HOUSTON – The major difference between acting for the stage and acting for the camera is that, for the latter, "a thought is enough," says Annalee Jefferies, longtime resident company member of the Alley Theatre. "The hardest thing to do is to go to zero." On May 30 and 31, Jefferies, under the auspices of the Southwest Alternate Media Project, will offer a two-part film audition workshop entitled "Acting for the Lens" in which getting to zero is, in fact, the sum gain.
The first three-hour session, on May 30, will be devoted to exercises and to practice auditioning in front of the camera. "To dare to be dull," is what Jefferies said she will try to teach, meaning that she hopes "to instill courage in the actors, a full, full commitment, that the thought is enough. No eyebrows, no hands no feet, just the thought." Live scenes will be viewed from monitors and critiqued, supportively, of course. "I'm mostly elevating awareness that everyone has a gift." It requires profound bravery, Jefferies said, and diligent polish, to strip away the outsize techniques of theatre and rely on the minimalist necessities of camerawork.
Final filming occurs on the second three-hour session, on May 31. Participants will have experienced everything from "master" shots to close-ups; they will also take home a VHS demo tape of their scene work, showing them at their best.
Scenes from various scripts will be provided, though participants can come with their own. Jefferies will also talk about what she calls "the non-imagination in film and TV." Jefferies intends to stress how vital it is for actors "to be very secure in themselves and in their art because not only will they have to face rejection, they will also have to deal with typecasting."
Jefferies knows what she's talking about. On the one hand, early in her career she worked in casting in New York for Pat McCorkle. But more importantly, while she's guest-starred on such TV series as “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “L. A. Law,” and appeared in such films as Violets Are Blue and No Mercy, most of her energy has been focused on, and all of her acclaim has come from, the theatre. Her 13 seasons at the Tony Award-winning Alley include starring as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, Harper in Angels in America, and Nurse Ratched in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. A one-time company member of the Arena Stage, she's also a veteran of such regional troupes as Long Wharf, Hartford Stage, and Great Lakes Theatre Festival. Jefferies will teach "Acting for the Lens" will Cela Lightfoot, an actress and moviemaker who works for Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP). "Acting for the Lens" is only one of a host of seminars to have been offered throughout April and May by the Southwest Alternate Media Project, which provides workshops year round. Others this spring ranged from "Plotting the Screenplay" to "Location Sound Recording for Film, Video & Multimedia.”
SWAMP is a non-profit media art center founded in 1977 to promote the appreciation and development of film and video as creative art forms. The idea for SWAMP was spawned from the renowned Rice Media Center, which was created in 1968 as an expansion program of Rice University's fine arts department. With partners, SWAMP exhibits independent film and video works, most essentially on “The Territory,” a long-running public television series shown state-wide since 1996. SWAMP also has established a comprehensive Media Literacy Training Institute for educators; seminars have been conducted for, most notably, the Houston Independent School District, the New Mexico State Department of Education, and Harvard University. SWAMP also provides other programs, including Artists-in-Education residencies throughout Texas.
"Acting for the Lens” takes place May 30 and 31. For tickets, $150 - $200, call (713) 522-8592
By Peter Szatmary