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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Martin Landau, Mark Rydell and Lyle Kessler Present "The Total Picture Seminar"

“The Total Picture Seminar” is a two day immersion into the collaborative experience of filmmaking with actor Martin Landau, director Mark Rydell, and screenwriter Lyle Kessler. This one-time special event geared toward filmmakers, actors, writers and anyone involved in the creative process of filmmaking is a close up and personal look at the inter-relationship of the three critical disciplines of narrative filmmaking.

This completely original seminar offers a unique opportunity to directly participate in the process required of all good filmmaking: collaboration. This is not just a show and tell, but a hands-on event that will include practical experience (how better to learn than by doing?). Unlike the usual class that instructs purely by lecture, “The Total Picture” is designed with interaction as a key element. Scenes will be selected from the writer participants and then acted by the actors who are selected by Mark, Martin and Lyle with the finished work presented and reviewed in class. In addition, Lyle Kessler will moderate what is surely to be a lively conversation between the attendees and the seasoned professionals as motion picture clips of the trio’s previous works will be deconstructed for acting, directing, and writing content.

Landau (Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Ed Wood”), Rydell (nominated as Best Director for “On Golden Pond”) and Kessler (recipient of the New York State council on the Arts Playwriting Award) have been kicking around the concept of this seminar for many years, which is only natural given their collective background for sharing their crafts. Landau and Rydell have been co-directors of the Actors Studio West since the 1960s, and Kessler has run the Actors Studio West Playwright/Directors Unit for 10 years (he has even served as director of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab). What they now propose is to take what they have always done within the Actors Studio and take it outside to the general public.

At one point there was some thought to establishing a whole school around the concept, but a seminar presented itself as the ideal forum in which to launch their curriculum. As the three men like to emphasize, a person can be taught varied aspects of the skills of each discipline, but it’s a whole other kettle of fish when you live it. And since they themselves have experienced success by understanding the complex ways in which actors, writers and directors collaborate on the most artistically rewarding level, they want to help others learn how to achieve the same success: by literally demonstrating the challenge of working with people you are likely to have never met before with varying degrees of ability – just like your first day on any set.

This opportunity should not be under appreciated, especially at the incredibly reasonable price of $250 (purposely set low to accommodate the struggling artist). Over the course of two days, you would basically be paying each man minimum wage for what can only be described as their invaluable life’s work, including their industry know-how, prestige, personal success, teaching experience, and collaborations with the likes of Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Al Pacino, and Albert Finney. Let alone the awards and nominations for Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys and Tonys. Now that’s a bargain!

The seminar will be held at he Haines Hall (Room 39) on the UCLA campus in Westwood on Saturday and Sunday, November 14th and 15th, from 10am – 6pm, with check-in beginning at 9am. For more details about the seminar, including instructions for writers to submit scenes to be considered, please visit:

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