Sunday, August 23, 2009

Acting on Location

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The alarm went off at 5:15am on Friday morning, and I quietly got myself ready to catch a cab and be at the transport van at 6am. We were headed to The Hamptons for Day 1 of a four day shoot of this 11 minute short film. The sun had not yet come up as the 12 of us crammed into the van, ready for our 2 hour trek to Rogers Beach in Westhampton. A large platter of goodies was passed around for breakfast- bagels, danishes, fresh fruit, juices and water. As usual, someone mistakes butter for cream cheese and curses the darkness as he takes the first bite of thick butter. Why they neglect to label the condiment tubs is beyond me, because that always happens! There are only two actors in the van- myself and the Tony Award winner who plays my fiance in the film. He regales us with stories of his numerous times on Broadway, and I fight to keep a cool smile on my face while inside I am bursting with joy. As I like to tell people, I am swimming in the pond with the big fishes, and it feels heavenly.

We arrive at our location around 8:30am. We were there so early that the public restrooms were not open, so I changed into my costume, a bathing suit, in the back of the van (thank goodness for tinted windows.) The actors and makeup/wardrobe department set up shop at the public gazebo overlooking the ocean. Not a bad way to start the day. The first 45 minutes is spent trying to cover my co-stars tattoos and a few of my bruises with heavy duty makeup (my bruises came from an incident between myself and a rogue MTA bus door, which chose to close prematurely.) Because it was a beach scene, my makeup and hair we done quickly and naturally, and we were sent down to set, which was at the water’s edge.

When we reached set, I was delighted to find that the film would be shot on the RED camera. There was only one scene to be shot for the majority of the day, but this scene opens the movie so a lot of attention was paid to getting the elements just right. Wide angle lenses were used to capture the location, and my opening sequence involved me running from the water to my co-star who was sitting up on the sand. It’s been years since I had to run barefoot on sand and I had forgotten how taxing it is on your legs and feet! It has also been years since I spent any kind of extended time in the sun - and we were on set without shade from 10am-5pm. And no matter how much sunscreen you put on, when you are baking during those midday hours, the sun will find a way to win. I have splotches of minor sunburn on all major parts of my body. Hopefully those don’t show up on camera - it is shot in HD, after all!

My co-star and I had a great time playing together in the scene and giving some depth and complexity to the characters. In between set-ups, the crew was kind enough to spray us with mists of water and held umbrellas over our heads so we wouldn’t get overheated. We had lots of onlookers wondering what our project was about, and between the attention of the crew and of the beach-goers, I felt a bit like a movie star. At 5pm my co-star and I were wrapped for the day. The crew still needed several shots that didn’t involve us, so they arranged for transport back to the city via the Hamptons Jitney, which I had never ridden before (they serve drinks and snacks on board!) I did my best to stay awake as we make the trip back, but as the sun set I found my eyes grow heavier and heavier. My mind kept seeing pictures from the day as I say to myself, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!”

I shoot my final scene on Monday, in a mansion in Connecticut. I’ll be sure to let you all know when you can see footage from the film...

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit

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