Doug MacHugh

BA, New England College. MFA, Sarah Lawrence College. Peace Corps, El Salvador. Writer of PSAs, commercials, industrials, and documentaries. Script writer and talent director at Gates Productions for 80 hours of local and regional live television in Los Angeles; one of two conceptual designers for Mitsubishi’s Waterfront Project, creating 32 amusement park attractions; creative producer of Red Monsoon, a feature film shot in Nepal. Film acting credits include Clean and Sober, Alien Nation, Come See the Paradise, and Weird Science; television acting credits include Guiding Light, Law and Order, Cheers, Quantum Leap, LA Law, and Night Court; stage credits include Holy Ghost, End Game, Zoo Story, Fishing, and Wat Tyler; directing credits include Platypus Rex, Mafia on Prozac, The 17th of June, North of Providence, Only You, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Weir. Co-director and co-producer of SLC Web Series, “Socially Active,” Web feature film Elusive, and television pilot “Providers.” Recipient of two [Los Angeles] Drama-Logue Critics’ Awards for acting. SLC, 2000–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

Filmmaking and Moving Image Arts

First-Year Studies: Respect for Screen Acting—Performance and Film

Open , FYS—Year

This yearlong First-Year Studies course will focus on both the organic and technical aspects of the craft of camera performance. The student will learn how to create three-dimensional characters constructed with a deeply detailed, emotional inner life that is supported through analytical comprehension of text. Through specific exercises, students will learn to heighten and expand their awareness of the physical and emotional senses and how to read, decipher, and support emotional and physical subtext. During the first semester, the primary focus will be performance work. Students will work on emotional substitution, conflict, obstacles, inner struggles, duplicity, and character journey. They will work on published scenes, group exercises, and application of improvisation to expand the inner life and backstory of the character. Using scenes from both contemporary and historical films, they will observe, write about, and discuss the political, historical, and cultural evolution of contemporary directing and acting styles. The second semester will offer the interested student the opportunity to learn, through hands-on application, the technical side, as well. Through workshops featuring editing, sound, camera, and lighting, the student will explore the various aspects of production. During the second semester, the students will apply these skills to rendering both written and original work in class. They will be assigned production roles, whether operating cameras or doing sound, lighting, or editing. Conference work will include the viewing, analyzing, and discussion of classic and contemporary films and related texts and, in the second semester, the completion of a finished, edited, and workshopped scene.

Faculty

Less is More: On-Camera Performance

Open , Seminar—Year

This course will focus on both the natural and technical aspects of camera performance. The student will learn how to create living, breathing characters constructed and crafted with an emotional inner life that is supported through organic impulses and analytical comprehension of text. The student will learn to create characters drawn from one’s own life experience, emotional substitution, and the limitless possibility of the imagination. The work will require a concentrated attention and expansion of emotional perceptions. The student will develop the ability to actively listen and see and not to anticipate or expect. The scene work will be taken from published screenplays, both contemporary and historical. Period work will require a richly detailed and historically accurate character study, paying attention to both the social and historical demands and the language. The scenes will be memorized, rehearsed, further explored with improvisational exercises, and reviewed with monitor playback. The scenes will then be camera blocked and shot in a workshop atmosphere that concentrates on performance rather than production value. Students will learn how much physicality is required for the master shot and for the two shot and how to harness the physical and emotional focus for extreme close-up work. There is the required movement aspect to this workshop, as well. Each session will begin with physical and emotional exercises that will allow the performers to move, to breathe, and to play. The student will be offered the opportunity to step behind the camera and observe what the DP sees in order to better comprehend the framing of a shoot. They will learn how to maintain and match continuity while using props and physical movement. Voice-over and ADR skills will also be explored. In the spring semester, the students will work on final scenes that will be either original or published. Those scenes will be costumed, with props and production value. Conference work will be discussed with each student individually. The course will include short writing assignments, weekly performance journals, short reactions to the required texts, and perhaps writing original monologues to be performed. This course of study is equally valuable to the emerging performer, director, and screenwriter seeking to understand the alchemy of performance for the camera.

Faculty

Previous Courses

Close Up and Personal

Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week. Class size is limited.

Great camera work demands intimacy, emotional adaptability, risk, and connection. Students will learn how to maintain an organic experience in spite of the rigid technical restrictions and requirements. During the fall semester, we will work on cold-reading techniques, emotional expansion exercises, and scenes from published works. In the second semester, we will put original monologues and scenes on camera. We will use a monitor playback system for reviewing work to help identify specific problems.

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Directing for the Screen: Developing Your Collaborative Process

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Process is everything. —Al Santana, filmmaker

The process of making films demands that people move quickly into a working relationship and get along with each other so they can successfully complete the film. Filmmakers are a nomadic collection of creative, disparate, eclectic characters and personalities. They come together, do some of the most intense work imaginable for a relatively brief period of time, and move on to new horizons—and possibly reunite down the road. This no doubt is why many directors repeatedly call upon the same people for other projects. Hitchcock, Allen, Scorsese, Campion, Tarantino, Burton, Bigelow, and Wes Anderson not only repeatedly use the same actors but also frequently collaborate again and again with certain members of their production team. A good director needs to be a good leader, highly intuitive, perceptive, and capable of delegating responsibilities. It is the director’s job to encourage collaboration, respect, creativity, enthusiasm and commitment. The director is responsible for maintaining a healthy working environment and for successfully managing emotional flareups and creative conflicts, and for coalescing divergent personalities—all while aiming to get the best from each collaborator on the journey to realizing the best-possible film work. The class will be broken up into two-member creative teams. Each team will submit for approval (or be assigned) two scenes to direct and edit. The scenes will first be workshopped, discussed, and rehearsed in class, using class members to read the material. Eventually, the scenes will be shot during class time. One team member will direct a scene while the partner will edit it, and vice versa. The team member who is editing the scene will act as the director's AD during the shoot. Classmates who are not directing on that particular day will act as the production crew. Students will be evaluated on both the creative success of the work and the overall success of the process. In conference, each student will research throughout the semester a particular film director, culminating in a final 10-minute, in-class presentation specific to that director’s style and using visual examples. Each student will also write and share in class an honest self-examination of the experience, detailing what was learned and what could be improved upon.

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Acting for Screenwriters and Directors

Open , Seminar—Fall

Personally, I would actually recommend that anyone who wants to start off on a director career or a writer career, I would suggest that you join an acting class. —Quentin Tarantino

Why are certain directors known as “actor's directors”? Why do certain directors consistently use the same pool of actors? How does a director create and maintain, on set, a positive, trusting, collaborative environment with the performer? They understand and respond to each other’s abbreviated language. Performers feel safe, which allows them to excel. One of the biggest issues for evolving directors and screenwriters is the inability to achieve the performance envisioned on the page or on the set. It is lost in translation. It is an inability to communicate without confusion, contradiction, and condensation of what one needs. Good directors respect performers and understand the rigorous demands of the craft. You will learn to create your own abbreviated vocabulary, one that is succinct and comprehensible to the actor. This will be both a physical and an intellectual course. Through exercises and rehearsals, students will study and engage in emotional expansion, impulses, instincts, improvisational skills, and chemistry and develop a hands-on vocabulary that is simple and succinct. This personal language will allow performers to feel confidant and create memorable, spontaneous moments. Students will keep a weekly journal of their journey. They will be required to read, view, and write critiques on a divergent group of contemporary screenplays and directors and will be responsible for understanding the political and historical aspects of specific screenplays and directors. The course will also analyze the emerging enlightenment and investigate the creators of new cable television series. Conference work will be to write a paper specifically dealing with one of the directors or screenwriters that we cover, including the historical, social, and political events corresponding to the time of the film.

Faculty

Performance for Film

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course will focus on both the organic and technical aspects of camera performance. The student will learn through hands-on experience how to create three-dimensional characters constructed with a deeply detailed, emotional inner life that is supported through the analytical comprehension of text. The performance work will emphasize spontaneity, substitution, conflict, consequence, obstacles, and character journey. The class will work on published scenes, group exercises, short writing prompts for the camera, original monologues, improvisation, reevaluating awareness of the physical and emotional senses, and how to read, decipher, and support emotional and physical subtext. This course of study is equally valuable to the emerging performer, director, and screenwriter seeking to understand the alchemy of performance for the camera. Students will practice comprehension of master, two-shot, and close-up performance, as well as working off camera, camera blocking, and comprehension of specific camera angles. They will learn how to maintain and match continuity while using props and physicality. Students will investigate how much one should do for the master shot in terms of movement and emotion and how to control the physical and focus the emotional for close-up work. Voice-over and ADR skills will also be explored.

Faculty

The Webisodics Project/Web Series Asylum

Advanced , Component—Year

This class meets once a week for four weeks.

During the fall semester, we will develop—through the theatrical exercises, extensive improvisations, and intensive character creation—an original concept that, during the spring semester, will be shot and edited over the following year.

The final concept will be determined by class input and the outcome of the creative process. Some characters will expand, some compress, some will go the way of the Tasmanian Tiger. The object is not to have the biggest role, the most dialogue, or the most scenes but to create the best collaborative ensemble work possible within the timeframe and academic constraints. The past three Web series ensembles have proudly created the Web series Socially Active, which can be viewed online at http://vimeo.com/channels/sociallyactive); the Web feature Elusive, which will be submitted to various film festivals this spring; and the one-hour dramatic pilot Providers, which is in its final postproduction stage and will be festival- or Web-released later this year.

Faculty

Performance for Film

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course will focus on both the organic and technical aspects of camera performance. The student will learn through hands-on experience how to create three-dimensional characters constructed with a deeply detailed, emotional inner life that is supported through analytical comprehension of text. The performance work will emphasize spontaneity, substitution, conflict, consequence, obstacles, and character journey. The class will work on published scenes, group exercises, short writing prompts for the camera, original monologues, improvisation, re-evaluating awareness of the physical and emotional senses, and how to read, decipher, and support emotional and physical subtext. This course of study is equally valuable to the emerging performer, director, and screenwriter seeking to understand the alchemy of performance for the camera. The students will practice comprehension of master, two-shot, and close-up performance, as well as working off camera, camera blocking, and comprehension of specific camera angles. They will also learn how to maintain and match continuity while using props and physicality. Students will investigate how much one should do for the master shot in terms of movement and emotion and how to control the physical and focus the emotional for close-up work. Voice-over and ADR skills will also be explored.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Acting for Screenwriters and Directors: Less is More—Learning to Talk the Talk

Open , Seminar—Spring

One of the biggest challenges for evolving directors and screenwriters is the ability to achieve the performance envisioned on the page or on the set. Instead, it is lost in translation. Performers are emotional, volatile, highly creative beings. To create the performance that you desire as a screenwriter and/or director, you need to develop a succinct shorthand language that is not confusing, condescending, or incomprehensible. The student will learn, through hands-on experience, how to recognize the truth of the moment and tap into and support the performer by recognizing his/her mercurial emotions and subtle physical indicators. How does a screenwriter write clear, concise, actable action and dialogue that can be transformed from the page to the performance? How does a director create trust with performers and find a language with which to communicate among a variety of actors, acting styles, and temperaments? By exploring basic acting skills, you will better understand the world of the performer. Beginning with a series of rigorous physical, sensory, and emotional exercises, students will develop a better understanding of the emotional palate. Students will be assigned contemporary film scripts to read and discuss. In addition to the texts, students will explore the historical and political underpinnings of the scripts and films. Particular scenes will then be extracted, memorized, and put up on camera. In the second half of the semester, students will have the opportunity to direct peers in scenes facilitating the skills learned. This is not a production class but, rather, a step to improve and apply your experience to your future film. Students will be required to keep a weekly journal of the journey, as well as to deliver a final conference project.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Acting for Screenwriters and Directors: Less Is More—How to Talk the Talk

Open , Seminar—Fall

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for evolving directors and screenwriters is the inability to achieve the performance envisioned on the page or on the set. It is lost in translation. How does a screenwriter write clear, concise, actable action and dialogue that can be transformed from the page to the performance? How does a director create trust with performers and find a language with which to communicate among a variety of actors, acting styles, and temperaments? Performers are emotional, volatile, highly creative beings. To create the performance that you desire as a screenwriter and/or director, you need to develop a succinct shorthand language that is not confusing, condescending, or incomprehensible. The best way to understand the world of the actor is to live within it. By exploring acting skills, you will better understand the world of the performer. Beginning with a series of rigorous physical, sensory, and emotional exercises, students will develop a basic understanding of the craft of acting. Students will work on spontaneity, substitution, focus, listening, reacting, subtext, objectives, action, and outcome. Students will be assigned contemporary film scripts to read and discuss. In addition to the texts, students will explore the historical and political underpinnings of the scripts and films. We will then extract scenes to work on as actors, memorizing and creating the personal inner life of the characters based on your own life experiences. Students will have the opportunity to direct peers in scenes to be rendered on video; edited scenes will then be critiqued to help the emerging screenwriter and director build a foundation of skills. Students will be required to keep a weekly journal of the journey, as well as to deliver a final conference project.

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Directing Methods: Creating a Solid Foundation Through Collaboration

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Spring

This is a scene development, writing, and directing methods class that builds on skills acquired in Acting for Screenwriters and Directors or in another related course. Thoughtful and rigorous viewing of feature film clips, original short films, Web series work, and accompanying screenplays will fuel discussion of what “works” or what doesn’t and why. In the course, students will write short, two-to-five-page vignettes. The idea is to capture a moment that can stand on its own and/or be the foundation for a larger piece that can be revisited and expanded upon in conference or in another class. Within the group, the screenplay texts will be analyzed, dissected, and discussed with an eye toward translating them to the screen. When the scripts are camera-ready, the students will rotate through assigned production responsibilities for each individual project, building an understanding of the mechanics and many moving parts involved in rendering a screenplay scene to the screen. Everyone will write and direct scene work. The focus will be on creating an environment that is inclusive and collaborative rather than authoritarian or competitive. The class includes hands-on tech lab workshops that help students with foundational skills in lighting, cameras, sound, and editing. Students will be required to keep a weekly journal of the journey, as well as to deliver a final conference project.

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