It's hard to say what counts as acting nowadays.
In a way, each day we are performing at different degrees with every new interaction and circumstance. Depending on our objective with each new acquaintance, the balance between direct, thoughtless action and carefully timed showmanship is constantly in flux.
Yet, as far as acting jobs go, does smiling and moving around film equipment count? Kind of, I suppose, since I probably wouldn't be grinning ear to ear when moving around equipment usually. But this is what I did yesterday when I got the role of the token white guy in a Chinese commercial for health care products.
I drove to a filming lot, then was taken to a dressing room (which was half outdoors) and played the waiting game for a while. Then a small acting regiment of four Chinese, a Russian girl and I were sent into a sound stage and were told to line up in front of a big blue screen, shoulder to shoulder. We stared at a blinding light for 30 minutes, smiling warmly at an imaginary logo flying above our heads. The Chinese singer/actor next to me told me to imagine a beautiful woman showering to keep my grin solid.
Then I was backlit, and directed to put on a cap and move around a bunch of heavy set pieces while being filmed. I felt like the DiCaprio of manual laborers. However, I did get to push the imaginary logo on screen. I asked the director how heavy the logo was. We tried several different weights. He seemed to like the heaviest one best. I struggled against the air, pushing with all my might.
I've done this kind of thing before. I did played a scientist twice, one was staring at agricultural chemicals and approving them, the other was staring at Chinese milk and verifying it was melamine free. Then there was a commercial for metallic spinal braces, in which I got to learn Tai Chi, (see the green screen pic above w/ "Confucius"). I count that as a perk. Do movie stars ever calculate the free kung fu lessons they get when doing action movies into their salary?
Doing these gigs are pretty fun in a way. Not a lot of interaction, but it feels like a supremely high-profile paid acting warm-up. Not so bad really!
Waiting for the next Chinese logo to push on screen...
Photos by Tom Shanahan and Tony V.
-- Nathaniel Boyd