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”.