Last night I was filming one of the three feature projects I'm cast in. I was asked by my very young director to re-shoot a very simple walking scene. He wanted me to add a trip on an open file drawer. I thought I was about to lose my mind.
I protested that there weren't any pads on the drawer and there were no pads for my shins. We came up with the small compromise for me to kick the drawer and act the trip to which I agreed. I didn't like it and said as much, but I agreed and got through in less than five takes with only a small burning sensation in the ball of my foot. I wish I hadn't agreed however. Here's why....
About a year ago I was cast in a short film. Now I've been doing this awhile and have learned some things mostly through trial and error. One thing that stands out to me in this market is the independent and student directors' complete ignorance and sometime disregard to their actors' safety.
In this particular short there was a fight scene in the script involving five people. Two women and three men. At the script read-through (where all the production people, including the director, were late) I specifically raised the issue about choreographing the fight. If they didn't have someone I know someone who can. One of the production guys piped up and said that he was going to do it. Cool. My mistake was not listening to my gut when I realized that the more the guy talked the stupider he got and the less confident I was in him.
So, day of filming happens and there haven't been any rehearsals and the subject never comes up. I have some fight and stunt training at a rudimentary level. Basically, I know this one rule: WHOEVER HAS THE VIOLENCE COMMITTED AGAINST THEM, IS THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF THE VIOLENCE. So, I discussed this with the other young woman who was cast in the short and would be involved in the fight scene. She understood the concept, we tried it out and felt good. My mistake was in not taking the same time and care with the other actors involved. Which I obviously should have.
We go to shoot the scene and it's a mess. The third actor involved in the three-way fight with me and the other girl has obviously never had any stage fight training. He purposely pulls my legs from under me to get me to the ground twice, which I don't suffer any injury from save a jiggled butt. However, on the third take young actor manages to land his knee on my ankle and then brace himself to stand from that position. I'm lucky he didn't break my ankle. I screamed. Filming stopped and for a few minutes I did think my ankle was broken. We got it iced and made sure I was able to move it. Thank goodness.
Now the production idiot who had said he would choreograph the scene and then didn't never apologized to me. He stood in front of me after I wrapped and proceeded to give me a litany of excuses as to why he didn't do what he said he would do and that I needed to understand. I don't know why I was such a good sport about it. Really, I wanted to and should have just decked him in the face. Never did he say, "Hey, Karina, my bad, I fucked up. I'm sorry you got hurt. That was my responsibility." NEVER.
The only thing I needed to understand was that I got hurt because he didn't do his job and I didn't speak up.
Now, I have to look this incompetent asshole in the eye on two of the three productions I'm involved in. He thinks we're friends. He likes to try and hug me when he sees me on set. I want to claw his eyes out and break his ankles. He and I are going to have a chat before I actually do that. He doesn't deserve my courtesy, but I he does deserve to know why. It's coming.
I love what I do and I volunteer quite a bit of my time to independent and student productions because of that. The very least these people can do is have the courtesy to look out for my safety. I've heard about actors breaking ankles filming a running scene in the woods, actors getting slapped (Really slapped) because the director and the other actor don't know how to stage slap, a friend who I was in a short with had her pinky finger pulled back and her shoulder pulled during a mugging scene, I still have the mark on my ankle from that botched fight a year later and it boils my blood every time I see it.
Several months ago I was at an audition for a student film where a car crash scene was written in. At the audition I asked how the director was planning on guaranteeing the safety of the actors. I was met with a blank stare and lots of humming and hawing. Get over yourself. If you don't know how to stage it without hurting someone, don't put in your film. Period.
We're not crash test dummies. Most of us don't have insurance. I'd rather be "difficult" (and fuck you if you consider an actor who values their safety "difficult" just because they won't allow you to abuse them) than hospitalized.
I protested last night, but what I should have done is refused. Period. I won't allow myself to get so much as a stubbed toe on a production if I can help it. If I don't look out for myself no one else is damn well going to.
There will be conversations in the coming days....