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Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Face to Face; a Love Letter to The Art of Acting.

In As Artist, life, Love on October 10, 2015 at 7:49 pm

as artist

I called “cut”. The room was quite tense. The camera started rolling at 10AM, by now it’s almost 2PM, and we’ve got nothing. Day 2 of filming, same subject, same setting, same format, the only difference is text. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Not that we don’t have anything – we have just short of 5 dozen clips of the same text – about the subject himself. A biographical text, so to speak, derived from a series of questions by me, co-written by three creatives, then distilled into its most essential form. Nothing is exaggerated, nothing is untrue. It was confounding to me, how a handful of quite remarkable facts and accomplishments chained together in a lyrical flow, were rendered unusable because the speaker had, time and time again, ran over the words like they were the petty, wilting items in the grocery aisle, on “end of day sale”. I’m not working with wilted salad.

“Do you have another appointment after this?” [read: you seem rushed, and rushing gets you nowhere]
“Are there others whom you should attend to first, so you can be fully here?” [read: you’re not present]
“Take a moment, walk around, grab something to eat…” [read: leave this space for a minute]

I’m running low in the barrel of positive reinforcements… yesterday was fine. Alone on set, I re-checked the frame, the lights, the technical design of it all, and the aesthetics were quite pleasing – the cosmetics, the composition. Beautifully lit, too, but what good is beautiful, if it’s untrue? The camera doesn’t lie. Still images can be very deceiving, but moving picture? “Film is truth, 24x a second.”

That very quote from M. JL Godard changed my life. From actor to director, I suppose I’ve “come of age”, but nothing comes for free.

For an actor, our work is mostly intangible, but if the process involves any degree of blood, sweat, and tears, what we then deliver, you will feel it through the marrow of your bones – and that feeling, is undeniable, is stronger than anything you’ve ever felt, is the closest to truth you’ll ever get. That’s the breath of life, in this often lifeless world we operate in. Close your eyes, inhale; feel. 

I was filming a musician. As a musician myself, I equate what we do with love and truth as well, but there are differences. If there isn’t love, there isn’t passion, then the work is void of depth or artistry; there needs to be fire.

There isn’t a correct way to compare music to acting, but of one thing I’m certain – that acting forces you to confront yourself, and all that’s deep within you, in a way that music allows you to sink into, and quite possibly, drown. Music is like mother ocean, it offers an escape; acting, well, you’re on fire and you’re running on a one-way street straight to hell, repeatedly. Because, Meisner.

The art of it is so. The business is a whole other beast. Hence, the actor’s dogged training in the art itself, its techniques, camera techniques… years and years of training that makes acting itself, its proper profession. Years and years of character sculpting and forced emotional-palette widening that neither music theory nor ear-training quite get to.

30 minutes on the clock, my talent has returned, with coffee, thank god. One rehearsal, we almost had it, the cameras roll, and we’re shut out, again.

I turned the camera off, and what proceeded to unfold, was in essence, therapy. Unbeknownst to me, I had stepped into the shoes of all the great acting coaches I’ve had. I was channeling them all, even the ones I’ve only read about. Of the many things I said, the most matter-of-fact had been that, the hardest lesson in acting, is learning to let go and unlearning all that adulthood and society have conditioned and socialized us with. Reversing that takes more than two days; for some, even two decades will only scratch the tip of the iceberg.

So, it was a moment of epiphany, of revelation, of miracle, and even that is an understatement, when a dragon of more than four decades had been slain. The dagger was not from me, but the blood burns in my hands. If this is what I’m devoting the rest of my life to… I’m okay with that. These moments, I can live and die for them, even though the cost is unimaginably cruel. Can you be so in love with your art? I don’t know. I just know I am, and the evidence before me, confirms it.

It’s been almost a week since its death, and I remain affected, as if it had just happened. Another country, another set, another wrap, I still remember it all, all too clearly. It was a moment of raw beauty, where no words could accord with justice, but ending the blog here seems without manners.

The tears we are reduced to, along the path of artistic training, are worth more than the petty emotions of a baby. They aren’t signs that we need to grow up, but rather, anthems of having grown up, the lament of all that’s sacrificed, and the realization of all that’s lost… A classmate once reported to the Chair of the Acting Department of the conservatory where I trained, that “we all had breakdowns”, to which I quickly added, “no, breakthroughs” – because there is a difference.

Among the 74 clips I have trimmed down to work with, one of them, I know, marks the transition between being in the dragon’s shadow, and being free, truly, free. In between the takes, there was that private space, that sacred space, that elusive truth which we trade our vulnerabilities for, and forever seek to reach… be it actor, musician, or any other creative through any other medium.

As artists, we need that truth like it’s the air we breathe. We need it to live, to create, to imagine fantasies that feed the rest of the world. Because when all the glamour and lights fade away, all we have, to taste, to save us, is the air we breathe.

Exhale.

{x}

Feed me F*cking Fermatas; 6 holds if this is how we date now.

In courtship, Love on June 15, 2015 at 10:05 am

Feed me fermatas

Date for dessert? While it may not look as picture perfect, or present itself as exotically described, the nature of the romantic diet is changing with each new App that serves up human beings at your fingertips. Because this is how we date now, and it’s cacophonous.

We don’t know what romance looks like now, because we’re drowning in a sea of triple-filtered art, adjusted with the perfect aperture, because even amateurs know angles matter. We think romance is glamour and glitter comparable to Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Coverpage, but note that she didn’t wear her “I woke up like this” shirt, (does she even have one?) Irrelevant. Romance is satin corsets. Romance is perfect hair that arrives on set in a box. Romance is made-up with chemicals that could fill an entire coffin. Yes, romance is dead sexy.

Romance today is romance filtered to amp up sex appeal, the innovative dirty old tricks that food photographers have employed for decades to induce your saliva. As if knowledge is power. What did we learn? Instead of being in the moment, we’re being in our phones as we so generously share with the world, the moments that we’re missing, havingmissing.

Because a lot’s missing.

Missing between the myriad of screens and our lives; between the narratives of our lives; between what we show vs. what we are; between what’s filtered vs. what’s real. In the forging of more and more connections, a disconnect is growing between our public vs. private selves, online vs. offline selves. When we choose quantity over quality, something is sacrificed. At which point, does the scale tip over, as we dilute ourselves across multi-platforms in the world of 2.0? In which dimension do we then exist? In which dimension are we searching for that elusive more? In which dimension are we truly present? In which dimension does the meaning we so yearn for, reside?

I’m not your therapist. I’m a composer.

Yet, I didn’t always understand that sometimes, “less is more.” During my undergrad composition studies, my music had been very “notey”. Too many ideas, too many motifs, too many notes; I wrote with the ego of a piano major. Reduce, hold, and stretch; bin the notes, hold what’s there, extend the phrase by another bar or two. Then, the music started to breathe.

Because space. Ahh….

What a novel idea.

Yet, we fill every space we have, with all the notes we gather, with yesterday’s garbage, and yesteryear’s baggage. Input, input, input, because we derive security from our tangible constructions. But what if I told you, that you could get security elsewhere? Wouldn’t you like to hold onto the tingling moments for longer? At your discretion? What if I told you, that instead of using your tech., that you could use a fermata? Or six?

I. Hold the Gaze

Eye-contact is what’s used to place someone at the crosshairs. How are you planning to get a decent shot if you don’t hold still? It’s basic, almost animalistic. Like my driving instructor told me the first time I sat in the driver’s seat, “look where you’re going”. Hold the gaze, if you’re interested in pursuit.

II. Fermata Face-Time

Because Face-Time is real time – online or not, and there’s a reason why they call “real time” “real”. Facetime gives you no screen to hide behind, no time to come up with a perfectly phrased response, rehearse a perfectly executed move, or manufacture a witty comeback. In fact, the very quality of “witty” is rather time-sensitive. Witty is sexy in person, delivered in real time; witty, a few days later, reads manipulative, and conniving. If you value the person, make room for, and fermata facetime.

III. Hold Conversation

Because looks get old real quick, and if you can’t converse, learn. The longest conversation I’ve had, in one sitting, was 8 hours, with content so rich, nothing was recycled. Yet, there are people with whom I can’t continue a conversation past 8 minutes. I’m interested in things. And you should be into people who are interested in things, too, because raising the common denominator is public service.

IV. Hold silences

Because I’m a walking contradiction. I believe in lines from movies, even though they’re not real. But this one is. Straight from Pulp Fiction, “That’s when you know you’ve found somebody really special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably share silence.” 

So much happens in silence. So,

fermatasilence

V. Hold moments of nudity

Because it’s good for you. Emotional nudity, too. Imagine charging through the battlefield, without weapons, without kevlar. Would you still make war? With what? You’re without guard, defenseless, vulnerable, the preconditions of being real. Unshackle the social conditioning that form your shell. Fermata on the nudity.

VI. Hold your breath

Because the most magnetizing moments are felt, not filtered. If it’s so easy to order up a human being, then why is it harder and harder to find the real thing? Is it possibly, because we’re spending too much time looking in the wrong places? Is it possible, that the real thing happens, in real time? When we are not seeking for the validation of others, but ourselves? When we are really listening to our hearts, instead of counting the ones clicked by others? Fermata inhale; fermata exhale.

Voilà, 6 holds to up stamina and endurance, the way our ancestors did it. Nothing lasts forever, so savour the transient moments of tingling sensations; sustain the butterflies; prolong the moments of the elusive more. Perhaps it’s all illusion, perhaps it’s all myth, but since we realize what we want is a lie, then just maybe, this is how to get it.

I’m not your therapist, only a composer, but perhaps you’ll have a better sounding love story, with space to breathe, to sing, to discover new beats.

If music be the food of love, Seamless some fermatas.

{X}

Quo Vadis? I just peace on out.

In Family, life, Love, reflections on January 17, 2015 at 7:10 pm

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I flew for the first time on my new passport today – BTV to JFK.  Almost exactly five years ago, I flew from YYZ to CDG. Like 5 years ago, my passport received expedited renewal service. Like 5 years ago, I flew out the next day. 5 years of traveling, and what have I learned? Time can sometimes be bought – with a lot of money, and timing is somewhat of a mysterious thing. To get it just right is magic, but most of the time, it’s a bad word. The timing of things – like the rests in a piece of music, shapes and changes everything. Rachmaninoff with zero rests? You don’t want to…

“It’s always easier to leave than to be left” – so it became my modus operandi for the better part of a decade. There’s a strange sense of ease I feel at airports, and thank goodness for that, for I suppose I earned the “trouble-maker” label from a former boss of mine, and life still constantly reminds me of such, so I guess I’m still growing up. I have “no age”, or “none that matters”, as it had been remarked a few times.

Map reading is not my forté – home is where you can roam around without a GPS, and wearing a compass around my neck would probably serve me better than wearing a Steinway key, but navigation at airports is instinctual and second nature. I’ve done it since I was 4. A lot of it. I’ve learned the hard way who to avoid upsetting, how to be so charming to skip most lines, hold a departing flight, and a few other things that should remain private. The stamps in my passport make for a better blueprint of my life thus far, than any other tangible record. From one airport to the next, lessons were many, stories are plenty, and tears always needed to be there.

A couple passports ago, I was still an undergrad in England (Herstmonceux Castle, to be exact). It was 15:55, I had just handed in an essay due for 16h, and with a generous 5 minutes to spare, I was dashing through the ballroom trying to catch the next train out of Polegate to London Victoria for a dinner date, and a send off. The date was special, Lebanese food & co., mostly the co./M, because he’d been the only one with whom I didn’t mind sharing my “temple” – the alcove of the ballroom where I had just dashed from. There was a piano, on which I practised every day, usually alone, with the exception of tour groups coming through every so often. While M was still a student there, he would study in the ballroom – either by the bar, on the floor by the far windows, or somewhere far enough to still respect my “private practice”… When he was no longer a student, he would visit, and there would be flowers left on the piano bench… M and I don’t have a “settled” story, as it were, because we were mostly going places, yet throughout the fragments, there had been enough to distill it all into an “I love you”…

Just like that, at LHR, “I love you”… and I didn’t echo back.

I didn’t because I didn’t know how. I couldn’t give something I didn’t have; I couldn’t give something I lacked. Repeating those words back would have been a lie, a crime, because the genuine place where that should have come from, was a void, was darkness, was a hole… Of what little I knew about love, I knew that I didn’t have it there to give. So the years that followed, from one airport to the next, I drowned myself in affairs and conditions of the heart. The years that followed, from ZAG to YUL, I learned to love, to fully engage, to fully commit, to fully fall, and to fully fail. Yet, the irony of it all is that by loving, I seem to have killed my darlings.

Gotta be the way I love,
Or perhaps I still don’t know how.
And timing is still a bad word,
So
I just peace on out…

{X}

 

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Give me rain, I’ll show you dance.

In life, Love, XX & XY on December 18, 2011 at 1:57 am

Rain On Me

It’s been 8 months since I’ve written for myself; the kind of writing that is indulging. I admit, I’ve been bottling up, and now? Now I’ve ran out of bottles…

8 months have passed, and perhaps the biggest change is that I’ve learned to genuinely feel again. Silly, because I’ve always felt, certainly, I’ve felt deeply since my very first memory, and I have an impeccable memory. I remember everything, even the moments I’d rather have not lived; it’s a blessing and a curse.

Through with the generalities, the problem – my problem(s) – with being so acutely and intensely sensitive, is that it’s actually tormenting to live, and exponentially worse to love. You see, I have a tendency to fall for the wrong people, and when I do, I give and love so intensely that I get blinded, derailed, and there’s no one there to catch me. Did I mention I fall for the wrong men? Legitimacy is so overrated.

I gave myself into love and into madness. Yet I never gave myself a chance to be loved. The moment someone confesses serious feelings for me is the moment I fly away, you can almost count on that. I’m a free spirit that will not be caged. If you want to keep me, don’t date me. That’s what I always say I’ve always said.

But that’s changed…

I’m in love. It’s scary for me to say this, because I’m going out of my comfort zone – and as a performing artist and trained actress, that’s a pretty big zone – if I could figuratively pinpoint a place where I feel I’m at, I would say Siberia… Yeah… I’m that far out of my world. But don’t judge just yet, because I have a vague idea of how ridiculous this equation is… chasing dreams in NYC + in love = Siberia. Under the circumstances, I can forgive you for not believing me, but really, I’ve always excelled at math…

Maybe Siberia has rainbows and butterflies, too, you know. But I’m really not trying to make it sound like Venice or Vienna or any other romantic, exotic, happening place. I say Siberia because, well, I hate to repeat myself, but I fall for the wrong men. Okay, so things haven’t changed completely…but enough.

Enough to make me feel, for the first time in my life, intoxicated in love. Only weeks ago, did I experience one of the deepest pains of loss. In darkness and isolation, I was mourning, yet when he spoke, his presence was like a ray of sunshine that penetrated right through me… he was like air, lifting me out of darkness, and making me breathe again.  I felt my world was a 2D black and white image compared to the kaleidoscope of colours that I see through him. I felt so much I’ve never felt before, and I wanted to feel more… I suddenly realized that when I gave myself into love before, I gave up what I deserved.

And perhaps by being in love this time, I’m doing it again, and perhaps I wouldn’t even come out whole, but even then, even with all the pain and hurt that is inevitable, I am surrendering myself, with reckless abandonment. Because it’s worth the trip; it’s the only trip that ever really matters.

So rain down on me, pour it all out on me. Some people stay idle to wait for the storm to pass, but I dance with every raindrop that falls. I’ll even throw away my umbrella, so that I could be completely free to embrace all that there is, so that I could catch it all. I won’t run towards shelter, or hide under a bridge… I will dance with the rain, to the rhythm of the storm, let passion decide each turn and the wind choreograph each twirl. I will captivate love, the way you’ve had it captivate me, and I will be ever-electrifying.

{X}