A Star or a Servant?

Jul 30, 2018 9:00 AM

My Polycarp Movie Diary, Day Eight*

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 -  Today’s shooting schedule was ambitious. Eleven scenes were already on the docket, plus the pickup for the scene in the scroll shop that we didn’t get yesterday (i.e., this morning!).  I would be involved in the third, tenth, and last scenes. My call time was a bit later than usual, 3:45 p.m. I would be doing a lot of waiting today.

There was a nice little scene in the scroll shop where Polycarp and Germanicus have a conversation. Polycarp admires the young man’s zeal and wants to encourage him but not give him a falsely optimistic picture. It went well. [Note: This scene was cut and didn’t make the final edit.] In a later scene I was (or felt like) a glorified set dressing, sitting silently in the corner and thinking. At first I just gazed at one thing, and then Joe advised me to let my eyes be more free. Then he had what we wanted and we moved on. [Note: This scene was also cut.]

In between: lots of time to wait. Good conversations with Gary Bosek (Quadratus), a serious actor and a serious Christian.

One might suppose that such gaps represent a huge waste of time and a lack of organization in the production--IF one were not there to see it operate and IF one did not understand the filmmaking process. I’m not any kind of an expert on this, but I can pay attention to what’s going on and I’m not too old to learn a new thing or two.

For one thing, the efficiency of the daily schedule is not for the convenience of the actors, but rather about consolidating shots on a given set. For actors to wait between takes is a small hassle. It’s a huge hassle to set up lights, camera, sound, set, props, etc. Efficiency is measured by how few times that has to be done. The efficiency of this production company causes me to marvel--from the precise definition and delegation of tasks, to the faithful and cheerful execution of those tasks.

Compared to all the the producer and director have to worry about, my job as an actor is relatively easy. The set has been prepared by skilled workers who have spent literally hundreds of man-hours on it.  Once I’ve got my costume and makeup, all I have to do is walk onto it, hit my mark, do my actions, and nail my lines.

In one scene today I have some actions and speak some lines. In another I’m assigned to sit silently in a corner like a glorified set dressing while others play out the scene. Yet little things like that can have a big impact in the course of telling a story.

Frankly I’m being spoiled to a certain extent. First of all everyone is unfailingly deferential to me. (Can I bring you a bottle of water, Mr. Polycarp?)  I have my own private dressing room (when I lock the restroom door! Ha ha.). I pretty well have the run of the place (although there aren’t many places to go), but there is always some member of the staff charged to know where I am. (Common message on the com: “Does anyone have eyes on Polycarp?”) And when it is time for me to go on to the set, I am accompanied on the walk by a production assistant in radio contact with the directorial staff.

So, do I feel like a star? Do I feel special? Do I like it? Yes, I admit that I do. 

And I also feel like a servant. I am led here and led there; given what to say; given actions to perform; and when I am finished, told to stand by until the next time I am called. For now it has pleased the Lord to put my time and my talents at the service of this motion picture and the people who are making it. They have been very, very kind to me, but it’s not about me. This film is not being made for my benefit or my glory, or that of anyone else among us. For me, to be a part of this is to be part of a living parable of what it means to be a servant of Jesus Christ.

Two scenes were scrubbed today, including the pickup shot for the scroll shop scene. I don’t know when it will be re-scheduled. It’s not my business to know. It’s only my business to be ready for it when it is.

Top: Polycarp at his desk (screenshot). Above Left: Executive Producer Jerry Henline with Production Manager David Cook, logistical genius who is responsible for much of the organizational success of the Polycarp shoot. Above Right:  (L-R) Director of Photography Jonathan Hedrick with Camera Dept. members Alex Lerma, John-Clay Burnett, Seth Rice, and John Calhoun. These talented and highly trained young Christian men have only begun to make their impact on cinema.

*This is the fifth anniversary of the filming of the award winning Christian film Polycarp in which I play the title character. The experience of making that film proved to be far more momentous and impactful in my life than I ever anticipated. To celebrate this anniversary I am re-publishing my diary from those days which I wrote on the back of the daily sides.

Watch Polycarp on Amazon Prime.