Filmsupply Originals: Working with Non-Actors
The Cage | Teaser from Neighborhood Films and Filmsupply on Vimeo.
Our friends over at Filmsupply have been revolutionizing how filmmakers find stock footage for their projects since the agency’s launch in 2015. Simply put, nobody else out there has a library that compares to theirs. Their dedication to providing agencies, brands, and independent filmmakers with stunning, high-quality clips is absolutely unparalleled anywhere else in the industry. Now they’ve introduced a new initiative that proves once again why they are leading the charge in their field. If you aren’t already familiar with Filmsupply, now is a perfect time to get to know them.
“Our series of Originals is a testament to our incredible group of filmmakers, our meticulously curated catalog of the highest quality footage available for licensing and our commitment to celebrating filmmakers like Neighborhood Film Co. who are pursuing their passions with stunning work like The Cage.” -Cody Dulock, director of content at Filmsupply
This week, the new Filmsupply Originals series was unveiled. Let me tell you, this series is a game changer. Described as “a series of exclusive, original films from revolutionary filmmakers,” Originals exists to inspire creatives and elevate the passion projects of these unique storytellers within the Filmsupply community. This in itself is an amazing concept. Filmsupply is literally giving artists a way to express themselves and get their work seen. Much respect my friends, and the members have the ability to license every scene from every film featured.
The premiere installment is the short film The Cage, written and directed by Ricky Staub and produced by Neighborhood Film Co., The Cage follows the trials of a young man, Zeke, growing up on the rough and dangerous streets of North Philadelphia. He’s surrounded on all sides by the temptations and corrupting influences of drugs and gang violence. Zeke puts all of his hope of escaping “the cage” of his neighborhood into his skill as a basketball player. His story is accompanied by narration from his father who is himself trapped in his own cage: prison.
Staub himself lived in North Philadelphia, and his familiarity with the area and the people living there is obvious. But this didn’t stop him from feeling a bit nervous when he started work on the script. He says, “I definitely felt self-conscious writing this story because I haven’t necessarily lived it. I’ve lived my own tragedies and traumas which I think really allow me to connect with the story.”
To me, this is what filmmaking is all about: getting caught up in the emotional experience. If the writer or director or whoever else hasn’t lived the exact same events as the characters, it doesn’t take away from the movie for me. If they can hit that right emotional tone that I respond to, that’s all I care about.
So did this film hit that tone? Absolutely! The first thing you notice when you watch The Cage is the authenticity, how raw and real the performances feel. This is a powerful, emotional film that really shows a way of life and a group of people that we’re not used to seeing in the movies. You really get to know and feel for these people, Zeke in particular. I love when filmmakers tell stories like this.
Working with Actors
“I have this theory about acting. I feel like I like to work either with people who either have no experience or a ton of experience because I think in that middle ground the problem is that a lot of actors get self-conscious or think too much about what they’re doing.” – Ricky Staub on directing non-actors
A big reason the film feels so real is that Staub chose to work entirely with non-actors. A lot of the cast were people from his own neighborhood. The rest of them were friends of Associate Producer Andrew Williams.
Staub says that nobody in the film had ambitions to start an acting career and that their lack of self-consciousness about their performances actually added to the realism. Even William Lee, who plays Zeke and was the only cast member brought in from outside of Philadelphia, isn’t a trained actor. He was discovered through a New York casting director who had previously auditioned him for a feature about streetball. Staub met with him in New York to run lines and instantly knew that he had found his star.
When Working with Non-Actors: Just Keep Rolling
Of course, some unique challenges do come up when you’re working with non-actors. Realizing early on during production that his actors were losing their concentration when each take was being slated, Staub decided to stop slating scenes altogether. “You’re always shooting,” he remembers telling his DP/Camera Op, Minka Farthing-Kohl.
Wow! Now, I’ve talked before about how as a DP you always need to be ready to think on your feet, but knowing you’re going to be rolling a camera from the time you arrive on set non-stop until the end of the day really puts your skills to the test!
This strategy paid off. The film looks absolutely amazing. The realism of the performances is contrasted with some beautifully poetic touches throughout the short. Jeremy Fernsler, the acclaimed digital compositor who worked on The Girl on the Train and The Road, brings his talents to The Cage with some incredible visual effects. Fernsler was on set to supervise and review footage so that he had the best possible footage to add his effects to in post-production.
“Now here’s something that’s really cool”
Many of the crew members also come from Philadelphia. Neighborhood Film Co. sets itself apart from your typical production house by giving formerly incarcerated adults a chance to learn highly-versatile skills during an eight-month paid apprenticeship. As Staub said during his “Business Without Boundaries” TED Talk, “Creating beautiful films for brands is what we do. Apprenticing the formerly incarcerated for careers is why we do it.” The company has provided content for brands including Google, Nike, Coca-Cola, and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Filmsupply and its parent company, Musicbed, have become invaluable resources over the last few years and they don’t show any signs of letting up! The Filmsupply Originals series is one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve seen in a long time for creatives to share their passion projects in a unique way. Check out The Cage over on Vimeo and don’t forget to sign up for Filmsupply for access to footage from the short and thousands of other clips!
Filmsupply Originals promises to showcase some of the most exciting content from one of the most talented filmmaking communities out there right now. I can’t wait to see what they release next!
Filmsupply believes that great footage comes from great films. As a full-service agency, Filmsupply partners with the world’s best filmmakers to make their incredible footage available for licensing. Coupled with powerful search filters and helpful experts, it’s easier than ever to find the perfect clip to round out any project. Learn more at filmsupply.com.
About Neighborhood Film Co.
Based in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, Neighborhood Film Co. creates beautiful films for global brands. Each year, the production house apprentices formerly incarcerated adults during an 8-month paid apprenticeship, equipping them to be high-level project coordinators with a versatile skill set that can translate into many different work environments. Learn more at neighborhoodfilmcompany.com.