Indie Film Focus: David Graziano Stars in Upcoming Shea/Messier Short, “The Actor”
Actor David Graziano, who played a supporting role in Chris Esper’s Still Life (2012) — reviewed yesterday on this blog — starred a year later in the title role of The Actor (release pending). This dramatic short, produced and directed by Skip Shea and Mike Messier, also costars Diane Porter as The Coach and Christine Perla as The Muse. The screenplay (by Messier) is based on the story of the real-life relationship between Graziano and Perla: how they met, fell in love, and then spent years apart when David left Christine. He stayed in New York to pursue his stage acting dreams, while she ended up where she wanted to be, in the Los Angeles area. David began a downward spiral, while Christine married money and moved to Bel Air.
This narrative comes to light during an apparent acting lesson with The Coach (Porter, who also had executive producer duties for this film). Shot in black and white by cinematographer William Smyth at the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston, Rhode Island, the film also features an original score by Steven Lanning-Cafaro.
Mr. Graziano provided access to a screener copy of this film and its trailer to Frisco Kid at the Movies, in exchange for a fair and honest review. I can honestly say that Graziano’s performance in this movie is very strong. His role provides him with narrative monologues that are at times reminiscent of De Niro’s voice-over narration in Taxi Driver (1976). This provides Graziano ample opportunity for an intense portrayal of himself and a significant part of his life in a manner that is dramatic rather than documentary.
Porter’s character is a foil for Graziano’s. As The Coach, she interrogates The Actor, questioning his decisions and motives. By the end of the short, the viewer wonders whether she is another person or a projection of The Actor’s mind, as she seems to play the role of his superego. Perla appears in a cameo role, verifying or questioning The Actor’s statements.
Shea and Messier are not first-time directors. Messier’s previous directorial work includes two comedy shorts, God’s Country (2008) and Wrestling with Sanity (2009), and a feature-length, psychological dramedy, Blood! Sugar! Sid! Ace! (2012); he also wrote the screenplays for all three films. Also a producer, Shea has directed several comedy and drama shorts, including Choices, Video Diary: Last Entry, and Mail (all from 2010).
The Actor has a stark ambiance which is enhanced by the black and white photography and skillful use of lighting. The film has the flavor of a cinematic, postmodern one-act play. The ambiguity involved in the action is compelling. Is it a dialogue or an interior monologue? Is the narrative just a performance within a performance (suggested by Graziano’s repetition of certain lines)? Moreover, the film’s rather abrupt ending, in which Graziano asks a question which applies to his entire life narrative, makes one suspect that there is more material that has not been presented yet. The audience is left wanting to know more about The Actor and his life. It will be interesting to see if Shea and Messier make a feature-length version of this film after their short is released. One hopes that they are able to do so.