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Project Involve(LA), An evening with a leading Hollywood mentor

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The month starts with a workshop with Joans Checkel, one of the leading mentors in Hollywood. Her labs provide an opportunity to put a film on its feet prior to production. Directors, writers, actors, producers, editors, and cinematographers bring their projects to the lab in order to:


· hone the vision of the script ·


· bring life and clarity to the story structure ·


· work more efficiently with actors ·


· dynamically block and pace scenes ·


· connect to the feeling, emotional depth and rhythm of the story’s journey.


With this awareness, artists bring story, performance, staging and visual style together to reveal the film’s life in a newly visceral way.


This was a fascinating workshop. We were asked to stand up and stare into each other’s eyes for long periods of time and feel the connection. Then we started moving around the room, making sure to peer into each other’s eyes at each encounter. This went on for over 15 minutes, then we started speeding up our pace until we started running into each other, making sure not to crash into each other, but maintaining an eye contact.


Then we stopped and we paired. We stared into each other’s eyes for 30 minutes, then each was asked to tell how they felt about the other person. Remarkably, we were mostly accurate about predicting each other’s feelings.


The goal of the exercise was to reflect the stressful mood on a film set. We, the directors, must not lose touch with our cast and crew as we race frantically on set. It’s important to connect with your cast and crew and understand their feelings. Everybody looks at the Director for positive energy. LOOK AT THEM IN THE EYES.



This stands as well for when you pitch your project to financiers or casting your actors. Always look at them in the eyes in order to assert confidence.

And for Actors, say ONE WORD. If you have nothing to say, then don’t say it. Say nothing but give them your energy.


Then we discussed scripts. “You must know what your script is about” Joans insisted, “You gotta be able to articulate the theme; it’s the dramatization of the plot”.

You gotta be sensitive to the audience. Ask yourself, to whom am I writing this? Whom am I talking to?

Go out and talk to people and see how long you can hold a conversation, and use for your dialogue. Have things said but not stated. Dialogue must be connected to the theme. Don’t think intellectually; think with feelings and actions.

Look for contrast rather conflict. Contrasting actions reveal how people interact, communicate and miscommunicate.

When you breakdown the script, ask: who wants what? What action did they do in order to achieve it?


The next workshop was about reality shows. Executives from Fox and NBC came to talk to us about the business. I didn’t bother to attend.

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