Friday, April 30, 2004

Kids of NYeDC have seen how the Odyssey is being stripped of parts in order to cope with the 30 minute time limit in the SYF. It can be quite disturbing to see so many beautiful, but time and materiel-consuming scenes disappear just like that. To cheer them up, I told them about how I went through a similar production a few years ago.

I was cast in a local movie called The Wasteland. It was set in an indeterminate country in the throes of a civil war. I was cast in the role of a rookie helo pilot on his first combat mission. My co-pilot, a veteran was supposed to torment me with terrifying tales of air disaster and enemy activity in the vicinity while we waited to extract the squad we carried into battle. This role was a showcase piece for a minor character in that it had some significant airtime and it called for quite some versatility to portray. I was good in the role, and I looked forward to performing it.

I, being a viable human resource, was also double-cast as an elite footsoldier and I enjoyed having another role to keep myself occupied with while waiting to get my scene shot. As a soldier, I was filmed with my squad assaulting enemy locations, “assisting” the interrogation of a captured enemy, and frantically radioing my helo for an emergency evacuation when my squad took an unexpected defeat.

When the time came for the scene with the two pilots, our director suddenly decided that since I had already been identified as a soldier, it wasn’t believable that I could be both the soldier and the pilot because we would have been in two places at the same time! So I was replaced and that was the end of rookie helo pilot for me. Noooo….

Further disappointments were to follow. While the movie was intended to be a commercially released full-feature, our director decided to submit it to the Silver Screen Awards and cut it as a short film instead to fit the judging criteria. More of my scenes, along with others’ were trimmed out, never to be seen by an audience, ever.

Still, in all of this wild decision-making, I am still very grateful for the fact that I had one scene left intact in the final cut – the scene of my panicky soldier and his radio calling for a “code purple” evac. 7-8 seconds worth of air-time. This is considering that all shots of the minor and supporting characters had been reduced to a minimum and this shot featuring me was the only one to survive with actual spoken dialogue rather than narrated through a voiceover. The scene with the two pilots never made it to the final cut.

So, I told the kids, in the arts, change comes suddenly, swiftly and savagely. We do what we can to adapt as quickly as possible to change. There is no reason not to give off your best in whatever role you are playing, regardless of the size of the role. The success of a production depends on the actor who delivers the weakest performance. Nicole Kidman couldn’t pull off an Oscar winning performance if 2nd-soldier-on-the-left sucked. On the other hand, who knows how your best performance might pay off?

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