My First Television Job

Last week was a banging one – I had my first television job AND participated in the blockbuster two-day MoCap Summit UK 2016 with the MoCap Vaults. I'll write more on the Summit in a future post as it will take a bit of time to digest. So for now let's talk about TV.

What an experience! I shouldn't say what the project was yet, but it involved mask work for a period drama. My background is in Jacques Lecoq, an earthy style of movement training rooted in ancient theatre traditions including a wide array of masks. Mask is a fantastic and under-utilized realm of performance and it was a rare treat to be asked to put those skills to use in a mainstream project.

It was also a great lesson in the battle of practicality vs artistic ambition that exists in television. Under the guidance of our fantastic movement director, Elizabeth Grace, we had created an ambitious, fun, acrobatic performance fit for royalty. On our rehearsal day the episode's director stopped by after wrap to see the piece and loved it.

Then came the day of the shoot.

Early that morning we performed on set for the first time with the cast and extras in place. The director saw immediately that it was too big for the amount of people in the room and too long to fit the shoot schedule. Suddenly our job went from doing cool stuff to efficiently adapting our work on the fly. Within 10 minutes we'd trimmed it from 3 minutes down to 45 seconds and morphed our explosive choreography into a grounded style that could fit inside of a small wooden dome barely big enough for two people.

We did a lot of devising at LISPA, where I studied, and one of our teachers used to say that there always came a point where you had to kill your babies. Not literally, obviously. But what she meant was that sometimes that cool thing you did, that idea that you love, doesn't fit with the needs of the project. In this case our lovely masked performance, though it will be featured as part of the episode, is part of a larger scene. And that scene is not strictly about us, but rather the springboard for action on the part of the main characters. So our work had to change to fit the narrative of the episode. Furthermore, because of the magic of television: editing, long shots, closeups, playing with background and foreground, they're going to get a lot of mileage out of the relatively short amount of material that we shot. It's still going to look fantastic and that will be especially, not in spite of, the fact that we adapted it to the needs of the production. 

Amidst all of this, I got to meet and work with an actor who played one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite TV series, so that was an extra little thrill, and it gave my 'play-it-cool' muscle a good workout. All in all it was an absolutely fantastic experience. I can't wait to see the finished product and hopefully I'll find myself back on set very soon!

That's all for now. Stay tuned for a big MoCap Summit writeup coming soon.