Our family had the privilege of attending the Arts and Entertainment Conference in Roanoke, Virginia this past weekend. I don’t know if it’s going to be a yearly event, but if so, I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in filmmaking.
We each got to choose six workshops from a total of twenty four options. Each workshop was taught by an expert in their field and each had valuable advice and information to impart. I’ve put together the key points that I gained from each workshop.
Acting in Front of the Camera LA Style (Sandra Van Natta) – Sandra is the star of Hallmark’s “The Shunning” and “The Confession”. Her focus was on auditions including two valuable pieces of advice: 1) Pale blue is the most flattering background color, so when shooting video auditions, drape blue fabric as a backdrop behind you, 2) When going to a callback, wear the same clothes you wore to the initial audition so that they’ll recognize you.
Acting for Camera (Nancy Stafford) – I’ve always been a big fan of Matlock and was very excited to meet Nancy. Surprisingly, she is every bit as beautiful as her Matlock days. She began by telling the classroom of students that if you struggle with deep feelings of insecurity, film acting is not the place for you. She gave the staggering statistics of the number of actors in LA and how few are making an actual living in film. She encouraged everyone to try to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond. She also stressed the importance of being an actor who makes the director’s job easier by being on time and following directions.
Screenwriting 101 (Torry Martin) Torry is a stand up comedian and actor as well as a prolific screenwriter. He is one funny guy! He stressed the importance of creating strong antagonists that people love to hate. He also shared the roles that secondary characters must play – to provide info on the protagonist, express the theme of the movie, move the story along, or compel the protagonist.
Storytelling Through the Eyes of the Production Designer and Cinematographer (George Escobar) – I like that George has done big budget as well as microbudget productions and discussed each. His advice to young people interested in filmmaking careers was to pick a discipline and to be really good at it. He suggested students look into getting a job as production management assistant for a way to be involved in a film from start to finish.
The Art of Acting Natural (Jenn Gotzen) – Jenn has to be one of the most engaging speakers I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing. From the beginning she treated the class as a group of friends gathered together. She had each person introduce themselves and she made it a point to later call each one by name. Jenn has had leading roles in eight feature films, and it’s no wonder why. She had us all under her spell as she recounted her experience as Tricia Nixon in Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon”. Jenn had so much wisdom that she managed to impart in such a short time. It’s hard to narrow it down, but perhaps the most valuable was to live truthfully under imaginary situations. If you’re busy trying to remember your lines and blocking, you aren’t living in your imagination and you won’t come across as believable.
How to Make an Emmy Award Winning Film (Will Anderson) – Will has been the recipient of ten Emmys and we all got to pass around and hold one of those Emmys. He shared how the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences works and what it takes to win one. The key element, of course, is that it must air on television in order to be eligible.
While the Arts and Entertainment Conference was put on by the Roanoke County Parks, there was a definite spiritual element throughout the event. It wasn’t in any way preachy and the classes were all geared for filmmakers in general rather than faith-based in particular. But each of the speakers had a Christian worldview that flowed naturally in their presentations. It was exactly what we should be striving for as Christian filmmakers – to express our Christian worldview in such a way that it benefits both nonbelievers and believers alike.