Eternal Sunshine

Last Wednesday’s class presented a whole new challenge; that of being drunk. I was tipsy in a comedic scene over a year ago, and worked on being drunk in my first ever Tom Todoroff intensive, but it isn’t quite something I have mastered yet. Which was largely due to the fact that I am usually too shy to really go for it, but this time it was more about not really having the life experiences to back it up. Which is a frequent problem of mine, and the reason I am trying to get me some life experiences now. Not necessarily getting drunk, because I don’t generally drink, but I am trying to do all of the things that scare me. And live more in the real world, rather than mostly vicariously through books and writing.

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Our scene is from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where I play Clementine. We ran it a few times before class, where playing drunk got me nervous so I was shaky on my lines the first time, but I fixed that. He had trouble with one so he changed it, and I told him it was okay as long as he said something mean to get me upset.

I was on camera for the first scene, and then it was our turn. Suzanna had returned a hat she borrowed from me, so I used it as a bit of business at the top of the scene. I would walk in wearing the hat, throw it across the room while taking off my shoes, then lean against the wall, which was the biggest proponent of my drunkenness.

Our first take, Suzanna congratulated me for going there, but she wanted me to be less of a cute and giggly drunk. I tried to get offended more, to be more defensive. When she told me to try and get a rise out of him, we talked about my goal and I realized (what I should have much earlier) that I wasn’t just coming home drunk and unaware of what I was saying, I was purposely trying to start a fight so he could break up with me now rather than when it would destroy me. That definitely helped. And although I thought it didn’t matter what he said to me as long as it was mean, when Suzanna had him say the actual line, I wasn’t just sort of upset and leaving because I was supposed to, it actually hurt. The improv before our last take was also kind of weird, and veered sort of off topic, but it was informative and fun.

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In addition to class, I had an audition for a webseries, with the same team from Talion’s Law, which was awesome, because they’re a great group of people. And I found out this weekend that I actually booked one of the parts I auditioned for. Was it because of my incredible acting, or was it predestined that I should play Amanda? The world will never know…

 

“I’ve always been spontaneous and outgoing…I’ve tried lots of things so I’ve got some good life experiences, which is great ‘cause it means I’ve got lots of material to work with as an actor.”

-Leonardo DiCaprio

Playing House

On Monday, Michelle and I had planned to meet early and rehearse, but unfortunately, life got in the way. Luckily, I knew my lines and had worked on the text on my own this time. So, when we got to class and went to run our lines before going up, I should not have been completely thrown when she asked me, “What is Bruce doing here?” Someone once told me that a great acting exercise is to go out in public and run your lines, then see if people can tell you’re rehearsing, or if they think you’re genuinely having that conversation/argument/falling in love or whatnot. Michelle was super natural and awesome, as always, but I was not confused because I didn’t think she was acting. I was confused because her line in my script was “Why don’t you tell me what happened down there.”

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We quickly figured out that Suzanna had been debating which of two scenes from the same show (Playing House) she wanted to give us, so although she did choose one, she ended up giving us each different scenes. She solved it by saying I would learn Michelle’s scene and do the other one as an audition, because I am good at learning lines and so that it wouldn’t be wasted (I had researched angry raccoon noises). However, once I learnt Michelle’s scene, we still had a bit of time, so I suggested Michelle try learning mine, if she wanted, so that we could do both scenes and neither of us would miss out on doing our scene with the connection of a scene partner. Obviously, she nailed it.

We did my scene first, since it came earlier chronologically. We opted to sit Indian style rather than overlapping each other scissor-style, and got Atena to do additional raccoon noises. The first take was mostly to get the lines out, but our connection was really good. My note was to go deeper, which made sense, not just because timeline wise, I had just found out I had been betrayed, but because I was trying to play it more straight and comedy than with heart and how I would actually react if this was happening to me. I believe my second note was to go even deeper again, and for Atena to make more raccoon noises for us. And to push the diamonds and the craziness. It was a cute scene and a lot of fun.

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For Michelle’s scene, we had to fight more (I had to get more defensive), and then I had to go slower and remove all the okays that I was slipping in. When I got rid of the okays and went slower though, I also lost all of the energy. So we did it one last time so I could get the pace, remove the okays and keep the energy. One okay still slipped in, but it was a petty good take, and Michelle really looked hurt and affected by what I said, so she meant it when she wished me butt rabies. Well, not Michelle to me, but Emma to Maggie. You know what I mean.

I ran camera for the next scene, so kind of sad I didn’t get to see both sides of what sounded like an incredible performance (and was from the side I could see), but then I was on book for the last two. We went more than a half hour past when class was supposed to be over, but this time I was able to stay until the end. Which is good because Atena, whose scene it was, had to leave, even though Suzanna was still working on something with her scene partner. Always ready with solutions, Suzanna had me go up and be a therapist from 50/50. We did it 3 more times and although we didn’t record it on my SD card, I will definitely be asking for them tonight, just to see. After the 3rd take, when Suzanna asked him how it went, he said “I feel like I have to say good so everyone can go home.” Which we all thought was pretty funny.

 

“I’d rather have the hard road into excellence than the easy road into mediocrity. So I’m not complaining. And it’s important that I say this: If we have any Latinos or any immigrants listening to this, this is an invitation for us to wake up and be excellent at anything that we do.”

-Salma Hayek

Rabbits and Trolls

On Wednesday I had a scene from Love, where I was Mickey’s roommate, Bertie, who was described to me as weird and eccentric. With this (and my recent Seeking White Female scene) in mind, I forgot that even if you are playing the crazy character, you usually shouldn’t think of yourself as crazy. The trick to nailing those characters is to play them like you’re the most sane person in the room and everyone else is crazy. In this case, Tracy and I ran the scene in the back to figure out the blocking and make sure we had our lines, and then we did it 4 times. I would say it took me until the last take, after we did the subtext improv, to truly embrace that I am not crazy, I am just a little weird because I am trying too hard to get her to like me. I obviously have some sociopathic tendencies, but I’m sure it’s pretty common for children (…or adults?…) to play with already dead animals and not turn into serial killers.

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For a breakdown of the takes, the first one I was playing weird on purpose, and it was kind of superficial. The second I was trying to be her friend, but still as a weird roommate. The third take I started to get the beginning and the end, but there was a really weird transition. Finally, the last take I got the nervousness and the “Like me” plea that had me trying too hard. Also, every take I completely threw away my ‘virile’ line, because how do you say that word in English?

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That would have been it, except someone cancelled, so I was asked to do a second scene, with Jerome. It was from Man Seeking Woman, and I had done it before, so it wasn’t too hard to pick it back up when we ran the lines a few times in the back. Other than not blocking his camera when I point in this scene, I can’t remember any notes. Which is possibly because it wasn’t really my scene, and I also may have gotten a bunch that I am just not remembering, but I prefer to think that I did a pretty good job with this one. Although I did notice a lot of ‘okay’s slipping in when I rewatched it, so I will have to be careful again.

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We ran incredibly late because we really spent time working on each scene, so I had to leave before it was done, but like always, I love this class, both acting in it, and watching other people act.

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“A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I, or are the others crazy?”

-Albert Einstein

Rabbit Hole

This week I tried something different. Johnny, who teaches me Meisner, was telling me about the amazing opportunity we have in this class, to rehearse scenes with each other before filming it in class, being able to watch it afterwards…I realized that I wasn’t taking advantage of the rehearsing with scene partners between classes, so I did something about it.

My scene is from Rabbit Hole, which is some pretty heavy, emotional stuff. Last week, we all teared up, but for me it was because it’s a sad scene, not because I was internalizing any of it.

Usually, I am nearly off book from the first class where we cold read the scene, so during the week I will maybe think about who I am and what I want, answer some questions I have come up with over the years, then I learn it on the day of. I don’t want to be late or driving in rush hour traffic, so I leave home hours before class, park my car, then I walk around or sit in the car and do vocal exercises with my lines, making sure I have them. This system gets me off book and doesn’t take too long, but it also leaves a lot out.

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I had wonderful intentions for this week, and I won’t make excuses, because I really don’t have any, other than I didn’t put in the time. I read the scene a few times over the week, and tried to imagine what it would be like to go through the loss of a child, but I couldn’t really bring myself to go there. I also got busy and sidetracked and did not make the scene a priority. I knew I had asked my scene partner to meet me and rehearse together a couple of hours before class, but it didn’t register with me that I hadn’t learnt my lines. The scene was longer than our usual scenes, and a few of the lines repeat themselves, but had I put in the time (even the minimum amount of time) I would have nailed them.

This meant that the rehearsal I had asked for, which would have been a lot of fun to use some of the new Meisner techniques I am learning, or just play off a scene partner rather than running lines on my own, was instead spent learning lines. This would have been really helpful if we had done it a few days before, then met up again for the actual rehearsing, because it is so much easier to learn lines when running the scene instead of on your own. It still was a lot of fun; running lines and catching up, but even at the end, I didn’t have time to go over the trouble parts and make sure I had them, we just went to class, where we were first.

Our first take was okay, in that we both got the emotions, but we weren’t connected. We were two people mourning, but not together, which is also what’s going on in the scene, but not what we want as actors. And there was a little hesitation on the lines, but I luckily remembered what I was supposed to have said and added it in so he could say his line.

The second take, I said a line wrong, which completely threw my scene partner, so we had to restart. The third one was better, although I was not in synch. My eyes would well while my voice would be normal, then I would sort of force it to sound sad and…we got the lines and there was a lot of emotion, but there were also a lot of pauses (from me, it was all my bad for not working on the scene and leaving it to the last minute, when I should have known I couldn’t) and I was a bit all over the place emotionally.

The fourth take is probably my favorite. There was less hesitation with the lines, and then somewhere near the end of the scene, at the place where I usually go out of synch, something happened where my voice dropped and I was connected. I didn’t just try to have the sadness on the surface, I felt it in my chest, and the tears started falling. I broke down and it felt awesome.

The last take, he broke down and I didn’t, but I am told it was the most connected of all of our takes. I have a theory that we couldn’t both break down at the same time.

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Unfortunately, I learnt two things from watching the different takes. First is that Johnny is right about my weird facial expressions and neck movements, that I definitely need to get under control. Second is that even when I broke down and had tears and everything….I still look like I’m smiling. Basically if my mouth is open and you see my teeth, I look like I am smiling. So I will have to work on keeping my mouth shut.

I am proud of what I achieved in this class, but also ashamed of my lack of preparation, when I know that I need it. I set out to do more work this week, and ended up doing even less, which I am really not happy with myself about, but I am going to do things differently from now on. I will still go over the scenes when I get to class abnormally early, but I am going to make it a priority to do all the work of my process and getting off book within the first couple of days that I get the scene. And I’ll try again for the scene partner rehearsals. But this way, even if I procrastinate and plan other things before class, all I will need is a quick review because I will already have done all the work.

 

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”

-Dwayne Johnson

Leave the Therapy, Take the Cannoli

Hey everyone! For the past month or so, I have been helping out with a play that Premieres tonight as part of the Montreal Fringe Festival. For those not in Montreal, or who are simply wondering what the Fringe festival is, it’s an amazing opportunity for artists to showcase their skills and passion. For about 3 weeks, all kinds of theatres and venues across town welcome a multitude of plays, cabarets, musicals and performance pieces. Tickets are incredibly affordable and the artists are completely uncensored.

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The play I have been helping out with is called “Leave the therapy, take the cannoli” and tells the story of an Italian family that decides to try therapy to work through some issues. A lot of hilarity ensues, but also a lot of heart. I am told watching the play is just like spending an hour with your Italian family, in the best way possible.

If you’re wondering how I got involved and what part I play in all of this, “Leave the therapy, take the cannoli” was written by friends of mine. One of these friends, Luigi Buffone, who is also directing the play, asked if I would be his stage manager. My answer was “No, I have no idea how to do that.” Luckily for me (because it was an amazing experience), although probably not for him (because I really have no idea what I am doing), he kept asking, explaining that he didn’t so much need a stage manager as just someone who would help out. Which I can do. And have been doing. He still introduces me as the stage manager, which really isn’t the case, but it has been a pleasure so far to be a part of this wonderful story, and to watch this incredible group of people go through this adventure.

There are 6 shows in total, with the first one tonight at 9:15, and the last one June 18th at 3:45, at Mission Santa Cruz (60 Rachel St. West). Our venue houses other great shows you might want to check out, and the entire festival is an amazing opportunity to see a huge amount of incredible performances.

Time over shallow

Last Monday’s acting class was the kind where I know I can do so much better, but I just didn’t put the time and effort into it. The first time I was supposed to do the scene, I got booked to be on set and couldn’t make it. Then the week after was a holiday, so when last Monday came around, I had sort of forgotten about it, especially since I had something else I was supposed to be going to. Ultimately, I decided to go to class and then be late for the other thing, but it meant I only put a quarter of the time I should have. Which for me, usually entails learning all the lines and not doing much else. I sometimes get lured into a false sense of having done something when it is a show or a movie I have seen, because instead of building the relationships and creating the other characters for myself, I just remember the ones I have seen on screen. I would say that all things considered, I was good, but good in reference to bad is not what I am looking for in class. I want to not be afraid to fail, and to fail badly, but in the way where I am prepared and did the work, but take chances and go out of my comfort zone to try things. Not fail because I didn’t try.

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My scene partner wasn’t expecting to do our scene, because he had done it a previous class with someone else. Luckily, we went and ran it out back a few times and he easily got back into it. Lucky for me, because otherwise I was going to have to do it audition style, which is still something I like working on, but it is a lot more fun to play off of someone else.

Our first take was…shallow. That was my word to describe it. We had our lines, it wasn’t entirely flat, but I wasn’t internalizing anything. The second take was better, although I am not so sure about my decision to be super cool-headed rather than to get upset.

The third take Suzanna had us try a new exercise before we started. I love the subtext improv, or just improvising in character, but this was different. We both shared our goals in the scene, then Suzanna had us think of someone, or a situation where we have the same goal. So, the improv was me as Amanda talking to someone that I wanted to grow up, through Sean. He, in turn, was Sean, talking to someone through me and trying to get their support. I didn’t like the exercise, because it made me feel like a horrible person. We were using real circumstances, which made me feel like there would be real emotions as well. I much prefer the subtext improv in character, but at the same time, I probably needed to feel bad for crushing him in the scene as well. So I can see its use, I am told it was our best take, but I didn’t feel good afterwards.

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As for the commercial, it was fun, but I was doing it way too low energy, and needed to be much more excited.

“Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night.”

-Michael Jordan

Class Lessons

It has been over a month since I shared what I have been learning in my acting class, so today I will go through the scenes I have worked on recently, as well as what I learnt from each one.

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First is the Break Up, a scene I did with Nick. I hadn’t worked on it as much as I should have, and he had a cold when we did it, so I was slightly worried, but through running the lines a bit before class, I was reassured. He even went all out and got a doorbell sound effect on his phone for the end of the scene. If you remember, last time I wrote about my classes, I said that I didn’t want to keep getting the same notes; I wanted to get different ones and constantly be improving. This was my first class since then and it was a success; my note was to make it personal by remembering the history between us. I was reacting as if this was the first time he hadn’t brought what I wanted, but I had to imagine all the previous times I had asked him to do something and he had forgotten, or done the wrong thing, because he didn’t care enough to listen in the first place. So, from now on, I won’t only look at the current conflict, I will ask myself whether we have been here before, if it’s the little things that keep adding up, or the big things that we can’t ignore anymore.

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The next class was the last of the month, where we choose one of our scenes to audition. Forgetting that it wasn’t actually my scene, I had decided to do In Treatment. When I got there and remembered I had just been a replacement, Suzanna suggested I do Mrs. Maizel. I knew the lines and had done all of the preparation, but I was definitely not dressed to play her. If I had no other choice, I obviously could have, but there is something about the dress and the shoes that make it so much easier to slip into her skin. Not to mention, there were layers I wanted to explore for the In Treatment scene. The other girl hadn’t shown up yet, so Suzanna let me do her scene, figuring at worse we would see it twice (as it turns out, the other girl was on set and not able to make it). For this, my note was that I wasn’t taking some of the beats. In the sense that at one point, he makes a diagnosis and I ask him what he thinks I’m afraid of. I was asking it like I didn’t know, whereas in reality, I do, I just want him to tell me. So the note here is to not just take what is written on the page or said as truth, but to look deeper and know what I am hiding.

That class, I was also a reader for a scene from Donnie Brasco with Elysia. To help her get somewhere emotionally, Suzanna had us do the entire scene yelling at each other, knowing that sometimes it wouldn’t make sense, but as an exercise. We were probably the last people who would just yell at each other like that, but it was interesting to see how it changed and felt different.

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For the actor role/commercial auditions, I got to do two. Suzanna is continuing with her conviction that I am good for commercials, and the more I do them, the more I agree. It still feels a bit weird, but it is quickly becoming more fun than weird.

In May, I got a scene from Girls to do with Nir. I haven’t started the final season yet, so there were some spoilers I wasn’t ready to hear, but I really enjoyed the scene. The first class was hard because we had to figure out the movements. In the scene, I am trying to leave, and he is trying to get me to stay, which was really difficult, until a genius pointed out that the exit could be behind him, so I would have to go through him rather than just walk away. After that, it was much easier. Every time we did it, there were different emotions that I tried, from hurt to anger…I was really looking forward to discovering all the levels.

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The next week we ran our lines a few times, then put it on its feet. After the first take, Suzanna asked what our goals were. We both had excellent answers, but they weren’t clear enough for her to see them. We looked like friends in acting class. She said we had to fall in love with each other. The next take was better, because our goals were clear, but I was completely exposed, not covering anything. It was raw heartbreak and I am told it was beautiful to watch, but there is a reason it is called ‘core and masking’. If I don’t want him to know how much he hurt me, I have to cover it with anger or by trying to hurt him or by pretending I don’t care…something. We did it a few times, but I found it hard to be pissed and confrontational when he is so vulnerable. Sometimes it felt like I was forcing it, but the last take, where we could do what we wanted, I played all the levels. I was pissed at him, then I was heartbroken, then I said things with the goal of hurting him. It was all in service of my goal, which was to protect myself from letting him hurt me. Again.

The last class I had was a bonus class, where I was asked to do a scene from Single White Female. It was a scene I had actually done over a year ago, but the footage had been lost, so I never got to see it. I still haven’t seen this time either, because it is on a DVD at Suzanna’s, but I can say that my notes were that I needed more stakes and more crazy. The most interesting thing that I learnt about myself was that when I go crazy, I start a hair-ography. Running my hands through my hair, flipping it over…I was aware that I was doing it, and once or twice is okay, but not as often as I was doing. I used to always tuck my hair behind my ears during scenes, sort of like a nervous tick, so I am confident I will be able to remove that. The first take I tried it sitting down and waiting for her, but it was way better when I was just standing creepily in a corner. I felt like a crazy person every single take, but that was the point. The hard part is grounding the crazy with the love and the hurt that makes her act that way. I am looking forward to watching the scenes to find out if I managed it.

« Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your ‘mistakes’ for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from. »

-Al Franken

Some recent filming

This past month or so, in addition to wrapping the Cohort and filming a short that I wrote, I also got to live a multitude of lives in other people’s projects. I am clearly very behind on the blog, but they still felt worth mentioning, so here is a little bit on each of them.

Another 10 Minutes

This was an interesting project, where I had so many lines, but am never on camera. Except for maybe a glimpse of my legs as I walk by. The film concentrates more on someone’s reactions to everything that I am saying, which is really a lot. Normally, when I am not on camera (and even often when I am) I feel like I have to go fast, to get through my lines. When I am a reader, it’s because I feel like the person auditioning is the one they are interested in, so my lines don’t matter. Which obviously isn’t true, because you shouldn’t be an actor waiting to say your line, and my lines gives them a chance to show how alive their character is when they’re not speaking, just listening. As for when I am on camera, I am not sure if it is to show that I know my lines or some fear that my scene partner will cut me off and think that I am done if I pause. The director in this case did not want me to rush through my lines though, and he wanted pauses, so it was definitely an acting exercise for me. It was also a lesson, or a reinforcement of one of my usual practices. You see, this was the first time I got to rehearsal and to set without knowing my lines. I knew the way it was being filmed meant that I wouldn’t really be on camera and could read my lines for most of it, but I am usually someone you can count on to know her lines, including the voiceover monologue that no one was expected to memorize. Everything went fine and no one even commented on the fact that I had the script with me, and maybe he was expecting it, but I personally felt horrible. I had a bunch of lines to learn for other things where I couldn’t have the text with me, and I used that as an excuse to just familiarize myself with my lines. Which worked out this time, but is something I don’t want to be doing again. Finally, it was nice to not only meet some new friends, but to encounter some friendly and familiar faces behind the camera.

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Augustine

I met the fearless writer and director of Augustine on the set of Over Easy, where he played the Tall Guy to my Woman. I played the title character of Augustine, who is a woman of few words. And interesting actions. We had a rehearsal, which was mostly a read through of the script with a meeting to explain the storyboard and wardrobe and such. He also asked us a bunch of questions about our characters, so we weren’t just people saying lines, we knew our back stories and where we were coming from. It was nice that he didn’t tell us, he let us figure it out, so it was like we played a part in creating them as well. The actual filming took two days, and was so much fun. The Champlain students who were in Montreal this semester were all so sweet and funny and it was a blast working with them, even if Augustine never really smiled. We had cupcakes for one of my costars’ birthdays and it was basically a wonderful weekend doing what I love.

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Talion’s Law

This was a Trebas student film that I auditioned for and booked the same role, of Sabrina. This used to be unheard of for me, but has been happening more and more lately, which is awesome (not that I don’t love getting parts because people like working with me, or me as a person, but it’s nice to book stuff because I can act, too). The script had a rewrite between the audition and the rehearsal, so it was a bit of a cold read once I got there. I was very excited to see Lorraine was a part of the cast, and even ran my scene with me a few times at the rehearsal when my actual scene partner had to leave. Everyone on this set was so nice. I don’t know how many times I had to refuse snacks and refreshments, before ultimately giving in to homemade goodies, fresh fruit and fancy teas. There was makeup, a set photographer, and the most supportive and encouraging director, who was possibly just trying to make us feel good, but continuously seemed impressed by how great we all were, and how well we took direction. Either way, I left there feeling extremely appreciated and well taken care of.

Antoine’s Cow

This one wasn’t filming, but I did participate in a reading of the translated version of this originally French play. We had a table read a couple of days before with the playwright, then did the reading in front of the translation students who had done the honor of making it English. It was a great experience, not only because it was a fun play and a chance to live the life of a pretty interesting character in a slightly absurd play, but I also got to meet some really cool people in the process. And I know this line is something I say after almost every single project I work on, but I truly mean it, every single time.

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Background

Something else I have been doing a bit of lately is background work. This is a great way to earn some extra money and learn set etiquette at the same time. I personally love watching the actors work and familiarizing myself with set terminology. It is also an excellent way to meet people, a lot of whom will also be creative types like actors, filmmakers and musicians. I also did some volunteer background work, to help out someone who had really been a humongous help to me, but I got a dance show out of it, so I’m pretty sure I still owe him.

“For me acting is about the art of it and it’s about being on a film set and doing your thing, painting a blank canvas.”

-Shailene Woodley

Filming my Short – Production

I want to start by saying that I am so grateful and appreciative of everyone involved in all stages of production on my short. The actors, the extras, the crew, the advisors…everyone who helped in any way, you have my undying gratitude, and I know that I owe you, big time. Feel free to collect at any time.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Two weeks ago at this time, a bunch of kind-hearted strangers (and friends) came to my house to film a short story that I wrote. Seven scenes and seventeen and a half hours later, we wrapped and I had accomplished what I set out to do years ago.

Without giving away any plot details, here is how that day went:

Since my house is not easily reachable through public transportation, Josh (my DoP) and I started our morning off as chauffeurs. My job was to get Phil (my director) and Sophie (our make-up artist). I set a horrible example by being late, so we were pretty much the last people to arrive at my house. Luckily, my mom hadn’t left for work yet, so she was there to offer food and coffee to everyone before I could get there. I knew that when you have a project that doesn’t pay, you need to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone involved, which heavily involves food. So I asked everyone about allergies and preferences, then made sure there was something for everyone at all times.

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I had made an ambitious schedule the night before, showing how we could potentially film all but one scene in one day. People did look at it a little, but other than the first two scenes, no one really paid it much attention. It was more of a suggestion anyway, but my OCD (which is still undiagnosed, but only because I am convinced it doesn’t impact my life) felt better with a plan and schedule for the day.

Josh doubled as the artistic director and wardrobe, so he approved my costume before Sophie did my makeup. The crew went to our first location to prepare the shots while we got ready, then I drove Sophie and Matt (my lead actor) over once we were done. I unintentionally chose an incredibly cold day to shoot on, so some people stayed in the car, and I was freezing when I realized we had forgotten a really important prop. We didn’t have a PA (production assistant) at this point, and I was the only one with my house key, so I drove home and got it, then came back so we could start filming. We stayed at this location, working on one scene, all morning, with me going back and forth to let people into my house, and making my grandmother go to the metro to pick people up. I felt really bad for asking it of her, but I have the best grandmother who clearly loves me. A lot.

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As far as filming goes, it took longer than my schedule had planned, but I hadn’t really known what I was doing when I made the schedule, and I trusted my crew implicitly. That isn’t to say I wasn’t stressed about timing, but I also had faith that my guys would get what we needed in the time we had. I had been so caught up in pre-production and personal matters that I hadn’t done nearly enough preparation as an actor for the scene. I knew my motivations and my character inside and out, but the script had been rewritten quite a few times, and I didn’t review the lines before filming. Which are excuses as to why I messed up the first take. We stayed in character and went to the end, but there were a few lines that were completely out of sequence. Once that take was out of our system though, we were good.

…Except for the crying. I hate that this is something I still have to write about, because I was so sure that I was over it, but I was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we had our callbacks, this was one of the scenes we did with the actors and I cried every single take with all 3 of them. Again, when we had the rehearsal, I cried every single time we did this scene. The last time, I told Phil and Matt to remember it, in case I couldn’t cry on the day, to remember how much I cried at rehearsals. I think it was a combination of the stress of filming day, all the tears I had already cried that weekend, and the self-fulfilling prophecy that made it so no tears fell, no matter how many times we did the scene. Looking back, it is all I can think about as far as this scene is concerned, but at the time, I let it go. Not in a bad way, because I definitely didn’t not care, but instead of pushing it to try and cry, or to look sad, I just let it all affect me and lived as truthfully as I could in those imaginary circumstances. I obviously wish I could have cried as effortlessly as I did all the previous times we did the scene, and I haven’t seen the footage yet, so I can’t be sure, but Phil said he didn’t care that I didn’t cry, because he still got what he wanted.

After the first scene, some of us headed to the bar, while the rest were back at my house, getting ready for our biggest scene. It has the most dialogue, the most actors, extras, crew…it was also the one we had a time limit for, because the bar was sort of staying open just so that we could film. Les Brasseurs du Moulin, the bar in question, was absolutely amazing for everything they did to make this scene happen.

We had a little bit of trouble getting in, and it took longer than expected to set everything up, but by 2 pm, we were filming our opening scene, with my father and my grandfather as valued Background performers. This was not the first time my grandfather was on set, so he assured me he was used to the waiting around I kept apologizing for, and my father doubled as our set photographer.

My mom came to the rescue with caffeine and some missing props after she finished work, before going home to start preparing supper for everyone. We had two actors and some extras who were only in this scene, so we weren’t sure if they would come back or not. We got food for everyone, just in case.

The bar people had hoped we would be out by 4 o’clock, 5 max, so we had to hurry a little and compromise on some shots, but everyone was amazing. We ended up wrapping at 5, and were only out by 5:30 once everything was packed up, but our bar liaison was nothing but gracious and excited to see the finished project someday.

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My dad drove some people to the metro while the rest of us went home for what was supposed to be a meal, a break, and decision time. While discussing the schedule a few days earlier, we had agreed that this would be the point where we would decide whether to keep filming all the scenes or to wrap soon and schedule a second day. I had been the one who had been really intent on getting it all done in one day, but now that I saw how arbitrary my schedule was, I was beginning to think a second day would probably be the smartest idea. Josh and JP, my DoPs, instead spent this time figuring out whether we had enough light to film our last exterior day scene, as well as an interior morning scene. While we were eating, they started setting up lights and stuff so we could film them. I talked to my director, who had really wanted two days. He still did, but agreed it wouldn’t make sense to not film now that the scenes were already set up. And the way our scheduling and locations work, it would be silly to not film a 3rd scene after those 2, and then it would be dark so we might as well film the last 3 scenes. He didn’t seem thrilled at that point, but somewhere after the birthday cupcakes and a warm meal, he was determined to get it all done in one day.

The first scene we did after supper was in my driveway, with my car. Matt, who plays my husband in the film, doesn’t have a driver’s license, which very much complicated our shots. We decided it would not be a good idea to have someone who couldn’t drive driving, so we reworked some shots and I eventually spent quite some time in the car with Josh, who doesn’t look like Matt, but can drive, in an elaborate two car filming set up. It was probably the scene that had the most takes (based on my recollection, not facts) but we got it just before the sun went past the point of no return for us.

The next couple of scenes took place in my parents’ bedroom, where we broke the bed, rearranged the furniture and my contacts did not appreciate the bright lights. When we were filming Matt’s face with the back of my head, his acting should be even more appreciated, because he is pretending like my eye isn’t twitching in front of him.

The before last scene was in the entrance to my house, where we needed to keep the door open to allow for a light which mimicked moonlight to come in. I mentioned that the morning was cold, but at this point, I am pretty sure the temperature was below zero and we had my front door wide open while everyone hung around in the dark. Our makeup artist also got to show a tiny bit of her acting skills with a voicemail message.

Finally, our last scene was moved to the street across from my house, in the freezing cold. I was in a summer dress with a light sweater, but I can’t feel too bad for myself, because Josh had to take off his shoes and film in his socks so as to not make too much noise while walking backwards in front of us. I did, however, let everyone know that this scene featured my best acting, because as soon as they called action, my teeth stopped chattering and I stopped shivering to pretend that I wasn’t freezing.

After a few takes, we wrapped that scene and thus the entire film a little after 1. This is including the one scene that even my overly ambitious schedule hadn’t planned for. It was almost 2 by the time everything was packed up and I ultimately got home from my drop offs at 4 am. It was a long day, and I was exhausted, but my heart was so full and the smile would not leave my face. I understand why I would put in a 20 hour day to make the short I wrote a reality, but everyone else was just doing it out of the kindness of their hearts or because they believed in the project, or in me. Matt, who played my husband, was prepared and on the ball. Stan was the perfect bartender you could talk to for hours. Steph was everything I imagined Monica to be. Luc and Pierre-Francois drank fake drinks and pretended to talk like pros. My grandparents gave their time and experience with a smile. Daniel drove and lifted and did whatever we needed him to do. Sophie made me beautiful (and everyone else too). Reno not only set up and took care of all of our lighting needs, he was also the one who got us all of the lighting equipment without asking for anything in return. Max spent the day holding a boom pole over his head. My parents went above and beyond with helping out and putting up with all of these people invading their house and reassuring me every time I had doubts. Josh and JP were the best Directors of Photography and Camera Guys I could have asked for, absolutely positive and enthusiastic and reassuring from start to finish. And Phil chose to spend his birthday working on my project where he directed and did the sound for 17 and a half hours.

I don’t think I will ever be able to thank everyone enough. This was my first attempt, and because they were all so incredible, it will not be my last. In the future, I will be a lot smarter in my script writing, my pre-production and will not assume that because I wrote the script I don’t have to work on the lines.

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“What I do like is hiking. And that’s what filmmaking is. It’s a hike. It’s challenging and exhausting, and you don’t know what the terrain is going to be or necessarily even which direction you’re going in…but it sure is beautiful.”

-Joss Whedon

The Cohort – A Wrap on Season One

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Back in September 2014, I auditioned for two separate roles on a webseries set in a university. I didn’t get either of those roles, even though I felt the audition went really well. Instead, a new character was written into the series for me. I am not sure how I inspired a selfie-obsessed instagram queen, but two and a half years later, I have taken more selfies than I ever could have expected to, and have absolutely loved the experience, from start to finish. A very bittersweet finish, because it is exciting to finally be done our first season, but I will also miss having a semi-consistent acting job. I would say that more than anything, I’ll miss the people, but we have a wrap party and a viewing party to look forward to, and I am sure we will run into each other on the Montreal acting scene.

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I will keep repeating this forever, but it was one of the nicest sets I have ever been on. It was a non-union, self-financed project that had makeup artists, snacks and pizza on long days. We also had a photoshoot to get promotional pictures for each character. Selina and Gabriel, the people in charge, who wrote, directed and produced it, are amazing. They are inspiring and giving and talented and just all around incredible. They not only made me feel appreciated and like I was a part of something awesome, they also encouraged me when I decided I was going to film a short of my own. They answered a million questions, gave advice, and believed in me. Not to mention the fact that I met my DoPs on the Cohort sets.

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It was only 15 days, and most of them were incredibly short, but this will forever be one of my favorite filming experiences, because it truly was a passion project with a bunch of actors doing it because we love to act. And when people are nice and appreciate you and give it their all…you can’t help but want to give your all in return.

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My last day was more emotional than I would have wanted it to be, but I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to be with when I got that heartbreaking call about my grandmother. Breanne is now wrapped, but so far, you have only met her through the few pictures we have shared. I can’t wait for you all to see what we have been working on. I will forever be grateful for this experience, and if ever I get an opportunity to work with any one of them again, I will jump at it. As should you. Long Live the Cohort 🙂

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The Cohort

“On the one hand, I’m so relieved that I’ve actually managed to finish my very first series and that I’ve been able to see my characters through to the end of their journeys. On the other hand, I feel like how parents must feel when they send their kid off to college. It’s a bittersweet mix.”

-Marie Lu