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The Power of the Camera

The chances are that people all around you are up to something. And by that I don’t just mean cheating on their tax returns. They are creating, they are writing, they are shooting, they are planning and scheming and all that energy is well worth taping into.

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From time to time I get a bit stagnant in my work.

I need distraction, I need inspiration and I need it quick and dirty.

There is no better way to grab all of that and everything else that you need, for that matter, than to help out others on their projects.

Collaboration as motivation and inspiration…

Whether you lend them a car for a shoot, or your house, or give them some input on their script, or an idea for a location, or actually show up and work, whatever you do for them, you are doing for yourself.

Because without collaboration nothing would ever get done, and, and this is the important bit I think, you won’t feel connected to the real and achievable possibilities the universe has on offer in bucket loads. The universe has designed these opportunities just for you. They are bespoke, as they said in the nineties. They are real and they are right there, waiting for you, you just need to open your self-obsessed little eyes and look beyond your immediate framework of needs.

Here is a classic example of what I am talking about.

And it happened to me just a last week…

So you may or you may not have heard all about this Actors Equity Union, ’I love 99’ furore. I am based in the NoHo Arts district, so it was pretty hard for me to ignore, if I’m honest. And as I am now being completely honest, apparently, I wasn’t really certain it had anything much do to with me or my work.

Of course it does…

I review theatre, I enjoy theatre, I cast my projects often from the theatre I see, and I live and work in NoHo, which is only an arts district in the first place because of these 20, under 99 seat theatres that would be brutally effected by the changes Equity proposes.

Basically what the brilliant people at Equity management are concerned with is the under 99 seat theatre agreement, which at present allows theatre with under 99 seats to run Equity sanctioned productions, employing both Equity and non-Equity actors, to produce theatre with no intention for profit, or pay. They have this special arrangement because there is no profit, because these theatres are tiny and have no money…but they still produce vitally important plays, some of which get picked up by larger theatres that do have money and can therefore pay the cast and crew and even offer Equity memberships to those actors who are non-Equity. SAG has the same kind of allowances for film through their SAG New Media contracts, which I use on every single film I produce and with which over 30 actors I have cast have been able to to join the union.

So basically, Equity wants to tell these theatres that they can go ahead and produce any play they want to, but they can’t use Equity actors any more, unless they pay them for their time.

What this will mean is that all these theatres won’t be able to cast Equity actors, and those Equity actors, who rarely get work in the handful of Equity houses in LA, will be unable to perform, even in self-produced theatre….

How ridiculous….

So the Equity actors who also thought this was ridiculous, which is basically all the Equity Actors in LA, got together and held a march in NoHo, because ironically, since NoHo has more theatres than anywhere else in LA, Equity just moved their head office here…

And I, in some mysterious series of events that are still unclear to me, got roped in to “doing a bit of filming.”

This “bit of filming” turned into me staying throughout the entire event, marching with the 500 or more furiously chanting actors up Lankershim Blvd, and filming the speeches the event organizers made to rapturous applause outside the union building.

Well, I had a fantastic time….

I actually felt like a war correspondent or something, and let’s face it, when was the last time we saw a good union rally, or a good protest in LA? I suppose it was the writers’ strike and that was what, 2007?

So I filmed everything.

I got out my new monopod, secured it to my camera and off I went. I filmed the gathering of the forces at base camp, the rabble rousing by the organizers, the enthusiastic start and the more enthusiastic arrival at Equity.

I filmed the singing, the chanting, the waving of signs, the smiling faces, the camaraderie, the passion and the limping. I filmed the kids in strollers, the dogs barking, the ukulele strummers and everyone in between.

I filmed everything…

And the funny thing was, although I began the day not quite relating to the event itself, on a personal level that is, by the end of the day I was a passionate conscript to the cause. Ihad bumped into a few people I had worked with in the past – reconnecting – and I had pretty much cut a short film in my head before I had even reviewed the footage.

Success!!

I didn’t anticipate that I would go anywhere beyond shooting a few minutes of footage of the beginning of the march….

So what did I learn from all this, and, more importantly, what can you learn from all this?

Well, I reminded myself that film is not separated from theatre at all and especially not in this town. All the theatre actors are also film actors after all and what is important to them should be important to me. As a director I want my actors to feel appreciated. I want them to feel connected to the work and to feel respected. It’s shocking that their own union doesn’t feel that way and I am appalled on their behalf.

It takes a village to make a film. And as I have mentioned many, many times, you can have the crappiest camera in the world, but if you put amazing actors in front of it, no one will ever notice.

Film may well be a director’s medium, I can agree that theatre is an actor’s medium for sure, but as filmmakers we rely on our actors to tell the story, to speak the lines and to move the audience.

Sure, we can cut around bad performances, we can make good one’s sometimes better, but when you have an actor who takes everything to another level, who magically transforms what you thought you wanted into something else, something better…then all the hard work, the long hours of preparation and hair pulling and last minute shenanigans seem more than worth it.

An actor can make a film great…

So we should connect without fellow artists and support them and rally behind them at every opportunity.

I was proud to be in NoHo that day, proud to be a part of the fight and proud to film it.

Here’s the finished piece, please excuse the occasional wobble, myself and my monopod were slightly buffeted by the wind, and completely moved by the words spoken…

Power to the people!!!!

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Author: Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a British writer and filmmaker living In Los Angeles.

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceroshttps://www.imdb.com/name/nm4303729/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0
Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a British writer and filmmaker living In Los Angeles.
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