Tuesday, May 22, 2007

First Three Days of DW

We've finished the first three days of a twelve day shoot for DANGEROUS WRITING. About 40% of the film is in the can, which is amazing, involved long days, and is the result of the good faith and hard work of a dedicated group of filmmakers. I'm exultant about a lot of the work we did and cautiously optimistic about a bit here or there in which I didn't feel I did my best, trusting that the cinematic elements and other performances are compelling where mine might not be, and that regardless, the story is getting told--though that makes me sound much more churlish than I feel, because there is a LOT to feel great about.

Being the lead actor in a 14 minute scene done in a single take involving a complicated camera move and thirteen other actors--all of whom were improvising and only one of whom (aside from myself) had seen a script--was agonizing, mindblowing, consuming, and thrilling. The bulk of my own lines in this scene were scripted, but my job was to respond truthfully to the unscripted lines coming at me--improvising and bending to do so--and keep the story moving forward. It hardly felt like acting at all, because I just had to keep moving and responding. I did have a monologue in the middle of the scene and I'm glad I'd prepared it in private rehearsals before the shoot, because I didn't have time to be precious about it. So, it felt and sounded like Ezra, without me having to 'act' it.

I also had another scene--beautifully shot in gorgeous light--which involved remaining at a peak of emotional anquish for 15 takes done over an hour period. That was tough. But, not as tough as the 14 minute scene with 14 actors. It's easier to go to hell on your own than to heaven with your friends.

I love working with both actors and crew. On this film, I feel equally bonded to both groups--cast and crew--groups which don't necessarily show the greatest understanding or respect for one another much of the time. But, because a lot of this film is shot in my apartment, and because I'm in so much of it, and because I'm a producer, I'm around the crew even more than I'm around the other actors, and so I've come to love these guys. They bust their asses for little or NO glory. And, it's with they alone in the room when I'm often asked to do my deepest work; it's the crew's attention and support I feel as I move into Ezra's deepest sorrow; it's their little nods of approval and murmers of, "that was good," for which I listen. The crew is important in more ways than many actors know.... And their shooting day is WAY more physical and WAY longer than the actors' day. And they're there for everything. I'm the lead actor, and I'm not even there for everything. I'm not always in front of the camera. But, they're always behind it (By crew, I mean Director, DP, ACs, grips, producers, dolly operators, and sound guy... I still don't know what the hell "best boy" means.)

My fellow actors are doing some wonderful work, too. As the lead, I find that my role is sometimes to be the straight man; to create a space for my scene partner to tell their part of the story (when they're the lead actor for that scene.) It's great fun and humbling to do that. Yesterday, I had two scenes in which my scene partner had the chance to shine, one in a very quiet way, one quite theatrically. I loved both moments.

We shoot again next weekend.

Tired and grateful,


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