Paul Bright will be speaking about his newest feature film, FORGOTTEN HERO, at Houston’s Business of Film Conference the first weekend of September. We chatted a bit about Texas actors, making movies, and succeeding in the business.
SHAWN HUNTER: You’ve been updating the website for us at Short Film Texas for two years now, even while shooting features, commercials and a web series. Are you noticing any trends?
PAUL BRIGHT: The biggest change I’ve seen in the industry is actually in the audition process. Because film funding and distribution is increasingly online, producers and directors are casting actors who are very visible on social media. When I audition two equally talented and capable actors I will cast the actor with more Facebook friends because I know that actor will help promote the film.
SH: What about the actor who wants a private life and doesn’t have publicly visible social media pages?
PB: If you want to be a private individual I recommend working as a railroad conductor (which I’ve done). Nobody gets into your personal business on the railroad. If you want to work as an actor then you are a public figure telling stories to an audience who want to connect with you personally. Films, TV and web series succeed when seen by an audience. Otherwise it’s the same as singing in the shower: fun for you but it doesn’t do anything for anybody else. As a producer I expect actors to engage with their fans on Facebook or Twitter to make the fans part of the movie making process and feel valued.
SH: Do you ask actors about social media during the audition?
PB: (laughing) I’m not that obvious. I already know who is active on social media in the audition because I’ve checked them out before calling them in, or before asking them to send me a video audition.
SH: Video auditions are a new twist in the audition process. A lot of actors don’t know what to do when asked to put a scene on camera, and as a result many actors don’t audition for the role.
PB: My next feature that I’m shooting in Texas I’m auditioning entirely by video submissions. A lot of Texas casting calls are doing video auditions. It’s actually easier on actors once they get used to the process because they can fit it into their schedule and don’t have to drive anywhere. Use your computer’s camera. All we need to see (usually) is your face and upper body. Tape the audition sides to the computer monitor. Slate your name and do the scene.
I don’t need to hear the dialogue of the other character, just yours. Say all your dialogue AND imagine hearing the other character talking to you. Your reactions to their dialogue is really important. Don’t get someone to be on camera with you, it should just be you in the scene. Don’t look into the camera, look to the side of the camera, the same way you will when you are cast in the movie.
SH: Do you look at actor reels?
PB: So many reels are so awful I’ve started editing actor’s reels simply because I can’t stand seeing a good actor’s work badly presented.
SH: What do you mean?
PB: Your reel is your business card. Every casting director, director and producer assesses an actor in less than 20 seconds. The industry standard is 17 seconds. When an actor reel doesn’t grab me it’s easy to lose interest in the actor and not call the talent in to audition.
SH: So you want explosions in the beginning?
PB: I want to see the essence of the actor in the first 10 seconds. If I do I’ll watch the rest of the 60 second reel to see the actor’s range. Other directors do the same thing. Actors with reels I’ve edited for them are getting cast without auditioning. So there’s a right way to edit a reel and a wrong way. I worked in New York a couple years and learned the right way.
SH: You have a film in post-production, a film in pre-production, you’re shooting commercials, speaking at conferences around the country, plus the work you do here at Short Film Texas. How do you have time to do all this?
PB: I love what I do. I schedule my time. When an actor needs a reel I make time to do it.
SH: You’re releasing your seventh feature film this fall, FORGOTTEN HERO, from a script you wrote in January and filmed in March. This is a fast turn-around. When do we get to see it?
PB: I’m presenting an intensive case study on making the movie for SWAMP’s Business of Film Conference in Houston September 7th. I’ll show previews as part of that. The full film won’t release till later this year. Right now I’m deciding whether to release it through the festival circuit, go straight to DVD or streaming, or release it in web series format and later release it in full feature format on DVD. I’ll talk about the marketing plan and how to make money on the movie at the conference in Houston.
SH: I told you about my New York Film Academy professor insisting it takes 7 years to succeed in this industry. How has your overnight success been going?
PB: (laughing) It was a long night, let me tell you. For me it was 7 years. Your professor was right. Many filmmakers quit after their first or second movie. Those of us who continue creating content every year become recognized for the work we do. That doesn’t make the work any easier, it just makes the learning curve less steep. With each project I set out to learn a new skill to make the film better than the last. I don’t wonder if I’ll succeed anymore because I already did by doing what I want to do and living the life I dreamed.
SH: So it’s all downhill from here?
PB: I’m living in the mountains these days; I have lots of hills to climb. Success isn’t a destination, it’s not a thing. It’s a process that we do and the way we live. Doing what I love is the happiest life possible. Don’t let someone else define success for you; it’s not their life, it’s yours.
Paul Bright is a writer/director/producer. His work can be seen at www.paulbrightfilms.com, and he can be reached on Facebook www.facebook.com/paulbrightfilms. He has nine feature films in development for 2014. His newest film is FORGOTTEN HERO www.ForgottenHeroMovie.com and his next film is LONG TERM PARKING www.LongTermParkingMovie.com And yes, he will edit a reel for you.