There’s always a lot going on at one time on a film set, it can be a lot to take in, makes it hard to focus, then there’s nerves, lines, lights, camera, and action.
Then training kicks in, like a policeman or a soldier in a cliché. There is nothing cliché about that coaching and training that I got; both at Hedgerow Theatre and at Penncrest High; training, advice, and guidance that I‘ve been using for performances, from the audition to the wrap day.
I recently debuted as a lead in the newly released action/thriller VANish, acting along side film veterans Tony Todd (Candyman, The Crow, The Rock) and Danny Trejo (Desperado, Machete). VANish is about three kidnappers that hold a girl for ransom from her cartel Father. Things go sour as the girl fights back and a few twists and turns come along the way. The film takes place entirely in the kidnappers van and was shot in just 13 days. It release on DVD/Bluray and Video on Demand.
I play war veteran Shane, one of the kidnappers with a drug addiction and a bad case of posttraumatic stress disorder. Shane is hoping to use the ransom money for a fresh start.
I met the director of VANish, Bryan Bockbrader, in college at CSULA, we became friends, he gave me the script to check out, I read it and felt confidently that I could play a part, I asked him for an audition. With other plans for the look of the character, Bryan reluctantly said yes, but I wowed him and grabbed the part. I had a confidence I could not have achieved without my training and obedience.
Some of the basics that kicked in were trivial to me at the time of learning, like the classing back and forth with a tennis ball, but when the ball becomes dialogue, it helps, especially when the audience you are playing to is a camera, and especially whne the dialogue is quick and needs a rhythm. Other acting basics like cheating out, blocking, they start to become routine, and that’s great when you have so much more to worry about, and there’s so much going on.
One that surprised me was breathing, I never put much stock in it before, but it helps, calms the nerves if only that. Shane on the other hand, is a neurotic mess, so I actually used a combination of too much coffee and a lot of heavy sporadic breathing to put me in character, I would take a minute and hyperventilate.
Hedgerow was great because they hit both sides of the coin, they gave me the freedom of multiple roles to play with. Often the shows we did in summer sessions would have us playing various and versatile characters. I also honed my improv, which was always my favorite, also a gem off camera with cast and crew. On the other side I was given the discipline of collaborating a role with the director, changing when I needed to, hitting my mark and my queue, rehearsing, and delivery.
Lastly, they taught me to never stop studying, I improv and act whenever I can, even if my audience is just me in the mirror, I read, Michael Caine’s “Acting on Film” was a big help. I keep active even when inactive, otherwise when a big one comes along you might not be as ready as you could have been.