So…back when I used to work in the film industry, whenever I would get into a quintessential cocktail conversation about my work, there was one pesky question that constantly found me:
“Do you do any acting?” As though every crewmember carries a deep-seated belief that they’re on the wrong side of the camera.
Acting never really appealed to me because I’m not very good at pretending to be something I’m not. I once gave a fake name to a Starbucks barista, and ended up having my coffee stolen when I failed to realize they were calling me.
Typically, that’s where the conversation about my acting abilities would end. But, it isn’t the whole story. Because if I’m going to be completely honest, the real answer to that presumptuous query is, “Uh, yeah. This one time…”
It all started—the way these things usually do—while I was minding my own business, slaving away as a camera trainee on a TV movie with a director renowned for thinking outside the box.
We were shooting a scene that took place in a hospital and the lead actor was lying in bed, comatose. In the middle of blocking the scene, the director decided it would be great to have a nurse come in and check on the ‘patient.’
“She doesn’t need to say anything,” he said. “Just check his pulse and write on a clipboard or something.”
The assistant director was quick to jump in. “We don’t have any extras scheduled for today.”
“Well…that’s no problem,” the director looked around, spotting his solution. “We’ll get her to do it.” His finger was pointed at me.
The entire crew stood like deer in headlights, waiting to see how I’d react to this incredible brush with fame.
“But I need to do the slate,” I said, assuming that would straighten the whole mess out.
“I’ll do the slate,” the camera assistant said, less helpfully than he probably considered at the time.
The next thing I knew, I was whisked off to a trailer where I unraveled my messy bun and regretted opting to sleep a few extra minutes instead of washing my hair that morning.
After the hair and makeup artists earned their paycheques making me camera-ready, I was ushered onto set. Despite spending plenty of time watching actors act, I was completely unprepared for how intimidating it was to have to do it on command with so many jaded people watching.
The director called ‘Action’ on the first take. I walked into the hospital room, stopped next to the bed like I’d been instructed and preceded to check on my ‘patient.’
“Cut,” the director called. “You’re checking your mark.” Which meant I had looked down to make sure I stopped on the purple ‘T’ taped to the floor.
“How else am I supposed to know I’m in the right place?” I asked.
And I’m sure it is…if you’re a trained actor. Which I obviously was not.
Needless to say, the afternoon progressed similarly until either I did it right, or the director gave up, I never really knew which.
The one thing I was fairly certain about was that my cameo never made it to the final cut. Regardless, to this day, whenever I’m asked if I do any acting, the answer is still an emphatic ‘No.’