Friends, fellow filmmakers and big fat fakers

paparazzi 1Photo by Christopher Labadie Photography

There is something really sensational about the human spirit – how we live in a constant state of renewal and restoration. Think about all the times you have been screwed over, hurt, betrayed, taken advantage of, lied to, left behind, heartbroken, cheated … by friends, colleagues, family members, trusted elders …  but have you stopped trying? Have you stopped your heart from loving or from exploring the possibilities of what other love exists? I don’t know a single person that could answer yes to these questions in truthfulness.

We are chemically wired to seek out connection and fellowship with other souls. Our body physically responds to touch and emotional encounters in ways that science nor logic can deny that we are literally constructed to share our lives with one another in unity. This is where the pitfall of organized religion comes in and acts as a trap to mankind. Any person, power or organization that teaches you that you are somehow incomplete or lacking if you do not depend on them is an inhibitor and damaging to your soul. Because we are constantly in this state of seeking, so many people falsely claim to have or be what it is that you seek and out of desperation or hope, you grasp onto it, wanting to believe you have finally found your home, your church, your life partner, you dream job, or whatever it may be.

The issues is in the source – if that thing or person is lost, destroyed, does not live up to expectation (which is the most common reason for depression clinically is unmet expectations) … then what becomes of you? You who have aligned yourself to this force to be fed some sort of spiritual, mental or emotional nourishment to sustain your own life-source? You die and wither like a flower starved of water.

If you’re like most of us, you barricade yourself in a room for a bit, pig out on Ben & Jerry’s, a few bottles of wine or maybe some vodka depending on how serious, cry, rip some shit up, throw away anything that causes recollection of said person, place or thing and then emerge from your cave claiming to feel like a new person; rejuvenated, reignited and ready to go.

You’re not new though, you are a collective of everything you have ever experienced and everyone you choose to encounter and allow into your life path. It is how you let these pieces shape or impact who you are. I’ve never believed in forgetting or not acknowledging your past because of this reason – your past is your foundation, the building blocks of the pillar that is you. Given everything that gets thrown at you in life, the fact that your pillar is still standing (it may have a few gouges or scratches here and there and some missing paint or cracks) but the simple fact that it is indeed still standing, is quite phenomenal.

I love very deeply. I love my parents very deeply. I love my God very deeply. I love my acting very deeply. I love a man very deeply. I have to be extremely careful of those whom I trust and whom I allow into my life on a deep level because when I love you, you have so much power to effect my world. That’s just not a risk I’m willing to take lightly anymore the older I get.

I’ve had a few circumstances that arose in my life over the last year or so ( health scares, love woes, etc.) where I get in my car and I drive around and say “I have no one. Everyone I know is a business contact; an acquaintance.” It’s a very hallowing realization to understand that if I want to call someone at 3a.m. to talk about the audition at Good Faith or that film set we were both on two weeks, ago I’d have my of the litter, but if I need to talk to someone about how I may have a hole in my heart and that’s what’s been causing my migraines this whole time, then who the heck can I call?

I made a devout promise that I would begin working on developing healthy, viable relationships. I am blessed to say that I have a few ladies in my life that I’ve known since Kindergarten, one even from preschool. I don’t come to her nearly as often as I should, but every time I do I feel welcomed home (usually with wine) and warm and comfortable – like putting on a cozy sweater. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed or what guilt my conscious has racked up with sins, I know I can be myself with her.

My best friend lives in Texas. She was one of those people that you meet and your energies just collided and mesh. We connected immediately and although I’ve never had a sister of my own, I would say that I love her as my own flesh and blood and would protect her at any cost. We have this unspoken anger with one another because both of us are entirely too stubborn for our own good and don’t like initiating or asking for help or love so we constantly await the other one to make a move – it’s a lot like a long distance chess match done through the mail actually. I wish every day she would move back and that I could have her near to laugh with. The relationship, the distance, the life circumstance may change, but the love never does.

God has also brought other people into my life in the most unexpected ways. I stayed with Mary Lynn Kelly when I first moved out of my home when separating from my ex husband. Mary Lynn is a glowing spirit, always looking for expressive ways to create and enhance the world of those around her and took me in graciously under her maternal wing. Wendy Killeen is probably the most selfless single mother of 2 that I know as well as an unsung hero. She gives so much and asks nothing in return. Wendy is the kind of person who inspires me. I read in my book series which I often make reference to, that whenever you meet someone new, the question you should ask  yourself is “How can I be a gift unto this person?” Most people operate on the opposite basis, asking “What can I get out of this other person? How does this benefit me to befriend or spend time socializing with this individual?” Wrong. So wrong.

That’s where my fellow-kind comes in. I have over 2,000 “friends” on Facebook. I talk to dozens of different people on any given day whether it be on a film set, IM, at an audition, mixer, screening, rehearsal, work or what have you. I constantly have people coming and going from my life. I made a mistake very early on when first starting out in this career path, believing that all of these new people I was meeting were  now my new friends. I am a very open person and a very trusting person  so I shared bits and pieces of myself with these people. Bits and pieces that these people doused in gasoline, shoved into a cannon and then proceeded to fire at will as ammo at me when it benefited them to do so.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up to someone honestly, thinking that I was in a safe place to do so when I hear the next day that this same person turned around and said I was a diva or a bitch and used my words (which they originally agreed with) to turn a director or manipulate some other like party against me. Ouch. Seriously, don’t do that! Let me cry, let me be a loner a set, think I’m a bitch, fine – but don’t fake -friend me. That’s just mean. I recently got the advice never to trust another female in LA. Don’t let another female ever take you to an audition, pick you up from an audition, look at a script or side you are working on, or know anything about who you’re dating or your personal life. I don’t think that rule only applies to the ladies la la land … just sayin …

Granted I still believe in my gut that most people are genuinely good and are also looking for a deeper connection. I think that most believe because you may share a mutual interest in film and acting that those seeds should be enough to bloom into a beautiful, fruitful tree if watered and cared for. Ideally, this should be so and fresh , full gardens of shared passion should be cultivated, but that requires both parties to operate on the same level.

I do think that there are some people though, that are nothing but big fat fakers. If all you want from me is for me to work in your film for free, or for me to write up a press release for you or perform some other business-related task, here’s a novel idea – JUST ASK ME. You don’t have to go through this entire bs process of befriending me. It’s a waste of your time and mine, we are both adults and understand the nature of our industry and how cross-promotion works, so why not be forthcoming about it?

I’ve seen it all before, where people fake an interest in who you are because they feel if they don’t, you won’t grant them certain favors that they are in need of. I know the process and I’ve seen it all. There are guides available even, on how to do this  like a skill set – when you meet someone don’t start off by directly asking for a need or a favor or a contact or referral, instead introduce yourself, compliment the other person, let them know qualities you admire about them and if anything, ask them how you can be more like them. These individuals will feel so appreciated that eventually they will volunteer information and services without you even having to ask. That’s the beauty of the system. Even with people I know, they write to me and start with a compliment or some sort of formality so I scan to get to to the part where they are asking me for what it is they actually need. So silly.

I’m feeling bitter at this precise moment because a new business connection decided to drop me like a fly after it escaped my mind that we were scheduled to hang out. He sent a cold text saying “Best to you in your endeavors.” Wow, alright dude, if you choose to operate in those closed off terms and with a policy of unforgiveness and lacking of understanding, then perhaps I’m not interested in fostering a relationship, professional or personal, with you anyway. Dan Dice once said, and I think it is true, your friends will be your friends no matter what. Those true beacons of light will guide you home no matter how much you have messed up, how far off the path you strayed, how lost you got in the wilderness; they will just always be there. That is a friend.

You see, something interesting happened to me while at the Jerome Indie Film and Music festival which taught me an invaluable lesson and exposed a dark, dirty area of myself to … well, myself. I had a very close encounter with my ego and I didn’t like it. I’m ashamed to admit to this, but I feel most may have experienced similar things. I’m dating an actor, a very multi-talented, dynamic, handsome actor who happened to have multiple features screening in Jerome. I prepared myself in advance that this would be his event and I would be support to him, his date and company. I didn’t realize how deeply it would impact my confidence and sense of worth. I felt like a nobody, after all, in this industry you are only as good as your last film. I’d see everyone going around talking about their work, proud of their shorts and their roles, smiling and beaming but I just couldn’t shake my feeling of uselessness. I suddenly desired the invisibility cloak from Harry Potter, more than anything several times throughout that weekend. In fact for the very first time in years, when people started asking me what I do while I was out there I denied the fact that I was even an actor.. I kept saying that I was a writer. I felt to lowly, too non-existent to own the title of actor. I remember feeling that same way when I first started out 2 years ago or so, and I remember my mentor pulling me aside and saying “Melissa, no one will believe you’re an actor until you do.” Since then whenever someone asked me “Oh what do you do?,” I would reply with forced confidence and a smile “I am an actor” until I did start to believe and it felt comfortable on me. Fake it till you make it, right? Until now at least …

When we went back to the room for a wardrobe change in between events and my sweet man started to express his love for me and I didn’t feel worthy of it. Who was I? A nobody, and this fantastic creature in front of me is trying to give me his love. Why? I don’t deserve it. Suddenly flashes of this cycle rippled across the back of my mind and I realized with extreme clarity that this is what we do. We allow others to dictate how good we feel about ourselves. What a terrible, ugly thing. Because these others don’t know us, they don’t know our hearts or our true value, these others know our characters, know the roles we play, know the public personas we exude at events, know shadows of us and yet they are the ones that determine our good days and our bad days? I looked him in the eye and expressed what I just came to terms with and he agreed that this was something that we both were indeed guilty of and needed immediate action to rectify. It became so clear to me why professional actors keep their real, authentic lives locked behind closed doors – because it is precious to them. It became clear to me why the emphasized needing family and people in your life for a support system, because it does not matter how many fans or awards or Facebook likes you have – the world is a fickle and unfair force. If you place your life in their hands you can be God one day and the sacrifice for the upcoming God the next. But to give your heart to those that find you always worthy, no matter how long it has been since you were cast in a lead role or how big of a success of big of a flop your last film was, or how many people recognize you; that is where you will find the core of love and it is only from there can you receive it’s true blessing and healing powers. It is only there can you share your life with someone without fear of falling too deep.

The Lovelost – Ready to Hear You – Music Video by Running Wild Films


Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival the next Sundance? Founder says “One day, Sundance will want to be like us”

Jerome end finalFounders Toni Ross & Jason Ryan with Actor Michael Alvarez and I

Full full photo gallery please visit:

Someone in our community set out to accomplish something amazing, and through this one woman’s selfless efforts and vision, we have all benefited and shared in great celebration of that which we all love and that which unites us. Toni Ross suffered an unimaginable loss with the passing of her son, but from her loss, she was able to create something truly beautiful. It is always scary to embark on rebuilding something from the ashes, but like a Phoenix and so fittingly, from the heart of the Phoenix and Arizona Film Industry, the Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival was born. There were many a time I observed people, on more than one occasion, stop  to take in the scene around them – the energy, the camaraderie, the spirit, the passion of the artists spilling into every crevice, corner, theater, fire station, shop, restaurant, bar and hill top of that quirky little town of Jerome, and these people were moved to tears. The festival is already being compared to Sundance, and I am honored to be a part and in attendance of the start of something so significant, not necessarily because of just what the festival has the potential of growing to become, but because it was an endeavor done from the heart and with the purest of intentions.

I cannot praise the staff and volunteers enough for their tireless dedication and commitment from sunrise to sunrise of each passing day of the festival. Despite heat, massive crowds, unexpected dilemmas and any other force of nature or human; these souls devoted time, sweat and a genius level of coordination, organization, planning and an artistic touch to keep the festival running smoothly. The staff often missed the social events and functions (often due to exhaustion most likely or prepping for the next day) which I took to be a huge testament to their level of professionalism.

Part of the grand appeal of this particular festival had to do with the environment, I almost certainly believe as well as the approach of executing a complete festival immersion with not only just multiple venues for film screenings, but also by including panels, interactive screenings, meet & greets, mixers, gala events such as the one put on by Rangelo Productions and more, all in a town that is rich with history, natural beauty and is in itself a true testament to pioneering a path of independence and artistry. While some slammed the festival for being another typical, over-hyped local fest, I think it is a huge accolade to our film community that so much of the work included in this festival was done extremely well. I was not aware that so much solid, impressive work was created and birthed at our local level and it was encouraging and igniting as an artist to witness such excellence originate here. In fact I was extremely inspired after seeing one event in particular, Bill Pierce’s forbidden films of Arizona as well as some of the featured highlights such as Cathedral Canyon.

A huge congratulations goes out to the filmmakers and the winners of the first Jerome film award ceremony for your mastery and your ability to tell cinematic stories in a powerful and sincere way. There are so many individuals and specific experiences I could dwell on for hours expressing thanks to or for, but I will part with this, I am proud and in love with the heart of our Arizona artists and filmmakers and I think we have finally found the perfect, ideal expression of what we have to offer in the Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival. Thank to you everyone who was willing to do what others never dreamt of, who gave their money, their time, their work, their expertise, their bravery and their ingenuity to create something so entirely unique and break out into a new frontier for all filmmakers. This is a legacy left behind for a loved son, by a mother whose love won’t ever quite, and it is the future for generations of filmmakers, artists, musicians and film-lovers for a lifetime to come.


The Rising Spirit AwardSPEED OF ORANGE – The third film from acclaimed storyteller Justin Hunt, The Speed of Orange tells the story of an ordinary family living in an extraordinary world.  The horse racing team of GHL, which rose to domination in the 70s and early 80s, is a true journey of humble beginnings, unparalleled success, and the unavoidable confrontation with mortality. Told by the people who lived it, The Speed of Orange, and the story of GHL, will make you cry both tears of laughter and of pain, all the while showcasing the elements of fear, ambition, family, friendship, loss and redemption. The Speed of Orange will undoubtedly take you on the ride of a lifetime, right out of the gate, all the way across the wire.

Best  Documentary Feature: Music City USA – Nashville is an area rich in culture, inspiration and pride. Resilience unlike many have seen, yet it is known primarily for its music. Did the people inspire the area, did the music inspire the people, or did this special place on the globe inspire them both?

Best  Documentary Short: The Ghost of the Cuban Queen Bordello  – Reaching beyond the historical and ghostly walls of a famed southwestern bordello in the 1920′s, a turbulent love affair unfolds, revealing the story of a cunning harlot and her selfish lover. Together their tale of fame, fortune and murderous deeds spans decades from Story Ville, New Orleans to the speakeasy’s of San Francisco and comes to rest in a small mining town in the wild west of Jerome, Arizona.

Best Music VideoBohemian Rhapsody”- Puscifer  

Best Arizona Film:  Cathedral CanyonA story set in both sprawling modern Phoenix and the fringe, rural polygamist communities of Northern Arizona, this film presents a hidden connection between these two very different worlds that permits the shocking acts of these cults to continue.

 Best Narrative Short: A Day on Bleaker Street  – A Day on Bleaker Street juxtaposes the lives of two neighbors and their assumptions about one another. Each man desires something the other possesses, but is it all that it appears to be from across the street? Is the grass really greener on the other side? Come spend A Day on Bleaker Street and decide for yourself.

Best Drama FeatureShouting Secrets –  SHOUTING SECRETS is a hopeful and heartwarming universal story taking place in a Native American family. Yet, it is everybody¹s story and does not belong to a single race, religion or class. It is a human story of choices and regrets. Funny and heartbreaking, SHOUTING SECRETS tells a story that is at once about the constancy and the fragility of love, as well as the importance of family. SHOUTING SECRETS has won over 20 Awards for best film and audience choice at film festivals across the US and features an all-star cast of Indigenous Peoples including Chaske Spencer (TWILIGHT SERIES), Q¹orianka Kilcher (NEW WORLD, PRINCESS KAIULANI), Tyler Christopher (GENERAL HOSPITAL, THE LYING GAME), Gil Birmingham (TWILIGHT SERIES) and Tonantzin Carmelo (INTO THE WEST). Tantoo Cardinal and Rodney A. Grant from DANCES WITH WOLVES also play supporting roles.

Best Comedy Feature: GHOST TEAM ONEIn early 2012, filmmaker Billy Chen answered a Craigslist ad looking for someone to document possible paranormal behavior. What he found were two sexually retarded friends scheming to impress a beautiful woman who believed their house was haunted.  They were willing to face their darkest fears to get in her pants. She was determined to speak with the dead. No one was prepared for the demon whore they found instead.

Best  Horror ShortIncident on Hwy
Five years ago, newly engaged couple, Jeff Bedict and Kelly Moga, took a trip through the desert from San Diego to New Mexico and mysteriously disappeared never to been seen or heard from again. “Incident on Highway 73” explores the beloved couples final harrowing hours.

Best Horror Feature:  Speak No Evil – Speak No Evil is the story of Anna, a single mother fighting to protect her daughter from demonically possessed children and a town gone mad.

Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival

my films in jeromeFor full photo gallery, film trailers, festival commercial and more please click HERE

Arizona’s “wickedest town in the west” makes a comeback this summer as the historic town of Jerome makes a whole new mark in history by hosting the inaugural “Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival” June 13-16. Once a thriving mining town and the place all the cool cats went for copper; it took a hit in the 30’s with the Great Depression and has since been going through a series of evolutions to redefine itself.

Now a home to about 450 people, it is a hub of quirky art galleries, mom and pop restaurants, antique shops and boasts an impressive amount of unique stores and restored historical buildings and architecture. While being a popular tourist destination as it sits comfortably between Prescott and Flagstaff, the town is about to get a little Hollywood treatment as actors, filmmakers, artists and fans flock to Jerome for this celebration of all things indie!

The whole town got in on the action literally transforming into a hot spot of artistic expression. The Jerome Fire Station for example will become The Light House Theatre, Spook Hall becomes Trey Brayden Cinemahouse and one cannot not mention the Starlit Mine Theatre, a whimsical outdoor venue nestled near the Old Jerome Copper Mine creating a magical cinematic escape under the stars and away from it all.

There are dozens of short films, music videos, documentaries, panels, workshops and live musical performances by Threefold Fate, Kevin Daly, The Sugar Thieves, Fallen Riviera, 2 in the Chest and more to wet your whistle and satisfy any entertainment craving you may have. Several also add to the glitz and glam of the glorious makeover of Jerome with an opening night meet & greet wine and mine mixer, a Friday night party by Rangelo Productions and a masquerade ball.

You also can’t ignore the fact that you are in a ghost town! Haunted hotels, ghost-hunting tours and adventures and possible spooky sightings await you wherever you may wander … but don’t worry, I hear they are mostly friendly spirits, just looking for a good time and I’m sure this weekend lineup will be sure to please ghouls and boys of this world and beyond!

Some of the highlights of the festival include the world premiere of feature film Cathedral Canyon presented in the Starlit Mine Theatre Friday night at 8p.m. The film features Bold and the Beautiful star Winsor Harmon, seasoned actor Jose Rosete and a whole slew of local Arizona talent. The story takes a closer look at the City of Phoenix in 2005 and its unexpected ties to a secret polygamist community up north exposing a dirty little secret. It is a struggle between crooked politics, human rights and the lack of moral consciousness to do what is right to end the cycle of abuse and mistreatment by those that hold the power, all set off by one man’s encounter with a young girl played by Noelle Wheeler.

Watch the trailer for Cathedral Canyon  HERE-trailer

A second film making a big splash is horror flick Speak No Evil filmed locally in Apache Junction, Arizona by Scottsdale SCC film professor Roze of Gas Mask Films.  The film stars scream queen legend Dee Wallace’s daughter Gabrielle Stone playing a young, single mom in a rural town where all the children mysteriously vanish but just as suddenly as they disappeared, they all return but something is not quite right. Only she and her daughter can eradicate the evil that has taken this town hostage, but her past dirtied with poor life decisions and fruitless love encounters may make that difficult and continue to haunt her as she battles her own demons within.

Watch the trailer for Speak No Evil  HERE-trailer

A third film which captures the memory of the local music scene in Tempe during the 90’s just before the Seattle grunge scene officially exploded is Stuck Outside of Phoenix based on a novel of the same name by Art Edwards. It follows the story of musician Hote who is faced with the choice of chasing his dreams in Seattle just as the scene is bubbling and ripe to erupt, or to stay and redefine the music scene at home but possibly never going anywhere other than the local circuit. You’ll find yourself reliving fond drunken moments of your youth and singing along to hits filled with teen angst in this comical, coming-of-age tale.

Watch the trailer for Stuck Outside of Phoenix  HERE-trailer

Also there is a series of “AZ Forbidden Films” being shown hosted by film critic and reviewer Bill Pierce as he explores taboo topics and work that has been shunned because of its “uncomfortable” or “undesirable” content. This section will most likely be for adult audiences as the selections may contain sex, violence and mature language.

To see a full schedule for the festival, purchase tickets or get general information visit the website, LIKE the Facebook page for updates and RSVP to event page. I do have 3 films showing in the festival including “ICE,” “Home Front” and the music video for Born of Fire’sIn the End” Hope to see you all there!

Watch the video for the festival:

Confessions of an Actor-holic

guitar pic

Photo by Sean Kapera Photography

Committing to a new film is a little like committing to a new relationship. Some last for a few short days, some last for months. but each leave a lasting impression on who you are and shape the choices you make for future selections. Through these commitments we learn a lot about ourselves, what we want, what we don’t want, what we find acceptable or unacceptable, who we work well with together or who just doesn’t understand us and based on those experiences we start to build a structure of who we are as actors, not just a representative body of work, but a framework for what we will and won’t do.

I often spend a lot of time conversing with actors about there on-set horror stories. I am blessed to say that in my career I have now had the opportunity to work with a wide range of directs and on varying degrees of levels of professional film sets from very controlled environments to what felt like a f@#$^&* free for all. I’m torn on this idea of the “abused-actor” and hope you will let me venture and explore it more in-depth here.

When I jump on board a project I usually have a fairly good idea of what it is I am getting myself into. I talk to the director, ask questions, talk to people who have worked with them previously, do a little trolling, watch their work, etc. I’ve worked on the 2nd floor of a warehouse in August in Arizona with no air-conditioning while wearing full Victorian era costuming, I’ve laid in a bucket of ice water, then gotten out of it and stayed in wet clothes, then gotten back in to said tub of ice then back out, then in and so on without having a heated blanket or probably a medic on site would have been appropriate for that one, I’ve filmed while deathly ill, I’ve filmed after blacking out and throwing up, I’ve filmed on sets that had no food or water but I can trace those circumstances 99% of the time back to my own stubbornness, lack of resources, lack of experience (which I was aware of) or some other reasonable source. It is those times when it is a blatant lack of care, respect and professionalism on behalf of the director that one needs to worry about entering into the realms of being abused.

There are directors, famous directors, notorious for using torturous and unethical methods to draw out a particular response or desired performance from actors. I was sent this article by a friend who bravely confronted a director who she felt had exposed her to unsafe conditions and as I was reading about Alfred Hitchcock tying birds to Tippi Hedren and Kubrick driving Shelley Duvall nearly to the point of insanity and baldness and early directors before SAG literally getting away with murder or beastly antics to achieve realism I kept asking myself, why would these actors continue to subject themselves to this?

Then the second thought came into play, “Oh come on, like you wouldn’t?” I swear sometimes I genuinely am crazy and just hide it really, freakishly well. I can see the split sides of anything at one given moment and there is so often this internal battle between my two selves. I do know that actors often feel proud of their harrowing tales and will talk about the time they actually got kicked in the face during a fight scene or the time the candle actually caught their hair on fire or the time they had to film an emotional scene but there was delay after delay so they lay sobbing on the floor in a puddle in character for i6 hours, like they are showing off proud battle scars.

As actors we all strive for realism. What better way to achieve realism than to just make it be real. This actually feeds into a conversation I had last night with local director Roze about the future of cinema being highly sexual and how some filmmakers have already crossed over into asking their actors to have real sex. It is not a porn, most of the time the angels are actually kept on the face or at a wide, but the physical movement, the facial expressions, the genuine guttural impulses and responses are undeniably different when having real sex as opposed to faking it.

Even on a G-rated path, ok maybe PG, I can think of countless examples where risks were taken to enhance a film or achieve a sense of realism, from the water being dropped on what’s her face in Flashdance (apparently that was enough to snap her neck possibly) to documentary-style type dramas where actors are asked to go into unsafe locations or deal with “real-people” on film such as prostitutes, drug-dealers and other questionable characters.

So there in lies the question – Do you buy a bunch of fake props, dirty and grunge them up, build a set that looks like a crack-house and have a safe, clean environment for your actors to work in or do you hit the streets and get down to the raw, grittiness of reality? I guess that depends on your personal comfort zone and what you are willing to do, but either way those terms should be communicated prior to filming so those expectations are not a surprise to either party and to ensure that you are working with the right people who have the same mission and the same purpose as you do.

There are some things that should never, ever be done by directors especially if you can’t introduce yourself as Mr. Coppola who if you read the article above filmed in a literal war zone in the Philippines. Those things come down to basic trust and respect.

Please have water and some form of nourishment on set. We are working hard for you. We give tremendous amounts of energy, time and physical dedication to our craft to make your vision come to life and we deserve to be hydrated and kept functioning if nothing else.You would bring food and water for a dog if you were taking one on outing with you, are we not even deserving of this?

Take into consideration the environment – if it is hot then get together a collection of fans, coolers, ice chests or even just extra water on hand or if it is freezing then have blankets available, heaters, jackets, etc. I know we all don’t have budgets to rent equipment but I could rummage through my closets and find at least 10 blankets, if I ask friends to contribute or even go to the dollar store for additional blankets, we’d be golden. It’s a simple gesture of courtesy to keep your actors comfortable.

Give actors a full 12-hour turn-around. Let me correct myself, not just actors but the entire crew, including yourself. Acting can be physically straining as well as mentally and emotionally exhausting. I often experience what I like to call “emotional-hangover” after very intense days of filming. Plus there is planning and character prep for transitioning to different scenes, transportation time to and from locations, etc. Why would you think you can get the same level of quality, coherent, fresh material from me if you only allowed me to sleep for four hours before expecting me to set foot back on set? I’m all about 10, 12, even 14 hours days… as long as you stick in there, I’ll stick in there right with you, but for goodness sake, give me time to wind down, decompress, rest and refresh so I can come back on set roaring and ready to go with renewed spirits and ferociousness.

If there is something in the contract HONOR IT. If you promise a copy, credit, pay, whatever then do it. It is very rare that someone actually will go as far as to take legal action against someone here if they don’t fulfill the terms of a contract but I can tell you this, it is a testament to your character and reliability and I remember that. Don’t bate me in with false promises – if you can’t deliver IMDB credit or you won’t ever get me my footage, then don’t tell me that. Let me make my decisions to work with you  you based on truthful circumstances. This is one of the reasons why so much is gotten away with here. Most work is not Union and not under contract so there is no one to protect the rights of actors. Heaven forbid an actor speak out and say they’ve been misled, abused or not given what’s owed to them because often times that actor is ignored and cut off or … well that’s pretty much it, just neglected like an unwanted stepchild that once served a purpose but no longer does.

Don’t misrepresent your film or lie to actors. A lot and I do mean a lot of actors disagree with me. They couldn’t care less what the film actually turns out to be, who’s in it, how they got to film at a certain location, just as long as they walk away with a paycheck and a credit under their name. I am not one of them. I want to know if you’re getting funded by a an adult film company because that impacts my image, I want to know who the cast is in the film before I sign the contract, and I certainly do not condone lying to investors or third parties to secure shoot locations or any other amenities for a film. I will not align myself with a dishonest production company because if you choose to do it on a grand scale, then you are certainly capable of doing it on a smaller scale. If you are lying to a corporation about what you are using their facilities for then why wouldn’t you lie to me about what you’re going to attach my name to. No thanks, I wash my hands with that, I’m done. I need to trust my director. I may be nervous about certain things or feel insecure or emotional, but as long as I know I have a director and I team that I can fully feel safe with then normally I’m game for just about anything.

Show a little loyalty.. I observe who works with who, who hurts who, who screwed over who and so on. There was a film that I was supposed to work on that originally I was cast as a minor role but at some point the guy contacted his lead and pretty much said “You’re out, Melissa is in.” Everyone kept telling me how exciting that was and how lucky I am but I kept thinking, if he’s willing to turn his back on her and cut her off like that, why wouldn’t I think he’d be willing to do the same to me? In a few short months I’ll be damned if that exact situation didn’t come into fruition. I hear stories all the time about directors who cast somebody in a film when they had no budget and suddenly the Gods smiled upon them and the heavens opened up and an outpour of money rained down which meant they had the option of enlisting A-listers and replacing the original cast but because these individuals exhibited loyalty, they stayed true to their word. Nobodies become somebodies from opportunities like that.

Listen to your actors. Your actors will tell you what they are comfortable doing and not doing. It is your choice as a director at that point to help them grow comfortable to fulfill your request, to make adjustments or changes to accommodate their feelings or to push right on through because you might genuinely believe and have faith that your actor is more capable  than what he or she sees in themselves. This is one of the secrets to being a great director. If I can feel like I can come up to you and say I’m scared to do X Y or Z or I have reservations about this or that but we have the type of working relationship where we can talk about how to tackle these things together, then I’ll be a trooper about getting you what you want. I want to feel like you’re in the trenches with me, ready and willing to get your hands bloody, not just hiding behind the safety of your monitor and calling out random directions occasionally. NO!!!! Come play with me, come work with me, come listen to me . . .

Treasure the process. One of the most rewarding things about being a part of a film family, no matter how temporary, is creating those bonds, completing something extraordinary and artistic and human together that took massive amounts of effort and time from everybody involved that poured in their love and lives into this. Why not celebrate it?! Host events to mark release dates and screenings and awards won, it is worthy of being recognized and the cast wants to feel important and remembered for their work, not just abandoned out into the wild.

I’m not trying to tell anyone how to do their job, but I feel like there should seriously be an ethics class for filmmakers or at least a class where actors and directors can collaborate together to better understand each other’s needs on a professional and personal level. I hear the same stories and accounts of regret and complaints over and over again, yet no one will actually go to the source and confront the directors or filmmakers to directly express their needs save for a rare few like Jane Fendelman who is now working with Kevin R. Phipps to talk about these kind of working relationships in a book called “Kiss the Rat” based off of her own personal experiences on set.

It truly is the same as many things in life – to get good you must first give good. You catch more bees with honey. And all of those other cliché’ remarks about how much more efficient and effective actors would be if only treated well. After this last weekend I was almost tempted to created an actors anonymous group where we could stand up and confess the different ways we have been victimized, but there comes a time when each victim has to stand up and take responsibility for themselves and choose to be a victim no more; choose not to work with that director again, choose not to remain on set if presented with unsafe or unreasonable working conditions, seek out protocols and measures you can take to receive payment or other contractual obligations and do everything you can to raise the standards of what is acceptable.

Don’t get me wrong, if I feel like being trapped in a box for two hours to reach a suffocating, schizophrenic state of mind for a character development process, then I will, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be my choice to do so, not the result of someone else telling me what should or shouldn’t inspire me. We must always protect ourselves, but never be afraid of expanding our frontiers of learning even though others approaches may seem drastic, bombastic or absurd. Sometimes it is in those moments of insanity that a true pure second of reality is captured.

Here is the link to the article I made reference to. It is a really disturbing and incredible read, if these accounts are all indeed true: