So I Was In a Movie, Part Two
On Thursday I returned to Gail’s house and met Kat, who was playing my character’s sister. She was around my age- I couldn’t tell if she was older or younger- and unselfconsciously hip. She had an improv background, and it showed.
I didn’t want to be the least competent person in the room, so I worked hard to keep up with Kat. We read the script together with Gail, the three of us trying to make it as strong as possible. Both Kat and I would occasionally come up with suggestions to improve our scenes, though she was more assertive than I was. Whenever I suggested something, Kat would agree it was good, and then come up with something that built on my idea and made it better.
A few days later I returned to Gail’s place to rehearse with the woman who was playing my character’s date. I was curious about how this would turn out, because while I have some limited acting experience, I’ve never had to fake romantic chemistry with someone.
Her name was Natasha. She seemed nervous during the rehearsal, but I wasn’t sure why. She was obviously just as good an actor as Kat, but for the first hour or so seemed to lack some of her confidence.
Then Gail decided that one of the scenes wasn’t working, and asked for our input. Both of us seized the opportunity, and started enthusiastically improvising. Through this process, we were able to establish our characters’ chemistry. Gail was pleased, and vowed to rewrite the problematic scene in order to incorporate our suggestions. She had to work quickly; we were due to film it in just three days.
After the rehearsal, Natasha and I found ourselves walking in the same direction, and I found out why she’d initially seemed uneasy.
“That was actually my first time meeting Gail,” she said. “I mean, I talked to her once on the phone when she asked if I wanted to be in this movie. Originally somebody else was supposed to play my role. I guess we’re in the same boat, huh?”
“What do you mean?”
“Gail told me I’d be working with some guy named Christian.”
I’ve got to hand it to Gail: it takes guts to have so much faith in people you barely know. Apparently Natasha was hired based on the recommendation of the woman who played the fairy. That was all Gail needed. I have no idea what would have happened if Natasha had turned out to be incompetent or unreliable, or what would have happened if I’d been unavailable or unable to remember my lines.
She just believed things would work out, and they did, because she’s smart enough to figure out the right things and people to believe in.
Then the film shoot began. It was more elaborate this time, with more cameras and lights. The crew was different; the good-natured cameraman was gone, replaced by an ambiguously eastern European guy named Arturo who I quickly warmed to. He possessed the dour gravitos and brisk efficiency of an emergency room physician. There was also a sound man named Colin who was very friendly and talkative; we hadn’t had a sound man before. The only familiar face was Gail’s right-hand woman Toni, anticipating whatever was needed a minute before it was asked for.
I had been worried that I wouldn’t remember my lines, but that turned out to be a groundless fear. We focused on one scene at a time, and every scene required multiple takes from multiple angles. Sometimes I’d repeat a single line five or six times for the benefit of a particular shot. Through sheer repetition, I got my lines down cold. I learned some of the other people’s lines, too.
The first day I shot was with Kat. We were the only actors on set, so we ended up shooting the shit a lot while waiting around. Cameras had to be moved around, lights had to be adjusted, technical decisions had to be made, and while all this was going on there wasn’t anything for us to do except hang out.
She had a fast, offbeat sense of humour, and was also a Star Trek fan, so she was really an ideal person to spend an afternoon with talking about nothing in particular. The fact we got along so well translated into the movie. We ended up improvising a fair bit, and it was all good stuff.
That was Friday, and we resumed shooting the following Monday. I showed up and promptly shit the bed.
I’d had a difficult weekend- multiple problems with my apartment, way too much of a gong show to get into here- and was stressed out of my mind when I came to the set on Monday.
When I’m stressed, my memory doesn’t work. It’s the first thing to go. My ability to concentrate is the next thing that shuts down. And usually the more stressed I get, the more stressed I get. So this wasn’t an ideal situation.
I was shooting a scene with the other two Aspie actors, Geoff and Rob, who were great guys. They had starred in Gail’s other movie and had become friends on the set. I was more of an outsider, which was fine, because I was in no mood to socialize.
I had no idea what my lines were, and- unlike Friday- found myself unable to learn them as I went along. Everyone- cast and crew alike- was very patient with me as I blew take after take. And Aspies aren’t known for their patience. Previously we’d never had to go past ten takes, but once or twice we approached twenty.
Nobody made me feel bad about it, or asked what the hell was wrong with me. We just kept pushing ahead incrementally.
After I left the set, I was sincerely worried about the rest of the shoot. The following day we were due to film the new scene Gail had written over the weekend. I’d only had the chance to read it once, and hadn’t even come close to memorizing it.