An amazing indie film I cast, Another Harvest Moon, got international distribution through MarVista Entertainment a couple of weeks ago. We are elated! When a microbudget indie screens anywhere, there is rejoicing. As well there should be. When it goes worldwide, that’s a monumental accomplishment.
Well, Another Harvest Moon will soon be seen all over the planet, but has already screened at a few festivals in the states (and will continue on the festival circuit for several months, before producers announce domestic distribution and what that means to folks who want to see the film outside of festivals), including the Hollywood Film Festival last month.
I had already seen the film at its world premiere in Rhode Island, several months ago, but it was when I saw it for the second time that I was SURE this one particular scene really hit me hard. When I first saw it, I wept. I was so deeply moved by Richard Schiff’s tender and layered delivery of Jeremy T. Black’s brilliant words about his relationship with his father (played by Ernest Borgnine) under the direction of Greg Swartz. But since I was seeing the film in its entirety for the first time, the whole experience was surrounded by tissues and an overwhelming feeling of pride, joy, and humbled grace.
That Hollywood Film Festival screening was when I felt myself bracing for the scene, thinking, “Ah. Here it comes. Here it is. Take it all in.” And I did. And again, it hit me hard. It was so brilliantly written, so beautifully directed, so well acted, so completely stunning in all possible ways.
Cut to yesterday. I was pulling together some sides for a teaching event I’m about to be a part of out of town and I decided I’d love to pull that scene from Another Harvest Moon. It’s a beautiful scene. There’s an amazing monologue in there. I’d love to work on that material in a class with actors. So, I go to the script we used back when I started casting the film in late 2006.
Hmm… the scene’s not there.
I skim, I scroll, I use the “find” function in my computer. Nothing.
“Okay, think, Gillespie,” I say to myself. “Ah! Shooting script! It’s an added scene. Okay.”
So I find the script dated nearly two years after the first version I received, when I created the official casting breakdown for Another Harvest Moon. Lots of added scenes, changes, tweaks based on things like casting and location and inspiration by the writer and the director and the producers and from conversations with the cast members before they’ve even come to set. “It’s got to be here.”
Hmm… the scene’s sort of there.
I find exactly where it takes place in the pages. I see about a dozen words I distinctly recall from the movie. But something seems missing. The scene isn’t on the page. I mean it is. Yet there was so much more.
I actually recall the day they shot this particular scene. I was 3000 miles away from the set, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Because at the end of that day I got an email from the director asking, “Can I call you? I want to talk to you as I drive home.” And he did. We talked as he drove, for what seemed like an hour. Greg was high from what may remain his favorite day from the shoot (I’m not sure, I haven’t asked, but at that moment it was his favorite day). The scene that had been the most compelling, the most heart-wrenching, the most moving to witness was this very scene.
It’s simple and quiet. It’s Richard Schiff, it’s shadows, it’s a stunning score by Oscar-winning composers, and at its core, it’s a handful of words on an eighth of a page.
Until it flashes on screen. And then it’s art. Man, it’s so ridiculously moving that I feel my words here are impotent to properly express how watching the scene made me feel.
And as I revisit the page and see words, that while eloquent, are really just a few shapes we agree represent symbols of our language, creating words that we agree have specific meaning — just like any words, like these very words here — I am inspired by the simple tools with which actors are provided, and from which they pull such complex, meaningful, enduring performances. Yes, with the help of the director, the DP, the lighting designer, the sound crew — heck, the entire army of people whose creative jobs intersect at that moment — the actor can do amazing things with those words. I’ve written about The Human Element before.
But think about that power, that simple, elegant, choice-filled power you wield at the moment you see a few words on a page before any audition. Yeah, some of them are “throw ’em away” lines. We know. But others just may be a launchpad for you to remind us why we’re all in this business anyway.
Choose to be inspired, so that you can be inspiring. Even when it isn’t on the page.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And thank you for reading.
Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001110.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.
Just wanted you to know that this BonBlast combo of the “How” of what we do combined with this archived column on Schiff’s performance is now one of my favorites since I’ve started receiving them! Too often, especially when the role is a very small one, we actors get caught up in the limitations of just what’s on the page, rather than the fullness of what we can bring to a character and to the scene as a whole. Certainly in an audition and even in performance it’s difficult to imagine what the end result might look and sound and FEEL like to the audience. But these two columns have reminded me that part of my job is to do that imagining, and in doing so my characters, the quality of my relationships, and worlds I inhabit will be uniquely mine. Thanks! Lisa
Thank you, lovely Lisa. I’m so glad this resonated with you. <3 Stay inspired, and thanks for reading!