Wandering Away From My Comfort Zone (But Not Too Far)

Yesterday, I left work about 10:30 and drove to the east side of Madison WI, to Stalzy’s Deli, where an amateur independent film crew was shooting a scene for a movie. I had found out via the “social media” that the Screaming Like Banshees (SLB) production company needed some bit part actors to play patrons in a deli (Stalzy’s) who interact with the film’s main character in a paranoid delusional scene where everyone turns mean on her and curses her out. I was totally out of my element and it was great fun.

I found out about the opportunity a week prior. EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE had gone into the studio at the Madison Media Institute to do an interview and play a couple songs for a segment of the Bordello of Horror cable access program, hosted by one Rich Peterson. The Madison WI based program broadcasts public domain low budget horror films, and Rich wanted some local bands to record short local music segments to fill time on the show when the movie’s length didn’t cooperate with the available time slot. At least that is what I think the deal is, because the bands invited to record for the show were not particularly horror themed.

Anyway, because the program broadcasts horror movies, Rich networks with other related franchises, one of which was the Screaming Like Banshees group. These people have their fingers in a few indie horror projects, including the Oshkosh Horror Film Fest.

I had “friended” (added) Rich on the FACEBOOK after the recording session, in order to follow up with him and perhaps get a heads up when our music segment was to air on his show (even though I do not have cable TV anymore and thus lack any means to view it directly...).

A couple days after the studio session, Rich shared SLB’s call for bit role actors on his FACEBOOK wall. I saw it and was intrigued. I have always wanted to do a little acting, but never had the time to commit to it on any kind of large scale. I am spread too thin as it is with my music projects, day job, volunteering, and social activities. Every year in early October, I attend the Oshkosh Horror Film Fest for sh!ts and giggles. It’s a fun time and gets me in the mood for Halloween. I am always impressed by the quality of the amateur independent films shown at the fest and I often thought it would be fun to be involved in indie film making in some way, as part of crew or talent.

The SLB movie in production is called HAG. I am not really sure what it is all about, but it involves witchcraft, I think. I have never acted in a film before, not even as a background extra, though I do act theatrically on stage as a musician sometimes. In this case, the filmmakers needed a few bodies to act as patrons in the diner scene, eating and drinking and conversing quietly. The posting indicated there would be a few lines of dialog for anyone who participated, so it was more than just a background cameo role in the crowd.

The opportunity as described seemed like a fairly easy tentative initial foray into the indie film arena that I could handle. The time commitment was only three hours, albeit on a weekday (my boss is super cool and as proof of this, she didn’t have an issue with me taking time off in the middle of a Monday…granted, I am hourly, so she doesn’t have to pay me when I am absent).

The requirements for the shoot were manageable (wear normal street clothes indicative of the character you want to present, and no commercial logos) and we would be paid in free deli food and a DVD of the movie when it was finished (spring of 2015, they said), as well as having our name in the credits.

I arrived at the deli a couple of minutes before 11 and met the cast and crew. They were very fun people and I had met the sound guy before at the Oshkosh Horror Film Fest. I was certainly a little bit nervous, having never done anything like this before. They got me situated at a table, reading a paper and eating lunch. There were a few different scenes to capture. I was sitting quite close to the main actress who was seated at the diner bar and thus I was on camera in a lot of her takes. So I had to be consistent in my behavior and not attract attention away from her.

When the scene in the movie turns ugly, all the patrons begin hurling misogynistic insults at the main character. My line, if you must know, was “Here’s a quarter, ya dumb @#$%...why don’t you go buy a clue? You know he just wants to get in your pants.” Out of context, that probably makes no sense, but whatever.

There’s no guarantee that my bit acting will be used in the film, but I think the chances are really good, because there were only about five people who showed up to the shoot, and only about three lines of insulting dialog. I thought I did my parts really well, although everyone did. I’d be surprised if I didn’t make the cut.

Anyway, that story is all a preamble to a very short thesis on fear and getting outside of my comfort zone.

I was a little bit nervous about this adventure, in part because I have never done anything like this before, and in part because I am an introvert by nature and shy around new people and new situations. There were some moments between when I verbally committed to do the shoot and when I actually showed up there that I started to second guess myself and thought about backing out. Rationally, I knew that was ridiculous. But even such a small risk as this was enough to cause my reptilian brain to resist my best intentions.

I was aware this was happening. I was able to see it for what it was and resist the resistance. I knew I wanted to do the shoot to get some indie film acting experience and to get a little bit out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t like I was going sky diving or something. It was just a low budget indie horror movie. Nothing to worry about. I have seen some really bad horror movies that were way worse than anything I could do even if I didn't try.

Basically, my mild fear of the novel experience was giving me moments of self doubt. In good health and good spirits, I had no viable excuse to bail on the fine folks at SLB. Yet, repeatedly, I found myself wondering if I should back out. These episodes of resistance were easy to quell, but it bothered me that my “bad conscience,” if you will, kept piping up to tell me not to risk it, to stay in my comfort zone. I am glad my reasoning human brain is able to stay on the higher ground and keep me focused on pursuing novel adventures. As it turned out, I had really nothing to fear. To me, I was a “natural.” Everything went to plan. I didn’t biff any scenes or lines and we got enough takes that they could pick and choose the best parts.

I wonder how fear of risk and resistance to taking chances are cultivated in people, and why some people seem to be huge adventurers with no filters on risk taking. I suppose it is a combination of nature and nurture. I was brought up to be fairly risk averse and to value security and comfort. That’s neither good nor bad, it’s just fact. I did not recognize this until a very late age. Now I do, and I try to take reasonable forays out of my comfort zone to face anxiety and fear, no matter how small. I have no desire to go skydiving. Mainly that is because it doesn’t even sound that fun to me. The sensation of plummeting is not something I ever have any desire to feel. I did go bungee jumping once, and that was enough of that. That was another case of having to ritualistically face a fear just to say that I did. I had an opportunity to literally step right off the edge of my comfort zone at the end of a glorified rubber band, and I did. I don’t really have any need to do it again. The mission was accomplished. I have gone snowboarding a few times. That was partly to face a fear of speed on snowy downhill slopes and also to learn a skill/sport. I don’t go snowboarding as much anymore, not because of fear but because of hate.

I hate the cold.

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