? - Thurs 2/23/17
Since resuming my normal life of Zumba and Weight Watchers, and not much else really, people who know what I did this past weekend have asked, "How did the shoot go? Did you have fun?".
I'm still trying to figure that out.
The most unsettling, depressing realization I've had since working my way up to "periodically working actor"?
Turns out this dream of mine, acting on TV (And now film) is, by and large, a really tedious job...though to be fair, the tedium is sometimes broken up by periods of intense stress, and occasional "acting".
It was exciting to be driven to the location - the convenience store in Long Beach - and see the crew setting up (I'm always a little jazzed when I initially walk onto a set or location - "Hey, this is really happening...!" - and this time was no exception).
Then I started meeting the actors as they arrived (There were five actors in the cast - Gloria, Garland, Jonah, Chelsea, and Yours Truly), and that's always interesting, meeting the people I'll be working with (I don't know if I've ever given this much thought before, but it strikes me that I'm usually pretty optimistic about my fellow actors before meeting them, assuming they'll be cool, that we'll get on well, and that they'll know what they're doing - I don't know if that's just me liking actors, having faith in the casting process, or what).
I imagine part of my affinity for my fellow actors is because they're actors, but I think it's also that I know I'm going to be relating with them, unlike most of the crew - I often feel tremendously lonely on a set or location, especially if other actors aren't around/available to hang with, because the crew is busy setting up, doing whatever work they need to do, so you're not of interest to anyone until they need you to start doing things (Like getting to hair and makeup or what-have-you).
It might sound weird, but most of the time on set, I feel like it's really their world - that they're doing the work, they "belong", while I'm just "visiting" - even if I tell myself my work is the eventual focal-point of their work (On Shameless it's not just the crew that makes me feel that way, but the series regulars, because "my work" is, by-and-large, not "the focal-point of their work").
Not sure why we were brought to the location first, since there wasn't anything for us to do there, but we milled around for awhile, then they drove us to the base camp, where wardrobe and makeup were, and we hung out there for awhile (That was actually fun - Aeden, the screenwriter, had the James Brown channel playing on her Pandora or Spotify or whatever, so we were dancing around and having a good time as people got ready).
Fri 2/24/17 (1:44 pm)
Having a hard time writing about this experience I just had (An "experience I just had" which is nevertheless already starting to feel like "old news").
But it's the only semi-interesting thing that's happened recently, so I'll give you what I got...
The first night's shooting, I felt very anxious, for a number of reasons...but said reasons could probably be boiled down to "uncertainty about everything".
I found almost everyone in the production pretty agreeable (Though I wasn't nuts about the first AD, who was from the "I'm not here to be liked" school of getting-things-done).
But it was still a lot of new people to be around at once, and in a fairly pressurized environment - We had a thing to do and three days to do it in (Which, thinking about it that way, made me better able to empathize and deal with the AD's curt style...though that still didn't stop me from getting snappish with her for rushing me at one point on the last night of shooting).
And the "anxiety of meeting a bunch of new people" (I'd met Chris, the Director, the day before) wasn't just social anxiety - It was also the anxiety of wondering "Are these people good at this? Can I trust them? Are they going to make me look good? Am I safe in this environment?".
(I'm not sure of all the particulars, but the production was being bankrolled/sponsored by Film Independent, this group in LA that helps young film-makers produce films, by loaning out equipment and expertise and what-not. So it was a young director, a screenwriter who was experiencing her first produced script, some staff from Film Independent - I think - a crew of, I believe, mostly unpaid intern-type people, and the five-person cast of union actors.)
Over and above any uncertainty about the group I was working with (dwarfing them, really), were my doubts about myself.
I believe I said the meeting with the Director eased some of my concerns - about the script in general and my character in particular) - but I was still walking in unsure of my character's motivations (and, to be honest, not understanding or liking him as much as in the previous draft of the script).
And beyond "going to ground" in terms of memorizing the script (It was very important to me that I not be a drag on shooting because I didn't know my lines well enough), I worried I "hadn't done the work", that not only didn't I understand my character's "motivations", but that I maybe didn't have a "character" at all.
So during the first night's shooting - and afterward, for that matter - I felt pretty insecure about my work (Chris would occasionally give me a note, but mostly just came over and asked me what I thought...which might have been a cry-for-help or a generous offer to collaborate, I don't know, but since what I was thinking was "I have no idea if this is working or not...!", which I didn't think would be a helpful thing to share, I mostly just said, "Hey, if you're happy, I'm happy!").
There was one scene where I felt able to do something I don't even do on Shameless very often - I consciously did different takes (As opposed to basically doing the same take over and over, the only variation being whatever subtle differences naturally happen when you say the same thing over and over).
That might sound odd, or maybe obvious - "Aren't you supposed to do different takes of a scene, Jim?" - but I find it hard to do. Because you don't really get to rehearse on film or TV - There's maybe a line rehearsal, one for blocking for the camera, and then you're shooting. So it's hard - it is for me, anyway - to focus on varying what you do from one take to the next, because you're busy just hitting your marks and getting your business down (If you have some "thing" you're doing in the scene, with props or whatnot).
(There are other things that enter into the equation - particularly on Shameless - but that was my biggest issue on this shoot.)
As far as acting goes, I had way more of an issue with what I was doing, by and large, than what my fellow actors were doing - I thought everyone was well cast, and other than Gloria (The senior member of the cast) sometimes being a little slow-on-the-uptake (And doing more of her lines in Spanish than was on the page, which threw me a little, in terms of cues), I can't say I had a lot of objections to anything my fellow actors did while the cameras were rolling (Chelsea didn't do much of anything the first night - which turned out to be something of an "issue" later - but I'd seen her do some stuff in character as we were getting ready, and was very impressed).
I don't think I've told you what the film is about, have I? I was debating whether I wanted to do that or not, then realized that, unlike an episode of Shameless or the like, you're probably never seeing this film, so I'm not really "spoiling" anything.
Basically, I'm a homeless guy who wins the Lotto - The film centers around my interaction with the other people in the store, who go from hardly noticing me to suddenly taking a great interest, wanting either a cut of the money, or a piece of my instant fame (And of course, there's a "twist" at the end, which is "They were dead the entire time"...or something like that).
When I wasn't shooting, I either played on my phone, walked around the store, or checked out the craft services table.
The craft services were the first thing I had to "check myself" about, in terms of any "spoiled actor" tendencies - I'd planned on seriously dosing myself with caffeine to get through the experience. But while they had coffee, there was no cream or sugar (or sweeteners of any kind). And there were sodas...but no "diet"-anything (I felt an urge to complain, but instead, the next night, I came supplied with my own Diet Coke, creamers, and Splenda packets).
But speaking of complaining...
The next night, when we got picked up (Gloria was in the front seat with the PA, while me and Chelsea were in the back), Chelsea spent a good portion of the ride complaining about the production (First off, that she'd cooled her heels for hours that first night, only to work for about 15 minutes at the end of the night).
I was uncomfortable with the conversation, on two fronts - First, I wanted to tell her "Our Driver is listening to all this, and will be telling the rest of the crew you complained about them all the way in...and that's not something you want to have happen". But I couldn't figure out how to silently communicate all that to her (I'm a fairly bad mime).
My secondary discomfort was more...complicated.
It's hard for me not to complain/commiserate when someone is bitching about something. It's hard not to "fall into that groove", as it were, because I want to be empathetic, I want to be liked, and in this instance, it wasn't as if I didn't have complaints of my own (I mean, no Diet Coke? Really? We're in Hollywood, for God's sake, where everyone's trying trying to lose weight!).
So I kind of half-assed it, agreeing with this, explaining away that, and trying to distract by bringing up the other thing.
I expected to be really tired that second night (I'd dozed for maybe five hours during the day) but I wasn't tired the way I expected to be - Instead of being really sleepy, my body just starting hurting (Which then got worse the third night). I felt as awake as I ever do, if not more so.
For me, the second night felt like "The big night", since we hadn't gotten everything we were supposed to get the first night, and there were a lot of pages to get through already (And it would pretty much complete all the scenes where I had lines).
But it ended up being, for me, the funnest night, particularly in terms of acting - We were doing the big group scene, so I think we were all happy to be doing something, collaborating, and I think we all felt challenged, on our side of things, and in a good way, by the amount of stuff we were supposed to get through (I think there was a feeling of wanting to make sure that "If we don't get through this, it won't be because of us"
I was still having my "I don't know if this is adding up to anything" feelings, primarily about my own work, but did get somewhat caught up in the fun of just getting to do a scene with other actors, and that challenge to have things together on our end, as a team.
I think we wrapped for the night a little later than the first night, but I don't recall feeling like it was crazy or anything. I was surprised, as I think my fellow cast members were, that we'd actually "caught up" on what was supposed to get done.
The first night, my big point of pride was that I hadn't had a cookie (I was trying to be "good" after having had a very nice weigh-in at my WW meeting that morning).
So it was nice to have a pleasant little acting experience with the entire cast on Night 2 (And again, like the first night, I did have some scenes where I felt "loose" enough to change-things-up from one take to the next).
Got more sleep during the day on Sunday than I had Saturday, and did as little as I possibly could when I was awake...but I still went into the third and final night of shooting feeling like "Okay, I'm ready for this to be done...".
On the last night, we basically shot the beginning and the end of the movie, which meant there was some outdoor stuff - That was a little unpleasant, because it was cold and drizzly, but other than the previously-mentioned flash of temper (I was being rushed as I was trying to figure out an involved sequence of actions, and I believe my response was something like "I need to fucking do this, okay?", or something very similar), nothing felt too arduous (My right knee was tweaking a bit at one point, which made me nervous, but I got through it).
(I would rather I hadn't lost my cool at that one point, but in my defense, I did apologize to Monique afterward, and she seemed fine.)
Chelsea had decided, after the second night, that instead of going home, she'd spend the night in a hotel in Long Beach, so she could rest up and not be tired and stressed on our final night.
That didn't work out.
Because Sunday afternoon, she got mugged - She was walking back to her hotel from a restaurant, and a guy came up from behind, smacked her upside the head, and stole her phone.
So she was, I think, even more ready to be done with this shoot than I was - We had basically one more group thing to shoot before we're largely done, and she was tired and snippy with the Director, and clearly just "over it".
And I was surprised at myself - I wasn't mad (Though I was very ready to be done myself), but more sympathetic - both to how she was feeling "in the moment", and also to the fact that she didn't yet have the ability/knowledge to "suck it up", because she was coming off badly personally, and also defeating her own purpose (Being pissy about how late it is or how tired you are or what-have-you doesn't make things go any faster).
I wrapped around 5:30 am (They still had a quick shot or two left at that point).
So things didn't really end with everyone hugging and saying thanks and taking pictures and all that (Though they did the thing where they said said "That's a wrap on Jim", and the crew gave me a hand, which I liked). It was more of a messy drifting away action.
It took awhile to get from the location back to the base camp, and longer still to change, then wait for the Uber to get home.
But I made it. I shot a low-budget short film. I don't know if it's any good, I don't know if I'm any good in it...but it happened.
That's an important point - As I said to Mark and Jane when we talked yesterday, If I'd said no (As I seriously wanted to at one point), nothing would have happened.
As experiences go, this was a mixed-bag, but I'm glad it happened - Both for the "bad stuff" (Which I mostly got through in a professional manner), and the good (Like the fact that every time I looked over at Aeden during filming, she was beaming, thrilled that her script was coming-to-life. Or having a laugh with Chris over our dueling melancholy personas. Or the burritos we had from Chipotle for dinner the second night).
That said, I'd really prefer if my next gig were a national commercial.
Or a great guest-star spot on TV.
Just not another low-budget movie...
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