After several years, this March marked the completion of my first feature “Fairfield Follies.” It has been an educational, fun, and sometimes grueling journey. As I assemble my presskit materials to submit it to festivals, the Director’s statement provides the opportunity to share what the movie actually means to me.
Here’s what “Fairfield Follies” is really about:
Stereotypes exist for a reason. At some point in time, a group of people embodied similar characteristics and traits. These traits were then reinforced, modeled by others. It became a ‘reality’ that ‘Those people are that way’. In the high school cafeteria, it becomes a survival tool – a “band geek” wouldn’t dare infiltrate “ski club” territory. We seek out ‘our people’ using stereotypes, for a greater chance of love and acceptance.
The trouble is: we forget that these are just surface assessments, and that no one person embodies them to the core. We forget that these are individuals who have their own personal thoughts, feelings and motivations. And, let’s not forget that we can’t even figure out which stereotypes to affix to people of color. Are “THEY” Lazy? Industrious? Jesters? Criminals? ‘Mammy’ or ‘Uncle Tom’?
For me, “Fairfield Follies” was an opportunity to expose the fact that most of us, to some extent, are guilty of stereotyping. Ms. Evans’ attempts to celebrate diversity turns into a debacle of gross generalizations and ignorant affectations. Why? Because her actors portray their roles by the most generalized of stereotypes. The richness of culture is lost in surface assessments, and no real understanding of the layers of human complexity.
None of the characters are malicious, with the obvious exception of Mrs. Whitelove. They have a childlike innocence and ignorance. They absorbed their beliefs, as we all do, taking for granted what they were told, saw in movies, or gleaned from observation. I really enjoy role reversals – and, adults acting like children was a light-hearted way to drive home the realities of this issue.
There are a couple of moments in the movie where we definitely cross lines. I toyed with filming a milder, more acceptable version. However, skirting around these subjects do them injustice. Also, it would be hypocritical to conform to political correctness for a film that takes aim at this very philosophy. I hope these moments inspire conversation. Why does this make you uncomfortable? Why is this wrong? Because, honestly, I hope you do feel some things are wrong.
We are in a time where the themes in “Fairfield Follies” are, unfortunately, very relevant. Ignorance, hate, and fear are fostered by stereotypes and an ‘US’ vs “THEM” attitude. The reality is that there is only “US”, made up of individuals who possess a spectrum of good and bad traits. Sharing Ms Evans’ lofty goal, I hope that “Fairfield Follies” will be “a perspective-changing masterpiece”.
A few years ago, Peppered Productions added Acting Reels to its services. I put together some tips I’ve learned for clients to get the most out of your their reels. My goal was to ensure clients receive the highest quality possible.
Preferences are always changing, and different trends emerge. I’ve had clients ask for 30 second ‘character type’ reels. Others look for <1 minute total time. Still others seek the 1-3 minute traditional clip to demonstrate range. It’s hard to know what Casting Agents & Directors are looking for today, versus where the trends will take us tomorrow.
Regardless of what the edit becomes, these tips are still relevant. I’d originally posted them on an actors’ Facebook group three years ago:
1. Go directly to the source for your clips. Ask the filmmaker or editor for the original footage – this also ensures you have permission to use them. The more processes a clip goes through, the more the quality degrades. Editing software, exporting choices, and even video sharing sites’ space constraints will all effect the quality.
2. If possible, give your reel’s editor only the clips containing your work. This step could lead to a faster turnaround of your reel, since they won’t have to pull a handful of moments from a short or feature-length film. This will also help them focus on comparisons to make the best choices for your performances
3. A reel is a highlight of your work. Not all clips may be included, but the ones chosen should really be their best work. Reels are also relatively short – 2-4 minutes is ideal.
4. Find an editor you are comfortable with. Ideally, they will work with you to put together the best reel possible. However, keep in mind, they are professionals and will likely have limits to the number of edits, updates, and/or hard copies included in their initial fee.
5. Don’t forget high resolution photos! They make a great beginning/ending pieces to your reel.
6. Make sure you provide the title of every movie clip you’re sending.
7. To get these higher quality clips and photos to your editor, I recommend either having a disc or portable hard drive to give them, or you can download “dropbox” to send them along to their email.
Hopefully these tips gave you insight into steps you can take to ensure a great experience and end product for your reel. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or queries for me – I’d be happy to be of help.
***Actors/Filmmakers – do you have any additional tips? Experience in the industry that supports or negates this list? I’d love to hear from you
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I have been called a cynic, though I think of myself as an idealist. This paradox is where I live, and I don’t claim to know everything, except what I know.
Or, do I?
Before the most recent international attacks, I had spotty certainty on several ideas. OF COURSE not all Muslims are terrorists. Do I poke fun at this small-minded notion? Yes, as a matter of fact, I do – my upcoming feature film points out stereotypes and assumptions in the most politically-incorrect fashion I could manufacture.
Of course, even I fall victim:
I was recently admonished and called ignorant by a friend of mine because I asked why he hashtagged #skinhead in some of his posts.
IGNORANT?!? I was a Criminology & Sociology major!!! We studied culture, subculture, counter-culture and everything in between. I learned that “gypped” was a racial slur against Gypsies – some of whom use trickery to bilk money and goods. When I worked at a big box retailer, we had folks who scored stolen merchandise with some of the same methods! Stereotype reinforced!
But, the extent of skinheads’ culture never came up – only the types featured in “American History X” – racist, violent, and despicable pieces of garbage. Consequently, one of the reasons I abhor the shaved head/beard look is because of this movie. I associate the look with evil thugs – much like winter skull caps. Plus, I think they’re ugly.
So, admittedly, I make such quick associations. I’ve also seen other stereotypes reinforced as I’ve worked or interacted with different “categories” of people. But, I try really hard to catch myself when my mind drifts to “THEM” thoughts. Luckily, I’m often alone, so I don’t spill my ugliness & leave it to spread epidemically.
I also stay away from ‘news’ and current events (to the extent that my Facebook newsfeed permits). I HATE the news. It is NEVER the real story. N-E-V-E-R. It is always spun, always sensationalized, scandalized, and targeted to sell the papers/magazines/Neilsen polls. And, it’s all a scare tactic, or sick trash designed to make you feel superior and “Other” than your fellow humans.
AND WE ALL GET SUCKED IN.
Well, fuck that noise.
Do I think FB protests/support/bullying/preaching/love/hate do ANYTHING to change the world? Nope. But they sure as hell conjure up some damned powerful mob mentality.
MY view is RIGHT!!!! If you don’t agree you’re UNAMERICAN, UNCHRISTIAN, INHUMAN!!!
Well, call out any names you’d like, because I don’t fucking care what you think. I appreciate that I live in such a privileged country, and live in comfort that the majority of the world’s population can only dream of. I appreciate that I have clean water, abundant food, warmth, shelter, and hot showers. But, I will not blindly identify myself under “patriotism”, “nationalism”, or “Americanism”.
Why? Because I don’t agree with everything that my fellow Americans, government, PTB or “Other” say & do. I will not pledge allegiance to any entity that has the power to oppress, suppress, lie, cheat, and steal simply because they can. And if you think the President actually runs this country, and deserves the brunt of your ire or adoration, the real men pulling the strings are sufficiently ghosted.
The truth is we will NEVER know everything. So, building up hate, shaming those who are as adamant in their beliefs as you are in yours, or just being downright douchy is a waste of your time and energy.
You want to make a difference?
BE THE DIFFERENCE.
Stop yourself when you’re making blanket associations. Don’t share inciting posts just to get people on your bandwagon.
Stop yourself before you speak or post bile, calling out your fellow humans for being (or not being) X, Y, or Z. Stop spreading hate, disdain, and a ‘fuck you’ attitude when people don’t agree with you.
You don’t have to agree with everything out there. Hell, you don’t have to agree with one word of this post. But if you want a world where people are cool with each other – YOU have to be one of the participants! Disagree respectfully. Have a valid REASON for negative responses – not just ‘THEM’-isms.
Take others’ words with a grain of salt & don’t be so quick to share the vitriol. Be a person. No – be a DECENT person. THAT’s what changes society for the better. NOT token profile pictures. NOT “if only”-isms. And, CERTAINLY NOT jumping on the hate bandwagons.
We COULD have a really awesome & cooperative society of ‘humankind’ someday. But, only if we break out of this cycle of bullshit and ineffectual armchair activism.
I know I have no tolerance for politics, or focus for activism, but I try to follow my own advice. BE DECENT & nip my own bullshit thoughts in the bud. They’re not doing anyone any good. Seriously, just cut the crap.
Share hope, be kind, and reinforce the positive. NOT through rose-colored glasses, or all-enveloping Pollyanna propaganda. Small kindnesses and recognition, personalized appreciations, helping hands, and moments of joy have incredible power to reinforce positivity. BE light to someone’s darkness & help spread the love. And you know what – beyond the fact that it feels great, it’s free and available at any time.
So, what are you waiting for?
Of all the posts I’ve seen in response to the latest uproar, only one has taken into account the big picture of the terrifyingly powerful impact of social media, groupthink & angry mob mentality (KILL HIM, SKIN HIM, LET HIM ROT!) that one single act has glaringly revealed.
The radius of retaliation stretches far beyond one man. ONE MAN committed an act, yet hundreds of innocents will be negatively impacted as collateral damage – lives torn apart, jobs lost, discrimination by virtue of association. Those closest to him will live in fear of hate and violence. Don’t kid yourself into believing there isn’t some seething, mentally unstable individual who would take such action. Energy feeds energy & hate grows when fuel is added to the fire. And whoa what a conflagration we’ve built.
Do I condone what was done? No. Agree with the practice? Nope. Should all parties face the very legal repercussions of what transpired? Absolutely.
But to sit here and let hate, verbal violence, and threats of actual violence engulf every aspect of our world is just as appalling as the act that ignited it. You can disagree, de-friend me, or whatever the hell you want to do. If it is all hate & condemnation you spew, you’re becoming part of a bigger problem. If your children are modeling this behavior (and, you’d better believe they are), then we are grooming generations of knee-jerk anger and retaliation. We are creating a culture ready & waiting for the next ‘big thing’; the next person to persecute. And, what if…
WHAT IF WE VILIFIED THE WRONG PERSON?
WHAT IF THE PERSON WAS LATER FOUND TO BE INNOCENT OF THE CRIME?
WHAT IF WE DIDN’T KNOW THE WHOLE STORY?
WHAT IF THE INCIDENT WAS A COMPLETE FABRICATION?
Lives ripped apart; damage we can’t take back; violence; homicides; suicides – these things happen NOW! Social media infects & effects. And, it goes unchecked. We have just witnessed one of the largest worldwide displays of unity through technology. Instead of discourse to stop the problem – through education, perspective, and adult conversation, we turned on the rage & swooped up all who were game for the ride.
Well, congratulations, folks, we’ve successfully regressed to the 17th century. And YOU are the only way we can find our way back to a more enlightened age. I can only hope you’re willing to see the big picture & journey back along this super highway.