Last week the group was scheduled to get together in the youth service, to discuss progress and meet with the actors (family and friends). Little did I know that the director had made contact with professional actors via an online casting platform, and invited them out for a reading of the script! I learned all this about an hour before the meeting was to take place. I was taken aback by this development but at the same time mighty impressed by this young woman’s ambition and tenacity. So I gathered my thoughts and quickly discussed some essential matters with the group, so that we were prepared for the actors arrival.
The first actor to arrive was a young woman, who politely introduced herself. I welcomed her and brought her in to meet the group. This actress knew one of the young women in the group and they immediately started chatting. The second actor to arrive was a gentleman a lot more senior in years than myself; he had a long white beard and whistful eyes. I shook his hand and welcomed him to the youth service. I also told him ‘you dont know what you’ve gotten yourself into!’ He laughed as I brought him into the kitchen and introduced him to the group. The girls were polite and courteous. The doorbell quickly rang again. This time I answered the door to a young man in his early 20’s. However, when I introduced him to the group of girls, there was sudden exchange of glances, a blushing of cheeks and some very demure hellos! A similar reaction was had on the introduction of the second young man to arrive. We were expecting two more actors but they rang to cancel, much to the girls disappointment.
So with a merry band of thespians, I decided to gather everyone up-stairs in our large meeting room. The young women at this stage had become very quiet. I quickly realised that I was going to have to facilitate this situation and found myself having to act as in promtu casting-director / producer. I also knew that I was going to have to upsell our project to these actors or else they would walk. And so, I did my very best bluff of a sales pitch. I didn’t tell any lies but I may have over exaggerated our project and the possible exposure our short film might have. None-the-less I had managed to reel them in and gained their interest. We read through the story board and the director finally found her voice and confidence. After the ‘read through’, I quizzed the actors on their previous work; to discover they had all been in major films, theatre, and television series (although not in any leading roles). One of the young men, disclosed he was a model for a leading American clothing line, at which point there was an unexpected high pitched noise from one of the girls. Some eye brows lifted, and there was some muffled coughs.
The young women, suddenly found their voices and what unfolded was comic. One of the young women, asked the young man playing the lead ‘can you cry?’, he replied smoothly with the charm of a young James Bond ‘yeah’. The girls suddenly went on an all-out charm offensive directed towards the two young male actors. And it began to get competitive; when one young woman disclosed a personal accomplishment, another did her best to out do that. Suddenly, they were name dropping, regailing stories of accidental encounters with celebrities, listing concerts they had attended and who they met back stage. Then before I knew it, the young men were discussing other actors they had worked with and so on. I had to reign this in, as I didn’t know where it was going! I tempered the excitement and brought everyone back down to ground. We agreed on dates for the shooting, discussed a few other legistical issues and I thanked everyone for coming. The older gentleman had sat dazed for the majority of the meeting but he seemed interested, amused and willing to take part.
The young women walked the two young men to the door and wished them goodbye. When they came back into the kitchen they were very excited and flushed looking. One of the girls was immediately searching for the two actors on Facebook. I had to tell her ‘no stalking the actors, until we have shot the film!’ They began discussing who was the better looking and ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe he is a model for …’ The only female actor had decided to hang around with the group and discuss the guys. They were all caught up in the prospect of working with these two dashing young men. The actress turned to me and said ‘You were brilliant, you sold it to them; you were so good! They wouldn’t have done it only for your sales pitch!’
I had to laugh. My co-worker was also laughing. This situation was an unexpected insight into the relations between young women and men. The girls, although at first quietly overwhelmed; eventually began competing for the attention of the two young men. Had I not interveened who knows how the competition might have ended! The young men played it ever so cool, yet at the same time I detected a certain vulnerability. They wore a façade that at times weakened and fell. It was an intricate display that the young men put on. They were very measured and careful in how they held themselves and engaged with the young women. Also having been on the other end of an all out charm offensive by a group of hormonal young women, I think the young men didn’t quite know what to do with themselves.
Spontaneous situations like this are a great opportunity to observe social interaction of the most dynamic kind. Initial meetings are often the most high-stake, where symbolic interaction of the most subtle nature occurs. This situation could have easily gone another way, yet with a convincing act and our astute preparations we had appeared legitimate and authentic to these prefessional thesbians. The actors carefully guarded themselves, through closed body language and neutral facial expression. Yet one can only guess that they must have secretly been delighted by the attentions of this group of keen young women. The performances that took place between the young people during the meeting were unscripted, yet followed the age old ‘boy meets girl’ narrative. What unfolds over the coming weeks as we begin shooting our short film, who knows? One thing is perhaps certain, it will be less ‘Monty Python’ and probably more ‘Love Actually’.
© Clay Darcy, 2013.