This past week I had my on-set adventure on the big Sci-Fi movie that I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. It was a powerful mosaic of amazing experience and challenging contrast; a fusion of that which I wanted, and moments of clarity in knowing where I wish to refine and change and improve.
The day was a very long one. I woke up at 3:45 in the morning in order to get ready, drive to the location, park and shuttle over to the set by 7 AM. Surrounded by at least a half-dozen people who were well over 30 minutes late, I arrived 15 minutes early. Eager. Excited.
Checking in, I discovered just how enormous the scale of the day’s shoot was going to be. Already there were 50 or more people in futuristic costumes walking to and fro. Lines of more new arrivals like myself signing in. Dozens of make-up stations lit up, and make-up artist working on a different actor seated in each alcove. As I walked past their stations, I saw another hundred or more people in costumes. This was big.
I put on my newly-tailored uniform, and checked out my gun and holster – the prop gun alone cost far more than I’d be making that day – and only a handful of us would get to use one. Surrounded by the multitudes of people from the future in all shapes and sizes and styles, you could not help but feel the world being created here – and this was only in the “talent holding area.”
Once we were called to set, my wide-eyed education continued as I took in the grandeur of this film. Three massive camera cranes. IMAX film clicking away loudly. Blue screens. The director and lead actors doing exactly what they love doing most. It was endlessly fascinating, and surprisingly, more challenging than I thought it would be.
On this particular day, in this particular film, I was working as an extra-someone in a large scene in the movie that allows the film to take a grander scope beyond the more intimate, individual stories of the lead characters. The Security character I portrayed was positioned more prominently than others, but as I intently studied the experience of the lead actors, while in the midst of my immersion within the ranks of the other “background artists,” I became aware of the expanse between the two.
While we extras spent 12 hours on set that day, the leads spent less than half of that. One of them gave a speech in character to the rest of us, and he was there with us on set for a much greater part of the day, but even he made ample use of his stand-in. Even the stand-ins were of interest to me. How often were they utilized? For how long? How late into the set-up of the shots did they fill in for their lead-actor counterpart, before the lead came in to film the actual shot? I was very surprised by how little times the leads were actually in position. It seemed quite common for them to wait until the absolute last possible moment before they would step in and the director would call “action.”
And I, meanwhile, was in the sun, in a quite warm, form-fitting uniform, standing with the rigidity of full military attention, virtually throughout. This is not a complaint – I loved it – it was simply an observation I made in the details of the experience of the lead actors compared to that of the background actors. It was for me, a fascinating study in how to conserve one’s energy in the professional world of being a lead actor in a major studio film. And I began to see just how important this was.
As the day went on, amongst other things, fatigue began to be a challenge. A few people fell asleep. On set. In the shot. At one point the director stopped to wake the person up, and ask their name – not the way you want a big-name director to remember you. I was thankful that my role called for me to be standing, as I could feel to my usual sense of balance and alignment was slipping a bit.
I asked for this experience. I wanted this experience, and a lifetime of more like it. Fatigue was nowhere near enough to quell my enthusiasm for being right where I was. In fact, at the end of the day, they asked for volunteers to remain and continue shooting, and I most certainly raised my hand.
For me, after having had time to digest the whole of the experience, I realize the immense variety of value that it was for me. It takes no effort to enjoy and appreciate the blissful, joyful elements of the experience : hearing those IMAX cameras rolling, feeling them pointing right at you at moments, feeling the enormous crane brush right past you as it probes deeper into the scene. Seeing the Director work, the lead actors flub lines and continue without pause, doing the same shot over and over again the same way, hitting their marks every time. Interacting with the friendly crew; watching the artistry of maneuvering three cranes to capture the scene from three different camera angles simultaneously. These things were easy to appreciate; easy to be in awe of. But it was the contrast that was surprisingly of so much value to me.
Put simply, “contrast” is the absence of things wanted – it is anything that is in contrast with all that you do want. In becoming aware of what we do not want, we immediately – vibrationally – ask for the improved condition – that which we do want. That asking thought becomes real – as real as any wireless signal that we all use every single day.
This day, in all its magnificent glory, also held within it plenty of contrast, and in so doing, provided me with the means to refine that thought-creation of exactly the kind of on-set big-film experience I want to have next time. It allowed me the opportunity to see details of a lead actors on-set experience that I was not privy to. It allowed me to come to my own decisions of how I want my experience to match what I saw or to differ from it, and in either case, how I want to expand beyond my current reality to further align with the greater version of me. It allowed me to refine the details of being an actor, living and breathing the conditions of a massively successful career – the conditions that are currently on their way to me right now.
In designing the life of one’s own conscious choosing, as in bringing forth any creation, be it music, art, or a performance, greater clarity to detail brings a much richer, fuller experience, as well as a deeper satisfaction in the enjoyment of it. And so, from a purpose-driven perspective, the idea of acquiring that greater clarity is easy to embrace – though most would rather it didn’t have to come through contrast. But that is where the greatest lessons come from.
Were we to take the newly clarified details and then shift our work to becoming aligned with those as if they are the current reality we are living in, they soon would be.
“But,” as Abraham-Hicks put it, “so many people take the first step of identifying what is not wanted, and instead of then turning toward what is wanted and achieving vibrational alignment with that, they instead continue to talk about what they do not want.” They get stuck on the wrong topic, and begin to only see the conditions and relationships and jobs and things they do not want, rather than what they do.
It takes practice, in the midst of a contrasting experience, to remain rooted in the vortex of one’s own chosen perspective. My on-set experience was, at moments, more challenging to my spiritual equilibrium than I had expected. But those challenges, in a similar manner to Coach Mike’s commercial improv exercises, were an opportunity for me to train while off-balance in order to better prepare myself to be able to re-acquire that equilibrium in the midst of life’s challenges.
And as I contemplate and incorporate the lessons from this experience I find myself eagerly anticipating the next one. And not just for the awe-inspiring moments of being where I most want to be – but for all the new challenges I will face in being there – all of the new ways I will be tipped off balance and challenged to grow and expand and become clearer and stronger as I find my footing once more.
And on down my path I continue.