miércoles, 15 de diciembre de 2010

Tinseltown's Express Elevator... Straight to the Top

For many, the Assistant Directors Training Program
is a ‘Golden Door’
to the film industry.
Buried in Freddy vs Ghostbusters’ goofy credits is this: “DGA Trainee: We don't even know what that is.” Maybe it’s one more jibe at an overworked, dedicated, low-paid striver … or maybe they really don’t know what a Trainee is.

Pretty odd, since former Trainees have reached the dizzying Hollywood stratosphere – Mark Johnson, producer of The Chronicles of Narnia, whose mantle holds an Oscar (Rain Man) and two Golden Globes (Rain Man, Bugsy); Ralph Singleton, whose producing credits include Clear and Present Danger, Another 48 Hrs, Harlem Nights, and TV’s Cagney & Lacey; and Emmy-winning TV producer Chris Morgan, whose credits of 40+ shows include Police Story, Quincy, Hunter, Dynasty II, Gotta Kick It Up! and Miami Vice.

In Hollywood, when you hear ‘Trainee,’ you’re probably hearing about a person talented (and fortunate) enough to be accepted into the Assistant Directors Training Program. Officially the ‘Directors Guild-Producer Training Plan,’ this rigorous on-the-job program was established in 1965 by the DGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (‘management’ in Hollywood labor negotiations).

The AD Training Program is recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious training programs – if you ignore the Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Speznatz. Though ‘it’ is actually two programs – Los Angeles (‘Training Plan’) and New York (‘Training Program’), the term ‘Training Program’ is generally applied to either. Often regarded as the toughest non-military program in existence, the unique training programs together have produced over 800 graduates since 1965.

The DGA emphasizes that Trainees aren’t ‘directors in training.’ Though some Trainees eventually become directors, many more become producers. The list of the elite group of graduates includes Duncan Henderson, who navigated Master & Commander to ten nominations and two Academy Awards, after producing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Perfect Storm, Outbreak, Home Alone 2, and Dead Poets Society; Emmy-winner Howard Kazanjian, whose credits include Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark, which took home Oscars in technical categories; Walter Hill, who won an Emmy for Deadwood, and has directed dozens of projects (including 48 Hrs, The Long Riders, The Warriors) and produced many more (including Alien, Alien³, and 83 episodes of Tales from the Crypt).

How do they get there?

The film industry was famously described by Groucho Marx: “Calling it ‘dog-eat-dog’ is an insult to dogs.” So to understand how someone could succeed in a business that insults dogs, we should to start with how that person got there in the first place.

Every year, over a thousand hopefuls discover the Program through college recruitment efforts, magazine or newspaper articles, friends or family, or the internet (one applicant, reading a movie’s credits, searched ‘DGA Trainee’ on IMDb and “went for it”). Eager applicants may have experience in film, but most come from the ranks of ‘ordinary people’: clerks, plumbers, postal workers, former military officers – even a stockbroker and a lawyer or two. Sending their applications to find out if they have ‘the right stuff,’ many of these hopefuls will advance in the process, though a far larger number wind up seeking their fortunes elsewhere.

That four-page application – which asks for five more pages of written commentary on motives and aspirations – is only the beginning. To qualify, applicants must be US citizens or legal residents, possess a high school diploma, and should have a bachelor’s degree (a requirement that might be waived with enough verifiable business or military experience).

The Program’s Trustees look for the top 10% or so to interview, based on applicants’ “demonstrated committed interest in the film and TV industry.” To qualify for interviews, most of the initial applicants are then invited to take ‘The Test,’ a grueling arduosity requiring more than five exhausting hours of focused and applied mental acuity.

The Test is measures general knowledge, mental acuity, and problem solving. General familiarity with history should be sufficient, as is a comfort with mathematical concepts. Communications, vocabulary and semantic concepts are all covered more heavily.

Widely acknowledged as “harder than the LSATs,” The Test is annually administered simultaneously in Chicago and Los Angeles. It’s true that a few people take the test five times or more – some of them advanced after that final time and some didn’t, but passing only guarantees an invitation to submit a second application.

Of the 120 or so people invited to interviews, 90% are weeded out through carefully controlled ‘interrogatories’ that give some applicants panic attacks and reduce others to tears. The interviewers, graduate Trainees and industry professionals, have seen many hundreds of hopefuls and Trainees, and so know what to look for.

A tough room

One of the best scenes in Joe vs the Volcano has Dan Heyada shouting repeatedly into a phone, “I know he can get the job, Harry, but can he do the job?” A few interview questions used to let the admissions committee know how you’d interact with others. Former Trainees tell stories about odd interview questions and how the committee sought candid answers while avoiding rehearsed responses. Today, situational simulations can determine how people react to pressures on movie sets – whether they can do the job.

It isn’t easy to tell who’ll make a good AD, who can master reams of paperwork and a suitcase full of union contracts, with a military mind for the logistics of moving crews safely and efficiently, with a collection of Kissingeresque diplomatic skills. When dealing with the largest egos in the world, one needs several sleevesfuls of tricks. Some people excel on the organizational side, but fall down in logistics. Some shine in logistics, slipping up in the paperwork. Others can do all that, but can’t deal with self-centered stars in the pressure-cooker of a movie set.

The interviewers seek those with ‘the right stuff,’ pointing to a long list of successful directors, assistant directors, production managers and producers – many still have the right stuff today. Though their names are unrecognized by the general public, former Trainees are acknowledged in Hollywood as a breed apart.

In the right place at the right time

Arne Schmidt produced Big Fish, We Were Soldiers, Awakenings, RoboCop, among other large-scale Hollywood projects. During a scout for XXX – State of the Union, Arne told how as a teenager he was washing a neighbor’s car. The guy, impressed with Arne’s work and demeanor, recommended that Arne get an application – which Arne did, leading directly to a successful 30-year career.

Duncan Henderson, a stockbroker before switching careers, says, “I’d never been on a set, never taken a film class, and knew no one in the business. They gave me the opportunity to learn on the job, with some of the most talented people in the motion picture business. Many of my mentors had been Trainees, and they made me realize that ‘all things are possible’ in this business.”

In his long career, Jerry Ziesmer was an AD for almost every top director in Hollywood at the time: Spielberg, Coppola, Huston, Crowe, Bogdanovich, Brest, DePalma, Badham, Rydell, Pollack, Frankenheimer, Stallone, Mel Brooks. An acting student in school, Jerry applied to the program on a whim, later becoming known for his ability to work with demanding top-name directors, covering complicated schedules and logistics (pyrotechnics, thousands of background players, entire foreign military forces, etc).

Ricardo Méndez Matta was a 1st AD before making the jump to directing. Ricardo has directed many TV shows, including The District, Nash Bridges, Touched by an Angel, and Weird Science. The former Trustee Chairman wrote, “When I arrived in Hollywood, I knew no one... and most doors were closed because I was an anonymous outsider from Puerto Rico. The training – plus talent and hard work – can take you a long way. Not just a door to the Entertainment Industry, it’s an express elevator to the top.”

Emmy-winning director Dan Attias, whose credits include most hit TV shows of the last 20 years, also wrote for The Sopranos and produced Party of Five. Dan’s directing credit list includes House MD, Huff, Boston Legal, Lost, Entourage, The OC, CSI: Miami, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Practice, Party of Five, Lois & Clark, Dr Quinn Medicine Woman, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, Northern Exposure, 21 Jump Street, and Miami Vice. Intending to become a director before entering the Program, Dan discovered that he’d be saying “Roll Please” for years before he’d ever say “Action,” so he banked his 2nd AD money to take AFI’s directing course.

Don Zepfel, who ran production at Universal Studios, produced Hidalgo, The Mummy Returns, and Dragnet. Zepfel said, “On the job is really the only way to master this very arcane craft, and the Program is the best way to launch a successful career. The base-line of knowledge provided is crucial to being a successful manager in this industry.”

Opening up the Boys’ Club

For 40 years, the Program has provided the entrée to a world formerly closed – especially for minorities and women. In 1965, when the Program was formed, there were few women in the Guild, and minorities had virtually no connections that could be leveraged into a job, much less a career. The need was recognized for a program to help democratize the industry, leveling the playing field for those committed enough to get the job.

In the Program’s first year, there were no female Trainees. The first five classes only saw three women out of 53 Trainees, and two classes had no women at all. The first ten years saw only 13 women out of 110 Trainees. More recently, the average for the last ten years is roughly 50/50, though the 2006 class of 17 Trainees had only four males, and the 2007 class had 5 males and 10 females. The looming WGA strike in late 2007 resulted in a lack of work slots, so there was no 2008 class.

It’s not surprising that more and more women are moving toward production jobs – women tend to have the organizational skills that make them perfect candidates for the positions. In fact, the early history of Hollywood is filled with the names of forgotten women: directors, producers, women capable in business who could go after jobs in a brand-new industry where all the rules hadn’t yet been laid down.

While Hollywood, like other sectors of American business and industry, has lagged in terms of diversity in hiring – especially in executive positions – female former Trainees have fared well in spite of obstacles. Women sit on the boards of all the major guilds, and the DGA elected Martha Coolidge as president in 2002. Many important executive positions are held by women in Hollywood, and the Training Program provides a valuable route for women to enter the business and move up. Once there, they face the same challenges as men do, and they must perform at the same level in order to advance.

Having what it takes

The sure way up the production ladder is to do your job better than almost everybody else around you – top major league batters hit .333, but ADs must to hit in the middle 900s to stay in the game. While errors are tolerated – and you have a team backing you up in tough plays – too many mistakes will still send you out the door, sometimes even before lunch.

New Trainees have the immediate opportunity to serve on one of Hollywood’s ‘big shows,’ landing on a set with virtually no preparation. Introduced to the crew and given specific tasks by the 2nd AD, the Trainee enters the production team, helping to keep the project on-schedule and on-budget, interacting with the crew, keeping tabs on cast members, distributing key paperwork, and logging a production report at day’s end. Toiling on different projects for two years in a continuing ‘boot-camp,’ the Trainee is one of the lowest-paid and least-esteemed members of the crew. Perhaps alleviating those long grueling days is the dream of accepting an Oscar or producing a hit series.

Though the Program focuses on the actual work of production, you might be asked to bring Sharon Stone a perfect cup of tea. You might move a crowd in manufactured rain – 500 or 1,000 background players. You’ll wade through mounds of paperwork and union contracts, and get the chance to learn diplomacy you don’t already know. Pick up the lingo and get used to the punishing schedule, and you’ve become a ‘veteran’ who divides the world into industry people and ‘civilians.’

Join the Guild, and, if you aren’t on Hollywood’s fast track, at least you’re on the track – in the mix, making a good salary, with a comfortable pension and a pretty good indication that, if you play your cards right, you might wind up playing with the top players too: former Trainees are the most-employed Guild members, with the longest and most successful careers. And make no mistake – Hollywood is a growth industry. Stand the heat and you might one day run the kitchen: any of many positions in the seven major ‘kitchens’ (20th Century-Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures, NBC/Universal, Warner Bros, Buena Vista/Disney, New Line), or scores of jobs in TV divisions and independents.

Today, men and women of the Training Program continue to lead, at every level, all the way to the top of the industry. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.

[> Information on the Directors Guild - Producer Training Plan may be found online at www.trainingplan.org <]

David Hakim is an assistant director, producer, and publicity expert who developed campaigns for every major Hollywood studio and handled publicity for the Motion Picture Academy. Find him in the Reel Directory online: www.reeldirectory.com.

All material copyright 2010 David Hakim and may not be duplicated - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
-- 30 --

jueves, 22 de julio de 2010

Buddha Found in Greek Potato

“Miracle!” declared by vegetarians – & Irish Catholics weigh in.

Dateline Greece – A humble spud has been found in Greece that is claimed to depict the figure of a seated Buddha, prompting mixed responses from around the world today.

The tuber, found by a tourist in a sack of locally-grown potatoes from a local co-op allotment, is shaped like a seated figure, leaning forward as if to contemplate the healthy sprouts before it resting on its crossed legs.

“It’s a miracle,” said the lucky tourist, Sue Lacey-Bridges Watersbridgefordshire Oxbennington. Asked how she thought the Buddha spud got into the bag, she responded, “I don’t know really, I’m only here for the sun and lager.”

Miss Lacey-Bridges Watersbridgefordshire Oxbennington said she had no immediate plans to turn the potato into chips: “Well, I don’t have stove here, do I? And it is very cute, isn’t it? I wanted to take it home to me mum, but they told me that I can’t take live produce out of the country. It’s not a bomb, is it? And I thought this was the European Union – well!”

While many are calling it a miracle, others are quick to qualify.

“If this isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is,” said local Greek Orthodox priest Pappas Ouzo of the tiny village of Kavallouri. “Of course,” he went on, “this is clearly a figure of the seated Christ, contemplating the wicked sins of man, for which we must repent by donating to the church.”

Others weren’t so sure. “Not one single instance of a meditating Jesus has been found in all of Greek iconography,” said Spiros Spiroudoupolokakis, of the local Ikonographic Museum. “This would certainly present impetus for all of us to look at Christ in a new light.”

Meanwhile, in a statement issued by the high clerics of the Irish Catholic church, the figure was derided.

“It’s a potato, for St Pete’s sake,” said Father Seamus O’McFitzpatrick. “How could it be any other but our Lord. I mean, the Asians don’t eat potatoes, do they now? If it were a wee bit of rice, well, then it might be their wanderin’ prophet, but – really, don’t you know.”

A little further afield, vegetarians in Europe and America praised the find, saying that it would give strength and momentum to the Safe Food Movement.

“Look, this is the Earth sending us a message,” said Sunshine Moonbeam Weathersmile. “Hello? How could this not be seen as Mother Earth telling us to eat our vegetables and to quit eating cow and pig and chicken. Ugh, the very thought of meat makes me sick. And to stop messing with genetically modifying foods. So get with it Monsanto – Buddha’s on the line with memo for you!”

Representatives from Monsanto had no comment on the recent find, but pointed out that if a single trace of their chemical hocus-pocus were “discovered in the potato, a cornucopia of lawsuits will follow and patent trespassers will reap what they have sown.”

Copyright 2010 by David Hakim – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

martes, 11 de mayo de 2010

Making $$$ in V/O... and More

Once, when a magazine editor asked me to write a piece on alternative earning methods for local actors, my first thought was, What can I say about alternative earning methods? I’m not an actor – I just played one on TV. But she correctly noted that I work in several distinct areas and know others who do too. Stage actors can look to work in industrial films, commercials, PSAs, or films – there are many smaller jobs to augment your income, and some could turn into second careers.


Voice-over work is very popular in the Bay Area, where a number of houses turn out high-quality animation. There’s Wild Brain in San Francisco, with ILM over in the Presidio, Phil Tippett Studios in Berkeley, DreamWorks in Redwood City and Emeryville’s own Pixar. And many video game producers always need V/O talent, either for scratch-tracks or for final product. Your agent or manager can find you work at any of the places hiring V/O talent.

If you’re really serious about voice-over, then consider buying a high-quality microphone and lining a smallish room with old comforters. Many local actors audition via MP3 at home; they get their sides by e-mail, then they e-mail the MP3 files back. Jarion Monroe says, “Auditioning from home is extremely economical. By not going into the city, I save $15 to $20 on gas, tolls and parking – plus general wear on the car. It also means that I can keep recording the audition until I get the perfect take.”

Julian Lopez-Morillas actually does the work itself at home, but he’s invested almost $2,000 in some very high-quality equipment and dedicated a small room as his studio. For book-on-tape publisher Audio Scholar, he’d previously worked in a professional studio to record Jung: Man & His Symbols, Einstein’s Relativity, and books by Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and others. He explains, “When Audio Scholar started contracting with people to record in their own home studios, I consulted with a sound engineer and gave self-producing a try. Today I’m doing quality control work on a self-produced CD, Muse of Fire: Favorites from Shakespeare.”

Two years ago, Mary Windishar thought her husband was nuts when he suggested that she produce her own spots at home. But he proved prophetic. For past 18 months, she’s done three Flash demos for Internet companies, two sets of co-op commercials for GE appliances, and numerous commercials for broadcast TV and radio. She says, “I’m still a bit shocked that I can stay home in my blue bunny slippers and earn hundreds of dollars. I had to be dragged into this, because I didn’t want to be an engineer – I wanted to do the glamorous stuff. If I had my choice, I’d always choose to work with engineers and other creative collaborators; I love the camaraderie and I love working in a real studio. But the truth is that to survive as a V/O artist today, you must have a home studio.”

Windishar warns that you can’t just drop into voice-over. There are very rigid expectations, and things that can’t be faked, like how to audition, how to perform – the things you can only learn from a pro. Voice-over work isn’t easy money and isn’t something that anyone with a good voice can do. For one, you’ll need a good teacher.

Anyone can fake a Southern accent, but regional accents are very specific and not to be trifled with. Invest in a book on accents. The following ones run about $22 each: American Dialects and Foreign Dialects, both by Herman & Herman, published by Routledge; and Accents: A Manual for Actors, by Blumenfeld, published by Limelight.

Just starting out and have no demo reel? You can make your own reel by taping a commercial from the radio and then duplicating it. You’ll probably have to do it many times before you get it right, and even then you should call someone with a studio (even a home studio) and do it all over again – believe me, you’ll benefit by the experience of others by this effort. You want to present your best work, and agents and casting directors know when something is knocked together by a newbie. V/O teacher Taylor Korobow is also an expert at self-producing proper demo reels.

Print Work

Print work is also a good option, especially if you have a unique look. You could make a tidy living from the many catalog companies in the Bay Area. Williams-Sonoma and the entire Pottery Barn conglomerate works out of a studio in Brisbane, churning out five or six catalogs annually for each of seven different concepts.

Other companies include Ambrosia, Smith & Hawken, The Sharper Image, Target, Northface, Restoration Hardware, Mervyn's California, Gump's and The Gap, not to mention the retail newspaper ads shot every week by Macy’s and other big advertisers. Remember that you’ll need specific types of photos that mimic advertising photos (called ‘zed’ or comp cards) that are different from headshots – they’re usually in color and offset printed. And don’t contact the companies directly, because they all hire casting directors who work solely through recognized agents, so if you want to work in this market, have your agent research it.

Spokemodels & More

Other actors with the right physicality for the specific jobs can land work as spokesmodels – they may want only women, or persons within a certain age range, etc. There’s a lot of work at conventions, and the local casting companies get calls for people to dress in business clothes and learn a script before heading over to the Concourse or Moscone Center. There are numerous fashion-oriented shows that need booth workers at the Concourse, and the big conventions at Moscone always attract people to work in booths, hand out samples or take customer information. You’ll get a lot of experience meeting different kinds of people, giving you a great store of physical mannerisms to use in constructing characters.

‘Medical actors’ impersonate patients with specific symptoms as part of training exercises for aspiring doctors. These faux patients (called ‘standardized patients’) study and exhibit symptoms, helping medical students and interns hone their communication skills and create an accurate diagnosis. As a 'standardized patient' with four years experience, Local actor Don Schwartz says, “I work for three medical schools and a physician-assistant program, as well as a test-preparation program specifically designed for foreign-trained physicians. I enjoy working with med students and physicians. It’s an opportunity to make a positive difference in their development as health care practitioners. I’m helping to nurture more humane, compassionate practitioners.”

There are similar 'litigation actors' who impersonate criminals and witnesses for lawyers-in-training. And several law-enforcement agencies hire actors to impersonate felons for officer-training purposes. Keep in mind, though, that these are very specialized jobs, not many actors are hired, and there aren’t any local agencies handling them… yet. An online search can help you find such companies – but again, let your agent do the heavy lifting here.

As part of your continuing education in your chosen profession, I urge you to get acquainted with the Reel Directory, published by Doug and Lynetta Freeman. An immensely valuable resource, RD lists everything from actors to writers, with all crew and vendor resources indexed by category and name. Read the entire book – you’ll learn a lot. RD is also online on CD as well. Find it at: www.reeldirectory.com.

There are other jobs that use the same skill-set that you have spent so much time building, and the only limit to this kind of work is your imagination. So get out there and break a leg!

SIDEBAR: Acting in Other Ways

Bartenders & Waitstaff

These jobs aren’t too confining, the tips can be good, and you can go to auditions in your off hours. You’re also in constant interaction with lots of people and you’re solving interpersonal problems for customers, both of which can be very helpful in building characters for your repertoire.


Doing phone surveys can be an excellent way to earn money while honing your skills at conversation and improvisation. As a customer service phone operator, you can develop a character and stick with it for extended periods.


Many an actor has earned a very nice living in real estate, because that profession relies on the right kind of interaction: you have to know the right thing to say at the right time, and then you have to sell it. Again, you can work (mostly) your own hours, you have free time to book auditions, and you may not have to show up every day. And the money’s reported to be pretty good. Just watch out that you don’t wind up trading one career for another.

Public Relations

This field is highly provisional within some set boundaries. You have to know the playing field, know the players, then improvise like crazy to achieve the desired result. As with real estate, PR is all about people skills and knowing the motivations of the people you are dealing with.

In-Home Service Jobs

Others who have to know their clients and meet their needs are home decorators, interior designers and organizers also. There is a lot of research required, similar to building a character, and you’ll find situations that challenge your skills and patience – always good activities for learning. Perhaps not as demanding is the job of a home organizer or home-office organizer, in which you’d work with a client to find the proper way to get things placed for maximum efficiency. This may be a good area to explore for scenic designers and builders as well.

David Hakim is an assistant director, producer, and publicity expert who developed campaigns for every major Hollywood studio and handled publicity for the Motion Picture Academy. Find him in the Reel Directory online: www.reeldirectory.com.

All material copyright 2010 David Hakim and may not be duplicated - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

domingo, 9 de mayo de 2010

Rosemary's Baby, 2010

What’s with all the sturm&drang about Roman Polanski? The guy committed a crime. He’s no different from any other criminal, as much of a genius as he might be. Now captured after 30 years, he is under house arrest in a Swiss mansion.

Wow, lucky Polanski!

If his skin were black or brown, he’d be lucky to not have been lynched. He’d be in an orange jumpsuit some prison in Central California with lots and lots of rough boyfriends with whom to discuss the finer points of camera lenses and working with actors, when they weren’t busy exploring his ‘inner realms’ (since they hate child molesters in the joint).

I think that he should stay under house arrest for a long long time. And if he wants to make movies, then he should use his creative mind to come up with ways to bring the set to himself, shooting only in his spacious Swiss mansion and the surrounding grounds. He could make a nice ‘drawing room’ drama, perhaps about the evils of lust and gluttony, or about the moral dangers of privilege and celebrity. Every film needs a theme, after all.

Or, Polanski could do what Coppola did in the early 80s. For One From the Heart, Coppola brought in a 'command center' built into a big Airstream trailer. And in that shiny silver bullet, Coppola could relax and eat his lunch while directing – without setting foot on the set) and he could make any movie he wants, anywhere in the world, from his luxurious Swiss mansion via satellite.

The 70s and early 80s were great times for experimenting with the process – especially for Coppola. He also developed a technique for shortening shooting time by extending rehearsal time and using that early period for rewrites and actual editing of his film. Taking a page from Alfred Hitchcock (who worked from a storyboard book with each shot so highly detailed that virtually anyone could have blocked and directed his films), Coppola used one assistant director to gaff his long rehearsal sessions on Cannery Row while tape-recording dialog and taking Polaroid snapshots. The actors would work in a big empty stage, with folding chairs and tables, as well as chalkmarks on the floor and walls to delineate rooms, doors and windows. The AD would record actors’ lines and take shots of them according to the script’s camera angles and lenses. When the actors went home, the AD would then videotape the snapshots while the cassette tape played, with all the scenes in order, and within a day or so Coppola would have a virtual edit of his film – using only one crew member. He would then review it and edit his script to reflect changes that would normally be made later in the editing process, after much footage would have been shot (at great cost in time and money). Then, the actors would be called back in to the same stage, in which actual furniture and painted backdrops would have been installed that modified script. In these sessions, the AD would be filming the action, per the updated script, with a video camera, capturing the shots called for: close-up, medium, wide, singles, two-shots, masters, etc. The actors would be released, and Coppola would then view the edited version of that script – and again re-edited the ‘sketch’ of the film. So before he had spent a dime on locations or crew (or actors’ fees, except for the very modest rehearsal fees) he would have the final clut of his film. It was estimated at the time that about a quarter of any budget could be trimmed away in this manner.

Mike Leigh works with his actors for like six months or more in character study and rehearsal (see the results in Happy Go Lucky), which is another thing that Polanski could do – with his actors visiting him in Switzerland.

Errol Morris conducts his documentary interviews from an adjoining room, via a video camera set behind a teleprompter on which his face is projected. The mediation of the director is a technique already in use, so why not use it to a good purpose?
So what’s my point? Well, Polanski is a highly creative guy – so let him figure out ways to do his time like a man, hold his mud, and stfu. He could stop sniveling, bring his actors to Switzerland, put them up in his big old mansion, and engage them in intensive work on their characters, using Coppola’s second technique to reduce set time. Then he could use Coppola’s first technique to get the film made, directing remotely.

So my message to Polanski: “Enough wyngeing already, Roman – use your (much deserved) restrictions to come up with a masterpiece!

David Hakim is an assistant director, producer, and publicity expert who developed campaigns for every major Hollywood studio and handled publicity for the Motion Picture Academy. Find him in the Reel Directory online: www.reeldirectory.com.

All material copyright 2010 David Hakim and may not be duplicated - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

miércoles, 27 de enero de 2010

Advice on Preparing for ‘The Test’

I recently had a request from a young man about taking the test for entry into DGA's Assistant Director Training Program.

I dusted off an old sidebar to an article on the Training Program and sent it to him, then I thought I should put it up where some others might benefit from it. So here it is:


So you’ve made your application to the Training Program (or the Training Plan - different names on the East & West coasts), and they’ve checked out your college transcripts. In your mailbox one day you find that golden message – an invitation to take the qualifying test. It’s time for your first big challenge.

Don’t worry about choking. Many people are daunted by the Training Plan Test, but you’ll shine if you take a few simple preparations. We’ve asked a number of former Trainees for their advice, and this is the 12-point list we’ve come up with. To maximize your score, just follow these directions:

1. Day T, minus 7: For the next seven days, do not think about the test at all; eat well, relax and get plenty of sleep; include your girlfriend or boyfriend in all activities that you can.

2. Day T, minus 3: For the next three days, do things you really like to do: eat, read, go to the beach, spend time with friends… you know.

3. Day T, minus 2: Take a ride to the testing center and find out where the best parking is – spend this hour or so today, and you’ll save you time and worry on the day of the test.

4. Day T, minus 1: On the day before the test, make sure you have comfortable clothes to wear, preferably layers that can be removed if the temperature increases in the testing facility. Make sure your outer garment has good-sized pockets.

5. Day T, minus 1: Buy some snack foods of your choice, but make sure they don’t have to be refrigerated. Also, buy some non-sugar drinks in handy sizes to take with you in those pockets.

6. Day T, minus 1: In the afternoon (if you want to), put a cooler in your car, and make yourself a good-sized but light lunch for the test day; salad with protein is best since it won’t make you sleepy – tuna, egg or chicken, but tofu is good for vegetarians. Everyone else will be walking around trying to find someplace close by for lunch, but it will be a rushed meal for them... You, on the other hand will have exactly what you want to eat – and the time to really enjoy it).

7. Day T, minus 1: The night before the test, eat an early dinner at the best restaurant you can afford, with either your best friend[s] or your girlfriend/boyfriend, but get to bed early.

8. Day T, morning: On the morning of the test, eat a good breakfast, then put ice and your lunch in the cooler; don’t bring any books or papers with you to the test – you won’t need them. If you did # 3, leave ½-hour early – if not, leave at least an hour early, so that you’ll have time to get lost, drive around looking for a parking place, park, get lost again, find the testing room and then sit down and have a little snack. At that point, you can relax, and even take a short nap (set the alarm on your watch!), while the others who have left later are running to catch up and make it before the doors close (they’ll be losing mental ability, but you’ll be cool).

9. Day T, daytime: Relax while taking the test; answer as many questions as you can. Don’t get stuck on a question – move on, then come back to the hard one at the end Remember, it’s a numbers game, and if you miss answering 4 questions while trying to figure out one, you’ll lose points.

10. Day T, daytime: Really, relax – it’s only a test.

11. Day T, evening: After the test, go out and celebrate with friends – enjoy yourself, because you’ve earned it.

12. Day T, plus: Try not to worry about your score for the next two months: it’s completely out of your hands.

ps. We’re not kidding about a single point on this list. Not one. None.


So there it is... if you stumbled on this while searching for information on the DGA Training Program, good luck to you!

All material copyright 2008 David Hakim and may not be duplicated - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.