A Day On The Set

“Do every day at least on thing that scares the shit out of you.” I think I heard this a thousand times by now. And, to some extent, I’m religiously following it up. Meaning I do try to do every day at least on thing that scares the shit out of me.

From this series, ladies and gents, we’re going to talk today about being a tango dancer in a beer commercial. I know, I was just as scared as you are, just by reading this. 🙂

Now, seriously.

A month ago, a very unusual announcement traveled through the tango community. A casting agency was hunting around for tango dancers for a beer commercial. They didn’t say what exactly we’re supposed to do, other than being able to dance tango. Since I was moderately good at dancing tango, I decided to go to the casting audition. I announced one of my tango friends, we got together one day and went to the agency. In all honesty, I would have picked another partner for this audition, but since she works full time, that wasn’t an option.

The audience was rather strange. We were asked to show our hands, say our names out loud and turn around a few times. Then they let us dance. Only for like 30 seconds or so. Whatever. They said they will let us know if we made it to the short list, and, if we’re chosen, we should block an entire day for the shooting. Like, you know, on the set. Big stars. Whatever.

We went back to our regular schedule, without keeping too much hope. At least I didn’t put up too much on this one. But, surprise, a few days later I get a phone call from the agency. They told me we made to the short list. We didn’t get the main parts, meaning the 2 actors that were supposed to “tango fight” for a new type of beer,  but we were in the background group of tango dancers. Whoa. That was a surprise.

Fast forward a few days and then we get the final phone call: we were accepted. The next step was to pay a visit to the casting agency to try on some clothes. The commercial was supposed to happen in the past, somehow, so we needed historically correct outfits. So, we went to try on the clothes and had an enormous amount of fun. The wardrobe was the one you expect to see in a theater. A lot of suits, incredibly complicated dresses for women and millions of accessories. Of course, I couldn’t find anything to fit so they had to make a few adjustments. In an hour or so we were done. They told us to show up next Friday. They will give us a phone call to let us know from here we were going to be picked up by a car.

So, that Friday came really fast and I woke up at around 6:30, because I was supposed to be picked up at 7:20. Quite early, if you ask me. Then we got to the location. An old house, with three stories, stuffed with shooting equipment, from cameras to complicated cranes that resembled strange life forms from Star Trek. A lot of people who clearly didn’t have enough sleep last night and a lot of lights being carried from one room to another, depending on what was shut.

I went to the wardrobe and took on my suit. It didn’t fit. I don’t know why, but it didn’t. So, they gave me another one, which, surprise, fit perfectly. They also gave me a hat. An old style hat, who made me look like a guy from the Firefly series.

We went outside, in the backyard, and, from the moment on, things started to unfold pretty much the same.

Every half an hour somebody would have call us inside, because they were shooting something that involved the presence of a background pair of group of tango people. Soon enough we realized that tango was just a pretext. They just needed some guys to act as figurants, not tango dancers. It was only one scene involving dancing tango, and that scene was no more than 10 seconds shooting time.

Also, at this point I started to feel moderately irritated. Not only because I was expecting something else, but because there was a big contrast between my clothes and the outside weather. It was hot and I as sweating. Big time.

The rest of the day passed on with an increasing amount of boredom and frustration among all the other guys on the set. A few of the figurines were colleagues from the tango community and at least we had some common topics to discuss every once in a while.

I hardly believed when I realized we were only 30 minutes to midnight. Are you kidding me? It was almost midnight? From the storyboard they placed in one of the rooms we realized they filmed only 2 thirds of the total amount of scenes. And it was just midnight.

At this point I decided to leave. Took on my suit, changed again in civilian clothes, said my goodbyes and just left. I felt incredibly good after that. In a few hours I was going to find out why.

Who’s Directing Your Life?

As I was ready to go to sleep, tired, bored and frustrated, something popped into my mind. A feeling of clarity and surprise at the same time. Couldn’t put my finger on it. So I started to journal my experience (that’s something I do when I feel confused) and, after a few hundreds words, I realized what it was: the entire day was a metaphor for how we choose to live our lives.

I dressed up on somebody else’s clothes, borrowing somebody else’s personality and waited form somebody else to call me on the stage when I was supposed to appear in the movie. And, once on the stage, I had to listen for indications, and follow other people rules. That sucked. That really sucked.

And then I realized how often we do this in our own lives.

Instead of taking responsibility for who we are, we try to fit in other people clothes. We borrow clothes that are too large or too small for us and try to fit in. They’ll never look good on us. Because they weren’t designed for us.

Instead of acting with courage and calling the shots, we wait for someone else to give us “opportunities”. Just like we were waiting in the backyard to be called by somebody else, if there was some scene in which we’re supposed to briefly appear. We do this all the time in our real lives. We wait. We don’t’ push. Why pushing? It’s not politically / socially / educationally correct. So we wait. Patiently, humbly and horrendously boring.

Instead of directing our own movie, we strive to be part of somebody else’s script. Most of the time, we don’t even know the script, we just assume it will be a good script. It would be so much better if we could just call our own shots, create our own storyboards and decide who is going to appear in what scene. Us. Not somebody else. But we don’t do that. Instead, we’re following some social norms about what career we should follow, what job we should have, what relationships we should enter or not (based on what our parents told us) and so on and so forth.

Let me describe this behavior with a very brief word: bullshit.

After I wrote the word a dozen of times in my journal, I was finally able to go to sleep. And I was also finally able to replace the feeling of emptiness of that day with another one. Not pleasant, but useful. The feeling that I learned something very important that day.

If you like me in real life, then you won’t need to see me on the big screen at all. You won’t need to see me in fancy suits, pretending to be someone I’m not, playing a part I barely understand.

You’ll just take me for who I am and be happy with that.

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