There is a phrase that I think about a lot. It takes many forms, but because I love a good prayer, my favorite wording is:
God grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.
I make this request to God frequently, because frequently, I feel like I did something wrong. So I have to tell myself that it’s all in my head, and this prayer-phrase is very motivating in that regards. But anyway, this isn’t what I meant to write about. Get out of my blog, Men!
This week I realized that while man confidence is advantageous and all, I would rather have the confidence of a middle school girl who hasn’t yet fallen off the cliff of Childhood Revelry into the tempestuous waters of Adolescent Confusion and Trauma.
This was solidified for me during a shoot on Monday at a middle school in East New York. My friend Stephanie was directing a series of promos for an upcoming pilot, and asked if I minded jumping on set for the afternoon. My task: to block a short fight scene.
I’ve directed a lot of kids. It requires stamina. And a lot of breathing from your diaphragm. And yep, these gals were just as deafening as every other group of kids I’ve worked with. But there was one major difference: they somehow managed to be great listeners, too. Not just to me, but to each other. Even through all the teasing and the verbal digs, they managed to be accepting, patient, and extremely creative. Sometimes, without even speaking, they would all erupt into the same dance. Or one girl would start quietly singing, and then suddenly they were a choir.
I hardly had to yell at all. In fact: I found myself mostly listening.
A good actor will take a look at a script and flesh out the world surrounding the lines. They will get in front of a camera, or on a stage, and think: what would I do in real life? And then they will find a way to inject that real life into the scene. Atmosphere will roll, the audience will be transported, and we will all live on a different planet together for 15-130 minutes, plus any residual feelings. Easy, right? Not in my experience.
This takes confidence, which is very hard to find. So when these kids jumped right in and put their own spin on it, creating a fully fleshed out and tremendously entertaining scene, I was honestly kinda jealous. They even added a little moment before the scene started, which is something that many grown up actors don’t think to do even after dumping a hundred grand into an MFA.
Their confidence came from an organically childlike place -one of wonder and adventure- but it was ever so slightly tinged with the dynamism and resolution that comes with being a woman.
What a powerful combination.