For a complete record of my academic activity, please consult my Curriculum Vitae.
My dissertation is currently titled "Making It Real: Performance Styles and Contexts in Contemporary American Microbudget Cinema."
The aim of this dissertation project is two-fold: to undertake one of the first long-form examinations of a group style of acting and to bring aesthetic analysis to a filmmaking realm that has received little academic attention – contemporary American microbudget cinema. The project will address the methodological challenges of describing, analyzing, and explaining film performance by directly engaging with a corpus of films made by a group of filmmakers who attempt to conceive, construct, and differentiate their work through a heightened commitment to realism, particular in terms of acting.
Realism, I argue, is at the heart of screen acting’s resistance to analysis, as realistic modes of performance tend to naturalize and deemphasize the aesthetic decisions made by directors, actors, cinematographers, etc. when constructing performances. This project will attack the problem of realistic performance directly, seeking to identify, demystify, and compare the prevailing varieties of realistic performance within a particular mode of production and taste culture.
I argue that realistic acting is not self-evident nor monolithic, but rather can be parsed into useful methodological and formal categories, categories developed inductively through close engagement with a particular set of films and the aesthetic discourses surrounding those films. Within the group of American microbudget filmmakers under consideration, the project will discuss a few significant strands of realistic performance, differing in their particular formal techniques, working methods, and aesthetic assumptions. In all cases, however, the filmmakers are explicitly working toward some form of realism, combining elements of naturalism, documentary, and minimalism in varying degrees.