Month: September 2016

“And They Look Great Doing It”

I recently passed by a professional actress on my way to a meeting. She positively beamed with radiant energy and light, knocking out everyone around her. Her perfume was fresh and floral, her clothing stylish and feminine. In a town where people err towards casual, I had the immediate thought: “that’s what I want to be.” Having chosen to put on my “filmmaker garb” for the day, I was left to wonder about the state of women in film vs. the all-seeing eye of fashion, and the practicality vs. expectation of our wardrobe.

Being an actor (and musician) my entire life- I listen, I watch, I learn. I take on particular habits, hairdos, styles. I emulated the artists I admired until I formulated my own style. When I became a New York actor, that particular style changed over time to a more sleek, stylish professional look with gothic undertones. I feel the most comfortable in this respect. As time went on and I started writing and directing my own work (sometimes acting in them), I started to learn about branding – as we have all done-  with the boom of social media.

respect2

Me  (2005). 2nd year in New York. photo by Michael Chinnici

This always agitated me as an actor because I hated the idea of forcing things to be simple so people could understand (there is very little people understand about my first impression, unless they are familiar with the history of Nova Scotia, Trinidad, Finland, theater, and metal). It was far easier to brand myself as musician- the music speaks for itself. “Branding” became somewhat of an identity crisis more than anything else, and I longed for success so I could get to a point where branding didn’t matter so much.

And then I saw the W Magazine article interviewing Ana Lily Amirpour and Julia Ducournau (two highlighted horror directors emerging from TIFF this year with feature films), and the second I saw their photos, I could immediately relate to them. I realized that as a director – like being a musician: your work is your brand. This is the club I belong to. This is the movement that I strive to be a part of. It’s clear that women directors no longer have to shove themselves into a “male director costume” in order to be taken seriously. We can be as fashionable and presentable as actors. I will say this- when I directed and acted in Queen Gorya, I was in a revealing gothic outfit for the entire shoot, and I was treated with nothing but respect. The director is the chef, and everyone wants to do a good job and get home as fast as possible. No time, no room for a lack of respect.

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 6.41.26 PM.png

“The Chic Women Changing the Face of Horror Movies” –W Magazine

IN COMES the new wave of intellectual, or “mature” genre films. Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation. Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In. I’ve been writing films since 2010, but only recently honed in on writing feature length screenplays. On this journey, as all writers do, I have been finding my “voice.” After years of accumulating a strong interest in high-end genre (horror, sci-fi mostly), I realize that these are also the stories that I tend to write most. It’s an exciting time, as science fiction is due to catch up to horror, and for fans and creators alike, we are frothing at the mouth for films like The Arrival.

I have found my new inspiration, my voice, and certainly a great place to be. I have peers that I look up to and can compete with that happen to be female, for a change. And it’s a thousand times easier to believe in yourself when you see someone who is the same sex doing the work you want to do.

asia-argento-2

Asia Argento

So when it comes to fashion? I got it covered. Like when I just started out- I took my cues from Asia Argento for a particular character I was working on. It stuck.

asia_argento_0

Director/Actress, Asia Argento (I love her)

It will all balance out in the end. Back to the rewrites.

-Satu Runa

The Onus and the Outrage

The Stage. The one place where you honestly, truthfully can be anything you want to be. People often transcend their upbringing, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, background, genetics, and physical attributes to form a self-image outside of what is expected of their kinfolk. People are by nature complex and varied. The profession of acting falls into this category just the same.

There is a dividing line between political correctness and creativity. Film and TV studios dictating who plays what role and what stories are told to target audiences. There are independent artists creating work not domineered by any studio or voice. Independent artists have the freedom to create anything, for any purpose. Studios, on the other hand, have a responsibility to reflect the public’s interest for two reasons: 1. To make money, and to a lesser extent: 2. To affect change for the greater good. The system isn’t perfect, but is slowly making strides in terms of representation behind and in front of the camera.

There is an awareness happening now in regards to when non-trans actors portray trans characters. Prior to this, there was a movement shining a spotlight on white actors portraying characters of color. Both movements have serious validity. Conversely, as an actor who started and trained in theater- while theater is an entirely different medium (of which still suffers the same non-inclusiveness as rampant in film and TV casting practices)- an actor can play any part they can believably portray to an audience. While a variety of voices need to be heard and portrayed, the onus for inclusivity in media is on the studios. The onus for hearing more voices is on all of us.

These two opposing forces (inclusivity vs creativity) enter a complex battle arena. I believe in the freedom of the artist. I also believe that studios and production houses have a responsibility to be inclusive. I believe that the actor has trained to become anything they have the power to imagine. The profession would be entirely tedious if we were limited to only playing ourselves- otherwise, why do it? It would be one long scripted reality show, and no one wants that. The magic is in the transformation.

It’s about the human condition as portrayed by the person who has spent their entire life training and educating themselves on how to live in another person’s shoes. Trust the experts. I’ve read from certain non-actors that believe if an actor shares the same background as the character, somehow they will deliver a finer performance. I couldn’t stress more that the best performances most often come from those who are the farthest removed from the character they are portraying. Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth. The mask is more powerful than you can imagine. The mask will set you free. The mask is vital to the honest performance. The mask is everything.

the actor by Picasso

The Actor, Picasso

-Satu