how hollywood works
I think I’m going to have to start getting up earlier so I’m prepared for whatever this town has to throw at me. Luckily yesterday, instead of trying to find a breakfast taco, I took a shower instead. Right afterwards I got a phone call: “Wanna shoot a scene for a movie today?”
And so the next thing I knew, I was tearing through my things to do so that I was ready for my afternoon call time.
Today I had barely finished working out before the phone was ringing again. An early pop-in, for coffee, which I was sweaty and nasty for, but that’s fine.
So, the movie shoot. I should say that I’ve never said in my life, “I wanna make movies!” Granted, I live in a town that thrives on the movie business, and I understand that’s the main way of making money around here, and as an actor, I’m supposed to want to make movies. But I don’t. I find the entire process rather taxing and fake. That’s probably due to the fact that I’m new to them, and I haven’t figured out how to make it work for me.
Let me cut in here to say that I normally wouldn’t be complaining. This is just my place where I can, okay? I realize that there are hundreds of people that would have traded my afternoon yesterday in a heartbeat, and while I don’t necessarily want to trade, I also know that movie-making isn’t my thing.
I was told the place was about half an hour away. Now, I’m new here, and have no idea, so I basically have to rely on the navigational prowess of others. Well, when this woman said thirty minutes, she must have meant eighty-nine, because once the half-hour mark hit I was nowhere near where I was going. I was late. They were understanding, as I had only been cast two hours ago.
Should you be insulted if the costume person tells you to bring something “Cute and trashy and pretty but like, white trash” and you bring one of your favorite t-shirts, a sweater you wear all the time and your new skirt and they go, “Perfect!”
So, I have four lines, right? And those four lines are really to keep the momentum of the main character’s monologue going. I’m there so he can swallow and inhale.
That takes four and a half hours to shoot. That’s four and a half hours of those four lines. And those four lines– most of them were one-word lines. I must have said the word “Right” six hundred times. And because I’m new and I don’t know what I’m doing, I end up picking the most uncomfortable position in the world for the first shot, and have to stay that way for the next four and a half hours.
Here’s a tip: if they’re going to have you leaning for a shot, don’t jut your hip out because you think it might make you look a bit taller, with a smaller ass. It’s just going to give you hip cramps in hour three when your hip isn’t even in the shot anymore, but your head has to stay in the same place.
Also, don’t think it’s cute and funny to give your character a huge oral fixation. Hour three of gum chewing, when you’re ripping your seventeenth cigarette to keep continuity, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make her just sleepy.
Maybe this is something that goes away with practice. Maybe if I had a bunch of these little scenes under my belt, then I wouldn’t spend each take wondering if my hair is in the right place, or if I’m standing in the right spot, or if I’m chewing my gum on the right side of my mouth. It starts to be where the lines and the emotion of the scene come after respecting the continuity. And that’s my main problem with movies.
I sit and watch powerful emotional scenes in film and I wonder just how many hours that woman had to sit in that chair and cry for that scene. I wonder if she’s sitting there crying but thinking, “I raise my hand and wipe my left eye right when I sniff, which is before he turns to look at me, but after she walks out of the room. I cross my legs on the third wipe of my eye, and that’s on my right eye, not the left eye. I wonder if I need new lipstick. Shit, how much iced tea did I have in this glass on the first take? When I was on break just now, did I button an extra button on my sweater?”
And I suppose the bigger movies have people whose sole job is to tell me these things so I don’t have to worry about them, but for now I find myself so wrapped up in getting the physicality of the scene correct that I don’t even know if I’m doing a good job at the acting. And that’s where I find myself a bit disenchanted with the whole movie-making business.
That and the crew always look like they’re having more fun. By the time I get there, they’ve all made friendships and nicknames and they have this elaborate dance that they do around each other, and I’m this quiet girl standing in the center of it all, balancing on a piece of wood because I’m shorter than they need me to be, wishing I could help out but not knowing what the hell is going on.
These are the complaints of someone who just doesn’t feel like she fits into this business, yet. You understand that, right? I’m sure if I did three more of these things I’d be all, “Find your frame, feel the moment, live the passion” or some Keitel bullshit or whatever. But right now I’m like, “Make sure you pull your hair up for everything because it’s a bitch to remember where on your shoulders it was sitting.”
But it’s kinda worth it if one day I get my own trailer. So I can be all, “I’ll be in my trailer.” That’s neat. And a driver. I’d like a driver.