And it’s a wrap.
I thought I’d write a sober blog. I’ve been a bit drunk and moany recently. I guess we all have phases. But it’s odd. I think I’m pretty happy, but then I wake up and notice that a sleepy version of me felt like ranting about some poor maitre d’hotel. There there darling, you’ll feel better in the morning. Perhaps I need to stick that on my bedroom ceiling.
It’s sweet how they clap you off after your last scene, even for a small part. It’s a lovely bunch, here in Cornwall. And filming is such … unusual work.
Today I had just seven words. So many people working to make them ping. Let me take you through the mystery…
I am picked up from the hotel in a black BMW and driven to a remote farmhouse. Someone in hi vis tells us where to park. They’re connected by earpiece to the walkie talkies. They know things we cannot see. People are driving trailers with expressions of fierce concentration. Others are carrying bits of kit. Reflectors, booms, tripods. I get out of the car and a man in a hat tells me exactly where everything is located even though I’ve been here before. I grab a coffee from the machine on the trailer. Two people are diligently preparing lunches listening to obscure nineties albums. Rhythm and Stealth! “Your costume isn’t here yet. Go straight to makeup.” So I go to makeup. I check I haven’t missed anything shaving now the light is bright in the mirror. “Make me look beautiful.” My face is brushed with base, my hair is combed with comb. “I said make me look beautiful!” “It’s the best we can do”. I am helped into costume. It’s arrived, pristine. Someone is adjusting my starched cuffs, moving my braces an inch to the left, wiping a speck from my shoe as I put in my cufflinks. Before I’ve even had time to get my jacket on someone else is taping wires to the back of my shirt and fixing a mic in my tie, popping the pack down my newly ironed trousers. I walk towards set but stop at the boundary instinctively. It’s raining. Actors in film literally cannot touch rain unless it’s for the scene. We dissolve.
Someone appears wordlessly with overshoes moments after I stop, because the ground is muddy. They even put them on for me. Someone else appears with an umbrella. They hold it over me. I walk through the mud in overshoes, pulling up my trouser legs, selecting each footfall, flanked by a careful umbrella, wary of mudsplash. Then I’m in a barn. Umbrella is down. I take off my own overshoes. “Are you okay doing that yourself?” asks the person whose job it is to do that. “Sorry. Yes?”
There are lots of very clever very quiet people and thousands and thousands of pounds worth of equipment, and everybody has a very specific remit. “We’re going for a rehearsal, they say in German and then in English.” Two people speak quietly for a bit in German. I listen at a door. Someone stands behind me, umbrella open almost vertical against the wind, making sure no rain comes close to me from the squall outside. Someone else stands unnaturally close to me just … flickering a light switch on and off.
Then I call out three words in English, Max jumps onto a crash mat and … Scene.
Everybody talks about things very seriously for a while. People put bits of stuff on the floor so we know where to stop walking. How to act in film? “Hit your mark. Find your light. Know your lines. Don’t be a c*nt.” Simple. It’s a lovely medium to work in.
We do it again with small adjustments. “Ok we go for a take.” The familiar calls, interestingly in English despite German crew. “Camera rolling.” “Speed!” … ! … “Action.” We all keep doing it until everybody seems happy. Then they move things around a bit. “How long have you been acting?” “Twenty years mate. How long have you been flickering light switches?” “Four weeks.” “Enjoying it?” “Loving it.”
Then we do it again only now the clever quiet people are standing in a different place. Occasionally someone appears and puts powder on my face, or brushes dust from my lapel. I say the four words I have left and actively listen to someone speak German for a bit. And then it’s a wrap. It’s my wrap from the job. People clap. It’s a tradition. I’m not quite done though as sound requests a wild track. My last bit of work for the day, after all the other actors have been sent off and I’ve had my wrapclap, is to take five steps and rustle a newspaper in a room where twenty fully grown adults are being so quiet it’s literally like they’re holding their breath. In fact, some of them probably are.
As I am about to turn around to wade back to the barn the first AD shakes my hand. “You make a very convincing sleazeball.” he offers. I laugh. “Yes I do.” And I know it.
Back in the trailer I hang up my costume and get dressed. Lots of people hug me. I grab another coffee, but I’m wrapped before lunchtime. Shame. It looks good. Someone drives me back to the lovely hotel.
Showbusiness, baby. There are far worse ways to earn a living, and I’ve done many of them. More like this thankyouplease.