On set on my first film

I knew it was going to be a unique experience when the director sent out three different call times for my first day on set. The initial location on the call sheet was an island, which could only be reached by boat. While this was not logical, I started my 4:30 AM drive in the direction of the island.

All contact information on the call sheet was met with voicemail messages and no replies, so I was thankful that other cast members posted the correct location on our group Facebook page. I arrived on site 5 minutes late and felt terrible for my unprofessional entrance to set. No one seemed to know what was going on or who I was. There was a lot of standing around and smoking.

No one did any set-up until the  director showed up  2 hours after call time. I should have left right then and there. If the director couldn't be bothered to be on time for his own shoot, why should I be there? And to top it all off, a Jeep pulled into the parking spot beside with an improvised roof made out of a confederate flag.

When the director finally did arrive on location, his greasy mullet and thick hick accent should have been an indicator that this might not be the upstanding production I thought I was a part of. But against all my inner voices telling me to run, I stayed around as he accosted me with his lustful eyes.

After meeting the brains behind this disorganized venture, a fellow actor stared to regale me with talks of his fandom in central Florida, getting paid $1,000 an hour for a commercial on water conservation. Having only worked in the commercial industry for six months, I knew that his tale was as long as he was short. This same gentleman informed me that his acting break came while visiting Hooters after an exhausting night of running his singles club. This was shaping up to be quite the classy bunch that was assembled for this film.

I'm not one to be put off by a few bad apples or judge a book by it's cover, but things did not get better. Every other girl on set was a bleached blonde, breast augmented actresses trying to pass for 35, even though they were all pushing 50. One of these things didn't belong and I think it was the small chested 31 year old with mousy brown hair. 

Once we finally started shooting, a disgruntled park ranger came up to our director and began yelling in the middle of an evocative take about not having permits and that we were occupying prime real estate on this Memorial Day weekend. With promises to leave by 11 AM, they continued to shoot. I had not seen a shot list, hair or makeup and had no idea how I fit into what they were filming. This called for a walk.

I booked it to the boat dock on the opposite side of the park and called my husband, sharing the horrible experience on set so far. With encouragement to stay, I took a deep breathe as I stared out at the waves, garnering the courage to walk back. Just then, my one and only friend came onto set. We had performed together during the Christmas season and it brought such comfort to see a familiar face in the midst of a bad situation.

As I shared my experience and he shared his, I decided this wasn't the film for me. I had signed no contracts and they clearly weren't following the law in regards to obtaining permits for filming. Even though I had initially been excited about being cast in my first feature film, my enthusiasm was waning.

After I hugged my friend and wished him well, I simply walked off set and drove away. I quit the film before I had even began. I closed my first film experience with a professionally worded e-mail letting the director know I would not be returning.

Sometimes, you need to know when to walk away. Even though it was neat to be advancing my professional career by being cast in this sci-fi thriller, it wasn't a project that I felt confident about. So I walked away with a great story and hopes that the next project contains less mullets and confederate flags.

p.s. Did you read about my kids' first theatre experience?

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