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Archive for December, 2008

A Cranky Actress Christmas

On Christmas Day, Cranky went to a friend’s house for dinner. I have like no family and feel compelled to go somewhere so as not to fall into the inevitable Christmas depression. And, of course, the whole day made me cranky.

My friend called to invite me. I asked what I could bring and if she needed help cooking. “Nah, I’ll make a roast. That’s easy”, she said. She has a kid and an eleven-month old baby. She is married to an advertising colleague of my husband who has children close to her age. He agreed to have kids again as long as he didn’t have to do anything. His grandchildren are the same age as his kids. So they have an eleven month old and a five-year old uncle.

A new rule of thumb – do not –I repeat DO NOT go to dinner at anyone’s house who has a baby. If you must, bring your own food and beverages. Hide them in the trunk of the car if you have to and do a tailgate party while they are chasing child. They will not even know you are gone.

We take my husband’s mother with us. She is also subject to the Christmas funk and feels the need to go somewhere. She once called us on Christmas Day and said, “I don’t understand. It’s Christmas Day. I have three children. Why am I alone?” “BECAUSE YOU’RE JEWISH,” was my husband’s answer.

The day before we go, I go shopping and buy dessert things. I buy stuff to make a great salad.

Christmas morning I wrap gifts for them and make the salad dressing. I put on my new blouse. We drive in horrendous traffic and pick my mother-in-law up on the way.

We get to the house and park and go in. The house a mess. No really, a mess. Stuff strewn all over the floor. The kitchen a disaster area with dirty dishes and pots. And a sink full of dirty utensils and floating food.

I think part of being a performer spills over into entertaining. Everything has to be perfect. Also, my parents trained me to not to let anyone in the house unless it had been vacuumed within 15 minutes of a guest’s arrival. It’s a bit much, I know. On film sets, I find myself tidying up the craft services table. Once, one of my fellow actors was watching me clean up, and he said, (his accent being Southern American Gay) “Honey, before I went through therapy, I would be doing EXACTLY what you’re doing.” So I know part of the problem is me.

There are appetizers on the kitchen island. Also on the island are dusty light bulbs, tools, pieces of paper, empty boxes and assorted debris.

‘I figured we could concentrate on hors d’oeuvres,” the hostess says.

There is not a beverage in sight. My mother in-law says she wants some booze. I find a bottle of wine in a box by the front door. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. I ask if it’s OK if I open it. I go to the cabinet to get a wine glass. They are all dusty. How do dishes get dusty in a cabinet? But then I remember that they had some renovations done in their kitchen – BUT THAT WAS TWO YEARS AGO. I wash a glass and pour some wine. Then I have to find a soda for my husband. I call this the “hunting and gathering” method of entertaining. I find a bottle of soda. The bottle is suspect, as it is already open and there is no telling how long it has been there. The drill with the glasses again. Find and wash.

Everyone is standing around the kitchen island eating the hors d’oeuvres. There are not enough stools for everyone to sit. I make sure my mother-in-law gets a stool. It is obvious everyone is starving. I skipped lunch, figuring we were going to have a big dinner.

It’s getting later and later. Everyone continues eating dips, cheeses and pigs in a blanket and the specialite of the house: cold shrimp with no cocktail sauce. “I was sure I had cocktail sauce somewhere,” says the hostess.

At 5:30 the hostess says, “I dunno, should I even cook the chicken cutlets? Maybe we should just go directly to dessert.” What happened to the roast?

My husband takes matters into his own hands and says “Get Chinese food delivered.” He is Jewish after all and has probably been eating Chinese food on Christmas all his life. The daughter from the first marriage makes a run for the take out. When she comes back it is added to the kitchen island with the other debris.

 

I ask if maybe we should sit at the dining room table and eat.   “Ah”, the hostess says, “I don’t know if we have enough chairs.” So no table. A few of us are on kitchen stools, the rest are standing shoveling Chinese take out into their mouths. If I didn’t have some Norman Rockwell picture in my head about Christmas, standing around a counter eating Chinese food on Christmas day probably wouldn’t be so depressing. The food has no taste, I scrape it into the garbage.

I think only the baby got a square meal. But I’ve been through this before. Friends going through raising a baby is hard to take.

When we are finished with the Chinese, I put the food away, clear a space on the counter and put out dessert. I make some coffee. The filters they have don’t’ fit the coffee maker, so the coffee is full of grounds and I have to pour it through a filter again to make it drinkable.

My mother-in-law asks if there is a bathroom somewhere else, as the one between the kitchen and the dining room doesn’t seem very private. The hostess assures her the bathroom here will be fine, the door locks, etc. Two minutes after my mother-in-law goes into the bathroom, the five-year old opens the door and looks at her.

When I get home, I am completely ill and am up ’till 4am with a stomach ache from grazing and not eating a regular meal.

So I tried my best, but willy-nilly I am left depressed by Christmas. Holidays are so depressing, I’d much rather be doing a show.

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Theater People Hate Film People

I do both theater and film. But I have to admit, I prefer film people in general.

Often, at theater auditions, you can cut the pretentiousness with a knife.

Does anyone want to see Shakespeare with an unknown director and an unknown cast? No. If it doesn’t have a famous actor in it, nobody is interested. Even then it will have better luck if it is edited. Lose the songs. Cut the running time. Everyone loves the 90-minute no intermission show.

Same goes for Greek Tragedy. There is a well-known MFA program in a prestigious school churning out mini haughty directors following in the director of the program’s footsteps. They all have dramaturges.   They want to produce Greek tragedy. As if anybody cares. Honey, if you can’t get Diana Rigg, forget it.

And the monologue seems so yesterday. Give me a script.

Film people send you a scene from the project. They film the scene. They look at it the next day. They’re concerned with technical things and mostly don’t blow too much wind over their projects.

I actually went to a theater audition where the director (a doyenne of experimental theater past) actually took a group of us into the theater to tell us about the play. It went on for 40 minutes. A blow-by-blow minutiae filled plot description. “Then they go out in the boat. Then a storm comes. Then there is lightening. This whole time they are falling in love.” She is acting the fucking thing out. No!! This goes on and on and I am trying to figure out how to get the hell out of there. I have a fantasy of going down on all fours and crawling out between the seats with my purse wrapped around my ankle dragging behind me.

ALL I HAD TO DO WAS MAKE BELIEVE I HAD AN EMERGENCY TEXT MESSAGE. When did I think of that? When I got home.

Theater people can be suspicious of film people. I had a theater director look at my resume and say I should pick one or the other. She hated that I worked on films. Like it was some sort of sacrilege. How stupid is that? It does not take a brain surgeon to work in both mediums. There are so many actors that easily go between both. Ralph Fiennes anybody? It is a matter of size and distance. Bigger for stage, smaller and more nuanced for film. But always authentic, if possible.

I love when I go to an audition and they ask me which I like better, theater or film? I’m not kidding.

Of course film people have their quirks. Often in the search for realism they will ask personal questions to see how like that character you are. When going to play a Mom once, a director asked if I had any children, and looked disappointed when I said no. Do you think they asked Tom Hanks if he had been to the moon before they cast him as an astronaut?

I’ve been steering clear of a lot of theater projects because of the time involved. An accurate casting ad would read: “We will workshop twice a week for three months. Nights and weekends. Then we will rehearse seven days a week for three weeks. Also nights and weekends. Followed by two 12-hour days of tech rehearsal. Followed by a three week run which no one will attend!”

For this I need the attitude and the dramaturgy?

The Zen of Auditioning

Got home and found out I got the part in the film with hat woman. I rose above the hat.

But I got the part I wasn’t that interested in really. I read for two parts. And I worked worked worked on the other role. I memorized it; I had like emotions, blah blah blah.

The part that I thought was less interesting, I didn’t really prepare much at all. This was my big strategy – I’ll do the less interesting part badly so they’ll give me the other part. Ah huh. But what happens is, when I read, the essence of nonchalance comes across totally natural, so I get the part I was less interested in. Weird right?

I can’t believe I did this to myself. I should have thrown off the part I really wanted and tried really really hard on the part I didn’t want. Then I would have gotten the part I wanted. Is this giving you a headache?

This is an example of the psychological fine line actors deal with all the time. You need to care about the work and kinda not care about whether you get the part or not.

 

You have to not care about what they think of you. Or what you think they think they are looking for.

Ever noticed how many actors do meditation, yoga, The Forum, flotation, breathing exercises, etc? How some of them are like crazy superstitious? This is why. The caring/non-caring fine line.

This is the main reason inexperienced actors totally suck when they first start auditioning. They build each audition up in their minds to be “the thing” that is going to make or break them. So when they get in the room they have an out of body experience and perform in a total panic. And when they go to walk out of the room, they go directly to the closet door. Then they leave their bag in the room and have to go back in. Then they trip on the way to the elevator.

You can be a total artist in a class and then totally tank in front of a table of auditionees.

I know an actor who says he auditions really well when he is sick as a dog. Wanna know why? He doesn’t have the energy to be nervous. Just does his work and gets the hell out of there.

It’s all about being in the right headspace.

I used to have to prepare a lot to get there before I went to an audition. It was ridiculous. I did a meditation tape, an hour-long yoga tape, and a half hour voice tape. I used to joke I had to do so many tapes I had no time for people.

If my husband heard AH HUM AH HUMA one more time he was gonna kill me.

Now I can roll out of bed and just go. I’m used to the drill. I know my work; I’m not looking for approval. I’m interested in what’s going to happen to me when I read.

But I’m like not impervious or anything. I am playing the role I tried NOT to get.

Celebrity In the Hood

A celebrity has moved into my neighborhood. A big one. And the funny thing is, I could compose a personality profile based on the sightings my friends have told me about.

First Sighting. A health food restaurant. Eating by himself in the early evening and talking animatedly with the owner. Seen in the same restaurant at the same time like 4 nights in a row. Always by himself.

 

Deduction

1.Single.

  1. Spends a lot of time alone- as this restaurant delivers- shows he needs to get out around people after probably spending many hours alone.
  2. Likes to eat healthy.

Second Sighting. At an AA meeting. Have a friend who is devotee. There is a rule about not revealing who you see in meetings, but I assume this flies out the window where celebrities are concerned. “Wow”, I say to my friend, “That must mean he doesn’t drink.” “I don’t think so”, my friend says, “He said, “”Hello, my name is Blank,” he should have said, “”Hello, my name is blank and I’m an alcoholic. That’s how you address the group at meetings. I think he still drinks and just goes in and out of the rooms.” My friend did not like his outfit. Pleated khakis, white sox and a too short barn jacket. (Isn’t it amazing the detail we can remember about celebrities? The poor things.)

 

Deduction

         1.Sober? – inconclusive.

  1. Single– definitely – white sox outside of the gym.

Third Sighting. Another friend witnesses him get drunk at a small local restaurant, which is an upscale imitation of an English country pub. It can only be described as precious. The little velvet throw pillows on the banquette, the faux antique clocks, the chef with the ponytail. It has the air of one of those places where you have to impress the staff if you ever want to get a table again. Well, Mr. Celebrity is sighted in there getting totally drunk alone at the bar and grabbing the balls of the bartender over something that sends Mr. Famous into a rage. I don’t think he is ever going to get to sample the delicately fried oysters with a hint of shaved lemon peel. (My fav, natch- close to the clam.)

 

Deduction

1.My friend of the second sighting proves herself once more to be amazingly intuitive (is it all the yoga she does?)

  1. He’s another psycho celebrity.
  2. AA hasn’t sunken in.
  3. Loneliness confirmed again – drinking alone.

Fourth Sighting. My squash coach sits with him at the pizza parlor and finds out Mr. Famous cannot play squash because he blew his knees out playing football. Now that I think of it, he does look a bit meat heady jock like from Connecticut.

 

Deduction

 

  1. Was once big man on campus.
  2. Career testosterone driven.

 

Isn’t it amazing all we’ve learned from my observant friends? Can you imagine people noticing every detail about you every time they see you? Like the times you’re out of coffee and go to the Korean Deli without washing your face or brushing your teeth? Or the times I walked the dog in pajamas and a long coat? I would be pegged as a madwoman in a week.

What I take away from this is knowing I would NEVER ever submit myself to eating in that health food place with the hardwood uncomfortable chairs, the constant din of blenders making smoothies, the horrible blasting 80’s music, the service from another planet (crochet caps and tattoos the regulation uniform). No, I get it delivered. This makes me feel just a tiny bit better about not being famous.

Famous Actor Who Shouldn’t Direct

What makes a great director? I think it’s the ability to be really really calm even though underneath there is tremendous pressure. I was once fortunate enough to watch a world-class director in action and he was like the Buddha. People were running up to him every few seconds between takes asking him for decisions and he said exactly what he wanted, calmly and precisely. He was reassuring with the actors. He smiled at them and nodded. Took time for a little joke. He was a big Daddy.

On the flip side, I also witnessed a famous actor who was mind bogglingly ill suited to it, try his hand at directing.   This guy exudes mega amps of nervous tension on screen and it works for him. Unfortunately, he has the same vibe in life. The air around him literally vibrates with tension. My first encounter was when he walked into wardrobe and started talking about me two feet away from me while looking at me in horror. He thought my hair was too short to be put up (it was a period film). The hair person had a picture in her hand of me in said hairdo. He left with an angry look on his face. Why why why? I pegged him as a nervous twit and vowed to stay cool no matter what.

The film had a lot well-known actors who were taking pay cuts to work on his foray into the independent film world.

Everyday, to break up the long hours, the most famous of them all would collect one dollar and have you write your name on it. Then sometime in the afternoon she would come onto the set smiling and laughing and say, “Hey everybody! Its time for the drawing!” Applause and laughter. A big hug from famous actress to the winner. The entire time, nervous director looks like he wants to kill her and practically has smoke coming out of his ears. It wasn’t pretty. This was repeated every day. I looked forward to him being tortured, actually.

Then there was the big star who didn’t learn lines. He said he was more spontaneous if he didn’t know what he was going to say. (A likely story!) So the director had to say the line while the camera was rolling, and the big star would repeat it. Then a pause, and the director would say a line and the big star would repeat it. They did whole scenes this way. They would have to cut the director’s part in the editing room. As a side note, after a twenty minute break, this same actor returned to set with a massive black grease stain on the pants of his period costume and he looked kind of surprised that it was there.

Staying in another mental dimension seemed like a good strategy for dealing with the atmosphere on the set and this actor was obviously way way away.

 The funniest thing I witnessed, was watching him work with a veteran actor. The director kept trying to get him to set the blocking for the scene so he could choreograph the cameras and the veteran actor kept stumbling around and saying, “I don’t know. I don’t know. But when we actually do it, it all might change. I might change everything. Depends how I feel at that moment.” Director was grinding his teeth. The veteran actor appeared totally unaware that the director was flipping out. It was beauteous.

One afternoon, an actress was doing a scene and the director wasn’t happy with it. His reaction was to pace back and forth and bark, “Do it again.” On and on he went, “Do it again. Do it again. Do it again.” Barely a breath between takes. No direction, no input. “Do it again. Do it again. Do it again.” The actress deconstructing more and more on every take. He had also written the film, which makes it twice as hard, as writers often hear the way they think a line should be delivered in their head. The scene never improved, it got worse. He was yelling at the crew to reset faster. Faster, faster, faster. The word faster is like a death knoll to an actor. The poor actress was his wife.

Eh, the film didn’t look so good when it was done. It didn’t do too good either.

The Clams Have It

One summer, I got a job doing a play in Martha’s Vineyard. I was so excited. What a coup – summer on the Vineyard. It paid. A little. And with it came free lodging at the director’s house!

I had to sell my husband on the idea. “ We can stay for free at his house. It’s probably some great beach house on the Vineyard.” He said OK.

We packed up six weeks worth of belongings and the dog and took off in my husband’s sister’s Honda Civic.

I love the ocean and was so excited to be getting to spend six weeks there. I also love seafood, and the minute we got of the ferry I insisted we get fried clams before going to the director’s house. Let’s call that, our last “Happy Meal”.

We find the house; it’s on a suburban looking street. My dog takes one look at the director and pees on the floor. Thank goodness it’s on the wood part. We chat in the dining room. The playwright/director makes me really uncomfortable, telling me he picked me because I look like his ex-wife. But he really hates her now. His current wife smiles uncomfortably.

When they are going to show us where we will be staying, I am looking expectantly up the stairs while they are opening the door to the BASEMENT. Oh, OK, maybe it’ll be OK. MAYBE NOT.

It’s an unfinished basement. Cinder block damp walls and a ceiling of insulation. It smells of dank dampness and mildew. There is a washer and dryer. And a small abandoned rodent in a cage that no one pays attention to. There is no air, no light. To me as a claustrophobic, it’s a nightmare. We will have to go upstairs and share the family bathroom to take showers. My husband is giving me the “what have you gotten us into look.” I try to not say anything. The dog looks indignant and upset.

The playwright/director turns out to be a stoner house painter who is high constantly high. I think he might have a problem with women. He has cast a dim blond in the show who wants to act and dance on Pointe. She is very stiff in both the acting and dancing. Find out later that he was having an affair with her. She looks at me with squinty eyes wondering if I am competition. She invites me swimming and takes me to a place where if you don’t know what to avoid, you get cut up by barnacles. I get cut up by barnacles. Blood streaming down my salt water covered legs as I emerge from the water.

 

My husband and I can’t get ourselves to go back into the basement at the end of the day.   We drive to the house and just sit in the car looking at it. Play music in the car. We refer to ourselves as “The People Under The Stairs.” My dog is scared of the director and has an accident every time she sees him. After two days, we can’t take it anymore and rent a place nearby. Paying more for rent than I am making in the show. But how can you put a price on sleeping in a place where you can breath and not have panic attacks? It’s clean. It doesn’t smell. We don’t have to lug toiletries back and forth to a bathroom and worry about running into someone.   It has windows. It’s not perfect. The only thing to sleep on is a foldout couch. We take the mattress and put it on the floor every night.

 

The director told me I was being stupid when we moved out. The summer before he had six actors living down there in the basement.   Six actors?

The show is a new age drama set in the future. I’m just hoping I don’t have to wear a tin foil hat and giant shoulder pads. Stoner let’s me create my own costume from the thrift shop.

The director is very possessive of my time. Even on my time off, we’re expected to hang out with him. Someone I met at the local church invited us to a lovely art show on a lawn. A normal person. The art show happens to be across the street from an event he is involved in. The director finds us by spotting our car. He marches in to the art show and says I’m waiting for you at MY PARTY. He looks a little crazed/stoned. We have to go with him. For the rest of the summer I am a pariah at church.

My favorite moment during the run of the show was one night when blondie is supposed to do her pointe dance.   The cue for the music to start was when she goes up on pointe. She goes up on Pointe. No music. She stays there and stays there. Forever. Her arms are over her head. Her eyes darting from side to side. She is frozen. After an eternity, and still frozen in position she yells; “CAN I HAVE SOME MUSIC PLEASE!”

Major amateur moment. AWKWARD. Duh. Just do your dance a cappella. Hello?

The director had cast himself as my ex-husband in the show. He never memorizes his lines. He carries around a clipboard with the script on it. While we’re on stage performing, I grab it out of his hands just to entertain myself. The local paper described it as a “tortured melodrama.”

He keeps stalling on giving me my agreed upon guest artist weekly salary, and I have to threaten to leave to get him to give it to me.

But there was beach. We found a favorite beach down a winding dirt road through trees. The water was clear. We ate lunch at the Black Dog everyday. I bought the T-shirt. Our dog played on the beach. She made friends with a famous writer’s dog. My husband did lots of writing. And there were CLAMS. It was so worth it.

The Most Embarrassing Day Ever

I just had the most embarrassing day. You’re not gonna believe it. I submitted myself for a spot for Liberty Mutual – they asked for an authentically blind actor.

It said; “Any ethnicity. Male or female. Age 20 – 60. Must be authentically blind.”   It was for a commercial – it said, “National Network TV, Standard Usage.”

Well, I don’t get opportunities to go out for commercials everyday, so I submitted myself. I figured what difference does it make? How many real actors are going to be authentically blind? You’re going to get a bunch of people who are authentically blind but not real actors. So I figured if they could make believe they can act, I can make believe that I can’t see. I did a scene once from “A Patch of Blue”.

Anyway it went perfectly well. I got off the elevator – I had borrowed a cane from my 90-year old neighbor. He’s fabulous, you have to meet him, his whole house is antiques.

So, I’m tapping my stylish cane with the sterling silver handle, acting totally blind, and the monitor was like so nice to me. AND YOU KNOW THAT NEVER HAPPENS. They show me where the bench is and all, and I’m the only one who can see that I’m the best looking blind person there, I swear.

I’m already thinking residuals, and they hand me the script and it’s in FUCKING BRAILLE. Oh my god! Why didn’t I think of that? Shit.   So I ask the air if someone can “show me where the ladies room is?” And thank god it is out near the elevator. So I stayed in there until the coast was clear and I got on the elevator and got out of there. I was nervous that someone was going to come out looking for me so I kept up the act. I figured I could act mixed up or something if they saw me getting on the elevator. Then this guy who got on the elevator with me walked in the same direction as me, and asked if I needed help, so I had to keep the whole thing going all the way to Sixth Avenue. Hell.

Ok. Ok. I didn’t actually do this. But I saw the ad and I THOUGHT ABOUT IT.

A Christmas Miracle For the Chickens

I’m thinking about the chickens. The ones I almost had to share my dressing room with. I got cast in an experimental theater piece in the East Village. Now, as an audience member, I hear the word Experimental and I am running in the other direction, but as an actress sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. LaMaMa anyone?

The show was written by an Italian playwright who has been writing about mental institutions for 30 years (that should have been my first tip off).

It was the worst rehearsal process I have ever experienced. He sent his assistant from Rome with notes from the Italian production to work with us before he arrived himself. The assistant was a guy who had been following the director around for five years writing his thesis on him. Sounds like a rich kid who has found an alternative to work, you think? So the director turned him into a free lackey and the lackey seemed honored to do his bidding.

The director wanted us to replicate EXACTLY the movements and blocking of the Italian production. I think the method hasn’t reached Italy yet or something. You know, developing a character, having your movements be motivated by SOMETHING. So the thesis student puts a stop to ANYTHING I want to try as we work on the play. I decided my character (nurse in the nuthouse) should have a little pad and pencil to make notes on the patients. He fucking CALLED ITALY to tell the director! He came back after lunch and said, “The director says, No pad.” I said, “Tell the director I’m not listening to him because he has made the choice of directing via telephone.”

It all came to a head one day in the midst of the graduate student giving line readings and saying, “Pleasa you mova the heada lika this.” I lost it and screamed, “I’M NOT A FUCKING MONKEY!! BLOCKING IS NOT DIRECTING! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” I figured I was gonna get fired, but he was Italian, and they scream like this if the pasta isn’t al dente. He nodded his head and we continued.

It went on like this until four days before the show when the director flies in from Italy and wheels his suitcase into the theater his dramatis personae scarf around neck flying in the breeze. He watches a run through and hates everything. As a former soccer player, his approach to directing is to scream at the top of his lungs in between talking about his semi-recent role in a film directed by a movie star. I never saw it, but sounds like he was a spear-carrier to me. ITSA MESSA.

 

They need a hospital bed for the show. Director and lackey get some nurse they know to “donate” one at the back door of a hospital. Being the insanity obsessed, and the terminal graduate student, they have no plan on how they are going to GET THE BED FROM MIDTOWN TO THE EAST VILLAGE. So they actually roll the bed through the streets of New York City. Waiting at traffic lights. Probably using hand signals when they turn at intersections. Dio Mio!

Then the assistant tells us at a cast meeting that the director wants REAL CHICKENS for the coop scene. Believe me, LIVE CHICKENS AREN’T GOING TO HELP THIS SHOW. He’s investigating the chickens. “Where are the chickens going to stay?” I ask. “Backstage” he says. “Where backstage?” I ask. “The dressing rooms.” he says. OH NO, “I WILL NOT SHARE MY DRESSING ROOM WITH CHICKENS!” I yell. “I’m drawing the line there!” They may think I’m a prima donna, but I am actually motivated by sympathy for the chickens. Backstage at the theater is freezing most of the time, it’s December, and they only turn on the heat during the show and we also use space heaters in the dressing rooms. I know on dark days they are gonna leave the chickens alone in some horrible little cage or something, and as an animal lover, I will feel sorry for the chickens, and start obsessing about what is happening to them, and I will end up bringing the chicken home and then my husband will have a fit and divorce me or we will get evicted for harboring farm animals in Brooklyn Heights. Stray dogs are one thing, but I know the chickens will put him over the edge. So my entire future is now dependent on the chickens. I can see where this is going. The lackey is non-committal in his answer about the chickens for days. I am mentally walking on eggs (pardon the pun) until I am saved when later in the week he tells us the City of New York has health regulations that prevent chickens backstage. Grazie.

The show opens, and for some bizarre reason The New York Times writes a nice article about it. Like it’s the perfect alternative Christmas show to go and see. Who’s insane now?

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.

Stomach Ruins Performance

Some days even Ms. Cranky can’t be cranky. Like yesterday, working with a gifted young filmmaker, who I love, love. Love. Everything flows. There’s no tension. It’s all good vibes and very efficient, but done in a gentle way. A female director. Love that.

I’ve worked with her a few times. Sometimes I’ve read a script she’s given me and thought, “How the hell is she gonna do that?” And she does. Easy. Like pulling a star out of the sky and walking down the street with it. I swear. With no budget. Yea! Love this kid.   She’s all imagination.

But I will admit, since this is anonymous, that I broke method for vanity yesterday. When I got zapped with the laser beams coming out of the male leads eyes, (STOP LAUGHING!) I was supposed to fall dead on the floor. Falls are no problem. I took classes at Martha Graham. Everybody was always falling all over the place. So I fall. Dead. I broke method when it came to the close up of me lying on the floor. I held my stomach in. I mean I was wearing a Lycra top, lying on my side, and I could feel the remnants of Thanksgiving spilling out and creating a little pouf. I KNOW DEAD PEOPLE DON’T HOLD IN THEIR STOMACHS. I decided to risk it and do it anyway, and not have the poufy stomach on film for everlasting eternity. I really hope you can’t tell, because if you can, I will look like a real retard, you know? People will be watching thinking, “Oh, the dead body still wants to look good. That’s weird. Vanity after death.” Or maybe vanity before reality? Don’t tell Mr. Inscrutable. He won’t talk to me for another eight years.


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