Filming Day 3: That’s a Wrap

Sunday was my third and final day on set, and the final day of the film as a whole. It was a very, VERY long day, but it was only so because the people on this film were being really picky about getting just the right take. I was called at 11:30, and was used almost right away. There were some more random pick-up shots to be done, but the big scene for me that day was my first conversation with Mike’s character. It’s weird, we kept saying what a long scene it was a how much time it would take to shoot. In reality, it was maybe two pages, but two pages in film time is at least an hour of shooting. So we just really wanted to get that out of the way.

My big goal in working on this film was to not be so showy. I’m not a “big” actor- theatre is my thing, but I’m often told that my acting doesn’t carry to the back row. But I’m still definitely a theatre actor in my style, which is much too over-exaggerated for film. The first day of the film, just by chance, I got an article about film acting in my inbox. The article pointed out that since the camera picks up the minutae of a reaction, you don’t actually need to SHOW anything- you can just think it, and the camera will pick it up. If you’re being derisive, you don’t need to smirk or snort or roll your eyes for a film, you just need to to think those derisive thoughts. This seemed a little… minimalistic for me, but considering that I’ve been doing my normal acting for the other films I’ve done and felt crappy about it, I decided to give it a try. And you know what? I actually felt good about my performance about 95% of the time. I didn’t feel like I was straining which, now that I think about it, is often how I feel when film acting. Normally, I’m bombarded by all the film acting tips I’ve ever gotten, but the only tip I thought of was just thinking the emotions. And I think it worked. They seemed to like it, anyway.

As Mike and I assumed, filming that conversation took forever, and we knew dinner was on the other side of shooting it. I was starving, and we would have been done SO much earlier, but the people whose apartment we were using were tired of us being there and so weren’t bothering to keep their volume down. Boom mics pick up EVERYTHING. Sometimes the sound guy will tell us that we can’t start filming at that moment because a car is going by, and those of us not listening through the boom can’t even hear it. But if we filmed with that sound, it would mess up the entire recording. So anything we could hear with our own, un-mic’d ears was bad. (I should note here that, besides one of the residents being a film major, these students were paid to let us use their dorm.) And they wouldn’t stop making noise, usually in the middle of takes, screwing up everything. It was as we were nearing the final take before dinner that I started feeling really out of it- not just hungry, but really exhausted. My brain was almost numb from saying the same thirty words every ten minutes, and there was this one moment where my brain just shut down while Mike was speaking and I swayed where I stood. I ended up finishing the take (though I think that one was messed up by the talking residents.) I was just SO DONE with that scene.

This is why I don’t think I could ever LOVE film acting. Theatre rehearsal can get repetitive, yes, but when you have to do something over in theatre, it’s often so you can try something new. You can often experiment in film, too, but not as much; besides being confined to a certain screen size, your performance can’t be so radically different that moments of it can’t be spliced in with other takes. It’s this replicated performance that I don’t like; one of the worst things that ever happened to me as an actor was figuring out my little habits, because suddenly, they were distracting me from my performance: I did that thing was my hands again, I always extend my neck when speaking a line, etc. etc. Doing close to the same performance just brings to light what you do that might not be so great.

Finally we finished that scene and broke for dinner. I didn’t film for hours after that- I only had one more thing to do, reshooting the scene that almost caught my hair on fire, and that was at the very end. But I stayed on set and watched the other scenes. When those were done, everyone of the actor persuasion was sent home except for me. Thankfully, the lights they used for the reshoot weren’t as hot as the previous ones, so there was no fire hazard that time. It still took a long time, but again, it was because they were really committed to getting the absolute best shot. There were so many of them that would have been fine, but the director of photography kept saying to the director, “Just let me try this. I promise you, you will lose your shit.”

I was wrapped by ten. I was actually kind of sad to leave the set. For the first time on a film, I felt like I deserved it when the crew told me I had done a good job. I really enjoyed my time on set, and the script was fun to work with, as well as the cast and crew. I may get to work with some of the same people this coming weekend, but we’ll see. I may actually go to the screening of this film; that should tell you how good I felt about it.

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