Creating the Mood.

Image

That’s me and makeup artist extraordinaire, Patti Denney, who is making me look beat all to hell. And I love her for it! She’s so good that the bruises actually hurt when I look at them. Patti did my makeup for 3 years on Y&R and she’s still there, head of the makeup and hair department, so I was fortunate to lure her away for this shoot. I was also glad to reconnect with such a loving and wonderful woman.

The end result will be the poster-‘one sheet’ for the movie “Scream at the Devil,” shooting in February-March. The poster will be me, disheveled and evil, with an image of the Devil over my shoulder with his giant arms wrapped around me.

But to get there, I’m standing naked in a small studio in Burbank, trying to remember how to hold my own body so that the CGI artist can place the scaly limbs strategically around me. It’s awkward, and I’m so grateful that the only people there are Patti, my husband, and the photographer, John Dlugolecki, who is a long time friend. These basic shots are never to be seen on their own, only as finished composites, so trust is a big issue here.

There are several factors that are important in creating this kind of image. First, we must remember that any shoot, movie, photo session, etc, is the product of many people sharing and expressing their mutual talent. In this case, my husband, who is the brain trust behind the film and the image, the photographer, who must light in such a way that the photo can be easily worked with as well as capture just the right image with maximum impact, the makeup artist, without whom, we would all be far less, uh, watchable, the CGI artist, John Eddings who will create and insert the Devil himself, and finally, me, who must emote the correct feeling and make the image play.

It’s a group effort, as you can see. And it’s fun to be a part of it.

Of course, that still leaves me naked on a white backdrop. Trust is a huge issue. These images will never be seen individually, only as a part of a composite artwork. Still…I’m a mom! So I’m really grateful to be working with these special, talented people who understand and respect the process.

Choosing how a movie character will be brought to life is always a group decision. First, the writer creates the character, then the director and casting director choose a person to play that part. Next the hair and makeup and wardrobe and art department all step in for input. The art director will select and create an overall look for the film, colors, motif, setting, etc. The Gaffer will set the mood with lighting and depth, the Director of Photography will decide on angles and how best to portray the story,( I equate this job to a theatre director creating stage picture, both inform the audience what to look at, focus on). Next, makeup and hair do everything from making us more beautiful to horribly ghastly. A good makeup artist helps with everything from red-rimmed eyes from weeping to aging bruises; red at first, turning purple on day two, to yellowed and green in subsequent days. Amazing really. And then there’s the post production team, that can do anything from making me cry blood to walls breathing. I can’t even tell you how important editing, sound design and music are, but I’ll try, a bit later.

I’ve always been in awe of the conglomerate of talent on any film, theatre or television production. What has alway angered and frustrated me is when actors or sometimes directors seem to have the attitude that their job is not only the most important one, but the only one that matters.

I’m calling BS. Sorry guys. Try making a film by yourself and see how that works out for you. No camera? No script? No lighting? No sound? Ooh, you’re not so good looking and talented now are you? Hard to impress others when you don’t have a project to be in, I would think.

And moving on to the good-looking aspect. One of the best things I ever did for myself as an actor was learn to look ugly. I mean this in two ways, physically, and emotionally. Being raised in the south by very cultured parents, ‘ugly’ was a term for ‘behaving badly’ and was decidedly unattractive and discouraged. Fast forward to a scene where I have to be a total bitch, yikes, hard to access, my upbringing is telling me ‘don’t go there! Be nice!’ Conversely, after modeling for years, being physically attractive was how I earned a living, so being ugly was scary, scary. Especially in a society that so highly values youth and beauty, mistakenly, I believe.

So what did I do? I went to a scene study class and worked and worked on playing the Hunchback of Notre Dame until I was slack jawed, drooling and dragging a half-paralyzed body across the stage.

The result? My fellow students just plain liked me more. Weird right? But it makes sense. They respected my choice, and saw me as more than the ‘blonde’ chic in the class and I was accepted as someone who truly wanted to act, not just be famous or glamorous. To me, that’s the point.

Rejoice! Worth from the inside, instead of out. I fell in love with it.

As a writer, I think that process helped me flesh out my characters more. I can easily resist the inclination to make a ‘good’ character sappy or one-note. Everyone has good and bad in them, and finding and isolating those traits is like a treasure hunt for me. I can let even my heroine behave ‘ugly’ because she gets in bad moods too, or resents being pre-judged by others, or is just plain pissed off. And as for the bad characters, well, I can go so much deeper if I’m not afraid of the dark.

This initial photo shoot is just a beginning. But it’s exciting to get started, and it will be fun to share the process as well as the finished result.  But bear with me, making a film or writing a book are not quick fixes. They are long, arduous processes, filled with cold days on sets, hair pulling during plotting and edits, and frustrating hours on the phone with distributors and agents or lawyers. It can be hard and lonely, so I welcome you on this journey. It’s like having a travel buddy. Thanks!

I hope your days are filled with creative endeavors that fulfill you. It might be a long project like a screenplay or a painting, or it might be baking a birthday cake for a friend or painting a wall in your house a color that speaks to you and your guests. It might even be placing a single flower in a windowsill so that the sunlight hits it just right. Creativity brings the soul joy, and it can be a very simple act, or a lifelong pursuit.

Whatever it is, may it fill you will wonder.

Shari, October 31, 2012

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