Celia Rowlson-Hall is an actress, director, dancer, and choreographer whose work displays an innate predilection for the body. Her directing seems focused on a type of physicality that conveys what words may not be able to, or shouldn't -- and understandably so, given that this sort of thing seems to come very naturally to her. She has received favorable notice at festivals, choreographed a music video directed by Gaspar Noe (Enter the Void), and appeared as a lead character in a really, really cool Passion Pit music video. Her recent short, The Audition, addresses things that could apply to any of us working in the field of arts and entertainment, and does so in a brutally honest, intensely physical, and totally fascinating way. Read on to check it out (note: I wouldn't confidently call it SFW).
This short could mean a lot of different things to you. On the one hand, it seems to be a satirical, almost dark commentary on the integrity-over-the-coals nature the fickle world of entertainment can sometimes possess. On the other hand, it could be a literal, funny, and shameless salute to those who would do anything for their art. The video's brief description -- which states that it's "for every ACTOR / DANCER / PERFORMER / MODEL / MUSICIAN out there" -- could be construed to support either claim.
Or it could mean something else -- I think it's much more interesting to find your own perspective on it rather than outright call it one or the other. It's provocative, but even in taking its conceit as far as it can go, I actually find the piece to be a rather touching tribute to those who wholly put themselves out there for the love of the craft. To get a little cerebral for a moment, this reminds me of Aronofsky's themes in The Wrestler and Black Swan for their shared portrayal of an entertainer willing to push the boundaries of their physical calling, giving themselves utterly and unselfconsciously to the performance. For the more bleak resonance The Audition carries (if you ask me), I'm reminded of the low subtextual rumblings of Lynch's Mulholland Drive and the insatiable thirst for heart and soul that Hollywood can sometimes have. Then again I just may be looking too deep into things and not enjoying myself enough here.
In any case, it's definitely affecting -- I'd love to hear how you guys feel about it, and what your own interpretation of it is. I'll leave you with another of Celia's short films, Prom Night. It's drop-dead beautiful, haunting as any eight wordless minutes I've ever seen, and like The Audition, funny and not soon forgettable. Seriously -- for the piece's last two-and-a-half minutes Celia delivers what I can only describe as the physical performance equivalent of an operatic solo finale. (On-the-fence-SFW)
Prom Night was an official selection at SXSW 2011 and the Rooftop Film Festival 2011, and received a Special Jury Award for Celia's dancing at Videofest24.
- Celia Rowlson-Hall on Vimeo
- Celia's Homepage and portal to other works
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Wow, great video's. Audition for me is not just about people who are "willing to push the boundaries of their physical calling, giving themselves utterly and unselfconsciously to the performance." But also about the disregard of the effort and sacrifices it takes (the apathic, almost bored reaction of the guy to her performance).
And prom night... damn, that one is just tragic. Beautiful though, very impressive.
October 24, 2012 at 7:46PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I feel like this site at its best has a certain pragmatism that this article and these films are lacking.
October 24, 2012 at 7:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Just realized this is my second negative comment in a row on a DK article. I'm not hating on you DK I promise! Let me restate, my favorite films seem to have been made with entertainment in mind first, and art in mind second. Having gone to Sundance for the past 7 years, I can honestly say that most of the films are "artistic" and yet still rubbish. I wish there were more indie entertainers than indie artists. Finally, to each their own, right? BUT, to me, entertaining films seem rooted in story. Aside from writing, I'd say that film is the art form most connected with story, and when there's no story, it's hard for me to enjoy a film.
October 24, 2012 at 7:58PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Though I agree with you in part... mainly that Prom Night is very 'artistic' and not necessarily excellent... I disagree that this article and these films are not NFS at it's best.
I for one am sick of gear posts, and I'm especially sick of camera flame wars. John Jeffries go ahead and say I'm just mad because "I can't afford them", Well I CAN'T afford them, I can't afford film school either and that's what brought me here... NO film school.
Don't get me wrong, I need the gear posts and the tech talk. I was lucky enough to DP my first job with a rented camera last week, and we rented a c300. Without this I would have been a wreck because I'd never touched one before much less shot with it but I spent the night before reading up on here how to use one. Those Cinema pocket guides were released just when I needed them and it was PERFECT.
BUT, when will I rent a c300 again, who knows? And even though I shot with one, I see stuff everyday shot on t2i's that were better than what I shot with a nicer camera.
So, keep posts like this coming! even if I wasn't in love with these short films, this was an article showcasing someone's work that stands out, and it stood out for a particular reason, whatever that is. I want to make my work stand out, and not because it was shot on BMCC but because it's good.
Haha love this post, and I liked the Audition a lot. I'm done.
October 24, 2012 at 8:51PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Thank you! We'll do our best :)
October 24, 2012 at 9:19PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Hahaha thanks, after rereading my post I realize I sounded pretty whiny... I really appreciate NoFilmSchool and all the work you guys do!
October 24, 2012 at 9:22PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I agree that Audition said something, and it was semi-interesting, but the delivery, with it's emphasis on art first, made it fall flat for me. Have you seen the original Fame? It has a similar part where this girl goes up to a guy's apartment for an "audition" and is similarly degraded. I remember watching that and thinking, "Whoa -- yeah, that's crazy. The lengths that people will go to..." Anyway, it hit so much harder than did "Audition."
October 25, 2012 at 8:52AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I was beginning to think you had it out for me, but I'm just glad not to get the all-caps treatment this time! :P Also, I very much understand and agree with what you're saying in general -- so, in this case, you felt that the above shorts strove to be more artistic than entertaining? I'm less sure I agree on these counts :/
October 24, 2012 at 9:17PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I was not going to comment on this one but now i feel oblidged.These guys every once in a while stop writing about cameras and cover something interesting and you feel that they are not at their best?
Dave i appreciate what you did here.I found this short funny,provocative and all around interesting.Thank you for this.
October 24, 2012 at 10:07PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
All I'm saying is this post, to me, felt really film school-y for nofilmschool. I still love the site! I read it at least twice a day!
October 25, 2012 at 8:48AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I didn't see "The Audition" as either of your 'on the one hands' I saw it as a statement about the stupidity of the system of auditions we have in the States (especially in the film industry) and often the stupidity of the people on the 'other side of the table'. I've had friends who've been through things that make this video look only slightly exaggerated. Now granted the character chooses to put herself through it, but what kind of a world do we live in that we're not surprised that she does, because we understand that from her perspective she doesn't really have any other choice. It's a good piece.
October 24, 2012 at 9:58PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Really found the 2nd one very interesting.
October 25, 2012 at 1:52AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Really found both shorts to be captivating, entertaining, and thought provoking. Thanks for sharing them Dave!
October 25, 2012 at 7:10AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
How on earth can your article state that this sketch: "addresses things that could apply to any of us working in the field of arts and entertainment".
To what "things" do you refer?
This short is absurd. I've been casting movies in LA for 22 years and, although I appreciate that this film is impressionistic in nature, there is no way that this is representative of the casting process as carried out by professional film makers. In fact, it's an insult to actors because the implication is that they are desperate morons - and it is derogatory to all those who work in casting since it implies that we are these vile philistines whose aim is to humiliate the actor. Other than a cheap and vulgar laugh, I can't see what this film achieves.
I have never been in a casting session where the aim was to demean the actor and beat him/her into submission. It's a childish little film made by a narrow minded and inexperienced film maker who is taking a cheap shot at artists in general.
I'm surprised that NoFilmSchool, which is a wonderful resource and which I greatly admire, should show this as an example of the "provocative" and "satirical".
I note that there is no conclusion to this little drama - so it is a sketch which leads nowhere.
However, I thought that as an actress - Celia Rowlson-Hall - was very good. I would have cast her as "Clipboard Woman" immediately.
With thanks for your excellent publication,
October 25, 2012 at 1:21PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Hi Harry, thanks for your comment and readership! What I meant by your first quote is simply that it can be pretty rough out there sometimes -- even after you've given something your all, it's still possible to fail to impress. Also that, at times, any of us can be capable of extreme dedication (of course the short is quite exaggerated). I certainly hope my post does not make it appear as though I believe casting sessions are sadistic exercises in humiliation. (I don't :) Thanks again for posting, your comment offers a very strong and substantial perspective!
October 25, 2012 at 7:46PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I feel that casting often goes way overboard in their "requirements" for a simple part such as "Clipboard Girl." The simple and non-descript nature of this "part" was integral to her satire, with them asking all these irrelevant things.
Casting sometimes acts like only a Juilliard grad will do for a part like "Clipboard Girl" despite the fact that the onscreen time is likely 5 seconds, if not cut in the edit. I loved these videos. This is why we have gear and good instruction--to make art---and this, my friends, is art.
September 2, 2017 at 12:54AM
I really enjoyed both these shorts. Laughed out loud during parts of The Audition and then also felt awkward during other parts, but isn't that the point? Reminded me of Vin Diesel's short, Multi-Facial, that I just saw: http://tinyurl.com/c58y42l - I did like his better.
October 25, 2012 at 4:55PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Thank you John, awesome link!
October 25, 2012 at 7:48PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Wow, amazing story.
I think I want to become a screenwriter now. There is just too many good adventures to be written about.
Camera gear will always be there, the story is all that matters.
Maybe I should go back to shooting film too...
October 26, 2012 at 4:33AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Ha. These are great pieces. I'm surprised to find them on what has traditionally been a gear site.
October 26, 2012 at 7:35PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM