Acting leads to appreciation

The officer loomed over me, demanding to see my tram pass. I smiled, looking through my bag, plotting how to get out of this. The tram came to a stop, the doors opened and I made a break for it. They closed behind me before the officer could give chase. As the tram sped away, I pulled out my map, tightening the scarf around my neck to keep out the fierce cold. I was far from home, so I plodded off into the dark night. And plodded, and plodded. And plodded. Still plodding. Plodding ... "CUT!" I turned around and walked back toward the tram stop, squinting in the harsh glow of the spotlight. "Was that OK?" I asked. "Yeah," Hartley, the director, said. "One more shot and it's a wrap." I never thought of myself as the matinee idol type. Neither did the kind souls who cast me in my first film, which is why they gave me the part of Jack, a world-weary study- abroad student with no trace of Cary Grant in him. It was about time for me, after years of criticizing movies, to get in front of a camera and contribute to the making of one. "The Souvenir," the story of a guy trying to blend in with a foreign culture, is the final project for Hartley Voss and Alexa Dedlow, both AU visual media majors in the film production track in Prague. Being involved in the production of a movie should be required of any film buff. There is no other way to appreciate the agonizing, piece-by-piece assembly work that goes into the creation of such fluid entertainment. Three seconds of film require the concentrated effort of an entire crew. As evident above, we shot scenes on a real, moving city tram. The scenes were brief, but Hartley, Alexa and their crew had to coordinate the extras, account for changes in light intensity due to the setting sun and maintain an overall mood and continuity, all the while trying to keep real civilians from boarding the tram when it made stops. In other words, it was nine straight hours of constant work for just a little bit of film. I will be most visible onscreen when the film is done, but I will be least responsible for it. Likewise, the soft glow of Ingrid Bergman's heartbroken face during the last scene of "Casablanca" is not the work of Ms. Bergman alone, nor is Marlon Brando's edgy performance in "On the Waterfront" attributable only to method acting. By no means am I comparing myself to either (I can act both of them under the table); I merely seek to remind the casual viewer that a movie's moments are not solely the work of whoever is most visible. There are hundreds of people watching just behind the frame, helping to create the perfect moment. "The Souvenir" will be six minutes after editing, but it took over 20 hours to shoot and weeks to plan. It reminded me how fascinating movies are, if only because of the crazy people who make them. The unglamorous jobs of Dan the sound recorder or Stepan the gaffer or Philip the production manager are thoroughly thankless ones. Yet they do it for a living, for a livelihood. And "The Souvenir" would not exist without them. You might ask, after this impassioned harangue, what I suggest you do. Send the key grip flowers? Canonize the director or kowtow to the makeup artist? No. Just enjoy the movie, in all its aspects. And stick around for the credits.

Dan Zak is a junior in SOC and the former Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Eagle. He will be writing a weekly column about his semester abroad in Prague, Czech Republic.

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