On Friday last I spent the morning in a suit-n-tie, spitting out rapid-fire dialogue and looking out at the world with bright eyes through squinted lids. Externally, I was a rock -- a firm, callous, image of a man enduring through a quandary, and doing it on very little sleep. Internally, I was a mess, roiling with the myriad, varied possibilities of failure and conscience. Oddly enough -- perhaps even fortunately -- my personal situation reflected that of my character.
Last Friday I played the immortal character of Sam Spade in the final scene from The Maltese Falcon as a part of Michael Bow's final project for one of his film classes. Now there I was, not a week ago posting about the importance of managing a little leisure time into an otherwise busy schedule (see 6/16/09), and I'm afraid it rather made Michael's life more difficult that morning. You see, Dear Reader, I must admit that I was not entirely solid on my lines. Oh I tried hard to be, losing sleep on both ends the night before and recording them for myself to play back at every possible moment, but I'm afraid I must confess defeat. It may have been a different matter if the material had been other than it was, but good ol' Bogey set the standard for Spade, and there's just no other way to pull off that dialogue but rapid-fire. We'll see how it turned out. In fact, I'm probably more screwed by any errors than Michael, since the only value for me of this work is potential material for a talent reel. But I don't envy him the editing job he's got ahead of him.
I won't rescind my earlier statement about the importance of prioritizing leisure (or living) time. I stick by it. Effective time management is equally important, however, and sometimes one only gets one chance to get it right. Particularly, it seems, when it comes to film.
It's such a strange medium to me, film. On the one hand, you've got multiple takes, hence multiple times to rise to the occasion (less so when your entire shooting time is under two hours). On the other, the actor is almost solely responsible for any rehearsal work that goes into that concentrated period of "getting it right." It seems, in this way, a largely lonely and artificial medium. Yet theatre is also artificial, just in different ways. It's all artifice, and the "art" of it lies in a commonality between the two: Making it live. I'm decent at breathing life into theatre. On film, well, I could use more practice. And in the meantime, good editing.
All that aside, it was an enjoyable experience. Even my sense of panic over the lines was a welcome change of pace from a sense of panic over office supplies, or powers of attorney. I was paired up with Allison Goldberg as the femme fatale, and we have been arbitrarily paired up in the past in productions her aunt, Janice Goldberg, has directed. (There are invariably jokes about nepotism whenever Allison is in one of Janice's reading events -- I think I could be counted an adopted relative at this point.) I don't know Allison particularly well, which served the scene, but we were familiar enough with one another that trust was there and joking with each other wouldn't be a problem. Fortunately for me, she's also funny, and a good actor. More than once, as I terrifyingly blanked on a line, I found Allison there, as present as ever, and it allowed me to actually let it go and help keep the scene afloat.
Working in film and television is one of those goals of mine that I haven't pursued as avidly as I'd have liked. I've been so focused on a specific theatre career that I consider myself to be rather behind on those credits and experiences. Then again, it may have been a good choice for me. The kind of theatre I most love to do -- the physically interesting kind, let's say -- is best attempted and trained in while young, and film work can (theoretically, at least) be sought in spite of just about any gross limitations. In my efforts to explore this area of acting more, I'll have to be patient with my own lack of experience (NOT a strength of mine), as well as vigilant about avoiding an underestimation of the work to be involved. Stepping into the shoes and world of a character I idolize is good motivation. As well as a humbling experience.