Notes On 27 Takes

I wrote this story quite a while ago, and it took its sweet time finding a home, so remembering exactly what possessed me to write it is a bit tricky, but I’ll try.

The thing about being actors is that we don’t have a lot of control over what we end up doing, and very often the job we’re doing is far from what we dreamed of in drama school. (Not true of my current job, Jackie and Kyle. You’re great. I’m having fun. Don’t fire me.) Without even talking about the #MeToo end of the shitty spectrum, we actors are often stuck working on projects we don’t like, for people who are terribly rude and disrespectful of our time, for money that was either never promised or never gets paid. The environment is often abusive, and part of the reason I quit acting for two decades was that I was sick of untalented people who weren’t paying me treating me like crap.

“27 Takes” was, I think, specifically inspired by the plight of Whitney Moore during the filming of Birdemic. When I read about how dreadfully James Nguyen treated Ms Moore on set, I thought about all the miserable times I’ve had with the James Nguyens of the world, including the time that a director I worked with held a twelve hour rehearsal, for which I might have been used for half and hour, then kept us all afterwards to scream at us for two more hours about how we weren’t trying hard enough to bring his (embarrassingly misbegotten) show to life. I’d never hated a job so much in my life (and I’d worked both light industrial temp jobs and as a Domino’s Pizza driver). Luckily, I was fired the next day for “not being comfortable with the show”.

The other inspiration for this story was a practice Grade Z directors followed during the studio system that allowed them to get talent that was otherwise out of their league. What some of the savvier among them knew was that actors often had odd days left on their contracts near the end of the year. They often went unused unless someone paid the studio for them. If you’re ever wondering why you’re seeing (insert respected character actor’s name here) in a garbage movie, this may well be why.

Another note on this tale: it has a companion piece, “The Curious Legend of the Grade Z Ghost”. They’re set during the same day, with different point of view characters.

Link’s up and to your left, but also here for the lazy among you, though you will have to direct your eyes more or less that way if you click in any case. Enjoy!

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