Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Gladiatress is a soon to be released feature film, starring the Smack the Pony team, and with a Rogan Whitenails-cameo. I appear as one of two gauche Roman guards that haul Sally Phillips's character away to be executed, in a short scene that was shot over two days last December.

All throughout the previous year, I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to get work in the industry as a Boom Op., and knowing the importance of contacts, I accepted this ‘acting’ job, despite having no ambitions in this direction whatsoever, with the cynical intention of approaching the Sound Recordist on the set at the first opportunity, and then leaving my business card behind.

Two hours after receiving the phone call and accepting the offer, I arrived at the location, wearing a black baseball cap with ‘Ka Cox’ stitched onto the front, a long scarf I had bought from a shop in Betws Y Coed, and a quaint lederhosen affair – moss green jacket with cracked leather buttons.

I was greeted by the Assistant Director and a woman from the Costume Department, who was wearing baby pink Wellington boots, and they lead me to a Portakabin. Soon after - my Ka Cox now placed on top of a carrier bag bulging with the clothes I had come in – I was sitting alone, dressed as a Roman guard; my helmet was tilting forward, blinkering me whenever I tried to look up at the entrance to the Portakabin, though I could still see downwards, and was playing a game on my mobile phone.

Later, when it was beginning to grow dark, I was taken back outside, round the back of the Portakabin, and the AD asked me to fall backwards, and he lowered me down, together with my sword and shield. I heard the neigh of a horse and the sudden trundle of a chariot in the distance, as I, and all my impedimenta, settled gently on the hard cold earth like a necklace coiling on the palm of a jeweller’s hand. Water was poured on the ground, and then mud smeared over me, as the woman from Costume rubbed my hands to keep them warm. She was concerned that my white nails may be due to a temporary impairment of circulation, brought on by the cold. I studied them carefully, trying to appear like it was the first time I had noticed their paleness, which is in fact congenital: "I think they've been this way all my life - the mud makes them look even whiter than normal", I said, in a deliberately unconvincing tone - making it sound like I half shared her concerns and was actually trying to be brave. She responded well to my modesty and teeth-chattering stoicism, continuing to rub-sandwich my hands. "I like your wellies", I said. Their pinkness, like my whiteness, shone through the mud, and although my fingers were scarlet with blood, she continued to rub them.

When I was dirty enough, I was introduced to some other members of the crew. Before explaining what we had to do, the Director asked me if I was strong. I said I was strong, but wasn’t at all sure. And then we were told what was required of us: we had to file through the bars on a cell window that Sally Phillips was refusing to let go of, before manhandling and carrying her up some rather steep stairs. Sally Phillips was very nice – moments after meeting her, she suggested I lift her up for practice; and she was quite light … I had held boom poles which were heavier; and although I hadn’t held a boom in a while, I felt confident I would be able to manage.

Numerous takes ensued of me trying my best to look burly and dignified, despite constantly being tripped up by my sword, which kept slipping from my hip to in between my legs; and treading on my lacerna, with my breastplate cutting into my neck; and trying to stop my helmet from falling over my eyes by jerking my head back like a bridled llama. Poor Sally Phillips.

I finally completed my bits the evening before Christmas Eve -- and throughout the holiday period, like many people who had been to their office parties, I had red blotches on my neck, though mine had been made by my breastplate; and they are still yet to fade.