I had the pleasure of sitting down with Lillian Lewis the other day on camera and talk to her about what she has been up to lately as well as some of the cool things she has done in her career. Below, you’ll find a link to my Tumblr site that will take you directly to the song file Reckless Love because to add an mp3 file here I would have to “upgrade” (you may have to just copy and paste it cause not everything comes easily). Oh well. I am also providing a direct link to Lillian’s Linkedin profile. Check out the song and say hi to her on via the link provided!
I have nothing visual to give you for this place (yet). You’ll just have to take my word on what I’m about to tell you…
Old Westbury Gardens is located at 71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, New York. Not that far of a drive from Queens. It just so happened that my wife and I were in Farmingdale (Long Island) for business. We had anticipated this business to have taken more than half of the day and it had nothing to do with photography or videography. Of course I didn’t bring my equipment with me due to that. As luck would have it, business wrapped up way sooner than we expected.
The question now became, what do we do with the rest of the day? Grocery shopping came up but I wasn’t feeling it (what gut does…right?). I then had a brainstorm…find a park or garden to check out! We spent some time going over the possibilities (thank you smart phone and wireless web access!) and eventually narrowed it down to Old Westbury Gardens due to it’s close proximity. So off we went.
From the get go, once we turned onto the entrance drive, we were in awe. I’m not going to give away all the cool things about the gardens. I plan on either doing another write up or a video of the place (if I can get permission for that). I can sit here and write so many descriptive words and in all honesty, I feel I could not do it justice. Lets just say that the first cool thing you see is a very old mansion that dates back to 1906 (and you can even tour the house at no extra charge).
My elation didn’t last long though. In fact, it turned to sadness because once you get past the house and into the gardens area you get a slap in the face of reality. I broke a big giant fat rule and I was about to pay for it. I was in a magical place without my camera. A photographer always has a camera, on him or her, just in case. The just in case was then and there and I was left wanting big time. The gardens and mansion sits on about 200 acres. There are a couple of small lakes and plenty of flowers and trees that makes this another photographers paradise.
Unfortunately the gardens close for the winter starting November 1st and doesn’t reopen until April 5th (weekends only) and then weekly starting sometime near the end of April. You have time to go check it out and take some pictures (I would highly suggest that you read their rules for photography and videography). I won’t be getting back there again this year BUT I will sometime in April or May.
In the mean time here is a link ( www.oldwestburygardens.org ) for you to get more information on the gardens. Who knows…maybe we’ll see each other there one day soon!
Best ~ R
Two elements of photography that are keys of taking your pictures from snap shots to “artistic photographs”. Take a look at photography books, magazines and the online community dedicated to photography and you’ll always find and read that they will harp on these two elements.
Why am I mentioning them if you can read about it elsewhere? Well, in case you haven’t heard about yet. I also find that these two elements are the easiest to understand but more difficult to get in the habit to think about. I don’t know how other photographers instruct at their workshops (if they do workshops) but I talk about these two things first and try to get everyone thinking about the shot before the shot.
With all that being said you will also find that photographers can defer on their opinion of how something should be shot but we still hold on to some basic photography “guidelines” or “rules” but understand that sometimes the rules can be broken. I’ll explain as we go along.
The picture of the spider hiding behind the leaf of a plant is an example of the use of a couple of the basic photography rules…composition and DOF. For those of you who doesn’t know what DOF means it means Depth of Field. DOF is the term for the area in front and behind the subject and how much is in focus and out of focus. This one thing alone can make a tremendous impact on a photograph as you can see in that picture. Depending on your subject will often dictate on what kind of DOF you need to give the photograph the most impact possible.
I’m sure that by now you have heard of the f-stop. The numbers that represents how much light gets to your sensor. I’ll break it down simply for you. The lower your number (example f/2.8) the more light that hits your sensor. The more light that hits your sensor the shallower your depth of field will be. A shallower DOF means that more of the area in front and behind your subject will be out of focus. Now just reverse that thought and you’ll figure out that the higher your f-stop number (example f/22) the greater your DOF. That’s right. How much of the foreground and background is in focus. Pretty much every professional photographer and serious enthusiast have what are called fast lenses. Fast lenses are considered any lens with an aperture (f-stop) of f/2.8 and lower. Most lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or lower (we also call this faster) is a fixed aperture lens. In other words, if it’s a zoom lens with a fixed aperture of f/2.8, no matter whether you are zoomed all the way in or out you can shoot at f/2.8. Lucky for you fast lenses are fairly inexpensive if they are small lenses. I will talk about lenses in another blog so these pieces start to tie together. One thing I can tell you is that a shallow DOF can be had even with slower (f/3.5 and up) lenses just by getting closer to your subject. If you keep your f-stop at it’s maximum setting (the lowest number) then the closer you get to your subject the more you’ll have out of focus in front of your subject and behind your subject.
The picture above also gives a great example of composition and how it can impact a photograph. This other key photography rule is called the rule of thirds. A lot of the digital cameras that are out now have an option within the menu to display a grid on the LCD. Check your camera menu and see if you can get this option as it will help train you to compose your subjects in the thirds portion of you frame. If your camera doesn’t have that option then you’ll have to mentally think about a grid cut into thirds (below).
Most everyone who are casual shooters tend to always center their subject in the middle of the frame rendering the look of what is called a “snap shot”. If you are reading this then I’m sure you would like to go beyond snap shots. Right?! Good! You are already on your way. I have added a “Rule of Thirds” chart that I created (it’s not perfect but you’ll get the idea if it shows up here correctly when posted). Just think about the area of the circles as the rule of thirds area along with the inside lines.
Landscape photography is one of those that can be a bit tricky depending on what the landscape is. A lot of people will line of the horizon in the middle of the frame. Even in landscapes you should be thinking about the thirds (in this case for the horizon line). To get the most out of your photograph try and line up the horizon towards the upper or lower third of the frame. Be careful here though. Once photographers start developing the “thirds mentality” they then need to start thinking about the space within the frame. I don’t have an example picture for you but lets try the art of visualization.
Think about a beach scene. There is nothing on the water other than small waves. The sun is past midway to the high noon mark. The sky is blue with some white puffy clouds. The first instinct is to line up the horizon (where the water and sky meet) in the center of the frame but now you are thinking about the rule of thirds so you decide to line up the horizon in the upper third of the frame. This gives you less sky and more water. You snap the picture and you look at it on the camera’s LCD. Your thinking you like it…but wait! Look at it again. I mean really look at it. Look at the water and what do you see? Water! Lots of water. Endless water doing the same thing all over two thirds of the photograph. Hmmm….now it’s beginning to look a little boring right?! Take another picture but this time bring the horizon to the lower thirds of the frame. Take the picture and look at it. It looks less empty doesn’t it? Less empty water and more sky with white puffy clouds makes it more interesting and full. If the sky was clear of any clouds and the water empty as well then don’t take the picture. Wait for a boat or ship to come into the picture so there is something taking up space in the water or come back when the sun is low or have clouds in the sky. It gets a bit trickier and complicated with scenes with a lot of things in it (such as buildings, mountains and so fourth).
The picture above with the bridge you’ll notice that I not only kept the horizon in the lower third but I made sure that there was more to the picture than just the buildings. I used the bridge to make it more interesting and kept it to the right thirds of the frame. It would have still worked without the bridge because of all the clouds in the sky but lots of people have shot that type of landscape scene.
In this picture there is no bridge but what I did to make it a little different is by shooting it at an angle that gives the feeling of the buildings getting further from me. The horizon in the lower thirds and turning the camera to the right rather than shooting it straight on makes it feel so different doesn’t it. That’s one of the fun things about photography (especially digital because we won’t waste money on bad shots) is that you can try many angles and so forth to give that photograph a unique look.
Sometimes you can even break the rule of thirds and have the photograph work. This will be more up to you and your vision than anything else but the type of scene that usually works with the rule breaking are scenes involving reflection in the water (your land based subjects are also reflecting on the water clearly).
I could go on and on with this subject but I’m not. If you are interested in going out with me as a group or one on one let me know. I’m more than happy to share with you and help you go beyond snap shots. In the mean time…get out there and start shooting!
Best ~ R
Welcome back once again. Thank you so much for continuing to follow and tell your friends all about my blog. Recently I was able to get in touch with, screenwriter and indie filmmaker, Matthew Edwards of Lytham, Lancashire. In case you are wondering, Lytham is a nice, quite and affluent town about 10 miles south of Blackpool. Another cool little fact about this town is that it host the “Open Golf Tournament drawing the likes George Clooney and other well known faces”. Unfortunately, “there is very little opportunity in terms of the film and scriptwriting industry” there. So let’s see what Matthew has to say about the himself and the industry.
Robert (me) – How old are you?
Matthew – I’m 25.
R – When did you decide that you wanted to be a screen writer?
M – I always had an interest in creative writing when I was a child, and grew up watching a variety of films and TV shows. But it wasn’t until 2009 that I started to study screenwriting. The reason for me studying it was I simply liked writing and liked films so thought I’d give it a go. When I first started I didn’t know how to format a script, let alone know all the other terms associated with the subject, but my knowledge and experience grew as I developed the skills, and still continues to grow.
R – How would you view your experience going to the University of Central Lancashire?
M – My experience in going to the University of Central Lancashire was a very positive one. As I said earlier I didn’t know anything in terms of the formatting of a script, but with the help of my teachers I learnt these skills and improved them as the course continued. This was done through various ways, including reading out our scripts in class and getting feedback from both the teacher and our peers, analysing various films and looking at the different scriptwriting techniques used, script editing and so on. During my 3-year undergraduate course and one year Masters programme, we covered film, TV, and radio formats, and the different writing styles for each. I wrote and pitched scripts of various genres including; monologues, animations, children’s scripts, drama, comedy, action, romance, fantasy and psychological thriller. This included a portfolio with three feature length film scripts, over twenty short film scripts, two pilot TV episodes and two complete radio dramas, one of which was produced.
R – That’s pretty impressive. Is the film/TV industry strong in the Lancashire area?
M – I wouldn’t say the film/TV industry in Lancashire is strong but it is very close to Manchester, where a lot of production companies, including the BBC, are based. So more opportunities at least aren’t too far away. There are a few small production companies based in Lancashire and BBC Radio Lancashire, a regional radio station, offers a way of promoting your work.
R – It’s good to know that you have something almost a stones throw away. Have you ever had a chance to work on anything in the USA yet?
M – The only thing I have worked on in the USA was as a film reviewer in August 2014 for the SoCal Film Festival. This involved rating and critiquing films in a wide range of genres, before deciding whether or not to recommend they be screened at the festival. Having attended the festival in 2013, I met the organiser and when I saw he needed film reviewers I decided to contact him and gain more experience through this. Although this wasn’t strictly working in the USA as I did it from home, I still felt like I was working on a USA project if that makes sense.
R – I don’t know if you can count that but what the heck. Would you want to actually work on something in the USA?
M – I would love to work on something in the USA in the future. I feel the industry in the States is thriving compared to the UK, and would relish the opportunity to work on a project, whether it be for film or TV, in any capacity.
R – Other than the web series “Ambling Man”, what all have you been working on lately?
M – Apart from The Ambling Man web series, which is on the Mort&Pal YouTube channel myself and a fellow scriptwriter set up, I have been very busy with different projects. Recently I received my first paid work co-writing children’s animation scripts and continue to write them for a production company.
I have also written a short, anti-bullying script for a company called ITV Fixers, which I adapted from a short treatment about the true story of a teenage girl being bullied.
R – That’s great! Do to the difficulties of having a sustaining income as a writer, are you doing anything else to help and try to make ends meet?
M – I have ventured into filmmaking/directing with a fellow scriptwriter, as well as taking on the role of producer, casting, and location scouting for the short film I am looking to shoot, especially as it is an Independent film.
Also recently co-directed a music video for a singer/songwriter student.
At the moment myself and a fellow scriptwriter are looking into doing online promotional videos for businesses and their websites and other social media platforms, so have been discussing this opportunity with owners of hotels, shops, restaurants etc. so hopefully this will take off in the near future.
Also looking to set up a production company with a fellow scriptwriter/filmmaker in the very near future, as well as in the process of casting a short film that I’m looking to co-direct in the next few months which will be sent to festivals.
Finally, I have been working as a teaching assistant since October 2014 teaching at the University of Central Lancashire developing the students monologues. I get to choose three or four of the monologues to be made into short films which will be screened at the LIFE Film Festival in March. I will also produce and co-direct the monologues so this is an excellent opportunity.
R – Do you find it challenging as TV script writer to constantly come up with new material or are you one of the lucky ones who’s head is just full of ideas?
M – I have a lot of different ideas in my head so don’t really struggle with getting a concept for a script. I usually try and get the themes of the script first and then develop it from there. Then I work on character as if you don’t have a character the audience cares about then the idea can fall flat in my opinion. I also like co-writing as I find it good to bounce ideas off other people.
R – What is the most memorable experience you have had since getting into the industry?
M – There are a lot of projects I am proud of since I’ve been a writer but the most memorable experience I’ve had has probably been when I was interviewed live on BBC Radio Lancashire about The Ambling Man web series. Also getting a short film I co-wrote and directed shortlisted at the LIFE Film Festival in April 2014 was something I am very proud of. Completing my Masters in September 2013 was a memorable moment too, especially the feature length film script I wrote in three months as I poured a lot of effort and emotion into it.
R – Is there a time that you wish you could forget? Care to share?
M – Good question. There isn’t really a time I’d wish to forget but the number of rejections I’ve had for freelance work and jobs in the industry has been incredible, and the number of times I’ve not even had a response has been a little disheartening but it is to be expected in the industry.
R – How hard did you find it to get into the industry once you graduated?
M – I have found it very tough to get into the industry since finishing my Masters in September 2013. As a freelance writer I am exploring new ways to try and get a consistent income, including branching into filmmaking after buying a camera, audio and lighting equipment as I feel people would rather see something visual than read a script on a page. Apart from the children’s animation scripts, every other project I have worked on has been for no pay. It has developed my resumé and portfolio which hopefully in the long run will lead to more paid work. Networking events have been beneficial also, as to an extent this industry is more about who you know as opposed to how well you can write in my opinion, so building up industry contacts has been a massive part. Also going into filmmaking and even marketing and self-promotion of my work has been a new experience I didn’t envisage doing.
R – Where do you hope to be or hope to have accomplished 10 year down the road?
M – In that time I hope to have accomplished writing and directing credits on a few short films, with at least one of which has been screened at numerous festivals, as well as completed a feature film by then. I would also like to have been hired by at least one production company to write a film for them as well as have several online promotional videos completed. Part-time teaching would be a useful.
I’m sure Matthew’s future is bright. He has accomplished a lot in such a short period of time. At 25 and having a drive to succeed he will only be limited by the limitations he puts on himself. Check out his current web series “Rambling Man” on youtube. Leave a comment for him as well. We as writers and filmmakers get better through your feed back. I, and I know you do as well, wish Matthew Edwards great success in everything he does. For all of my counterparts here in the good’o U.S. of A., reach out to this talented young man. He might be that hidden gem of a screenwriter that you have been looking for.
One last note. I sometimes find difficulty with with imbedded video and WordPress. I have included a file at the top of the page and below for the “Ambling Man”. If you don’t see the video itself then click or copy/paste the link to check it out.
Until next time ~ R
Nothing big for blogging today. I have spent the majority of the day putting together my promo reel. Check it out!
That is the question! I, of course, know the answer. The photo above was shot outdoors in the woods.
Creating the look of a studio shot outdoors is easier than you think. Let’s talk a little about this shot. As I mentioned, this was shot in the woods. It was nice and shaded thanks to the high canopy of the trees. I picked out these leaves as they were far enough away from any background subject and presented abstract simplicity. Armed with a tripod (very important for this), shutter release cord (also important) and an off shoe flash, the shooting commenced.
To get the background to be blacked out (studio look) I had set my setting on the Nikon D800 at 1/80th SEC (shutter), ISO 100 and f/29 (aperture). The camera was on a TRIPOD and used a shutter release cord so I could be hands free. So important if you are shooting fine art as detail is so important. One other setting I used on the camera (and hopefully your’s has this ability too) is mirror lock-up. What this does is it brings the mirror up into position (and locked) before the shutter curtain activates reducing any camera vibration even further. This requires the pressing of the shutter release button twice. Once for the mirror and then again for the shutter curtain. My lens of choice for this shot was the Tokina 100mm macro lens. This lens does not come with optical stabilization but that reflects in how inexpensive the lens is. With a good steady hand or TRIPOD you won’t need it and the lenses optics are top notch (at least my copy was). My flash is the Nikon SB-700 (I actually have two which I use sometimes for macro work rather than the SB-200 set up).
So, with these settings in place I did several shots. I did some with the flash attached to the camera. Some with the flash off the right and some slightly above. Playing with the lighting and trying different angles is a lot of fun because you are sometimes rewarded with unique looks. No matter what though my sole purpose was to get the background blacked out. Try to pick subjects whose background is far enough away from your subject and have your camera settings set to allow as little light onto the sensor as possible (without introducing noise). The flash will compensate for you main subject but I would suggest that you use manual settings on the flash or it may over expose due to the darker scene it is metering).
The setting for the f-stop of f/29 serves two purposes here. Less light and greater depth of field (DOP) so more is in focus. The settings I used may not work for every shooting situation. There are times when, no matter what, you can’t get the full effect of the studio look in camera.
This shot here is the perfect example. This is a full plant. All the other plant leaves were always visible to some degree behind the flower. In this case, using similar settings as mentioned above, I kept the flash at about a 45 degree angle to the right of the camera (trying to make sure the subject is lit but limiting the light on the background). I took several shots here with slight adjustments to camera and flash settings. To produce the final look required the use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. I adjusted the blacks and shadow to the negative a little but not too much. Then using the selective brush, I proceeded to “paint” the are around the plant that I did not want in the picture. Once I had that done I then adjusted the blacks and shadows all the way down so I would have a solid black background.
Of course you could do this anyway after taking a “normal” photo but why would you?! Trust me, unless you are a Photoshop guru, it will take a lot more time to get the effect you want. It will save you lots of time. If you have any questions about this particular subject drop me a line. Until next time….keep shooting!
Starting next week, get ready, more interviews are coming. The lineup (though not all on next weeks blog) includes directors, producers, song writer, singer(s), musician(s), screen writer, CG artist and maybe a poet as well. Sounds exciting right?! Well, I know I am. Who are they you ask?
First we have Lillian Lewis. A professional writer and an award winning songwriter.
Next we have Christopher Delao. He is a director and producer at 7and3 Media.
Then comes Nick Barghini. One of the co-founders of Headcase Films.
We can’t leave out Patrick Mandeville. Patrick is a director, screen writer and editor at Freelance Filmmaker.
Also on the list is Emmanouil Bampatsikos. A freelance VFX/FX artist in Ruislip, United Kingdom.
Of course I have the ever talented Rachel Arac. She’s an actress and singer who moved from the Brandon/Tampa area of Florida to NYC.
Others that I’m hoping to get on the list soon (but it’s been very difficult with scheduling for everyone involved) is Wilson M’biavanga and Jamaal Green. They are the writing and directing team of M.G. Cinecraft. Carol Mazzoni, who produces and AD’s. Daimon Glenn (also known as D. Glenn), a photographer and indie filmmaker. Patrick DiRenna who is the president of the Digital Film Academy. More to come.
I suppose you are wondering who on the list will be the one for next week.
If he doesn’t have to cancel on me this time around it will be Patrick Mandeville. If he does then it will come down to who’s interview will take the least amount of time to put together. These interviews are all being done on Thursday. So you’ll just have to wait and see.
Can you guess where this was taken?
No? Then allow me to share a little secret with you. This is just between us shutterbugs though. So don’t go bragging about it. Okay? I mean I can only imagine how crowded it could get if you told just one of your closes friends. Of course, if you are truly terrible about keeping secrets, then you can tell them the best time to go there is between 11am and 3pm. Why that time you ask? Um…because the hours before and after that time frame is often the best time to take pictures. Now that we are on the same page I’ll get on with it.
Central Park! So no one gets confused (in case there is another park somewhere called Central Park too), I’m referring to the one in Manhattan, NY. Now some of you are probably slapping yourself on the forehead thinking that it now looks familiar, but for those still scratching their heads here is a hint, it’s not in the touristy area (any area south of the reservoir). It located in the northwest area of the park.
This area of Central Park is one of my personal favorites because it’s mostly locals that traverse the trails there. That means fewer people. Once you get into this area the city truly disappears and you feel as though you have been transported to the forest within a mountain (kind of). It’s the waterfalls, streams and big rocks that makes it feel that way to me and I love it.
There really isn’t a bad time to go. I have to point out that winter for me is only great after a fresh snow fall due to all the leafless trees. The snow gives it more substance but that just me. So, what is this area best for when it comes to photography? Landscape of course. If you are into mostly wildlife photography (mainly birds) and you have the long lens for it then you’ll be fine here as well. I have to say this one more time. You will need (most of the time) a long lens. A 300mm would work but you will want that tele-converter. The birds in this area are more standoffish and shy than they are in the Ramble area of Central Park. It probably has to do with the amount of people that visit the lower section of Central Park. The more humans the better chance of getting free hand outs.
There you go. The secret is yours to hold on to and use. Have fun. Be safe. Take some pictures and feel free to share one with us here (please make sure that you have it watermarked though).
Warmly ~ R.
Welcome back everyone!
Well, it’s getting closer to that time of year where we will be donning our scarves, beanies and gloves. For some the addition of snow pants, snow boots and thermal underwear will become a must. Winter is knocking on the backdoor asking to be let in (at least for those of us up north). I know my Florida friends are wondering if this article is for them or not. Yes it is. If you ever go somewhere to see snow or hit the beach then you’ll want to know how to get the best picture possible. The odds are against you if you think you can just snap a picture in the snow and it’ll turn our great. Believe it or not, despite how far digital camera’s have come and the sophistication of the metering systems now, digital camera’s can still be fooled into exposing incorrectly in very bright environments.
If you have enough contrast of darker subjects within the scene then you can have some shots come out right with matrix metering but I wouldn’t bet my house on it happening every time. A cameras metering system is made to think of a scene as being about the equivalent of 18% gray and most scenes are. When you are dealing with very bright scenes the sensor may underexpose to get closer to that “neutral gray” leaving your photo dull and gray. Most of the time it requires adjusting your exposure by +1 stop. Because every scene is different (such as what is in the background, foreground, where the sun is at and so forth) you may have to adjust by another half stop plus or minus. Look at your particular camera instruction manual to see how to do this. With DSLR’s this is easy to do. With point and shoots, well, that’s a different story. I’m sure most of those you’ll have to go through the menu settings.
Another way of getting a correct metering is by setting your camera to auto. Rather than using matrix go with spot (if you have it) or center weighted metering. Spot is preferred as this will only meter a very small part of the scene (usually the circle area with your view finder). It’s best is you happen to have an 18% gray card with you but if you don’t it’s okay. Look around within the scene and find an area or object that is somewhere between the brightest bright and the darkest dark in the scene. Put that little circle in your view finder on that area or object and press the shutter half way down. Either remember what the camera shows for exposure and shutter speed and then go set it manually or hold the AE button down and recompose the picture and snap the shutter fully. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the AE button on your camera then you should. It locks the expose so you can recompose the shot and shoot. If you don’t set the settings manually and you forget to press that button while metering that “gray” spot then your camera will readjust for the scene when you recompose.
Something else that will help you with shooting snowy pictures is investing in a set of ND filters. You can go the route of a variable ND filter (it’s an all-in-one filter that you can turn to get the different degrees of ND compensation) or a solid ND filter (which I prefer). I know you are probably thinking that if you shoot in RAW then you can fix it in photoshop or some other 3rd party editor. Yes. You can. My question to you is, do you want to spend all that extra time working in post? Try your best to get it right the first time.
If you want REALLY GOOD snowy pictures then get your butt out of bed just before dawn! Really, I’m serious. Pay attention to the weather forecast and plan ahead. Know where you want to go. Get up and out of the house extra early and go. Get those pictures shot before too many people have place the foot prints in the snow. So get your gear ready and get out there at the first snow!
For those of you down south the same applies when it come to beach pictures. The sun reflecting of white sandy beaches and the water can do the same thing. If any of y’all are interested in sharing your pictures on here and telling us about how it was shot let me know. Until then….
Have a great Monday ~ R.
The other day, I was able to sit down and talk with Maria Riboli, whom was born and raised in Pesaro, Italy (a beautiful town on the Adriatic sea). I have had the pleasure of working on set with her a while back on “Catch 30”. What a night that turned out to be for all involved. I think the part that we will all remember the most of that set was it was a “late night” shoot in an art gallery on the eighth floor with a service elevator that was only operational when the attendant was there. Of course he left way before we were done, leaving us to tote equipment and food up and down eight flights of stairs. My legs are still bulked up from that night. Other than that it was a great night working with some great talent and crew. Maria was directing this film and I remember how astute she was on set with direction. Maria is warm, charming and humble. It was great getting to see her again. In person is so much better than keeping up via social media. Without further ado here is what we had to talk about.
Robert – How long have you been in the industry?
Maria – Since I was like 6 years old or something.
R – Wow. Was it in major shows?
M – Small things obviously at the beginning. I did get into dancing for quite some time but my passion has always has been acting. I’m from Italy so I worked and studied there a lot and I started to teach there when I was in my early 20’s. I was working at one point in Italy with the Living Theater and Judith Malina and they asked me to come to NY for a show and literally a week later I was here, and I stayed. It was always my dream to live here since I was 4 or 5. I now have my own acting studio here in the city. It’s always been in the blood.
R – That’s nice. With acting, was it film or stage that you started off with?
M – I started with stage. I’ve done a lot of theater. I love theater. There’s something about it. There’s nothing like the feel of a live audience, it’s very special. Then I got into TV. I’ve hosted TV shows. I’m hosting a TV show right now.
R- Is it web TV or actual TV?
M – It’s actually TV. Right now I’m a spokesperson for Borghese, a line of makeup and skin care products, on TV’s ShopHQ. But I do love filming and another passion of mine is directing.
R – What do you find more challenging, directing for the camera or stage?
M – (laughing) Definitely the camera. Because, no matter what, on camera you have so many technical aspects that you just have to deal with it. For the stage you are with your actors for so many weeks rehearsing in a room, preparing, and the worst day for the tech people is load-in, putting the set up and make sure the lights are okay and all that fun stuff, but then after that, you kinda sit back and enjoy the show every night. With film it never ends. You have the madness of the preproduction, then the shooting days and then post production. It’s such a long period of time.
R – Have you had a chance to work with anyone that might be well known by anyone?
M – Yes I directed Tom Cappadona (http://www.tomcappadona.com) in two different theater shows but I also feel very thankful because I work with people that are really talented and they really have a passion for this. In the film I’m directing right now “Locked In You” (written by Marqus Bobesich), my DP is Taylor Stanton and he’s brilliant. I’ve worked with him on another project and I remembered him. There was something about him that stuck with me. So we got in touch again and he showed me his reel and other stuff that he has done. He really has a gift. The make up artist I have on crew with me right now, her name is Ivy Ermet and she works for major shows on TV and we’ve been friends for a very long time. She is amazing! It really helps to have people like that next to you. I’m very thankful and I always try to work with the same people because you become a family. You have to trust each other.
R – Do you find it more challenging as a woman in this industry to be taken seriously?
M – Absolutely. It’s different. I have a story for you. I directed a theater show about a year ago or so. During the audition process, one of the actors was an older actor and I remember thinking he was the one but I felt like he might not allow me to direct him because, one, I was a woman and two, I was younger than him. I was completely wrong though. We became really good friends and he’s a really outstanding actor. He’s actually done a lot of work on TV like the Soprano’s, Sex in the City, Law and Order. And funny enough it was Tom Cappadona. In this business they often treat a woman like she doesn’t get it or she doesn’t understand all the technical aspects of it. Personally if I don’t know something I’ll ask, rather than saying ‘oh I’ll figure it out.’ I try to surround myself with people I trust and know that support me. I’ve been working with some amazing women that inspire me all the time. One of the producers that I have on board right now is Monica Palmeri, she’s an actress and director as well, I actually acted with her and that’s how I got to know her. She’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s fearless. She’s a great producer. Great director. And she’s a woman! (laughing)
R – I know from my own experience in the industry that getting anything financed is like pulling teeth. Considering how long you’ve been in the industry do you still find that as an issue for yourself and do you often have to finance things for yourself?
M – I finally got to the point in my life when I decided that if no one was going to come knocking on my door, I was going to build one for myself. If there’s a project that I’m interested in, then I’ll try to make it happen. So I’ve been financing myself a lot. Thankfully the last three theater shows I directed I did an Indiegogo campaign and I was successful at getting the funding. There are a lot of people out there that are willing to help. You just have to ask. You put it out there, “this is my project and this is what I bring to the table” and people often just donate there time or talent for free or food and that’s huge for me. But I do try to pay my actors and crew. It’s their job. Their working, you know. For this project I just hired a wardrobe and art director, Patricia Christodulidis, and I told her it was a low-budget shoot and she wanted to pay for the costumes herself! I was like “No no no, I’ll pay for those.” (laughing) She was just so thrilled to be a part of it and those are the people I want to have around. I’m the blessed one, trust me, she has an incredible talent!
R – Do you think that it’s because of you or the story? Maybe a little of both?
M – (laughing and blushing) Probably a little of both. She was thankful for the opportunity. It’s something I try to do. Give everybody a chance. My associate producer, Jennifer Arantes, has been coming to my acting class and she wanted to be in the industry. She asked if she could do anything during the production, if she could just come and watch. I asked her what she was interested in and she said she was interested in producing and I told her to come on board. She is doing a wonderful job! Give someone a chance…you never know…
R – Do you have any aspirations of landing a gig with a big Hollywood production or are you happy sticking with the indie side of the industry?
M – That’s an interesting question. I was talking about it not long ago. I’m not interested in the fame. I’m interested in telling a story. I’m not in the business for fame whether as an actress or director. I think we’ve become so confused as to what show business is about. I think as a society we’ve become so addicted to following the latest ‘star’ and seeing what their wearing, what their eating, what they are doing, but we are forgetting about the art. This is an art form; it takes a lot of work, passion and dedication to do what we do and it has nothing to do with being on a cover of a magazine.
R – With Hollywood being so action and sci-fi, driven do you fear that indie films might eventually move that way to cash in?
M – I think there is always going to be a need for a story. I’m a big geek myself. I enjoy those movies as well. I love Star Wars! There should be something out there for everyone, and there is. When you hear about an indie film that has more of a story, that is a little more juicy when it comes to the context, it also gets a big buzz. People talk about it. It always goes back to the fact that I want my audience to feel something. I’m not a director who tries to please an audience because I don’t care about that. I tell a story. I want them to leave the theater talking about it. Whether they are laughing or crying, when you move them it’s priceless. It’s worth more than any money out there. It truly is.
R – The film you’re working on right now, Locked In You. Is it a feature or a short?
M- It’s a short. I have another one coming up at the beginning of the year and a third one after that. They are all shorts because I’m trying to get a little buzz going right now then I’m planning to move to a feature.
R – So, you teach acting, you act, you direct, you host…how do you balance all that?
M – (laughing) I don’t. I just work a lot. 7 days a week. No holidays. It’s funny, when I see my friends with ‘normal jobs’ and they’re all excited because “The weekend is here!”, I’m like “What is that?”. There’s no vacation time but I’m very blessed to being doing something that I really love. It never feels like work. I wouldn’t change it with anything else.
R – Do you act and direct in the same film or stage play?
M – I do sometimes. It depends on the project. Sometimes I’ll read a project and I can ‘see it’ right away, so I know I will be directing it and sometimes when I read it I can ‘feel it” right away so I know I’ll be acting in it, and once in a while one will come to me where I want to do both, like Locked in you.
R – What was the most memorable set you’ve been apart of?
M – (laughing) It’s such a hard question. You kept the hardest one for the end.
R – Of course.
M – (still laughing) That’s hard. I don’t know which one was my favorite. There was a show that I directed and acted in, few years ago. (2007) My character was this secretary who hadn’t spoken in 10 years and she finally finds her voice. I loved that character. One of the last things I’ve acted in was a short…my character was a woman that didn’t believe in love anymore and she was very scared of it. There were so many layers; it was a lovely woman to bring to life. With another theater show, there was a character that just brought out a side of me that I thought I had lost. So I’m very thankful for that.
R – Are there any films or shows that you wish you could go back and do it over again? I know from my experience that after a film is done and you watch it you see so many things that make you wish you could go back and redo that.
M – (laughing) Yes. Of course there are things that I wished that I had done differently. I did trust the wrong people a couple of times and I had to scramble to put everything back together and make sure everything was working. At the end of the day it still worked but I learnt my lesson there. You learn. The mistakes I made there I won’t make again…hopefully. (laughing)
R – When you are directing do you allow yourself to put on other hats within a production or do you just focus on directing and have everyone else put on those other hats?
M – I wear many hats. That’s just the person I am. I’ve been told to be a strong and caring leader, and I felt very humbled when I heard that. I get things done, that’s for sure, but I also know my limits. I produce a lot and you know how it is…producing is madness. With Locked in you I’m the executive producer, I’m directing and I’ll be in it but I have other people next to me. I make sure things fall into place. If it’s your project you can’t help it, you’re totally involved in it. That’s the way I am, I follow every aspect of it. But I’m still able to see the big picture and because I’ve been doing for so long I know how to guide everyone around me, and I know when to listen and trust and when to delegate tasks. It comes back to hiring people you trust.
R – Did you take any filmmaking courses or was it all learned on set?
M – It was both for me. I did directing at Lee Strasberg Theater Institute here in New York City but I’ve also done a lot of on set. There’s nothing like being there and doing it. I’m a very visual person. I always learn when I do something. So if you tell me this is how you do it I’m always like ‘great, let me do it, let me try!’. You show me and I’ll do it with you and then I learn. I think it’s important that you never stop learning and keep yourself humble.
You probably noticed that she seemed to be laughing a lot and she was. That is just the way she is. You can only wish every producer, director or actor was like this. Approachable, friendly and humble. I left with a greater appreciation for not only what she does but for who she is. I wish her so much success in her work. We are not just friends but as she said….family. Go indie!
Best to you all ~ R