Sunday, January 2, 2011

Banister!! Pt. 2 of My Character Annie

My computer crashed :-( So I feel paralyzed, and ran to a friends house to get at least one out of me.

Getting into Annie Pt. 2

We wrapped Friday night at 10pm. My call the next morning was 7am in Orange County. I was exhausted. I had been working the Doggie Daycare for eight days in a row or something ridiculous, and the two days I had off were spent acting in this production. I was dragging but happy and high on the compliment from the night before.

I had an emotional scene this morning, so I knew I would need at least one cigarette. Abe sent me off with two. Sadly, I didn't have a lighter on me. So I stopped at an AM/PM and asked how much their lighters were. She said $1.70. I only had $1.

I told her that was too much and sat in my car trying to figure out why the cigarette lighter in my car doesn't work in my 2007 Sonata when a dirty hippie walked by. A dirty hippie at 6:48am in the morning at an AM/PM in Santa Ana . . . why not?

I said, "Excuse me, do you have a light I can borrow?"

He said, "No, but I can get you one?"

I said, "They are charging too much inside."

He said, "Nahhh, I know them. I will get one for you."

He came back out holding the lighter. I thanked him.

He said, "Will you go out with me some time?"

I said, "Sorry I have a boyfriend."

He said, "Can I be your man-freak?"

I said, "No, but (holding up the lighter) thank you!"

Light. Suck. Blow. Harsh high. Off to set.

I arrived to an old house that was now converted to a museum. It is called the Kellogg House or the Heritage Museum. It was raining in the morning, so I was fucking cold. Not just cold, FUCKING COLD. There was no heat in the house and certainly no insulation. Brrrrr.

I walked in and everyone waved at me.

First words out of my mouth, "Do you have any Armenian coffee?"

AD, "No, just Orange County coffee."

Me, (disappointed) "Oh."

AD, "Ahhhh. We're spoiling you."

I made my way to the second floor of the house where make-up was setting up. Miss Tude was already there waiting. The house had a little, narrow school room of three or four desks built off the side of the dressing room.

The make-up girl smiled when she saw me and we explored the house together. Like I say, the make-up girl/guy always becomes my BFF. We climbed the stairs into the attic where there was a bald mannequin head and a wicker baby carriage. Not much else.

I said, "Great location."

The Make-Up girl climbed the stairs down and said, "I wonder if anyone has ever died here."

Suddenly, a nautical wheel fell off the wall and the door to the hallway opened. We both stopped and stared at each other.

She said, "Did that just open by itself?"

I nodded, "Wide open."

We sat down and the director came in to check in with us. We told him what happened.

He said, "I know a woman died in the dining room."

We both said, "WHAT!?"

He said, "Yeah, its part of the museum tour."

The make-up girl started talking to the dead woman.

Make-Up Girl, "Give us a sign if you died here in this house. We know someone died here, was it you?"

I said, "You aren't supposed to talk to them. It encourages them."

Make-Up Girl, "Don't I want to encourage them?"

Me (pause) "No. No you don't."

I told the story of ANAHEIM the movie, also shot in a haunted house in Orange County. The broken Grandfather clock came on once by itself in the middle of the night.

Miss Tude was cowering in a rocking chair in the far corner of the room wearing her black Victorian costume with hair tight in a bun. With a sharp nose and mole on her cheek, she smiled and said in a low voice, "They were just saying hello."

Creep.

I looked at the large portrait of a woman in the dressing room, staring at me. I said, "Do you think that's her? The one who died here?"

The make-up girl said, "I don't fucking know, but I am freaking out."

The scene we were about to do was more Miss Tude's scene, who was playing my servant. I mean Annie's servant. Annie charges into the kitchen and starts pushing her for answers, when the maid crumbles and tells the story of how she learned all about Annie's mother-in-law, who she cares for, and her tortured past in the genocide (of course). She is carrying the guilt of her Turkish blood and unfurls it during this powerful monologue- then I go to her and comfort her.

I stood away from everyone in the corner while the equipment was prepped and started psyching myself up. I was thinking about how I betrayed my cats by bringing in pit bulls to my home. How my cat died in the car seat next to me and I carried her stiff corpse into the emergency hospital screaming for help.

Then, I thought about my last childhood dog. How he died in my father's arms when there was not a great deal of indication that he was sick. He was slow for just a few days, and all of a sudden he died. Then my father dug his grave somewhere in Arizona. No one in my family can speak about his death, he was . . . an amazing dog.

This somehow slithered around my chest and my face was burning. As I was prepping, the door next to me would open halfway by itself. I closed it. Worked myself up some more, and then the door opened again. The slate guy walked through when we were about to roll camera. I said, "This door keeps opening by itself, when the camera rolls can you make sure the spirits take a break."

He laughed and nodded. Then he tested the door. There was no draft. There was no loose hinge. It was opening by itself.

During the takes, the door kept shut.

We did all Miss Tude's angles first, and I worked up a storm in my head. Soon, it wasn't about what I was thinking, I was just feeling everything the character was feeling. It was bizarre. I was upset I pushed this woman into bad memories. I was upset the Turkish people did so many fucked up things, killing children . . . FUCK. I was losing my mind. My voice even changed.

While the camera set-up changed, I walked into the pantry and started saying things to myself that didn't make sense. Hot tears were pouring out of my eyes and I started whining, "Get it off me! Get it off." I have no fucking idea what I wanted off of me. A feeling? A heaviness? I left the pantry and I could see the crew watching me out of the sides of their eyes. They must think I am crazy.

The next shot was my close-up, and one of the best moments of my life:

There is this movie called Frida starring Salma Hayek- who was later nominated for an Oscar. I resented the nomination because the whole movie was cut around her emotion. She could only do one emotion per scene. There was no fluidity, no transformation in a scene. Angry, cut. Sad, cut. Sexy, cut. Eugh, so frustrating.

A good actress can move through emotions and expressions effortlessly. The best example is in the movie The Hours. All the actresses have so many wonderfully layered moments, watching that movie is like drowning in chocolate cake.

So here I was, doing one long close-up for the bulk of the scene, around Miss Tude's monologue (which honestly, was better in the rehearsal). So the emotions were angry, frustrated, patronizing, realization, sympathetic, disturbed, then emotional. One take and I hit every single one. I could see my face changing in the reflection of the camera lens. The tears came without any provocation on cue.

Director, "Cut."

Director of Photography moved his face out from behind the camera, looked at me and said, "Wow."

I walked up to the new Assistant Director, who I had never seen before, and hugged her. Then I said, "I'm sorry." What was I sorry for? I have no idea. I don't know what was coming out of my mouth. It wasn't me anymore.

The director told me what my next costume change was, and I asked for a personal moment where I smoked that last cigarette in my car. It was great.

I came back to make-up for a hairstyle change. The make-up girl asked, "How was that smoke?" She quit recently.

I said, "Amazing."

She peeled my wet, knee high socks up from her make-up station. She said, "I believe these are yours."

I laughed, "Why don't I just make myself at home!?"

I was being mildly glammed up for this next scene, so she asked me to open my mouth for lipstick.

She said, "No wider, like you are going to . . . "

I dropped my lower jaw to the floor and she laughed.

After she was done with my make-up, I stood up in my vintage , European dress.

Miss Tude said, "Wow . . . you are pretty. No wonder I don't like you."

The Make-Up girl mumbled, "Is she kidding?"

With my lips still tight from touch up, I said, "I don't think so."

She asked, "Is it because we laughed at her for using the set toilet?" We did.

I said, "No, it goes further back." To fucking Darwinism.

The Make-Up Girl said, "I love how you curse like a sailor."

I said, "Have I been cursing a lot? Shit. I was going to work on it around the kids."

She laughed and shook her head.

We did a couple shots of me climbing this spiral staircase. I think I have perfected the art of walking along a banister with great trepidation. I always think of the horror film festival I went to in Olympia, WA called All Freakin' Night; 12 hours of vintage horror movies, back to back. Absolutely delightful! Anytime a banister for a staircase was in the shot, we all shouted, "Banister!" It is the ultimate trademark for a true horror movie.

My stage husband was flirting with me, but I was so zoned out and high on whatever it was influencing my state of mind, I couldn't really register what he was saying until he would conclude with, "I tend to push things too far."

I said, "Usually I am the one pushing things too far." I had walls up in my mind and was being quite professional, which was so unlike me. I walked back into the house and heard the Make-Up girl command the crew, "Can we at least acknowledge that a woman DIED here?!"

The Director said, "Yes, we acknowledge it. Now, moving on . . ."

Whoever that woman was, I hope she wasn't sticking to my soul.

We broke for lunch.

My make-up girl left shortly thereafter. I said, "What am I going to do without my rock?"

She said, "You are doing just fine."

After she left, it got colder. I felt like my mind was drifting and getting darker at the same time.

There is usually a lull after food, but it was the last half of the last day of production- and the director was shooting our rehearsal (which I wasn't happy with) and we were doing 1 or 2 takes of each angle. I was feeling out of my groove and started getting neurotic. We were rushing.

Someone on the crew later said, everyone heard me saying 'fuck' repeatedly when one of the moms to the child actors said, "That's ok. We've talked about it and are used to adult language on set."

Just then, I fumbled a line and shouted, "FUCK!!!!!" from the floor beneath them. I punctuated that moment.

The remaining scenes required very little from me, so I zoned out for those shots where it was the back of my head or my shoulder. My contacts were drying up and I could feel a headache forming over the bump on the right side of my forehead.

Slight sidenote* The bump on the right side of my forehead came first from a car accident when a drunk driver killed himself against my car (while I was driving) when I was 17.

- When I was 22, I was assaulted on the beach by a stranger and hit/kicked in the head repeatedly.

-When I was 27, on New Years Eve, Not for Profit spun me around his living room in jubilation on his shoulders and smashed that exact spot of my forehead with the corner of his fireplace mantel by accident.

- When I was 31, he bit my forehead in that exact spot. Nice, I know. He broke skin with his teeth. Rum induced psychotic break.

So this specific spot on my head tends to be where the beginning and end of all my headaches manifest themselves. The eye of the storm.

I was feeling fairly miserable and out of it.

We were trying to position ourselves in the last shot, with my hand on one of my stage kids (about 6) and my stage husband with our other stage kid (about 8) in front of an old woman playing our Grammy-in-Law when the DP said, "Don't worry about the blocking. I will bend you to my will."

I said, "MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!" Everyone stopped and looked up. Wait, was that out loud? I am such an asshole.

We wrapped, and it was abrupt and anti-climatic. I gathered my things but felt weirdly empty.

When you are used to crewing on projects, you feel a chumminess. That warmth was not there for me. I did my usual thing, I went around and shook everyone's hands to thank them for the work and including me on the project, blah blah blah.

I went up to the director and said, "Are you happy with the dining room scene?" The last big scene with my stage hubby.

He put his hands around my waist. God, I felt skinny.

He said, "Yes, it was great. I really hope we can cast you as Annie in the feature version." I said, "Me too. This will be hard to let go."

What will be hard to let go? I don't know. I don't know what I was saying or what any of it meant.

It was rush hour, it was raining and I was close to Abe's apartment. So I decided to go over there and get my soul back.

As I collected my things, I tripped on this old rocking chair and tipped it over. We couldn't sit on any of the furniture because it was all part of the exhibit. So I chirped to the other actress, "Don't tell anyone. SHHHHH!" She laughed and said she wouldn't.

Then when I turned back to leave, the rocking chair got caught on my ankle and I was dragging it across the floor. I said, "Geez, this rocking chair really wants to be with me."

I fumbled out of the house and headed to Abe's. This day happened to be the day John Lennon died, and Jim Morrison was born. The radio was playing "Imagine" just after a few archive radio broadcasts announcing John Lennon's death. I started chain smoking with a new pack of cigarettes and crying.

I turned the station to some Christmas carols. I texted Em some weird things like, "I love you." Wow, I was in a funk.

Knock, knock on my car window. Abe was there in the rain.

He said, "Are you ok?"

I said, "Yeah, except someone thought it was a good idea to shoot John Lennon. WHY would anyone want to shoot John Lennon. It just doesn't make any sense." My voice cracked and a new tear started rolling down my cheek.

Abe asked me to come inside. I did.

He had grabbed warm clothes for me from my home that morning, knowing I would probably stop by in the evening. I stood in sweat pants, big fuzzy slippers, a wool hat my parents picked up for me in Germany covering my ears in front of the wall heater in his living room, holding a cup of tea.

I was in a weird daze.

He said, "Are you sure you are ok?"

I said, "I don't know whats wrong with me."

He sat me down and gave me a bong hit or two and said, "What is it? Are you sad just because they weren't chummy with you on set? They are being professional. Professionals aren't bothered on set."

I said, "I don't know if thats it. I just don't want to let go of it."

He said, "Let go of what?"

I said, "I don't know. I can't explain it. I don't know what it is. My head is full of all those awful things I kept recycling in my brain but something else too . . . "

My eyes started brimming tears.

He said in a low voice, "Baby . . ."

I asked him to massage me with his crystals again. He said he would. It helped center me. I don't know what it is about crystals but there is a warmth or an energy emitted from them I don't totally understand. More like . . . a charge of some kind.

Also, I had received a Facebook message from an acquaintance who works professionally in the industry.

My status update was "Coming down from a creative high."

He wrote me this message:

"My advise is to minimize contact and discussion as much as possible until you process ALL of the feelings. They get corrupted by the thoughts and input of others.

I have seen fights break out when people, some well intentioned invade that sacred space.

Enjoy it. It belongs to YOU and YOU alone. And no explanation you give can even scratch 1/100th of the experience of doing it."

Abe and I made love. I felt more like myself, but it took me several days to get my head back. I am not even sure if I am restored completely now, 2 weeks later. Restored is the wrong word. Now I am permanently changed, maybe evolved somehow.

It was magic. A door was opened for me that day, and now I can't close it.

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