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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Crying On Camera

Other than aesthetically, I don't see the point of crying on camera.

I mean, good for you if you can, but crying isn't the point, surely?

A few months ago I filmed a sort of stand-alone scene of a monologue I had written along the lines that the director and editor had prescribed. It was very clear to me that my character would be hysterical under these circumstances. It was equally clear to me that they would cry.

I have never, ever cried on cue before.

I cry all the time when I'm trying not to. I am a huge cry baby. My mum would call me Ophelia when I was growing up!

For a particular theatre production early last year, I spent the whole rehearsal period desperately trying to cry on stage, on cue. I was so frustrated and disappointed in myself when I had to resort to sort-of-sobbing to convey the emotion. I would have preferred to avoid that altogether but it was the director's direction that I break down at that point, regardless of my ability or lack thereof.

For this film, I spent the entire rehearsal period refining the monologue and making character choices. I made the mistake of being a bit precious about my monologue and I think I would have it edited ruthlessly by a third party if I were going to do it again. But that's beside the point. The point is: I didn't practice crying. I tried. I would get the moist eyes and I'd squeeze out the cloud of a tear and then I'd be dry as a cat's tongue. I just couldn't inspire myself in any way to wetly manifest the sense of hysteria, shame and anguish that my character would experience in this scene.

This Magic Troll has more emotional depth than I do!

I drove to the shoot, which was in Mandurah. I spent the entire drive running my lines, even though I got to read half of them off the page as I was performing (makes sense in context). And I screamed. I howled. I sobbed. I thought of every sad thing, every heartbreak, every misery that I could remember (I have quite the store) and when I started to feel sensible again, I would smack myself in the face.

Yes! Extreme, but I was a character performing a heinous task under duress. I think a smack in the face is the least I could do to inform my performance.

I listened to melancholy or angry music and then I pulled up at the hotel and parked. I had to ask the hotel staff where to go for the shoot and I must've looked a right mess!

I felt fragile, I felt broken, I felt goddamned annoyed that I couldn't find a place of solitude to maintain my sense of loss and isolation. Instead, I had to snap out of it as I asked about costume choices and make-up. I talked to the crew in a sort of bad tempered way which made everyone skittish or grumpy around me, because I started to get into the zone again. I started to shake. I couldn't manage a smile. I felt thoroughly and genuinely depressed. And my throat hurt from all the emo singing (and the flu I'd caught that day that was incubating in my glands). I sat down to perform, not sure if I could quite manage the hysteria and suffering I'd summoned on my trip down to the shoot.

Then as I delivered my monologue, I cried. Actual, wet tears fell from my eyes and I blubbered like a woman condemned to die. I couldn't quite believe it. I had done it. I cried on cue. Right when I wanted to cry, I did.

I couldn't help but be pleased with myself for accomplishing something I never thought would be personally possible. I was immediately a lot friendlier to the crew upon the director calling 'cut!' They were a nice crew, too.

It doesn't matter that you can't tell that I was actually crying in the scene and it seems like I'm fake crying. Okay, it matters a little. But only aesthetically, for future reference. So I can figure out how to approach the camera and adapt my performance to suit it. It doesn't matter because in the process of trying to cry on cue I actually learnt a lot more about how to access emotions, that for reasons I don't understand yet, are very heavily protected when I'm on stage or screen.

Here I am. Willing to look silly for my craft. 

I have such incredible armour when I'm performing that I find it hard to recall genuine emotions. I'm always at risk of indicating or having a rather limited range, because I can't remember how I feel when I'm sad. My imagination, which works overtime when I'm anxious or excited, becomes utterly remote from me when I am acting. Until that shoot. The preparation I did for that shoot somehow damaged that armour so badly that now I can access my genuine emotions, connected to my imagination, very easily. (There is still arduous preparation and psychic skinning before filming but I feel relaxed and I'm not result oriented.) I can cry on cue, but I don't have to. The crying isn't important. If I can't cry, that's okay, because I have found a way to express deep emotional experiences to my other actors and to the audience, anyway. I am not seeking a particular result anymore, which inexplicably makes it easier to follow my whims, and cry.

Whether or not I have tears, I have organic emotion.

Nonetheless, how great is it that I can cry on cue now, huh? 

1 comment:

  1. Love. Love. Love. Love this blog entry. it's the kind of honesty actors desperately need to show to do their best work, imho. and the kind of honesty actors *reading* it get the most benefit from. Thanks Molly <3 Peace. Bid