Shoot Me, Pardner

On Saturday, I spent several hours leaning against a tree, cleaning my gun. OK, it wasn’t _my_ gun, exactly, it was a prop, and since I didn’t have the first notion of how to clean a gun, I spent a good part of the time wiping the barrel with my bandana. Doing this without making it seem incredibly phallic was my first acting challenge — one that I’m pretty sure I failed at. My other acting challenge was to wrinkle my brow in a way that suggested brooding anger and not, say, constipation.

My role had been given to me that morning, as had the fake gun, the cowboy hat that was a little too small, and the boots that were so small that I wasn’t able to use them. I improvised my lines, since there was no firm script — just a vague notion of what should happen in the scene. All of this may seem like a terribly haphazard way to make a movie, but it’s _de rigeur_ for “The 48 Hour Film Project”: Teams of amateur filmmakers are given a genre on Friday afternoon, along with a character, object, and line of dialogue. By Sunday night they have to turn in a short film incorporating all of the above. It’s been going on periodically in D.C. for a few years, but is now taking place nationwide.

I know nothing about making films, and only a little about acting. For someone who acts regularly on camera, my task — lean against a tree, say the same four lines over and over again for long shots, medium shots, and closeups — must be fantastically boring, but since I never get to do this sort of thing, it’s kind of fun. I even got to have my costume distressed. For those of you unschooled in filmspeak, “distressed” in this context means “made to look dirty and worn.” My “costume” was my Levi’s and a grey longsleeve shirt. Kate, the costume lady, mentioned that I should probably look scruffier, and being one to sacrifice myself for my art, I immediately dove into the dirt and started rolling around.

“No no no!” she exclaimed. “It has to look real.” She grabbed handfuls of muddy dirt and started methodically working them into my clothes at strategic points — knees, collar, armpits, cuffs. When I mentioned that it seemed like she knew what she was doing, she confided that she had, in fact, worked as a professional costume distressor a while back. (I tried my best to locate the website for the Association of American Costume Distressors — please oh please let it exist! — but without success.)

Equipped with another item on my acting resume, I sent another letter to Peter Jackson stressing my availability for last-minute _Return of the King_ shooting. What with my additional experience, and the fact that I said I was willing to play either a knight of Dol Amroth _or_ an Easterling falling off a _mumakil_, I have high hopes for a positive reply.