- BC Games
A dialogue on working in the TV industry
The film industry is heating up in B.C. and many islanders who work on crew or act are again getting jobs in their chosen field. Last week I went out for Fargo; yes, the Coen Brothers’ odd and compelling 1996 movie is being turned into a television series.
It will star Billy Bob Thornton and actually shoots in Calgary, where I’ve filmed a couple of times. I had a great read and maybe Joel and Ethan Coen themselves, executive producers of the series, will see the tape. It’s nice to have a strong read but of course that doesn’t mean you’ll book the job.
Most striking about the read was the quality of the script. The dialogue was really good and had a Coen Brothers feel: gritty, real and yet a tad quirky. TV show dialogue can be hit and miss, and overall most TV shows are misses. Yet, despite that, a lot of shows get made. I’ve done but two good shows this year, Motive and The Killing.
Now over the years I have had hundreds of theatre, commercial, TV and movie auditions, spewing out countless words, some I was destined to repeat on a stage — endlessly during a long run — and some in front of the camera.
Most never to be spoken by me again.
So many TV shows are easily forgotten. I was on Two, Seven Days (also auditioned for a show called Three), Nilus the Sandman, Higher Ground and Just Deal. Anyone remember any of those?
Still with memory and TV shows, I have a photo of me on set — a Polaroid from before digital (costumes, and the hair and make-up departments take many photos of actors). And whenever I come across it I try to remember what show it was. The costume looks period but that doesn’t help and I can’t even tell if it’s in Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto.
I’ll never know now.
It’s a badge of honour knowing that with all the auditions and jobs I’ve done I must have delivered thousands of lines. Here’s a line from a film called Wyvern I auditioned for in 2008: “Hampton said it a cockatoad.”
Nice. Hampton said that? A cockatoad? I did not know what a cockatoad was, but I endowed it with something, which I don’t recall. Didn’t get the job though. Never heard a thing about Wyvern and it has a 4.7 rating on imdb.com so while I missed out on a paycheque, and fun, I didn’t miss out on being in a quality picture.
I had a callback for a horror film called Snowmageddon in 2010 and here are some of my lines: “We’re on our own. And whatever’s going on is gonna drag this town straight into hell before it’s done. We got to get out of here before it’s too late!”
That wasn’t, by the way, my exclamation mark!
Snowmageddon got a 13 per cent viewer approval rating at rottentomatoes.com, so again —dodged a bullet. Of course Lorne Cardinal, who played Officer Davis Quinton in the CTV hit Corner Gas, booked the Snowmageddon part I read for and he didn’t care how bad the movie was when he cashed the cheque.
Three years ago I was in a Canadian movie What Could Have Been (islander Matthew Harrison was in it, too) playing a homeless guy. The following was one of my lines: “Boy, you’re scrawnier than a three day old goat. Want some food?”
I said that to the star, Joely Collins. Joely and I had a 10-page scene — long for a movie — and we did it like it was a play. Two cameras, two takes and it was done. My homeless guy was named Marcus, only time that’s ever happened. The film went nowhere.
I remember one audition where I said something like: “She’s a train wreck, but by God she’s my train wreck.” My wife gets tired of me repeating that one.
With so many projects being not so good, how and why, do they get made? Are they tax write-offs? Who watched Wyvern or Snowmageddon or Golf Punks, a film I did with Tom Arnold — one of the rudest humans I’ve met — that got a six per cent audience rating at rottentomatoes and 3.7 out of 10 on imdb.com?
They can’t all be as strong as Fargo will likely be, and the fact is maybe no one watches most of them. For the producers, writers, actors, the crew, who go on to do a Breaking Bad or a Silver Linings Playbook they are training grounds, steps along the way.
For the rest of us - they’re work.