because I liked meeting them so much the last time.

Having your little brother as your reader can work against you.

When you self-tape, you are usually at the mercy of whatever poor soul agrees to read with you. This can be a disadvantage when they’re not giving you what you need. In-person auditions give you a reader who knows the material inside and out, and knows exactly what to do to make your audition go in a successful direction. And no, reciting only your lines is not a good idea. I need to see you interacting with another human.

Do your best to make in-person auditions possible.

I know, sometimes you’re on the road, or your schedule is just a mess, or you’re being scene for a role in a different city. But I also know a lot of actors have just decided to stop trying. Don’t be that actor. Get on the Greyhound bus. Write me and ask for a different time. It’s not always possible, but I would much rather see you in person than watch your tape. Take ownership of your job as an actor committed to craft and get out there. In an increasingly virtual world, I promise it will make you stand out.


In which I lay down, once and for all, how to get yourself in the casting room

And since listicles are still all the rage, here we go:

If I ask for clips or reels, do not send me your headshot without a clip or reel.

I get it. Actors Access asks that you pay to put a clip up there. But this is your career, and I can tell you it IS a worthwhile investment. Probably more worthwhile than some of the classes you take. Because I NEED TO SEE AND HEAR YOU. And if you really can’t swing it, look up my email address and email it to me. Now, I don’t need to be added to a Constant Contact list, I don’t need updates from you, but I do need to see your video so that I can be convinced you may be right for the role I’m casting.

If I am looking for an 18-yr-old woman, and you are a 57-yr-old man, please do not submit for that role.

Chances are, I’m going to see your headshot and not — as you had planned — write a role for you. I just won’t do it. The bigger point is SUBMIT FOR ROLES FOR WHICH YOU ARE TRULY APPROPRIATE.

If you know I am casting or shooting in a certain city, and you live nowhere near that city, tell me that you are willing to travel and work as a local.

Let’s review what “working local” means in the film and TV industry. It means you are able and willing to pay for your own transportation and lodging. It means you will not require per diem. If this is not possible for you, or part of it isn’t, do me the courtesy of telling me that. Believe it or not, my producers need to know this. If you live in California and I’m shooting in New York, and you can’t pay to work as a local, please do not waste your time. It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s that movies have set budgets made way before the casting period that we have to adhere to. Unless you’re a celebrity, it’s just not gonna happen.  That being said, many actors consider travel a business expense, and write it off on their taxes (smart).

If there is something that would make you stand out, like FOR REAL, for a particular role, use the note feature or include that information in your email.

I read notes. I love notes. It doesn’t take me long to read notes and sometimes I find useful information in there, such as the website where I can find your reel, or that you are able to work as a local. Again, don’t bombard my inbox, and I don’t need your life story, but leaving a note is a good tool for you.  Here is a sample note that would work well:
“Hi, you can find my reel at I can also work as a local and speak the foreign language required for the role fluently.”
Boom. That person is in. Here is a sample note that would not work so well:
“Hi, Thank you for considering me, I’m soooooo excited to audition for you!” 
Huh? You don’t have the audition yet and you provided no information that helps me decide whether you should or not.

The bottom line

I think it helps to understand how the casting process works. There are a TON of submissions. Imagine a wall with 1,000 pictures that are the size of your nose. Yeah. That means we have to work quickly and decisively. I don’t have time to google search you, I don’t have time to watch an entire episode of ANYTHING, and I don’t have time (unless it’s a very hard-to-fill role) to personally write you and beg [again] for your video clips.

WE WANT TO HIRE YOU.  We really, really do. Please just keep these tips in mind to make it easier for us to really see you and what you can bring to the project.


Interview with Eleanor Coppola

f84bbc305132b0a176084b8e621f886cI first met Eleanor Coppola when I moderated a Q&A with her after a screening of her latest film, “Paris Can Wait” (opening in Chicago theaters May 19). Usually when I moderate these events, I meet the filmmakers, we have a blast during the panel, grab a beer afterward, and I wish them all the best on their next screening. But there was something about Eleanor that was different. When you have a conversation with her, she really listens to you. She takes your questions to heart and gives you genuine answers. I soon realized these are all qualities that go into her being a great filmmaker. She probably connects this way with everybody on set, and it shows in her work. As a film director, I’m always looking for people I want to emulate and write about, so I set up an interview with Eleanor. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me.

Oriana: As I had mentioned at the screening, I am the Director of Programming for Women in Film Chicago. And, of course, we always take a strong interest in women filmmakers and how they got where they’re at, what obstacles they face, and how they see women in filmmaking in the future. So, I first want to ask you, how did you see yourself, before making the film, as a woman in the industry?

Eleanor: Well, I have to say, I’m not the usual person who lives in Los Angeles and is focused on film. I’m an outlier, really, because I live in the Napa Valley and I mostly made documentaries. I’ve made like seven or eight documentaries. But before this film, I was always on location with Francis’ films, or Sophia’s, or our son Roman’s films, and I am looking forward to the day when we as women don’t have to identify as being a separate thing. We’re human beings and we make films. I think I may have mentioned this to you in Chicago, I loved having this strong team of women for my film.

O: Right, you talked about your crew and how many of the main positions were filled by women.

E: Yes, which I was very happy about. It made for a wonderful experience. We worked well together, so very cooperative.

O: Is there something about being a woman, or is there some quality of womanhood, that makes you good at working on set with a bunch of people? You know, it’s a really complex process, and somehow women are able to do it pretty seamlessly.

E: I think women are, by nature, collaborators and peacemakers. I have three kids, and they’re always fighting and scrabbling, and you’re constantly trying to negotiate and make the peace and make it all right between them. You’re fixing things all the time between members of your family and really trying to make the peace. And when there are so many people on a crew trying to get their own department to shine, you’re constantly trying to balance and make the peace and collaborate. I think women are a little more effective at that than men.

O: It’s interesting you say that because as I’m sure you’ve seen in the media recently, there’s been some attention paid to how women are called “bossy.” You know, as soon as they have any sort of authority, they’re like, “Oh, well, she’s bossy” or even worse, “She’s a bitch.” But men rarely get that, even though they’re in that director position very frequently.

E: Yes, I mean, very occasionally they will be called a tyrant, or something, but, it’s kind of said affectionately. Or they’ll say, “He’s a genius, he just does things that way.” They direct from a position of authority, I think, and women direct more from the collaborative perspective, with exceptions, of course.

O: Do you think, given the attention some actresses have put on the studios to demand equal pay, that we’re moving in the right direction?

E: Yes, it’s just inevitable that people will, whatever their background, be judged on their ability. Regardless of ethnicity, or gender, or sexual orientation, ultimately, we’re human beings, and I think that realization is moving that way. It’s slower than we want. There are a lot of snags. Especially right now, we’re having a moment of confusion –going backward before we go forward. But I think inevitably, we’re going to go forward.

O: I wanted to ask you about the investment part of this because you mentioned it took six years to get the finances for your film. And from my vantage point, financing is definitely one of the major barriers to more women entering the industry. It’s just hard to get the investments. What is your take on why men are able to get the money faster than women?

E: Well, when you look around, most of the people who control the money, the people, the banks, the different financing companies, they’re still predominantly run by men. And they have a different perspective on what’s going to make money. It’s an investment, after all. They want to invest their clients’ money in what they think will have the best return. A film of my type, which has no car chases and no guns and no knives and no special effects and no robots and nobody dies of cancer, it may not seem like a good investment for them. So, I think I was walking upstream in that regard.

O: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think I mentioned this to you, but the film that I’m trying to shoot in Sicily, is in a way, very similar to yours. It deals with the inner woman, her conflicts and some of the things that go on inside of her emotionally. My films are not always car crashes and apocalyptic situations. And it seems that perhaps investors still don’t believe that women’s stories, and more importantly a woman’s inner story, can be just as important –and lucrative— as a car crash. Which, if you’ve asked a woman who’s had an emotional breakdown what it’s like, I’m sure “car crash” comes to mind. So, for your next project, would you still go down this route of true, emotional stories, or would you go with something that was maybe a little bit easier to finance, but also a little bit more car crashy?

E: I financed for myself two short films — I’m just finishing the second one now — that involve a 50-plus-year-old couple, but in two separate stories. And I just made them because I didn’t want to wait on others to finance them. You know, I may not have another six years ahead of me to wait to push something through, so I’m taking a sideways out and just making these short stories myself. I think everybody has to make up their way forward because it’s not a nice clear path for women. Everyone does it a different way. I mean, there’s Hurt Locker, which is very much a “man-style” film, and that worked for Kathryn Bigelow. I think Sophia [Coppola] took a different route, she told a story that was personal to her, and that film was well-regarded. I think women are trying to find their own ways to go forward in this business.

O: What would you say to the youngest group of women who have an interest in film?

E: I think the main thing is just to do it, to not sit back, but to go forward, whatever it is. If you want to be a filmmaker, get your iPhone out and just do it. Just keep moving because if you hesitate and wait for that perfect offer, it might take forever. Find your talent, find your passion, and just go in that direction any way you can.

Sonoma Film Festival 2016

I’ve taken Lobster fra Diavolo to a nice hunk of festivals, but the Sonoma International Film Festival was one of the best. Beautiful scenery, wonderful people, and wine. LOTS of wine. Check out two interviews I did out — one for the KSVY Morning Show and one for SVTV.