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Thursday, April 14, 2005
Presentation at La Sierra University for the Department of English and Communication.
3:00 p.m. Paul Michael Glaser shared about his life in the entertainment industry. Center, room 102
Campus of La Sierra University
ON THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
PAUL: I do best at answering questions, hopefully, not fan questions, but whatever questions in terms of you wanna know, what you wanna find out, what you’re about. So, ah’ is anybody brave enough to ask a question?
(Pointing to audience) Sir…
Questioner 1: Ah, I couldn’t help but watching the last two episodes of Michael Mann, Thomas Stock, Fernando Lamas. Did it, when you made those episodes back then, did it feel like a tight knit community or did you work with those same sort of people over and over again…
Questioner 1: (continued…)….. and also, another question of mine, if I may is, was one of your scripts written by Michael Mann?
PAUL: Yah, Michael was a story, ah, was a writer on “Starsky and Hutch”..
Questioner 1: Was it your movie production by Michael Mann… was it the actual movie..?
PAUL: No, no, no, he was a, ah, a writer on TV on, on “Starsky and Hutch” he was one of our writers.
And after “Starsky and Hutch”, he went on to do, ah, “Miami Vice” and then he started doing films. He actually gave me my first feature film to direct. And Fernando Lamas, I don’t know how many shows Fernando did. I think he did, I know he did at least one because I spent the whole show imitating him (Laughter), but that was the extent of that.
(Pointing to audience) Yes, mame.
Questioner 2: I have a question about the stunt double, etc. Did you guys do all the running up and running down, leaping, um, it’s, it’s, a there’s a lot of energy but it looks like it must have been exhausting!
PAUL: Well, we shot the show, ah, it took 7 days to ah, shot each episode. We didn’t work seven days in a row, we took two days off on the weekends, ah, it was, umm, you know, it was an action show, two leads, so we had a lot of, ah, we, we did work long hours and work hard. I did most of my own stunts. The only stunts I couldn’t do were heights. I don’t like heights. I couldn’t jump out windows, but, ah, I did all my driving and all of that.
Next. You had a question.
Questioner 3: Was “Starsky and Hutch. Was that like your first role or like..?
PAUL: No, I came to ah,.. I did ah, I started acting probably about my, ah, sophomore year in high school, junior year in high school. I stared doing summer stock and then, I ah, eventually, ah, I did a lot of theater in college, I did a lot repertory theater in the summers and then I went to Broadway. I went to New York City, and I waited table, and I tended bar, and I made the rounds and I worked off -off Broadway, and then off Broadway, and then I did a Broadway show and a soap opera at the same time. Then I went off to do “Fiddler on the Roof”, the film. And then I came back and drove out to LA for what was to be a week and stayed a year and a half. Then I went back to New York and I did another soap opera thinking I could get another Broadway show. And then I got tired of the soap opera, so I quit, and I came back out to LA and then there was this TV movie called “Starsky and Hutch” and I said “Well, I need some new film of myself”.. and I don’t think it will be a series, so I, I ah,… I got my foot stuck in it! (Big smile)
(To audience member) Yes,… sir.
Questioner 4: Ah, I’m an actor, and an actually working in commercials and I have tried to get representation, um, theatrical, seems to be very difficult, ah and on my real commercial work. How do you go about getting someone to take you, theatrically?
Paul: Well, it’s a catch-22. Do you know what catch-22 means? It’s a catch-22 in that you need an agent to get an audition and then the agent says “Let me know when you’re in something so I can come see you and then I’ll tell you if I want to sign you”…..
Questioner 4: That’s what happened already.
PAUL: Yah. And um, this leads into the question “Well how do you go about it” and ah, people have asked me how did I go about it. And how I went about it is irrelevant. How anybody went about it is irrelevant, because every person goes about it in a different way. There’s one thing that the successful people have in common and I taught a Master’s class in directing at UCLA and I asked for a show of hands of those people who felt that they absolutely had to do this, they were compelled to. There was a passion and a drive no matter what, and ah, there was only one person who raised his hand, by the way, ah, but all the people that have made it, I think, have that compulsion, have that need, ah, and ah, if you have that drive, then you look at that lay of the land, you look at what’s out there, you look at what’s going on and you attack it with your own particular curiosity and ah, and you find yourself going in different directions and trying different things. Ahm, you know,as with everything else, it, you do it by practicing it and a lot of people call themselves actors when they really want to be actors but they haven’t really acted. Ah, I tell most actors, young actors that I meet, when they ask me for my suggestion is, I say “My suggestion is you get on a bus and you go to New York City and you get a job there and you find a way to live and you support yourself and you make the rounds and you bang on doors and then you’ll know whether you have the stuff to be an actor because you have that kind of commitment to it.”
There’s a difference between being committed to something, and I think this is true in life in general. There’s a difference between saying “Gee, I think that would be a kind of cool idea, I’d kinda like to do it.”, as opposed to “I really need to find something out here, I really need to study , I really need to learn, I really need to take a walk.” And, whether people are, achieve any degree of recognition by um, ah, ah, a tremendous ah narcissistic need just to see themselves or whether they have some artistic need to create to realize a craft of acting, which is practiced mostly in the theater. Understand, theater, you sustain a performance for an hour and a half - two hours. There’s no one to yell “cut”, there’s no re-do’s, there’s no do–overs. It there, it’s you and the audience, ahm, that’s where you get your legs, that’s where you get your strength as a performer. Ahm, you need that strength because, ah, the film and television business is in effect an exercise in narcissism, it’s an exercise in terms of,... you don’t get to, .. you know, when you work on a stage, it’s a proscenium march, and there’s the audience, and there you are and you have some distance to create an illusion.
When you work on camera, the camera is photographing you! When I cast something as a director, I want the character to walk through the door. May not be the character I had in mind, but if someone walks in through that door with something interesting going on for them as a human being, then I’m interested as a director. Well that’s all well and good, but the problem is that as soon as you see yourself up on the screen,… you don’t have that distance that you have as an actor when you’re working in the theater. That’s you on the screen and the camera sees only when you’re telling the truth and when you’re telling a lie. The camera sees everything. That’s why you can watch yourself on film and why you can either love yourself or hate yourself. But the seduction, when you’re not hating yourself, the seduction to falling in love with yourself is so great that it’s a very, very difficult to distinguish between yourself that’s up there on the screen and the craft you’re practicing, acting… because it is a craft. And so, learning how to act in film and television is almost a contradiction in terms. You learn the technique, you learn how to do things in front of the camera, you learn how to learn your lines, you learn how to hit your marks, you learn how to relate to the camera, you learn, you learn a lot of things but what you don’t learn is how to make the distinction between yourself as an artist and that image up on the screen. And that’s really, really hard. That’s why you see a lot of actors, or people who want to be actors who arrive at a degree of celebrity, attention or success and you’ll see them implode or you’ll see them become temperamental, you’ll see them get into drugs or drinking or acting out because down deep they’re really scared that they’re not enough. They don’t really understand that it’s all been a stroke of luck that they walked through the door and they were there at the right place and the right time. It wasn’t causal, it wasn’t “I’m gonna make this happen”. You don’t make it happen. And if any of you have been around in this life long enough, you’ve thought to understand that you do not make anything happen. What you do is you make yourself attend to a process whether it be acting or directing or gardening or painting or building. You get involved in the process and you do it as specifically as possible in you cross the “t’s”, you “dot” the “i’s” you try to stay in the moment, you do your job. And if in your journey and in your life, you’re supposed to intersect with something else called fame or success or whatever, then that is meant to be and that will happen. And the problem at that point is that then you start to feel like you did something, you made it happen and you forget that it was luck, you forget that it was timing, that it was fate, that it was the stars, that it had nothing to do with you. And this fear underneath is the truth is that it was all about fate and you can’t deal with it so you’re scrambling around going well, wait a minute I gotta do it, I gotta keep it build on it, I gotta make it happen because we are trained in our society to believe that we can make things happen. There’s a distinction between making something happen and being a person, being a good person, being a honest person, being a person who wants to learn, being a person who wants to be part of, being a person who wants to touch and be touched.
I’m throwing a lot of ideas out at you, but there’s a very, very common strain to these things. People tend to look at the outside into the world of film, television, show business, visibility, celebrity, whether it’s singing or acting or whatever, football. Newscaster’s are now stars,… celebrities, go figure! And people then look at the outside in and say I want a be that, I want a piece of that, mainly because when they look inside, when they look inside, there’s nobody there they really know or think they like or feel good about. There’s nothing wrong with that. I readily admit that as a child I was lost and I, a large part of me became an actor to find out who the hell I was. And to get that approval, and to get that attention. I tell a story upon myself, a joke on myself, ahm, that, ah, when I was in New York and I was working my way up and then I was doing off Broadway and whatever, the other actors, we’d all get together and we’d drink and hang out at Jimmy Allen’s, Joe, Joe Allen’s, Jimmy Ray’s and we’d say “I wouldn’t go to New York. I’m an actor man, I’m theater. I can go there to do a film, I’ll do a TV show, I’ll do, you know, I’ll go out there to do a gig, but I’m not gonna live out there! I’m not gonna go out there and part of that mindless meat factory! I’m an artist!” And then Norman Jewison came into town and he was casting the movie of “Fiddler on the Roof” and they called and asked me if I wanted, if I would read it, and I read it and I thought I was all wrong for it. And I went and read for him and he decided he wanted me to fly to California for a screen test and the very first thing I did was I went down to Bally’s Shoe store on Sixth Avenue and bought a pair of white loafers. (Laughter). White loafers! Ah, clearly I was far more invested in being a star than I wanted to admit to myself. And I didn’t understand the significance of that, or the reality of that until “Starsky and Hutch” happened and all of sudden everybody was blowing hot air up me and saying “You’re the greatest thing since sliced bread!”
You can say, “Hey, man, you’re making a lot of money, I’ll take that any day! You’re making money and people were tad ah and gimme and tadah and all that. I’ll take that in a fast second It’s ok with me, I’ll do it all, I’ll sign the autographs because that’s how we’re trained in our society. We’re trained to believe that the buck, the dollar, the material goods, the “success” in terms of what we own, what we have, what we can create, what we can point to or can identify ourselves to is who we are. And, what we start to learn as we get older, if we’re lucky, we start to become aware that if were lucky, that that’s not who we are. We aren’t all those things. We aren’t this or this, or the money we make or the things we own. We’re not any of that. We’re all the same. We’re all these animals that have this consciousness, this gift to feel compassion for ourselves and for others. We all have the same needs, the same wants, the same desires and the thing we all yearn for the most, no matter what we do, whether it’s architect, actor, all of the.., you name it, is if we can find a way to be present. I’m on the tennis court and I’m playing tennis and all of a sudden I outside of myself. I don’t know what it is. I’m hitting every shot and its like, WOW, I’m in the moment. I’m in the present. I see a girl across the way, she looks at me, she smiles, I smile, all of a sudden I forget everything. I’m in love. I’m in the present. I’m painting a picture and I just get lost in it. I’m present. I’m writing something, or I’m gardening, or I’m washing a car or I’m washing the dishes at home. And I get into it. And I’m not thinking about where I‘d like to be or where I could be or where I was or where I wanna be or any of that. I’m just right here and now, I’m present… because when we’re present, when we’re present, we’re at peace and we feel good. Some people call it in love; some people call it being with God, some people… call it.. call it what you want to call it, but that’s what we want because in that moment of “presence” we all feel our connective-ness to existence, to being-ness, to being alive and it feels good. That feels centered. So whether you’re acting to do it, or in whatever you’re doing… that’s my little “hurrang” on how we are conditioned and raised in this society. To believe in money, to believe in possessions, to believing in success as being a goal in something that will tell us who we are and make us feel good about who we are and what we’re about and it doesn’t. We tell millions of stories about how it doesn’t and you can sit there and say “Ya, but, oh man, look, you know, it’s easy for you to say but look, you know, look where you are.” ….. Well everybody feels the same pain, and everybody feels the same loss, and everybody feels the same fear and everybody deals with the same reality that we have no control over our mortality. And we’re all the same and it’s all just relative. I have taken in my journey as an artist, as a person, as a human being, I have taken to my heart the greatest lesson that I’ve been able to find which is as long as I can remain a student and a learner, and ask the questions who I am and why I’m here, no matter what I do, no matter what I do, I have a chance to be connected, to be a person, to be present,… I have a chance.
(To an audience member with a dog)
What’s that dog’s name?
Audience member: “Nitro”
Audience member: “Nitro”
PAUL: “Nitro” He’s not “Nitro” right now. He’s in the land of nod!
Ya (to a another questioner)
Questioner 5: Just, just for the record, I, I really love myself. I just wanted to spit it out.
PAUL: We all love ourselves.
Questioner 5: OK.
PAUL: We also hate ourselves, fear ourselves. We’re a combination of all of it.
Questioner 5: Not really.
PAUL: You really love yourself! (Laughter). Well, sometime I could be hiding in your closet and I could surprise you and jump out and say and say “Ah ha, see that right there!”
I believe what you’re saying is you really love yourself and want to love yourself which is a very valuable and important thing to acknowledge. So... ask me another question and see how long I talk! (Laughter)
Questioner 6: What led you into directing?
PAUL: Ya know, ah, my dad was an architect and I used to say I would have been one if he hadn’t been one. Ah, when I did “Starsky and Hutch” and I had taken a master’s degree in college in directing, so I directed a little theater but I didn’t’ really have a lot of patience for it. And ah, when I did “Starsky and Hutch”, I wasn’t very happy, I didn’t want to do a television series and I found myself in the middle of it and I wanted to get out and finally realized that I couldn’t get out. And I also realized that film is a director’s medium, television is more a producer’s medium in terms of who calls the shots… theater is an actor’s medium, it’s, you’re on the stage. And in film, you have so many areas to deal with as a director. You get to photograph, you get to teach, you get to, ah, work with 100 to 120, 120 to 170 people and, and, and share a vision, and move in a certain direction. You get to edit, you get to use music, ahm, and in all these areas you get to learn constantly because you’re always being shown what don’t know, and so there are more areas for me to deal with in the film world and I really liked it. I liked it more than acting. As a matter of fact, I came to a cross road about two months ago…
(To the audience)… It’s not a good thing when an audience keeps walking out, you know! (Laughter) It means that the show isn’t very good. Ah... (Laughs)... that’s ok... (Paul shouts out and laughs)... “I drove 2 hours!!!” (Everyone laughs).
The ah, there’s just a lot of different things you can do as a director and that appealed to me more… or I was just about to say, about a couple of months ago, I was asked to do, to do a play in New York. And I, ah, boy, I was on the horns of a dilemma. Part of me really wanted to do it, part of me knew I could do a really good job with it and ah, it would be a real trip to re-visit myself after all these years being away from acting to come back cause I just started acting again these past few years, I had been away from it for 17 years and I, ah, I decided not to do it. I decided that my creativity or my enjoyment was in my process of writing, and producing, and directing and trying to get my feature career back which I’ve been struggling with for six, or seven years now, so I’ve been studying writing, writing screen plays and all that…
(To an audience member)…How’re you doing chief? You ok?
Audience Member: Ya, I’m cool...
PAUL: You ok? I just wanna make sure that hand isn’t gonna slip when you’re like…
OK, ah so that’s that.
(To questioner) Yes, yes...
Questioner 7 (Annette!): All of your directing in Starsky and Hutch”, ahm, “Bloodbath” and “Terror on the Docks”, you seem like your direction is so different from what I’d seen in the other episodes. Were you trying something or...
PAUL: No, actually, “Bloodbath”... I think Bloodbath was about… what… was
Questioner 7 (Annette!): Bloodbath was, you were kidnapped at the zoo…
PAUL: Oh at the ZOO! At the old zoo! So it was, it was the first episode,… I wanted to make sure I didn’t confuse it with another one. It was the first episode I directed. And they were waiting for me to fall on my ass! (Laughter) I’m telling you, oh these guys… “Oh, this guy thinks he can direct.” I describe that experience as “ass bites chair.” I didn’t, I, I was surviving. I’d seen a lot of director’s work, but basically I was surviving. And while that’s going on you have your eye, you have your image of how you wanna see it, and what you’re trying to do. Maybe that showed through.
Questioner 7 (Annette!): “Terror on the Docks”... you may not remember that one either...
PAUL: I do.
Questioner 7 (Annette!): … Like Hutch would be here and you would do, you would be here and the camera would be here and the camera would go through the car. Marvelous shots, but it seemed like they were very different
PAUL: Everybody has their own sensibility…
Questioner 7 (Annette!): Well, yours were best, of course!
PAUL: Well, thank you. Some director’s are not photographic. Some directors rely on a camera man to frame the, the, the piece. Some directors are not great with actors, some directors are great politicians. They land their job by being a, a politician with the studio and everyone else. Ah, there are so many kinds of directors. I mean, I’m a purist. I believe, that, ah, ya know, to really be a good director you need to do all of those things. I’ve never been a good politician. Ahm, but you know, so, so I’ve always enjoyed photographing. I love ah, moving a camera. I think that it’s a fascinating way to impact an audience without you knowing it. If you look at movies today, certainly, ah, ah, ah, the movies that come out of the studios right now, they are very fast paced, you know, they, they ah, edit them, you know when you edit a film, you can create a rhythm. You know, I can have a conversation with you, a scene with you and we can leave the camera on you for awhile, then leave the camera on me for awhile and if we were like weighing on the weight of the world, or struggling with some great thing, that would work. But, ah, if we really wanted to get the audience heightened in their interest or their curiosity or their sense of suspense …. Oops there goes another one (an audience member leaves; Laughter)….
Woman leaving: I have a meeting!...
PAUL: You don’t, you don’t get out free, sweetie. (Laughter)
… and ahm, then you can edit it and bounce back and forth (snapping his fingers) faster, faster, faster, you see, and you can create tension. Now action scenes, ah, the, the trick to shooting an action scenes is you want to generate a lot of cuts, or a lot of angles, a lot of pieces because what you want to approximate for the audience when the car is crashing or a guy is you know, jumping off a building is approximate the feeling….(shakes his hands) badaadaah. (Talks slower) It’s not… like… a love story… (Laughter) you know. It’s faster, and so you want to generate a lot of cuts so you can create a lot of fast editorial rhythms. As a matter of fact, an interesting thing evolved when we first started doing “Starsky and Hutch”. The predominate camera used was called a “Mitchell” and a Mitchell was a big, heavy camera that had been used for years in Hollywood. It couldn’t move around. It was big, and it was clunky and, and they had a few, they could run it on a dolly or put it on a crane, but, and because of that, you found that film, when you watch movies, if you watch old movies, the action, the accent, or the heightened tension pace, the crisis’s, the camera moved, the editing got faster.. now, and that was for emphasis. When the new cameras came in, the Panaflex, which was a lighter camera and all the equipment that supported it, all of a sudden you could move it, you could put it… and, and the steady cam, the pogo cam and all these different devices… (Pointing an audience member) oops, she’s asleep (laughter) Gotcha! All of these devices, all of these devices allowed you to move that camera, move that camera, move that camera. So know they move the camera a lot and cut a lot and there’s a lot of special effects, woo, and they dial up the volume so it’s real loud so you think something’s happening. The interesting thing happened with the change in equipment, when you wanted to emphasis something in a story, you stopped everything. So you’re going along bahpbahpbahpbahp and everything is faster, faster, faster ...dadadadadadada… STOP! and the audience for a very brief amount of time goes…. (Paul leans forward and freezes his expression), they lean forward, they lean forward, they listen. You can‘t do it too long, you’ll loose them. But that was a very interesting change in the whole technique that was caused by the change in equipment in the business. The one thing that people never understand so well as they understood were the change in equipment was that it’s called moving pictures which means film is running through the gate, it’s in motion so when you’re shooting something you’re always in motion, you’re always in motion. And even if the camera is sitting still, you’re looking for some motion. When the camera is sitting still, the kind of motion you’re looking for is what I call vertical motion. You’re looking for something going on… in the eyes, in the story, in the emotions, in the feelings of the people. And the camera just sits there but there’s still something going on. There’s still something happening. We call it emotion. That’s important.
Questioner 8: How was it for you to adjust?
PAUL: How was it for me to adjust? I had a horrible time, a horrible time. I couldn’t understand why people were constantly making such a brouhaha, I didn’t get it. And not until years later did I understand it. Which I describe in a, in a, in a phrase that I’ve used ah, over the years which is… “People create their Gods in order to eat them.” Which if you stop to think about that, really is true, you know, you see someone you want their autograph, someone famous, you wanna picture of them, you wanna piece of their clothing, you wanna touch them… you want a piece of them. You want to feel, you want to have a piece of them! At the risk of delving into the world of religion, … the blood of Christ, the wafer, communion wafer, the body of Christ, it’s the same thing. “We create our God’s in order to eat them.” Well what does that mean? That means that,… we have this tremendous fear of death, of mortality, of how we exist in our lives when we know we’re gonna die, and so we create heroes that do it for us that confront the fear of death, the fear of powerlessness, the fear of danger and they succeed. Three and two the count, world series, the game is tied, the last of the ninth, can that guy standing in that batters box, with all that pressure on him, can he keep his eye on the ball and hit it out of the park? He’s a hero if he does it! Tiger Woods, making that wonderful putt Sunday. We create our heroes as people that succeed in dealing with our communal fear of our dying, our fear of death, our fear of danger. I didn’t want to be that person. I didn’t understand it. How could people possibly be looking at me and what I was doing, ... I saw the pilot of “Starsky and Hutch”, they had a screening of “Starsky and Hutch” at Twentieth Century Fox and I went “Thank God this is not gonna happen.” And after I saw the first episode on television, I turned to David and said “Thank God they only ordered thirteen of these!”(Laughter) I didn’t find it to be worthy of that kind of adulation and it freaked me out. It freaked me out. I was just, I, I hated it, and it wasn’t until the last five, ten years that I was able to make peace with it, and say “OK it’s not gonna go away. OK, I’m here and whatever I can share with people and teach and learn, I’ll do.” I have an advantage over most of the people in this room,… I’m older, I’ve lived a lot of life. A lot of what I’m going to say to you is, “Ya right, sure, well not me, it’s not gonna happen to me, phhh” , like you do with your parents, but,... I still keep trying because I am an idealist, and a romantic and a dreamer and I believe that some of what I’m saying will resonate, if not today then maybe ten years from now, if your memory is still in one piece, which mine isn’t, and you’ll go “Now what was that he said, Oh my God, that thing just happened, that was, that was,… oh!.” You’re not expected to get it all right now. I’m kinda like taking advantage of my position by spewing out all kinds of stuff for you to take in or not take in.
Questioner 9: How do you see the media’s role in the concept of celebrity, the media and the public, the chicken and the egg...?
PAUL: Well the public has this need, as I was just saying, to create its celebrities, to create its Gods. I remember when People Magazine did like one celebrity every month, new month, now, my God, you can’t keep up with them. I’ve given actually, I don’t try. And now when I go to parties, I don’t go to many parties, and I meet people, celebrities, and I don’t go to many parties, but when I do go I say “What is it you do!? (Laughter) It’s, it’s ah, not politically correct at all. Ahm, so that’s the publics need, all of our need, we all need that, we all create that and we look for it. The media is a business. You have to understand that. It’s a business. Television is a producers medium and its there for one reason and for one reason only… to sell soap. That it does it by telling stories that touch you, or sharing with you the lives of other people. Everyday Joe’s are having their houses re-done or their hair re-done or their faces re-done or whatever they have re-done. Whatever reality stuff, you know, whether it’s through that or through a dramatized story, comedy, whatever they’re still exploiting that need in order to sell what they sell. And all too often, the people that do the selling tell you what you’re gonna watch. Which is why television in, in all its miraculous abilities, it’s become you know, a really deft and dangerous tool in the hands of the business community and the political community. You watch the news today, you don’t watch news and you may think you’re watching the news, you’re watching entertainment, it’s all entertainment now. It’s like picking up the post, the newspaper in New York City “Six people murdered today! Five accidents, this house burned down, this woman found a finger in her chili.” I mean,… it’s not educational, it doesn’t uplift you, the only thing it does is tickle your curiosity and it makes you wonder about what that other guy… it’s like driving on the highway and we see an accident. We all slow down “Woo man, what if that happened to me.” We don’t think what if that happened to me, we go “Woo, look at that.”... (a cell phone starts ringing)… I hope my cell phone doesn’t go off, that would be a real hoot for all of us.
Ahm, so how do you find the balance between the two? How do you find a balance between what we want as a, a people and what the media, what the ah, ah media does? Well that’s the battle. The battle is between that side of us that wants spiritual fulfillment and that side of us that wants material fulfillment. You know, and it’s a battle that goes on inside of each and every one of us I’ll tell you a little story because this is kind of an interesting thing that you can remember ah, about story telling. Ahm, this was, this came out of, it was a hypothesis, that was put out by a, a book about the theory called the “Origins of Theater” I read in graduate school and I’ve always remembered it and I’ve always thought it’s kinda cool. Picture if you will the prehistoric and he has fire, he’s found fire, he’s sitting there in the dark...
(to audience member) Don’t bother Dynamite, come on…
…he’s sitting there ion the dark, with his fire, with one other guy and all these noises out there are all these animals that want to come and eat them. And they are scared, they’re shaking, they’re not dressed in anything so they can’t shake in anything, but they’re shakin’ (Laughter) and one of them picks up a rock and he hits it against another rock (Paul hits his water bottle against the wall) his hand, he made that sound,... cool! Hey that’s cool! The other guy thinks it’s cool so he goes (Paul hits his water bottle against the wall while grunting “a-uh”). They get through the night that way, they both feel really good, they can experience a, a causality. They’re doing something, right? 1000 years later there’s forty families in a cave and they’ve all eaten too much saber tooth tiger and they’re tired and they all want to go to sleep. And nobody wants to go “Uhnn”, nobody wants to go bang rocks, grunt or anything. So they choose someone to do it for them and that person becomes the Sharman, the Priest, the Rabbi, the story teller. The person who tells the story to remind us all that we have a fear of the animals out in the dark, that’s what story telling is about. Story telling is a very, very sacred past-time. We honor our story tellers and the people that tell those, that act those stories out, we honor them because they make them, take us closer to ourselves. The Bible is stories, it’s all stories, it’s important to remember that when you’re trying to balance the commerciality of the media which is our common collective need to make money, to make security and to make comfort and to make ownership and to make material stuff that we can have and feel good about, and that other side of us that feels compelled, really compelled, I must tell this story, I must find my story, I must experience a story…
(To audience member) They still work those legs? They still work? They go up and down and? Just stretch them out a little bit…Cool.
Questioner 10: I assume that you agree there’s a lot of crap out there as far as entertainment and movies. And I assume that it’s not the case that everybody has this urge to tell a story and see it as a sacred art. How many people out there in Hollywood, the media are actually doing it because it’s a longing? Is a lot of it just business...?
PAUL: Well, as I was saying before, different people have different longings. Some people feel compelled to make a lot of money, some people feel compelled to be famous, some people feel compelled to be beautiful, some people feel compelled to control others. I would venture to say if you wanted to know how much or how many or what percentage of people there are, you need only look into yourself and say what part of me wants this, and at different times, because it all changes and what part of me wants that and it goes back and forth and back and forth. Some guy will go home and make a pot full of money and get all kinds of power and then all of a sudden turn around and say “This isn’t working for me. I wanna go and help the kids in Rwanda.” So every human being has their own journey. We all have our own journey and during that journey, there’s always this battle between that of us part that wants one thing and the other part of us that wants something else. So then you’re left with Gandhi which is “just don’t harm anybody”. Find the truth and don’t harm anybody.
Questioner 11: Ahm, what kind of relationship exits between a writer and the director, if any…
Questioner 11: … and what kind of things are expected from the director.
PAUL: You know I’ve been writing for five or six years now, before I used to re-write the writers. And as a director and I thought oh boy, I can do this. I’d written poetry and I’d written other stuff and I thought, I felt, I use to re-write dialogue on Starsky and Hutch all the time. And then I started studying it. Theater while it’s an actors medium, it’s also a writer’s medium, his word is written in stone. You don’t’ mess with the writers in theater. In television, the producer‘s, everyone walks all over them, right is all the time. In film, it’s the director’s medium and the writers are subservient to the director‘s needs. That is not to say that the writer’s initial intent, the world he creates, the specificity with which he creates and the uniqueness with which his vision functions and the passion that caused them to commit it to paper and design it, doesn’t have an enduring effect and I really truly believe as a director that when I work with a writer, and I’ve worked with a number of them, and I’ve worked a few co-authored scripts I’m trying to get off the ground. I will work as far as I can work with a writer and if then if I reached the point that I feel that the writer can’t either A.) execute or is burned out, I will then start the writing, if I feel like I, I can hear and, and, and speak those voices of those characters in those situations. It’s not easy to do, sometimes you can’t. Ahm, in the best of all worlds, it’s a collaboration. Two minds are better than one. Two perspectives, if you will, are better than one. A lot of times the other person will see things that you can’t see. But the initial journey of the writer to give birth to his idea and put it on paper is invaluable and I often say to myself and to others when I’m casting a movie, and when I say casting a movie, I don’t mean casting the actors, I mean casting the actors, the cinematographer, the costume designer, the set designers, the production designer, all those people that make the movie and that have creative input into it, and I often say to myself, if I’m fortunate enough identify the core intention of this story, with the writer and myself or if I am the writer myself, if I can identify it, its gonna change. I start off with a Chevy, I come up with a Ford. Film changes. You start off to make this movie and you end up with this movie. It does change, and you need to allow it to change for the same reason that the film goes through the gate and its moving pictures. It’s a fluid medium, it changes, it evolves everything evolves in life actually. If you are able to identify the core intent, really nail it, then everyone who reads it will have their own interpretation of that intention. It will strike them all a different way and they’ll bring a different color, a different item to the dance, the party. And so as a director then, once you’ve cast your movie, and Hitchcock said this all the time, once you’ve planned the movie, you’ve it set up, you’ve cast all the departments, and you’ve got it all there your job as the director is only to help everyone else execute their craft as specifically as possible and to keep the, your eye on the intention and not get confused with the interpretation. “That’s not how I saw it. I don’t want it that way. Oh, that’s a good idea, I never thought of that. Let’s do that. You wanna put that camera over there? Let’s try that. Does it ring true that it could work? Ya, or no.” So you’re always in that process of trying to go am I honoring the student in me as much as the teacher. Am I learning here, am I searching for the truth?
Questioner 12: Reality television or yeah, realty TV, has kinda taken over television, which is why I probably can’t get a theatrical agent but...ahm
PAUL: Is this question about you?
Questioner 12: No, no it’s not about me. Where do you see it going? Is there…
PAUL:: Well, I think I think it’s a voyeuristic need because the world has become so small because of computers and television and air plane travel and whether we like it or not, we know what the person in Iraq is about, or we think we do, we, we have a sense of our world community now and that creates a very interesting event. What it does is, while it makes us all closer cheek to jowl with each other, while it should make us feel more comfortable, it really creates more animinity, more of a fear of ‘’Who the hell am I”, How am I special? How am I different? So you’ve got all these piercing and tattoos and all this stuff going on. What reality TV does is it allows us to look into the bedrooms and living rooms of the other guy, the other everyday Joe and feel two things. Number one, “Oh, they feel that way too”, and the second thing it does, is it allows us to cultivate the fantasy of that we could be a celebrity just like them. “I could do that show. I could be this! I could do that!”
Does that answer your question?
Questioner 12: The answer is No, it’s not, no. I mean, is that what I’m hearing from you, it’s not gonna, is that there’s no end to reality TV.
PAUL: There’s no end to it. There’s, it’s, it‘ll mutate into something else and then into something else and narrative story telling will mutate and there’ll be a combination of the two and you know, ahm…
Questioner 12: I guess, I guess what I’m getting to is that eventually with the direction it’s heading, we’ll start to see people die and be killed..
PAUL: Well I think…
QUESTIONER 12: … in reality.
PAUL: Well I think public execution is gonna definitely going to be in the cards. I, ah, I’ve, that’, you know, always been one of my, ah at a certain point, it’s not enough to see a wreck on the road side or to see in this bare knuckle fighting somebody get the crap beat out of him. Eventually, you’re gonna wanna see that. It’s ah, you know. There’s a weird kind of paradox that goes on while we have this huge out cry for morality and for… or for morality in our society, there’s this opposite thing that happens at the same time it creates a far more permissive ah, ah, atmosphere in terms of ah, ah of ah you know on how people are ah, able to indulge their fear and their need to ah, to ahm, feel powerful. That’s a whole other ball of wax.
Questioner 13: Do you think any of that will have an affect on the craft of acting?
PAUL: Well, the craft of acting will always be there, I mean, you know, acting for me is really about, and you have the specific crafts of movement and voice and creating illusion, but the real interesting thing about acting is not putting on masks but taking off masks. It’s really finding that place in you that touches everybody else by “Oh I know I understand that feeling” or “Oh yeah that’s just how I feel” or you know, and so ah, there’ll always be that, that need, you know, I do believe that acting for the theater is, as I said before, the true gymnasium, it’s the true place where you learn that craft I don’t believe you learn it in front of the camera. Ah, ah but you can, you can learn to be ah a more honest and better person in front of the camera, you know, I think that’s true.
QUESTION 14: To follow up on that, when you’re working as a director, I wonder over the years with your work now how do you go about eliciting a performance center from an actor that true to change more differently than a few years ago or has there always been a constant that you recognize
PAUL: There’s no constant because everyone comes through with a different level or training or different bias or different difficulty or whatever. Ah, you know, ah, when you (Annette) asked about that thing I directed where were in our water front thing, the wharf thing and the story is about a guy comes in and takes a grandmother and her granddaughter hostage, granddaughter’s about 20, 21 and ah, we find out about it, Hutch breaks in and he’s inside pretending he’s a paramedic and eventually I come in in the end and there’s a shootout. And, that was a very interesting experience, because the girl who played, the, the actress who played this girl, Kitty Harrold, who’s a very good actress, this was her first job and I decided to shoot the finale in the living room when Starsky finally breaks in.. in 1000 foot reels in one long eight minute scene, nine minute scene. So I had coverage on Dave and had coverage with the grandmother and had coverage on the guy, and while I kept doing this, Kitty kept coming up to me and saying “What‘ll I do, I don’t know what to do, what’ll I do?” I said don’t worry you’ll be fine. You’ll be fine, because she didn’t have any craft. And, and I did her coverage last, and when I did her coverage, I roll the camera and I said “How do you feel” and she said “I don’t know what to do! What’ll I do?” I said fine, ACTION! Just be that and she freaked out, which is the reality I wanted because the character didn’t know what the hell she was going to do. So that’s taking someone who has no craft. Now you can take someone with craft and the vocabulary and you can turn to them and say … like last month I was shooting an episode of Vegas with Jimmy Caan and Sly Stallone. And Sly was all over the place and I said Sly, do nothing, just do nothing here. “Really?” Yeah, do nothing. “OK”, and then in a moment I said now play the scene like you’re seventeen year old boy. And he just went “Wooo”, so he had the craft. He had the ability to take those kinds of adjustments. Ahm, those are the kind of the two extremes. You know, if you have someone with the vocabulary, you can go and talk to them and say look you’re too busy, or you’re doing or I don’t believe you or whatever. It adjusts and it evolves and you’re always learning, always learning. I’ve had times where I’ve felt really proud of myself I got a performance out of this actor and then I go in the editing room and I look at the editor and I go “What is that person doing?” and it was my fault I, I pushed them to something that wasn’t real.
Questioner 13: And that’s the point I was getting at… to my follow up. When you’re working on the set, can you generally see that you’re getting what you want and then you say look at the rush.
PAUL: Well, a lot of the time you see what you want, but a lot of times you’re kidding yourself. Or the big thing now is the past ten years, fifteen years, is the video assist. You’ll see directors all the time now on the set, and I do a lot myself, and it’s really not cool. If you’re doing an emotional scene or something that is really... intense or complicated, or there’s a lot of mental or emotional things going on, you really, I like to sit under the camera or behind the camera and watch the actor’s eyes, but most of the times the director will use the video assist and watch the monitor, but there not seeing anything because your head is only this bog and the yes are real small. And, ahm… A lot of times, another thing you can do is close your eyes and listen. You can hear the truth of a performance in the person’s voice. That’s another thing you can do, you know, just listen because a lot of times, nearly all the time, you really have to be careful not to impose of what your image of the performance should be especially if you’re a performer or you’ve have been an actor.
Questioner 15: What is it like to try to balance your time with family and friends?
PAUL: You know, it has to do with, it has to do with the, ah, ah how busy you are, you know. Directing is all consuming. Ah, you train for it. You literally train for it. You’re like you’re gonna climb a mountain, physically, emotionally, mentally, you train for it because when you start shooting, you’re gonna shoot sixteen hour days and then you’re gonna get daily’s and you’re gonna get like four or five hour sleeps then you’re gonna get up in the morning then you gotta go again,. And you usually try to film in very inclement weather, cold, or very hot, wind, snow, cause that bends the light most that creates the most drama, you know. Just shooting exterior LA in the n middle of the day doesn’t quite cut it. So you really have to train for it and get ready. So that’s all consuming. That’s a very consuming job and you see a lot of relationships go by the way side because you can’t give your family, ah, you know, you can’t, you cant give them the time.
Question 16: Who’s your favorite actor or actress now a days?
PAUL: Now a days? Gosh, you know, it’s hard to say a favorite. There are different people that do different things, I’m not I think Johnny Dep is a really wonderful actor. I’m really, I think he’s terrific. I think Benicio Del Toro is very interesting, umm. I think Sean Penn when he’s not in his “I’m in pain mode” is a, is really good. Umm, I’m really bad at this, because, I don’t, you know, I’ll see someone… I think, what’s her name, Joan Allen, who did the “Upside of Anger”, is terrific in that. You know, ah, the guy who’s in the ah, “Fever Pitch” right now, I forget his name, Fallon, Jimmy Fallon,… terrific!
Questioner 17: Was there anybody you looked up to anybody?
PAUL: Ya, there were people I though I wanted to be and then there were people I thought, that, that you know, you know, there was Lawrence Olivier, but he was more because he was seen as a great actor when really he was a great mechanic. He wasn’t a great actor He was a soap actor who became a great mechanic. Like Bobby De Niro to me is a great mechanic or Meryl Streep They’re really talented, but they’ve evolved to the point where you can put them in a room with really anybody and you get the same performance. They provided the stimulus and the response. That’s what I call, what I mean by mechanic. I mean a great courageous thing for an actor to be able to do is let themselves get lost in front of the camera and find it with the other actor because that creates a moment not to think it, but go “What” it’s like when a lot of times when I’m directing, I’ll say is let the camera roll, keep going and I can get in the editing room and I can get that little piece of emotion and, and what the audience sees when they see that is “what’s that, real cool” , and they don’t realize it, but as a performer you want to get where I call on the hook, you always want to get yourself to the place where you’re in trouble and you don’t know how to get out and that struggle to get out is what the film, the camera picks up. It’s like when people ask Marlon Brando, when he did “On the Water Front”...did you ever see the movie “On The Waterfront? You ought a go watch it, it’s a great movie. And he plays a guy a who’s a fighter, he never got it together, never able to have a shot at the title and he gets in trouble with the water front gang and everything and he’s coming up the gang plank and they said to him after “My God what did you work on, what did you work on? That was amazing! How did you play that?” and he said “I was working on how awful the make-up felt” (laughter), because he was owning what was in the moment, the present moment and he was dealing with that reality. You’ll see a lot of good film actors and it is maddening when you’re a guest actor on a TV show. They’ll get ready to shoot the shot and he’ll be talking, and he’ll be schmo…, and “How’re ya doing”, (to an audience member) “I like it, I like those toe nails, it’s really good.” and all of a sudden the camera rolls and he goes and bamm! he’s there. Meanwhile, the person he’s studying is going for the first or second or third time “Ok, I gotta prepare, I gotta prepare. I’m relaxed. OK, Ok, gimme a moment” You know, it’s all that kinda stuff. And the real, the real pro, as Spencer Tracy a really great film actor said “Say your words and don’t bump into the furniture.” And what he meant by that was, be here, as an actor, what you do is you move through that, it’s a very extra sensual experience, you move through that experience in the course of the two month or three months you’re shooting that movie, or the one week if you’re doing an episode, you move through that experience paying attention to how you feel at… any… given… moment. “I don’t feel like coming to work today”, “Oh my hair feels awful”, “Oh I have my period”, I have this, I have that. I mean whatever is going on and a lot of times I’ll say to an actor while the camera’s rolling “Keep the camera rolling. How do you feel right now?” “Well, I don’t know, I feel fine!” Well OK, you feel fine. Or if, you know, they’re really onto it, they’ll go “I can’t do this.” OK great, just stay with that feeling. I don’t care about anything just stay with that feeling like you can do it. Ok, play the scene. Because the reality of what is present, this goes way back to what I was saying before, when you’re present, when you can own what is, what is in front of the camera, that’s when the camera loves you. That’s when you’re telling the truth. You may not feel good. If I had a nickel for every performance I did at the theater where afterwards people come back stage to me and I go “Oh, I was awful! That was the worst performance in the world. God I suck! I can’t do this! Why did I make me think I could do this?” And people would say “God that was great! That was the best thing I’ve ever seen you do!” Because all I was doing through the whole show was struggling to get through it. And that, the audience didn’t know that, all they watched was this guy in pain and go “WOW!” (Laughter) It’s an important lesson there. It’s an important lesson.
La Sierra Staff: Well, I think we’ve run out of time for questions.
La Sierra Staff: I hope everyone enjoyed this. Thank you, Paul. (Audience applause)
PAUL: Thank you!
End of Afternoon Session
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Transcript by Pam