A Day in the Life of an Actor

by Joshua Siegel

Behind the scenes of a movie production

It is not all glitz and glamour. Here is a typical day in the live of an actor.

Acting is all about glamour, respect, limousines, and all that glittery Hollywood stuff, right? Wrong. Maybe when you're a star you'll get the limousines and people fawning over you, but it's a different story for the rest of us. From my own experience, here's a typical day on a film set.

My alarm clock goes off at 5:20 AM. Why so early? Because I have a call time of 7:00 AM and the shoot is in Pasadena. So I give myself time for a shower and an hour's drive to the set, plus an extra 10 minutes for safety. LA morning traffic is slow as usual, but I manage to get there on time. I park my car and a local Teamster in a large van shuttles me and several members of the crew to the set. After we arrive, I check in with 2nd AD (Assistant Director) and get in line for breakfast at the catering truck.

Before I'm even finished with my bagel, a girl from the wardrobe department says that they need to measure me for a new jacket that the Costumer picked out for my scene. After getting fitted for wardrobe, I head to the hair and makeup trailers. Forty minutes later I emerge with a fresh face and toilet paper sticking out of my collar (to keep makeup off the shirt). Time to head to set.

The Director and crew are already there, setting up the scene. I talk briefly with the Director about the scene and find out that he's changed the lines that I stayed up until 1:00 AM memorizing. We rehearse the scene a couple times on set, then they excuse me while the crew continues setting up the lights. Normally I'd stay and hang out, but I need to memorize the new lines so I go to my trailer.

Yes, I get my own trailer! Is it some huge double-wide that's bigger than most people's houses like the one Arnold Schwarzennegger has? Not hardly. It's more like Arnold's closet, but at least it's a place where I can memorize my lines and get in character privately. About twenty minutes later, a PA (Production Assistant) knocks on my door. I've been called to set.

We get to set and I watch the camera crew rehearse their move one more time. The makeup man checks my face and pulls the toilet paper out of my collar while the wardrobe gal rolls one of those stickytape things over my clothes. Then I step up to my mark.

"Roll Camera!"... "Speed!"... "Action!" The other actor says her lines as she walks towards me. I start to say mine... "Cut!" What did I do wrong? Nothing. One of the lights went out. While the Gaffer scrambles to replace the light, I go over the lines again with my fellow actor. The light is replaced, and we start from the beginning. After a few more takes from different angles, it's time to move on.

Is there applause? Congratulations? Of course not. This is a film, not theater. You might get a "nice job" out of the director, but that's it. We get two shots done before it's time for the crew to change the lighting setup.

If there's one thing you should know about film acting, it's that there's a lot of waiting. You'll spend maybe 10% of your time on the job acting, the rest of the time you're blocking the scene or waiting for the camera and lights to be set up or changed. So unless you have a major role that requires a lot of preparation... better bring a good book or a deck of cards.

The crew breaks for lunch around noon, then is back at work less than an hour later. We spend four hours shooting one more scene, then the AD calls a wrap. She hands out call sheets for tomorrow, then I get to go home.

So, is it as glamorous as you imagined? Probably not, but it's still a wonderful experience bonding with the crew and cast. And when the show or film is released, thousands or millions of people around the world will see you perform. Now that is what acting's all about!
Joshua Siegel is an actor and short subject director.
Copyright © Joshua Siegel. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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