Jury Coordination and Notes

Director’s Close UP: Nicole Holofcener: The Land of Stellar Performances

Film Independent’s 2019 Director’s Close-Up Series began this week with one of everyone’s favorite indie auteurs, Nicole Holofcener. It is often said that a director’s job is 90% complete in the casting room. Hear from both sides of the camera as Nicole, her long-time casting director Jeanne McCarthy and actor Thomas Mann discuss the art of casting and directing actors, and what it takes to bring memorable and believable characters to life. Panelists: Nicole Holofcener (writer/director; The Land of Steady HabitsEnough Said); Jeanne McCarthy (casting director; The Land of Steady HabitsPrivate Life); Thomas Mann (actor; The Land of Steady HabitsMe and Earl and the Dying Girl); Moderated by Karyn Kusama (director; DestroyerThe Invitation)

Director’s Close Up 2019 – January 30th
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

The annual Film Independent’s 2019 Directors Close-Up began on January 30, eventfully with a deep and compelling discussion on the relationships between the director, casting director and writer. The panel included director Nicole Holofcener, casting director Jeanne McCarthy and actor Thomas Mann. All three have proven themselves over and again in the film industry as talented creators with a true love for cinema. Moderated by Karyn Kusama (director of Destroyer and The Invitation), the first night left every audience member with a fresh new perspective in the acting world of movies.

The evening began with Nicole and Jeanne discussing the role of a casting director. Some very interesting conversations emerged, mainly about finding the right person for the role. Nicole shared her many experiences of attempting to decide which person she felt was best for her stories and Jeanne shared her perspective in the casting director role of trying to find who she thought not only would be best suited for the part, but best suited for Nicole as well. It seems booking a role in a film does not simply come from the performance of a person, but their relationship with the director as well.

Nicole shared many examples of how she makes sure an actor and she can get along before ever stepping onto a film set. She discussed the necessity of meeting with the actors she is considering, in order to make sure that she will be able to work with them for lengthy periods of time and under heavy stress. Both Karyn and Nicole made it clear that an actor can be incredible at acting, but a character in a film will always reflect the chemistry of the actor and director, no matter the talent of either. Another point Nicole noted was the sad case where an actor does not make the performance needed. She stated that, after a certain amount of takes for a scene, she realized that she will never get the performance she wants and must just figure out how to make the best of it in the post room. Of course at times, the process may fail and an actor must be replaced. “It’s painful, but I do it,” Nicole said solemnly.

Thomas shared many experiences from the third angle, that of the actor themselves. Thomas and Nicole shared their experiences with rehearsals. For Nicole, she enjoys the fact that, not only does the time allow for her to build a stronger bond with the actors, but also time to understand different ways of running the scene and how the actors approach their characters. Thomas had a slightly different benefit, building a relationship with fellow actors. Thomas brought up the point that, very often the first shooting day can include very emotional scenes and it can be difficult to deliver a natural performance if the scenes are with actors who have never met each other. The rehearsals allow them to build their relationships in order to deliver a natural performance.

Of course, once on set, the relationship does not end there. The actual film must be made and the art of directing actors came up many times in the evening. Nicole honestly shared her many mistakes when she was starting out as a director. She often would give lines and lines of back story to an actor, explaining every detail, every reasoning for emotion and every single aspect of that character. She realized an actor doesn’t need all this. They need simple commands. Thomas also backed that up. While many first-time directors go the route of too many details, they both explained that, in reality, an actor simply needs to hear very basic instructions such as “do it again louder,” instead of the deep reasons why this actor in this specific moment must say that line louder.

The event held a much larger range of insight, advice and proverbs that enriched the mysterious process of choosing and working with an actor. Thomas also discussed the unique situation of being in a supporting role of a film, when you come in as the filming is already in progress and leave before the production is wrapped. Thomas explained that it creates an interesting challenge when the actor must hit the ground running and be prepared to handle the already established energy of the crew who have been there since the first day. This event lasted a couple of hours, but the panelists truly she a light into the hidden relationship between acting, casting and directing. This was another successful and memorable event hosted by Film Independent!

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