Polycarp's Amazing Leading Lady

Jul 31, 2018 9:00 AM

My Polycarp Movie Diary, Day Eight*

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - This would be a short day for me, but somewhat longer for lead actress Eliya Hurt. It also included the filming of one of the darkest sequences in the movie, and the heaviest part of it would fall on Eliya. Her call time today was 2:30 p.m. By the time I arrived for makeup at 4:15, she was already deep into her solo scene.

I’m not going to offer any plot spoilers other than to say that the sequence had our characters dealing with shock, grief, and guilt. Polycarp, in the midst of his own grief, comforts Anna whose sorrow is crushing. 

I knew how I would play our scene together because it reminded me of my own experiences when I’ve ministered to others while dealing with my own grief as well. Having watched her work, I had confidence that Eliya could handle the dramatics. I have already shared how much I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve shared on camera. If I had to choose one word to describe her acting style it would be better than “genuine”; it would be “pure.”  But I had no idea from what inner resource Eliya would draw for this heavy sequence. Again, my focus was on what I had to do, and to let how she handled it be between her and the director.

By the time I walked onto the set, Eliya had already been through an emotionally raw scene with multiple takes and, as far as I know, probably multiple set-ups.1  Even after a brief break she had to be tired, but she was entirely focused as she approached our scene together. Is this really her first film role? Indeed it is, but you can’t tell it by watching her.

Three things stood out to me: her bravery, her discipline, and her pure believability. I looked into her eyes, and her sadness reached out to me personally as a dad and granddad, and it broke my heart and I wanted only to comfort and console her. And then the director called “Cut!” and she was no longer Anna but Eliya again, and the girl was just fine--but I was a wreck!

This was the point at which my enjoyment of working with this actress turned into sheer admiration. To me the rewards of being in this film are many, but if there were no other it has been completely worth it to work with this eleven year-old leading lady. 

We two had finished our filming for the day, but we were still not ready to wrap. We had to pose together for publicity stills--a tedious process done under hot lights, and only as much fun as the wisecracks and clowning that takes place between sets. (But that’s pretty fun.) We were interrupted by First Meal at 9 p.m., then went back to finish our still shots.

The workday on the Polycarp set continued for the next few hours, but Eliya and I got to go home by midnight--a short day for us. Eliya, I know, certainly deserved the break.

1 Set-up refers to repositioning the camera and lighting for shooting the same scene from a different perspective.

Above Left: Eliya Hurt and I share a wrap party selfie at the end of the film shoot. Above Right: Screenshot of Eliya as Anna in a tearful moment. Center: Screenshot of one of my favorite scenes, Polycarp explaining to Anna how God loves us.  Bottom: Eliya and I rehearse a scene before the camera rolls.

*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.