I am convinced Aisha Tyler is slowly taking over television. You can hear her voice on season 8 of FX's "Archer"; the season 12 finale of CBS's "Criminal Minds" airs next week and she's already wrapped filming on season 13; Tyler's fifth season with The CW revival of "Whose Line Is It Anyway" begins at the end of the month; and she is a daily host on CBS's "The Talk," which is where I caught her on her lunch break between tapings.
"I'm super tired," she jokes in response to my curiosity over when the woman sleeps. "That's why I'm eating on the phone, which is so rude!"
Featuring Q&A with director Aisha Tyler
WHEN — 8:45 p.m. Friday
WHERE — Cinetransformer Apple Blossom, 201 N.E. 3rd St., Bentonville
COST — $10-$15; no advance tickets available. First come, first serve at the door.
INFO — bentonvillefilmfestival.com
Though Tyler isn't currently filming for "Archer," "Criminal Minds," or "Whose Line," her packed schedule now has the addition of traveling to film festivals in support of her feature-length directorial debut, "Axis." With plenty of on-screen experience and time spent behind the camera for several short films, Tyler saw an ideal opportunity for a first feature with the action-thriller, starring and written by Irish actor Emmett Hughes, with whom Tyler has worked in the past.
"It was just kind of like a magical thing that [Geena] had a festival that was focused on female filmmakers and I was in the process of putting my first film together," Tyler says of Geena Davis' guest appearance last year on "The Talk," where they discussed the actor's festival in Bentonville.
Just a few days before her film will show at the Bentonville Film Festival -- where Tyler will do a Q&A with the audience -- she took a few minutes to chat with What's Up. And if you're reading this like a conversation, hit fast forward because Tyler's brain is going a hundred miles a minute!
Q. "Axis" is its own unique project because it's so nontraditional -- with just one actor [on screen], and it all takes place in such a confined space -- what was it like trying to figure out how to still offer a visually compelling story through these restrictions?
A. That was the biggest question. I think a lot of directors will tell you this: Once you kind of take a lot of creative options off the table, when you restrict your choices, then the solutions to that problem become creatively innovative. So that challenge was how do I make a movie that's set in a car dynamic and exciting and visually compelling, but that was a really fun math problem to solve, and it really made the project interesting and intricate and unique. And it's nice to have something unique to talk about when you're trying to cut through the clutter of all the art out there.
Q. I'm sure having experience in front of the camera gave you some insight into what makes a director easy to work with or able to get a strong performance out of an actor?
A. I'm not saying that all directors have to have been actors, but I think some of the greatest directors I've worked with have been actors because we have a shorthand with each other that just comes out of being an actor. Knowing how to ask for what you want, knowing how to communicate concepts and kind of emotional thrusts -- it's just fewer words. You can kind of figure out what you think an actor needs because you know what it feels like to be on the other side of that conversation. But I also spent years and years shadowing and directing short films, so by this time I had a real sense of my own approach to directing, which helped a lot.
Q. I would think when you're playing a character, you might be more concerned with how the audience connected with the character, or if they laughed at the jokes. So what kind of response to "Axis" were you more interested in from the director's perspective?
A. Obviously, you need people to care about the character; that's the core of every film. So getting people really invested in Tristan's life and his stakes and his successful outcome, that's really important. You use lots of tools to do that when you're directing, not just the acting. The way you shoot the film, the way you cut the film, the music you use -- it's all about drawing people into his life and getting them invested in his success.
But I also wanted to give people an experience because even though there's just this one set, which is this car driving through L.A., there's this second kind of larger, more expansive set which is the city of Los Angeles. I really wanted to make that a character in the film and give people a feeling. What does it feel like to drive through L.A. at rush hour and you're trapped in traffic and the sun is streaming sideways through the windows of your car and the dust moats are swirling and you're a little bit drowsy and you're a little bit irritated that you're stuck in traffic? But you also have this kind of lovely, warm solitude of being alone -- which can feel at times kind of isolating and lonely and at times kind of enriching and delicious that you get this little bit of time alone before you have to deal with the outside world. I wanted to give people a little taste of what that feels like. Because you know, we live in our cars in L.A. They become our offices and our bedrooms and our therapists' couches and our storage rooms and our rehearsal spaces.
Q. You'll be doing a Q&A at the festival after the film -- what do you enjoy about interacting with audiences in this open-format way?
A. What's been so interesting for me is people will say, "What was the outcome you hoped for for this film?" and I'll be like, "Well it's already happening." Making a film and then getting to enjoy people enjoying it, then getting to talk about the film with them has been, as an artist and as a person, incredibly enriching and enjoyable. The film is very layered and there are a lot of twists. So seeing how [people's] experiences vary and actually watching audience members talk to each other about what they thought of the film, I've already kind of like hit all of my goals for it. Everything else is going to be gravy.
Q. Do all these different projects and shows allow to you feed different interests, or different parts of yourself?
A. Yeah, and also to grow and stretch myself in ability. I think I was kind of always drawn to the thing I'm least strong in or the thing that I'm frightened by the most. I try to push myself to grow in as many ways as I possibly can. There's nothing wrong with being a specialist, but I don't know that this business, the entertainment business specifically, necessarily rewards specialists. There's a lot of caprice in this business, and I think my original goal was just to do learn everything I could [to] have competency in a bunch of different areas so that I would always be working. And that's kind of translated into being a little bit more of a polymath. Maybe it's that I bore easily, I don't know. But I definitely think they're all kind of facets of the same job, rather than a bunch of different jobs
NAN What's Up on 05/02/2017
Print Headline: 5x5 Five Minutes, Five Questions Aisha Tyler