The last time I acted on camera was a little over a year ago for Malarkey Films, which in turn was the first time I'd done that in several years. That shoot involved a stuffed monkey puppet and a gas mask. This project however, had a significantly more serious tone.
It was great to be a performer again, as very few other arts have the same degree of immediate gratification. I had almost forgotten how fun it is.
This however, was not a typical shoot...
This video is for a new program called IMPACT: Ability that is essentially an offshoot of IMPACT Boston. IMPACT Boston is a non-profit violence prevention organization that primarily teaches self-defense through classes that work via adrenal stress operant conditioning. I've been an IMPACT instructor part-time for several years now and have worked with a wide variety of populations ranging from trauma survivors to middle school students to healthcare providers. IMPACT: Ability deals specifically with the safety and empowerment of people with disabilities. This video is about both abuse prevention and proper procedures for reporting abuse. I believe that I was tapped to play the part I did more because of my theatre & film background than my IMPACT credentials. In the scene that I acted in, I played a horrible, horrible human being...
In order to really talk about abuse prevention, you must have an example of how abuse might go down. I played the abuser in this scene. What was new and unusual for me in this particular setting was that my scene partner, Ernie (a longtime crew member of Ablevision and an IMPACT: Ability graduate), is a person with a cognitive disability. That being the case, supervision and permissions and such were handled and supervised via disabilities services professionals from Triangle. This extra step was one of the only differences between this experience and other professional shoots I've been on. I have to say that Ernie was a great scene partner and clearly knew what he was doing as an actor. I hesitate to go into technical detail as I don't know how to do it in this case without sounding condescending, so I'll just say that the man was great to work with and helped me create what was a pretty difficult character.
As an IMPACT instructor, I have been taught about various types of human predators. I've also been doing additional research about some of the scarier types as I'm starting to formulate a full length play based in part on a monologue piece I wrote a couple of years ago called Lying Makes Me Feel Like A God. To this end, I've been doing a bit of reading on Psychopathy, Borderline Personality Disorder, and various forms of pathological liars. What was most useful for this scene was the understanding of various manipulation tactics and the reasons that such predators might be hard to spot.
My character (Bill), pulls Ernie's (Sam) away from the his friends because he "has a special job for him," perpetrates a crime, and explains to Sam why he needs to keep quiet about it. Bill is a popular supervisor who no one would believe is capable, let alone guilty of, such behavior, which is in part why he expects to get away with it. I pulled many of my character's tactics from a book called The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. Dr Stout points out that one of the surest signs of a sociopath is not just poor behavior, but the attempt to elicit pity. In fact, she states that in her research she had found that the manipulation of pity was one of the strongest tools available for those who want to take advantage of good people (I found this particularly disturbing when I read it). This particular aspect of the behavior was one of the most useful elements of playing this character, which in turn has been really useful as I start to work on my new play.
My scene was one of many that are being put together for this video. I should say that my character does get reported and dealt with, and that several other types of abuse are addressed, along with proper and improper responses. I'm not sure that I'll be publicizing the release of this particular bit of acting as my character is especially distasteful, but I will take a bit of pride in that one of my co-workers from IMPACT who was also on set was well and properly freaked out by my character when I was playing him at his most charismatic.
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