In my last column, I wrote about how my film, “The Sublime and Beautiful,” made its world premiere at this year’s 20th annual Slamdance Film Festival. Slamdance started as a ragtag festival running simultaneous with the Sundance Film Festival, and features emerging talent in films made for under $1 million. While I was there, I tried (to no avail!) to get into screenings at Sundance, but tickets are at a premium and mostly sold out—or you stand in a long line outside in the cold, only to be turned away. But then I discovered the panels! The panels at both film festivals were eye-opening. Beyond being there for my film, I found my true reason for being there: inspiration! Inspiration can sometimes be an elusive thing, but when it strikes, it’s so powerful that you just know you’re on the right path.
The Women in Film panel at Sundance was especially inspiring. Anne Hubbell from Tangerine Entertainment moderated, with guest speakers Tiffany Shlain (founder of the Webby Awards), YouTube sensation Mamrie Hart, actor Rose McGowan (at Sundance with the short film she directed, “Dawn”), and Kamal Sinclair, senior manager of the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab.
One of the themes repeatedly discussed was “community supporting community,” and the notion that you should not wait to be asked to the party by looking for permission to create. There are so many different ways to “crack the nut” to launch your projects, whether it be in film, television, Web series, or theater. Whatever your art is, surround yourself with advocates, put together your team of like-minded, incredibly talented, and creative people, look for your mentors, and keep your eyes open for your inspiration.
A Slamdance panel discussing short-form content had Chad Hurley (the co-founder of a little thing called YouTube!) and brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, who were at Slamdance in 1997 with “Pieces,” before Steven Soderbergh hired them to direct George Clooney’s “Welcome To Collinwood.” They then directed the pilot of “Arrested Development,” became executive producers–directors on NBC’s “Community,” and most recently co-directed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
In this panel, they talked a lot about how short-form content (i.e., Vine videos, short films) can be a “point of access” to decision makers. Joe Russo says his daughter doesn’t watch comedy TV the way we used to. Now she watches Vine videos for an hour and laughs hysterically to get her “hit” of comedy. He mentioned Vine star Rudy Mancuso as a good example of how you can be discovered, “because somebody like me sits in an office, laughs, and says, ‘Find this guy.’ ” They liked him so much, they contacted him about doing a project, all from watching his six-second videos! I wondered if all this short-form content was fostering short attention spans in the viewers. I think our brains, especially in the younger folks, are actually being rewired to only be able to view and retain short-form content.
The Russo brothers suggested that if you’re a filmmaker, you should have scripts ready so that when you get the opportunity, you actually have content to show. Decide what kind of career you want and use the question, “What do you want to be doing in five years?” to reframe your thinking and choose your path.
So I ask you: What do you want to be doing in five years, and how are you going to get there?
Known for her work in film and television, Casting Director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Mark Waters, Christopher Nolan, Brad Bird, and Herbert Ross. While working at Fenton-Feinberg Casting, she, along with Mike Fenton, cast such films as “A Christmas Story," “Poltergeist," “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial," “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and “Blade Runner." After establishing her own casting company in 1983, Liroff cast “Footloose," “St. Elmo's Fire," “Pretty in Pink," “The Iron Giant," “The Spitfire Grill," “Untamed Heart," “Freaky Friday," “Mean Girls," “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” “Vampire Academy,” and the upcoming “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which she produced as well.
Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light. The class spawned an an online course available at Udemy entitled "How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp".
Photo by Doug Hac.