I like to describe myself as a creature of experiences. I like to think I am that kind of guy who will do anything once , just for the experience. I am the kind of guy who would like to be able to talk freely with both the palace and the peasants, though it is the hope that the pomp and pageantry of the palace is more of the experience than the penury of peasantry, but then, this is life, we have to make the best use of the cards we are dealt. I have just finished a tenure as a member of a crew on the set of a movie that will, for now, remain nameless, save for the fact that it had a brilliant story and plenty of scenes filmed with the actors in their underwear, and this experience has only served to reinforce a conviction I had before: Most actors, like the vast majority of humanity, are scum.
Are you surprised?
Don’t be. This is not my first experience on a production crew. I have had a privilege of working with some of the best and most disciplined production crews in the country, and on some utterly fantastic shows and productions. More of those details later. I only want to talk about this particular experience for now.
You see, it is a big deal to be creative. A very big deal. Especially with regard to written work, and adaptation to the stage and screen. When I was first given the task of writing stage drama for a city wide audience, I refused and ran. There were, it seemed, a thousand more qualified people littering the earth’s surface. I gave reason upon reason why it should not be me who would get this task. All my reasons were swept away by my (then) troupe leader. Finally a highly respected senior colleague called me and told me something that has remained with me till now. He said, “Do it and add it to the list of things you can do.”
I agreed and began scouring the net, scouting for books and materials on writing for the stage. I remember feverishly reading Soyinka’s “The Jero Plays” and making notes in every page, then moving on to James Ene Henshaw’s “This Is Our Chance”, before ever picking up a pen. I wrote and wrote until my hands hurt, then felt numb. The writing gave me inroads into was to be my first directing job. I ended up serving as assistant director on the project, filling in for the director when he was on one of his several business trips out of town.
Why is all this significant?
I was the second youngest member of the ensemble at the time. A lot of the members of the cast were far older than I was, married men and women with kids. Somehow, I managed it, and thre was never a case of me speaking to anyone in a way he or she didn’t like, or a complain to my boss or the director about disrespect. The rehearsals finished successfully, and the play was presented on one of the biggest stages in the city.
Against this backdrop, let me inform you of one thing: whenever you see a movie being praised, getting glowing reviews and all, pause and ponder, is it because of the efforts of the director, the sheer fabulous-ness of the cast, or the crew that works tirelessly behind the scenes, making sure that all goes smoothly without a hitch? I think that the most hardworking people are usually the most unappreciated, those random guys whose names run at the end of the film, when everybody who came to watch is busy trying to find their way out of the cinema. The crew that worked with me all those years ago, we exchanged numbers, and we call one another on birthdays and anniversaries, such was the camaraderie and unity fostered among us. A director, no matter how brilliant, is only as good as his crew, and those are the guys who work tirelessly to ensure that all goes well, that the smooth, flowing story told to you by the movie is what you see, and nothing else.
So for a director to be making ceaseless posts on social media, praising the skill and creativity of his actors, while remaining silent about the crew that bends itself over backward to make sure everything is in tip top shape, it is either of two things: the director is a learner, or he is still star-struck, which is equally bad. And actors always have drama, ranging from complains about the price, décor, or smell, real or imagined, of their hotel room, to the food, to the water, all sorts of stuff they would never contemplate doing in the privacy of their homes, but they feel okay to come out and negate all the home training that they (may not) have gotten over time. Just because they know there are people who will take their rubbish, put up with their attitude, and pander to their wants and needs. And some people have the nerve to criticize those in power for misusing it, when in their own little niches, they are worse tyrants and terrorists. Common keep kwayet!
So on a final note, I’ll say, good morning to all the beautiful, smart, loyal, resourceful and industrious people who make up the production crews on the movies and series we watch. The actors can collect their own from the director on Instagram.
I greet una.