Monday, October 06, 2008

MCM Goes to Hollywood for the Day

I’m a voice actor. I “don’t do” on-camera work and I don’t have a head shot so when I have the opportunity to submit for on-camera stuff I’m not prepared to do it. But I received an email this morning from Boston Casting with the subject: Rush Call Northampton Today. The location was a mile and a half from my house, so it doesn’t get much more convenient than that and I thought, why not? I indicated my availability and got a phone call from BC with the directive to report to Northampton Athletic Club for extra work on Mel Gibson’s Edge of Darkness, directed by Martin Campbell. I fully expected to spend the day sitting around, so I was not disappointed that my posterior was in fact parked for a good long while. Plenty of interesting people there, many of whom have worked on many movies, and it was great fun to get to know some of them – and to absorb as much information as I could about the mysterious and glamorous world of film making. After a few hours an Assistant Director came through to choose people for a scene in a locker room. I looked him in the eye and tried to appear friendly, calm, knowledgeable, competent – any and all traits that he might possibly need, and it seemed to work and he chose me and 5 others to follow him. In another room in a different building he lined us up to be looked over by another crew member, who again pointed at me and I was handed off to a lady who got me outfitted for the scene. Then it was back to “holding” in a building behind the athletic center for another few hours, during which time I fretted periodically about whether I was in the right place – would I miss my scene due to ignorance? But as in the voice-over business, I had to assume that if they needed me, they knew where to find me and I should just relax and resume my life, which in this case meant to meet a few more people, find the people I’d already met, do some more talking about the acting business, and just enjoy the moment as much as I possibly could. Finally around 5 pm those of us who had not shot any scenes yet were called to go over to the athletic center. Our standard of living went up instantly, since there was a big table laden with fresh coffee, tea, and food, and there was much more hustle and bustle as filming was ongoing and there were production assistants dotting the landscape and shouting “rolling”, “cut” and other fascinating directives. Finally our own A.D. appeared to ask the locker room ladies to assemble, and after a short one-hour wait we were called in. Most of the locker room ladies were led one way, I was led another and in very short order I was face-to-face with Mel Gibson himself. In this scene Gibson’s character, Detective Craven, has been shown to the athletic club locker room by the custodian (yours truly) to remove the contents of his deceased daughter’s locker.

Although I didn’t speak in my scene, I enjoyed it tremendously. I loved watching the camera men do their work, and was fascinated by all the details of lighting and scene blocking and the snappy thingy with the take number written on it, and being fussed over by make-up and wardrobe. Voice actors are not accustomed to such treatment. And who would not be thrilled to be directed and addressed by first name by Martin Campbell?

It seems extraordinary to me that so much goes into each little scene. We did at least 7 takes, and only once was a take stopped due to something that wasn't working to Mr. Campbell's liking, and after each take, out would come the measuring tape and the masking tape and the light meters and the crew would speak to each other in Gibberish of the highest caliber. Also, despite the many many hours each crew member had undoubtedly been at work that day, every one seemed calm and professional. I was especially impressed with "my" Assistant Director, Tico, who was dealing with casting all day long and managed to seem bright and interested and above all, relaxed, and to make even lowly people like me feel valued. I would do this again in a minute – although preferably not in the next few minutes because being away from the studio for a day puts one rather behind in one’s work. But I can see why people like the film business. The hours are invariably long and can be very tedious, but the denouement – at least for this happy camper – made it worth the wait.

More local news about this film here, here, here and (with an interview with me) here.

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