Is Bill Murray going to show up? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Is Bill Murray going to show up?

It’s a Sunday morning in Fairfax, Virginia and instead of being in church I’m shooting a webisode of paranormal proportions.

It’s a mockumentary about shadow people invading a couple’s home. The couple, prone to verbal and domestic abuse, releases a negative energy so powerful it cracks open a vortex, inviting demons and the like to disrupt their way of living. Scary? Not so much when I call the MAC (Mystery Adventure Crew) team. Think of them as apparition exterminators (who ya gonna call?). I was secretly hoping to find Bill Murray on this set.

Sans Bill Murray, the day did not disappoint. There were bagels and coffee (my favorite thing) awaiting our arrival. We casually perused the script. We talked characters, plot lines, and the series as a whole. Cavehouse Studios, an independent production company, is filming a season’s worth of MAC webisodes with huge hopes of several more seasons to come.

The thing that struck me most about these guys at Cavehouse was that they were really easy going, especially so when I consider the planning, preparation, and precise execution it takes to produce a day of filming.

The Doc and I improvising.

I never saw them sweat: something I would do if I had to be concerned with corraling sound and camera guys, appeasing actors, covering the scene list take by take, and getting through everything before the day is done. They didn’t seem to bat an eye. Nothing came across as stressful and everything went smoothly.

We shot everything in half the time we were supposed to and that’s because the process was loose, fluid, and dare I say it – fun. I mean, sure, I’ve always wanted to do work that I enjoyed, but it’s a rarity when work passes from a job into total and complete elation – to the point where I forget I’m actually working and getting paid to do it nonetheless.

Ludicrous.

What kept it easy and free-flowing was the style in which the webisode was shot. Because it was a mockumentary, the camera either captured interviews that were directed right to the camera (I got to talk about peeing in front of demons in mine… don’t ask). Or the camera followed scenes as they unfolded through what is referred to as Point of View shots, meaning the camera starts on a couple of people with dialogue, then sometimes quickly scans the scene to find another character if the action of the scene is disturbed or disrupted. It’s great because the camera angle suggests an extra party is watching the scene from the inside and taking it all in. This allows the audience to feel like they are actually in the scene and observing as the cameraman themselves.

MAC and the film crew.

And if that isn’t fulfilling enough, these guys play it totally improvised. Of course, they start with a basic script that they’ve written themselves, but they aren’t married to the words and play a lot of it off the cuff, always ensuring the basic information is conveyed clearly, but also allowing for random, quirky, and hilarious extra tidbits to enter in where they wouldn’t if they were glued to the text. This is how my character’s jerk face husband ends up eating extraneous donuts in everyone’s faces.

I have to admit, I don’t love working on film. It can be very technical and small to the point that it feels inhibiting. Everything has to be precise so that the acting can quickly go stale if I’m not aware of my energy level dropping with take after take repetition. Film really is an art form by itself.

That said, this experience reminded me that film doesn’t have to be confining. Through improvisation, it can be as flexible as theater and if a mistake IS made… well, there’s always time for another take and another new joke to be made.

 

 

 


About the author

Jana Stambaugh

Jana (it rhymes with “banana” or “anna”) is an artist from Clarksville, Maryland. Growing up her parents always told her to “be whatever you want to be.” Seeing as she has come from three generations of doctors, she obviously became an artist. As an actor, she has performed internationally Off-Broadway, and locally to the Baltimore/DC area. Favorite roles include Juliet, Ariel, and Caliban. Jana is the Founder of Red Connect Online, a social media marketing company that creates customized advertising campaigns for small businesses. You can listen to her podcast, Confessions of a Closet Christian, on the E-Squared Media Network. You can also follow her on Twitter (@Jana_Stambaugh) and friend her on Facebook. Contact the author.
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