Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Montezinos: Role-ing with the punches

It's Friday afternoon. Adrienne Montezinos is on the phone. The Newburyport actress is getting ready for a weekend trip to Hatchling Studios, the Portsmouth animation studio owned by Marc Dole, to ... well, the details are still a little fuzzy. She won't know what she's going to do, exactly, until the evening, when her group, Team Pineapple, gets the phone call from the folks at the 48 Hour Film Project, which is kind of like Random Acts, the Newburyport play-in-a-day series launched by Leslie Powell and Hailey Klein six years ago, but designed for film rather than stage. The call will give the crew the first clues about what they'll actually be doing, usually revealing a genre, a prop, a character's name and a line of dialogue. Then all the crew have to do is write, cast, costume and film a short movie in two days. There would be about 75 people involved and, yes, the actress says, it's going to be a madhouse.

Montezinos, who has been building up stage, film and commercial credits since she "got the bug" about three years ago, got the nod to work, in some unspecified capacity, in the still-undefined project, in part, because of her performance in "Crooked Lane," the Chase Bailey directed short that won film of the year honors at this year's New Hampshire Film Festival. She plays Dr. Elena Leder, a psychologist treating a woman, played by Ann Cusack, whose daughter begins having visions of her murdered eight-year-old daughter in the paranormal thriller. She is in the
trailer and Bailey is planning on turning it into a full-length feature. The film, which also won best New England film honors at the this year's Rhode Island International Film Festival, although it is not, strictly speaking, a horror film, was edited by Dole. His Pineapple Pictures production "Tweet," a short about a crusty, old school cop, played by Bailey, who is getting left in the dust by a desk-bound computer nerd, won best directing honors and was runner-up for best film in last year's 48 Hour Film Project. And when Dole started building a team for tthis year's competition round, Montezinos was a known quantity. She would play a role. What that would be, she doesn't know. No one does. And, for now, it isn't even that important. "I love working in film, creating the inner life of a character on screen," she says. "I love the process of bringing a director or writer's artistic vision to fruition and collaborating with the team of creative people it takes to create a film. It's an endlessly fascinating process."

Originally from New York, Montezinos moved to the city thirteen years ago. She has a background in dance and choreography, training at Alvin Ailey and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and has worked with Exit Dance Theatre. ("Dance will always be a part of who I am," she says. "It's in my blood.") She began teaching pilates locally eight years ago, now running private classes through her own business. She got eyes for the theater about three years ago, and has performed at the New Works Festival and in Stacey Fix's Theater Workshop — including a role as the Sun, performed atop a ladder, in "Into the Act," a retelling of Aesop's Fables. Her most recent stage role was Christine Shoenwalder in last April's Actors Studio production of "Picnic." But increasingly, she has turned to film and commercial work — with increasing success in a variety of media. She's featured in recent commercials for Anton's Cleaners and Midas Muffler — not especially glamorous, but honest work, sort of, real work that pays the bills. On the big screen, in addition to “Crooked Lane,” Montezinos is in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and a comedy based on “A Christmas Carol” starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner (“very quickly,” she sasy, “about one second in the wedding scene.”) She plays a flight attendant in “Wichita,” the James Margoles action-comedy film featuring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz set for a summer 2010 release — another short scene for Montezinos, but one she shares with the stars. She’s also in “The Women,” the Diane English remake of the 1939 Joan Crawford film — a long shot in a health club with Montezinos sweating it up, sort of, on an elliptical trainer, right next to Annette Bening. And, no, the Pilates instructor slash actress isn’t all primed from a cardio-vascular workout. “It’s movie magic,” she says. “They gobbed us with glycerine to make us look dewy.” There’s lots of work, enough that the day-to-day grind of nine-to-five has started getting in the way of auditions and rehearsals, and the pace of the work has picked up enough to justify it, so she walked away from her job as assistant to the headmaster at Sparhawk School. "It can be a blur sometimes,” she says. “It takes lots of time, and organization skills. Sometimes there are several audition a week, sometimes not. There's a lot of fits and starts.” She'll be leaving for the mystery New Hampshire film project shortly. “It should be exciting," she says — "nerve-wracking but exciting. I imagine we'll all be pretty stressed out, but in a good way."

They get the call at 7 p.m. The theme is "the end of the world." It can take any form, natural disaster, nuclear annihilation — or the way the crew does it in what will become "The Bureau," a spoof of "The Office." They brainstorm ideas for a while, then the writing teams — there are two — get down to business. The rest of the cast goes home to rest a couple of hours before the real insanity begins. In the morning, everyone finds a copy of the script in his inbox — as well as pleas for wardrobe assistance. Montezinos, who landed the Michael Scott character, brings a black suit and pumps and Alice Cooper-like massacre strategies. Then back to Hatchling for 12 hours on Saturday and another eight on Sunday. "We just mobilized," says Montezinos. "It was amazing, it was intense.” The story looks at one of those bureaucratic shell games that comes back to bite you on the ass: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (that would be Death, War, Famine and Pestilence, for the Biblically challenged) get their assignment from headquarters — plan for the end of the universe. The job gets bogged down in red tape, which is fine, because folks in the office figure it's a gravy train that they'll ride to retirement, because it would ever happen, because, well, because it would be the end of the world and everything in it. Who would be crazy enough to do that? Then the financial crisis bankrupts the universe and the timetable for Armageddon is fast-tracked. The crew and cast won’t hear how Team Pineapple did until January. Either way, a party is planned.

Until then, Montezinos has plenty to do: She’s casting director for a new Web soap in pre-production out of Portsmouth called "Proper Manors." She’s also in a short film called "the Marriage Counselor" directed by Steve Day. She’s also working on a short short with local filmmaker and editor Brian Cassin. The working title is "The Shambling." She will play an undead woman, a role that could be informed by her work in The Bureau’s Department of Death. She's just auditioned as a model for a exercise machine commercial, done a voice-over for a Boston healthcare marketing firm and performed as a guerilla dancer in Boston in a campaign for Memorex and …

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