It’s been said there are no small parts…only small actors. Well, that’s not really true. There ARE small parts. I know. I’ve done my share of them and will likely do more, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.
Last year I had the pleasure of doing a decidedly small role in a project called KINGS OF THE EVENING. My role was a day player role, one sequence. The contract was SAG low-budget so the money was minimal and not a real enticement to do the job. But the script was good and it was an unusual project – the story set in the depression era and the cast predominantly African American. It seemed to me it would be a ‘different’ kind of project than we typically see in our market and it could be a fun experience. I decided to think of it as an acting class that I got paid to attend.
GETTING an acting job is often not that much fun. The process of searching out potential projects, submitting yourself or getting your agent on the case, etc. etc. gets tedious after a few decades. All that is work that is necessary but is not necessarily associated with the fun part of the acting business. Doing the job, on the other hand is almost always a real pleasure.
My role in KINGS was so small, I fully expected to be cut out…and maybe I have been. Wouldn’t be the first time and probably wouldn’t be the last. But since I’ve received an invitation to a screening and party following, I’m assuming my little contribution made the cut. We’ll see.
What I remember most from my involvement with the project was a brief exchange with Reginald Dorsey an actor and producer on the project. Between takes of a scene, I was seated near Dorsey when he leaned over to me and complimented something he had seen me doing in the scene. I was a bit surprised as it really wasn’t a difficult piece of action. But he complimented my consistency, take to take. Frankly I was impressed that someone noticed because really that’s a basic part of the job. Consistency is expected…and rightly so. That’s one of the reasons you’re getting paid a professional’s wage.
Even so, that brief exchange, a compliment from a respected colleague put a nice cap on what could have been ‘just another’ day’s work. Regardless of the size of the role, respect yourself and your profession enough to give it your best effort. If you can’t do that…don’t take the job.
UPDATE: This evening I received a very nice email from KINGS OF THE EVENING director Andrew Jones who had read this blog and who let me know that I had indeed been cut from the film. As I told Andrew…and as I think I expressed above, I’m not completely surprised.
Cuts HAVE to be made to every film. An actor always wants his/her work to be seen…even the small roles…and it’s always a disappointment to get left on the cutting room floor. But, actor friends, that’s part of the deal we have to understand.
Editing is not under the control of the actor…at least not for most of us. All we can do is take advantage of opportunities to work at our craft and give the best performances we can. All else in the filmmaking process is out of our control.
A film gets shaped…some would say created…in post production and there is always more footage than the final cut can accommodate. This is just the downside of working a day player role and is simply part of the business.
The good experience of working on the film remains with me and is not subject an editorial decision. And…the check cashed just fine and has long been spent. I look forward to seeing the finished film next week in Austin.
Joe O’Connell’s column below has some more information on KINGS OF THE EVENING:
BY JOE O’CONNELL
‘Kings’ returns a winner
A film that shot somewhat quietly in the Austin area last year is
getting a lot of buzz and finally making it to town for a screening
primarily aimed at cast and crew at 7pm on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the
Galaxy Highland 10. Kings of the Evening is set in the Deep South in the
Depression era. Amid tough economic times, a group of African-American
men dress in their finest and compete to be the movie title’s King of
The film has already won a batch of awards, including Best Film, Best
Supporting Actor (Glynn Turman, who is up for an Emmy for work on In
Treatment), and Best Director at the San Diego Black Film Festival and
the audience award at the San Francisco Black Film Festival. Also count
Gary Bond of the Austin Film Office as a fan. He calls it a heartwarming
film that deserves distribution, a stand he seldom takes about locally
shot films. Distribution is something producer/director Andrew P. Jones
is working feverishly to accomplish. He and his father, the novelist and
retired public relations pro Robert Page Jones, crafted the story after
the elder Jones read a story about a similar men’s style contest in
In true indie spirit, father and son bankrolled the film themselves and
first looked at shooting in Birmingham, Ala., but the lack of a film
scene nixed that idea. “We knew for a first film we needed to surround
ourselves with experienced people, resources, and gear,” the younger
Jones said. They ended up shooting in Bartlett, a town he describes as
“frozen in time. We didn’t have to do much; it was perfect for us.” The
cast and crew were 85 to 90% local but included fashion model Tyson
Beckford in the lead and such veteran actors as Lynn Whitfield (The
Josephine Baker Story) and Reginald Dorsey (Return to Lonesome Dove).