Sunday, January 2, 2011

May It Be Sweet Pt. 1 of My Character Annie

I haven't been able to write these last few weeks between holidays with Abe's family and work, my attention was on high demand.

Now, the rain clouds are rolling back into Los Angeles and I am sitting in my warm living room with Em's fuzzy socks on and my dogs snoring ready to write some more.

I was driving to set on Friday morning and was really fucking late. I gave myself 30 minutes or so to get to Bel Air, which I had forgotten, is on the west side of Los Angeles. Also, my call time was the tail end of rush hour(s) and raining. So I was freaking out.

When I arrived to the large mansion we were shooting in, I rushed through the doors to make-up, wet and flustered. I was nearly an hour late. The good news, they were still on schedule. The make-up girl was a little cold at first. She said she wasn't late and came from Long Beach. I severed casual conversation shortly after. She didn't like me, which would be the first make-up girl/boy not to assume BFF position on set.

I went in to this amazing office where we were shooting the scene I have with a professor on the Armenian genocide. The room was perfect. The walls were lined with literature on various genocides and the desk itself was built out of books someone had read.

The dialogue for this scene was really challenging; lots of exposition and lots of history I wasn't well versed on.

The night before, I asked Abe to run lines with me, threw the script at him and started. He said, "Whoa whoa whoa, are we having conversation or did you already start your lines?" I said, "See baby, that's how good I am."

I was lucky enough to have a great actor in the scene with me. He was relaxed, had a thick German accent and his blue eyes were catching what little sunlight were making it through the storm outside. When I said my lines, I searched for the right words in the script in the moment, searching his eyes to know I was getting it right. He would nod and the scene became about my character Annie searching his eyes and face for the answers in history.

When my character stopped herself to correct a word, I could feel everyone wondering if I forgot my lines and was stopping the scene. It felt good.

The actor claimed we had met before. I said we hadn't. He said he rehearsed with a woman who looked just like me. So he and Miss Tude both somehow had time to rehearse with some other woman. WTF?

After the dialogue heavy scene, we broke for lunch. An older woman who was related to the owner of this mansion was cooking a spectacular lunch spread for us. I hadn't informed anyone I was vegan but I was hungry. I explained my diet and she had vegetables and rice set aside for me. The rice was sweet, like it had apples and brown sugar cooked into it. She assured me there wasn't any sugar or fruit of any kind. It tasted way too good to be vegan.

She said in a thick Armenian accent, "When someone says thank you, the cook in America says 'You're welcome.' In Armenia, the cook says, 'May it be sweet.'" I liked that. May it be sweet.

The next scene would involve my character looking at graphic pictures of the holocaust. The make-up girl said, "Are you ready to cry?" I was kind of caught of guard. Would I have to cry? I can get teary eyed but I wasn't really psyching myself up into tears. Usually I start putting my mind in a dark place but right now I was eating yummy rice with lemon on my salad.

The Armenian Hostess said, "Who ever said acting was easy?"

The slate guy said, "Nobody said that. Its one of those sayings nobody ever said."

I said, "You are funny. You should do stand up."

Slate guy, "No, my feet would hurt."

I went into the scene, and books with photographs of horrible things were placed in front of me. My stomach turned. We rehearsed the scene and all I had to do was listen to what the German professor would say and look at these pictures as if it was the first time. Well, I hadn't read his monologue before, because I wanted it to keep it fresh on set.

In the rehearsal, I started crying. The director asked to roll camera. I had to keep my face clean and dry at the start of each scene which was a challenge. My nose was getting red. I would tip my head back to keep my tears from falling out of my eyes and streaking my make-up.

The make-up girl was there to keep my face from puffing up for each take. She changed her demeanor towards me. Her voice was soft, she even offered a light smile. I earned her respect.

We did the scene about three times. Between takes, I put my head down on the desk and said, "I think I have to throw up." The German Professor patted my back. On the last take, I broke down and the back of my throat made a little whine.

When I cry, sometimes the 7 yr-old me makes an appearance. I hyperventilate, my voice gets really high and I can't stop sobbing. That child in me was scratching up my throat to come out. I pushed her back down to my belly. This character was a mother, not a child.

After the scene, the assistant director said, "Your emotional range is crazy."

I said, "This is the only situation in life where that is a perk." Most people think I am insane. Maybe having easy access to your emotions does makes you insane.

The next set was in Glendale, close to home. I left before the crew and headed out. I was having a bowel movement, which meant that I was going to find a public restroom as to avoid using the set toilet. So I used my phone to find a nearby Starbuck's. I needed a Starbuck's because Abe's family gave me a gift card for Hanukkah and I had no cash.

So I drove down to a mall in Glendale, found parking in Christmas shopping season which was a pain in the ass. Then walked through the mall to only find a Peet's. I then crossed out of the inside mall into the outdoor mall (sigh, eye roll) and then saw a sign for Starbuck's inside the Barnes & Noble.

I went up to order my soy latte and offered the gift card. The young blond behind the counter said, "Sorry, we are not a Starbuck's." I looked down at her apron with the Starbuck's logo on it. I opened my mouth but then shrugged my shoulders and put it on my credit card which, luckily, had about $10 on it.

When I got my drink, I retired to their restroom to make my contribution. Then left.

The next set was in a pre-school. The scene involved a confrontation between the school Principal and a social worker and me and my husband. The threat was custody of my children. So when I walked in, I avoided both actors who played the Principal and social worker.

I left the room to hang out with the Camera Assistant, a really cool guy. The AD (assistant Director) came in and asked if we wanted cookies.

Gaffer, "I think I will hold out for that chips and salsa I smell."

Me, "I don't smell chips and salsa."

AD, "Yeah, we don't have any chips and salsa."

Gaffer, "Oh, maybe I am having a stroke. Oh wait, that's burnt toast."

I saw my stage husband come in and gravitated towards him. Somewhere in my mind, I made him my touchstone. The AD handed me a tea cup of Armenian coffee. I don't know what's in that stuff, but it rivals cocaine on a sugar buzz.

All four of the actors in the scene sat down in the make-up room to run lines. The Principal was an older woman, short and stocky. The social worker was an older man, medium height and smug with his character. Then there was my stage hubby.

The Principal asks me, "Who is playing Annie? Are you playing Annie?"

Look around you bitch, who else would fucking play Annie? I am the only woman in the room.

I said, "I am playing Annie. Are you going to tell me you rehearsed with some other Annie too?"

My stage hubby gave a sad laugh. He was in on the production and knew there was some other Annie out there who didn't make it to production.

The Principal, "Hey, I am just an actor. I am not a big casting director. I am just here to rehearse."

Jesus. What's her problem? Why do all the women have a problem!?

We did the scene, and everyone was great. The line between Annie and me was fading. I hated this fucking Principal for putting me in this position and I was going to mentally annihilate this social worker for even threatening to take my kids away.

When we got out on to set, I put my foot on top of my Stage Hubby's toe. I asked him if that was ok, he said it was. He was going to be my rock through this scene and I wanted to feel him there.

On the same note, I kept small talk with the Principal brief. And the social worker got bitch eyes from me from the moment we stepped on set to the moment we wrapped. I couldn't help it, I hated him.

We did the scene, and it started off ok. The scene climaxes when the social worker threatens my husband who, in turn, grabs the collar of his shirt and threatens him. I told the director, I feel really uncomfortable just standing there and watching. I want to do something, he's my husband!?

If someone grabbed the collar of Abe's collar, I would break face.

So we did it my way, I broke it up and we ended the scene with my stage hubby holding me back instead. Ha ha. This is where my crazy eyes started surfacing in my character. Take after take, I would give bitch eyes to the social worker and we would end with me in his face. I am sorry to say, it destroyed his performance.

In the rehearsal he was great. He knew all his lines, he was arrogant, threatening, in a position of power. After three takes my way, he started forgetting his lines. He became more concerned about his lines than about his performance, which got significantly weaker. Unfortunately, at his worst point in the creative process, he was getting his close-ups and singles. I knew it was because of me.

Later, someone on the crew said I intimidated the shit out of him.

When I was 16, I heard my boyfriend's friend criticize me for dressing like a boy. After that, I spent 6 months giving him bitch eyes when ever we passed each other to class. No words. Just eyes. He eventually asked my boyfriend to make me stop. He couldn't handle it anymore.

When we wrapped, I shook the Social Worker's hand, smiled and thanked him for the work. I felt the crew staring at me, they were wondering about me. Maybe I am a little crazy.

As I was leaving, a few people on the crew came forward with compliments about my performance. I don't usually take compliments well, so I do this thing where I act like they shot a bow through my heart. Maybe I should just say thank you.

The compliments came and I stood there for a moment, then put my hand to my ear and said, "No more compliments? Ok, now I am ready to go." They laughed. Thank God.

Then the director stopped me at the door and held my elbow. He said, "I asked the crew not to say anything until now. We were going to go with another Annie because of your schedule, but we delayed the entire production a week because there is only one Annie. You."

I wasn't expecting this. That is why everyone rehearsed with some other Annie. I felt my cheeks burn and I looked down and thanked them, just before tripping on a carpet out the front door.

1 comment:

  1. "Bitch eyes" to a social worker threatening to take your kids... abso-fucking-lutely right. I know that rationally I should give them a break, overworked, underpaid, continually under attack from a critical public. But once they make assumptions without having all the facts, the only thing I feel for them is bile and disgust...

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