The truth is, the lion’s share of the work I did actually spanned over two summer months and I wrote about … none of it.
Part of the reason for that was that my on-set experiences were unremarkable as far as the theme of this Blog; you've heard it all before, folks. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy myself; I did. And there are things to write about, so I offer them up in this year-in-review kind of post.
Three of my working days were as Background on the set of Mr. D. It was a pleasure to the different cast members at work, doing their scenes, riffing off lines and moments. I pent a single day on set last year where filming took place at the new Citadel High School in Halifax. This year, the school was recreated in an improvised soundstage inside the ice shed of one of the local curling rinks. This was pretty cool. I spent a few days as a teacher – reading in the staff room, going for a coffee, walking down the halls. All of this was unremarkable stuff. The sets were cool and the crew was great and it was fun to watch the actors create. Beyond that it was a lot of sitting around. So I didn’t write it up.
But three days BG on a project, that’s a new personal best!
Added in to the mix was an evening shoot for an industrial video. I played a business man coming in a store to buy lottery tickets, seemingly a little desperate for a win. The video was part of a series being filmed for the Nova Scotia Gaming Commission to help educate retailers on actions to be taken to mitigate gambling addiction. We filmed the shoot in a store downtown, off the pedway that connects to the casino. There was a concert going on that night and a few groups of people wandered by on their way to that event. I overheard someone comment as I was in the store doing my bit that it looked like “they’re doing some sort of James Bond thing.” Of course, this for me was the highlight of the evening.
Sandwiched in between all this stuff were two voice-over sessions. One was a PSA for the National Day of Mourning. The other was a few lines for a radio spot for Bell. Each of them only took a few minutes to record and for whatever reason, I was paid double scale for the second spot. I really enjoyed the voice-over work for the little time that was required to do it. I auditioned for several different spots at two different production houses and I don’t think I went on an audition that I didn’t enjoy … once I actually got into the room.
Another part of why I didn’t get to writing this stuff up is Facebook. There is a secret group of us that hang out and collectively, they are a bigger audience than anyone else out there that will read my blog. So they all know this stuff already. And they’ve had fun with it, especially my tales of accidentally awkward auditions.
Tales. More than one.
The Day of Mourning audition was, I think, the first audition of the summer season. I was happy to be able to go; a few years have gone by where it’s been difficult to make myself available so who knows exactly how many months/years had gone by since I was last at this studio. When I was called to go in, I remembered the booth was farther in the back, so I didn’t go through the door to the sound board, I carried on farther down the hall and went through the door at the end. Through that door was empty space leading to another door in the back. As I reached for that knob, I heard the door behind me close and with a kind of dreadfully certainty I knew even before I tried them that both doors would be locked.
And they were.
I tapped meekly on the first door I came through. “Uh… help?”
“Happens all the time,” the director told me as he let me out of the closet.
“Happens all the time,” posted the casting director in my Facebook group.
Neither assertion made me feel any less silly. But I won the audition. So using wonderfully fallacious logic, I attributed winning the role to having initially locked myself in the closet.
Weeks later I was auditioning for a film role at Filmworks. It’s a casting agency that moved it’s location last year. They’re on the third floor in an older building in the heart of downtown. If you’re standing directly in front of the door to their office, there’s another door on your right. That’s the men’s room. I went in there first and washed my hands. Came back outside, closed the bathroom door while opening the outward-swinging office door, stepped over the threshold and reached behind me to close to the door again.
I swear I never heard the guy who came up behind me.
When I reached behind, it wasn’t the doorknob I grabbed. In fact, even in the shock of the moment, I’m pretty sure I said out loud, “Hey, THAT’S not the doorknob….”
I sat in a waiting chair and did my best to completely ignore the fact I’d just grabbed a guy by his junk.
Did I say I was reading for the part of a minister?
So I won that role too.
(Months afterward, someone suggested I be invited as a guest speaker for a local workshop on audition techniques. I'm reasonably certain the suggestion was made in fun.)
(Also, also, a few days prior, I listened JB Smoove talk about audition techniques on Marc Maron's podcast. So the jury's still out whether it was JB's experience or the cockgrab....)
I enjoyed my rarely given moments to break down the divides between “actors” and “background” (as best I could, anyway) and I was teased by my friends who were there as BG wedding guests. Occasionally I got to chat breezily with the director. I spent some hilarious moments in the front pew improvising a different priest character for Tracy, the script supervisor. She immediately figured that he should get his own movie. (It turns out that Tracy has 45 different movie and TV credits on her IMDB page.)
When we got around to shooting, the director set up a shot to feature me and my big move as we all react to the suspicion that the GROOM HAS FINALLY ARRIVED! It resulted in the most specific kind of acting I’ve done so far, not in terms of acting really, more in terms of timing, camera tracking and tilting, marks to hit and body position. Oh, and also act.
In spite of guilty feelings that I really didn’t have much more to do than the wedding guests that were there getting paid as background, I finished the day pleased. Happy with how I did, the people I’d met and spent time with, the fun we’d all had. It took the whole day to shoot the scene. The director shot coverage from everywhere. I was curious for the result; how would all activity finally be edited?
Summer ended and so did work as an actor. I looked forward to my vacation I’d planned in Arizona with my son. An invitation appeared in my inbox from the producers of “Christmas With Holly”, an invite that went to all of the cast and crew to attend the premiere of movie. The date was THE DAY BEFORE my Arizona vacation was to begin.
The place was Hollywood.
We drove up to the studio lot, were cleared by a security guard and a elegant looking woman in an evening gown, enjoyed drinks and snacks at the reception under the Hallmark banner, walked over to the Daryl Zanuck Theater and inspected the array of Oscars, met some lovely women in our row (including Tracy and her friend Sharon), came back to the reception for dinner and drinks. Mingled and chatted. One young woman came up to me to ask if she could take a picture of me with her mom. "Sure!" I said, all the while thinking how completely ridiculous that was, a picture with me? Ridiculous! And then immediately wondering, is there anyone else who wants to take a picture with me?
A lot of really fun things happened last year. I got to work on a lot (for me) of projects with a lot of cool people. I got to write my first cheque to my new agent.
But it’s going to be hard to top the coolest thing of all: taking my son to 20th Century Fox Studios in Century City, California for his dad’s very first (and probably only) movie premiere.