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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Brown

Reeling it in

One fun thing about MFA apps, I'm discovering, is the wide array of supplemental materials I have to submit with each application. Not just essays (dear God the essays), but the resumes, the script samples, the production reviews and the video clips.

Let me start by saying my directing career thus far has been almost entirely self-produced. Or I have at least been as much a producer as I have been a director , even when working with an established company (in addition I've also been sound, costume, and lighting designer and also the stage manager and the house manager for shows I've directed. Did I mention board op? Projection designer?) Getting a high-quality video recording of the performances I direct is usually the last thing on my mind. The last show I directed had FOUR lights. Four. By the final performance, all of the lamps I owned were also on the stage and we rigged two work lights with bungee cords to poles so we could actually see the actors' faces.

I digress.

So for the two or three schools that asked for video clips of performances I've directed, I scrambled. I have an odd collection of recordings of an odd collection of my shows that I have turned into a 12 minute "reel." As I was putting it together on windows movie maker (yes, you read that correctly) I began to grow frustrated with myself. Why didn't I take the time to make sure all of my shows were professionally recorded? Surely I could have pulled favors from some of my friends? Couldn't I have anticipated that sometime down the road I would have needed something to show a graduate school? Is it even worth showing someone the meager offerings I have?

My reel does not have high quality video or sound. Except for one clip, none of the shows weren't even performed in an actual theater. Half of the footage was taken on my (Android) phone. It doesn't showcase the hours and hours of work that went into crafting each show, or the moments of discovery in rehearsals. It is not a representation of my directing career.

Or maybe it is. Directing is hard. There is no clear path to follow. Directing careers move slowly- way slower than an actor or a playwright's career because so often directors self-produce and self-fund and fight to get butts in seats and climb up on ladders to focus lights themselves in non-traditional spaces and stay up late folding programs and cutting sound cues and step in to run cues when venue contacts fall through and replace actors with three days to opening when someone drops out and rehearse in living rooms and converted garages and building lobbies and backyards and sometimes after all of that work you just want to sit back and experience the play that you made and not also break your back and your wallet trying to film the damn thing.

And that is one of the major reasons I want to go to graduate school. I want support. I want to see what I can do when I'm not worrying about all of the other stuff. Because I can't do everything perfectly.

And that is why I'm sharing my imperfect directing reel with you. Know that under its flaws and weird audio and fuzzy resolution was a lot of hard work and love and discovery and vulnerability-- not just from me, but from the actors you see and the technicians you don't. Those shows were worth every second I spent on them, and I am proud to have been a part of them, and of all of the shows that didn't end up with any documentation. It's not perfect. Nothing is perfect. And if I was already perfect, I wouldn't need to go to graduate school.

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