Ash McNair and Enzo Cellucci co-wrote and directed the short film ‘Class.‘
The inspiration for the film is based on actual events that McNair and Cellucci both endured and witnessed while pursuing their acting careers. The short represents the process and anguish artists go through to strengthen their technique. The main character Max attends his first day of acting class, where he sees and takes part in the class activities, which seem unusual but pique his curiosity. The class dynamic can be compared to a cult, driven by the need for validation from their teacher Adam. This need pushes each student to follow directives, which seem outlandish but grant them the approval they seek. The film depicts situations, and methods artists and actors, subjectively allow for themselves to be an embodiment of their craft.
McNair and Cellucci spoke about the message and intent behind the creation of this short film. ‘Class’ has been selected to premiere at the Dances with Films festival in Los Angeles at the TCL Chinese Theatre on September 3rd at 4:30 PM PT.
The Knockturnal: What inspired you to create the short film ‘Class’?
Ash McNair & Enzo Cellucci: Class originally existed as a short scene within a feature script we were working on. As actors ourselves, having taken various acting classes over the years, we experienced and were witness to some pretty absurd situations. We describe Class as “our love/hate letter to the actor, a satirical insight into the process of being a performer and a glimpse into the soul of what it means to be an artist.”
The Knockturnal: What message are you trying to send to viewers?
Ash McNair & Enzo Cellucci: With Class we wanted to explore “the process” or “the suffering” one must endure to be a “great actor”. At the same time, we wanted to highlight the very real trauma that can sometimes be inflicted when you have a group of people desperately seeking validation and approval, and a teacher who thrives off providing/withholding that same validation. The contradiction of how painful it is, but also how rewarding it can be is interesting to us. It can often lead to a mini cult – but we’re not saying that’s necessarily bad.
The Knockturnal: How much of the film was pulled from aspects of your own personal experience while pursuing an acting career?
Ash McNair & Enzo Cellucci: All of it. Every scene in the film is something we have participated in either in acting school or an acting class.
The Knockturnal: The treatment shown by the teacher towards the students seemed to be both controlling and demanding. Why do you believe people accept these treatments in order to follow their passion?
Ash McNair & Enzo Cellucci: It starts with the intense yearning for approval and validation that we all have – actors and artists perhaps more so than most. We identify so strongly with what we do, it’s us up there on stage or in front of the camera after all. Our self-worth is tied to our work, and it’s subjective. In an industry that can be so merciless, we’ll take any shard of approval or validation we can get. On top of that you have a figure like the teacher, Adam, who seemingly has the key – and you’ll do anything to get it.
The Knockturnal: Do you believe if people spoke up more about the behaviors and what happens behind the scenes there would be less tension? Or do you feel like it would create a larger problem?
Ash McNair & Enzo Cellucci: No, we believe this type of acting class thrives on a cultish environment. It won’t work unless you buy it fully. It can be emotionally devastating but some people want that devastation, many of the greatest actors came from classes like this- and even still attend classes like this. We’re not making a judgment call on it, we’re just presenting. But we have to remember that this is a class these people are signing up for, this dynamic is sought out and co-created by the students as well – they want this done to them. They’re paying money for it and as adults can, in fact, opt out if it’s not for them.
The Knockturnal: In the final minutes of the film, Max was asked “how he liked” his first day of class. Before answering he looked as if he was conflicted. What thoughts do you believe were going through his mind at that moment?
Ash McNair & Enzo Cellucci: Max is still sitting with the trauma he just endured, but he has also satisfied some deep yearning to express his pain in a way that maybe he doesn’t have permission to in real life. Next to that he earned the teacher’s respect and admiration and that’s the perennial dichotomy; laying yourself bare, winning approval and validation, but at what cost. To be great artists do we NEED to suffer? Or do we just want to suffer? Really what we’re wondering is – are some of us just closeted masochists?
The Knockturnal: The short film ‘Class’ has been selected to play in the Dances with Films Festival in Los Angeles. How did you find out the film was chosen? What was your reaction?
Ash McNair & Enzo Cellucci: We were emailed directly by the festival, which was a wonderful email to receive. We were thrilled when we heard we were accepted. Dances With Films is a festival we have a huge amount of respect and admiration for, so being selected felt amazing. Also to have our film play at the Chinese Theaters, just up the road from where we actually met at acting school over a decade ago – it’s a little bit of a dream come true!