Johnny Neal

Actor, Writer

Shooting The Broken Door (Short Film)

So before anyone asks, no I haven't spent this week shooting some experimental film that focuses on a door that spends it's days squeaking, never living up to its full potential and eventually ending up on the trash pile... Although...?

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I have in fact been shooting Will Crona's debut short, directed by the very talented Yousef Joubeh, the story of Harry (played yours truly) and Isobel (Severine Vasseline), an estranged couple meeting to talk over the details of their separation. Harry's intent is to purge himself of any guilt he might be harbouring over their break up, but of course, the discussion doesn't quite go to plan.

The dialogue is open and honest, with echoes of Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things, however the key to our preparation came in two parts:

Our director asked us to watch two films before we began, Nocturnal Animals and Manchester by the Sea.  The first, a phenomenal moody experience, which discusses the nature of our decisions and how they haunt us, ultimately leading to a lifelong regret over that which we cannot change. Something, as it turns out, that holds a deep relevance to my characters mindset. Our second influence was from the Academy Award winning Manchester by the Sea, a gritty romantic drama whose texture, themes and performances ooze, what I can only describe as being, as close to realism as I have seen. The central characters all struggle to deal with their emotions and Casey Afflecks subtle and heated performance acted as our starting block for what would be a tumultuous shoot. 

Poster For Nocturnal Animals (2016, Tom Ford) 

Poster For Nocturnal Animals (2016, Tom Ford) 

The second part of our preparation came from improvisation, in order to understand this pairs relationship we ran through the key moments leading up to their breakup. Running through the moment Harry returned home, all the way to him revealing that he will be leaving. This gave us a clear sense of how their relationship operated, why he decided to end things and an even clearer sense of who these two are as individuals as well as being a couple. One thing that came clear to the both of us was a key element in understanding the difference between Love and Infatuation. And that is that love as a construct relies on more than just two people who share common interests. There is something more, something deeper that almost requires them to have differences, and in that difference they become puzzle pieces that together complete one another and fill in the blanks of one another's personalities and emotional needs.

A great advantage within this particular shoot was that both myself and Sev received training in Meisner Technique, allowing the two of us to produce nuanced and truthful performances that worked from one another's input to the scene.

Still from  Manchester by the Sea (2016,  Kenneth Lonergan

Still from Manchester by the Sea (2016, Kenneth Lonergan

For my performance I felt it was key that my character not have a total understanding of his needs, and so they would change as would his attitude within the scene. The influences from my character came in many forms, the most predominant being that of a desperate salesman, a man of shallow needs making a pitch so that someone will buy his obviously dodgy wares. Later on in the scene I found that my performance was at its strongest when my concentration left that of my character and became purely reactionary, focussed on my new need and of course the wonderful actresses I shared a scene with. I also took influence from a number of my favourite character actors, first and foremost of course being John Hamm I have always found him wonderful at playing somewhat sleazy characters who can "put on the front" for a sales pitch. My other major influences came from Jake Gyllenhaal, a fantastic character actor who is always present within the scene whilst maintaining the given circumstances of his characters. My other influence came from of course Casey Affleck's performance in Manchester by the Sea a subtlety that was achievable by accepting the circumstances of our setting, a public place full of customers, not the appropriate place for an emotional "rage out".

All in all I am very proud of what myself and the rest of the cast and crew have achieved on this film and cannot wait for the screening of the final product. The film will hopefully be making its way around the festival circuit soon. 

Until next time chums! 

Johnny x