DIRECTORS - ACTORS - WRITERS - CINEMATOGRAPHERS - PRODUCERS
Jill Soloway - Writer/Director: Transparent, Afternoon Delight
How can I become a director?
It's one of the most frequent questions I hear these days in LA. I encourage people to write or find compelling material, and then to insist to both themselves and the people around them that they are a director. You have to take it, I tell people. No one will give it to you.
But how do you get the tools to TAKE the reins? I steer every person who's looking to the workshops of Joan Scheckel. I was originally pointed in Joan's direction when I was hoping to get my first feature made. I was one of the way-too-many people who had received a rejection from the Sundance Filmmakers' Lab and was feeling a little bereft. I had years of experience as a TV writer but no studio or network would approve a first-time director. Gina Kwon, who'd produced a couple of Miranda July's features, suggested I might like Joan.
Like many people, the price tag scared me. I had been hoping to be "selected" for the gift of a free program or workshop, so having to reach into my own pocket to get the experience I wanted felt like a bit of a step backwards. But I pushed through this feeling and signed up.
The experience of being in Joan's Directing Lab was not easy. For the first few weeks, I wondered why I was there and whether or not I would be able to pull off what she insisted we needed to direct-- a sense of being present in the moment, an understanding of playable action as a tool to channel emotion, a stamina that would allow us to withstand the physical challenges of a feature set. As a writer, I had tools about character and dialogue, but as a director, I had a lot to learn about what we're actually doing with the camera. A few weeks in, something kicked in and I actually began to transform into a director. It's odd to me that even after ten years experience on the set of TV shows, I was completely lacking in a foundational language. I learned that language at Joan's lab.
I had to abandon the feature script that I was working on that summer. I learned so much about writing in those six short weeks that I could see anew huge flaws in my project's foundation. But I was more motivated than ever to take the helm. I immediately wrote and directed a short that ended up getting into Sundance. With the director credentials now around my neck, I was on my way. From the moment I returned from that year's festival, I was living and breathing my next feature. In this period before it came together, I employed things I learned from Joan about the intangibles of energy and relationships, producers and alliances and how the shape of the emotional nugget of the movie can inform the larger shape of the process. She handed me a map with clear markings that made sense.
By that summer, I was in production on my feature and by the fall, I found out we got into Sundance's dramatic competition. I know this is about to sound like an infomercial or a weight loss product, but a few weeks ago, at Sundance 2013, I won the Directing Award. (and lost 75 pounds!) (that part's not true).
So, yes, I still tell people-- no one can give it to you. You have to want it yourself. But if you do want it, and you want someone that can walk the path next to you and guide you toward the next level, Joan Scheckel's Labs are an actual, real live, tangible way to do it.
Mark Freiburger - Writer/Director: Dog Days of Summer, Jimmy
Joan's lab is the single-handed best thing I've done to date to prep for directing a film. I spent four years in a top-rated film school, and directed two released features before taking Joan's lab... but it wasn't until going through the lab that I felt enlightened for the first time as a filmmaker. Joan gave me a new outlook and taught me to see what I didn't realize I had within me. I am eternally greatful. Two days after wrapping her lab, I used the new techniques I learned and went out to direct a Doritos commercial for the Crash the Super Bowl contest. Out of thousands of entries, my commercial was selected as a Top 5 Finalist to potentially air during the Super Bowl, win $1,000,000 and begin a mentorship opportunity under director Michael Bay. In addition, I ended up completely rewriting the script I workshopped in Joan's lab... the combination of the informed rewrite and the Super Bowl buzz ended up landing me studio financing for the first time in my career. My third film is now being backed by a studio. If I hadn't taken Joan's lab, none of these great new things would be happening right now. The work in the lab is very hard, and very intense, but incredibly rewarding.
Christina Andreef - Writer/Director: Soft Fruit, Shooting the Breeze
I won a fellowship to go overseas and had heard about her from my friend Alison Maclean (with whom Scheckel also worked for her film Jesus' Son). She's got great underground buzz in Los Angeles, and I spent six weeks in a small workshop with six other directors. We took with us problem areas in our scripts and, at the time, I was having great problems with the three sisters (in the Soft Fruit script). And Joan cast them for the purposes of the sessions with three blonde actresses - that's all you can get in LA," says Andreef.
What I learnt most from her was how to put your scenes up on the floor and walking them through with actors and then watching and identifying the problems in the writing.
One of the things about improvisation is that it is often used inappropriately as an icebreaker. What I learnt from Joan is how to devise improvisational games that are meaningful and get through problems. We did a lot of work on building characters and understanding who they were, taping scenes and watching them back. It was something we don't get to do in Australia. It was like having a test drive of the film, before going through all the expense and stress of doing the real thing.
If you don't know what it is that she does, it can sound quite namby pamby - but it profoundly isn't. If you're a creative person and you're involved deeply in a project and you want a big juicy topup, she's the person to see.
Jamie Babbit - Writer/Director: But I'm a Cheerleader; Director: Gilmore Girls
Joan's workshops push you into your own very private, very specifically weird and wonderful artistic vortex where you can discover the answers to all your creative questions. Her approach isn't about "her" answers-it's an approach where you're pushed to find your own-a simple but creatively terrifying and gratifying process.
Jeffrey Blitz - Writer/Director: Rocket Science, Spellbound
Working with Joan in the weeks leading up to production on Rocket Science proved to be time very well spent. It was a terrifically fertile period for me where--encouraged by Joan's insight into performance, by her vivid and subtle sense of the emotional through-line of the story and by her keen editor's sense of narrative--I was able to connect more deeply with my own material and formulate a new and sharper focus. Plus, at a moment when many filmmakers feel pure anxiety, Joan's approach was so engaging and so full of humor and joy and fearlessness that it set a welcome tone for our work that my actors and I maintained through the end.
Adam Larson Broder - Writer/Director: Pumpkin; Writer: Dead Man on Campus
I so appreciate the work Joan did on our movie. Her coaching set a high standard for the whole film.
Russell Brown - Writer/Director: Race You to the Bottom, The Bluetooth Virgin
Joan Scheckel inspires you to push your material harder, and it's always enlightening and fun. The lab is a fantastic experience: it's a trip learning about Joan's philosophy through her physical and intellectual challenges.
Niki Caro - Writer/Director: Whale Rider, Vintner's Luck
I first worked with Joan Scheckel when she acted as script consultant on WHALE RIDER. We did not meet face to face for many months as I was in New Zealand, but during that time the script grew deeper and stronger under her influence.
She brings insight and clarity to every project she works on. She has a deep understanding of the architecture of a story and is as rigorous with structure as she is with character. She is both challenging and caring and is an invaluable partner on any project. Working with her is thrilling and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris - Directors: Little Miss Sunshine
Attending Joan Scheckel's lab was the single most valuable thing we did to prepare for making Little Miss Sunshine. She gave us a set of tools that made the daunting task of directing a feature very accessible (even enjoyable!)
She has a unique ability to inspire each of the directors she works with to build on their strengths, and correct bad habits.
Her candid approach whether in private sessions or workshops, wastes no time and gets right to the heart of the matter and produces real results.
Josh Goldin - Writer/Director: Wonderful World
I loved working with Joan. It was such a strenuous, limbering mental workout and so much of what came out of it stayed with me in a very deep way. The sense of serious fun you have when working is unusual and genuine and freeing. The notion that you can be reverent and joyous at the same time should be the definition of sanity, I think. (I read a while back that Liv Ullman had an absolute blast making PERONA.) Art can't be made with bowed head. The sessions we did privately were invaluable. And it showed in the performances, especially Matthew's which has been singled out as his best since ELECTION. I entered the grueling production with absolutely no fear of the actors.
My fearlessness and natural enjoyment of being with people after years locked up in my office writing made the set like a big party. There were moments I actually worried that I was having too much fun. A big epiphany that came during my work with Joan was that at a late point in the movie, Matthew's character feels two emotions at once--absolute love for the world, and utter devastation. Not being a programmatic sort of guy, I changed the place in the script where this was to happen, putting it at the very last moment of the movie. On Matthew's close-up, I gave him that literal direction to feel the two emotions at once. The pained, hopeful, sad, released look on his face closes the movie with poignant ambiguity.
Don Handfield - Writer/Director: My Name is…, Actor: Deep Impact
Joan's work is nothing short of transformational. Her labs not only elevate your directing ability and communication with actors, they guide you to uncover the emotional truth that lies at the center of your work. I can't recommend her enough.
Greg Harrison - Writer/Director: Groove, November
Taking Joan Scheckel's lab was a refreshing reminder that beyond all of the technical and logistical concerns of filmmaking, what we're really on set to do is to capture moments that are alive. The experience not only gave me practical tools as a director to create such moments, but even more importantly, changed the way I approached my writing.
Lynn Hershman - Writer/Director: Teknolust, Strange Culture
Joan has a remarkable intuitive and deeply resonant sensibility. She can instantly reach into the core of an idea and with spirit and insight draw out the best possibility for deeply felt truth in story telling. It is remarkable to work with her.
Miranda July - Writer/Director/Actor: Me and You and Everyone We Know, Satisfaction
It can be so scary to really look at what you are making - the desire is to shut your eyes and hope for the best. Joan is a warrior against this impulse, and powerful enough that you definitely want to be on her side. With this incredibly thoughtful, playful, generous ally, the process -- the clear-eyed looking -- is so engaging that the old fear quickly dissolves.
Jessie Kahnweiler - Writer/Director: The Skinny, Meet My Rapist
A few years ago, in an effort to help my work evolve from "therapy caught on film" Jill Soloway recommended Joan Scheckel's Filmmaking Labs and my life, work, and central nervous system would never be the same. Studying with Joan broke me down only to break me wide open. She's taught me that feels + craft = the truth. Whenever people ask how to break into the biz I recommend Joan's lab. It's not cheap but i promise you it will get your stories told and sold. THIS is the work and it never ends baby. See ya in class!
Mary Kuryla - Writer/Director: Freak Weather
Joan Scheckel made me a better human being.
By learning to work with actors through Joan Scheckel, you learn to work with yourself, to confront your own weakness, as well as your strengths -- both of which must be faced before you can ask another to face the same in themselves.
If you're willing to trust Joan Scheckel, then she can guide you to the truth. If your writing is going to be any good, then it had better be truthful. Every stitch of writing I've done that gets anywhere near truthful, is always the most dramatic. I wouldn't have gotten close without Joan Scheckel. She's the goods. She's a giant. But I wish I could fit her in my pocket every day when I sit down to write.
Joan makes you brave!
Alison Maclean - Director: Jesus' Son, Crush
Joan Scheckel has developed her own unique method - though I hesitate to call it that because it's constantly evolving - based on years of acting training and her many collaborations with writers, directors, actors and students. She thinks like an artist, but she's rigorous - coaxing people to go beyond what they already know. She's also playful (which is important) and her perceptions verge on the psychic. I've worked with Joan several times, both in a Directing class and one-to-one doing in-depth script analysis work, and she continues to challenge and inspire me.
Josh Miller - Writer/Director: Waffles for Breakfast
Taking Joan's workshop was one of the scariest things I've done. Also the most rewarding. She's a gifted storyteller and teacher, who gave me the confidence to breakdown scenes, and creatively explore with actors, without inhibition. She taught me about the craft, and in the process, I learned about myself.
Terri Edda Miller - Writer/Director: Dysenchanted, My Femme Lady
The process of working with Joan is one of illumination, delight and surprise. She takes you out of your comfort zone, then elevates your vision.
Mike Mills - Writer/Director: Thumbsucker, Does Your Soul Have a Cold?
It's hard to find someone who reads a script as deeply as Joan, and who researches a text with as many different tools: lots of emotions, running around a room, a broad knowledge of the history of stories, obscure classical music, perhaps a little psychic something, and on and on. Then, like a doula, it would be hard to find someone as sensitive and nurturing to the difficult process of having all these feelings, articulating them in a way others can relate to, even when you can't, even when it's beyond your present skill set. Even when I don't agree with her conclusions, the questions and the wrestling bring me to a much richer understanding of what I'm trying to do.
Christopher Munch - Director: Harry + Max, The Sleepy Time Gal
It was very useful, cultivating tools that help you when you get in a bind. You can methodically figure out what to do. If you have tools, you won't have to feel panicked.
Margot Nash - Director: Call Me Mum, Vacant Possession
The two week workshop I did with Joan provided me with invaluable practical tools for both script analysis and working with actors. I returned to the university where I teach enlivened by the experience and the insights I had gained into the creative process. My next film 'Call Me Mum;' a low budget (just under a million) feature-length series of highly theatrical interlinked monologues about race relations and motherhood in Australia, was always going to be a challenge. I was directing two completely untrained Indigenous actors and three highly trained white actors. I had my trusty 'Joan' book of notes from the workshop on set and consulted it often. We received three acting nominations in the 2007 AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards and the Indigenous actress won Best Supporting Actress in a TV Drama. Joan gave me tools to deal with problematic situations as well as practical tips for a director during rehearsal and on set. Wonderful.
Jennifer Needleman - Director/Producer: I Love Hip-Hop in Morocco
The tools that I acquired in Joan's class have stayed with me and will no doubt continue to inform the way I view the art of performance as well as life itself! My talented and creative classmates have become an integral part of my artistic community -- everything about this experience is enduring, not to mention fascinating, good fun, hearty food for the hungry creative mind and body. I look forward to working with Joan again and again and again and again.
Doug Pray - Director: Surfwise, Scratch
Despite the fact that I often work with non-actors, there were powerful lessons I learned in Joan's Directing-Actors Workshop that equally apply to my work with documentary subjects. The human interaction with the camera is the same.
Gaylene Preston - Writer/Director: Perfect Strangers, Bread and Roses
Joan Scheckel's labs provide a safe and collegial environment for intense exploration of that very much ignored but important space that exists between the page and the screen. This space offers the most potential as a purely creative part of the filmmaking process, but in reality it is often swamped by logistic and technical demands. Scheckels' labs provide directors and their creative teams with wide ranging techniques that are practical, inspirational and foster truth-finding in text and sub-text that can then be useful to director, writer, actor and cinematographer alike.
RE: Private Sessions:
Joan Scheckel's script sessions are less based on the rules of literary criticism and more on deep psychoanalysis of the story itself. They are unique, challenging, enlightening and inspire self -confidence. They are particularly useful to writer/directors, but certainly add heart and soul to what gets written on the page. In an environment where scriptwriting courses can seem like formulaic guides, Joan's approach is like a breath of fresh air. Definitely for grown ups.
Jake Scott - Director: Welcome to the Rileys, HBO Voyeur Project
I always tell people, whenever I sense their fear, something Joan told me the first time we ever spoke which is; "you are doing a tremendously courageous thing." So I guess it would be "if fear is what's holding you back, don't allow it, commit, then you'll be free and fly to new heights". Or, "miss this at your peril."
John Alan Simon - Writer/Director: Radio Free Albemuth, Producer: The Getaway
I had my own personal rehearsal process working with a pretty amazing "coach" named Joan Scheckel. She was recommended to me by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who worked with her intensively before starting Little Miss Sunshine. When I asked their advice, they praised her to the skies. By lucky accident, Joan's once-a-year intensive workshop was starting just before production on Radio Free Albemuth. The class was full but she made room for me. It was almost entirely focused on very direct and unusual techniques for getting actors to the place where they can access the qualities you need for the character. It was strenuous work and very physical. It turned out to be great preparation for me. As Walter Hill, once said to me, the hardest part about directing is directing yourself. Joan really helped me get back in touch with my story and characters and gave me some very useful new ways of understanding the actor's process.
Mark Romanek - Director: One Hour Photo, Never Let Me Go
Joan's class was certainly a worthwhile experience -- exhausting, exhilarating, and effective. Her love of the craft is genuine, her methods are sensible, and her enthusiasm inspiring.
Mark Ruffalo - Actor/Director: Sympathy for Delicious; Actor: You Can Count on Me, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I had the pleasure of working with Joan before directing my first feature. It was a crash course in directing done quietly and lovingly with humor and meaning. I had been working on the film for ten years and in that time become too close to it. I asked her to help me, "know that I know what I know", and she did just that. Joan lead me to the structure of the story. She led me to understand the logic of the film emotionally. Helped me find the tools that I needed to walk onto the set with confidence and joy. Consequently I always knew where I was and what I wanted. I was always able to let the Actors play and be free in the structure that I knew so well from the work I had done with Joan in preparation. I was able to communicate with my DP and crew what I wanted and why. Everything was funneled into the story. I highly recommend Joan for Directors and Actors alike. She really knows what the hell she is doing. She has spent years doing it. There are very few people out there that have such a clear handle on material and the trick of getting that material to a screen."
Danyon Davis - Actor: Waking up in Astoria, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, HBO Voyeur Project
Joan Scheckel and her team are one of a kind. There is no acting coach working in the industry who provokes such great work with as much ferocity, heart, and relentless love for artists and the work that they create. She is doing tremendous and much needed work to build a bridge between practitioners of emerging visual media and the ancient art of the performer.
Cyrus Farmer - Actor: The Wire, NYPD Blue, HBO Voyeur Project
Joan has managed to refine a series of techniques that allows actors to tap into the truth of a moment without losing sight of the text. It is a brutally honest approach to the work, but one that allows the actor, writer, and director to communicate with one another from a common place. She has an unbelievably sharp eye, but has the ability to transfer what she sees to the recipient so that the artist, through the use of her method, can learn how to approach a scene, character or moment organically themselves. I believe this method to be the future of artistic communication with the audience and cannot endorse her approach strongly enough.
Seth Gabel - Actor: Dirty, Sexy Money, The Da Vinci Code
Joan is a muse. She inspired me to embrace the challenge of being an expansive, great artist in all areas of art and life. She helped me feel safe enough to be vulnerable and secure enough to be powerful. She challenged me to connect to myself and to others, and to approach my work from a place of beginner's mind. Her labs are phenomenal.
Dakota Goldhor - Actor: Thumbsucker, HBO Voyeur Project
Joan has a real gift. She'll lead you through the landscape of your script and help you to discover the treasure both within yourself and your film. she has helped me to discover elements of my artistic self that I had supressed and forgotten about. There is no hiding from Joan which is why I adore her.
Gabriel Gonsalves - Producer: Next Stop Belmondo; Actor: Tosca, la verdadera historia
Joan helped me stay grounded, and focused on what was creatively being birthed here and now. I grew so much as a filmmaker by being part of her work.
Chet Grissom - Actor: Monk, Criminal Minds, HBO Voyeur Project
A living, breathing way of working towards the truth of a script or scene, which is both exhausting and exhilarating.
Pat Healy - Actor: Great World of Sound, Magnolia, HBO Voyeur Project
Working in Joan's labs is the single most rewarding experience I've ever had acting. It's also the most valuable tool in the enhancement of my work and career. The combination of psychological exploration and rigorous physical exercises provides you with all of the pieces necessary to being vulnerable, open and creative: everything you need to be at the top of your craft.
Gaby Hoffman - Actor: You Can Count on Me, Field of Dreams
In the span of 3 minutes Joan taught me how to walk.
Bryce Dallas Howard - Actor: Terminator Salvation, Lady in the Water
Joan Scheckel is one of those rare individuals who truly devotes her life's work to investigating the essence of Storytelling. She has designed a technique that is brilliant, powerful, organized, rigorous, and shockingly transformative. Working with her allowed for insight and clarity about concepts in storytelling that had previously never even occurred to me. She addresses the individual wholly, never allowing any separation between the person who is working and the work that is being created, therefore making the essential connection between our very humanity and the stories we tell. Simply put, her level of dedication paired with the true genius she possesses, creates unprecedented results in the creative lives of her students and the work they are generating.
Brittany Ishibashi - Actor: Eagle Eye, E-Ring, HBO Voyeur Project
I adore Joan. Working with her is always exhilarating, challenging and new--and always rewarding. Her incredible sense of union between artists and how to best "activate" a story always leaves me feeling connected, grounded and free! It's storytelling at its finest--it's storytelling in a way you couldn't have imagined. You are changed--awake-- charged after working with Joan. I can definitely say that I live a life that is more full and colorful and active because of her work.
Kai Lennox - Actor: The Unusuals, He's Just Not That Into You, HBO Voyeur Project
Joan is a true visionary who takes her students to the deepest depths of investigation to uncover the purity and heart of story.
Joan will kick your creative ass and leave you naked before your muse.
Joan will set your inhibitions aflame and incinerate your ego leaving room only for divine inspiration.
Jack Moore - Actor: Welcome to the Reilys, Stargate, The Oates' Valor, The HBO Voyeur Project
The truth is most actors don't have that many chances to really spread their wings and fly. If you're lucky enough to be included in a Joan Scheckel lab and you're willing to open your heart, mind and soul, you will fly. Joan's intuition, honesty and love of the art make for a wondrous journey. But don't be fooled – you will work and work rigorously, and sleep well that night! Beyond Joan's love of the art is her love of humanity that carries you through….an old soul who shares her wisdom with grace and humility.
John Morgan - Actor: Winter Sea, Favorite Son
Joan Scheckel is creating a community of filmmakers eager to create a wide range of films for the new millennium. Fundamentally rooted in the rich resources of the human body, her work enables you to viscerally articulate the core of your film. From there, using passion, humor, and tremendous rigor, she masterfully guides you through all the tools necessary to see that core come to crystalline expression. It's thrilling work. I can't recommend it enough.
Marianna Palka - Actor/Director: Good Dick
RULING WITH LOVE vs FEAR, JOAN SCHECKEL
Joan has had a deep impact on my life, to the degree that I feel compelled to recommend working with her to everyone I work with.
The first time I saw Joan I was working with Bryce Howard who was directing me in one of Joan's workshops. I was acting with Seth Gabel, in a piece written by Dane Charbeneau. We where in the middle of rehearsal when Joan burst into the hall. Now, hear me, hear me: I thought I knew what bursting into a room was, but before I encountered Joan Scheckel, I really had not experienced it AT ALL. Joan bursts into a room, she bursts the room. Joan entered among us like a windstorm. Her presence in the room was so palpable that it encapsulated us. Suddenly we were in our own world of work, that was so specific and so original, it made me remember all of the magical times as a child that I had worked in such a capsule, playing and creating and being truly free. Joan is there for you as a fellow artist in a way that I have also never encountered before, she is simultaneously your prison guard and your comrade. She is your loving caregiver, your inspiring enlightener while also being an enforcing magnetic wizard and a massive detailed set of piston muscles for you to keep up with.
After returning from The Sundance Film Festival in 2008- I had been there with a film in dramatic competition, Good Dick- I met with Joan privately. In Feb 2008, Joan taught me the difference between what is complex and complicated and it changed my neurological pathways forever. She fed me ezekial toast, bee pollen honey and tea. She asked me composite questions about my work. She reminded me about where my vitality is and how to remain in my body, even in the most chaotic and buzzing moments. She told me that the Maori sang a song to her heart once when she was leaving them, as a thank you. Joan speaks in an intricate language that is on an integrated level with all that is divine and special about being alive. She is our north star, our guiding light.
I did another work shop with Joan, an acting workshop. My partner Jason came to this workshop as I had been telling him all about the magic of Joan. Bryce and Seth where also in the class with us. None of us initially knew the other artists we took the workshop with personally. But as I recall them all now, their names and faces, and the way they committed to us and us to them, and all of us to each other, I am filled with a grateful joyful emotion that is aimed admiringly at Joan. Because these artists are my brothers and sisters in arms now. We've been on a superb road together. This kind of connection to the work, our art and to one another stems directly out of Joan's high quality of gazing at each of us. I swear that the way she regards you makes you a better artist, her eyes on you make you taller and bigger and deeper. Joan allows you to be as vast as you really are. She is an enabler. She gives you the cut fine tools you yourself need alone to maintain your precision. Watching her guide other artists in the workshop was profound. She rewinds your faint hearted defenses, and commands you to grow. And you do, you do so exponentially.
Joan Scheckel's work with plot and text has changed the way I read and write. Her eyes on a piece of writing are so sharp that you find your script melting before you, into oil and water, chemical vs organic, on key vs off, what should be there vs what need not be there. The technical wits that she has could be correlated with Yoda's or Joseph Campbell's. Joan's regard for the written word is symphonic in its disposition and yet honed to a single point, a note immediately in tune. She is so simple, but so complex. She's not complicated. She's a treasure. She's a master. We thank her.
Vincent Piazza - Actor: Boardwalk Empire, Rocket Science, The Sopranos, HBO Voyeur Project
Working with Joan was an eye-opening experience. She opened up a whole new world to explore in regards to character, arc and overall storyline, which I now try and utilize on every project I'm fortunate enough to work on. An amazing process...
Emily Wagner - Actor: Seven, ER
Working as an actress in Joan's labs is like an injection of artistic nutrition. Every sense is awakened, every creative cell, put to deep, profound work. The lab is a universe unto itself, a utopia of bursting creativity where the artistic self is given opportunity to awaken, stretch and grow. It is a community where intense rigor and playful expression align to explore and unearth the power of the written word. It is here where the page is brought to its most fertile, authentic life. Joan is a gift to any artist who wishes to deepen their connection to their work and to their own artistic selves. For the true artist, she is vital, crucial, necessary.
Erin Way - Actor: Sympathy for Delicious, Private Practice
Joan has the ability to hone in on the heart of the matter: the truth to the art of storytelling. She reminds you of what you already knew, but had forgotten. For me, it was as if I had gone for years wearing sunglasses, and Joan took them off. It was a reawakening of all my instincts. I will be forever grateful.
Rachel Singer - Actor: Fight Club, The Green Mile
Put Joan in a space with actors, directors, and writers, and without a doubt, the work, both individually and collectively, will soar to new heights. The creative flow she fosters and inspires is pure magic, cultivated with the precision and artistry of a true magician, and must be experienced to be fully understood.
Dagmar Stansova - Actor: Waist Deep, The Stolen Moments of September
Joan has given me the tools to harvest from my greatest gift: my ability to feel deeply. She has shown me that what I know as an actress also applies to writing and directing: that organic structure comes from depth of feeling, that feeling is a craft. Joan's teaching illumined my filmmaking path. Working with her built my trust muscle and established habits that cultivate authenticity and honor the expression of my own voice, my own luminosity, my own sense of time. Her work and the community of people around her, nourish my love of light as it expresses itself uniquely through individual artists. She is what she teaches: unification of heart, mind and body to create art that rings with love, beauty and truth.
Joe Forte - Writer: Firewall, Writer/Producer: Say I Do
Joan's directing lab was an amazing experience for me, and I put the emphasis on experience. It's one thing to learn with your mind, but when you are given the chance to experience learning with every part of your being, mind and body, etc, the learning goes deep. Joan's class is not for everyone. If you fear movement, risk or self-exposure of any sort, stay away. If you crave exploration that goes beyond your own pre-set notions of self and simultaneously relieves you of your ego, get ready to jump into the deep end of the pool. The initial sensation for me was shock, quickly followed by exhilaration, fear, and a deep desire to get back out onto dry land. But through Joan's conviction and caring, I stayed with it and found a sense of camaraderie, pragmatism, liberation and rooted-ness that are priceless to me. Joan Scheckel is one of my greatest teachers and her lab is up there among the most important learning experiences of my life, artistic and otherwise.
Tom Gallagher - Writer: Suffering Man's Charity
Joan's lab introduced me to a brave new world as a writer, that of the actor. It's the actor's world where the writing is made real and to understand and embrace that world is to become a better writer.
Joan's influence on my work as a writer will resonate for the rest of my career. Whenever in doubt, I always return to what she taught me - and what she taught me elevates my writing every time.
Mari Kornhauser - Writer/Director: Housebound, Writer: F.T.W.
Working as a screenwriter/director with Joan was a transforming experience. I don't think I could have directed my actors in my first film without the insightful line by line work, scene work, improvs, and all the other wonderful exercises and processes that Joan put me through the paces on. The knowledge base, skills and tools I learned from Joan's workshops I continually use today, from writing a scene to putting it up on its feet. I highly recommend any screenwriter and/or director to take Joan's workshops and to work with her individually before making your film. It's essential pre-production work.
Marti Noxon - Writer/Producer: Mad Men, Grey's Anatomy, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Private Practice
Joan's approach to directing is whole body, whole brain, whole heart! She immediately bonds the entire class, creating community and trust where risk and creativity can flourish. If I can bring even part of the authority and inspiration she teaches to set -- the entire process will be better and more fulfilling for all.
Ben Queen - Creator: Drive; Writer: Century City
Joan's class is a rigorous examination of the process of your material. It helps you get to the soul of your piece, but in a way that is specific, clear-eyed and down to earth. Yes, it demystifies aspects of the acting process, but it also deepens your understanding of how character and action are expressed. You leave the class with actual tools that you can use in better communicating what you're trying to say!
Joaquin Baca-Asay - Cinematographer: Thumbsucker, Two Lovers
I am a cinematographer and had only been directing briefly before I took Joan's workshop. Her workshop isn't just about acting (although I learned a hell of a lot about acting). It also gave me great insights into how to move the camera, how to use music, editing, scene and story structure, just to name a few. The experience was extremely intensive, really fun and deeply transformative. It was also incredible to be with other working directors in such a close and warm setting. Joan's workshop gave me real confidence with actors and has turned what was the scariest part of directing for me (talking to actors), into the part of my job that gives me the most pleasure.
Lisa Leone - Director, Cinematographer: Soul Tigers; Cinematographer: Karma, Confessions and Holi, Dirt
Joan changed my life course!
As soon as you think you've got it, Joan will come in and take it deeper and make it stronger than you ever thought possible.
She reaches inside of you and brings out the best.
Malik Sayeed - Cinematographer: The Original Kings of Comedy, Life and Debt
Joan's class has completely broadened my understanding and ability to communicate with the actor. Her course is indispensable for any director wanting to understand the tools and skill set actor's utilize and also how to tap into that skill set to get the desired performance from within the actor. I highly recommend it.
Jim Czarnecki - Producer: Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11
Working with Joan focused my story-telling skills and gave me confidence to apply them in the documentaries I produced such as BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE AND FAHRENHEIT 9/11 AND BIGGER STRONGER FASTER.
Actually doing Joan's workshop galvanized my ability to turn my film-making projects into a reality. Not only did I produce a movie for the director I worked with in Joan's workshop. (Curtiss Clayton's RICK with Bill Pullman) But she and her workshop taught me the discipline of defining a distinctive first person voice, increased my story-telling technique no matter what the context, and made me realize that movies are a wondrous whole reflected in ALL creative choices from music, to color palette to story. I was able to use all of this in the documentaries I made like BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, and every project I continue to produce.
Bridget Ikin - Producer: Look Both Ways, My Year without Sex
Joan's course is a gift. I had such a stimulating weekend, and came away full of admiration for her approach.
Laurie Parker - Producer: The Vintner's Luck, In the Cut
I love her. She's amazing: perceptive, deep, intellectual, warm, beautiful, funny and humane all in one teacher and performer.
Robin Schorr - Producer: Peaceful Warrior, Food, Inc.
Working with Joan is a most profound process of deeply probing the essence of a script and its characters. She is a uniquely insightful and delightful creative force and there is no script or film, which would not take huge leaps under her tutelage.
Marc Turtletaub - Producer: Little Miss Sunshine, Sunshine Cleaning
Joan's work is unique. It goes beyond screenwriting and directing - she just gets the creative process. A one of a kind teacher...
Anastasia Simone - Producer: 3 Doors Down: Away from the Sun
Joan Scheckel's Director lab is an opening to a new frontier of creative flow that unravels the old form and builds a new, stronger foundation from which to base your writing and directing on. It's a coming of age experience for any Director, of any caliber as it takes you face to face with the inner energy of your own creative force. Joan takes you to the edge, invites you to jump off the cliff, and for those who do, the joy of flight is unforgettable.
Michelle Satter - Director of Feature Film Program: Sundance Institute
Joan Scheckel is providing an extraordinary learning and creative space for directors and actors. She worked last year with the Sundance Lab fellows and her focus on storytelling and the practical tools of working with actors was deeply inspiring to all involved. Joan's workshop was rigorous, playful, and exhilarating. She helped each filmmaker build on their unique strengths; it was a beautiful awakening of their individual spirit and vision.