Featured Image for ‘A Play’ shows us how to perfectly criticize a friend’s shitty artwork
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‘A Play’ shows us how to perfectly criticize a friend’s shitty artwork

Criticism – whether it comes from others or yourself – can kill creativity. And sometimes, it can kill something else entirely.

In filmmaker Nino Mancuso’s short comedy, entitled A Play, we come across an awkward situation we’ve all been in before: providing honest feedback.

The story introduces us to Mark and Ryan who had just finished seeing a friend’s shitty play. On their way out, the cast and crew ask them for some feedback, to which the two struggle to express politely.

Inspired by similar experiences in their careers, Mancuso and writers Paul Witten, Sean Wing, and Mara Marini, made the film to poke fun at the awkwardness that comes with commenting on a friend’s work. They also did so to make us ponder the nature of giving opinions on something as subjective as art:

Should I give my friend a brutally honest feedback? Should I just lie to avoid hurting feelings? Am I even the right person to give my thoughts on the matter?

Speaking to Lost At E Minor, Mancuso explained the message behind the film.

“That Art is relative. Even if someone’s play or cabaret or stand up or short is terrible to one person, to another it might be beautiful, funny, or amazing. Or maybe even just relevant something in their own lives.

“We’ve become such critics, especially for those of us who work in the entertainment industry, that we can’t simply sit back and accept something and let it affect us.

“And of course, sometimes something is just terrible.”

In the following interview, we get to know more about Mancuso and the making-of A Play.

Please tell us more about yourself and the work that you do.

“I’m a hustling filmmaker in Los Angeles, and I’ve been producing, writing, and directing short films and web series for my own amusement for a number of years now.

“I’m hopeful at this point in my career that people will find the things I make as enjoyable as I do. I’m also pleased platforms like Short of the Week are out there to get our work in front of wider audiences.”

What was the inspiration behind the film?

“This film was a very collaborative process, so some of these answers will be not just my opinion, but that of myself and a few of the producers/writers/actors, namely Paul Witten and Sean Wing, who have described to me some of their most harrowing experiences in Los Angeles theater, both on stage as well as in the audience.

“That was the original genesis of the script, the satirization of those experiences that many of us have gone through, especially those few times when you go to simply support a friend and, frankly, you think it’s a terrible show.”

Could you quickly take us through the creative process involved in the making of A Play?

“As I mentioned, it was an incredibly collaborative experience. Working on a small budget forces a production to make some pretty key decisions early before anything else, and in this case that was finding a location that could provide the space for the entire short.

“Paul, Sean, Mara, and Tim all came together to decide on a general feeling for the piece as a dark comedy, and then I came on board to as a director to shape it.

“I was able to supply blocking and camera options, knowing that would be critical to keeping the short moving in one location almost exclusively, and then it came down to execution on the day. We had a very small crew, so we all had to wear multiple hats during production.

“Then we had a lengthy spell in post-production. We had a wonderful editor, Freddie de la Vega at NEAT Edit, who was very busy. He was worth the wait, though, and he squeezed us in for several editing sessions. It took many many months from start to finish, but we got there in the end.”

Is there a message that the film is trying to tell its audience?

“That Art is relative. Even if someone’s play or cabaret or stand up or short is terrible to one person, to another it might be beautiful, funny, or amazing. Or maybe even just relevant something in their own lives.

“We’ve become such critics, especially for those of us who work in the entertainment industry, that we can’t simply sit back and accept something and let it affect us.

“And of course, sometimes something is just terrible.”

We’re just curious, what did the aardvark really mean?

“It’s just a very funny word. Or maybe it isn’t. Or maybe it is…”

If you’d like to see more of Nino Mancuso’s work, head on over here.

In partnership with our friends at Glenmorangie, Lost At E Minor presents the second episode in the We Are The World We Create podcast series, dedicated to celebrating those people, and their exceptional creations, that help make the world a more interesting place. In this episode, Bigsy speaks to Masterchef contestant, Reynold Poernomo, and street artist Brad “Beastman” Eastman, and delves into why dessert is everyone’s favourite course and how being a street artist can change how you perceive the world. Listen now!
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