Relationships, On Set and Off

Being on a film set is all about about relationships. You form a surrogate family with the other people working on it, which is wonderful because each of you is an integral part of putting the mosaic together that makes up a full movie, a process that is demanding for everyone involved. Filming usually separates you from the rest of the world and puts you in a microcosm, which only the ones in it with you at that very moment fully understand. This “you get what I am going through” feeling is very seductive and is surely part of the reason why so many romantic relationships are formed on set. This is sadly too often a temporary feeling and once the project is over, so is that ostensible connection. I have found wonderful friends on set, some have stayed close friends over the years, some I see from time to time and the intimacy we had once created is still there, others I have completely lost touch with. In the beginning that can be heartbreaking, but as Jodie Foster once put it, if she had kept in touch with all the ‘best friends’ she found on each set, she would have more than 150 best friends. We have to accept that even though these connections may be ephemeral, they can still run deep. 

On set of "The Shadow" - I am in white right in the middle being freshened up between takes
The harder part is of course, when you do not get along with the people you work with. I once worked a month non-stop with a make up artist who was completely incompetent, but of course me playing the lead, she was literally always in my face. I made the mistake of getting into uncomfortable disagreements with her and had to learn the hard way that it is often better to be kind than right. Once I let go and trusted that continuity or the director would pick up on the inconsistencies, I was able to focus back on my work. We have to trust in the people around us to do their job, to be able to do ours. Communication stays key though and in a good work environment people are grateful if everyone is conscious and helps each other out. This is also  true for after the filming is done, in this business it is important to support each other  - especially other actors have recommended me for projects they were involved with or helped me tape auditions.

When it comes to romantic involvements it is important to draw a clear line, even if it is just to step over it consciously at times. I once worked intensively on a brilliant stage production while I was a in committed relationship. The process albeit different to film, was still very captivating and I was sure that I was falling in love with my partner on stage. We flirted intensely while the play was on and pushed the boundaries at times. Once it was over we met again and nothing. All the magic was gone. Without the prewritten text, we really had nothing of meaning to say to each other. That was a valuable lesson but of course it didn't stop me from dating co-stars and directors after that. The problem with this though is that having an affair while you are filming can go both ways - it can intensify the scenes on screen or it can completely distract you from the task at hand. Both has happened to me. A truth is also that you can’t really act chemistry, which is why in the final round of auditioning there are often chemistry castings to figure out, who naturally gels with who because the audience can feel that. Another reason why movies and especially big franchises usually also produce couples - Twilight, High School Musical and so forth. It’s a fine line. I recommend waiting until the work portion is over, because you don’t want to go ruining your private life or break someone's heart because you mistook fiction for fact.

The other thing is that people always talk. They are not always necessarily right but in this industry everyone talks about everybody. I once shot a movie a week after a painful break up. I was truly a mess and should have had a better handle on myself but I could not get that sad look off my face between takes. The result was that I heard months later that people assumed I was so insecure about my acting in the scene that I kept being distraught between takes. You never know who knows who, so it is important to keep in mind even though the connecting on set can feel very personal and authentic, it is a professional environment - again a fine line. And in the end you can not control what people will say anyway. Women who raise their opinion are still often seen as bitchy, where as men are eccentric. I shot a movie with a co-actor who was continuously late to set but he was forgiven because everyone respected his busy schedule, but the director called me difficult because I asked for a sweater in the middle of December wearing less than everyone on set. Our Karma is how we treat them, theirs is how they treat others.

It is all these relationships that carry us through our career and often make up a large part of our professional and private life, so it is important to keep making them a priority. Making a film is all about connecting - to the story, to your character, to the audience, to the people you work with, etc. As John Donne said, "No man is an island", we all need each other-- on and off screen.

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