Below is a note actor, coach, and inspirational creative CK McFarland sent out to the Austin film community in recognition of fellow actor, coach, and inspirational creative Mona Lee, one of my film coaches.
I've asked CK's permission to post her note in its entirety here for broader awareness. I've added links for context. The commentary afterwards is all me. ;-)
For years I have wanted to see the Austin Film Community Host some Film Awards, similar to the ACOT Awards. Yeah I know they give them out at the airport to big name celebrities who have gone off and made us proud, and other celebrities who have passed through and made us look good.
But I'm talking about true Austin Awards acknowledging the truly great folks who have stayed, and not just actors, but other members of our community who have been dedicated, and worked so hard for us all. Oh yeah there are those few who continually get their name and picture in the paper , because they have helped put us on the map, and continue to do so. But there are also many other wonderful folks who have contributed in major gigantic ways to make a difference.
This is a tough profession, though not as hard as soldiering or coal mining. But there is perhaps no greater competition than being an actor, due in fact, to the sheer multitudes of those seeking dreams. Yet many (here) don't even have a clue what they are up against, the dedication to training it takes, or the number of actors they are competing against who have been thoroughly trained.
But within our multitudes, there are actual real live great actors living amongst us. Actors comparable to the best in our Movie Magazines. And some who even work a lot, particularly the men. Congrats guys. But I want to tell you about one actor I saw work on stage at UT a while back. OK, it was 30 years ago let's say. She was playing the outrageous role of Claire in A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee. Now I was in a special private acting school in California and was home to visit the folks. I went to the theatre and saw my first ever real true brilliant actor on stage. I had never in my life seen anything like this woman and the role she played, and it was breathtaking and galvanized my memory to this day. I believe she went on to Julliard from UT and made quiet a name for herself. Well I remembered her name - Mona Lee.
Mona Lee put us Austin actors on the film map. Our roots can be traced back to her. She is the source, the spring from which much of this sprang. When I moved here in 1980 and began a professional theatre ( with the Tuna Boys and Marco Perella) I hired her to coach the company. But she wasn't just coaching theatre actors, she was showing all the Austin actors how to transition to film and what we needed to do to accomplish that. She turned our heads right around and showed us we could be film actors right here in little ole Austin. And she's still doing that. And there is no better helpmate than her BIZ book - which every one of you should have by the way.
Now I am just sitting here at the end of the Labor Day struggling to figure out how to get my classes full, and thought of where it all started and why. It always goes back to Mona, my friend and my competitor (both as a coach an an actor). And I just might shoot myself in the boot giving her all this publicity, but I don't care. Because acknowledging people is so important. And so I acknowledge Mona, not just for her coaching and her BIZ book, but her history with us - a director writer producer and vital and amazing actor who lives amongst us.
She is the reason I have wanted to start some sort of Austin Film Awards So we could give her a the first one and say 'thank you Mona". Good God people need to be acknowledged and I just wanted to start at the beginning. I guess I'll go get something engraved.
I studied with Mona in her beginning and intermediate classes. She had a subtle style that got a lot out of me. And despite being an active coach and working actor, she's also very available.
All of the stuff CK says is pretty inspiring by itself, but carries even more weight and import coming from her.
CK has herself and inspired and pushed so many actors in their craft, and done so much for the Austin creative community.
My current coach, Steve Prince, says of her,
"There isn't a more creative, Dynamic teacher around than CK. I have had the pleasure of teaching with her and I learned as much as I taught. I filled my notebook with thoughts and techniques I learned while listening to CK critique our students. Her workshop is a safe place to push yourself beyond your perceived limitations while inspiring confidence in your craft."Casting Director Donise Hardy (CSA) says of CK,
"CK McFarland is an invaluable leader in our entertainment community. Over the past 8 years, I have had the privilege of working with CK and on many occasions have watched her film students work at Alleywood. I am always impressed by the growth I see. "And you can even catch some of CK's work on YouTube (clip embedded below, and recorded before the recent passing of Texas film and interactive incentives legislation).
Every actor should be on set or in class all of the time -- regardless of our level. Austin has a great coaching pool, and a sub-set of those folks are of some of the best, most passionate mentors with which I've been blessed to know. I mention many of them regularly in this column. And Mona and CK are two more of the greats.
Let me know if you need either of their contact information.