Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ACL1: Actor for a day…

Background:

This is speech no 1 from the "The Entertaining Speaker" manual. Its all about entertaining the audience. Was very well received and won speech of the day. Most people commented that it should be the base for humor contest but I did not pursue it for personal reasons...

Actual Speech:

[Salsa Step: N5] ! Ladies and Gentlemen, I know the art of moving my bons bons when I need to. I recently started leaning salsa. It is an awesome skill to learn. I get to meet many interesting people. And guys, not all of them wear tight mini skirts… Anyway, in my previous class, I got talent spotted by this guy who happens to work in a casting agency.

Being talent spotted is quite exciting. It is quite a compliment actually. Suddenly someone thinks that you are good looking enough to be on TV! What he doesn’t tell you is that in casting it is not about how good you look… It is more about how well you fit the role. The role I was cast for was as a computer nerd…

Good Evening L&G… For your listening pleasure, I expose the secret thoughts of an amateur actor.

The whole casting to shoot process took about 2 weeks. End to end. From the initial audition to the final take which just ended 2 days ago; it was a fast paced, jam packed, eye popping, comfort zone jumping experience. There were a lot of different stories I could tell you but I am going to tell you about the best one – The story of the actual shoot!

The studio itself was quite plain but big. It was big empty warehouse with a large green wall. Other than a red chair, there was nothing else in the room. These days, they use computer to fit in the scenery and background. The green background will be replaced with some computer graphics eventually. My role was to be a young ultra hip computer whiz kid who was creating a 3D car animation projected in front of the chair. Not too hard for someone who is actually works with computers.

The entire action was just this. You look down at the laptop, look up at your creation… move your head a bit. Look back at the laptop and finally look up as if there are screens all over.

First 5 times of doing the scene, I was doing great. The director asked me to smile a bit and I gave him my best smile. The one I only reserve for tight mini skirts. Initially, we kept on repeating the scene because there was many technical faults. Angle wasn’t good, the camera movement was not fast enough, the zoom not clear enough etc etc. Finally after 12 take, the technical shots started to get better.

However, this is when my acting started to deteriorate. How many times can you smile on cue anyway? After the 7 shot, I couldn’t bring myself to smile anymore. It was more like a snarl than a smile [Show snarl]. That was not bad enough. When I had to look up, I had to give an expression of wonder. The closest I got to it a mischievous smile. That got the director screaming from his chair. He said “No childish smile… No mischievous smile… Just give me a professional look”

So, there I was thinking about professionalism and telling my mind to stop smiling. So when the director said action! I went [Smile]… Immediately, he shouted “Cut! What the hell was that!”. Phew, talk about stress. By this time, it was already take no. 23 and I was sweating.

Can you imagine the studio was something like a camera studio whereby they had yellow lights all over streaming down on you? It was alright at first but after a while, it became blinding and exceedingly hot, stuffy and uncomfortable.

It was not working out. I couldn’t produce the good acting I did initially and the director and crew was getting worked up. You know you were in trouble when you see your director’s head in his hands going “Why Why Why”… :P

Initially when I sat down on the chair and the director was shouting action, I was thinking “Whoa! How cool is this man… An actual production set”. After the 30th time doing it, your heart starts beating wildly whenever he says “Action!” and it doesn’t stop. Last time I felt so stress was when I was doing my ice breaker. Its only when he says “Cut!”, you are able to breathe easy but only for an instance because before you know he is screaming “Action!” again.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to say that after the 32nd time we did the scene, the director suddenly shouted “Alright! Good take… It’s a wrap…” which I gather was a good scene capture and I was free to go. I was just about to jump out of my seat and do a salsa dance when one of my make artists ushered me into the make up room to get a change of clothes. Guess what… We were going to go through the whole thing again with a different shirt. OMG!

Needless to say the second shoot went a whole lot smoother than the first time. This time around it only took another 15 takes before we nailed it. At the end of it, I couldn’t smile anymore even if I wanted to. Never ever have I felt so tired just seating in a chair typing. The best part was, my laptop which practically was my loyal co-star throughout the scene was not even ON!

Thank you L&G!

By, Vijay Balasegaram

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