Because this blog post contains to many spoilers, if you haven't watched it yet- please take the 6 minutes and watch it before reading on. I don't want to take away from the magic of the final product.
I love showing up to a new job where I haven't met anyone yet. There's a very specific energy about it. Its like... arriving to a job interview kind of, because you've never been there before, you haven't met the hiring managers before, you're trying to make a good impression and you know that they're in an environment they're comfortable in- so as you arrive they're taking in everything about you. While YOU are at the disadvantage of trying to take in everything, The building, the reception area or lobby, the offices you pass, all the different people you see wondering how important they are (should you try to remember them??) And you know that if you get the job, you will soon become very comfortable in this exact atmosphere and develop relationships and even friendships with the people around you.
So, it's kind of like that when I arrive on set. I'm the new person, the talent. I have an air of confidence around me tho, because I've been chosen. I'm here for a reason, there's something special about me and I use that as fuel, I have that as a secret weapon. So I arrive at Retrospec films, which has the studio that the producing company, Brother's and Company rented for this specific project because, well, because it's a massive studio and it's exactly what they needed to accomplish this project.
I find Toby (the Producer) and Brooks (the actor I'm playing opposite) outside the studio and we shake hands and I head inside to find the talent dressing room. The offices of Retrospec films... impress me to say the least. They've made a really cool space and I can't avoid bringing that up here. I meet Laurie who is an assistant producer and has been assigned to me. We talk about wardrobe, hair, everything. She helps me bring in my massive wardrobe and beauty kit and exclaims on how prepared I am. She's energetic and super excited about the project. Pride is seeping from her as she points out some of the other key people. I meet Ryan and Ben who will be behind the camera as the creative director and DP (director of photography), respectively. I grow to really like these two for their quirky personalities and loud bantering. I know right away that I'm going to like these two guys and they'll make this project a fun experience. I meet Amy, who wrote the script for the promo video and Jessica who is the dance coordinator - a dance professor at TU. I get a cup of coffee and try to take it all in.
Because this is a non speaking part, I'm paying a lot of attention to small gestures and body language. Jessica, the dance coordinator asks me about my dance experience and I tell her I've had none and smile at the compliment. I want to be pretty, I want everything to come across feminine yet strong -because of the maternal element.
The video is very impactful and it's a lot of responsibility to portray the charactization of what is the painful reality of these people's lives.
So they'd put together the shooting schedule to streamline the schedules of the other actors and we started with the war scene so my morning was pretty laid back just watching and getting the flow of their process. Day one was all rehearsal, nailing down the blocking to make sure each scene flowed with the next and captured exactly what it should.
My first scene was the "notification" scene. Awful right? Talk about trial by fire. I guess they really wanted to see what I was made of. So we do the first take and I have to admit, it was emotional. It was rough. You see two men walking towards you and you know what it means so there's the initial shock and trying to keep it together in front of your son, while your worst fear is unfolding right there. I crumble and then collapse completely and and I'm shaking and my chest hurts, my heart is splitting open, and my stomach feels inside out. The poor actor who plays my son is clutched in my arms and we just hold each other & tremble & wait for them to say cut. When I stand, it's quiet. I look around, ready for feedback and direction (which comes after a pause) I see a lot of wet eyes. The actor who came to deliver the news, he quietly says he has goosebumps. Jessica, the dance instructor, walks up with tears in her eyes and, in a hushed voice, compliments my first effort and adds just a couple of pointers. It takes a few moments but everyone starts talking more and giving direction to all of us on timing, spacing, etc.
We go through it many times, because this scene is so critical and we have 4 actors and it's silhouette and it just takes a while to get each piece exactly right. Of course they don't want to over rehearse this one either because we don't want it to lose its intensity. Fine by me, I don't want to do it too many times either! It's rough!
Throughout the day, as we rehearse, they find that our dark clothes work well for the silhouette, but the light is catching our faces and they're telling me that they want less work in post. So, the darker we can make our silhouettes, the less work they have to do in post. They are providing black mofi suits for us - this is a head to toe black body suit, you've seen them. You step in and pull it all the way up and it has arms with gloves. Laurie cuts the head off my suit, but tells me I'll have to wear black makeup on my face to knock down the highlights that they're picking up. Now, I'm overall really great to work with. I'm generally easy to work with, fun to work with, and the like. But this is where I start to get... let's say disagreeable. This is where my diva side starts to come out. Mostly because I'm uncomfortable and inconvenienced. Physically- the mofi suit makes me absolutely crazy. I have to wear it under all my clothes because the point is to cover my skin, so in order to eat anything, I have to undress amd redress with it hanging from the waist to remove the mofi suit from my hands so I may use them. Also, it makes using the bathroom an ordeal, & definitely not quick. Infact, there were too many close calls & I may or may not have anything else to confess. Also, it's surprisingly hot, I'm sweating and I know it doesn't smell awesome. So they're messing with my image here. Do you see what I mean now? Ryan and Ben are taking full advantage of this opportunity to razz me from their places behind the camera. As I approach Ryan would say "do you smell something ripe? Oh look Connie is here"
I pout. I glare. It doesn't make a noticeable difference. I take that back, it mostly adds fuel to the fire. Our lunch break was .... not what I had expected. I had hoped we would all sit around and have fun conversation getting to know each other. It was just a little quieter than I expected the first day. Brooks (the male lead) and I sat at the main table and Jessica was the only one who joined us. She was very nice, sweet really. She asked about our acting experience and I showed her my Quest commercial and some of my modeling photos. She said something interesting, that would have never recognized me. She said the images didn't even look like me. I thought, that's good, I mean I frequently say that I want my images to all be very different so they don't get boring. I think it helps me get more work so I don't "over saturate the market" but it was still surprising to hear.
Between scenes and during other breaks a lot of fun conversation was had. It's important to me to develop a rapport with people I work with, establish a connection so that later I can exploit that contact for my own gain. I'm not kidding. Ryan asks about my workouts and I say, "what makes you ask that?" He says, "because you're obviously very fit!" I know, I just like to clarify so I know what inspired the conversation. It turns out, his ex was an Olympic runner. Which is pretty cool, but I guess not cool enough.
Sometimes I walk into traps. Verbal, seemingly innocent, dialogue traps. Sometimes when I do this, I make a spectacle of myself and always it's very amusing. In this case, it was during a scene we were shooting the second day and now I don't even remember which one, but you know I've said this is a huge studio and Ben and Ryan are across the room filming so when Ryan says "Connie? Do you have a sec?" He has to project so I know he's talking to me, and I immediately respond while crossing to him, "sure Ryan, I have all the secs you need!" I love it because we all get to laugh while I pretend I'm embarrassed. No I didn't mean to say it, but I am in familiar territory and it doesn't embarrass me that much anymore.
At one point, Brooks and I lost our composure. And I'm talking complete and total loss of control. When it was time for the baby scene, where I'm rocking the baby and he takes him and places him in the crib- they hand me a bundle. It's a baby doll wrapped in a black pillowcase. The baby doll has black gaff tape over it's face in an X and when I saw it- I was stunned by this devil looking baby. There was something so over the top about the way it looked and it struck me so funny. Brooks was standing there with the same reaction and we both started laughing and couldn't stop. I had tears and my whole body was shaking. We literally delayed filming because we couldn't stop laughing and every time we would try to go through the scene we were still giggling. It was just so funny in that moment. Especially in stark contrast to the mood of the video.
I typically get along with pretty much everyone and anyone on set. I like to be likeable and I like to be respected. Actually, and this might be a personality flaw with me, but I don't have to like everyone, but I want everyone to like me. And I think that's okay. Well, the boy who played the role of the youngest son- he didn't like me. Apparently I was too aggressive when I first met him, I tried to get too close too soon. From my perspective, since I have two little boys his age, I'm good with kids. I'm a mom. He's going to like me and we are going to be great on camera together. This was not the case. He's a shy little 4 year old, and when I tried to be affectionate with him, I scared him. So, while it bothered me quite a bit, this wasn't a huge issue, but it was not ideal. The older kid, who was 9, he thought I was super cool and we were great together on set. So, I didn't develop a complex over it.
At the end, when we wrapped, it was hard to leave. It's always hard for me to leave the set. I'm all sorts of awkward trying to walk away without being either too and abrupt about it or weirdly standing around saying versions of "goodbye" in 12 different phrases.
The video played at the Folds of Honor Gala over Memorial Day weekend. It was projected over 3 giant screens, which is why it's so wide. I was told that the entire audience was very moved and there were a lot of tears. I had been hoping to see it, but they didn't send me any versions of the video until late June! (it was shot at the end of April) This is how it is in this business, it's not on my timeline and I'm grateful just to be able to see the work when it's finished. (Sometimes, I don't even get that! ) I saw the original version, with music, but was told I couldn't share that because they didn't get rights to the music they used, beyond just the one time viewing at the event. After a long time of harassing Ben, and telling him that I needed the video and that it was worth it to me to do what it took to get the rights, we came to a compromise. They removed the music and gave me a silent version. Which is what I have posted and shared. Trust me, the music makes a really big impact and I apologize that you don't get the full effect.
A few days after filming I saw this in an email from Friehofer Casting... about Brooks for our video!
To sum it up, I loved this project. I'm still very proud of it and I still bring it up on the computer to show people who haven't yet seen it and it still makes me very emotional.
If you haven't seen it yet. You must!