Shooting Journal. Day 8.

We, with the exception of one shot, have wrapped the interior of the restaurant.  We split our day today between day and night, utilizing a 2pm to 2am call in order to pick up a couple day exteriors and a the rest of the night interiors. Our Line Producer, Roweena Mackay, and our 1st AD, Jennifer Blood, did a great job structuring the day which allowed us to shoot out the remaining day exteriors and the rest of our interiors in the restaurant. Like our main location, the Beach Ave house, Crescent Beach is a very rich location to shoot in: it’s textured, has character and allows for many different looks within one location. We were also shooting yesterday while the restaurant was open and people were dining there. I have to say it’s been amazingly refreshing how polite and accepting people have been when a movie has come in and interrupted their lives.  That’s not something you get when you’re shooting in NYC.

Henry, McCaleb Burnett, stands in while the shot is lit

It occurred to me today how differently I’ve worked on this project from an acting point of view.  Usually I take a month to prep a movie, pouring over the script and creating the characters life, rounding out what’s not on the page.  I’m not necessarily making choices, I think it’s important to leave that collaboration open for the director and actor and also what happens in the moment, but I’m assembling information: images, character wants, past history, life objectives, character sketches, personalizing, etc…. Basically I like to have a rich character life running within me that I can then go to from scene to scene, or shot to shot, when I need it.

For this project all that kind of went out the window. Producing/writing duties were the main concern leading up to the start of production and I only had about 2 weeks to bring my attention to the script from Will, my character’s point of view.  And that two weeks was at about fifty percent of what I would normally do.  But now that we’re over a third of the way through the movie and my own workflow has established itself a few interesting things have happened:

Without “working” towards it, I have created a deep and rich character life full of wants, needs and personalization. I’m realizing now that this is a result of having worked on this project for so long. 6 years of writing has given me insight into Will that I’ve never had on another project.  I also took about 4 months to train and bulk up for Will; I wanted will to be body conscious and a bit meticulous in the way he sees himself.  During those hours in the gym, I would often use this shoot and everything that is on the line as my motivation to push out a final rep or to even get to the gym when I was tired, hungover, whatever…. The combination of those two long term commitments to the project has formed a richness in character that I have yet to have on any other project.

I’m also experiencing a lot of Character Problem/Actor Problem.  That’s a term that I use when I teach and it means that the character and actor are both facing the same problem. This is a gift for any actor and is incredibly powerful to play when the actor can allow it to work. For example, when an actor is working on a scene they may be scared to try something because they don’t want to fail in front of their peers. Lets say that actor is working on Jim, The Gentlemen Caller, in Glass Menagerie. I would say that the actor’s problem and the character’s problem are one: Jim also has a deep seeded fear of failure. So it’s not something the actor needs to imagine, but something that is palpable in their body. For me, on this project, there have been moments where I have been under immense pressure and felt that this whole project is gonna come crashing down on my head. Will, my character, makes a choice that could bring his whole world crashing down. So, for me, as hard as things might be in a moment, it’s a great thing to be able to breathe that in and let the camera roll.


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