Polycarp's Longest Day

Aug 10, 2018 9:00 AM

My Polycarp Movie Diary, Day 18*

Saturday, August 10, 2013 - Yesterday was a day off (my second). I got a good night’s sleep, and since my call time was not early I was hoping to sleep late this morning. But I woke up at 7:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep, nor was I able to take a nap after lunch. I was keyed up all day, and I suppose it must be because I knew what was coming up today. The scenes we would film today would be among the most emotionally and physically taxing for me of the film shoot.

It would also involve one of the most complex scenes that I’ve been in. In reading through the screenplay I imagined how it all could be played out on a theater stage as a single scene.  For filming, however, it had to be broken into four parts, with multiple camera/character perspectives in most segments. On screen it will play out in a few minutes. It took most of the day to shoot.

 Our task as actors was to keep our concentration and focus throughout, and to maintain continuity of action and emotion across each change. Besides that it was again a hot day on the set. On a day like this I regard it as a privilege to share scenes with actors like Andrew Hurt, Ryan-Iver Klann, and the ever-dependable Ted Rich, whose intensity and passion and work ethic are evident in every scene. 

Though there were aspects of this day that made it difficult, I had looked forward to it eagerly from the beginning, in part because of a key exchange between Polycarp and Anna. This scene is vital for the narrative and for the development of both characters. Though the dialog is brief, there are some good, meaty lines here. And in the midst of a difficult day, Eliya Hurt is just a joy to work with. She says her lines with naturalness. She maintains her composure when all our patience is tested, and cheerfully endures the long, long hours—and thus always challenges me to be better.

This was one of those days when we had to stretch our workday beyond the 3 a.m. stop schedule. That is not the norm, but neither is it highly unusual. But both the cast and crew were agreeable because things were working, and the frustrations and delays were far outweighed by our sense that good things were getting done.

At the very end of the day we filmed a scene where Polycarp prays. It was a solo scene, and all the other actors had been dismissed for the day. As for me, I was probably more keyed up over this one short scene than any of the others we’d done today. It was a monolog I’d worked on for hours, yet was unsatisfied with my preparation. Probably few actors approach their roles theologically, but that’s the way I’ve got to do it—especially when playing a role of such theological weight.  To me,  prayer is not a monolog, but a communication with God who listens. I had to say the lines accurately, yet be emotionally and spiritually authentic in the moment. I wanted to bring this as a true prayer, not an act.

The hour was late, and all of us were at the end of our physical energy. We shot the prayer from just one camera angle and we filmed it twice. The first time I focused on saying it right, hitting the cues, making no mistakes. After laying down a solid take, Joe urged me to do it again with more freedom. I did, and finished one more task I’d been preparing and praying for since first reading the script months ago. [Note: It was the 2nd take that made it into the final cut—not surprisingly.] Then our A.D. Josh Hedrick called it a wrap, a little after 4:30 a.m. I was “home” at 5:05, and asleep by 5:15.

Top: Screenshot, Polycarp prays. Above Left: Andrew Hurt (L) not only played Centurion on camera, but also worked behind the camera in a number of assisting roles. Abigail Hurt (R) had some time in front of the camera as an extra, but her major task was to be the guardian for her younger sister, Eliya Hurt (C)—our lead actress who plays Anna  Above Right: Camera operators John-Clay Burnett and Alex Lerma set up for an overhead shot.

*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.

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