The Other Kind of Disaster Film

Working on student films is really good practice. The more you’re on a film set, the more you learn to live and breathe in front of the camera. To know that when they “ACTION!” you don’t have to DO ANYTHING. I try to stick to graduate school films, final senior projects, and thesis films. But it’s a crapshoot. I’ve been in films that went to a ton of festivals all over the world. And then I’ve also been in um, ah, the opposite.

Recently, a student director in graduate school called me. Another director who I think is great, recommended me to her. So I said sure, I’d do her project. She emailed the script to me. I took the script to the hairdressers. I took the script on the subway. I studied it while lying on the couch. It was only 5 pages, but I like to fill it in emotionally, so when I get on set I have a lot to draw from. I studied, studied studied. I was ready, because the lower the budget, the fewer takes you get.

 

I was scheduled to film on Saturday at 12:30p.m. Saturday comes, and I call the director at 11:00a.m. to ask a question before I leave for the train to the Upper West Side. She says something about the script, and mentions a character, Chad. “THERE IS NO CHAD IN MY SCRIPT,” I say. “There has to be,” she says, ”He’s the boyfriend,” she says. “Well there isn’t,” I say, “There’s a Steve.” “Huh?” she says, “Oh my god. I sent you the wrong script!” SHE SENT ME THE WRONG SCRIPT. THE WRONG SCRIPT! The ah….WRONG SCRIPT! This is definitely one for the books.

She gets hysterical, “I can’t believe I did that.” I tell her, “Just email it to me. I’ll learn it.” So I have like 10 minutes with the script plus subway time. I learn it. Superficially.

When I get there, I am introduced to the other actress I’ll be working with, or should I say PERSON, as she has never studied acting and is a political science major. OH OH. DISASTER. She can’t handle props. Can’t walk and talk. I have to basically corral her by grabbing her by the waist and moving her to the marks while we’re doing takes. With all the actresses in New York City, who would love to get another piece of film for their reels, WHY IS THE DIRECTOR USING SOMEONE WITH NO EXPERIENCE? Unless all the other actresses in New York City know something I don’t know.

We are filming in the park. Planes keep going by every few minutes and we have to cut. The director and the DP have carefully choreographed exactly where we say what. There is a beautiful bridge and water in the background. They want us to move to certain positions to take advantage of the scenery. We do a lot of takes. It’s truly hard to believe how fakey phony poor person parading as an actress is.

At the end of the day I am exhausted, feeling like a film cowboy who has been rounding up cattle all day. Weeks later, when the final product arrives, it is a film of two bobbing heads talking to each other. I swear. It’s just heads. When the heads aren’t bobbing the camera is. You can’t see the background. You can’t see the outfit I was wearing. They filmed the whole thing so close, half the time you can’t see my hair. THEY SHOT IT SO CLOSE WE COULD HAVE BEEN ANYWHERE.   We could have been in the Laundromat. The sound goes in and out. It is hands down the worst attempt at a film I have ever seen. A future PA in the making? Maybe all the other actresses in New York did know something I didn’t know.

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