It was a few weeks ago when I felt it, a phrase that started to knock on my door every day at random times. Reminders began to pop up seemingly everywhere and anywhere I went. Any stores I would go to, sermons I would hear, books I was reading, music I was listening to, movies I was watching, songs I was singing, devotionals, conversations—yes, even in the silences—I could sense the pulsating invitation. Beckoning me to jump into joy.
Clues collected, theological glimpses into this deep delight that is deemed inexpressible, I yearned to fathom its waves. So I jumped. Jumped into this familiar pool I've played in all my life, and found myself in an ocean to which I could no longer feel the edges. I'm in way over my head, with no sign of a bottom yet, and soaking glad about it! The shells I found on the shore days, weeks, and years behind were tantalizing, but the treasures below the surface weigh precious beyond anything I could have imagined.
There is so much that can be said about Joy: the What, the Who, the How, the Where, and the Why.... Although I am fast appreciating the difficulty of articulating its radiant facets, in the weeks to follow I hope to share some of the ocean-treasures I have found.
"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." ~ Jesus (John 17:13)
I am embarking on a journey to fully embrace Jesus-joy. Look for the road-signs with me! Let's tread the waves together. Given (marvelous gift!) that we can gaze always on His face, we need not fear the storms.
When I arrived back in VA after my six-week jaunt in TX, I plunged directly into work on a new feature film: WRITERS' BLOCK (working title).
It is the inaugural film of Advent's new Associates Film Program, and my brother is the producer. (Yay, go David! :D) It's a unique project, combining a $20,000 budget, 10-day shooting schedule, 1940s story setting, and professional talent. That last part is where I come in. I am the Casting Director.
This is not my first time serving in this area, having worked as a full time casting assistant for six months last year on the production of ALONE YET NOT ALONE. The entire experience was intensely educational for me. Not only was I learning the creative aspects of identifying who could fit in what role, and how to evaluate auditions, but also the business skills for the negotiations, paperwork, and the proper way to interact with the different sides of the situation...be it the actors, the director and producers, the wardrobe department, etc.
I learned that casting a film is an exercise in patience and persistence. Which is a good thing, because these qualities are like muscle tone: if you don't use 'em, you lose 'em. They work as a team. Patience is like the extension, and persistence the contraction of the muscle. And when you "stretch" often with prayer and thankfulness, it helps keep peace of mind and not get "sore" (stressed out).
I was asked to share on this subject at Advent's 3-Day Film Workshop this year. No, not exercise! Casting. After much deliberation and distilling of material, I presented an overview of the casting endeavor, parsing it into six phases of action: Prepare, Promote, Parade, Process, Pick, and Paperwork.
Here's the basic breakdown:
Preparation entails first identifying your casting goals, then inventorying your means to accomplish them, and thirdly creating the infrastructure to support the workflow effectively. How many roles do you have to fill, and how flexible or not are the character profiles? What level of talent will the budget allow? How much time to you have to complete casting? Will you be able to pull in actors from across the country, or do you need to stick to local talent pools? Are live open calls a practical method, or would it be more streamlined to ask for online audition submissions? What is the plan for callbacks? The answers to these questions will have a direct impact on how you proceed.
Promotion means getting the word out that you want actors to submit for the movie. Casting notices can go on actors database websites, forums, social networks, get sent to acting teachers or talent agencies, local theatre groups, church drama teams, etc (all depending on the reach of the production). Personal contact may be made with certain actors whom you have in mind already as a good option for a role. From there, word of mouth is a powerful force. The key is to be clear on your desires and expectations for each role, accurate in your description of the project, and provide a ready course of action for talent submissions.
Now comes the Parade! Just like it sounds: a train of talent streaming through, be it live or via online video, or maybe even both. If you are conducting live auditions, be sure to do "screen-tests" by recording the audition on camera. Stream the feed directly into a monitor, and watch the screen, not the actor. I repeat: watch the screen, not the actor. Label the video clips and file them for review. There will likely be requests to submit after casting has "closed." It's up to you, but if they want to spend the time putting together an audition, with the understanding that chances are slim, it can't hurt to have it on file for future projects.
Processing is closely linked to the previous phase, because the notes you take (on paper and/or mentally) of each performance inform the "score" that actor receives and determines whether they make it to the next round of auditions. I use color codes, as it makes it easy to see at a glance how the game is going. Red, orange, yellow, green, and blue, with greens and blues getting a callback. During callbacks is when we can spend more time working with the actor on the scene/s and evaluate their understanding of the character, how easy they are to collaborate with, and whether they can take direction well.
Picking is the part that most people think of when they hear the word "casting." It isn't as simple as pointing to a headshot and proclaiming: "I want them!" Once a casting decision is "made," the casting director must contact the desired talent through their agent or manager (if applicable) and present the offer. If schedule conflicts can be taken care of, travel and lodging accommodations agreed to, compensation negotiated satisfactorily, and other various concerns addressed, then the deal can go on to the next step. If an agreement cannot be reached, the decision-makers must return to the list of runners-up and select an alternate choice. All the above times the number of roles in play, and usually simultaneously in sequence, as the casting deadline steadily approaches!
Though the last phase is not as glamorous, it is necessary.
Paperwork, rarely someone's favorite word, is in the casting context like an arrow pointing to the parking lot after an arduous road trip. But you still have to "park": deal memos must be negotiated, drafted, sent, and signed to seal the transaction (sigh of relief!). Sizes are then requested (if not before) to give the wardrobe department the time needed to procure or construct the costumes, and travel and housing arrangements are made in accordance with the agreed-upon terms. Volunteer actors are not exempt from this phase. They must still complete a legal release form for the production to use their likeness in the film.
That's a summary of what has been keeping me busy for the last month. Yes, many are called.... but that is only the beginning. Stay tuned! Next week I hope to be able to announce some of our finalized WRITERS' BLOCK cast. :-)
Before a concert, April 2009
A few years ago, I was feeling at loose ends. Finished with "high-school" and still at home, I yearned for more to do, more to learn. I was helping around the house, cooking, cleaning, tutoring, and singing in the town choir, too. I was also studying acting quite a bit, via the internet and the library, training my mind to think like an actor, as I felt it was an area that God was leading me toward. My life was not empty by any measure, but I asked God for something more. What came was an unexpected as it was welcome!
While at my younger sisters' recital that fall, I heard a clarinet solo for the first time. I was instantly interested in learning to play it. When I mentioned it to my mom, she was surprised by my sudden enthusiasm. But when after a week of prayer and research I remained excited about it, she helped me contact the clarinet teacher in town.
The teacher informed me that all her class slots were full, but she would let me know if there was an opening. So I prayed about it, and still felt peace. Two weeks later, she called to let me know that one of her students had dropped out! I began classes in January of 2008, and soon joined the orchestra as well.
I started out with the basics, as it was the first instrument I had ever tried to learn (except for rudimentary piano skills). My mouth muscles were sore for weeks while I learned the techniques of blowing evenly and with proper pressure on the reed, but with consistent practice my proficiency improved rapidly. The classical training gave me good musical habits, and I moved through the study material at a motivated rate.
When the "season" changed, and I moved from Spain to the States, I moved on in a way. But I feel that time was well spent. I have my own instrument now, and I try to keep my skill up without it becoming a distraction. My life is richer when I'm making music.
Have you ever felt stagnant, like a once-clear pool of water now lethargic from waiting...for something? I've come to realize that patient waiting doesn't have to be a drag, because I can actively enjoy the season I'm in even as I prepare for the next one God has for me. By recognizing the opportunities around me, I can redeem the time, even as I wait for that next "big" step.
But another consideration is getting too busy. I think we've all experienced this to some degree. At times I find myself saying "yes" to too many things, and then I discover I don't have enough time or energy for what I believe is truly important—my relationships with God, family, friends, and others God brings across my path. If I become consumed with "productivity," and "doing" as much as I can, I can lose sight of the overarching goal to love God and others with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength.
"Being" is important. Being conformed into the image of Christ. Being thankful in everything. Being out in nature, enjoying God's creation. Being salt and light in the world. Being still before the Lord. Being watchful in prayer. Being available to listen to a friend. Being who God has made me to be. Being a giver. Being honorable, trustworthy, cheerful, encouraging. Being patient.
As Paul says, I want to "strain toward what is ahead," but also "live up to what we have already attained." (Philippians 3:7-16) What keeps us from that goal? Verse 19 explains: "...Their minds are set on earthly things." Whoops. Solution? Verse 20 continues: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there." That's how we keep our lives focused!
I'd like to share with you a poem I wrote three years ago (2008). The idea behind it is that if we reach for the abundant life we are offered by the Father and live that life unabashedly before others, we empower others to grasp His grace as their own lifeline.
A LIFE LIVED ON PURPOSE
by Rebekah Cook
Complacency would have us believe
That what is more comfortable is better;
That what is more familiar is safer;
That what requires less effort is more enjoyable
...and the easier it is, the more worthwhile.
But if we would live with no regrets
Then we must shake off all passivity,
And loose ourselves from conformity--
Resolving to live life at its best
By living in light of the life to come.
To achieve this heavenly satisfaction
We'll have to do more than sit back and watch.
Our time here is too short to botch--
Too limited to waste hesitating in fear...
For if we try nothing, that's what will happen.
I want to look back on a race well run
Where I trusted God's guidance day by day,
And said all I was supposed to say,
And know that I did all I could've done
To show God's love in every way.
...To know that I didn't shy away from change
But stretched, and grew, and risked, and gave
And didn't hold back, but laid down all
My struggles, my tears, insecurities, and fears
To laugh and sing and live for Him.
Life takes place when you step out on a limb
And pick the fruit you find growing there.
So invest in your friendships, both old and new
And follow the dreams He's giving you....
Because a life of purpose is a life lived