Monday, November 20, 2006

How To Act "Naturally"

There's only been one television series I've made an effort to follow this season - Heroes. So I was pleased to attend a screening tonight at the SAG offices with a Q & A by nine cast members afterwards. Since it's on Monday nights, thought I might miss one episode, but the folks at NBC aren't that mean, so we saw the same episode tonight as everyone else.

The show obviously has a following, and it seemed as if some of the more energized fan base in the union attended tonight. But I and the guy sitting next to me were really surprised to hear about the casting process for those present; most received a callback for their screen test while driving away from their initial audition. One guy was walking back to his car at Universal when he got the call to immediately go over to a wardrobe trailer for a fitting.

Is that rare? You bet. Only one cast member reported having a "normal" experience with his audition. It took him several days to hear back from the producers.

Now a "normal" aspect of background work is that you don't often get to do bona fide reaction shots - that's when you are either asked to express some emotion to actions made by a principal, or interact with them. It all depends on the director and how he/she envisions the shot.

Luckily, for the "regular" gig I work almost every week, this happens a lot, especially with those of us established as regular office people, but sometimes weird stuff happens.

And that's what happened a couple weeks ago.

In one bar scene (now this wacky, screwball comedy), one of the leads vies for the affection, and a date, from a very attractive employee - and so does his archrival, who doesn't stop at hitting on her, or other women in the bar, even after he rips off his shirt to get her attention.

So our 2nd2nd AD told us this hilarious story about the reaction shot that we all thought would survive the cutting room floor.

It was a relatively big call for this show, so holding had lots of background waiting for turnaround shots, etc, most being non-union and new to the show.

When the director changed the scene to include the archrival guy hitting on other women in the bar, he asked the 2nd to "get some nice looking girl."

Therefore, our guy goes marching through holding on a mission to find "the one," and found a young, blonde woman sort of snoozing while waiting to be called to set (don't snicker - we all do it - especially the union folk).

So on set he tells her, "Oh yeah, this actor will come up and ask you something at the end of the scene," but nothing more.

Naturally, when she was waiting to do some pantomiming before the director yelled "cut," she never envisioned having a naked torso guy dancing around in front of her, yelling and singing, "Hey babe, where you from?"

Of course, her eyes popped out of her head at this sight, and the director shouted, "Cut! Print that one! New deal."

She will probably remember it as a somewhat horrible day on set, but I would bet good money her face makes it to Fox TV next year.

PS - In case you always wondered about those crew job terms where in the final credits, Peggy Archer has given a brief summary on her blog. And if you ever do stand in work, you need to know who these people are, since you are helping the DP, CLT (gaffer), and - usually - two camera OPs block the scene.

PSS - Am trying to update this blog before heading out to an early morning call tomorrow with the TV tuned to What About Brian. Great! I finally get to see myself doing a few key crosses and sitting next to William Devane. Funny thing is most of the union background on that call are regulars on the "other" show we work - basically every episode (but more about that when we all learn the airing date). The casting director works both shows, so we were literally picked-up from one set of skins and cast on Brian for a location shot.

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