Summary: Today was packed with activities at the Sunscreen Film Festival, which I attended from 10am till after midnight. The workshops were terrific, lots of films good and so-so, and a fun VIP party at the Nova nightclub. There are more workshops that one person can attend, so my highlights are generally limited to the workshops I choose to attend.
1) Acting workshop with Alexa Vega (Spy Kids 1-3, Twister, Little Giants) and Ethan Suplee (Remember the Titans, My Name is Earl, Boy Meets World). They both had very different approaches to acting, and gave the participants plenty of examples of how they handled acting challenges. Between them they have over 100 film and tv credits. Alexa shared from her 16 years of experience, and really puts alot of effort into her preparation for an audition or reading. She prefers a director that gives her feedback on her performance, so that she knows if she’s on target or not. Ethan spoke about the importance of a director having a clear vision for the project.
Alexa also spent alot of time talking about balancing school and acting, which I could relate to. They were both very real and friendly. Alexa is a bundle of energy. She told a hilarious story about how she got a nickname in high school that I shouldn’t print here, but it involved a pep rally, jousting, a wardrobe malfunction, and being covered in cheese. It was innocent, and obviously embarassing at the time, but it was great to hear them both open up with life stories.
Fav quote from Ethan about taking a few minutes to prep for a ‘cold reading’ at an audition: “It’s supposed to be cold, but not ICE cold. Warm it up a little.”
Quote from Alexa: “American movie goers ultimately decide what movies are coming out of Hollywood. Hollywood will produce, generally, the kinds of movies audiences will pay to go see.”
2) Indie Movie Production 101 workshop with Sean Covel and Chris “Doc” Wyatt, producers of Napoleon Dynamite. Lots of notes from this workshop, and lots of laughs from the duo. Getting a film distributed is a business, and you better know what you are doing. Sean and Doc shared from their experiences with Napoleon Dynamite, and stressed that indie filmmakers have to be creative on the business side just as much as on the artistic side.
3) Screenwriting workshop with Dean Batali (That 70’s Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Dean was very funny, and a firehose of tips. He shared one his credos, “Differently, say it,” and stressed finding new and interesting ways to write a scene. He spoke about the importance of having clean, easy to read scripts, and he even did a live critique of three script excerpts from the audience.
4) Films! There were films showing all day of course. I was able to catch the feature film Sneakers and Soul, and talk with the cast and crew afterwards. The visuals were very nice through the whole film, and I’ll probably purchase the soundtrack once it becomes available. I saw two blocks of short films today. I really enjoyed the stylish presentation of Altar, who is so disconnected from reality that he interrupts his own voiceovers. My favorite of the day, for the start to finish quality production, tight story, fine acting, and entertainment value, was Soulmates.
5) Networking: The party at Nova nightclub was a great place to spend time getting to know the actors and producers better. I was able to sit with Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars) for awhile, and listen to his thoughts on creating the Lando character. He also had plenty to say about the special relationship between fathers and sons, and talked about the impact of writing letters to his father, and the amount of hard work and dedication that fathers put in so their kids can pursue their dreams. Bill Cobbs was the nicest guy you could meet. He would look me in the eye and give some serious advice, such as “You don’t have to be in Los Angelos or New York. You are the ARTIST! Do what you do, and don’t worry about where you live.” He would also tease with things like “Nick, don’t let those basketball coaches get to ya! Keep making films.” Finally, I had a great talk with Sean Covell about focusing on directing over other film crew roles, and found we were both interested in slipping out between workshops tomorrow to catch the new film “Kick-Ass”. Sean is like a little kid when you start talking about the excitement of indie films and finding great new stories or directors. He really loves what he’s doing.