Today the announcement came out that Road To The Well will be premiering at TLC Chinese Theatre as part of Dances With Films. I reflected on the first moment I was offered the part, and preparing to play an American for a full feature.
I think it would have been impossible if I hadn't lived in Los Angeles for three years prior to shooting, I considered the subjectivity of research. Much like the difference between academia and spiritual experience. Or the difference between first hand and second hand knowledge. The idea once removed becomes a lifeless object dormant in the subconscious. Like an advertisement or passing unresolved concept it clutters as appose to reveals.
"Paintings, literature, poetry and music of the time can be eye openers, while I find dates of treaties and battles to be of little value... Keep as much of your research as possible on a subjective level and continuously look for identification with it... The sources you use should allow you to believe that you are existing at that time in that place. Not only by identifying with the larger events of the time but with all aspects of living from day to day." - Uta Hagen, Respect For Acting
Research must be given time to seep into the bones and each stimulus if poignant must be given its due contemplation. After I was offered the role of Frank Jon and I would meet up and discuss philosophy a lot in our rehearsals, in particular he introduced me to Existentialism which can cover a gigantic range of human thought, in this case it was tied to an inability to discern between right and wrong. We discussed in part Neitschze's "Beyond Good and Evil", breaking down the subjectivity of morality, as Frank struggles to make the 'right' decision, weighing up how much his morals are really worth when faced with a dead body and a psychopath on his tail. It's certainly an amoral film, none of the characters live by their words, almost no one tells the truth this entire film, their words completely unlinked to their actions. Each person simply does or says whatever they need to get to the next moment to accomplish their will without fear of consequence. Man stands out on the edge of the universe peering out at a brutal world alone and mercenary. Another book Jon gave me to read was Camus' The Stranger in which the protagonist Meursault is unable to feel at his mother's funeral, unable to reason further than the sun made him do it when asked why he shot a man, and unable to love his woman, and in the final scenes unable to find hope in the consolation of a priest before he was put to death.
To embody such seemingly heady and academic subjects and incorporate into a performance was, a challenge, though I never felt so alive standing in front of the camera bound to nothing. In the nothingness of the time the scene was passing I felt my senses, my sight, my feeling come alive and the cycle of thoughts that passed over like a record of associations fade away. I could empty myself and let the film in. As an audience member now watching this film in retrospect it's fascinating seeing the competition between men at war play out. No one is safe.
What I found in the end is that existentialism can only work as a leaf on the tree of character development. The very end of the organic process that is the creation and embodiment of a human being. Once all academic studies have been done to yoke the psychological symbols of the character to ones own triggers, it is necessary to allow the moment to unfold, this is where instinct and natural talent come into play, and are otherwise the unreachable elements in acting technique, the missing links in the Method. However, the reason existentialism doesn't work as a total approach to film acting and directing is that there is something that's being shared outside of the relationship between actor and director; the story.
Earlier this year I played a Texan in the short "Mother & Brother", the film had a great festival run and was received well by critics, during the press and Q&As I spoke a lot about the need for rebellion. Nearly all the great artists, actors and filmmakers that have emerged in the last 60 years, have had to defy the establishment so constantly that they are eventually accepted by them. History begins anew with each person. One reason for this need/reality in the arts is outlined in Luke Cook's Metamodernism Manifesto;
Luke Turner collaboration with Shia Lebouff resulted in some brilliant social experiments in new media. This latest one "touch my soul" a day long discussion about the nature of the soul, online, happened at the end of last year.
"The present is a symptom of the twin birth of immediacy and obsolescence. Today, we are nostalgists as much as we are futurists. The new technology enables the simultaneous experience and enactment of events from a multiplicity of positions. Far from signalling its demise, these emergent networks facilitate the democratisation of history, illuminating the forking paths along which its grand narratives may navigate the here and now." - MetaModernist Manifesto
One man calls in to say that it's hard for him to see Shia as a human being or as anything more than an object on the television, and that makes his struggle so much harder. I feel this man was speaking on the nature of celebrity in our age in general, that it isolates the common man. But an artist like Shia Laboeuf I disagree, in roles like Fury, Nymphomaniac & Charlie Countryman Shia shows his sacrifice, his compassionate connection to the other, his vitality, so that we the viewer are in touch with a deeper part of ourselves. Though we may be viewing a projection of him from years before, the destination of his consciousness serves as a human symbol for hope in the enduring human struggle.
I recently went to Moebius Shorts competition at CAA to support my good friend and fellow Australian actor in LA, Mojean Aria (Heath Ledger Scholarship finalist this year) in a film very unique to it's time and place "Suitcase" directed by set in New York during 9/11. He plays a man from the gritty streets of NY, a blue collar luggage handler at the airport, who has the corporate American dominance literally standing on his face. Comparisons to the proletariat hero of Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront, standing up to the power of big money corruption are evident. Moreso than doing what is right in a moral sense, Joe (the protagonist in "Suitcase") is driven by a desire and a vision of himself doing something important with his life one day, in an incredibly touching sequence we watch Joe in the cockpit of a plane, imagining what it would be like to be a pilot. Similar comparisons could be made for the production values and quality of the filmmaking overall, the aesthetics of Tony Scott and Oliver Stone come to mind. The masculinity of both the story and execution surprisingly come from the female voice of Abby Damaris Corbin.
"Discover the customs and habits and manners of the time and place. The social and political influences on the people, the architecture and households. The furnishings and clothing of the time." - Uta Hagen, Respect For Acting
Other films screening at Dances With Films that I'm really excited to see are Birdwatcher by Siobhan Devine starring Camille Sullivan "A single mother of two, who after being diagnosed with cancer, embarks on a journey to re-connect with her estranged birth mother in the hopes of finding a home for her children when she is gone."
The other day we went to do some press for Dances With Films, a viral video with some interviews, Jon and I spoke afterwards about the next project he's working on, how his writing and process as a filmmaker has developed and how he's constantly learning new things and can't wait to make the next one. This is certainly a feeling we share as the premier approaches and we bring new people into the world of Road To The Well. I was reminded of this quote by Benicio Del Toro:
"I don't think I ever find em, it just keeps evolving, I always feel like I get the closest I can get to the character on the last day of shooting on the last take, it's like let's start the movie now" - Benicio Del Toro
Over the last few years in particular I've realized that the development of an artist of any medium happens incrementally over many years, and that each day we go to a play, a library, to a museum, a gallery, consider a painting, go to an audition, make a new friend, make a film, each day we go to acting class, learn a monologue, watch a film, listen to inspiring music, is a brick in a new room of the infinite palace of being.