Strange Tent Fellows

Boy With Lantern

Does this light shine into the darkness or does it simply illuminate the boy?

Acting is a fairly lonely field. True you may mix and mingle with people you love and respect but you will have to mix with people you hate too (with the same level of love shown to them as well).

You may consider some links to be true and genuine with others which may be proven not as stable as first thought AND you may form links with others that prove surprisingly strong though your gut may not recognise them as being true.

On a recent feature film I was lucky to have been stuck in a small tent (while it was raining heavily outside) with a leading Australian actor who opened up to me (probably more due to his boredom than design).

I had seen him on the big screen before and some of the things he had to say surprised me (actually most of it did).

Whenever I have the privilege to talk/meet people who are leaders or truly devoted to their field (and recognised as such) I usually feel a thrill of electricity pass through me.

If that person is humble and yet proud of themselves I cherish every moment but if they are egotistical or believe their own press then I quickly escape before they tarnish my perception of them (I’ve had enough disappointments from people to last me a lifetime).

Man Under Waterfall

Is he yelling in enjoyment or defiance or both?

While the rain was tap tap tapping, he talked about the scarcity of feature film work for him but yet that is all the acting work he does now. He joked with every breath, keeping multiple conversational plates, in-jokes, and encompassing conversation going (there were three of us in the tent) between mostly him and the slightly secondary main actor.

Yes, I was just a featured extra on this set and if we hadn’t been forced together (and the two were bored and found it fun to impress little ol’ me) I wouldn’t have had that opportunity. There is a set hierarchy on every set (that I’ve ever been on) and it’s set in stone. The extra’s can chat amongst themselves and are OK to respond when addressed but are mostly set dressing for the main actors and the crew.

And that is a GOOD thing. On Pirates of the Caribbean I was amongst the thousands (yes that’s “thousands”) of extras that had to be handled and we were handled on mass. Imagine if each of these wanted to talk with Johnny Depp- there wouldn’t have had any time to do any filming and it would’ve been very mentally draining for Mr. Depp. It also helps when extras (who are, by and large, untrained dramatically and are only doing the filming for a laugh or to show off to friends afterwards) have to be kicked off set for breaking one of many (seemingly obvious) rules on set (like taking unsolicited photographs or continually making noises when cameras are running) or being unreliable.

Eye contact can throw actors off, even established actors, they are (usually) highly trained and highly susceptible to such signals from their co-actors as it makes their acting more authentic and excellent. As an extra I had the good fortune to work on the same set as one of my favourite actors of all time. I was praising him and his achievements in what I thought to be a soft voice but it had carried over to him. It must have thrown him off what he was about to do because he cast me an exasperated eye and I shut up real quick and made myself quite scarce.

Intense Eyes

Those eyes, those boardroom eyes…

People are forced together under stressful conditions for long periods of time and personalities cannot help but clash. An actors very survival relies on getting on well with as many people as possible- it is the air they must breath. Keeping this up is mentally and emotionally challenging, even if the personalities would be natural friends anyway. So, with such a limited and important resource/skill, why waste the precious energy on connections which wouldn’t help anyone long term?

Of course some actors love meeting others and reach out but it is their prerogative- they have climbed far, high, and hard enough to earn this merit. Weekend warriors (ie. extras) have not earned the right to “steal” a directors or an established actors time/life energy or head space.

Acting is a job foremost, with fun being earned once the hard yards have been put in.

Our conversation must’ve paved a connection between the main actor and me because we continued our conversation at the wrap party. He said something which is important for me to put into practise but very difficult for myself to conceptualise.

I shouldn’t take anything seriously.

An important piece of advice that he was clearly living by as he weaved enveloping conversational pieces with everyone on the set that he was working with. Mot of what he said to others made no sense to me, as they were clearly in-jokes that only he and his intended recipient would understand. I have a tendency to believe people and think they speak from a deeper sense of thought- like I usually do.

It is hard for me to conceptualise that anyone can “shoot from the hip” in terms of what they say. I side with native American Indians who believe that a part of the spirit is released with each word that is spoken (don’t quote that as bible as it was only vaguely remembered) and I consider words to be weighty things. That being said I do like using my words for shock value and to impress when I am in the mood.

I find it hard to let go of the feeling that I (and others) are important in this world and play an important part of the future. I also (ironically) recognise it’s the influence of being saturated by liberal (Western) media and values which have pruned me to this point.

I still find it hard to let go of this.

Rapid Water

It even SOUNDS relaxing