Filmmaking is for Warriors: Teaching

filmmaking-is-for-warriors_teaching

“Do you know any famous people?” the tiny child asks me.

“Famous people?”

I don’t know what else to say. I’ve been a filmmaker for 10 years, but most of the people I know aren’t plastered on the cover of People Magazine. I do know some actors who have been plastered all over the billboards in Kansas City, which is pretty cool. Mostly just because those actors are totally awesome, and it’s nice to see them achieve new things.

Inevitably, it doesn’t matter if I have an answer to her question, because there’s a half dozen more questions flooding my way. I wave my hands at the brood of small people and do my best to change the subject back to the class I’m teaching and away from my filmmaking career.

Teaching.

I started teaching theater and acting when I was 19. I shouldn’t have, really, because I had no idea how to teach. Those first few years my head was under water and the kids drowned with me. I’m sorry, kids, I didn’t know what I was doing.

But like Dory the fish said, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!”

So I kept pushing my way through teaching, class after class after class. I taught basic and advanced acting, improv, film acting, film production, costumes, musical theater (as a sub, ’cause I don’t do music), black box and radio theater. I’ve assisted in directing shows. I’ve subbed for ages that I would never have chosen to teach – 4 year-olds are not my buddies. I’ve taught subjects I knew very little about and had to research – radio.

And then I was burnt out. And I didn’t want to do it anymore.

Kids take a lot of energy. Kids need a lot of attention and help. Kids are SO MUCH FUN TO TEACH.

Plot twist.

I love teaching. I love talking to those kids. I love playing games with them and seeing them grow. I love seeing how kids learn to rely on each other in theater. I love seeing how theater changes lives for the better – confidence, friendship, coordination, memorization, basic theater skills, communication, trust, loyalty, diversity and a host of other things. I’m sure people learn this stuff in sports, too, but I was a theater kid so I can’t speak to that.

I had a screenwriting teacher who loved his job. He really did. He loved interacting with his different students. I had another film teacher who loved her job. She was the most understanding teacher I think I ever had, always open to giving students a second chance to learn.

And I think to myself, why don’t more people teach?

Because every single person who loves teaching, also hates it. At the end of the day you feel wiped out, left for dead and drained. Your job is to push other people into greatness, whether that is in theater, writing, math, science, robotics, music, computer, filmmaking or military training.

People push back.

Sometimes they do it on purpose. Sometimes they’re just too scared, as some of the 8-year-old students in my class the other night.

The better you are at being a teacher, the more you hold yourself accountable to the things you are teaching. Your students are pushing back, and you are learning more than them.

That’s a cliche. I hate that cliche. It’s obnoxious. Obviously if you’re teaching a child multiplication, you already knew how to multiply. Duh. That kid didn’t teach you that.

But while you were teaching multiplication, that kid was teaching you patience, kindness and long-suffering, because that kid’s probably an aggravating little dude with a numbers complex that needs a reality check.

I subbed for a theater class this week and last. I haven’t taught in a very long time. It was hard work corralling all those little people. I was hungry and my throat hurt and I wondered why I would put myself through all this when I was still in my month of recovery.

But when I went back last night to teach, the kids told me I was an awesome teacher. Their words, not mine.

And I thought, I love teaching. Why don’t more people do this?

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 6

The inevitable WEEK 6.  Once you’ve done something for 6 weeks it should be like routine, right?  Pounded into your brain so hard that you couldn’t possibly forget or fail?

Sure.

Since I’m six weeks in I’d like to remind ya’ll that you’re welcome to join in on my 52 weeks at any time.  Just start now and count into next year.  I only started at the beginning of the year since it seemed tidier.  I’d love to see your projects too.

This week I refused to do the creative thing I had had planned.  I got up the day I was supposed to work on it…And wanted to pound my head against the wall.

So I designed a website instead.

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This is how it started.  But that template turned out to be not my favorite.  So I changed it.

I know that using a template to design a website might not seem hard.  But it took me a couple hours.  I liked it.  It presented some new challenges; like making sure I put the information out there in an easy-to-read and pleasing way.

I’ve been meaning to make this website for a while.  I’ve been teaching acting to young adults for over 4 years.  I like it a lot, and this is my next step. I haven’t bought the upgrade yet, because I’m not sure I like the website enough.

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Check out the entire website here: JessieChipchase.wordpress.com

Give me some feedback!  Love to hear your comments.  This is only the second website I’ve designed–not counting blogs.  Anything that I can improve, let me know.

And if you or your kid is interested in learning On-Camera Acting, send me an email at jessie@cinematicvisions.com.

For Actors

andrews pic from filming                         andrews pic from filming2

Tips for Film Actors:

1. Don’t look at the camera.  But don’t “ignore it” either.  It’s there, but it’s not there to your character.

2. Don’t sweat the number of takes.  Some of them were bad because of the sound or camera or a tiny bug that landed on the lens or the director was being an idiot or your shirt didn’t have enough blood on it.

3. Be an actor.  I mean, this is indy filmmaking, and sometimes actors are expected to help with the lights or whatever, but don’t.  Not unless specifically asked ahead of time.  You are the actor, you have a huge job already.

4. Relax.

5. Trust the director.  And the DP.   And the sound person.   And that guy back there holding a reflector or someone’s prop or all of the fake blood that’s about to be poured all over you.  In other words, LET GO OF YOUR SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.  These people want to make a good film.  They want you to be good.  Let yourself be VULNERABLE.  What a horrible thought, I know.  But you are the actor.  Your job is to be vulnerable and let others film it.  And if you don’t trust these people enough to do that…ditch them and make movies with someone else.  Or change careers.

6. Be the character, don’t act the character.

7. The camera is your friend.  The emotions you show it are the size you would show a friend, not an audience 100 feet away.  Give your friend a break and don’t over-act.

8. You were chosen for this part.  Or maybe you weren’t, maybe you were the only option or that one director just really wants to see how you react to being covered in gooey, sticky, red-dyed corn syrup.  Either way, you are this part now.  Make it yours.  Stake your claim.

9. If the director keeps giving you direction, and you’ve done the take ten million times, TRY SOMETHING NEW.  Maybe the director isn’t especially articulate or maybe you just don’t get it.  Don’t give up or go all pity-party, TRY SOMETHING NEW.

10. Have fun.  If it’s not fun, get lost.

I mean it.

mine from filming

(BTW, I had the best cast and crew last week at filming)