Isabelle Meunier, SFX #67, Aug 00
The thought of his impending
debut in the directorial seat for Stargate is giving the actor who plays
Jackson a new perspective on the way TV and films are made....
"Directing is something I've
been wanting to dabble in," Michael (Jackson) Shanks enthuses, keeping
a vigilant eye on his little girl who's running around in his trailer.
And what better place to first try out calling the shots than on the show
you've been starring in for the past four years?
"You have your heavy episodes
and your lighter where you're not that involved," he explains, "so when
I was doing the lighter episodes, I realised that I had the opportunity
to learn a whole other craft in a very relaxed and supportive medium, and
would be a fool not to take advantage of the situation put in front of
me. I found myself becoming involved in a more behind-the-scenes capacity,
and when it came to dealing with stories and scripts, in certain ways,
my input was valued more than I thought it would be. In an environment
like this, there can't be a better opportunity to try and learn something;
in a way, this show directs itself, there are so many people knowing how
to do their job so well after many years of doing it! If I make a suggestion
as a director and I'm wrong, I won't be allowed to shoot and make that
mistake; they'll correct me and we'll fix the problem there and then."
But nerves are beginning to
show as his day of reckoning is looming on the horizon. "All of a sudden,"
he reveals, "I'm realising what directors have to go through in terms of
making actors do things for the camera."
He pauses, readying himself
for a candid admission.
"I used to be quite difficult,
in a self-centred way. But it's important to work together a little bit
more and now that I'm gonna have to deal with the actors, I realise that
maybe I should be more helpful."
He gets up to pick up his daughter
and settles back down, the toddler nestled in his arms. "It's important
to let creativity flow if we're gonna have good interaction and good chemistry,"
he continues. "This works with someone like [director] Peter DeLuise who
has a good sense of humour. He enjoys that kind of thing; he enjoys fuelling
it, saying, ‘take it further, I know it's a screw around but it's funny,
so take it even further.' To me, working in an environment where you're
allowed to experiment is invaluable in terms of being an actor."
Talking of DeLuise, does the
director's tactic work? "Every now and again I'm a bit of a stubborn actor,"
he confesses with a sly grin. "It bothers me a lot less than I actually
try to make it appear it does, so in order to shut me up he's bribing me.
I've been a lot better at going along with it..... because I'm gonna be
directing in September, so the shoe's gonna be on the other foot!"
It sounds like he's getting
ready for his fellow actors to conspire in giving him a "hard time". "Exactly,"
he laughs. "Peter, I'm going to hire him as an actor so he can get back
at me for all the things I did!"
Although there isn't any director
he'd particularly use as a role model, there is one, however, whose technique
he has kept an eye on. "I think the only director that I would admire in
that capacity and can honestly say I would take something from would be
James Cameron," he discloses. "I find that his attention to detail in both
his writing and his directing is so thorough... which is why I've understood
he's a bit of a screamer on set. He's a bit of a control freak but his
attention to detail is so specific. I would like that ability."
That is to say, minus the screaming?
"Minus the screaming, hopefully,"
he laughs. "That's something that's not productive to anyone. Working in
any situation, if you're achieving a a strong result you want to have enjoyed
the experience, you don't want to walk away from working on a James Cameron
film hating the man, hating the experience. Then when the film comes out,
people go, ‘It's great!' and you go, ‘Yeah, but I'd never do it again.'
I mean, I haven't worked with James Cameron directing so I wouldn't know,
but although I definitely enjoy his end product, the means may not be the
way I'd want to go about it."
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