Last “night” at four in the morning, I was sitting in a restaurant eating with a female friend and a bunch of rowdy guys were sitting across the way from us. One of them pulled up a chair and sat at our table and when I looked at him he said, “I hope I’m not being rude” and he started to try to make conversation.
I said, “Excuse me, what are you doing? We’re having a conversation here. You ARE being rude. You have to leave.”
He ignored me and I repeated, “You gotta leave this table NOW.”
My tai chi teacher made a comment once that I was “friends with the underworld.” He’s right, all my life, I’ve been put into tough and often dark environments. I believe that there was a purpose for it: and that is to get stronger. It’s made me a little tough around the edges, a little tattered but I also learned in some ways to be very soft. I think that’s the whole purpose of tai chi: to be hard but soft. So in situations like stupid shit that happened at the restaurant, I don’t put up with it. I was firm but I didn’t yell.
My teacher tells me that I’m a natural leader. But I don’t feel like I am. Probably because the western idea of leadership is often falsely modeled by status, position, wealth and power. But really what leadership is, is knowing how to own your own space. When someone cannot own your space, they don’t like you. And that is why I haven’t made it in the “leadership” aspect of normal society—because people are threatened by those who don’t give up their space for them and by people who can’t be conditioned or controlled. So those in positions of power promote those that don’t threaten them. And that’s why we don’t have very many good leaders. We have a coward and fear mentality. As result of that, our culture has not properly defined leadership for kids who have great potential.
I used to hang with a tai chi guy that chose one word to define me that shocked me. He said, “You’re incorruptible.” I was very flattered and I wish this were true. But like the leadership thing, I also don’t feel this way about myself—maybe because I feel like I’m being corrupted everyday by the stupid shit in the world.
The only time I feel confident in my own skin and when I have those incorruptible leadership qualities is when I am directing or making something artistic. Those things are immoveable and I stand very firm when I know what I want. This comes from a protective instinct than anything else. It is the alpha aspect of protecting one’s young.
When I direct, I usually don’t care what kind of training actors have had and I have no interest in catering to their acting method or technique. I know what I want. I know what the vision is, and I am very clear about it and I expect them to follow directions—and I’ve been lucky, because all the actors I’ve worked with have been very open in that way.
I feel that only way they can be open is when a director can show them a clear vision by giving them something to work with: the structure, thing, form or box they need to work to with. I don’t work very well with actors who interpret their own vision of the story and invent characters out of their head because that means they are controlling the space of my film—and that’s bad.
I’m OK with improv—but a structure has to be given first like a pot with soil for a plant—before that plant can grow. Without this soil, the plant cannot express itself. So in this regard, I’m not OK with random expressions of creativity or interpretations that aren’t part of my vision. Actors who take the time to find out what the director’s vision is are probably are a lot better off than those who don’t care. And for those who don’t care, they work with weak dirctors who aren’t really directors, but are just an instrument that depends on the actors to do all the work.
In that regard, film directing is like parenting, and bad parent lets their children do whatever they want to do. The children do not grow.
I particularly like Meisner actors because they appeal to my Bressonian sensibilities. They’re also vulnerable actors, and the director-actor relationship is like a therapist and patient: its a process of baring your soul.
The only thing Meisner and Bresson have in common is that they like repetition. Other than that, there is nothing similar about Bresson’s filming technique and the Meisner acting technique. Repetition is the heart of martial arts as well. Without repetition, you will never develop “kata” to be instinctual when the moment calls for it. So actors who are mentally accessible to repetition are able to reach that fluid state of tapping into something real inside of them.
(Sanford) Meisner loved actors, Bresson hated them. Both have polar opposite attitudes but carried out the same goal.
Bresson only worked with non-actors for his films because he didn’t want their minds to be corrupted by “acting” (the act of pretending). In both cases, the repetition makes the actors fluid. However, Bresson doesn’t like naturalism. He likes his characters to be mechanical because the truth is revealed through their mechanics (lack of self-consciousness). I love Bresson’s work because the acting is very stylized.
I like very natural types of acting that are realistic as well. But when acting bears too close a resemblance to documentary, a director may feel he has achieved something of a tour de force. But for me, that is not directing; that’s letting the actors mime reality like children. This is why stylization is important: because it shows that both actors and directors have created, occupied and defined their own space.
But if I were to choose between the two, I would shoot for more of an Ingmar Bergman approach—which combines stylization and realism.
Going back to last night, when my friend and I left the restaurant she was fuming about how the guy that bothered us was disrespectful and felt so “entitled.” All I cared about was that the tool took my direction.