Monday, 18 April 2016

Dramatization: Reenacting the Scene.

Weird is my staple. If I’m not rummaging through my closet for a weirdly specific outfit for a casting, the role I’m asked to do requires something odd. Or a shot that looks simple on-screen requires the most awkward angle you can imagine. From either you or the camera man. Very little is strange when you’ve worked for a while.

I got the call from a friend just after I had made plans for the next day. His friend, the producer for a local TV show, was in dire need for someone to shoot the next morning. Just for two hours. The producer worked for a local, and very popular journalism show. She needed a young lady for the dramatization of segments of the show. I was roughly adequate, and roughly available for the short time notice.I was also not going to turn down the opportunity to do some paid acting work.

The subject of the show was the exploitation of women who were donating their eggs in countries outside of South Africa.  I learned while driving with the producer of the segment to our first location that South African laws are quite strict on the subject. You learn many odd facts in this kind of work. They needed me to shoot reenactments of the girls in pain after their procedures caused complications in a hospital-like setting.

There are bonuses to shooting scenes where your face isn’t needed. With no makeup, wash and go hair and barefoot in my t-shirt and tracksuit pants we started with the clips they needed to shoot. But realising that my face wouldn't be needed I made sure that my hands, feet and nails were at least in a decent condition.

“The girls had really swollen abdomens due to their complications. I need you to push your stomach out as far as you can”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“I don’t know if I can. I’ve held my stomach in for the last 13 years.”

As we shot the clips of me writhing in simulated pain I automatically drew on my training to make it look real. Despite only shooting visuals I used my breathing patterns to make the movements natural. That means my whole body is involved in what I'm doing not just the area that the camera is focused on. As we were shooting a second or third take the producer stopped the camera man halfway through:

"Oooh. Look at her feet. I want you to get a shot of that. Do that again with your feet."

The show aired last Sunday, featuring mostly my hands and feet. Despite shooting for 4 hours instead of 2 it was still the shortest shoot and fastest turn around for a project I’ve ever been part of. I’m used to waiting months before something I worked on airs. I said as much to the producer when she told me that show would be airing 5 days after she finished shooting with me.
This time it was her turn to laugh.

“That’s how it works in our business”.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Glamorous premiering: Mignon MOSSIE van Wyk

For some reason people always expect actors to be extroverts. As if because what we do on stage or in front of a camera somehow means that we are performing constantly.I like to think that the really good actors are the introverts. Those of us who watch people. How they move and interact. Not being constantly in the social spotlight so that we are blinded to the people and the lives around us. After all, if we are to portray different people as actors we need to understand them.

I think I function somewhere in between. I have my hermit periods, and times when I desperately need to leave. Even if it just means going shopping to be around other people. After my long societal exclusion due to my knee operation I was a both excited and apprehensive when I was invited to the premiere of Mignon ‘Mossie’ van Wyk. My friend Tarryn-Tanille Prinsoo wrote the script for the film and graciously invited myself and Mauritz to attend the premiere.

Dress code: Glamorous.

I have a fantastic grey number I had bought without an occasion to wear it to, and now I had an occasion. I was confident in the dress until I bumped into Tarryn two days before and saw a photo of her spectacular dress she would be wearing. My confidence in my dress waned slightly.

“I’m beginning to think my dress won’t be glamorous enough”

“Don't worry about being over-dressed. The way I look at it, you can either shine, or fizzle, and I think it’s always better to shine”.

So on Thursday evening we got all glammed up for the glamorous premiere of Mignon ‘Mossie’ van Wyk.

“I’m really glad I’m married to you. Now I always have someone who has to talk to me when I go to these events. And you can’t say no even if you want to.”

Mauritz is an introvert by nature, so he understands that I sometimes feel intimidated by crowds of people.

“There’s a very specific photo I want us to take when we get there”

The two introverts trying to act natural in a social environment.
There are few things better than really being impressed by a friend’s work. When you can honestly compliment them and tell them how fantastic it is and how much you enjoyed it. And I did. Tarryn’s Mignon ‘Mossie’ van Wyk is a beautiful story.I was moved by it. And as a slightly cynical film scholar I rarely am.

Mignon ‘Mossie’ van Wyk starts showing commercially on 6 May. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

The Acting Business: Per Usual

After three years of professional auditioning I rarely get nervous for an audition. Especially advert castings. For me, doing my hair and standing in front of the camera is basically a day of the office. I remember my first casting though. Driving through to Johannesburg, sitting and waiting next to a model for an hour and eventually standing in front of that camera for the first time. And as mundane as it can potentially be, it never is.

As per usual I got the usual email late on Thursday afternoon.An email attachment supplied me with a script for the Friday 10 o’clock audition. Well, more like a page long monologue with four lines dedicated to ‘Friend’. And filled with technical jargon. It took me just over an hour’s preparation to get the lines flowing naturally pacing up and down between from the kitchen to the living room.

As per usual I arrived about 30 minutes before the casting was scheduled to start. There’s usually a smattering of actors by then. We can start on our paperwork and no one minds as long we keep ourselves out of the way. It also helps to be a bit early so if 50 ladies pitch up for an audition you get to go in and get it done. And not wait for 50 other women to do the exact same thing before you walk into the room.

Not per usual, the casting studio was locked up tight when I arrived. It was the first time I had ever arrived at a closed studio for a casting. Two other ladies were sitting in their cars. When I climbed out and stood aimlessly in front of the locked gate I was informed by another actor that she had already contacted her agent, who was already trying to find out what was happening. After about 30 minutes of waiting around, I checked to make sure my lines were still fresh in my head. To the horror of two of three actors standing with me. They hadn’t received the script. I silently thanked my agent as I passed them my printed page and called my agent to hear what was happening. It was already past ten and the venue was slowly starting to crawl with impatient actors.

About 15 minutes later the casting director arrived, the doors were opened and our jobs began.Girls who didn’t receive scripts from their agents were given print outs and nervously stood trying not to hear anyone else’s voice as they desperately tried to memorize lines. Those of us who were prepared were asked to go first to give them time. I sat in my line with a number two label stuck to my shirt. Number three waiting next to me nervously informed me:

“This is my first casting. Ever.”

“I promise it doesn’t always go like this.”

She looked at me slightly skeptically.

“You’re going to be nervous when you walk in for this one. Then you are going to do another and you’ll be less nervous. By the fourth audition it will be business as usual.”

Because it is business. As per usual.