I direct many types of performances. Mainly television but I’ve done some short films. I like directing and find myself utilizing those skills in my life. Such as when someone is prattling on I find myself waving my hand in front of my throat saying,
“And. . .cut.”
Not that it has much effect on these long winded gas bags but it does makes them pause long enough for me to walk away.
Although I’ve written a play – http://home.comcast.net/~czell/bartender.rtf – I doubt I’d be a very good stage director. Too much emoting going on. The possibility of songs breaking out far exceeds the norm. Many actors I’ve worked with have had to be beaten out of their stage actorly ways. And I’m just the bastard to do it.
I’m not saying I’m a good director just that I don’t care if I’m hated. I think that’s one of the most important traits in a director. If I piss off an actor (I know you’ll be shocked to learn, but, I have!) I don’t care. If I piss off a producer (see above parenthetical statement) I care even less. If I piss off a crew member, well, that’s not just me. No director cares about crew members.
If an actor is having trouble with a line I’ll change it to suit them (I had an actor show up for a PSA badly hung over. She couldn’t wrap her mouth around the word megalopolis so I changed it to big city) or can them on the spot (boy does that create a priceless expression on their face).
I have friends. I’m not auditioning for more. Out of the hundreds of actors I’ve worked with, many for years, I’ve only remained friendly with two. The only business with a lower percentage of maintaining friendships is radio (one).
I’m not a despot (although opinions vary). I’m there to make what sticks to tape is the best possible. If I have to coddle, berate, ignore, or lift up and carry out of the studio to get it good I’ll do it. The ends, in this instance, justify the means.
I must have done something right because on the rare (if I can help it) occasions I run into an actor I’ve worked with they greet me kindly. It’s universally a pleasant exchange before we go along our merry ways.
The other day, my girlfriend and I went to a restaurant we enjoy for a quiet repast. Have a few adult beverages, watch the game, have some simple conversation.
At least that’s how we planned it.
When walking into the restaurant I felt something in the air. I watched a group of people greet each other and walk in. But they didn’t seem like normal folk. There was something about them. Something more expressive than general. Something larger than life you see on your average street.
Oh fuck! They’re actors. Not only that, they’re dinner theater actors. To make matters worse, it’s a reunion of casts going back to the formation of this show.
You know the type of theater we’re talking about here. The comedy wedding, comedy divorce, comedy funeral type of theater. Don’t get me wrong, many people have been thoroughly entertained by this but that’s for an hour or so. And only one ‘lead’ at a time fighting for the spotlight. When you have four generations of ‘leads’ in one room, well, let me just say, some serious throwdowns of ‘My Way’ are going to take place.
While watching this group you could recognize the stage manager (ferrety guy who smells), the divas (neckline to a fault line), the stud (bullet-proof hair), and all the other permeation’s of actors: the free-spirit (wearing something made of teddy bears), the serious thespian (the only one carrying a book), the backstabber (flitted around from group to group dropping nuggets), the angry one (glaring at whomever got a coveted part), and everyone else.
My girlfriend looks at one actor (the deep thinker) and says,
“He’s thinking a little too loud in his own little mind.”
She’s right. His hair was deafening. It’s a tiring persona but he was doing it justice.
I’m beginning to rethink our choice of destination when I hear a squeal behind me. The thing about it is I didn’t turn around. Loud, piercing sounds had been clanging around since we’d arrived so I was inured by now.
But this squealer did something no other squealer had done thus far. She touched me.
“Chris!” I hear with more force than necessary. “How are you?”
It takes me a second to place the face but, when I do, I realize she was a member of the Bound & Gags sketch comedy group. She was a pretty talented actor I could count on to try anything. Remember when I mentioned canning an actor on the spot? When I did I pulled the pages from that actor and handed it to this one. And she hit it first time.
We chatted for awhile, she explained that she moved back here (she left B&G because of the move) because there weren’t enough places to act where they’d moved. She told me she’d been doing dinner theater for four or five years and really enjoys it. I told her I’m sure she’s very good (she has a sweet voice with good range) and maybe one day I’ll check out a performance.
“Don’t bullshit me, Chris.” She said having been around me many times when I’d used that lie. I told her she was right, I had no intention of stopping by. She asked what I was working on and I told her nothing local just some pitching.
Just then, as if the curiosity was too much, two other actors (the lovebirds) sidled up to her and asked who I was.
“This is one of the best writer/directors I’ve worked with.”
Oh now, why did she have to do that?
You see, a simple compliment like that can take on a life of it’s own with actors. It went around the room as quickly as a tray of free hors’ dourves. Slowly, but surely, people started to stop over and ask the same thing,
“What are you working on?”
“I’m pitching but nothings shooting, auditioning, scripted, or even picked up so I have no need for actors.”
Sure sound like I’m not doing anything that needs actors, right? See? I told you actors were not like you. They wouldn’t take anything I said as negative.
If I said I was doing nothing locally, they’d be willing to move.
If I said nothing was even close to production, they’d be willing to wait.
If I said I could sure use another beer, they’d be willing to let me buy myself one.
As you can see, standard actor responses.
No matter how many people I told I had no need for actors at this or any time in the foreseeable future, that didn’t stop the next one from offering a resume or head shot. Knowing resistance was futile, I accepted the paper and piled it on the bar. I’m the only person I know who can go out for a few beers and leave with homework.
The end came, for us, when the singing began in earnest. I’m not saying they weren’t good. I am saying I was frightened. I have been in many tight situations in my life. I’ve had my head and many other bodily locations split open, knocked unconscious more times than the AMA deems healthy, had occasion many times to say, ‘This is gonna hurt’ moments before I landed. But the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me happened with these people.
During a duet of Summer Lovin’ both the woman and the man sang their parts directly to me.
“And. . .cut.”