Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Now THAT'S more familiar

Remember that big dialogue scene I was excited to film yesterday? Well, the film crew was stuck in traffic on their way out to the film shoot. They were stuck behind an accident on Lincoln Drive, which meant that we didn't start filming until about an hour and half behind schedule. So while the director of photography and the crew were hurridly setting up the different shots, Sean and I were getting into costume, getting our mics set up, and running our dialogue. Technically scene 4, yesterday's shoot was for the opening scene of the movie, setting up our friendship and the stress that was between us. Steve was a little on-edge as we kept losing the light as the day dragged on and on. But later he told us that he is impressed by our ability to "act without pressure" as he called it. When the camera rolled, there was no hint of stress or strain in our performance. As he was complimenting us, I said thank you, but I also thought in the back of my head: Yea... that's what you hired us for. We're professionals, and that's what you get with professionals. So even when working quickly, working efficiently, and working under the deadline of mother nature, it was very rewarding to hear that compliment to my professionalism.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A long, hot weekend

In addition to the hot weather and exposure due to outdoor Shakespeare with TOS, I also spent the days outside in a park near Media, filming scenes for GC, the movie in which I am starring. Saturday wasn't too bad, but the humidity and sunlight on Sunday were almost overbearing. We sit in the shade waiting to be called to the set, and the weather would still be fiercely oppressive. We all drank plenty of water, had some sandwiches and tomato pie, and finished the scenes we were scheduled to finish. It was also the first day in which I really had a scene of dialogue to film. It was a little strange not to get feedback and notes on my performance, but it was also a lot of fun to go through it several times and try to find something new and different in the words each time. I have much longer scenes coming up, including one that we're filming this afternoon, so it was nice to get a feel for the process with a smaller conversation. Sean, my major scene partner in the film, is a lot of fun to work with. He and I are both from theatre backgrounds, and we found a rapport right away. Not only do we have good chemistry as friends, but we both enjoy the chance to improvise some of our dialogue. The director, Steve, is very supportive of those instincts and talent, and so I think it's going to be very exciting and fulfilling to work on this project with both him and Sean.

Monday, July 21, 2008

First day on the film shoot

Last Thursday was my first day on the set of the film "God's Country," in which I'm playing Cole. Even though there were some tense moments as I struggled (and failed) to catch the train, I made it to the set just a little bit late for my call. But it ultimately didn't really matter all that much. I'm used to shooting times where people are starting as soon as everyone is there, but I had enough time to get dressed, put on makeup, have some coffee, and read over my script several times before the crew was ready for me on the set. I showed up, got a brief blocking rehearsal, and then did the first shot a few times. They moved to the second, then the third, and then we were done a scene. Another hour-long wait, and I had another 10 second shot to film. This continued most of the day until we had finished all the scenes that were on the schedule. Then I was released, given my call sheet for the next day of filming, and I went off for dinner.

It was a nice day. It took a lot of focus and work to focus on the scenework the way I needed to, since there weren't really opportunities for either rehearsals or warmups into the work. I had to act at a second's notice, and then be expected to do it again over and over. Making specific choices but letting them read in very small ways. It was a lot of fun to be just an actor on the film set, too, not worrying about the schedule, the next shot, or how long it was taking. I was there just to do my job and that was it. I'm really looking forward to the rest of this process.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Remember that time….?

Thursday's TOS in Love Park in center city Philly was marked by disasters both big and small. Small: an actress hitting her head on a set piece as she made her first entrance. Big: Our large backdrop scenic arch falling forward during the first scene, missing the three of us onstage by inches. Small: needing a crew member to stay in the dressing room during the show to make sure our stuff was safe. Big: cracking a piece of the stone ground after the set had fallen on it. Small: my hitting my own head as I went back into the dressing room at the end of the night. Big: very creepy fans who were far too interested in both Shakespeare and our female actors. Small: hearing a man nearby yelling at someone while we were running the show. Big: learning that he was yelling because someone else sat down on “Seymour” (his imaginary friend.)

Good times.

Apparently, there was also a controversy earlier in the set-up process about the security arrangements, parking arrangements, audience arrangements, power arrangements, flower arrangements, and table arrangements. It was a very challenging space to do the show, and the company isn’t even sure if they will be back there next summer. I also heard rumors that the theatre company wants to perform somewhere in the “Fairmount Park System,” but not specifically Love Park. The actors would all prefer the steps of the art museum, or even Fairmount Park itself.

We made our way to a bar/restaurant in University City, drinking and eating the pain away for half price. Can’t beat that! The whole evening was quite a way to cap off our performances in the city; we are all looking forward to hitting the suburbs again. It’s green out there!

Friendly Faces

On Wednesday night, TOS was up and running again with a performance at Penn’s Landing followed by a champagne reception on board the tall ship Gazela. It was our first show back after three days off, and we hit the ground running with a challenging space. We had the river behind us, a fountain just to the right of us, and a very shallow playing space in front of us. Barring the hazard of a small trail of oil on the stage (on which Petruchio and I took turns sliding), the space was a nice one. When the show started, we were practically blinded by the sun setting over the audience. After the sun went down completely, we started catching some of the breeze off the river. The temperature dropped, the air improved, and the entire cast could stop squinting like shifty disreputable characters.

When we squinted out into the crowd, we saw a lot of familiar and friendly faces out there. Since it was the first (and nicest) of our center city Philly performances, it was a popular one for our friends and loved ones. I saw people from the summer Shakespeare show two years ago, I saw people from Flashpoint Theatre, and I even saw a buddy of mine that I worked with almost six years ago when I was at Villanova. My parents saw the show last week, but since they came down for the champagne fundraiser, they were wandering around the edge of the audience for most of the second act. The group at the tall ship, I think, sponsored the whole event, and we lucked out because it was a really nice evening to be on the river. It was a nice night to be back on set with everyone, too. I’ve dreaded returning to some shows after a few days off, but with this one I was looking forward to seeing everyone again and playing around.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Walking the Red Carpet

Monday night marked the grand premiere of “Changing Lane.” I rented the theatre in a small video library in Mt. Airy, printed out posters for the movie, and we got dressed up for the party. Andrea made Clark Kent/Superman themed cupcakes and mint-flavored “krypto-bite” brownies, and I even assembled a “bonus features” book that had props from the film, as well as behind the scenes photos and different designs for the Superman S-shield. There was a little bit of a mixup with the reservation (they didn’t have any record of my payment), but we got it all straightened out in time for everyone to arrive. Lucky for me that they didn’t book something else in the meantime! I’d rather be lucky than good, after all. And when I said that at the premiere, Rob responded that he would be good if I could keep being lucky. Sounds like a plan to me.

I’ve got some pictures from the premiere, which I will post in a few days. It was a really good time. I had been looking forward to it for a while, and it was a lot of fun to spend the night celebrating the work we had already done. On the drive out to Mt. Airy, Rob and I decided that we needed to have more of these premiere parties, since we liked going to them so much. We were also double checking that we had the DVD every few miles, knowing it would be a bad idea to get to our own premiere without the movie.

Everyone enjoyed the film, including my family, Andrea’s sister, and the employee of the video store that we invited to join us. He said that they rarely get people showing original material, and he was very complimentary about the project. Everyone there seemed very excited that their library was being used as the site of a premiere for an original film. A big comic book fan that I know described it as “one of the best fan films he’s ever seen,” and that is saying a lot. It’s certainly a quote that is going to go on the back of the DVD release box! Some of the best feedback I’ve gotten on the film is for it’s writing, which has been described as “excellent” and “natural.” Maybe I should go in for a career in screenwriting, or in script editing. I wonder how one goes about finding a career like that…

Tame that Shrew!

Thursday night was our first opening performance of TOS at a park in Lansdowne. Well, it wasn’t really a park. It was more like a lawn. More like a back lawn, really. A big green space between two buildings and near a rush-hour heavy road. As the time for the show approached, we anxiously waited for the audience to appear and the traffic to disappear. Our first show started strong, although I completely misjudged how much time it would take to reach the stage in my first entrance. Although too early was much better than too late, and I was forced to spend some time spinning around on the stage as I waited for the music to end so I could start acting. But aside from that little mix-up, the show went very well. The weather was warm but comfortable, especially after the sun went down. I thought it was strange that the hottest and most uncomfortable spot was the backstage area where the actors were waiting to go on. It was pleasant onstage, and there was a nice breeze blowing through the lawn.

The audience was very responsive, laughing at all the jokes and in all the right places. I could hear the laughter of some of my friends very clearly, and it really made me proud to hear them laughing so hard at the jokes on which they had given me advice. Like it just made the whole performance pay off for those moments. My buddy also complimented me again when we went out to the bar, saying that he was impressed with the work I did in this show. He also expressed surprise at the power and strength of my voice, saying that he didn’t know I had “such a set of pipes.” I’m the first one to talk in the show, and he was impressed at first by the acoustics in the space. But when he had to work a little harder to hear some other actors, he realized that my voice was just that powerful.

We have a show tonight in a larger and nicer space out in West Chester, and then another on Saturday night in what is promised to be our “most challenging” space of all. Apparently, our performance space is going to be much smaller than the one in which we were rehearsing, so we might need to go out there early on Saturday before the show to re-block a few moments and walk through certain sequences. That’s always one of the fun parts about touring theatre.