Sometimes, the film that comes out after it’s edited doesn’t look a lot like what you envisioned when you read the script. That’s the case with a short film I was in this spring directed by Phillip John.
The film was called Chapters, and it’s about the impact a teacher can have for good or bad on his student’s lives. Robb Huddspeth plays the teacher, Mr. Strauss, and he did a great job.
I played Grant, one of three students in his English class who have their lives changed by Mr. Strauss’s decision to turn a page in his own life, and the actions he takes to help them move on in their lives. Grant is struggling with school because of the abuse he’s facing at home. Here’s what I look like in one scene in the film.
In the script, each of the kids (a foster child longing for a permanent home, a kid struggling with money worries after his dad loses his job, and Grant’s abuse at the hands of his father), approaches the teacher for help, only to be rejected at first. But as he begins to realize that his unhappiness about his divorce is affecting his performance at work, the teacher starts to change, and he helps each of the three kids.
My character has three big scenes in the script (just as the other two kids have). But only two of mine were ever shot — the filmmakers ran out of time to shoot my third scene. And much of the action in my second scene — where I get thrown around a parking lot by my dad — got cut into just a short image of him shoving me into the car.
So when the movie was finished, it really seemed unfinished to me because I had read the whole script. There’s no title screen, for instance, and although you see the teacher dialing Child Protective Services, you have no idea what happens. (In the script, CPS comes and arrests Grant’s dad.) I understand that student and indie filmmakers have to rent equipment and pay for editing and that it’s hard to get a film finished on time and on budget. But I was very disappointed when I saw that my “conclusion” was the only one of the three left out of the film.
Oh, well. I had fun working with a great cast and crew. And you never know what will wind up on the cutting room floor! At least I know it wasn’t anything I did that caused it to get cut. You can’t screw up what you never shoot, right?