Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The One Where I Tried to be a Multi-hyphenate

Published 7/2/2013

As much as I wish Lena Dunham would just freaking wear clothes, and as cloying as I find Whitney Cummings, I have recently gained a very earnest, newfound respect for them both. Say what you will about their work, but the fact is that they have written and starred in their own shows, which is saying a lot for young women in this industry, 2013 though it may be. It isn’t that I’ve just become aware of this, but over the past weekend I came to understand the gravity of this situation as I tried to follow in their footsteps.
In the midst of pitching and trying to coerce people to read my work, a group of my closest friends convinced me  that it was time to take matters into our own hands. After months of meeting and planning and deliberation, we decided to shoot a trailer for the series that I wrote. This may sound like a simple weekend project, but let me assure you it was not. Cut to Saturday morning and I’m going over a shot list with our DP and gaffer(who up until that moment I was clueless as to what they actually do), blissfully unaware of what was to follow in the next 48 hours.

I should probably say that though we had the use of a RED camera and an awesome crew, this was a low budget endeavor, which meant that everyone on my wonderful team wore a multitude of hats. Mine included writer, actress, set dresser, wardrobe, craft services, occasionally makeup, and probably some other things that I’m forgetting. The week prior consisted of all of us getting about 3 hours of sleep every night because there were last minute locations to tie down, cast members to replace, craft and props to acquire and scripts to revise. Oh and we also had to go to our normal jobs, and in my case audition and go to my acting classes. Needless to say, I was close to ragged when we started, but I was fueled by adrenaline and caffeine so I rarely noticed.
Since I was also technically the co-director and 1st AD, I found myself in a crash course on shot composition, framing, cheating- things that actors usually don’t concern themselves with, and overwhelmed would be an understatement of how I felt. Don’t get me wrong, most of the shoot was awesome. It was humbling and exciting to hear talented actors bring characters that I created to life, and there is nothing like performing with people who have good energy and good chemistry. But I also learned firsthand that sometimes things that look good on paper and sound good in your head are completely un-sayable (never underestimate the power of a table read), and that there are only so many ways you can inflect when saying “Nothing happened.” And as for the things that did happen…

I must again must give Miss Dunham credit , because as gratuitous and unflinching as her sex scenes are, she writes them, sticks to her vision, and shoots them. I had two scenes that involved kissing two different people, and let me just say that “who the hell wrote this and why did I agree to do this?” definitely ran through my mind more than once. I really don’t feel that I can stress enough how awkward it is to make out with strangers in an extremely bright room, with at least eight other people watching and filming you. I fear I may never have the balls to do a sex scene, pasties or not.
The second day of shooting brought the unraveling of a few crew members, high temperatures, and a bit of the old ultraviolence.  In addition to kissing people I don’t know, I thought it would be a good idea to shoot a scene that involves my character getting slapped in the face by a man. I have to say that the best moment of the day may have been my costar asking if he really had to hit me and saying “I’ve never slapped a woman in the face before.”  Good to know. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but for some reason I didn’t really think about the fact that we had to shoot a two shot, a wide shot and both sides of our coverage. Needless to say, I now have a greater appreciation for stage fighting, tricky editing and stunt people but the Method, not so much. I actually felt worse for the person hitting me than for myself because he apologized profusely after every take, and every time he hit me I caught a glimpse of the DP cringing and willing the scene to be over. The upside is that a later scene that involved someone having office supplies thrown at them looked like child’s play.

My weekend of on-location shooting was a great learning experience, as was being in almost every shot and having so much creative control over what was being filmed. Having said that, being so thoroughly involved in a project is exhausting. I am exhausted. Also, filming intimate scenes is really awkward. I really feel that there should be a PSA about that because people need to know. I used to think actors were kidding when they said that but now I get it. That’s really the moral of this whole story. Anywho, once the trailer is edited we will commence to saturate the Interwebs and harass anyone who might be even slightly interested in developing this project but in the meantime, I’m off to take a nap and ice my face.  #BelowTheLine


Location: 5

Craft Services: 5

SAG/AFTRA vouchers procured:0

On set experience: #crazy

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