A WRINKLE IN TIME PERCEPTION

Lockdown to Slowdown

Woke up…no alarm…sunrise…. Did not know what day of the week it was.

This sentiment pops up on the Internet, seeing others comment that in lockdown they are losing their bearings. Basic patterns disrupted, unsure as to when things will get back to normal, a certain monotony of days blending together…

This is not uncharted territory for folks in the film industry! After completing a job you might just float around til the next one. But when in production, crew becomes initiated in to a sort of club where the framework of time is lifted, or shifted, in a ‘through sleet or snow or any hour’ kind of way. If not clocking in at a sound stage, and instead doing location work, more than likely schedules will shift, with no natural day of the week or weekend.  Circadian rhythms be damned, if we need to shoot all overnights, we shoot all overnights. If we need to shoot 6 days a week, well by golly that’s what we do.  If we need to film Wednesday through Sunday, then that’s that. And say goodbye to the 40-hour work week.

Friends and family don’t automatically understand that you can’t meet up after work or for Sunday dinner, or that you can’t plan too far ahead without the caveat “if I’m not working.”  They may be shocked that you miss a little calendar marker, or that your bills might be late, or that you aren’t caught up on the news.  

They may not understand how with odd and shifting work schedules you can get turned around as to the day of the week, and even if you are off on Sunday you must do laundry, wash dishes, look at mail and paperwork and try to sleep for that 6 a.m. start time on the next day.

They may not understand… until now. At least some folks. Depending on the level of lockdown, some people have been home in a loose loop. Saturday night may not differ much from Monday morning.  Home bored, or home busy – cleaning out closets and cabinets, learning an instrument or writing that novel. Working from home in half the time. But missing haircuts, no concerts or shows, nor eating out, no conference room meetings. Sweatpants, and keeping those brassieres in the drawers (this, actually, is pretty good) – all are big adjustments to a whole world’s habits and rituals and normal operations. 

For those on the sidelines that didn’t experience any sickness, maybe this was a strange gift, a moment to slow down, catch up, to look inward, to intuitively appreciate simple moments and small things.

It’s almost summer. Businesses begin to open. Production is officially allowed to shake the dust off its shoulders in Texas, but projects have yet to ride over the horizon.  People have had to live in the slipperiness of an expanded view of time, and maybe that has changed us in a good way.

ACTORS – Larger Than Life, or Inflated Egos

god bless gary busey

Actors are fascinating. They lie for a living. Or, lets say, pretend. Yet when they etch in a character’s map with the highways, side roads and dead ends we all encounter on life’s journey, the Actor becomes truth-teller, reflecting our own circumstance and emotion, or eliciting our reaction to such.

Script Supervisor supports the Actor by running lines, then as we roll, by (gently) correcting dialogue, or actions for matching when needed.  Sometimes we are the messenger for the Director, dashing on to the set with his or her suggestion, and sometimes the Director is the messenger for us!

Before a challenging scene Actors may isolate themselves, do jumping jacks, listen to music. On There Will Be Blood crew was asked to dress in muted, somber, sepia-type colors to help engage the period and stylistic mood for Actors, you believe?  Crew may also be asked to work quietly or even clear the set. Whatever it takes to help the Actor concentrate, live in the role, despite a dozen folks aiming cameras and microphones up their face.

I once worked on a low budget Indie that had a cameo appearance with an interesting odd bird who could go from charming to grossly inappropriate, or merrily singing oldies to politically boisterous, in a flash. He created such a deep back story for his character that he often thought out loud, adlibbing lines that had no context or connection within the actual script.

His last scene was in a bar, shot on location in a small Texas town.  Camera was about to roll. “Watch this.”

He pulled out a yellow onion, and bit into it, over and over, right through the papery skin, gagging chunks of it down, producing tears and mucus for what seemed to be an almost B-roll shot.

That’s entertainment. And dedication.

I’ve wondered if this is tried and true, an old performing trick, if Shakespeare stood by in the wings of The Globe , slipping a shallot to an otherwise complacent Juliet. Or if Dreyer had his silent screen Joan Of Arc snack on some scallions to squeak out those glorious black and white tears, in close up.

Dreyers The Passion of Joan of Arc with Renée Jeanne Falconetti and onion –

SCREEN PLAY – MORE ICING OR MORE CAKE?

write write write

I’m late to the party – Nyan Cat Cake – link to the recipe at the end!

During a job interview, the Show Runner asked how being a writer helped in Script Supervising. Well one of the main ways is seeing when a script is too long. He and the other Producer tripped over each other explaining they were still trimming the scripts, wrestling with the author, etc… I wasn’t even specifically referring to their project!

However, it was true of the episodes I’d read there. Not meaning page count, but more specifically when  scenes and sections do not move the story forward or provide meaningful support for any of the layers in the script. Many times I’ve thought “This fluff is n-e-v-e-r going to make it into the movie,” and have often been right. With time or budget limits tis wiser to edit on the page then in the cutting room.

Is the script more icing or more cake?

Script writing, to me, compresses a story that’s bigger than it might read on the page, in a unique format so even literary authors must learn a sort of shorthand to keep within the boundaries. Do chapters equal scenes? Well, a little yes,  in separating the story into sections, but a bigger no, because the separation is dictated by locations instead of a shift of ideas.

Screenplays are like skeletons that are then carefully and intentionally dressed in layers with clues in the descriptions or dialogue, then fleshed out by Actors rounding out the characters, by how the sets look, or the costumes, how the pieces are edited together, by the use of sound and music, on and on.

They’re written as to what’s to appear on the screen, not by internal beats meandering through a character’s head or their past, at least not in the same indulgent light a novel may. Writing a screenplay can challenge one to find simple, interesting, and perhaps sneaky, ways to color in the bare spots with meaningful information.

But once you understand the limits there’s a lot of freedom within them. Did your Mama ever send you out to play with a “go in the backyard” or “stay on the block “ or “don’t ride your bike in the street” ? Play within the parameters of what will show on the screen, but play!

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