Hey yall! I decided to give you an account of my experience acting in the French Indie horror/sci fi flick DEAD SHADOWS. Why? Why the *ck not! So, when I was first given the script; I was told that my character was pretty much the Riddick of the piece, cool and collected and all badass. I saw the badass but the more I read the script, the more his lines and his actions didn’t scream cool and collected to me. I saw on edge and mucho volatile. Somebody much more psychologically unstable than good old Riddick. Moreover when I did try to do it Riddick style, I found the character boring. I talked about it with producer/director David Cholewa and he gave me the green light to do my thing. So I made my choices; the director was happy with them, all good. Looking back at my work on the film, I am content with most of what I did.
Physically, I was initially supposed to be jacked up; so I trained hard for a month and a half before the shoot; focusing on gaining mass. But once in Paris, getting access to a Gym for the duration of the shoot proved to be a problem (they wanted us to get a year membership…EASY MAN!); so that got scrapped. Knowing my body type (I lose weight fast but gain it faster); I was very concerned of getting fat by the time it was time to shoot. So I figured; if I’m not gonna be huge for the movie, I’ll be lean, knowing that the camera adds 10 pounds to a frame, so I should get the right look anyways. So I starved myself, living off bread and dry sausages for like a month. I’d rarely have a real meal; I’d just nibble throughout the day to keep the metabolism going. As for training, I’d just do push ups, sit ups and would walk a lot. My weight went down to 180 pounds, the thinnest I’ve been since my teens. I’m usually 190 pounds, and 200 pounds when fully jacked (I’m 6 Feet tall BTW). I personally think the starving paid off, am happy with my look in the flick. You bet your ass I went buck nuts on pizza and beers when I got home though…lol!
Night shoot (aka early morning shoot): breaking down the scene in my melon as the crew sets up...
Performance wise; I was very comfortable with the action stuff i.e. my element, so that wasn’t a problem. To be honest, it’s such a blast! It always makes me feel like a kid. In this case; walking down a cloud smoked hallway, a shotgun in hand, blowing away beasties… how can you top that?! It’s f*cking fun! Moreover, I had a really good “acting driven” scene with the lead kid, which to me felt organic. I improvised a lot during that bit, I always like to improvise, go where the moment takes me in a scene (much to the dismay of editors), hence doing different things in every take. I was thrilled with that bit and can’t wait to see how it comes out. On the flip side, one scene that left me “hesitant” was a verbal confrontation I had with a group of peeps. As I rehearsed the scene solo in my apartment, I was making my own choices. But once I got on set, the blocking of the scene totally went against with what I had set out to do in my head; basically, I couldn’t get close enough to the people I was having a confrontation with.
So I felt off during that scene, my body wanted to move forward, but due to the blocking, I couldn’t and that kind of messed with my head. Acting, much like any other art form is an ever learning process. I have been on many shoots before, and every time I do a project, I learn something new. What did I learn here? SPEAK UP! As much as the DOP has to be comfortable in his job, the makeup girl in hers, the director in his, so does the actor. In this case I should have spoken up about how the blocking was f*cking with me, putting a wall up that I couldn’t get around within such a limited time frame. But I didn’t. I thought hey, we don’t have much time, this is what they want to do, I’ll manage, but take after take, I felt wrong about that one scene. With that, I saw some of the footage recently; and it came out great! Just goes to show that sometimes it feels off in your mind, but the camera loves it anyways. Just how it is. Any frustrations? Some. 1- My damn shotgun kept randomly jamming on me. Hard to look cool in an action scene when you’re struggling to cock your piece like an asshole in between gun fire.
Waiting for the camera to roll...
And 2- Most of my scenes were shot last, i.e at the end of the night. So we’d go in overtime and of course, with a tired crew who just wants to go home, some of my shit got shaved down or snipped out so we could wrap up ASAP. Was bummed about that, some cool stuff I couldn’t wait to do was adios bitches! But hey, it’s the nature of the beast, especially with Independent flicks. You have to do what you have to do to get your coverage and make your day. If you have to take shortcuts to do so, you do it. Just sucks that it kept happening to my sorry ass! C’est la vie!
In closing, DEAD SHADOWS was a positive experience for me. Got to tackle a fun role, was surrounded by good people (for the most part), got to know Paris, made some new friends and enjoyed my time there. Another thing that Dead Shadows did for me was re-ignite me, flare up my passion for what I do again. As some of you may know, I got sick at the end of 2009 and it basically took the bulk of 2010 to recuperate physically and mentally. 2011 was kind of my “return” on a psychological level that is. Am happy that Dead Shadows was part of it. PEACE!