Lucas, a young up and coming actor, struggles to memorize and effectively perform the opening monologue for a play whose opening nears ever closer. As his frustration grows, he reflects back on the previous night's phone call with his mistress where she reveals to him that she is pregnant with his son. She leaves the choice of whether or not to keep the child with Lucas, as she does not want to raise a child without a father.
Parker Newman is a talented student filmmaker who has dircted "The Actor". We spoke to Parker Newman about his film.
What draws you to filmmaking and the cinematic language?
I personally love being able to see my vision or my dream come to life on film. Nothing can match the feeling of knowing that you got an image in the camera just how you imagined it in your head. The collaboration is also great because it allows for me to explore the story or its characters in ways I did not initially think of. For me, no opinion on set, especially those of a small crew made up of my friends, is not worth at least listening to. Through collaboration with both my cast and crew, I constantly find new ways to approach my artistic vision. It never gets boring. I love it!
Do you believe in film schools or does making a film teach you more than film school?
I believe that film schools are necessary for many young people to critically analyze and build their skills in the art of filmmaking. Without the added pressure of a film school, I believe that many young people would not have the motivation to better themselves and their art. Many times, we as artists need someone more experienced, such as a professor, to better our artistic taste and help us to refine our artistic instincts. Without the guiding hand of a film school, we are merely left to our own ego and raw talent to progress through the art of filmmaking, often leading to films that repeat the same mistakes with little artistic improvement.
What makes cinema stand out more than the arts for you?
Cinema stands out due to its unique ability to have a great story unite people across all political backgrounds, races, social statuses, ethnicities, and religions. In a theater, people from vastly different ideologies and backgrounds can come together and enjoy a single story. If only for a couple of hours, they now have a shared emotional experience that most other forms of art can only hope to achieve. Cinema builds unity through joined experiences in our culture.
Did you choose a certain directing style for making "The Actor" based on the script?
In planning the film’s visual style, I decided to use color as an essential storytelling tool. Cold, blue colors were used to light the scenes in the apartment to emphasize the stripped down, more honest side of Lucas’s character while warm colors were used to light the scenes in the dressing room to emphasize the shallow, rich facade that surrounds Lucas in the world of theatre. Since the world of theatre is one that he feels more comfortable in, nearly every shot in the dressing room is shot in a formal, steady style on either a dolly or a tripod. On the other hand, all the scenes in the apartment were shot in handheld, further emphasizing the stripped down, more vulnerable nature of Lucas when he is away from the world of theatre. Theatre is no longer there to protect him from his true selfish self. The merging of these two worlds, spurred by the revelation that he has impregnated his mistress, creates more use of handheld in the scenes of the dressing room, emphasizing the crumbling protection previously granted to him by theatre. Much of the framing in the dressing room was directly inspired by various shots in Raging Bull, communicating visual introspection in the character of Lucas.
As a director, I allowed the positive energy of our set to fuel further creative work that not just accomplished what we had planned to do, but also explored and discovered things that we had not planned to do. For example, we decided to scrap many of the shots for Isaiah’s monologues in order to give Isaiah greater freedom in his performance and also explore other, simpler shots that would allow for all the focus to be squarely on Isaiah’s magnetic performance.
How did you choose the cast and the crew of your film?
Casting the film was relatively simple. The only actor I envisioned to play the lead role of Lucas while writing the script was Isaiah Hardy. Having worked with him previously, I knew he was the only person that could authentically add to his character more than what was just on the script. To pull off the character of Lucas, I needed someone that could realistically show a man whose own inner turmoil was his worst enemy and also contain enough charisma for the audience to believe that he could be as good of an actor that Lucas is indicated to be. Isaiah is a natural talent and, in my opinion, is one of the best actors in the whole state of North Carolina. Isaiah has what you cannot teach: amazing screen presence. I cast Caroline Temple, another actor I had worked previously with, as Lucas’s mistress, Jen. I cast her because I considered her to be the best actress to bring out the character’s vulnerable, needy, and sometimes desperate personality. She also, like Isaiah, added a strength to her character that was missing from the original script.
Having worked with two of my three crew members on previous projects, my crew already knew the quality of work I expected from them and my unique, sometimes demanding, style of working. Also, by them having already viewed my prior projects, they had confidence in me that I was competent enough to make a good product with a strong story to back it up. That led to a confident environment where we all sincerely knew and felt that we were creating great material.
How did you fund your film and what were some of the challenges of making this film?
Our film was funded entirely by High Point University, the college that both myself and my entire cast and crew currently attend. High Point University was always willing to let us use their great equipment, making it a very easy interaction to take part in.
A significant obstacle in creating the film was making sure that Isaiah, our lead actor, could indeed be in the film. Due to a Covid scare, Isaiah unexpectedly spent the last part of his semester at his home. It became unclear if he could do the project and even talked to me about possibly replacing him with another actor. I refused to accept that alternative. We instead pushed ahead, rehearsing over the phone. Luckily, he later found time in his busy schedule to come back to campus to finally film.
Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker and what would most be the most difficult thing about being an independent artist?
I do not completely recognize myself as an indie filmmaker just yet. I am a college student, so, for the moment, I just simply see myself as a young college filmmaker still trying to better his craft. The biggest struggle for me at the moment is to not second-guess myself and to have better confidence in my filmmaking instincts.
What is the distribution plan for your film?
Currently, I actually do not have a formal distribution plan. I am waiting to see just how well the short film will be received at multiple film festivals before making an official decision about that.
What is your cinematic goal in life and what would you like to achieve as a filmmaker?
My cinematic goal in life is to be able to consistently tell great stories that will hopefully resonate with large audiences on a deep, emotional level without becoming boring or pretentious. Also, being a person of great faith, I would love the opportunity to be the filmmaker to elevate the faith-based genre to a respectable artistic level. Many modern faith-based movies lack true, raw emotional weight and are devoid of much artistic sophistication. It is great to have a good message, but a film must first be great art.
What kind of impact would your film have in the world and who is your audience?
I would love for my short film to be to allow the world to see that great stories do not require large scale. My production team, made up of just four people, was able to tell a deeply emotional, compelling story using mainly two locations and just one onscreen actor. This story did not require a large scale and, in fact, I believe making the story large scale would have lessened the more personal element that makes the film work as well as it does. My audience is mainly young people who are interested in a dramatic story presented in an unconventional, yet very stripped down way. It is going to be for people who are interested in a personal character study that also has a strong message about fatherhood and the true burden of responsibility.