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Spike Lee Counsels Indies on Directing, Dentistry

Judge, jury, executioner: (L-R) Spike Lee, Al Palagonia and Bruce Meyers break down the finalists in LiveMansion's directing contest (Photo: STV)

As I acknowledged here last week, I might have been wrong to some degree about the cringeworthy horror I expected from LiveMansion: The Movie, the filmmaking-by-social-network experiment going on at its namesake site as we speak. Earlier this month the organizers hosted an audition for the film's directing job, for which five finalists tried out with short films of the same script -- each budgeted at $1,000. Spike Lee joined fellow judges Bruce Meyers and Al Palagonia in critiquing the entries; LiveMansion just recently posted the finalists' work to its site, complete with constructive (and more mildly constructive) comments from Lee and his fellow judges.

"First of all, I'd like to say that it puts me in an uncomfortable position saying who's best," Lee said at the end of the event. "The fact that that you're five out of 250 (submissions) is an accomplishment in itself. And hopefully, whether you're selected by the online audience or not, hopefully some other people will see this and this will catapult you to where you want to be and let this be a step forward. I don't see any of you guys... don't view yourselves as losers in this. And I think this is a great demonstration to the audience of how different we are as human beings. Think about it: They're all given the same budget, the same script, and we saw five different viewpoints. You saw different directorial choices that everybody made.

"And that's why we all love films. I would have been screaming if we had not only seen the same script five times, but the same exact thing five times. Thank God it wasn't that."

After the jump, follow along with Lee as he parses what it was, complete with tips for dental care and how to light black actors. (Meanwhile, John Leguizamo and Cara Buono have at the acting class here.)

DIRECTOR 1 -- Stan Arthur

ARTHUR: "Keep in mind that these are my friends pretending to be actors."

LEE: "Well, I think that you have some very interesting friends, and one lady needs to go to the dentist. But it worked for the role."

DIRECTOR 2 -- Daniel Buonsanto

LEE: "I liked it very much, and what I liked about it -- no disrespect to my man here [points to Stan Arthur] -- I think he was really trying to be too much like Quentin Tarantino. It was evident when I watched it. I didn't see that you were trying to do this like any particular director; this was more original. It wasn't like, 'This is the way Scorsese would have shot it!' Another thing, though: Don't make excuses! Before you began the film, you said, 'Well, I would have liked to have had more time...' You can't do that. I tell that to my students at NYU: When that stuff goes on the screen, (the audience) doesn't care if your dog died, your mother died, you got divorced. All that stuff is on the other side of the screen. All that matters is what ends up there. So you never get up in front of people and make an alibi. There's nothing to make an alibi for."

DIRECTOR 3 -- Richard Greenberg

LEE: "You really took advantage of production values. No one else had a vehicle, and you can see the locale. Al doesn't mean 'lack of lighting' -- it was very atmospheric. People walking in and out of the light. It was very successful."

DIRECTOR 4 -- Noah J. Ehlert

LEE: "You were the only one so far to have the guy strapped into the chair for real. Because even if you're stunned, and you're not strapped to the chair, you're going to try to haul ass. But you might have had a misstep though: In the bar, showing the USB on the keychain? Why did you want to give that away so early?"

DIRECTOR 5 -- Mitch Gettleman

LEE: "That was innovative the way you had those work lights in the scene. And then they came to great use when you swung it around and that revealed Jack. I liked your sound design. What's your D.P.'s name? Ted? When you've got a dark-skinned brother, you've gotta put some light on him! I mean, put a little bit of light. He's like... eyeballs! Just a little bit. Help the brother out!"

To view video of the judging panel, visit the event site here.

(Screen grabs from LiveMansion.)

Posted at March 27, 2007 11:48 AM

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