Continuity’s a Bitch

This is such a steep learning curve! We’re in the thick of post production on The Chalet, a web series I helped develop and write with fellow actors at Intentional Dreams Productions (IDP) here in Montreal. It’s going well but this week’s latest editing push is shining a big spot light on something called ‘continuity’. I’d like to think I know a thing or two about professional performance habits, considerate and inclusive attitudes on set and consistency, but the amazing thing is, once you step behind the camera and dive into editing, you realize just how much you still have to learn and always should keep learning as an actor.

Frenglish Scene Log for Ep 5 on 'The Chalet' :)

‘Frenglish’ Scene Log for Ep 5 on The Chalet :) 

Hours and hours of footage logged for our full 9 days of shooting, best takes highlighted for each sequence, director Brent George‘s constructive feedback, on set acting and performance checked by IDP coach Gilles Plouffe, endless notes and adjustments… it’s 12:30am, we’ve been at this for over 11 hours and our editor Katia Cioce leans into her screen, taps her space bar:

Katia: ‘Look, her hand’s up on a different line here…doesn’t work cutting into the reverse.’
Mylène: ‘Where? Isn’t that the close up we ended up choosing for consistency?’
Katia: ‘Yeah but look…’

She replays the footage for that particular take and there it is, we’d missed it: the actress’ hand gesture is off by just a few words from the wide angle we need to cut this into.

Mylène: ‘Can we cut into it earlier? Later?’
Katia: ‘No, I went over it and it would throw off the rythm, rob her of that moment in the scene.’
Mylène: ‘That’s weird, I could have sworn this was the take Brent wanted us to use…matched both the reverse and the wide. What now?’
Katia: ‘Is he set on it?’
Mylène: ‘Yeah, remember he said… wait…’

I dig through the continuity sheets and script notes and sure enough, that take is the keeper.

Mylène: (sigh) ‘Ok, let’s go back and see if we can find another wide that fits that action.’

Our editor on 'The Chalet', Katia Cioce, doing her darndest to make movie magic

Our editor on The Chalet, Katia Cioce, doing her darndest to make movie magic beside me

And on and on this goes for every single take, every single one of our 11 actors and their coverage for this scene, including yours truly.

When you’re in production and the clock is ticking, no matter what’s happening all around you on set, your job as an actor I feel is to remain present and invested in the moment, remember why your character is in the state he or she is in, what he or she wants, the goal, the moment, the intent. Your body has to be relaxed too, really relaxed, because when they call ‘action’ you’re suddenly propelled onto this wave right? Riding that moment for all it’s worth and I think the more relaxed your body is in the process, the clearer and more precise your character’s choices become. The more precise your vision as a performer can be.

Which brings us to the bitch: continuity. How the heck are you supposed to do 2, 3, 5, 10 takes the same exact way every time? Pick up that pen, drink that glass of wine, throw that look, wave… exactly the same way and at exactly the same instant every time? From my perspective on set while I’m working in front of the camera, my attention is in no way concerned with the editor’s job at the post production end of the spectrum. But it should be, at least partially. And this is where I say thank you to every single script and continuity supervisor I’ve ever worked with to date. Thank you! ThankYouThankYouThankYou!

Pauline Béraud’s the latest one I’ve crossed paths with. She’s on Les Jeunes Loups, a stellar new french series by Quebec writer Réjean Tremblay that’s shooting here in Montreal. It’s the third project Pauline and I happen to be working on together and let me tell you, Pauline is good. She is very good at what she does. When Érik Canuel, our director, calls ‘cut’ on set there’ll be a short beat before I can expect to see her. It doesn’t happen every time (thank goodness!) but when it does, she gracefully drifts into view in front of me (where she comes from exactly when she does this I’m never quite sure…), always catching me at the most respectful moment, script in hand, pen wavering over her pages, eyes smiling, kindness and patience basically radiating from her every pore.

Pauline.LacMystere.2012

October 2012: Pauline Béraud, continuity and script supervisor, hard at work on the set of Érik Canuel’s latest feature film Lac Mystère

Pauline: ‘the line is actually…’ or ‘you shifted to the left, not to the right in your seat in the wide.’ or ‘it was the left hand not the right.’

Of course! Of course the line is… but didn’t I say those exact words? No? Oh… I could have sworn – (Pauline shakes her head ever so slightly) – ok you’re right.

Note to self, don’t try and argue with a continuity or script supervisor. I mean what’s the point? She’s sitting there all-knowing in front of her monitors taking note of every detail. They see everything! I realize now, sitting here with Katia, that I’m so very grateful that they are there on set, why they have to be so obtuse and relentless sometimes. It’s because unlike us actors, they’re entirely focused on making sure the editor who’s working at the tail end of the project doesn’t have a nervous breakdown desperately trying to match actions throughout the piece.

Katia exhales beside me.

Mylène: ‘You ok?’
Katia: ‘Yeah yeah, (then playfully, under her breath) I just wanna strangle you actors sometimes’
Mylène: ‘LOL’

We had a great production team on The Chalet and Martine was our script and continuity supervisor for the project. I’ll take this moment to say thank you to her! Thanks Martine! Merci beaucoup! Cuz without you, I think Katia would probably have had that nervous breakdown by now.

For those of you who haven’t seen this yet, here’s the video we put together at Intentional Dreams Productions for our indieGoGo fundraising pitch on The Chalet:

In other news, here’s the official poster and trailer for Érik Canuel’s latest French feature Lac Mystère, out in theaters here in Quebec Aug 23rd. Thrilled to have had a small part in this dark and thrilling adventure!

In Theatres Aug 23rd 2013

In Theatres Aug 23rd 2013

This is one of my favorite pictures taken on set last fall with wonderful actor Benoit Gouin on the dock by the edge of the lake.

MyleneDinhRobic_BenoitGouin_LacMystere_2013.a

And last but not least, I’m taking part in Vancouver coach, actor, writer and director Ben Ratner‘s 3 day acting intensive coming up here for the first time in Montreal Aug 23rd, 24th and 25th. I’ve been studying with him for years. Every time I get up and work a scene with him, he pushes me to new heights in my work. This time, he’s assigned a scene for me and my partner from The Motherfucker with the Hat, a raw and powerful 2011 play by american playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. Looking forward to it Ben! (Here’s a little more on why professional actors across the country study with him: testimonials)

Hope you’re doing well and enjoying your day or night. Here’s a tune from French band Smooth called ‘Friendly Yours’… because well, I am, friendly yours ;)

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