Sunday, March 25, 2007

Movie Set: Take 1

Well, THAT was interesting.

My friend Jim asked me to be in a short film he is directing/producing/editing/acting, etc. Apparently the only quality I had to possess was red hair and a colorful bra. Julia Roberts better watch out!

Filming began at 8 am this morning. Which means I got up at 6, showered, made enough coffee to see me through til lunch and hunted around for a book. When I get to the set, I sign a release allowing my image to be used, blahblahblah.

The whole filming process was a combination of fascination, tedium and patience. The other two women on the set know exactly what is supposed to happen. I don't, and this is my first visit to the set, so I receive special explanations. First, I am told that even though I have agreed to film in my colorfuol bra, the creative process is still developing and the director thinks maybe a series of shots of the scene WITHOUT the bra would work in the film. I think, "This is how self-respecting actresses get caught naked. Last minute changes." But I trust this guy and he says there won't be anything risque' and I believe him.

The director then explains how the day's shooting will go and shows us all the set. SS is watching the monitor and contolling the camera. The director and LL will be in the first scene. I am to watch how the scene is set up so I will know what to do for MY scene. After observing the first five minutes I know all I need for my part.

After that, I got two words for filming a movie. Bo. Ring. Well, the process is boring, but I wasn't bored.

I shuffle to the back of the set and munch on some fruit and nuts that were left for the crew (there's only four of us). I read my book. I crunch on an apple. 45 minutes goes by. The director is done with the first scene and now we have to watch what he calls "dailies." This is both dull AND funny. It's dull because we're watching the same scene over and over. It's funny because we all know what was going on while the scene was being shot. LL's stomach was growling. Her hand began to get sore from holding the book. Then the director pops the headphones off and scans the set. "We're going to have to reshoot the first scene. There was too much noise in the background." Apparently, growling stomachs and apple munching sounds carry MUCH better than anyone expected.

The director and the first actor set up the shot again and I return to my chair at the back of the set. I throw away my apple core, pick up my book and only turn pages when I can hear the director giving directions.

I don't really have anyone to talk to. And I don't know anyone besides the director anyway. The other actor is nice, but I don't have anything to say to her after the idle pleasantries. I wonder briefly if this is what it's like for bigname actors. They can't ALL know each other. It must be kinda awkward. I thought so, anyway. If anyone asked me about LL I could tell you how big her boobs are and the rhythm of her heartbeat and how curly her hair is. I'd say she was friendly, but I don't know her well enough to say anything else. And we were almost naked!

Finally we're ready for my scene with LL. She and I take off our shirts and get in position and I let the director arrange my hair. I giggle to myself as I realize that our hair, mine and LL's, are the starring feature in this scene. The director says, "Added bonus! You have a tattoo. Let's get that in the shot."

So. What do you think about while you're filming a scene? Here's what went through my mind: Don't breathe too loudly. I can hear LL's stomach gurgling. I can hear LL's heartbeat. Ba-bump-bump. Ba-bump-bump. Time to move my head to the center. I think I have to pee. My toes are cold. My arms are uncomfortable. My neck is getting a little stiff. Time to move my head to the right. The director rearranges my hair again. I start to drift off. Oh, we're done?

Now we watch dailies again. Boring. I watch for a minute and am utterly unimpressed with my image. So I go to the bathroom and get another handful of nuts. LL and I are walking around the set in our underwear. We know we'll just have to do this again and there's no point in getting dressed and neither of us brought cover ups. But we don't need them. The set is very warm. We do the entire scene again, all the angles. On the very last angle, the moment we're done, the director says, "That's the shot." As LL and I get up from the bed and pull on our tops and I fish around for my glasses, the director cues up these latest takes. At the very last take, he and SS tap the monitor screen and say, "That's the one. Look at the hair and the contrast." The director turns to LL and me, smiles and says, "We're done. Thanks for your patience and cooperation." It's taken two hours to get the necessary ten seconds of film the director needed.

I'm informed that I have two more scenes to do and the director will call when he's ready to schedule them. But in those scenes, I get more costume than just a bra.

I learned quite a bit about the creative process and how it bloody changes from moment to moment. Because most of my responses during the course of the shoot were, "Whatever you want" and "It's okay with me" and "Yeah, I can do that" I've been deemed "flexible" and "easy to work with" and "likely to work again."

Now, THERE'S a talent. Shrugging and saying, "fine" whenever someone asks you something.

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