This week, BTSCelebs’ virtually interviewed the Head of the Second City Training Centers TV, Film and Digital program, Jack C. Newell. Chicago‘s Second City headquarters is embarking on its Summer 2014 semester and he took time to expound on the details of the program and Second City in the Midwest.
BTSCelebs: What sparked your interest in comedy?
Jack Newell: I have no idea. I have come to believe that you (I) really have no choice in the matter. I don’t think I chose comedy. I don’t think I choose the films I make. I think comedy for me, and for a lot of people, is a compulsion or a way of life. It’s not like I was walking down the street one day and saw an advertisement for Comedy (TM) and was like – huh, that looks interesting maybe I’ll do Comedy!
So… that doesn’t really answer your question.
I express myself through comedy because life should be laughed at, not like some idiot laughing – but making someone laugh allows you to have a conversation or creates an intimacy (with the audience or another person) that might not have happened otherwise.
Why did Second City decide to take root in Chicago?
Well, if you look at the actual history of The Second City it kind of grew organically from the early days as the Compass Players at UofC and then folks from that group creating The Second City, in the early days, as I understand it, they were just making theater. They were people who, most of the time, had day jobs and then at night got up on stage and expressed themselves. As time has gone on, and The Second City became a “thing” we have put all these labels on it. But, what I think is great about it is that it was organic and grew on its own and that’s why it’s so well known. In a lot of ways, the independent film scene in Chicago is very similar. People are making their films, shorts, web series, etc. – they are people who have day jobs and at night they go out and express themselves in film/video.
Your Training Center is launching a new program, what will the TV, Film, and Digital program offer Chicagoans?
I think what the TV, Film & Digital Program can offer Chicagoans (and, people world-wide) is in a couple of different ways.
Actors and improvisors who are excelling on Chicago stages can take our classes to learn how to adapt their stagecraft for the screen. Stage and screen are two different mediums – everyone knows that. What we can provide is knowledge, practice, and guidance to help improvisors and actors excel in both mediums. One small, overly simplistic example is that on the stage if you want to take the focus of the audience you would move from upstage to downstage. Downstage being closer to the audience, and they can see you better. Usually a Shakespeare soliloquy will happen in the downstage area. In film, if we want to give focus to an actor, the director places the camera in a close up or medium close up. I had a teacher in film school tell me, “on the stage you walk into a close up. In film, you cut to a close up.” Ideas like that help the actor/improvisor better understand how to use the language of the art form to express themselves.
Writers , directors, producers who are looking to dive into the world of film, video, web series, shorts, TV, etc. – we will have classes that give them practice, guidance, and in-the-field experience shooting to better understand the filmmaking process.
Again, in overly simplistic terms – on the stage the script is king. You don’t ad-lib Shakespeare or Mamet. In film, the script is a blueprint. I always like to say that you can buy a copy of Hamlet, read it, enjoy it, and have essentially experienced Hamlet. No one does that with film scripts, because the script is a tool for the filmmakers, but it’s not the end all be all. Screenplays / scripts live in this weird purgatory that they almost aren’t even screenplays until they are turned into films. It’s a “if a tree falls in the woods” sort of thing.
Will any former alumni teach the classes?
Yes. Definitely, but I am not currently at liberty to say more.
Mr. Newell answers the following questions in part 2 of our interview:
Tell us about some of the people you knew who started in Second City that rose to fame.
Other than comedy, will the new program focus on different genres of film – drama, adventure, action?
You had your films screened at several film festivals, what was your favorite festival and tell us about an unforgettable moment there?
What Jack C. Newell project can we expect to see in the near future?
*A Special Thanks to Jack C. Newell and Liza Massingberd/The Silverman Group for the Interview and Images*