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Exclusive Portraits: David Schwimmer, Alan Cumming at 2010 Chicago International Film Festival

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CHICAGO – High wattage star power lit up the red carpet on October 18th at the Chicago International Film Festival. David Schwimmer was walking for his new film, “Trust,” and Alan Cumming received the OUTrageous Award from the Festival and was promoting his new film ‘The Tempest.’

Joining Schwimmer were the the younger stars of Trust, Spencer Curnutt, Zoe Levin and Aislinn DeButch. HollywoodChicago.com was there, capturing both the images and the interviews from the Red Carpet at the 2010 Chicago International Film Festival.

StarDavid Schwimmer, Director of “Trust”

Besides being one of the famous ensemble members of the beloved sitcom “Friends,” David Schwimmer is also one of Chicago’s most ardent performance advocates, as one of the founders of the Lookingglass Theatre Company here. “Trust” is a film adaptation of a play performed by the troupe, a drama about the online world and sexual harassment. Schwimmer directed both the stage and screen versions.

David Schwimmer at the Chicago Internatonal Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
David Schwimmer at the Chicago Internatonal Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com: As someone who didn’t grow up with the type of media that is portrayed in ‘Trust,’ what did you learn about it in the process of doing the play and film?

David Schwimmer: It was a lot of research, and I spent the last seven years developing the script and talking to a lot of the victims and parents. I’m lucky I befriended a member of the FBI, who had worked with these cases every day for the last couple of years, as well as the counselors who work with these situations as well. It was not as big of a problem when I was growing up, when I was 14 years old it was not an issue. The internet is an incredible tool, but there have been some dangers in association with it, and this film focuses on one of them.

HollywoodChicago.com: What was the process of transferring the stage version to film?

Schwimmer: We developed both the play and the screenplay at the same time, because we didn’t know what would happen first. This is the type of film that took a long time to get a ‘green light,’ that we thought instead of waiting ten years for the film, why don’t we do a play. The difference became in learning what to cut more than anything. In film, you can tell a story with an image, and very quickly, whereas on stage it might take a lot longer to tell that same story. We made some big bold cuts in the stage version that we didn’t have time for. I incorporated as much technology in the stage version as I could, so there was internet chat, texting and video.

HollywoodChicago.com: How do you hone in on actors when you are directing, both as a person and the character that they are playing?

Schwimmer: There are fewer directors that really understand how to work with actors. The advice I would give on that is for directors to take some acting classes, even if it’s just to observe, to understand what the process of an actor is and to have some empathy as to what an actor goes through. The other thing is to really be open to collaboration and to listen to your actors. The number one job you can do as a director is cast well, and just trust the people you cast. If they have ideas, let them bring those ideas to the table. It is presumptuous to think as a director you have the best ideas. Always be open to the better idea.

HollywoodChicago.com: Since you have younger and kid actors in Trust, how do you best work with them?

Schwimmer: I can only speak for my experience, and that is simply to befriend them. That’s what I tried to do with Liana Liberato [Lead Actress in Trust], who was 14 years old when we were shooting. It involved spending a lot of time with her and her parents, and really try to get them to understand what I was doing, and establish that trust, so when the time comes on the set they will really give you the benefit of the doubt for what you’re creating. They also need to feel emotionally and physically safe, in where they are and what they are doing.

Star Alan Cumming, OUTrageous Honoree, Star of “The Tempest”

The veteran actor and writer Alan Cumming was the recipient of this year’s OUTrageous Award from the Chicago International Film Festival, honoring advocates of the gay community. Cumming also had a film in the festival, a new version of Shakepeare’s ‘The Tempest.’

Alan Cumming at the Chicago Internatonal Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
Alan Cumming at the Chicago Internatonal Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com: You’ve done both stage and screen work. What is it about the transitions between the two that challenge you?

Alan Cumming: Just practice, I suppose, you just get used to it. The first time I did a film, I was all over the place. You get used to playing to the medium that you are in, and what is required. It’s not brain surgery and in both media it’s not that different on how you approach it as an actor in your soul. It’s just the circumstance of the situation.

HollywoodChicago.com: The director of ‘The Tempest’ is Julie Taymor. What does she bring to Shakespeare that others do not?

Cumming: She’s not trapped by the words. She makes it a very exciting visual experience. She wants to make the experience a filmmaking one, not necessarily a literary adaptation.

HollywoodChicago.com: What elements will attract audiences to this version of the work?

Cumming: It plays upon the story of individuals coming together and being reunited, rather than a big scary Shakespeare play. It’s actually a rather simple story and quite funny, and visually it’s very stunning.

Star Spencer Curnutt, Zoe Levin and Aislinn DeButch of “Trust”

The child actors of David Schwimmer’s Trust also walked the Red Carpet. Spencer Curnutt and Zoe Levin were also in the stage version.

Zoe Levin at the Chicago Internatonal Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
Zoe Levin at the Chicago Internatonal Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com: Spencer and Zoe, what did you have to adjust when switching from the stage and screen versions of Trust.

Spencer Curnutt: I think for me is that when you’re doing the play eight times a week, I needed to escape that world every night after the show. If you’re constantly living in it, it can be a mess sometimes. That was the big difference with the stage version. The other difference was you want to fill a room when you’re doing theater, and on camera it’s in your face, and you have to make it more natural when you’re speaking. That was the thing, how to stay true to the story and connect with everyone.

Zoe Levin: It’s a completely different experience, you have to be in the moment once, one day that you shoot, as opposed to the play where you are doing it over and over. It’s gets embedded in who you are. Both were great experiences, they were just different. David Schwimmer really helped with the transition because he directed both versions.

Spencer Curnutt at the Chicago Internatonal Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
Spencer Curnutt at the Chicago Internatonal Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com: Zoe, what was the revelation you had when you were younger that told you to be an actor?

Levin: I did school plays and community theater for a long time. When I was taking classes an agent came and saw me, and that introduced me to professional acting.

HollywoodChicago.com: Spencer, what style of acting did you connect to when you were studying at university?

Curnutt: It was more of a Stanford Meisner approach, creating a back story for the character, and creating events that link to the dialogue. In the film I have a sex talk with my father, and I have to talk about what that was like, so in my mind I created what this talk was, the famous talk that every father and son eventually has. I wrote out the event, thinking it, feeling it and then living it. I actually framed the event and gave it David as a gift at the end of the play.

Aislinn DeButch at the Chicago Internatonal Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
Aislinn DeButch at the Chicago International Film Festival, October 18th, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com: Aislinn, what got you involved in acting?

Aislinn DeButch When I was little I used to watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and I acted it out. So my Mom asked me if I wanted to be an actor, and I say yes, pretty much so. [laughs]

FINAL TWO NIGHTS OF THE 46th Annual Chicago International Film Festival. October 20th, 2010, is “Best of the Fest” and October 21st is Closing Night. For more information and to purchase tickets, click on ChicagoFilmFestival.com

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2010 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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