First day on set today. I’ve done some unusual jobs over the years for certain. This is one of them.
Only three days on set in total, so a relatively short job. Just as you’re making the relationship with the other actors you’re pulled apart. But today I met some of the others and they were diamonds. They were all working in German, which is the predominant language on set. I’m on a German shoot, essentially.
I understand German fairly well even though I can barely speak a word. Dad was always in the Graubünden in Switzerland. I was frequently there too, as a child in the eighties, collecting discarded glass bottles and taking them to the supermarket because they had machines even then for recycling. These guys have a nuclear shelter in every household. In the event of a global nuclear apocalypse, the neutral Swiss will eventually come out on top and rebuild a civilisation where everything is on time but you can’t flush the loo after midnight and if you slam the car door you get a fine, but you know EXACTLY WHERE EVERYTHING IS.
It’s really odd contemplating Switzerland as an adult now, having spent so much time there as a child, then. They were recycling in the eighties and incentivising it well enough that little Al was washing muddy found bottles to take to the co-op every morning for a deposit that was worth the work. But they are also the country that gave us “exterminate exterminate exterminate” Nestle. (My quote not theirs. This blog is fiction. That’s the daleks. Nestlé aren’t the daleks.) But yeah, it’s Swiss that company that pipes your paid for tapwater, filters it a bit, shoves it into plastic and sells it back to you with a label on it. The company that created addictive baby milk substitute to sell to the poorest people on the planet. One of the companies that is ensuring the death of humanity by burning the lungs of the world to make “sustainable” Palm Oil plantations. (What does sustainable even mean in that context?) A vast implacable monster, so big it’s unstoppable in the capital driven context we use to establish merit. If I wasn’t just spinning words from a fictional character standpoint here I’d put all sorts of provisos in my blog to make sure their faceless evil lawyers wouldn’t stamp on my face as hard as they could if they found this and chose to.
I digress. Be mindful, dear readers. Please. But where was I?
Oh yes. German.
So. Eighteen people in a tiny farmhouse kitchen while it shits rain outside. Four actors. Every other actor is working in German and so is all the crew. I’m gonna be dubbed. I could just say “banana banana banana” but the director is kind enough to give me a performance note at one point to make me feel involved. The female lead starts to enjoy saying “banana banana banana” once I’ve made this observation but she only does it between takes in her charming way.
What an unusual job. All I have to do is look smart, move my mouth with sound, and listen closely enough that I know when it’s “my line” and – primarily – not get freaked out by being on a film set. My job is just to be present and unruffled. I’ve anticipated the German language I’ll be hearing and I’ve learnt how many thoughts my fellow actors have before I speak. As well as learning their content in English obviously. But when people ask me that excruciating “how do you learn all those lines?” question, I usually talk about learning thoughts. Thoughts first. Exact expression second. Then you will never go dead.
Here, with the Cornwallgermans, I get to be part of the tapestry. Strange to think I’ll be dubbed. How will I be dubbed even? It’s very very very weird. And very well paid.
Three beautiful humans in the light with me. Many more behind it. A Swiss, an Austrian, a German and Al Barclay walk into a farmhouse in Cornwall. Gesundheit. I’m happy here. How could I not be with this after dinner. Happy but alone. Often the case on a shoot, particularly with a mutt like me who appears super confident but is slow to make friends.