From the blog, www.usedcarsalesman.com:
I am participating in a workshop for actors, writers and directors that was organized by my friends, the Screenwriter, Ray Lopez and the Director, Keith Hammons. Their workshop takes place at “Theater Unlimited” at Lankershim and Camarillo in North Hollywood, Ca. and performs 3 new scenes every Sunday evening at 9pm. I just want to say I am really knocked out by how effective the group is and how using a well-known organization-forming tool such as Craig’s List, men like Ray and Keith can form and manage large, industry-specific working groups that provide outstanding value for their members.
I have been in LA for a couple of years and like many newcomers to the entertainment industry who are drawn to doing on-camera work, I took advantage of the numerous dramatic scene-study acting classes offered by the area’s renowned instructors. Typically, these classes met once a week and the monthly cost to me averaged about $250 per class, per month. A typical dramatic class for an actor would involve performing a short 3-5 minute scene (with or without partners) which he had selected during the previous week; often times the scene was something that thousands of actors had performed thousands of times or was a scene from a too familiar film or television program. Prior to performing, the actor would essentially have to “direct himself” (there was no “second-person” director with a visual idea of how he or she wanted this scene to look). Then, he’d perform the scene after self-direction and the class instructor would generally make comments about what he or she liked, didn’t like or what you needed to work on. Basically, the instructors “directed” you “after-the-fact,” often with the vigor of a certain, currently well-known TV personality (but, even if the comments were sometimes negative it was still an appealing intercommunication); and, the instructors would generally not assist in the area of scene selection. But, this “process” was par-for-the-course for acting classes in Hollywood. And, all of such classes I’ve taken here in LA were top of the line, with instructors often providing performance insights that were worth 10 times the price of the courses and which actor’s really couldn’t get anywhere else.
The new workgroup I am participating in now at Theater Unlimited is equally valuable, but a relatively new breed of “animal” that addresses some of the weak points of traditional scene-study classes in L.A. As I said, my friends, Ray and Keith, formed the group using the CraigsList service and have assembled a team of approximately 30 actors, writers and directors. At the beginning of each week, each screenwriter in the group submits a 7 page scene that they have written; actors are cast for the scene and each actor receives the “sides” (an emailed copy of the scene) early in the week; a director in the group pairs with each screenwriter and basically organizes the physicality of the scene: it’s look, interplay between characters, positioning of characters, use of props and its timing and pacing. When Sunday rolls around, the actors have memorized the scenes and, with help from the screenwriter, the director busily organizes the scene’s operation for its performance that evening. What’s beautiful about this workgroup process for actors is that they are dealing with fresh written material and are receiving great direction before the scene is ever done in front of an audience. The finished look of the scenes really shows and, I’ll have to admit, working on fresh material every week and receiving actual direction is a huge and exciting breath of fresh air (heck, maybe even breath of Nitrous Oxide! :).
This workgroup also provides major value to screenwriters and directors. It enables a screenwriter to actually see his or her work performed, to actually see if what they imagined will trigger the emotional reaction or impact they are looking for. I believe this is an advance for screenwriters who often get together with other screenwriters and maybe do a read-through of each other’s work, but never get the “edge” of actually seeing their work performed in it’s early stages. In this workgroup, Directors find themselves confronting the weekly and unqiuely “directorial” adrenaline rush of organizing actors around a fresh scene. Again, I am hard-pressed to think of a venue that enables Directors to really hone their skills under such dynamic conditions. Normally, a director who wants to practice “directing” would literally have to create work around himself or herself by way of producing, directing, writing, and recruiting actors for their own short film or seeing if they could get a gig directing a local stage play; both of these options, though useful, involve considerable effort beyond simply “directing” and certainly lack the dynamic characteristics of directing fresh weekly scenes and regularly changing working partnerships.
Actors, writers and directors in this group also have the advantage of having their Sunday performances videotaped. This allows all three types of participant to accumulate video material in to a “reel,” a video copy of the work that they act, write or direct. Other than the minor costs involved with video reproductions, the group itelf, at present, costs each member only $40 dollars a month, and that’s just to cover the fee for use of the theater. Personally, I’d say the value of the Ray and Keith’s workgroup is on par with some of the acting classes that I have taken in L.A., so I feel like, for $40, I am getting a ridiculous bargain. Anyway, allowing people with great ideas to start a group that serves the needs of an area market is what something like Craigslist helps to make possible; it’s certainly worked for my friend’s Ray and Keith. May more people with great ideas use the Craigslist service to organize people in other areas of life or business that need change and improvement.