If you ever have the opportunity to sit down with Suzanne Lyons, you will quickly realize that you are in the company of a powerhouse. She is as passionate about producing feature films as she is life, and she has the essential ability to bring the most joy to both. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her for my acting class recently and was honored that she opened up and shared about her illness as a child. Despite countless surgeries and losing the sight in one eye, she has gone on to produce nine movies with more on the way. Suzanne Lyons accomplishes because of her positive attitude, fearlessness, and business savvy.
Why I chose to highlight Suzanne Lyons in the Actors section of Master Talent Teachers is because much of life is about overcoming. Her story of triumph against all odds is what life is made of when you go after something that matters deeply to you. Actors must be passionate about the study of being human and what motivates and drives us on. All great acting touches on the parts of us that make us who we are.
Videos from Suzanne Lyons on Career can be found on the career page of http://www.mastertalentteachers.com/category/careers/.
Filmmaking is very much about overcoming odds. It’s a miracle productions get completed, especially small films.
My Experience Directing and Casting
Recently the film I directed, Reign, won the New York International Film Festival. After winning both the Best Short Award and The Audience Award I was asked what I look for in actors. So I thought I would take a moment here and share with you my experience.
When I direct a project, be it film or theatre, there are always roles that are open that need to be cast, and my producing partners and I hold auditions. I love actors who are passionate about the role and bring a perspective that is fresh. I love the collaboration process. I want the shaping of the character to live under the skin of the actor. Often that shaping is about the depth of the life of the character.
Reign can be viewed at http://indieflix.com/film/reign-34365/#festivals-tab
In Reign, I cast a wonderful actress, Sheetal Sheth in the role of Fadwa, an Iraqi woman, who loses her family during a firefight in the middle of the desert. Sheetal and I had many discussions regarding her character and the direness of her situation. What attracted me to cast her was her passion for the role, her experience and training. I knew that Reign was going to be a rigorous shoot. We shot the film 52 miles North East of Palm Springs outside of 29 Palms, in a desolate desert terrain. The conditions were pretty tough. The women had to take a 15-minute ride down to base camp just to go to the bathroom and all the women were such team players, none of them ever complained. It was in February, extremely cold without the sun and hot with it, the wind was harsh and constantly blowing the dry desert sand. Now, I write all of this with a smile because I love directing so much, I was far too involved in the gig to concern myself with any of these challenges.
We had an A-list crew (for our budget) so we were cutting corners anywhere we could. I knew that anyone I cast would have to know how to concentrate and deliver a depth of emotion regardless of the pressure of filmmaking and the challenges of the conditions. It truly was a passion project for myself as well as everyone involved.
We shot Reign on 35 mm film, which is beautiful but expensive. I knew I would have to get all of my performances in one or at the most, two takes. I had a lot of faith in Sheetal. Her process was flawless and her preparation served her in the field. I’ve worked with both non-actors and trained actors. I feel that it is more advantageous to work with the trained actor because they have invested in their skill and understand the process. But the most important part of working with an actor is that we both feel a positive connection and both care about the project. I think my favorite aspects of a great actor is their passion, skill, and desire for perfection within themselves to bring their best to the work. I think all great artists have that.
Reign has gone on to win “Best Direction” and “Best Casting Director” from the Actors Film Festival, “Best Short Film” from the Louisville International Film Festival, “Best Short Film” from the New York International Film Festival, “The Audience Award” from both the Louisville International Film Festival and the New York International Film Festival and the “Award of Merit” at the Best Shorts Competition.
Videos from Kimberly Jentzen on Acting can be found in the archives of Actors
Kimberly Jentzen has been teaching actors for more than 20 years, she has won the Backstage “Best Acting Coach Award” and “Favorite Teacher Award” multiple times, and is regarded as one of the top acting coaches and teachers in Los Angeles.