Mary Lou Belli Teaches Us How to Master Make-Believe

Mary Lou Workshop with WIFTA Atlanta, Georgia

 

HER BIO

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Mary Lou Belli began her career as a stand-in and has risen steadily to the top to become one of the most powerful female directors in television. Her most prominent work includes “The Game,” and “Reed Between the Lines;” but, she has also directed episodes of “Sister, Sister,” “Eve,” “The Hughleys,” “Major Dad,” and “Charles in Charge,” to name a few.  At present, she is the director for a show now filming in Georgia called “Devious Maids.”

THE RECAP

On Saturday, February 20, a small group of actors, writers, directors, and producers gathered in downtown Atlanta at Georgia Public Broadcasting’s conference room to listen to Mary Lou share advice on how to master the world of make-believe. The morning began with small-talk and a light breakfast followed by a ’round table’ discussion led by Mary Lou.  She began the discussion with a synopsis of her film career which spans 20 years.  She then ‘cut’ right to an actor activity in which everyone who was gathered in the circle ‘passed lines’ to one another the first line being ‘Go Away.’ Not one person could hide or feign shyness because Mary Lou’s ’round table’ session was highly interactive.  In this activity one person would say the phrase ‘Go Away’ – acted according to the subtext given by Mary Lou or one of the directors present – and the person to their left would say the same line to the next person to their left.

Devious MaidsThroughout this exercise, Mary Lou would have us take it up or down a notch to perform to the level that was necessary to fulfill the subtext goal.  There was a lot of passion and a whole lot of laughter that ensued as we all took turns saying our lines.  Who would have ever thought that the the phrase ‘Go Away’ could change meaning by simply changing the subtext or the action surrounding the phrase?  This exercise allowed all of us – actors, writers, producers and directors – to get a feel for what she experiences regularly trying to get actors perform their roles to perfection.  As simple as this activity may seem, it had its challenges and if you ever thought that acting was easy, this exercise made you realize rather quickly that it isn’t easy at all.

After about 45 minutes of acting and building layers, there was a Q&A session.  Mary Lou answered a range of questions from “How to get actors to do what you want them to do even when they can’t seem to get it right,’ to ‘How to accept things as they are and when to fight for what you believe is the right way for a script to be acted out on screen.”  The topics in the Q&A were intriguing but two that really sparked a lot of interest from the audience was the discussion about Georgia film and TV production and women and minorities in film.  The discussion briefly veered off into the direction of how to keep Atlanta from becoming a mere fly by night extension of California or New York’s film production.  Mary Lou responded by saying that Atlanta is a viable market and stated that the experiences that actors and producers will have here on set will impact the desire to return and film even more because some of the production studios that have been built here are ‘bar none.’  In response to the discussion about women and minorities in film, Mary Lou has a positive outlook about the future and believes that there will be and explosive amount of growth within the next 5 to 10 years for women and minorities in film.

 


 

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Director & Actors: Getting the Right Performance

DIRECTORS & ACTORS:  GETTING THE RIGHT PERFORMANCE

The technical aspects of being a director are challenging enough but it’s the human element that can make or break a project.  

Talented director Carrie Schrader hosts a vibrant and helpful discussion on how directors can work with actors to get the end result they need.  She will focus on how to create a shared language between the director and the actor – utilizing active verbs and clearly articulated through lines in order to create engaged, active characters who aredoing.  Every actor can emote (hopefully) but a great director can use impelling language that leads the actor beyond simple expression and into a deeper, more dynamic vulnerability that captivates the audience.  Two of Atlanta’s top working actors, Mike Pniewski and Karen Ceesay will join Carrie for this informative program.

Actors are encouraged to attend to better understand the director’s process.

February 22nd, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at GPB Studios – register HERE

Carrie Schrader3

Carrie Schrader is a Writer/Director whose short films and screenplays have won film festival audience awards internationally. She directed an award-winning short written by Ethan Coen (Coen bros.) and her feature-length documentary The Founders recently won the audience award for “Best Feature Film” at the Atlanta Film Festival.  Her short films and screenplays, such as “Boys and Dogs and Kids Are Weird”, “Mine”, and “First Date”, have won film festival audience awards internationally and she was labeled one of the “Top Ten Directors To Watch Out For” by IndieWire.com. Her most recent work has included spots for Netflix, WE TV, TLC Networks and Dominos.  She has an MFA in directing from Columbia University and is co-founder of Mighty Fine pictures.  

 

 

Mike Pniewski

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mike Pniewski has been one of the busiest actors in movies and TV for more than 30 years. Most recently you’ve seen him in the Emmy Award winning CBS drama “The Good Wif”e, “Madam Secretary”, “Blue Bloods”, “Halt and Catch Fire” and “The Red Road”. Mike’s other recent credits include “Army Wives”, “Devious Maids”, “Nashville”, “Drop Dead Diva”, “Red Band Society”, the Cinemax Original Series “Banshee” and the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ “Safe Haven”.  Mike was also in the new film “The Founder” with Michael Keaton and in 2017 Mike will appear with Tom Cruise in the film “Mena”.

 

 

karen ceesay

 

Karen Ceesay was born as Karen Renee Mauldin. She is an actress, known for  her film work in “The Internship” (2013), “Last Vegas” (2013) and “Rings” (2017) as well as television appearances in “The Walking Dead”, “Satisfaction”, “Resurrection” and “Army Wives”.