My Protracted Pauses

Friday afternoon Chadd from PrimaDonna Productions called.  The question: “Hey, Erik, what are you doing today?” always gets a protracted pause from me.  I made a non-committed murmur and waited.  It seemed that an actor they worked with needed a video audition to send to a casting director working on the TV show Prison Break.  An amount of money was mention.  I did some quick mental calculations, and when I realized that it translated into six days worth of cheap lunches at Pepe's Cafe, I had an answer.  “Yeah.  Sure.”

Three hours later Mark showed up dressed in a suit for the role.  He explained that he had a previous engagement out of state on the date they wanted him to read at their offices in Austin … or maybe it was Dallas.  They suggested he just get someone to video tape his reading the scene.  We looked at the two pages of the script that featured his minor character.  He didn't have many lines, and there were two other characters with whom he was to interact.

“We need more actors.  At least one more.”  Mark agreed with me.  I called up Carlos.  I knew he'd be in the downtown area because he was putting a birthday party together for his friend Wendy (AKA, the Queen of Twilight).  With no hesitation, he agreed to head on over for an hour of acting.  I tried Ryan, but he didn't pick up.  Pete was up to his neck on the deadline of putting together Season One DVD of Alamo City Roller Girls.  I toyed with the idea of trying TJ Gonzales, but I thought I'd already pestered enough people.  We could work around the third character … hell, he only had a single line.

When Carlos showed up, I was glad to see Shelly was with him.  Not just because I like Shelly, but she could stand in as character number three.

If this were just a basic monologue, I would have done a single set-up, and taped the performance, and let Mark take the miniDV tape straight to the Fed-Ex depot.  But we decided that over-nighting on Saturday would be fine.  It'd give me a chance to edit together two or more camera set-ups.

Prison Break is one of about three TV shows I current tune into.  I watched most all episodes of the first season.  But this second season I've missed some big chunks of plot, so I've kinda given up.  But I think the writing's tight.  The acting top-notch.  And most of the characters are compellingly developed.  Mark hadn't really followed the show, but he'd tuned in often enough to know the basic plot-line and the major characters.  Carlos was probably the biggest fan in the room.  And when he realized which secondary character he was to play in this fragment of a scene, he slipped into that character.

We sat Shelly in a chair wearing a knit cap so my over-the-shoulder shot wouldn't have her looking too girly.  She was playing one of the escaped prisoners apparently nabbed by the authorities.

I did three set-ups.  And because I didn't want to throw in a reverse shot of Shelly (“hey, it's a girl!”), what I had to work with were essentially two jump cuts.  #1.) Wide shot — Mark throws hero into chair and Carlos enters.  CUT TO:  #2.) Med. two-shot — Mark and Carlos interact.  CUT TO:  #3.) Close-up on Mark over Carlos' shoulder — intense exchange.  END SCENE.

It worked well enough.  I mean, we pulled it together with no real planning.  I had no fears, because Mark is as serious as an actor comes (well, without being insufferable).  And Carlos is incredibly focused.  They are actors I love working with.  Engaged by the production process.  Quick and humble when offering their ideas.  And both are a joy to edit — they are in the same places at the same time, take after take, set-up after set-up.

I hope Mark gets the part.  It's more likely I'll see him on Prison Break than in his recent gigs in musicals and with the San Antonio Opera (I mean, unless Richard O'Brien or Bertolt Brecht are involved, I want my actors Speaking their dialog).  Besides, he deserves all the success the world throws at him. 

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