Wednesday, March 26, 2014

And all that we can be, not what we are

In which our Diva assembles another inspiration playlist

If you've been around me or my blog long enough, you know I usually put together a playlist for my theatre or film projects, of music that, for whatever reason, strikes the right emotional resonances for my character's journey. With The Laramie Project's ensemble nature -- eight actors playing 60+ people -- I had to approach things a little differently, and came up with a mix that speaks to me of the play as a whole.

Since there have been a number of songs directly inspired by and/or dedicated to Matthew Shepard (at least 61, as collected by JD Doyle at Queer Music Heritage, whom I thank profusely for sharing the fruits of his research online), I could have made multiple CD-length mixes of those alone. Paring them down to the handful that made the cut -- alongside other music that resonates with the play for me -- was a highly subjective process, and I encourage you to check out the whole collection on the QMH page.

In the end, this is what I came up with (click on the title to buy the track and support the artist!):

Randi Driscoll, "What Matters" - Written in 1998 in response to Matthew's death and released as a single to benefit the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Not only is it lovely and haunting in its own right, it spared me the agony of choosing what version of "Amazing Grace" to include.

Meredith Brooks, "Bitch" - Both on her website and in her book The Whole World Was Watching (which would be an amazing read even if I weren't in the midst of interpreting on stage several people in her life), Romaine Patterson describes this as Matt's favorite song and recalls him singing alternative lyrics they made up.

Peggy Lee, "Run For The Roundhouse Nellie" - The closest thing my research could turn up to Marge's "Run  for the roundhouse, Minnie." Either she knew another version of the song (more than possible), or she just substituted her mom's name and it stuck that way in her head.

W.G. Snuffy Walden, "One Will Fall By the Way" - It might seem weird to include a selection from the soundtrack to The Stand, but Matthew's murder coincided with a period when the Sci-Fi Channel seemed to be running the miniseries every two or three months, so it's part of my emotional wallpaper from that time. This track is the fullest realization of a melody that crops up again and again, always underscoring the inextricable tangle of sacrifice and hope. As Tom Cullen might say (and as I can't help thinking of every time I hear Doc O'Connor's "H-O-P-E" speech in The Laramie Project), "M-O-O-N. That spells hope."

Tara MacLean, "Evidence" - I discovered MacLean's album Silence at a record-store listening station (remember those?) in Bozeman, Montana while on a theatre tour in 1997, and the CD was still in heavy rotation in my listening habits when Matthew's murder dominated the news in late 1998. This particular song has always resonated with the event for me.

Melissa Etheridge, "Silent Legacy" - Etheridge actually wrote a song dedicated to Matthew (one of several titled "Scarecrow" in reference to Aaron Kreifels at first mistaking the unconscious Matthew for a scarecrow when he found him), but this raw, heartrending classic was the one that cried out to be included.

Andrew Spice, "Matthew" - One of the songs I discovered through the Queer Music Heritage page that particularly spoke to me.

Colleen Sexton, "Scarecrow" - Another gem from the QMH page. I decided I should really only have one song with this title, and with all respect to the great Melissa, the choice was a pretty easy one.

Elton John, "American Triangle" - I figured I probably shouldn't cross off all the big stars who wrote songs for Matthew. Sir Elton won the toss.

John Denver, "The Eagle and the Hawk" - I grew up on John Denver, and this song in particular feels like home, like my mountains. It was one of the first songs I chose to include, as a representation of the particular Western sense of the land that crops up several times in The Laramie Project. When I read on Romaine Patterson's FAQ that Matthew liked folk music, "John Denver and shit like that," it instantly became the centerpiece of the playlist.

Dashboard Prophets, "Ballad For Dead Friends" - At the time of Matthew's murder, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was already a surprise hit but not yet a game-changing cultural phenomenon. Its soundtrack is a handy source to mine for a bit of the indie-rock sound of the late 90s, and if it seems incongruous with TLP, remember that it's a modern parable of how ordinary people, particularly young people, can work together to save the world.

Indigo Girls, "Galileo" - I don't really have an explanation. It just feels right.

Sarah McLachlan, "Angel" - In honor of Angel Action, and a nod to Matthew's struggles with depression.

Jessica Weiser, "After the Rain" - I think this is my favorite among the many beautiful songs I discovered through the QMH page.

Magdalen Hsu-Li, "Laramie" - Much like The Laramie Project, though in a different way, this one is about the murder rebounding on the town, at least as much as it is about Matthew.

Jewel, "Hands" - "In the end, only kindness matters."

Orchestra of St. Lukes, "After Laramie" - From the HBO film version of TLP.

Brian Stokes Mitchell, "Make Them Hear You" - As much as I love Ragtime (read: a lot), this one wouldn't have occurred to me on my own, but it seemed obvious when I ran across this video about the Ford's Theatre production of TLP and heard it sung at the vigil they held on the 15th anniversary of Matthew's death.

Sarah McLachlan, "Prayer of St Francis" - May we all be instruments of peace.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The lights of Laramie

In which our Diva returns to GreenMan Theatre in rather a change of pace

This is probably the latest I've ever blogged about an upcoming show, but that's partly because we have a bit of a compressed rehearsal process before our April 4 opening..

With a play like The Laramie Project, that's a lot of emotion packed into about six weeks.

In the fall of 1998, when Matthew Shepard's horrific murder captured the world's attention, I caught the news coverage in between rehearsals for the production of Macbeth I was directing in Columbus, Ohio. In New York, playwright Mois├ęs Kaufman and company members of his Tectonic Theater Project prepared to travel to Laramie and, ultimately, create a very different narrative from the one constructed by the 24-hour news cycle.

The play is assembled from over 200 interviews with the people of the town, as well as public-record texts and journal entries by company members. That last category of insight, as woven into the show's opening moments, reveals the chroniclers' own prejudices and apprehensions about what kind of people live under the wide high-plains sky. About what kind of welcome they might find.

I can't help chuckling a bit at those passages, but I can't blame them either. They were city-bred strangers, some of them gay, venturing into the relatively small town where a young gay man had just been beaten to death. More than that, they had been inundated with the same media narrative as the rest of the country, the one that turned the romantic literature and folklore of the American West inside-out and hung it up as ironic backdrop to darker truths.

It's a narrative I know all too well, and one that sets my teeth on edge every time it finds its way back onto my TV. Every time the worse angels of human nature manifest themselves somewhere in the vast portion of this continent so often dismissed as "flyover," the old romantic notions are trotted out and tied to the pillory for the mocking, as if no one has ever challenged them before.

Those people over there, far away from us in our enlightened sophistication. There is the stagnant pool where society's diseases fester, the ignorance and hate that infect our world. Those rednecks, hicks, zealots, bigots, so foolish as to be surprised when these terrible things happen there.

As I watched the news from Laramie unfold, my shock and grief at what had been done to Matthew Shepard sat alongside distaste and growing resentment for the way the story was being told.

Yes, I said "resentment," and I chose that very personal word deliberately. From sixth grade until I moved out of my parents' home, I lived in Bennett, Colorado, some two hours south and east of Laramie, with less than a tenth its population. Wikipedia will tell you it was home to "Colorado Spam King" Edward Davison and to the late Tim Samaras of Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers.

It will also tell you, in a single dry paragraph, about Bennett's fifteen minutes of national attention a few years ago, when the elementary school music teacher faced firing for showing her first graders a 30-year-old episode of the PBS series Who's Afraid of Opera? It won't tell you about the most ignorant possible quotes plastered all over the news reports, from people (not all of them even parents) hand-wringing over  the subject matter of Faust as if the kids had seen the entire opera instead of a sanitized excerpt.

It won't tell you how sad I was to read those news reports and be reminded forcefully of a similar kerfuffle the summer before my junior year of high school, when plans to implement a "global education" curriculum were scuttled by the outrage of parents, largely stoked by John Birch Society activists from out of town who turned a public forum about the issue into a circus. Not enough of one to catch national attention, but a Denver news team did drive out to grab a few sound bites. School hadn't started yet, so I think they were just looking for B-roll of the building when the cheerleaders came out of practice and gave them some (as I recall, from my 16-year-old perspective) pretty succinct and cogent comments about the misinformation going around.

When the segment aired that evening, though, the one and only resident who appeared was a woman saying "Well, I think it has a Communistic or a Satanistic background," and the tone of the entire piece was "Look at this backward, benighted town." So when "Operagate" came around years later, and all my arts friends were looking at the coverage and shaking their heads, I didn't much relish the awkwardness of simultaneously standing up for my former hometown and being sad that such reactionary elements can still disrupt everyone's lives there.

Bennett is lucky: It's had its embarrassing media moments, but not because anyone died. The humiliation of Laramie on the world media scene, the painting of an entire community as backward and destructive and rotten, the implication that everyone was as culpable as the actual murderers, shook me on a level I still can't adequately express.

Fear makes monsters, and fear is learned. We learn from our community. There's no disputing that, and no disputing that the vein of fear and hate that made monsters of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson was mined from their families, their community. Their world.

But the "let's all shake our heads at the benighted hicks" narrative places their world somewhere outside our own. It encourages us to believe we're different, to sit back in our self-righteous blue-state complacency and ignore the tar pit of unexamined assumptions and privilege bubbling under the foundations of our own homes.

Kaufman and his colleagues did a brave thing in turning away from that narrative and seeking the truth. The people of Laramie did a brave thing in agreeing to share their truth, with all its awkward pointy angles, with yet another set of strangers with tape recorders. Between them, they created something that isn't easy or tidy, that sometimes presents more questions than it does answers. They created a way to tell the story as it was, and as it continues to be.

In The Laramie Project, Father Roger Schmit, the priest who hosted the first vigil for Matthew Shepard as he lay in intensive care, urges the company members interviewing him to "deal with what is true... You need to do your best to say it correct."

I'm humbled and honored to be part of telling that story.

The Laramie Project runs April 4-13, 2014, at GreenMan Theatre in Elmhurst. Details and ticket information can be found at their website.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Nesting instinct

In which our Diva has been putting her winter restlessness to work

As you may have noticed, or at least heard (and heard, and heard, and heard -- the meteorologist on the local news sounds very tired of having to say this stuff!) it's been an awful lot of cold and snowy lately. Now, yours truly -- despite being made entirely of northern European barbarian DNA and having moved to Chicagoland on purpose -- is not a fan of this winter business. Not one little bit. Well, maybe a little bit. A couple weeks of pretty fluffy snow viewed from the nice warm indoors would be fine.

But what's going on this year is more than a little wearing, and I've been combating it by tackling some long-overdue rearranging and organizing and decorating. My house dates to 1908, an American Foursquare that the former owner (a contractor and carpenter himself) updated in all the right ways, keeping intact its beautiful Craftsman woodwork, including the dining room built-in with its original leaded glass.  I fell in love with it the moment I walked in the door just over nine years ago, and promptly dove into research, dreaming of how to bring out its historic character before even making an appointment with a home inspector.

Other pursuits always seem to take precedence, of course, and for the most part those dreams go unrealized. But in the last couple weeks, I've mostly finished overhauling the spare bedroom, a process that started several months ago with expanding the existing shelving to accommodate the lifelong collection known as Val's Personal Doll Army.

Along the way, I've done a lot of thrift shopping, a little painting of shelves thus acquired, some rejiggering of the closet configuration, and spent basically a whole day sitting on the floor devising a new filng system for sheet music that wll actually keep it neat this time, darnit! (That last resolution will be helped by the sad fact that Elgin Opera is no more, which means I'm not tossing another concert's worth of pages on the "I'll put that away later, really I will" pile every few months.)

Probably my favorite design inspiration is one that didn't cost a dime: A pair of vintage blue suitcases that belonged to my grandparents brought up from the basement and stacked into an instant nightstand that perfectly suits the height of the bed and the color scheme and quirky cottage feel of the room.

With only a few small details left there, I've turned my attention to the bigger challenge of organizing the basement, which includes my sewing room and new (and for the moment somewhat makeshift) recording studio for audiobooks. It's not as creative and fun as taking a room and making it pretty and welcoming, but it's the logical next step (at least in the way the house and the stuff in it all goes together in my head) necessary before making the rest of the rooms as pretty and welcoming as they deserve to be.

It'll be a while, for instance, before I can even consider anything involving paint in any way, let alone anything on the order of what latter-day Pre-Raphaelite muse, artist, and blogger Grace has created in her Catty-Corner Cottage. (Hubby and I have been saying from the beginning that this house deserves a name, but we've yet to come up with one. Maybe that'll finally arrive this year too!) Especially the Twelve Dancing Princesses (one of my favorite fairy tales too!) in procession around her dining room walls.

On both that blog and her wider-focused one Domythic Bliss, one of the things I love is how much of it involves making your home fairy-tale beautiful with everyday resources. The trade-off for not spending a lot of money is time, of course, but for many of us that's part of the fun.

When William Morris designed Red House, both money and time were involved, not to mention the talents of Morris' illustrious circle of artistic friends. Recent conservation work has uncovered ever more of the extensive decorative painting throughout the house, including some figures thought to have been painted by Elizabeth Siddal.

I'm not far from that phase of Lizzie's life in writing Unvarnished, and am just realizing how I've set up for it in some sections that talk about their paintings as a world of their own creation. Red House was a truly an entire little world of Morris' own creation, realized with the collaboration of his wife Jane and their friends. (A Twitter conversation last week with Dinah Roe reminded me that there's a great deal that needs to be said about Jane's artistry with an embroidery needle and how it gets largely ignored, but that's a tangent for another day.) What an amazing way to fill hours and walls! Sounds like a party to me.

Funny thing -- when I was fifteen, and all this Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts obsession was still several years in the future, I got it into my head that I wanted to paint a full-wall mural in my bedroom. By that time we lived in a house we owned, after most of my Air Force brat childhood spent living on base, so it was technically not out of the realm of possibility.

Of course, no sane parent is going to turn a fifteen-year-old loose on an innocent expanse of white interior latex, but someone (I don't remember whose idea it was now) came up with the brilliant compromise of tacking up an old white sheet with plastic sheeting behind it. I spent a good chunk of my summer filling it with a rainbow, pot of gold, and flowers, and loved every minute. Once it was finished, I could wake up every morning, put on my glasses, and look at the big window onto a world I had made with my own hands and imagination. Kitschy and derivative imagination, sure, but all mine.

It was an amazing feeling. Making something special always is. I'm hoping to have that feeling a lot more by the time I've finished realizing the dreams for my grownup Arts and Crafts haven.

Speaking of making special things, here's a footnote more related to the previous post: Last week, on a Wombat Friday whim, I put together a "Wombat's Lair" Etsy treasury for the enjoyment of the Earnest Damsels Collective and other wombatophiles. One of the featured crafters, Isobel Morrell of Coldham Cuddlies, messaged me a lovely thank-you for the inclusion, and shared her coinage of the phrase "a wonderment of wombats," (as well as some nifty insights into her crafting process) having decided that the standard group noun, a mob, just wouldn't do for the purposes of her adorable plush creations. I have to agree, and have resolved to refer to our Wombat Friday assemblage as a "wonderment" forever more.

Friday, January 17, 2014


In which our Diva is a most earnest damsel

It's Wombat Friday again, and high time I gave it a nod in this blog! In one of the sillier corners of the Pre-Raphaelite blogosphere (adjacent to such delights as Raine Szramski's Pre-Raphernalia cartoon series and Chiara Moriconi's chibi Rossettis and muses), each Friday sees an increasing array of plush wombats posed with (mostly) Pre-Raph-related books, prints, and objects, not to mention the occasional tea and/or cake. Cake is important. I finally joined the party in September; you can check out all of Lady MacWombat's adventures over on Google +.

As the brilliant (and often unashamedly silly) Kirsty Stonell Walker explained more thoroughly in this blog post, this meme came about as a lighthearted commemoration of one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's many eccentricities, the small menagerie of unusual animals he kept in the garden at Cheyne Walk, of which Top the Wombat was somewhat famously the most beloved. (I'm not sure whether it was Top or one of the other wombats who departed this mortal coil 100 years to the day before I was born; unfortunately, the poor things were all doomed by yet another iteration of Gabriel's enthusiasm exceeding his practical knowledge. Which is disastrous enough when painting murals, but genuinely tragic when living creatures are involved.)

This bit of fun has its detractors (also brought to my attention by Kirsty) for reasons none of us are quite able to take terribly seriously, due not so much to the original blog post as to the anonymous commenter who demonstrates that a sad little dudebro fanboy crying "fake geek girl" is always recognizable as such, regardless of idiom or area of interest.

Mr. Anonymous, however, did unwittingly hand us the newest in the collection of varyingly unofficial names for our inclusive association, which already included the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood (somewhat more official owing to Stephanie Pina's wonderful site by that name) and the Wombat Collective. Mr. Anonymous wrote disparagingly of us as "these earnest damsels," and so -- after we collected ourselves from fits of giggles on the floor -- the Earnest Damsels Collective we became. I've been down with the flu all week, so I totally blame the fever for opening up Photoshop and pressing Rossetti's The Bower Meadow into service to represent us.

In any event, as Wombat Friday passes its first birthday (as observed by Stephanie in this post, complete with an archive of everyone's Wombat Friday photos from 2013), let's celebrate the furry and fabulous, literary and loopy, gloriously and goofily Pre-Raphaelite little critters who brighten up the end of our week.

It's more fun than a barrel of wombats!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The wolf is waiting

In which our Diva sees a little action

Just after Christmas, I got a Facebook message from Nathyn Masters: "Are you available Friday or Saturday?" I've worked with Nate on a couple projects, including his epic supernatural action feature Epitaph: Bread and Salt (which, in cast you missed it, you can view in its entirety on YouTube), so I happily went pretty much straight from traveling to getting my Black Widow-esque assassin on to shoot some enigmatic scenes for him with gifted actress and good friend Anita Nicole Brown, as well as meeting some new-to-me faces among what I've come to think of as the TimeCode Mechanics Rep Company.

This was a bit of an experiment, cooked up in Nate's fertile brain during a break in production on his main current project, The Perfect Letter, with no script and minimal direction. I was given the gist of what I should communicate in improvised dialogue, as well as a nice little chuck of Nate's signature comic-book-style fight work.

A few days later, it had a title - Crisis Function - a Facebook page, and a trailer:

I still know only as much as this will tell you about what it's about (and yes, I felt a little bit like I was back in the Resonance-verse - definitely in a good way!), but I'm looking forward to seeing it all play out!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lizzie steps out on stage

In which our Diva is only a little jealous that it's someone else's Lizzie, and is happy to cheer from the sidelines

It's been a couple months since a Tweet popped up in my timeline that made my heart skip a beat, announcing "Lizzie Siddal, a new play." I don't even recall now who I saw post it first, though it was likely the lovely Stephanie Pina, who has given us both and The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood. But in any case, there it was in all its official glory on the Arcola Theatre website, complete with promo photo of its Lizzie, Emma West, in front of Ophelia with flowers scattered in her hair.

Damn, I couldn't help thinking in those first moments, somebody beat me to it. The irrational impulse of "Hey, that story is mine!" is of course completely ridiculous, but I'm as human and vain as the next creative person, so I'll admit I had to work through it for a minute there. I'll also admit to being greatly relieved when it became clear that, while Emma West was the only cast member announced right away, Jeremy Green has in fact written an entire play with other people in it, quite different territory from my solo piece in (slow-but-progressing) progress.

Even if it hadn't been, of course, in the end excitement about Lizzie's story being explored on stage had to triumph, and I very much wish I could be there. It's funny -- when I first had the idea for Unvarnished, over a decade ago now, when I first started getting mental images of stage pictures that have proven so challenging to build into words, the Pre-Raphaelite circle and their art were still just being rediscovered by the public -- especially here in the U.S. -- after decades out of favor.

These days, any given person with even a passing interest in 19th-century art is much more likely to know who I'm even talking about, let alone the lore of Ophelia's bathtub and that late-night exhumation. The images and stories have made their way back into pop culture, aided by an Internet that bears only the slightest resemblance to the nascent wilderness it was back when I happened upon a review of a one-woman show about Lizzie by Orange, a French multimedia artist who had worked with Cirque du Soleil (and whose somewhat generic pseudonym makes it impossible to find any hits for her on today's Google, if any still exist).  I was just starting my research then -- with Lucinda Hawksley's marvelous biography and so many other resources still in the offing -- and happened on an email address for Orange, resulting in a very kind reply that I wish I could still find, wishing me well in finding "your Elizabeth." I've carried that thought with me ever since.

I've not read or seen Kim Morrissey's Clever as Paint, but I've known it was out there for a while, and apparently there's also one from around 1999 called Dear Dove Divine. Still, it's thrilling to see a new play put Lizzie at the center of her own story, and to see it getting such great coverage, including this BBC News piece and Dinah Roe's interview with playwright Jeremy Green over at her great blog Pre-Raphaelites in the City. There's also this nice audio interview with Emma West from East London Radio.

April Love by Arthur Hughes
All this has also prompted a thoughtful blog post from Kirsty Stonell Walker over at her always-worth-reading The Kissed Mouth, about the ways in which the story is so often reduced to a few tragic episodes. It also puts me in mind, by way of contrast, of a couple conversations I've had recently regarding how little there is to read about Tryphena Foord. My conclusion that "that's what a long and happily married life will get you" might be facetiously phrased, but I stand by its essential accuracy. "Arthur Hughes married his muse and they lived happily ever after" is pretty much all we get.

After reading Kirsty's post, I feel a bit guilty always referring to Lizzie by her nickname, but I can't shake the familiarity. Anyway, guilt hasn't made me write Unvarnished any faster (as I've said before, I'm a busy actor and an unreliable writer), and in fact was pretty much what kept me paralyzed for a long time, for fear of what all these people I like and respect might make of my interpretation of events!

I've mostly managed to shed that, as about 75 handwritten pages of draft can attest, so now all that's left is periodic fretting about whether I'll still be believable on stage by the time the thing is ready to perform. *wry g* I don't have Emma West's uncanny resemblance to begin with (though I have had my share of unprompted comments over the years to the tune of "Hey, have you ever seen that Ophelia painting...?"), and I won't be carded beyond my time forever. (Though a hardware store clerk did ask for my birthdate before ringing up a can of spray paint last week, so I'm probably okay for a little while longer.) It will be what it will be; all I can do is forge on and hope people find it a story worth telling.

In the meantime, if they're in London starting next week (as I so very much wish I could be!) they can take in the story told by Jeremy Green, director Lotte Wakeham (of Matilda the musical fame), and a bright young cast who have been lighting up Twitter with their enthusiasm during rehearsals. It's been fascinating learning about the development of the project, and the collaboration of playwright and actress through a short film about the painting of Ophelia and on to this full-length play. I hope it's a great success, and look forward to reports from those able to attend!

Emma West and Tom Bateman  in rehearsal as Lizzie and Gabriel

Lizzie Siddal runs November 20 - December 21, 2013, at the Arcola Theatre in London. Click here for details and ticket info, and/or follow the production on Twitter.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Crew members your indie film needs

In which our Diva has noticed some consistent oversights

When I encounter someone visiting a film set for the first time, I can almost guarantee they will say something like "I had no idea there would be so many people! And they're all working!" I've heard it on big studio productions, and I've heard it on little student films with skeleton crews, relatively speaking.

The latter end of the scale is a necessity of minimal budgets, of course, but sometimes filmmakers let those crews get a little too skeletal. And I'm not entirely convinced that is a necessity. People doing double or triple duty is one thing. Entire areas of responsibility left to more or less fend for themselves is quite another. This list is in no particular order (mostly because the impact of the lack of someone doing a given job will vary by production), and by no means guaranteed complete, but these are the gaps I've noticed time and again.

Costume Designer. Okay, I said "no particular order," but this is the one I would probably be doing if I weren't an actor, so I get soapboxiest about it. Clothes do not just happen. Your clothes, what you are wearing at this moment, did not just happen. You might or might not have thought about the reasons you bought those particular pieces (or why someone bought them for you), and why you pulled them out of the closet or drawer this morning, but there are reasons all the same. Making a film is creating a world and the people in it. In order to do that, someone needs to figure out what clothes those people would own and wear, and why.

In the microbudget world, you're probably not making a detailed period film (and if you are, you'd better have at least a year to set aside for pre-production -- Team Witchfinder, I salute you!), and you're almost certainly not looking for someone to build a bunch of clothes from scratch. What you need is someone who pays attention to clothes and what they say about people, knows how to shop (especially thrifting), and preferably has a good sense of color. If you have no budget for wardrobe, that same knowledge is what they need to guide the actors to plunder their own closets effectively. Because I'm sorry, directors, but the vague guidelines I get the vast majority of the time? Rarely result in anything resembling the image you have in your head. And I know this stuff. A lot of actors don't. Directors don't have time -- or, often, knowledge -- to work out all the details of how to make a look happen. That's why they need costume designers.

Separate Director and Producer. That thing I just said about "directors don't have time?" It's going to be a theme here. There are exceptions to every rule, and if you're super-detail-oriented and driven, you might be one of them. But chances are there's a whole swathe of business and organizational stuff you dread having to deal with. That's because it's supposed to be someone else's job. Especially if everyone involved also has a day job. Riding herd on all the artistic stuff and the business stuff AND a day job? Will send pretty much any director to the hospital. That's why they need producers.

Script Supervisor. Another one that tends to fall to actors. Which, aside from the energy drain of keeping track of our own continuity, is just supremely uncomfortable in the chain-of-command sense. When everything is ready to roll and everyone is looking at me, I feel super-extra-squirmy holding up my hand and saying "Um, wasn't his jacket zipped up before?" or whatever, because it's not my job. It is, in fact, perilously close to telling the director how to direct, which is the biggest actor no-no in the universe. But unless a director has a flawless eidetic memory, sooner or later some detail is going to fall through the cracks in the course of making the big picture happen. That's why they need script supervisors.

Grips and PAs. Lots and lots of grips and PAs. Unless you are physically tripping over people in every direction (and, depending on how close the quarters are at your location, sometimes even then), there is no such thing as too many hands. Some directors take pride in participating in the grunt work, and that's awesome. I applaud that. But they can't direct the actors and hold a reflector at just the right angle and fetch fresh batteries and hold coats for actors pretending it isn't 30 degrees and make coffee and keep the gawkers out of frame and turn the noisy heater on and off and fetch extras from holding. That's why they need grips and PAs.

Makeup and Hair. Insert a lot of the same stuff I said about costume designers. Just because you don't need special effects doesn't mean you don't need knowledgeable people in charge of what your actors look like. Sure, most actors go around every day looking reasonably presentable, but most of us know sod-all about how to translate that for the camera, or how to look a way we normally don't. And a smart director knows that -- as with costume design, and a whole lot of other things -- it takes skill to present something in a way that the audience doesn't notice or think about it. That's why they need makeup artists.

But where do I find these people? If you have next to no budget, it's a serious question. In which case, if you don't already have one, you really need to start with that producer. That's when it's important for that person to be good at finding answers to things. Like "What does the person doing this job need to know?" and "Where should I look for someone who knows those things who might be willing to pitch in?" If you know people, you probably know people who can do these jobs. Organized and detail-oriented? Ask them to be script supervisor. Makes the rounds of all the thrift stores in the area once a week? Sound them out about costume design. Somebody's cousin is a Mary Kay distributor? Talk to them about makeup.

And of course there are scads of indie filmmaking forums, Facebook groups, and so on. On many of them, any post actually looking for crew (as opposed to spamming self-promotion) will get noticed and get responses. Obviously it's better if you're paying (even if it's just a modest stipend), but if you genuinely absolutely can't pay anyone (most definitely including yourself), there's someone out there who'll be interested in doing it for fun.

In all seriousness, if you can't find people to fill all the jobs a film really needs filled, I urge you to seriously consider whether you should be making this film right now. If you wait and do it right, if everyone has a great experience on your set because it actually felt like a team working together to make an awesome thing, if it's not a desperate shorthanded effort to just get something, anything, in the can so we can all go home and put this nasty business behind us? Not only will you have a better film at the end of the day, but you'll have a bunch of people who would work with you again in a heartbeat, will refer their friends the next time you need crew, and will proudly support and publicize your baby.