When I arrived on set this week, I was horrified to be casually informed that “we’ll be doing some shots of you cooking first”. The word “cooking” fills me with dread, and I am ashamed to say that when I was told I would just be peeling potatoes and chopping carrots, the dread merely increased. Faced with some potatoes and a potato peeler, the camera pointed at me, I hear the words “rolling… speed… action”… and I proceed to attempt to peel potatoes, with what turned out to be the wrong side of the potato peeler. At this point I was forced to put my hands up and say, “okay, I have never peeled potatoes in my life”. What can I say, if I don’t cook potatoes, I don’t cook potatoes.
After I mastered the potato peeling (if hacking away at huge chunks of potato counts as “peeling”), we moved onto the carrots. One crew member casually commented, presumably for my benefit, that one tends to chop the ends off the carrots first. He also helpfully peeled them for me before the camera started rolling - perhaps the potato incident had alerted him to how depressingly inept I am in the cooking department. Unfortunately, chopping carrots did not go too smoothly either, with the first take consisting of bits of chopped carrots flying off the chopping board. And to think that before I arrived on set, I had been concerned with my character’s dialogue and whether the acting journey was dynamic enough…!
After the initial cooking scenes, the rest of the filming went smoothly, if you exclude the dilemma over the candles which had to be changed halfway through and made to be the same height as the original candles had been when we shot that part of the scene two hours earlier…! I found that I was grateful that we had experienced filming with a professional crew during training, and had been expected to assist the crew for other actors’ scenes. I felt far more comfortable on set understanding what all the terms called out from one crew member to another meant, and having had the experience of being responsible for my own character’s continuity. On stage, it is always possible to have a slightly different thought process or acting journey for each performance. But on camera, you have to remember to find the impulse to pick up the wine bottle on the exact same line of dialogue, pour it out at the same time, and screw the bottle top back on at the exact same time, even if your character and others in the scene are delivering their lines and reacting in a different way to the last take. After a dozen or so takes, I felt like I was in a piece of carefully choreographed physical theatre, desperately trying to cling on to those impulses that make the difference between a good scene and just plain bad acting.
The hardest challenge of all was turning on the tears. There is no one method for this and each actor will have a different approach. But in this case, the most challenging thing of all was to shoot this scene over and over and over, sometimes with only a three second warning. The scene required me to enter the room dry-eyed, and after one line of dialogue from another character, “sob uncontrollably”. Needless to say, having to do this scene time and again was incredibly difficult!
After filming, I turned to my copy of The Stage and found a small article by Matthew Hemley on product placement, which I had been debating earlier in the week. While it has been recognised that allowing product placement may result in very obvious advertising strategies, I doubt that any respectable production company would allow product placement to affect the integrity of their show. As Primeval writer and producer Adrian Hodges pointed out, the show often uses the same model of car, which they could potentially be profiting from. With the current climate as it is, can the government really afford to continue to ban product placement?