I just finished filming my scenes for the short film “Only Gilt.” It’s based on book by kids writer Paul Jennings and the rough synopsis is “A boy goes to school wearing a bird cage on his head. He explains to his teacher that it is a self-imposed punishment because he blames himself for the murder of his girlfriend’s budgerigar “. No prizes for guessing that I play the teacher Mr Marsden and have the task of performing some relationship dramedy opposite my tween costars Toby and Giselle.
There is always a challenge when working with actors you’ve never met before. You have to pull off an ensemble performance to convince the audience that you’ve known each other for years in the complex status roles the writer has given your characters. It’s not enough to be believable as a solo acting unit. To tell the story effectively you have to mesh as a team.
Now it’s probably me being 50% ageist and 50% paranoid, but I get nervous when I have scenes with kids. My reason is how do they know how to create these complexities in a faux relationship when they really haven’t experienced much diversity of relationships themselves? But here comes the kicker – it’s NEVER a problem. I’ve worked with a bunch of kids in the 10ish range and they are always amazing. Totally committed, completely able to improvise a new relationship and readily able to tell the complex story asked of them – as long as they don’t get personally intimidated, pushed around or emotionally squashed (and unfortunately I’ve seen that happen).
The thing is, I’m less and less sure that amazing acting is important in telling a beautiful story. Wonderful to see, and lovely as a piece of art; great acting can (and should) facilitate the telling of a story such we transcend the liminal borders and feel with the characters; BUT it is by no means necessary or sufficient to the conveying of story.
The keystones to acting (in my humble opinion) are connection to yourself, connecting to each other, and (perhaps most importantly) a willingness to be a vehicle to the telling of the narrative. Yoshi Oida calls this the invisible actor and for my money it’s the most important part of the job. To this date the kids I’ve worked with have been egoless enough to perfectly serve the narrative. It was a fine lesson for me and they have my thanks.
Anyway Only Gilt will be amazing I’m sure. Check out their stuff above if you get the chance.