Did you ever imagine what it's like to be an actor?
Some people automatically get the idea of Tom Cruise or Scarlett Johansson walking down the red carpet at an awards' event. Or multi-million dollar homes nestled in the most exclusive recesses of Beverly Hills.
But that is far from the reality of the life of your average or even successful actor. And even those A-listers had to work their butts off to get to where they are now.
I got to experience a little bit of what it's like to be an actor a little while ago on the set of a commercial I did in Israel.
My experience started a few weeks earlier when I first heard of the auditions.
Now just a bit of background: I'm not a professionally-trained actor. I've done a bit of extracurricular studies of human emotions and psychology on my own, and I've studied screenwriting, but that's about it.
Anyway I was tagged in a random post on Facebook by a friend, the post calling for individuals who did not even have any acting training and who look "non-Israeli" (meaning blonde, redhead, fair-skinned - anything but the dark-skinned look).
The audition was not far from where I lived, the pay was pretty good and I appeared to meet the criteria, so I decided to give it a shot.
It was in the waiting area where I first started to get the idea that perhaps my odds weren't so good on landing the gig - there were at least thirty other people at that time auditioning (perhaps many more after I left), many of whom came from a professional acting background.
Next was the audition itself: the casting lady was about as friendly as Emperor Palpatine, although she looked slightly prettier. No small jokes or smiles seemed to move her. Cold as ice. She asked me to pretend I'm in a crowded elevator, do a few expressions like I'm frustrated, annoyed. So I nervously did. She gave me a "thank you" like I was a piece of stale bread. Colder than ice.
On my drive back home I regretfully thought about how I could've maybe smiled a bit more, done this or that expression a bit differently, then concluded wistfully: "Well, at least I gave it a shot. I'll just forget about it. Time to get back to my writing."
Lo and behold I got a text a couple of days later saying that I was accepted for one of the roles.
What was next? The day before shooting - wardrobe. About forty minutes waiting in line to see the wardrobe guy. Then another hour or so trying on various combinations of clothes for the director. Not to mention thirty miniutes finding parking before I arrived.
The shoot was the next day. After three hours of sleep, I woke up at 4:20AM to catch a taxi (provided as part of the shoot) to the location, an office building in the city of Holon.
We started with make-up around 5:15AM, then the first scene - crowded in an elevator with a giant server. Now just imagine for a second that you're trying to act in an elevator where you're totally squashed and has no air-conditioning, where the humidity must already be around 70%, at 6AM in the morning, on about three hours sleep. Not. Easy.
Anyway we wrapped up the scene and went for breakfast around 6:30.
Shooting continued the rest of the day - change of wardrobe, make-up again, an hour or two for one scene, a break for another hour while another scene is shot which I wasn't in, make-up and wardrobe again, a third scene, a fourth scene, more wardrobe changes, a fifth scene... And eventually got out of there around 5PM.
All in all, I actually had an absolute blast.
But do you think perhaps I felt a little tired after all of that?
Yeah, you guessed right.
So what did I learn from my commercial shooting experience in Israel?
Acting ain't easy.
It's competitive, it can be frustrating, it can be pretty exhausting.
It's art under often uncomfortable conditions.
So next time you wonder what's it like to be an actor, don't think only of the red carpet, the movie premieres, the glitzy interviews and extravagant wealth.
Think of a regular guy in front of a camera in a crowded elevator with an eight-foot robot at 70% humidity and three hours sleep.
And perhaps we can appreciate the performing artist just a little more.
Question: How does one get started with a screenplay? What are the first steps involved in writing a script?
Short answer: There are no hard and fast rules.
But there are a few aspects of a screenplay one usually works out closer to the beginning of the journey. In my case the first thing that usually occurs when I am writing a screenplay (one that is completely my own, i.e. no one else contracted me and gave me an idea to work off of) is that I get the idea from somewhere. Sounds pretty obvious, but if you don't have an idea, there's about the same chance of completing a script as clicking your heels together and teleporting back to Kansas.
There's a million quadrillion sources for ideas for a script. You can get ideas from other movies, from TV shows, from the news, from people you know or stories you heard from a friend. You can get an idea from a magazine article or from a Facebook selfie you just liked!
But assuming you have an idea, what do you do next? For me, there's a few things I try to work out first up, starting with a basic premise. The premise is the idea for the story stated succinctly.
Here's an example of a premise: What would happen if a careless alcoholic had to take care of his niece for a year in order to earn his inheritance? This would be the premise and basic idea for the story.
The premise includes:
Once I had my premise formulated as above, the next thing I would do is start working out Act 1 of the screenplay. You could call this setting the stage for the story:
If you were able to work out the basic premise/idea for your story and then also work out these aspects of Act 1 of your script, you would be well on your way to developing the whole dang thing.
As a side note, I've often found it pretty easy to come up with a premise and work out Act 1. For me the toughest of the 3 acts is the middle section - Act 2. But let's leave that for another time.
Another interesting thing to note is that often I will actually do a kind of reverse order in how I develop the script and its structure. First I will work out the premise, then I will work out (for the most part) what happens in Act 1. But then - surprise, surprise - I will work out Act 3 and the ending before I venture into Act 2 in any detail.
Each person has their own approach and techniques, so if any of what I've written here doesn't gel with you, don't worry. Do what works for you.
Wishing you all the best in your screenwriting adventures!