Text and stills by Staci Layne Wilson
Video by Enzo Giobbe, with finished footage shot by John Gulager
Gulager's travels in acting began in the 1950s and for a time he was well-known as a Western and TV series special guest star. He's long been endeared to genre fans for his memorable roles in cult hits such as The Return of the Living Dead, The Hidden and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. Nowadays, he's wrangling vampires in his Film Acting Workshop. With Diane Goldner as a fanged femme, and Clu's sons John and Tom working camera and boom, the impresario oversees all and explains in detail to his select group of students what's happening and why.
The class I'm watching is a little different, because its focus is on the F/X and not the acting. Goldner is a fixture in the Workshop — having been a part of the Gulager family since the 70s and having acted with Clu in the Feast trilogy — today offering herself up for a messy syrup-mix bath of vampire bloodiness, violation via wooden stake, and so much more (she even acts as impromptu makeup girl).
"The students get together a scene (often written by Clu) which we film in the most cinematic way we can with-in the confines of having to shoot five to six scenes a class," says Goldner. "Because we were doing horror we first presented the whole scene then only shot F/X portion of the scene because F/X take so long.
"Every week we work at a different location. Students go to the location and rehearse and set the scenes there. On the day of class they present the scenes, Clu and John will work with the scenes and the actors and we shoot them simulating as filmic an experience as we can again with-in the limitations shooting 5 to 6 scenes a day. After shooting the scenes we project view and critique them on the same day! The short that we are doing with the class is a separate project which Clu workshopped in the class then we took the time to shoot as we would an actual film. We plan on showing it at the New Beverly when it is completed."
Clu's interest, focus and energy is commendable; it's hard enough to imagine he was born in the 1920s, but also to think he doesn't actually like acting. As he once said to journalist David Del Valle, "I don't have fun acting. I don't enjoy acting. I think acting is very painful."
From what I saw on the impromptu set, I've got to say it seems the students really get their money's worth from the Clu's very immersive and exhilarating workshop — next week, they'll be doing scenes in a moving car with a camera mount.
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