PROFILE: ARRON SHIVER, Actor/Director (IMDB)
First off, Arron is a monster of an artist. He is an actor, director, and writer. I would say triple threat but that is a lame saying. He is great guy who, in my opinion, is on track to become a name in the industry. Arron and I attended CalArts together in the 90’s. Yeah, the 90’s. This does not happen over night. Arron lives in Taos, New Mexico with his wife and son. He carves out a good life and gets the opportunity to work with some heavy hitters. We shot some actor heashots in Los Angeles last fall while he was under-studying at the Mark Taper Forum. I am thankful we had the opportunity to re-connect again. I asked him to answer a few questions for me because he is doing it and doing it well.
I recently watched your reel. What did you learn about the process working across from Denzel Washington, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, and all those “stars” on your demo?
Man, the thing that surprises me most, because of all the shit you hear in the medis, and it happens again and again, is how focused, giving, aware, kind, and prepared the “stars” are. Especially the guys you mention. Sure, they each have their own approach, their own personalities; Spacey’s very laid back, Bridges is just a big teddy bear, totally open to whatever and just full of love, and Denzel kinda keeps to himself, but I’d say 90% of the guys and girls I’ve met that are operating at a very high level, like those guys are, is pretty giving and connected to the other actors, pretty willing to go there and do what’s necessary to create a moment with you, and pretty goddamned well prepared. So, I guess if I were to sum it up I’d say so far this is what I’ve learned about this profession: Show up. Be a team player. Memorize your lines. And hit your marks. It sounds simple, and a lot of people would disagree with me, and to be honest, I feel kinda like a weenie saying it, but, really that’s what I’ve observed with most of these guys. And they do those fundamental things so well, like second nature. And they’ve done it so much, now they can relax and go with what’s happening, moment to moment. I’ve been at this long enough to get a taste for that, and it’s a great feeling. Plus, I was talking to Hugo Armstrong about this the other day, I just love this stuff, man. I just love showing up to work. And you can see it in someone like Bridges, and many others, too. They are really enjoying what they are doing. And it shows. It’s kinda like how I imagine what being a major league baseball player would be like: Yeah, it’s hard work, but shit man, you’re playing baseball, and they’re paying you. Well. How fucking cool is that?
You also direct films. What was your directorial debut? Was it more stressful than acting?
My directorial debut was a short film called "Good Luck, Mr. Gorski" written and produced by my dear friend Allegra Huston, and produced and shot by another dear friend David J. Schweitzer. It’s currently playing festivals. You can see it next at Mill Valley Film Festival, then the Hamptons International, and the Torino Film Festival in Italy later this fall.
To answer your question about whether it was more stressful than acting, it was and it wasn’t. I’ll explain:
There’s a moment as an actor when they say go, and everyone shuts up and then you’re there, something is expected of you, and there’s a great deal of pressure that comes with that. Who was the actor who said “just because they say “action” doesn’t mean you have to do anything”? Whoever it was, was totally spot on, but still there’s that feeling of something being expected of you when the cameras are rolling, like a “let’s see what you got, kid, and it better be good.”, kinda thing. But, as an actor, eventually, (hopefully!) they get what they need and you never have to do that scene again, then you can go drink coffee, run your lines for the next scene, do a crossword puzzle, whatever.
But as a director, the moment where you just do a crossword puzzle never comes. You are the first person there and the last person to leave, and your mind is constantly going. Your focus has to be on what’s happening with the actors in the scene you’re doing, of course, but as soon as that stops you’re thinking about how this new shot you thought up for the next scene is going to piss off your gaffer because it’s gonna be a bitch to light it, how your costumer didn’t believe you when you told them that blue shirt was fine, about the picture on the wall behind your actor that maybe wasn’t framed quite right, just a multitude of things, and it doesn’t stop. As the director, it’s your job to keep the whole movie in mind through every moment of the shoot. As Sydney Pollack says in the great documentary “Character” by Drago Sumonja: “the director is the one who KNOWS HOW IT GOES!”
It’s a demanding position, but I think what it boils down to, and this is true of great directors I’ve worked under, is that it’s a people management position. You have to gain the trust of the people who are working their asses off to bring whatever’s in your head into reality, so again, you better be prepared, you better be on time, and you better have a way of communicating why you need what you need, otherwise, you are lost. It’s disaster. It’s mutiny. So, I am respectful of my crew in that way. They are working with me to get this thing done, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be friends, and partners in the process. But you better be prepared. You better know what you want to get, and have a good understanding of the technical processes that need to take place in order to get it done. If you just show up with your shot list and your latte and start yelling: “What are we doing? Why aren’t we shooting?” you’ll make enemies quick.
I should say, too, that working with the actors was very rewarding, because what I tried to do, and I think, (I hope) I succeeded somewhat, was to be the kind of director I like to work with. That is, one who is confident enough to embrace and explore the ideas of the people with whom they are collaborating. One of the best moments in the finished film came to us from an actor who had given it some thought and wasn’t afraid to share his idea with me. That’s a moment I’m very proud of. Also, another thing that I tried to do was to give the actors the feeling that we had all the time in the world, and we’re just here to work out this one moment, then the next, and so on. They gotta trust you, though, that’s the key. And they begin to trust you, I think, when they realize you are not going to pressure them, or make them feel like it’s their fault when we get off track. It’s a lovely, giving process for me. For those few days, we became very close, like family, working on that little project; the actors, the crew, myself, and that sort of thing is what’s it’s all about for me. Maybe because I’m a theatre person, I enjoy the collaboration, and the synergy that that can create.
What is next for you? Are you moving to Los Angeles and going to take over or what?
Yes, my plan for world domination is coming along nicely (insert malevolent laughter here)
I just had a great little gig on the new show Magic City for Starz Network, in Miami. That’ll be on in April/May. Set your DVR’s
And yes, I AM moving back to Los Angeles, finally. A little nervous, but I’ve just signed with a new agency and am really excited about working with them.
I also have a script in development with Whitewater Films, and things are progressing very well with the project, with hopes to shoot next spring.
No, really I have no plans on taking over. My only plan is to do this stuff the rest of my life because I love it, and because I’ve never thought of anything else to do, and because I’m not even remotely good at anything else. Well, I’m a decent cook. And I’m learning the guitar. And I play a decent second base. But I can’t hit a curveball, and I can’t sell anything, so this is my profession for better or worse.