Saturday, February 20, 2010

AUSTIN: Danielle Rene is Lily (Pt 2)

One thing I have to say is that Danielle and I have had an open line of communication since she was initially considered for the role of Lily. Because the film deals with an explicit act of sex, I think every actress has the obligation, to herself and to a film, to consider how they will be portrayed and to what purpose (other than cheap thrills) their image will be put.

The history of cinema, unfortunately, is the also the history of exploitation of women and their bodies by men with ogling cameras. On one hand, they are worshiped and put on pedestals for their physical beauty, normally also stripped bare of all of their other personal characteristics (e.g. wit, intelligence, humor, et al), or on the other hand they are punished for their beauty by covetous "geek" boy directors taking their sexual frustration out on all women-kind (e.g. all those horrible "torture" porn movies like WOLF CREEK, or SAW, where we are invited to laugh at a woman's subjugation and murder, dehumanizing us and them in the process). Danielle has had many questions from the beginning about Carlos and I's intentions, and I believe the film is stronger because of her probing mind.

Film is a collaborative process, and when you have someone like Danielle on board, you better have done your homework as a director. Her participation has changed the film and its meanings. How the final sex-scene is imaged, how I wanted to make sure that the camera did not violate her (or Atticus) and become part of that long history of abuse (e.g. no close ups of heaving breast, et al), and how their final act of sex stands in stark contrast to that most exploitative all imaging, pornography (which is present in the arcade booth itself where they embrace), is a testament to how each member of a film team keeps each other honest and focused. Directors are not gods, and a film is not a transmission from heaven to the faithful, it is a negotiated process of co-creation. It's also the responsibility of a director to their intentions over and over again, so no whining please from inarticulate directors about how people "just don't understand me"! It's your job to make them understand, and if they don't, listen to what they are saying and be willing to change what you are doing so your intentions are more clear!

The "meaning" of Lily and Kai's journey is the final stage of co-creation between the film and its audience, and from what we have gleaned from test screenings, there will be a wide spectrum of readings from audience members about why Lily and Kai do what they do in the end. That for me is the most I can hope for from a film, a highly charged open text, like a dream that startles you awake at 3AM and forces you to come to terms with its many meanings.


4) During the process of making the film, was there anything you learned about the world or yourself that you feel like sharing?

D: For me, although I am not in the same place as Lily I really connected with her desire for that ultimate act of love and commitment. We have all had moments where we have daydreamed what our future would look like.

5) Finally, anything extra you'd like to share about the process and experience of making this film?

D: Kyle and Atticus are both talented and gifted artist that challenged and pushed me in such a positive way. Everyone involved in this film made it such a safe environment to work and create in. I'm really grateful to have worked with each one of them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

AUSTIN: Danielle Rene is Lily (Pt 1)

We've always referred to AUSTIN as our "heterosexual" short, but as with the other films, I think putting it into this kind of box limits the connections we all will have, gay or straight or trans or whatever, to the universal struggles it unearths.

For one, AUSTIN presents the challenges every human being faces as they get older to find a meaningful place for sex in their lives. For heterosexual couples, procreating can become a prime way that meaning is created for sex. And at the same time, there is the struggle in all long term relationships to still honor the animal and unknowable that nine times out of ten drew the couple together in the first place. It's a rare couple that gets together because they want to make great babies together!

Danielle Rene, one of the stars of AUSTIN, is one of those rare kinds of actors who can embody these contradictions with seeming ease, transforming from a vulnerable and all-too-human puddle of emotions into a powerful and confident sex-goddess over the course of the film. She has the range and depth of someone well beyond her years and, as many of the people have confessed after recent rough cut screenings, you literally can't take your eyes off her.

Today begins a two part interview with her on her 4PLAY experience. - Kyle

1) What were your first feelings about being approached to play your role in AUSTIN? First thoughts after reading the script?

D: I was intrigued with the characters and the relationship between them. I myself have, as many of us have experienced the joys and the frustrations in a partnership. How sometimes the way we grow as people can cause a bit of a struggle to be on the same page. I felt it would be challenging and rewarding.

2) What, if anything, helped you prepare to play your role?

D: I use relaxation and active imagination exercises to really get plugged in when preparing to step into a character, but I must say that I felt a kinship and real understanding of Lili from the beginning. She felt very familiar.

3) What particular challenges did you face playing your role? Any fears you had to overcome?

D: I think if anything so often love and sex are not shown in such a real and raw way. I think each one of us on this project wanted it to be portrayed and received in the way it was intended.