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You Scared Yet?

July 16, 2012

Sam Garles

Hi, I’m Sam, and I play the role of David in Prescribed Film’s upcoming evil opus, Demonica. I wanted to take a moment today to share a few of my thoughts on acting, specifically related to the horror genre. Some of what you may read may disturb, bore, horrify, or annoy you. Discussing acting tends to sound pretentious by nature, but just think of it like a good ol’ boy standing next to his hot rod talking about the engine he put in it. I really do think of it like a job– it just happens to be a job that I love doing. And with that…

Fear. What makes a horror movie horrifying? Fear. Why do those of us who love the genre get a kick out of it? Fear. Fear is, according to those who’ve studied ancient mammals, the first real emotion we developed. Fight or flight. The first decision to be made. Despite fear having been around longer than anything else we’ve been feeling, it’s damn hard to access on demand. I think it’s much easier to get pissed off at someone, or fall in love with them, or mistrust them, or respect them than to truly fear them. Why is this? Well, true primal fear is something we have a lot less experience with than these other emotions. I got pissed off at having to go back in to the gas station for the correct change the other day. I haven’t felt truly in fear of my life since I ate at a community college cafeteria in Texas. Or maybe when I bungee jumped in New Zealand.

But even so, that’s a more general fear. Emotions in movies, in my opinion, need to be focused and direct, like little laser beams, to come across on film. If you aren’t feeling it, you didn’t make a strong enough choice. In a play at least you kind of sink in to a character over the course of the entire show. You don’t really escape it until the curtain falls. In a movie, you are doing another take. The director talks to you right before you go again. You have to completely break out, go back, and attempt to have the same or stronger experience than you had before. This is the fantastic challenge of it. So the question I’m constantly asking myself is, once I’ve figured out where I need to be, how do I get there? How do I convince myself that THIS time I’m finally going to get laid… that THIS time my friends have all really abandoned me for their girlfriends. That THIS time I really am going to catch that son of a bitch and eat him? It’s not easy. Actors that can pull off being truly horrified are pretty special to watch. Because the more the actor is in to it, the more the audience is in to it. And that’s what they’ve come in for. That’s what they’ve illegally downloaded / paid good money to see. They want a taste of that primal fear.

So where does PF come in to this? Well, mostly I want to give a huge bit of credit to everyone being super cool with taking and giving advice. Egos can be the first thing that kills an attempt at a creative project, and so far as I can tell, no one on this film has one that I’ve run in to. Everyone wants everyone else to do their best. Everyone has been willing to do what it takes to make that happen. And double extra credit to Mike and Jason for being willing to play along with us, the actors, and giving us the freedom to find the character and the performance. I’ve worked on enough projects that had the performances rigidly defined to the edge of pointlessness that I can really appreciate a director / actor relationship that is based on teamwork. Constantly asking each other “What do you need? What else can I do?” is where the best performances come from, in my opinion.

We’re in the business of entertainment. A movie isn’t a movie without an audience and a scary movie isn’t scary without a scare. Any given scare is articulated from the writer, to the director, to the actor, to the actor you get to replace your best friend who said he could act, to the audience. That is a long chain, and it’s a hard one to keep strong all the way through. Fortunately, with PF, we are all doing it For the Love of the Game (sans Kevin Costner), which gives us a leg up. Fear is elusive, and audiences really hate the smell of the fake stuff, so it takes real talent and commitment to get it out. Fortunately I think we’ve got some winning stuff here in the can for Demonica. I’m just as excited to see the first cut as I was my first day on set, as I am every time I show up at that rink to get into make up. What’s my job tonight? Scaring the hell out of someone 10 takes in a row. Now that’s what I call a fun challenge.

Until next time, may you outlive the fear to see dawn break.

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