Sunday, August 1, 2021

I Got To Be in Pictures!

I’m in a movie! A real movie with a director and cameraman and “action” and “rolling.” And a line person and locations and extras and multiple takes. This is my newest New Thing in a while!

It’s called Next to North, and it’s the brainchild of Rebecca Casselman. It’s the story of an Alaska woman returning to Alaska to heal from a Lower 48 divorce. I play GAT (Great Aunt Tonka):

Late 60s Woman

She is called Tonka because she gave Tori a Tonka truck when she was little. Gat is fun-spirited, always bringing wonder and laughter to the family. She lives out in the bush with her man Joe, only coming into town for supplies every few weeks. She is visiting to lend support to Tori and love on her great-great nieces. She likes to crack jokes and forgets to have a filter when in ‘society.’
Boy, that’s a real character stretch!

It all started because I ran into my friend Jane while hiking, and she mentioned being in some indie films. Jane and I both worked at the library, but we also did theater acting. Next thing I knew, Jane told me to call Rebecca, with whom I Zoom-auditioned, and I got the part!

Jane, Linda, and I know each other from the theater world – acting on stage. Acting where you learn your lines in the script and your character develops from one scene to another. Where your lines go in order.

“In order” is just not what movie making is about.

So sometimes, I’d be in a T-shirt for a summer scene, but afterwards I’d be in long sleeves for a prior fall scene. But that’s not the big adjustment.

Let’s say I’m saying two sentences to the two adorable great-great nieces: “I don’t live here, remember? I live out in the Bush with Joe.” So, theater actor that I am, I think I’m going to say them and hug the girls and work my emotions for leave-taking and the rest of my lines.

But someone yells cut and Darius the cameraman moves over my shoulder or over the girls’ shoulders or from the kitchen. And we do it again. And someone coughs and we do it again. And the director and cameraman confer and we do it again. Forget that I have three more sentences that are supposed to come right after with emotional content.

In theater, you have to remember that every audience is seeing the play for their first time, so you have to be fresh with every repeat performance. Here, you have to be fresh with every repeat line. And recover where you are for the next line.

So what you think they’re getting is a chopped-up, fragmented mess of lines and script. Except Darius tells me that the average shot is only seven seconds long, that I should check on my next TV show.

Oh, wow, he’s right! A man running: two seconds on his shoes, one second on a passing window, two seconds on his sweating face, one second on his looking over his shoulder, two seconds on what’s behind him, two seconds on him long-distance, etc. etc. But somehow our brain puts it all together seamlessly.

I have new respect for the editor of movies.

And for what they call the Continuity Person.

One day, Linda and I are in an autumn card-playing scene. Then, for a few days, we’re in the summer. Then we’re back to the night of the card-playing, but I think Linda is in the wrong shirt. After grappling with our Third Third memory capacities, Linda goes home to her laundry pile and returns to the set with the right shirt. We’re pretty sure.

Never mind where the tea cups were placed!

It had been quite a while since I’d acted. And suddenly, there I was with a group of actors again. You share a stage and a script and a schedule in a collaborative work of art. Everyone wishes everyone well because you share this production and you want it to succeed and you need everyone to succeed.

Movieland gives you a chance to inhabit a different world, to take a break from this one. You share lots of waiting around time – as yourself – in between the role you’re adopting. There’s something about putting on a role deliberately: because then it’s clear when you take it off. In Real Life, that’s not always clear. But for a time, with acting, you take a break from yourself, too. What a relief.


  1. What a terrific experience to add to your mike long resume! Looking forward to seeing it!

  2. Interesting! I never thought about some of this stuff before and I liked learning about how a scene such as a man running might be constructed. Wow.


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