This week, for the first time in my life I was an actor – for a day!
My first and most important task was to turn up on time. I achieved that! But I still didn’t feel like I was an actor. That I had to have makeup (unusual though that was for me) still didn’t convince me that I was an actor. I didn’t have any lines – BUT I was still an actor, I kept telling myself.
Despite so many decades of working on set I had to concentrate on not getting nervous. I didn’t want to get distracted; I wanted to stay focused on the job, for my main goal was to not look a dill. If I didn’t feel like I was an actor I didn’t want to look like I wasn’t one.
I knew I didn’t have to star, I only had a VERY minor role, but I wanted to be competent. I wanted to do the job. I didn’t want to be the one who stood out because they weren’t being believable. I also wanted to make my small contribution to the story being told. So, I just had to do what actors do, I kept repeating to myself.
I made sure that I understood the circumstances and the relationships I was involved in. When I was uncertain I asked questions to clarify that. I then made two very simple choices to implement a course of action for the scene. They needed to connect me to my most important relationship in the scene, too. As I felt that those choices were active and that I could do them I also felt I could trust them. That felt OK. Even though I still didn’t feel like an actor, I did know what I had to do.
Having a plan of action in place I then had to focus on implementing it. So, I had to listen to the direction I was given and make choices that were comfortable for me that would implement the director’s requirements. Sally McLean’s direction was simple and clear which made everything a lot easier. My next task was to commit to listening to WAHIBE MOUSSA as she gave her speech to the assembled crowd.
As the shoot progressed I made sure I knew what had just happened before I made my entrance. WAHIBE, who was the protagonist in this story, was a huge help here. Just with a glance or a very brief improvisation she would confirm the nature of our relationship and current circumstances in the seconds before we walked into view. I then just did my best to listen to WAHIBE and to the response she was getting from her audience. I assessed how I was progressing with my own goal – because even though I had no dialogue I had a Conversation Goal in place. And believing there was nothing more I could do I just trusted that the director would tell me if I was really crap and needed to change something.
I still didn’t feel like an actor but I did feel I was engaged with the circumstances of the story.
I felt my best and most relaxed work was when the camera wasn’t on me. I suspect that actors often feel like that. But my major achievement for the day was to go home and not worry about the outcome. I had gone down my Post Shoot Check List and felt that to the best of my knowledge I could tick most of the boxes. The only offer an actor can contribute is to have a practical working process and implement it with trust. And I had done my best to achieve that. Whether that makes me an actor I can’t tell. But it certainly was fun to try.
(To Sally McLean, Billy Smedley, Wahibe Moussa thanks for the opportunity. And to all the lovely Shakespeare Republic actors and crew who contributed to it being such a pleasant experience … many thanks)