Note: if you are viewing this page in a newsreader, the videos may not appear properly or at all.
One of the assignments of my first semester scriptwriting class in Film School was to write a short scene with two acting parts. I called mine No Exit (sorry Jean-Paul). Two actor friends of the teacher came to class and read the scenes. This was my first encounter with professional actors and I will never forget what a great pleasure it was to hear them perform something I had written.
Two semesters later I used No Exit as part of my final exam for a directing/acting class. The exam required either acting in or directing a scene. I was more than a little shy and felt that I had had enough acting in this class to last several lifetimes, so it was no surprise that I chose to direct. The performance was taped in a mostly empty classroom/sound stage, but you can hear some of the students who were waiting their turn. Here is the result:
NOTE: the audio is a bit weak, so you may want to pump it up.
Trivia for future reference: the spectators included the class instructor, Laurie Burton, and some students. The loud and, let’s face it, obnoxious laugh belongs to Bryan Fuller – “Hannibal,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Dead Like Me.”)
Next semester, Fall 1991, I used No Exit for the first assignment of a class that required shooting a scene on a sound stage within a one hour period. No re-shoots. Editing, music, titles, and effects, although done later, were also required. I had wanted the same actor from the stage version (and continued to feel that way when it was all over), but he was unavailable. However, he let us use the same costumes, which he had supplied for the stage version. Here is the result:
After the scene was shot the “dailies” were shown to the class. Everyone, including the teacher, had their say. Here is what the teacher said about my footage:
Please excuse me while I climb up on my soap box and indulge in a little rant. Here goes:
Reading the comments above I cannot help but remember that the tuition for this class, like all classes at this school, was close to two thousand dollars. The teacher was a somewhat well-known filmmaker, best known for his animated shorts, one done with Mel Brooks. I knew who he was before he showed his films to the class (does that count as instruction?), and I had been eager to learn from him. But the comment above is as good as it got. Is a comment such as “set and props lacked, too” worth thousands of dollars? Are they really golden words? I don’t mean to single out this instructor because this was not a problem limited to this class, nor was it even a problem limited to this school. It’s probably a problem with all art type schools. Nevertheless, despite lacking in the instruction department, the class was good because of the experience it provided, experience that I probably would not have gained otherwise. What I learned was that the best way to learn was to just do it.
A year of so after I left this school, they added a service for graduates that involved a former agent who would try to get you set up script-wise or otherwise with some of the makers and shakers in the biz. If you had a script, all that was required was a recommendation from a former teacher at the school. I had a script and I asked the teacher if he would recommend the script. The former agent told me that he had in fact represented this teacher in the sixties. So I dropped the script off at my former teacher’s house. Outside his house, on his doorstep, mind you, as per his instructions. A week or so later, on Christmas Day, no less, he called me up and said I could pick the script up. Pick it up literally from his doorstep on Christmas Day. He did not come to the door, but when I got home, there was already message from him waiting for me. All it said was to call him. So I did. He proceeded to berate me for not being thankful for what he had done for me, implying that his recommendation to this ex-agent had somehow opened a magic door. He said that people such as myself always forgot the ones who had helped them. I was not the only one who thought he was a strange bird. As it turns out, nothing came of this recommendation, not even a single meeting, unless you count the meeting with the ex-agent. A few years later, my ex-teacher died of a heart attack. Rest in Peace, E.P.
For what it’s worth, here’s the next scene I did for the class, adapted from “great writing,” per the instructor’s request: