Tag Archive for performance

The End of the Shooting.

John and I had been locked down for months in my studio shooting our film, rehearsing, building sets, painting scenes, setting up lights.  Shooting footage.  It was a process that literally became more than some grand idea of a movie.

Still from Scene 4

Koskinas on the set for scene 4

Actually a movie is a series of small events linked together over a period of time  -in our case a period of months.  We started off shooting scenes, I wrote and rewrote the script all the while we kept shooting footage, like a boxer training, practicing his footwork, feints.   All the extra footage was roadwork for what was to come.

It was much more than I imagined.  I had the script, John had to do the scenes, had to design the sound, the lighting, the way each scene looked.   How to operate two cameras with only himself.   I had to learn to trust that he was going to do all this.

Koskinas preparing for a line in Twilight Angel

Koskinas preparing for a line in Twilight Angel

I had my own burden in the middle of all this.  Namely I had to get myself out of the way, my ego, my fears, and deliver my lines.  We had a criteria for my performances if you want to call them that.   If they were believable, we bought into them.   We never called it acting, we just wanted something from me that was real.  Something that we both believed.

Shooting a medium close-up

Witham shooting Koskinas medium-close for Twilight Angel

Imagine, John is moving cameras all over, up and down, side to side, adjusting the light, the lights fail, the sound fails, a camera goes on the nod, a fuse, a bulb blows up, we’re in the darkness and somehow he gets it all back together.  I’ve been waiting and waiting for the moment, holding onto myself, trying to stay contained, centered, until John calls, “roll it.”

We’ve had over thirty takes for some scenes.   Late, cold, tired, we pressed on.  Trading quips, jokes, laughing, pushing the envelope. Pushing into the script.  I wanted to change the script, just wanted to let the cameras roll, see what came up.  John held onto the discipline, forcing us to go step by step inch by inch.

We both designed the sets, the art direction. He would have an idea for three scenes in a row, then I would. Inside the structure of the script, the organization, the schedule, we managed to stay flexible. You’d have to been there to experience it. It’s called film-making.

Arduous, long. Fun.

 

Making the Movie

James Koskinas

A new language to learn, thank god I have a master in Austin Texan John Witham, thirty odd years behind the camera and a performance artist to boot, an ex rock-and-roller. I’ve been hankering to get back on stage or performing again after my one man play a few years back.

JW is careful, methodical, professional. He balances my headstrong urges to rush in and shoot from the hip, it works with me being an action painter yet not in a long, detailed, arduous process like making a movie. And it’s not a short film either. We’re going for a full length feature. Daunting. But we’ve got stories, plenty of them, a backlog from the ones that didn’t make my one man play,” Even If the Mountains Burn.” Grist for the mill.

JGK-angel

James, “shoot this part here.”

A film is like a giant moving painting with words. Oh, we’ll use my paintings as characters. In fact, JW has been lobbying for them from the beginning, and now I’ve moved away from the original movie idea which was to use most of my Vietnam stories again. I’m allowing the paintings to start telling their own stories, they are, in fact, how I ended up doing the play in the first place. That will be revealed in the film.

Every time I think something doesn’t really matter it comes back to show me that nothing is wasted. In art especially, there are no wrong turns or dead ends. So the new project is  up to date. JW says, it’s who I am now. The war stuff will inevitably reappear but I’m  thinking it may reveal all new stories. If you saw the play, this is another chapter, and if you didn’t you can catch part of it here on YouTube.

John Witham

Anyway this is whole new exploration of seeing that old character. Ways to show the experience I may never have thought about… a fresh take on it. The film is a mystery too – which the play wasn’t  In a strange way the war is an old friend, an old acquaintance at least. At this point I’m over the trauma of it, I went through that when I did my play. I think it will be more powerful. I’ve changed, written a lot since then, my artistic voice seems stronger, clearer. I’ve taken writing workshops with local author Robert Mayer,  lots of my own writing, out and about doing readings. Keeping it fresh.

Speaking of movies -how does one even start such a notion? …something so vast, so detailed and structured. Well the damn Texan got me into it really, he and all those people I kept seeing in the produce section at Trader Joe’s that kept asking, “when is the next play?” Carrots never tasted the same again. It wasn’t absolutely planned. I’d call it kismet. A slow dripping kismet, it snuck up on me.

JW is a quiet, still-waters-run-deep kind of a guy, humble, self effacing, but he’s got these iron arms. I was impressed with that. Quiet but substantial. He kept appearing in my life, here and there, around town, at parties, at readings, at Counter Culture, quiet but substantial. “I think we should work together, it will make us better men,” he kept repeating, quietly again. This sounds like a movie itself. Two gunfighters. Lets rob a bank, run a herd of cattle to California. Two wild guys that love samurai swords, that love to drive fast.

alive

 

Hell, if you asked me straight up, let’s make a movie, let’s invest time and money in a potential public disaster, risk something so big, risk it all and trust in our own experiences, our own creativity, just what we’ve got now, whatever we’ve got inside us now, even if it’s 25 cents worth, I’d have said no.

But  here we are, I’m writing a new dialogue, a new script, we’re filming my paintings,  filming and recording stories, setting up lights, building our first sets and deciding on our first attack. I‘m not scared, but I will be.

Ironically, that’s when I’m most alive.