Category Archives: Seminars

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Acting: A Director’s POV

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dallas-video-production

“After the third time this actor approached me, I decided I would never cast him again.”

“I got a real inside peek into what this actor was really thinking.  She forgot she was still mic’d and I was wearing my headsets.”

“This actor was extremely talented.  But he hosed me in post with his performance.”

These are thoughts of a working film director.  You can learn to save time, money and heartache in post, while cementing your reputation as a seasoned, veteran actor.

Announcing a new workshop for Acting: A Director’s POV!  Join us Saturday April 12, 2014 for a 3 1/2 hours, hands-on workshop, from a director to an actor.  Register here.

Daniel Millican, writer/director for five feature films has worked with Adam Baldwin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Sean Patrick Flanery, Joey Lauren Adams, Mimi Rogers and more.  On casting his last film in NYC, he realized there is a huge bias against using local actors.  As he explored the reasons why, he discovered some acting industry keys that can help local actors land the bigger film roles and avoid the mistakes that would leave them on the cutting room floor, or worse.

In this workshop, Millican will take the actors through exercises to illustrate these performance keys, concentrating on what they mean from the director’s point of view.

Cost is $89 and you can register for a morning session (8:30 to noon) or the afternoon session (1pm to 4:30).  Class size is limited to 15.  Click here to register and save your spot.

Serendipitous Films reserves the right to cancel.  If the workshop is cancelled, you will receive full refund.

Dallas Corporate Seminars and Conferences Video Production Service

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backstage-corporate-conference-s-films-wp

 

Dallas Event Marketing Video Production Services from S-Films

Part of our specialty is covering corporate seminars and conferences.  We’ve been asked to do everything from a one camera in the back of the room setup, to a live webcast through Google Hangouts, complete with multi-cameras and a switcher.

Conference video coverage usually breaks down into these categories: Simple one-camera record and run; multi-camera coverage; shooting for iMag (image magnification); and broadcast.  We have shot and handed footage over to our clients to take back to their in-house department to edit, and we’ve provided turn-key, all the way to finished edit for some clients.

The simplest approach is the one person, one camera shoot.  The videographer sets up in the room and shoots the speaker.  Audio is patched through the in-house sound, or a wireless lav mic from the videographer is put on the speaker.  Occasionally we’ll be asked to provide a video out so that iMag can happen, but generally, that’s not asked for in a simple one camera shoot.

Multicamera shoots provide a much more interesting finished video.  Now you can cut between angles.  One camera is usually “centerfield” and the other is on the side, able to get the speaker, but also able to get cutaways of the audience.  For three or more, you can have the centerfield camera stay wide, another camera relatively center is tight (or the “hero” camera) and the third is front of the room to shoot the audience.  We’ve done as many as 8 cameras and it all depends on what is happening (roundtable events, etc).  Sound is fed from the board into one camera.

For broadcasting, on television or the internet, multiple cameras and a video switcher is used.  The cameras are fed into the switcher, and a technical director calls up different cameras for the main feed– the video output from the switcher.  This might go to the iMag screens, or sent to a live feed (like the Google Hangouts scenario) or just recorded, already pretty much edited.  If you do record the main or “program” feed, usually you can also record each camera’s feed or “iso” (isolated recording).

Lately, we are rarely asked for DVD’s– instead, clients are asking for video files they can add to their corporate library for training and education.  We may be asked to send a smaller video file, or the client may ask for the high def version.  We are well practiced on delivering whichever– all events and shows are shot in HD video these days anyway.

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Greenlight Your Own Film

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I break the phases of filmmaking into six distinct areas: The Idea; Development; Pre-Production; Production; Post Production; and Distribution.  Most new filmmakers spend most of the research and education in the production phases.  But the biggest hurdles are in the two “D’s”– Development and Distribution.

Development is where you raise the money and build the right team.  Distribution is where you make money to pay back the investors and enough for you to keep going.  These two areas are woefully lacking.  That’s why I started teaching the Greenlight seminar several years ago.

Sean Patrick Flanery and Dan Millican

Sean Patrick Flanery and Dan Millican on the set of "A Promise Kept."

Often people have a story they want made into a movie and they either write the screenplay or commission the writing of the screenplay.  Then it’s an upward climb to get the script sold to a production company.  Then it’s an uphill battle for the production company to actually go into production on it.  I heard one screenwriting teacher say that if you stacked all the scripts floating around Hollywood on top of each other, they’d reach the moon.  That was ten years ago.

On Tuesday June 12, we’ll take an evening to go through these hard parts of making a movie and we’ll talk about the number one question I get asked: How do I get started?  And the second: How do I get distribution?  Sign up for your seat here at the SFilms store.

Shooting actor demos

Demo Reels for Actors

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Next demo reel shoot is June 5, Tuesday, with afternoon and evening times available.  Go to the SFilms store to register.

The actor demo reel has become extremely important for getting auditions and landing roles.  Often times, actors work for little or nothing to get the resume credit and to get a scene or something they can drop into their reel.  But time and time again, actors would talk with me about not being able to get the filmmaker to send them the scene to use.  The filmmaker just wouldn’t have time or resource.

On the set of Rising Stars

So at that point, I decided to help out the actors– what if we could do an original scene that looked as if ripped straight from an indie film and featured the actor the way they wanted to be featured?  Of course there’s some serious cost involved– I bring a real film Director of Photography and crew along, and I use high def cinematic cameras and equipment.  So I priced it as if we’re shooting for the day and split the cost between the actors, which has been $350 a person, minimum of 6 actors.

When you register, I contact you and we discuss what type of scene you need.  Our goal is a kicking 20 seconds, but usually it will be 40 sec to a minute total.  Everything we’ve shot is original.  That’s why I need you to sign up earlier rather than later– I’m going to write it just for you.  The shooting takes about 3 hours or so.  And when we’re done, I usually send you a high def quicktime file in about a week.

I’ve noticed since then, there are some others now shooting demo scenes for actors– but from what I’ve watched, it’s all a glorified audition scene.  Clearly staged, with locked off cameras and little to no editing or sound design.  I want scenes that look like they belong in a movie.  Shot with camera movement, cutting, sound design… music when needed.  This is what we do.  It’ high quality and a little mroe expensive.  But actors need to lead with their best.  Us directors aren’t going to watch much more.

But decide for yourself… checkout previous actor demos we’ve done.

Here’s one we did with teenagers Teanna Rose and Grant Griffith.  Both did a great job.

What To Bring to Screenfighting Workshops

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I’ll be sending an email out to all registered students… but thought I would post this first to let you know what to wear and bring to the screenfighting seminar this weekend.  (If you haven’t registered, click here to sign up).

Weapons Classes (Saturday)

First of all, do not bring any actual weapons to this workshop.  Our weapons master, Doug Williams will supply all equipment.  And especially don’t bring any live ammunition whatsoever.  If you have a concealed carry permit, please leave your weapon in your vehicle, locked.

Next, you will need to wear pants and a shirt you can tuck in.  This includes both male and female students.  You will need a solid belt you can clip a holster to.  And wear shoes that you can move around in.  Think about the role you might audition for– is it a police detective?  Wear what they would wear.

Screenfighting & Special Effects (Sunday)

Wear clothes you can easily exercise in.  You’ll be throwing punches and moving around.  And for special effects, for those purchasing a squib hit, you need to have layers– if you want a upper torso hit, wear a tee shirt and then a shirt you don’t mind throwing away over that.  And then bring an extra shirt and towel to change into after the hit.  Or you can wear the fake blood home, but don’t have the police officer who pulls you over call me.  (And it’s happened, btw).

 

Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!

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Theatrical Truth

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(This is for all my actor friends… one film director to actors.  I see a lot actor to actor, but very little from directors to actor.  BTW– we’ve got the screenfighting workshop coming up in a few weeks– click here to make sure you get your seat.)

The Quest

Constantin Stanislavski Father of Modern ActingConstantin Stanislavski– often referred to as the father of modern acting, defined acting as the quest for theatrical truth.  I believe this is a great starting place for the craft you’re working in.  It all boils down to this– is your performance as close as possible to theatrical truth?  Personally, I believe that truth cannot be achieved in a theatrical performance (you’re performing, pretending– it’s not truth, but theatrical truth).  Does your performance ring true with the audience?

Sure, many factors go into you achieving theatrical truth in a film role.  The writing can be decidedly “untrue”.  The directing.  The production value.  The editing.  All these have to work together to achieve theatrical truth.  but as the actor, you can’t control many of these other factors.  You can only strive for theatrical truth in your performance.

Does this ring true?

The question as a director I ask myself constantly when watching the take… does this ring true?  The best demonstration of theatrical truth in an actor is when it comes across as not acting.  That it’s real.  And having acted as well, for me, I can usually tell when something felt real– mainly because it’s rare.  I think as I become a better actor, it becomes less real.

The bottom line to the question above is when you as the actor stop acting and simply become.  To Be, not to Act, is the answer.  And “to be,” requires a heavy study into the backstory of the character, the environment, the story.  Maybe researching people that are like your character.  When we hired Tom Wright to play “Popeye” in The Keyman, he went and studied homeless people.  He told me later some of the things he observed… homeless people were very respectful of other homeless people’s blankets and carts.  He looks for the “walk” of the character.

Costuming, make-up, props and sets– these can all help you get to the place where you can “be” and not act.  Theatrical truth.  Method, substitution or other acting styles and philosophy don’t really matter– only in the sense of what tool helps you get closer to theatrical truth.  For some, Method might be the route they need, others find another way.  The path to Theatrical Truth isn’t a solitary lane– I believe there’s many routes.

And yes– Theatrical Truth is largely subjective.  Look at it from the science of communication: the actor is the sender, the audience member the receiver.  To “ring true” it needs to touch on the reality of the receiver.  But reality is based the individual’s experiences.  So yes, theatrical truth can be a bit akin to nailing jello to a tree.  But there are some universals.  So just because your research into the character brought you to a link to the Weird and Rare Instances– your receiver may not have that knowledge or experience to relate to your performance.  For them, it doesn’t ring true– it’s not theatrical truth.

In the audition room, theatrical truth is an extremely difficult thing to achieve.  The audition room is incredible unnatural– “un-true.”  Your training needs to be focused on the methods you need to get to the place of “being” as quickly and seemingly effortless as possible.  On the set, you’ll have more time– in some regards, it’s a lot easier to shoot for theatrical truth.

So my actor friends– what tips and techniques do you employ to achieve theatrical truth?  I’m curious.

In the audition room

One Director’s Biggest Advice for Local Actors

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If I could say one thing to local actors to immediately help their performance in film and give them a much better chance for landing that role in auditions, I would say this:

Big is Bad.

My advice to feature film and television actors is to bring it down.  In some cases… way down.  Now this advice is not without controversy.  I’ve had one agent tell they think I’ve got it wrong… that it’s better to be too big than too small… that a director can bring a performance down to the right level more easily than bringing it up.  Not in this director’s experience.

You see, in the audition room, using a 0-9 scale on “bigness”, I have many local actors coming in at 7, 8 or 9.  I’m looking for 1.5.  Now we have to go from an 8 to a 1.5?  Sometimes on the second read through in the audition, they come down to a 6.  But you see the problem– I don’t have time to keep this up.  However, if the local actor comes in too low (a 1.0), it won’t take much to bring them up.

I think the bigness comes from the actor’s desire to show the director everything he or she is capable of.  But may of the roles available are dayplayer roles… it might be “here’s your coffee sir.”  And the local actor puts everything in it to show what an outstanding talent she is.  Too big.  Or even if it’s a principle role or a lead, film acting is so much different than theater acting… and theater is what’s available locally a lot more than film.

There have been moments in the audition room where I think if they just read the part flat with no emoting, it would be better than what they’re delivering.

Having said all that, please do remember that every director is different.  And that especially with low budget indies, often first time directors– so you can throw out the rules.  One director might be from a theatrical background and be looking for you to project to the last row in the house (heaven forbid!).  But alas, it’s the reality of what’s out there.  Do your homework before you go to the audition.  Check out the director’s background.

I believe local actors have every bit the talent of the NYC/LA actors.  What they lack is simply experience.

 

Is Screenfighting Workshop for Children Actors?

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I’ve been surprised at how many people have asked this.  For background– we’re offering a one of a kind workshop on March 24-25 where Day 1 has two classes on handling weapons as an actor and Day 2 is about how to fight and work around special effects.  4 classes– 2 days.  To register, go to the SFilms store.

Can my child attend this workshop?

For ages under pre-teen, I don’t think Day One (Weapon Handling) is a good idea.  What we’re talking about is learning skills for upcoming auditions and roles, that will give you an edge as an actor.  There just aren’t that many roles for a gun-wielding 8 year old.  (I could be wrong, but there you go.)  For teens, especially older teens, yeah maybe.  It’s a skill and you can add it to your headshot/resume.

I do think Day Two, with the fighting and SFX classes, that it’s fine for children.  It will certainly be a lot of activity and won’t be hard to keep their attention.  And learning to fight and act around special effects is a good thing for kids to know.

We’re keeping class size small so that everyone can get individualized attention, so if you plan on coming, please register as soon as possible.  We’re close to having the minimum.

 

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Pizza Mondays

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New Seminar Classes!

Starting in the spring, we’re having a series of evening seminars covering filmmaking, writing, directing, acting and more.  These will be held on Monday evenings at Serendipitous Films in Fort Worth and will include dinner.  They all start at 6pm and go to 8:30 or 9pm.  All classes are $39.  Seating is going to be limited and also there will be a 5 person minimum.  If class doesn’t make, full amount will be refunded.  Once class is full, we will stop registrations on it.  Register at the SFilms store.

Monday March 26 Greenlight Yourself

This evening session will cover some basics about how to make your own feature film.  Emphasis will be placed on exact steps to get started, fundraising and the end game– distribution.  We’ll also cover topics like how to get name talent and short cuts and insider tips from a filmmaker who’s made five feature films.

Monday April 2 Directing Film

We’ll cover the necessary tips and techniques for people wishing to learn how to direct.  The emphasis here is on the dramatic– we’ll cover both technical info concerning camera movement, blocking and shooting for the edit, as well as working with actors to get what you need from the performance.

Monday April 9 Writing Screenplays

For the writer who already has screenplays under his or her belt to the person who would like to get that idea down into script format, we’ll cover technical, where the rubber meets the road, information to help get the most of of your screenplay.  We’ll also talk about the industry– different routes for getting your screenplay produced, and what directions you can take.

Monday April 16 Editing Dramatic

In this class, we’ll take a look at how to edit a dramatic scene.  We’ll cover the craft of storytelling through editing.  There’s a reason a wide shot is used and a reason it’s not.  Or when to cut in on the close up.  We will take a look at action raw footage and see what goes into the cutting.  This class is also perfect for the actor, writer and director– much can be improved in your performance by seeing what goes into the thought process in post production.

Monday April 23 Acting: A Director’s POV

Calling all actors– here’s a seminar that’s told Director to Actor– not just Actor to Actor.  You’ll learn information about what a director is thinking in the audition and selection phase as well as what they’re thinking on the set.  This seminar will give you some tips to send you to the front of the line for landing that role and avoiding the cutting room floor.

Monday April 30 TBA

This might be a repeat of any that sell out.  We’ll announce what we’ve got going as soon as we know.

 

Remember– register at the Store before the seats are all filled.

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Screenfighting Workshop now March 24-25

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Due to several factors, we’ve moved the Screenfighting Workshop to March 24-25 (after spring break for most people).  Doug Williams will be teaching weapons on Saturday March 24 and Steve Krieger will be teaching the fighting and special effects on Sunday March 25.

If you’d like to register, go to the SFilms store by clicking here.  If you plan on coming, please do register as soon as possible.  At this workshop, you will learn how to handle weapons like a professional, adding value to your performance on the set.  You’ll also learn some fight basics and learn to perform in the midst of special effects– what can be costly and how to be safe.

You can take one class or all four over the two days.  And if you’d like to experience a squib hit at the end of the SFX class Sunday afternoon, you can add that for $35.  Each class is $49 and all four is a discounted $155.  Hope to see you there!