Friday, September 6, 2013

Exhausted but Happy; Prep and Shooting for Venial

I am just feeling so incredibly blessed after my shoot yesterday for director Joe Ciminera's newest film, Venial. We shot the trailer as well as some of the film itself. I am also feeling incredibly exhausted, as the night before the shoot I worked a full (7.5hr) shift at my survival job--a closing shift no less--and had to be up at 6am to travel to Long Island for the shoot. I was so excited and anxious that I got about 5 min of sleep. The fact that I had foam curlers in my hair didn't help. After filming, I got home and to bed pretty late and had to be at work early today. But of course it was worth it. What an amazing shoot it was. This is one of those actor moments in which I feel on top of the world and so grateful. 

I found out only a week and a day before the first shooting day that I would actually be taking on the leading role in this film. I couldn't have been more thrilled. And so the preparation began. And one of things I mean by that is I had to learn how to do a British accent. (Or more accurate, an English accent, but here I will continue to use the term "British" as that is the typical word used to describe an English accent.) I've always kinda of played around with the accent (quite a lot actually) but I've never had to use it for a role, although I have been waiting for an opportunity. American actors are often criticized for their British accents not sounding authentic and I wanted to do whatever possible to prevent that from happening. The dialogue in Joe Ciminera's film are improvised (with a few exceptions), so with no lines in particular to practice, I especially had to learn how to speak the accent accurately. In short, the steps I took to learn were: first, reading general how-to's and tips, followed by watching instructional videos, then watching interviews with British actresses, and of course watching movies. Anna Karenina with Kiera Knightley was on a lot so watched that one a few times. I also recorded myself than listened to see what was good and what needed work. When I see the footage from Venial, if my accent comes out decent, I may do a more detailed post about it. Let's see though!!

So that has taken a lot of my focus for the past week. I also was responsible for my own wardrobe. After all, this is an indie film. But Joe's films have been decent exposure for me so far and I genuinely enjoy working with him, so I really didn't mind. The time period for the film is 1917. My character is a devout Christian woman whose husband dies in WW1 which drives her to the dark side. I try to never rent from a costume store. I haven't played a character yet where I haven't been able to come up with something myself from researching and shopping at thrift stores. Although this character has been the most difficult to dress. At least it seemed that way at first. Once I found inspiration (Downtown Abbey), that helped me a lot. Around this time, women were beginning to dress more modern. So I wanted to incorporate some signs of the time but also keep it conservative as my character is a hard-core Catholic who probably is not super trendy for that time. The big trends from that time which I incorporated were a hemline about mid-calf showing white wool stockings and shoes with a small curved heel. I have to say, I had so much fun perusing thrift stores in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey. I think I did pretty well. I also had to figure out how to do my hair and makeup. 
     (Just a few of the wardrobe options.
         Minus the glasses of course!)

Even though the dialogue is being improvised and I was unsure of which scenes we would be filming the first day, I knew enough about my character to mentally prepare. Basically, I came up with lines beforehand which would hopefully work for each situation. Then, I practiced them over and over and over with the British accent. I was very happy that I got to use almost every line I came up with during the shoot on Thursday. I also mentally prepared myself to deal with all the heavy emotions I would have to show. It's hard to explain how I do this. I just let myself feel each emotion deeply and, well, practice. 

So, yeah, all that prep work combined with my survival job has made me a wee bit fatigued. If my punctuation is off in this post even more than usual that's why. But I'm feeling so satisfied about how well the shoot went. I'm so grateful to work continuously with Joe, his crew members, and this amazing group of actors that he has put together. It's a bonus to be on set and work with people who you have come to know and like. I can't wait to finish the film. As of right now, I'm feeling blissful. Hopefully I will still feel this way after I see my performance in the film on the big screen.  Because sometimes, your work doesn't translate to screen like you expected (to put it gently). Like I said earlier, let's see!!! ;-)

                  (Hair and makeup)

    (Saint Josaphat's Monastery in Long
                Island where we shot.)


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