Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Collin Chute, talks about playing Eric Harris, in "THE COLOMBINE PROJECT" and using the ENERGIZE method:

Emmanuelle Chaulet: Hi Collin, it's such a pleasure to interview you. We had met at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) when I taught there a week-long workshop about my book A BALANCING ACT. You just closed the show The Columbine Project which played to sold-out audiences at the Avery Schreiber Theatre in North Hollywood.  It is such an amazing project which raises awareness to school shootings. You had a very demanding role as Eric Harris one of the two school shooters, and mentioned you used the ENERGIZE work I teach for this role. Tell us a little bit about the project, the play and how you got cast for the role:

Collin Chute: I moved to LA from Virginia this past January and shortly after signed with Ryan Glasgow and Bohemia Group. I had met him in much thanks to VCU  and the Actor's Connection the previous year. He told me about an audition for a play called "The Columbine Project." I was intrigued because of the power of the subject and knew this was a story that needed to be told, re-told from different angles. The script was non linear including multiple perspectives from teachers, students, parents, and the shooters themselves. When I auditioned for Eric Harris, one of the two shooters I had this long swooping hair which I would later shave. When I walked in the writer/director Paul Storiale whispered to the assistant director Bree Pavey, "Why is Justin Bieber auditioning for this? Is Ryan (my manager) out of his mind?" I threw on a backwards hat, took a few seconds to conjure Eric's energy, did this creepy monologue and completely changed their minds, haha.

How did you reconcile liking your character with what he did?

Collin: I think an actor can't judge their characters or they have already lost the battle. I did lots and lots of research and realized that Eric Harris was just a high school kid like everyone else except for maybe a few odd tweaks in his head, combined with some of the people he was around, and his environmental circumstance, leading to an awful end. Eric was indeed a sociopath, but I couldn't help but think what if I was born in his situation with his genetic make up? How would I behave? I certainly don't condone anything he did, but I could piece together where his anger evolved from. From there I think it just snowballed and became out I control. I still have a difficult time thinking about how he actually pulled the trigger.

What was the most difficult aspect of the role?

Collin: The hardest part of this role was to show that Eric wasn't just a monster, he was a human being who lost it, and made some terrible choices. Playing a villain can be easy because they are often reduced to being one dimensional, but this was a non-fictional complex human being that I had to bring justice to. He didn't just lose it in one day.
One of my favorite scenes in the play Eric is flirting with a girl, talking, just being a normal teenage boy, talking about maybe taking a trip after graduating to Costa Rica. Costs Rica was the first country outside of the US I had visited, and I've been there several times because my mom takes yoga retreats there, and it just struck a chord with me that connected Eric and I. I felt so much empathy for him while reading that scene because I knew he was so close to just living a regular life. That made it easy for me to embrace the role, but made the challenge of giving him an honest portrayal so much more difficult.
After one of the shows we had a talk back and an audience member thanked me for playing the role with no judgment, and that was the highest complement I could have received.

Did you find that the energy of this character would sometimes take over, and if so, what did you do to deal with it and regain control?

Collin: When I took on "The Columbine Project" as Eric Harris I knew I was going to have to go to a very dark, dark place to get there, and I would have to go all the way to the bottom because this was a story that needed to be witnessed through truth. My first thought was you and the training I had received through your workshops at VCU. I knew that I had to be safe going in and out of a character like this and you gave me that power by physically visualizing my character's energy, giving it a color and bringing it into my body. Not only does this achieve a safe entry into a character like Eric Harris, it provided me focus and a complete comfort knowing I was always Eric while that energy was in me. Doing this dissipated any nervousness converting it into focused energy.

After collecting all my research and analyzing the script, the energy of my character became my top priority. I had to find Eric Harris' energy, which was absolutely frightening. Through the natural process of rehearsal, research, journal writing, and meditating I found Eric's energy and used your teachings to harness that energy with a color, bringing it into my 7 chakras.

Leaving this character at the end of each show was a must in order to remain mentally healthy.
Through this particular energy, there was incredible power and confidence to be found within the craziness. That power was absolutely addicting and I had to use your technique to safely release that energy after every rehearsal and show or I would have been walking around like a nut, haha. In fact there was one day when I didn't release that energy for whatever reason, forgot about it, and I felt  completely overwhelmed with life to the point where I began to cry. It's a little embarrassing to say, but it's a testament to how important it is to step out of character. Which I soon did, once I realized what was happening, haha. I released the energy, and brought in new pure white light which instantly calmed me. Visualizing Eric's energy as black with grey speckles and a touch of white I took my time releasing that through my body. After all of Eric's energy was drawn out of me, I cleansed my energy system by bringing in a pure light, allowing me to become fully present as myself.
I'm grateful for that day because I will never go without using your technique again, because it is so vital to take the time to step out.

The show just closed, did you do something at the end of the play for your personal closure?

Collin: When I released the energy every night I always hung onto an imaginary thread that connected me to the character so I could easily retrieve him. When we closed, it was hard to cut that thread for good. I smiled and said thank you and goodbye. Because even through Columbine was a terrible tragedy,  good things have come out of it, such as "Rachel's Challenge," and through my portrayal of Eric and everyone's amazing performance I knew people would be more aware and understanding to the complexities that created such an awful thing, thus creating positive change.

Is there a future project you want to talk about?

Collin: I know that Paul has adapted the show into a screenplay and he just needs the right producers to jump on board to make it happen. I would love to be a part of that, but for now I'm just grateful to have been able to grow and give so much through such a meaningful story. Thank you Emmanuelle for allowing me to go to places as dark as I had to go and to return feeling like myself with such ease.
Through your technique and making it my own I have avoided unnecessary stress, gained focus, and have brought a sense of honesty to life that was unachievable before.

Emmanuelle: You are so welcome Collin! I wish you the best in your career. You are starting it with an amazing intensity, and I have no doubt you're going places!

For more info on A BALANCING ACT and the ENERGIZE technique, please visit www.emmanuellechaulet.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


How do you define Presence? Is it something that can be developed? Can you increase charisma?

Isaach de Bankole in Chocolat by Claire Denis
"In 1988, I got cast in a small role in Chocolat by Claire Denis, and flew to Africa (Cameroon) to shoot for two weeks. There, I could observe well-known actors in a more traditional type of movie. My part was very small and quick. I was playing a white woman who would get very sick and cry in pain, but her husband would not tolerate the fact that a black doctor would have to take care of her. It was always easy for me to dive into the pain, so the shooting went quickly. After I was done, I went to the set daily to watch the others. I could see the way the lead actors were concentrating, focusing, tuning inward. Isaac de Bankolé played the black African servant to the white colonists, who fascinated the mistress of the house by his fierce beauty. He did not have a word to say in this part. His role was the lead, but was completely silent. Isaac was doing remarkable work, taking everything in and expressing subtle ties. This was again an incredible learning experience. I discovered that presence is something immaterial; it does not rely on words. It relies on character development. The energy of his character was radiating through him without the use of words. It was passing through his look, his eyes, his hands, his posture, and even his back, when he was turning away from the camera. His masculine strength and energy was shining through him, via his instinct. I then realized that too often actors get caught up in the words, in the analysis of the text, instead of letting their instinct and higher intuition guide them. They use their mind and intellect. Isaac used his guts. I was beginning to understand. It was Lesson #4: Presence is an immaterial energy. It does not rely on words; it shines through the character."

Exert; A BALANCING ACT © Emmanuelle Chaulet 2008

For more info on workshops and coaching to develop presence, please visit www.emmanuellechaulet.com