Re-entry to civilization and my film debut

I remodeled the master bath in June and got to use the shower three times before leaving for the mountains.
I remodeled the master bath in June and got to use the shower three times before leaving for the mountains.

I was happiest to see the toilet. The shower was a close second.

I’ve been back in Austin nearly a week. It’s a strange sensation, going from mountain solitude to the fast river of a big city again. Traffic on I-35 felt like it was moving 100 mph for the first couple of days. The house smelled different. And suddenly it seemed like I had a hundred things I needed to do.

I’ve been in constant motion. Cleaning the house, finishing the final touches on the bathroom, re-stocking the fridge, knocking out some small house projects, and most important, re-connecting with my friends and with the city. I’ve met a half dozen friends and my aunt for lunch or dinner in less than a week, which is a lot of socializing for me. This weekend is the music festival, I’ll have five friends camped out for the long weekend. And I still have a long list of people I want to see. It’s been a lot of fun. Exhilarating. The novel will sit on the back burner until next week.

Yesterday, I drove to Victoria and shot a scene for a movie. Guillermo’s wife, June Griffin Garcia, is an actor and asked if I could play a magazine reporter in this indie film she’s in. Sure, why not. I shot a short video audition and emailed it to them, and they hired me (I suspected I was the only choice, but June tells me there were others, including TV anchor types). I only had to memorize about a dozen lines for two quick scenes (reporter interviewing a main character), and hey, I can play a reporter with my eyes closed, right?

The film is called The Sauce, and all I can say is that it’s a comedy about high finance. And most of it was shot in an empty office at the Austin American-Statesman, my recent ex-employer. Alas, my scene was shot 120 miles away in a semi-legendary Victoria barbecue joint called Mumphord’s. I drove down with the Kansas-based actress I would do the scene with, feeling very much an amateur after hearing her talk about beginning her singing/acting career at age 6.

My acting career, of course, was launched by American-Statesman reporter Andrea Ball’s straight-to-DVD production Destroy Roy, about a newspaper staff being roiled by budget cuts and Internet competition. I had two lines, I think. That was in 2008, and I have to say my acting career has been in a bit of a rut since then.

When we got to Mumphord’s, which was closed for the day, I hung out and chatted with the owner (a prince of a man named Ricky Mumphord) and watched the action until it was time for my scene. The crew was small, efficient, professional. They got the extras in place (eating barbecue in the background), then ran the first scene six or seven times, changing camera angles, changing the action, having to start over when a brisket-seeking customer barged in. I got my makeup done, changed into a reporterly button-down shirt, ran through my lines in my head again and again until they called for me.

Immediately, the director changed the order and had us do the second scene first. Which rattled me enough that I flubbed the pre-shoot practice. I had three little lines — 13 words total – and I couldn’t spit them out in the right order. My co-star was gracious enough not to roll her eyes, but I could feel the sweat beading up at my hair-sprayed hairline.

After the two whiffs, I took a deep breath, waited for the girl to snap that little clapper thing they use before each shot (“scene 92, take one”), then the director yelled “action” and we were off. Somehow I managed to get those 13 words in the right order this time, the director was satisfied, and we moved on to the first, longer scene. After the first try – in which I apparently sounded like that computer-generated weather service voice — the director basically said, “Don’t speak like a Vulcan. Use some inflection.” He said it in much nicer, gentler way, probably thinking that he didn’t want to rattle an amateur for an important scene.

This is actually the first scene in the movie, the director said. I had the first line in the first scene in the movie.

No pressure.

We shot it six or seven times. I blew my lines a few times, because I was focusing so hard on talking like an actual human being, and the director called it good and sent me home.

So if this fiction writing thing doesn’t work out…

ψ

 

 

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