Shooting With John

A Conversation About Film...With Guns by John Yost

Shooting With John: Rodrigo Lopresti

by
in Columns
on Apr 2, 2013

Every project is an opportunity for growth; a new lesson and challenge of its own. It’s difficult to find directors you can trust. But when you do, you never want to let them go. I think one of the things that defines a good director is the ability to know when it’s time to step in, and when it’s time to step aside.

Here’s what I want to talk about, though: letting go. To me, the best work is not tightly controlled, forced, or formulaic. I think good filmmakers and good actors understand this. But there’s always a tension — most obviously between director and actor about when and to what extent to let go of control.

Working on I’m Not Me (a film I co-directed as well as acted in that was recently picked up by Fifth Column Features) screwed me up in some way. As a writer, you know how the story is built. You know that certain things need to happen in certain places. You’re hyper aware that there’s a climax here and it’s got to do this thing for the story to work. Even though my co-director Zak Mulligan and I worked mainly off a technical script with no written dialogue (with the exception of one or two scenes we later added), we knew what the overall structure had to be. So for a while I struggled with that. Knowing so much as a writer and director and constantly trying to let go of it as an actor was difficult. I had to repeatedly learn to get out of my own way, a challenge that proved to be endlessly rewarding when practiced.

Before I started A Song Still Inside (directed by Gregory Collins, premiering at the Sarasota Film Festival April 10), I decided I didn’t want to do that again. I wanted to experience the journey in whatever way it came out. Even if that scared the shit out of me. And because of this I can say I’m very proud of how it turned out. Gregory is directorial without being dictatorial, which created a good dynamic between us and resulted in work we’re both really proud of. Because I believe, when it’s done well — really done well — it becomes very Zen. Since it is about letting go of control, you can say there is something Buddhist about it. Because the truth is, as much as we like to think we have control, we don’t. That’s the beauty of film. Embracing whatever it is, and fully allowing that moment to be whatever it wants to be. Not what we want it to be, but whatever it wants to be.

I’m not just talking about acting of course. When you’re making a film, there’s this thing — the script — that exists on paper. And although you can visualize that thing very clearly, when the shooting process begins you’re kind of forced to step aside and let it take a shape of it’s own. We have this blueprint, this script that informs what the story is, but it really isn’t until production — and later during editing — that the essence of the project finally reveals itself. The filmmakers and actors I respect seem to truly understand this. Our job is to serve as some kind of cosmic transistor radio that opens the channel for that certain idea to be transmitted. And that — the uncertainty of it all — can be terrifying. Not knowing exactly how it will turn out is what makes acting and filmmaking exciting. Living honestly through a scene and being open to whatever the outcome is, without having expectations is what endlessly fascinates me about the process. So there is a vulnerability that allows honesty to drive the story, and it’s through this process of letting go that so many beautiful films have been made.

 

Rodrigo Loresti is an actor, director, musician, and New York-based filmmaker. His credits include the award-winning short Lucia in which he starred and directed, his second short You’re Gonna Feel Funny After, written by Noah Buschel, and I’m Not Me, (Zero Film Fest, Audience Choice Award and Grand Jury Prize) his first feature and directorial debut in which he starred, co-wrote, and co-directed with his friend and cinematographer, Zak Mulligan.

Lopresti’s other credits include Gus Van Sant’s Last Days (his music was also featured in the soundtrack), The Imperialists Are Still Alive (Sundance official selection 2010), Tom DiCillo’s Delirious (San Sebastian Film Festival, Best Director), Gregory Collins’s A Song Still Inside and Vincent Skeltis’s Sometimes I Lie, amongst others.