Sunday, April 24, 2011

My First Almost Love Scene

So I was cast by a USC production in what I was told was a "play on Midnight Cowboy." It became clear as Em printed out my sides for me that it was direct dialogue from the film Midnight Cowboy. Generally, I avoid recreated scenes from movies by film students, but I have to admit, they are so much better written.

After her cowboy whore doesn't get an erection, she says:

SHIRLEY'S VOICE
I just put myself in your shoes. I
had this image of a bugler without
a horn, a policeman without a
stick, etcetera, etcetera and I...
(giggles)
I think I'd better shut up, I'm
making it worse.

Oh yes . . . I could do this.

... camera pulling back to show Joe concentrating on a game,
spread out on the sheet, consisting of nine dice lettered on
all sides, the object being to build as many words as
possible, Scrabble fashion, while a sand timer counts the
seconds. Shirley watches Joe's efforts to think with
sympathetic amusement. The only word Joe has composed so far
is MAN.

SHIRLEY
That's pretty Freudian, Joe.

JOE
What? It's a perfectly good word,
ain't it? How much time I got?
(glances up)

Cowboy whore AND Scrabble. Oh . . . yeah . . . I am in.

Em read the lines as I printed them out on her own computer:

SHIRLEY
There's an E in MONEY. If that's
your word."

Em laughed and said, "This will be great for your reel."

All I could think about was making out with a young cowboy. I frantically put on deodorant, asked to borrow some of her body spray and snag some gum.

I showed up to rehearsal in a house down in USC district. The only people that live down there are students and poor Hispanics. The director was young . . . very young . . . so young, I couldn't have a sexual fantasy about him.

I walked in and met my co-star, we can call him Joel. He was tall but a little older than me and very sweet. He had a short hair cut even though his hair looks to be in the initial stages of thinning.

The sex scene, which read:

... Joe's elbows pinning her shoulders...

... her eyes bright, accepting the challenge...

... his tight smile revealing clenched teeth...

... his hand closing on her wrist...

... her talon-nails clawing the air...

... her toes walking up his calf...

... her legs suddenly locking around his knees...

... her free hand grabbing his hair...

... her shoulder rising as she forces his head back...

... her lips pressing down on his...

And on and on . . . this part I was looking forward to, I was told would be cut when I walked through the door on rehearsal.

Director, "So, we are going to cut the sex scene."

Heart drops. I have never had a sex scene. I have been offered rape scenes, but not sex scenes.

Director, "We are just going to have him kiss you and pull the camera away."

I kick the air, "Okayyyy."

We did the scene a few times, discussed character, which was refreshing. I became conscious that I needed to iron out my quirky expressions for awkward moments. This scene was one big awkward moment about a limp dick, male prostitute. I forced myself to still my lips and eyes, in order to keep my cards close to my chest. I am not me. I am Shirley.

We rehearsed the scene, and I had to use the restroom. I forgot about college, when the communal kitchens were so filthy, fruit flies would swoop into your eyes. The restroom was not that bad, but I can say, I felt more dirty after using it than before I walked in.

I came out and a roommate stomped down the stairs and interrupted us. She said to the director, "Julie has been sleeping all day. I don't know. She sleeps all the time. She sleeps all night and all day and doesn't wake up."

Director-Kid, "Um, I don't know. Are you worried?"

Roommate, (beat) "Yeah."

(silence) Joel and I look at each other.

Roommate, "Are you guys in the middle of something? I'm sorry."

Director-Kid, "We are in the middle of rehearsing a scene but  yeah, lets talk about it later."

I could see that Director-Kid was going to grow up to be somebody. His body was skinny and his face childish, but his eyes were sharp.

Roommate, "Sorry, I have no respect for the arts." She left.

Director-Kid called after her, "But you are dancer . . ."

Joel and I ended each scene with a hard kiss. He shoved his tongue in my mouth from the beginning, but it was never sloppy, or too hard or slimy. And when Director-Kid called cut, he would hover over me, blush, smile and pull away.

I realized what all my dates have been missing is a little humble awkwardness that make a man human. My dates would rather feign pompous.

We did about 12 takes of the scene before I felt a hard-on. I was waiting for it. I am not absolutely positive it was a hard-on (since I am sure he will read this) but I felt what I thought was a hard-on and in my mind, confetti fell from the rafters and a party favor was blown in my honor. Success.

We discussed the shoot times on Saturday, which I had off from Doggie Daycare. Joel was working Friday and Saturday night but said, "I will be tired, but I am always tired. Don't worry, I am used to it." He was working his way in. Good boy.

We walked out of the house and both expressed disappointment that Ecstasy Herbal cigarettes would be used on set since Director-Kid didn't want to fill out the extra paperwork for an actor to light a match on set. Joel quit recently too and said he was looking forward to having an excuse to smoke on set.

An actor on my pilot once said he didn't smoke for 20 years, but being on set brings that desire out of you. Nothing smells better than tobacco smoke on set.

I told him I made a pledge I wouldn't buy any cigarettes for myself. I smoke other people's on occasion. He said he made the same pledge. We both hung our heads and walked out to our cars. He asked me a couple questions about how I found the place and the geography until we got to my car. He said goodbye and turned the opposite direction.

I said, "Aww, I didn't realize you were walking me to my car. Thank you."

He smiled and turned away. I thought, he is nice.Would I date him? Would I crush him?

The shoot was today, Saturday.

I needed a black bra and an americano first. I hit up Ross, then Coffee Bean, then arrived 11 minutes late to some industrial building where we were shooting. I texted that I was there but thought it was the wrong address. When Director-Kid came down and opened the gate, I saw the beer bottles lined up on the ground. I was in the right place.

I came in to a girl's dorm room and tried on my clothes. First I noticed that the button-up white shirt I was wearing had faint yellow stains in the pits and realized that I haven't had that shirt dry cleaned ever. Great. If I was a real girl, I would have bleached and starched that shirt, or whatever they do. Now I had to keep my arms down.

The second thing I noticed is that the stomach hair I usually leave be, the black fuzz above my belly button, below my breasts was visible up close. I waxed the lower half of my stomach, but the upper showed faint but very real body hair. WAS I INSANE!? What the fuck was I doing leaving it there like that?

Jesus. I suck.

We got into the bedroom.

Last year, I did an independent feature film "THEY WORK FOR TIPS" about a man that dresses up as Barney and poses for pictures on Hollywood Blvd for tips. I played his stalker, which was a non-speaking role. In the film, the Elvis Impersonator steals me away- played by an actor who looked more like Neil Diamond but with a heavy, Eastern European accent.

The director was so nice. Once we got to a motel room he rented in a very sketchy part of Hollywood (there actually was a pimp with a whole Billy Dee Williams hat and Cadillac parked outside) he said, very softly, "Ok, so we won't do anything you aren't comfortable with."

I jumped on the bed.

He said, "Ok. She seems comfortable."

There was no kiss in the scene. It was just me waking up from a dream, lighting a cigarette, going to the window, seeing the Barney actor stalking me then doing my Pretty Woman bed jump on Neil Diamond/Elvis before camera cut. No kiss. No sex. No big deal.

(Here is the clip, rough . . . oh yeah, its rough: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwMNrxyKsrY)

Here, the Director-Kid and cinematographer were equally considerate. Don't ask me why I like younger men when they act so gawd damn respectful.

My arm pit stained shirt was unbuttoned all the way to reveal a black lace bra underneath. I was just hoping my B cup breasts were enough to keep them distracted from the stains in my pits and the faint chest hair I occasionally have nightmares about growing thicker and up around my nipples. That's right, like an ape.

I walked into the room and jumped on the bed. Joel smiled and joined me. Girls have all the power in an artistic environment, we really need to drop the "victim" act and make sure everyone feels uninhibited enough to ACT.

When I got up for crackers, water or iPhone hits, I said to the all boy crew, "I am just going to leave my shirt unbuttoned to save time, if that's alright with everyone." Nervous laughter. My stomach is flat. LET THE WORLD SEE IT!

Director-Kid asked me to be a little more bitchy and demeaning. A revelation we had in rehearsal was she actually was a demeaning bitch. I was trying to relate to her, so initially, I overlooked this part of her. Now I had to embrace her.

When he lectured Joel on his back story, of how he moved up to New York to make money, and how his buddy was dying from poor health in a condemned building, and his last client was a man who kicked his ass- I felt like an awful person.

In fact, I hated myself. I hated being Shirley.

However, it is my job to think like Shirley and I tried to focus on how delightful it would be to make the men who used me, feel used in return.

And it happened.

I found a genuine laugh to slap him in the face with when his character couldn't achieve an erection.

After each take, I looked to Director-Kid like he was God. When a director is present and smart (for a change), you fucking care about every word, every subtle inflection, every change in expression in she/he's face because you know it means you either have it or you don't.

After one of Joel's close-ups, I saw Director-Kid staring at me. That felt good.

May I add that this room was draped in mirrors and I looked exhausted! I was working and dating a lot this week, and averaging 5 hours of sleep a night, if we factor in the obsessive YouTube/Marijuana Induced video watching.

*sidenote, latest obessession Adele's video 'Rolling in the Deep' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYEDA3JcQqw) That chick ain't acting.

What I tell myself when I see I have puffy eyes is Julia Roberts looks tired and pretty in Ocean's Eleven. This was just before she got married and made less than 3 movies a year. She looked tired, but she looked pretty. I tried to talk myself into that mind set while reading the lipstick written on the resident's vanity mirror, "Hey Fatty, go to yoga." I smiled.

I told Joel, I couldn't stand my face because I looked tired, which was really symptomatic of my fear of looking old. He said, "For this scene, you need to look older and I need to look younger." I said he looked my age and he confessed his real age.

We did the scene. In between camera set-ups, Joel and I got to know each other. He was a lawyer in Texas and one day woke up feeling unfulfilled. So he took an acting class and something happened, it felt right. It felt like this is what he should have been doing all along.

So he gave up law, ignored the heavy student loans and moved to LA to become a waiter/actor. He has been acting for less than two years and loving it. Its so good to meet a smart actor.

He was conscious of me in the scene and kept asking if he was too rough with the kiss and my body. I said, "My personal life is far more adventurous than this scene. Don't worry about it. Well  . . . it was." I told him about the Prophet and Abe.

He told me about his last girlfriend, a 24-year-old waitress.  Both our hearts were banged around a bit.

During the scene, I felt like pulling that stray hair off his bare back, but then told myself, "He is not your boyfriend. Don't do it."

A funny thing happens when you kiss a person more than 20 times during a scene, you start burying your foot underneath his leg and telling him about your heart. You lean against him without thinking and hurry to pee so you can get back to your spot on the bed. Its hard to describe. When intimacy is found, it grabs you. You don't grab it.

We were on close-ups, and he told me my face was very funny when I suggest "Scribbage" in the scene, to get the whore's mind off the failed erection. I told him I was a Scrabble junkie and started adding up points to letters and words scattered across the bedspread. I told him, "A large vocabulary actually doesn't matter too much in Scrabble. Its about small words with powerful letters, Za, Quad, Jet, Axed."

Sometimes I would finger the hairs on my chest so no one would notice them, then Director-Kid and Joel would soften their voices and ask, "Doing ok?" I smiled. They thought I was insecure about my tits. No. Not at all. I smiled and said, "All good!"

Joel asked me, "Feeling bad about your bitchiness in the scene? Does it make you feel bad?"

I said, "No, that's not it."

Joel said, "You are better at it than you think."

I said, "I know I am good at it. I am just . . . its complicated. I can't articulate it."

I was thinking about how men really are about conquest. Could I play that game? Henry the VIII pursued Anne Boleyn so desperately because, historians think, she genuinely was not interested. What Henry wanted, he got. And in the end he caged her, then killed her.

I texted Abe the night before. "You not responding pushes you back in the douche bag category. You are not a nice boy. I deserve someone sweet."

Then, "I won't reach out again."

He, of course, has been texting me ever since. He is worried about me, he has a job now, blah fucking blah. Its a game. I am prey. He wants to hunt me. Then kill me.

Fuck it. I would rather stay single.

Joel flubbed a few lines on his close-up and said, "I am just doing it so I can kiss [my name] some more." I blushed.

He would throw me back, pin my arms over my head and kiss me hard. It was hot. I could feel myself get wet.

Back to position one, before camera rolled, I softened my voice, touched his knee and said, "Doing ok?"

Of course, with the mirrors behind him and my reflection in his pupils, I was growingly concerned about the puffiness around my eyes and how big my hair got. In the end, I always look better on camera than I do in real life. Or is it me?

On the Armenian film I did, the camera assistant said, "You look amazing on camera, by the way. I mean, you are pretty in person but its just different on camera. Stunning." Yeah, I am not me. That's the trick!

I can be stunning, sexy and confident on camera because in between takes, I am ruffling my chest hairs and pulling my underwire over my boobs. I am off-camera on these projects. My favorite projects are when I am me on-camera (my pilot . . . , comedy) Then, I am truly accepted. Maybe that's why I am doing this, because in order for me to be comfortable with myself, I need to world to be comfortable with me, too.

We finished the shoot, and I asked Joel if I could walk him to his car. He chuckled and we walked to the corner. We hugged goodbye and his hand lingered around my side, even held me close for a second. I was sure he was thinking about kissing me goodbye. I just smiled at him thinking, I would be ok with that.

He smiled back and asked me to email him this blog. I agreed. And I thought about him for the rest of the day.

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