Friday, 11 July 2008

UNKIND CUT! - a short story about a TV romance - by June Saville

Shit! Acting is just so hard.

You wring your psyche dry for twelve hours at a trot. You twist and you squeeze your inner self until reality and fictional character slide together, then at the end of it all you must disengage, and you’re not quite the same person any more.

This time it is a drama for TV and you are a social worker type who cares about people. Each shoot you screw yourself into emotional knots, worrying and caring for the down-and-outs in the story. You scream and you rant and you sob. You are noble and self-sacrificing. And sexy, a siren come-on and sometimes, a slut.

Seeing as you ask, I’d say I became aware of him only when we first went into rehearsal. As the cameras rolled, he impressed me with his acting ability, but I thought little about him otherwise. He was simply my opposite number; a guy who needed to become a leading man … to my leading lady.

Oh yes, he had a good body and a certain charisma, and I liked his smile, but it was work we were on about. Hard work. There was no time and no energy for personal explorations.

He was good at his craft, no doubt about it. And perceptive with his characterisation.

We all chewed the fat about approaches to be taken in the various scenes and I could see what he was on about. We’d sit around, the dramaturge and the cast, pinning down how our characters should react in the next take. He was on the ball all right.

It was in these sessions that I gradually became aware of his spin on the world. In lots of ways, we were spinning together or at least in the same direction. It seemed that we both genuinely cared about humanity. We had both walked across the bridge for
Reconciliation, although not together. We were both angry that Australian film and television had been for years swamped by overseas imports.

That’s the sum total really. Not a lot to know about someone is it?

As actors on the set, we combined well, agreeing easily on how to handle things. He was more experienced than I, but we got to respect each others’ professional points of view.

The plot mainly evolved around some of the more dramatic aspects of life in an inner-city office and the sub-text was certainly that our characters would get together in the long run. In the mean time scriptwriters toiled at delaying the day, and the emotional tension built nicely. You know how these things go …

For our characters, it was almost love on the run. Electricity zinged between us whenever we met, but there was never time to make the connection. Once we set up a dinner date, but his screen daughter from a former marriage took an overdose and shattered our chances yet again. There was a murder in the office on the very day we’d planned another get together. Any possibility of romance seemed thwarted at every turn.

Early in the series he got his gear off for a brief affair with another woman. We always had a postmortem with the crew, replaying the most recent episode, and this one was a revelation. He had great technique in the kissing department, and his hands were gentle and seductive. The other actress seemed to enjoy herself no end …

As an acting professional, I enjoyed watching his work. He moved beautifully, and had great timing, probably because he began his career on the stage. How did he treat me, you ask? Most of the time I don’t think I existed for him except as one of the other actors. He was friendly enough …

Sure, sometimes we sat together during breaks in shooting, sharing cups of coffee and desultory chat. I enjoyed those times, and I think he did too.

One day our characters had decided to meet socially, and something came up to delay the moment yet again. On the next shoot the dramaturge pressed the director to allow them to exchange a kiss, and she agreed. The idea was that the male character would apologise for not being able to make the date and when my character became angry about it, he’d stop her with a sizzling embrace. The scene was to be shot in a corridor near her office.

I was standing there, next to him, stirring my soul as you do, for IRATE. I let him have it – good and deep and blazing angry. Very professional. But then I had to look into his eyes in the middle of this anger, and his eyes were different and there was a rope of tension pulling us together. We lost sight of what was supposed to be happening. It was just him and me living up to the promise of all of those weeks of unwitting self-restraint.

We kissed for an eternity and I lost sense of time and place. He smelled like crisp new apples. When we finally returned to the present, the dramaturge and the director raved about the quality of our acting.

A lot seemed to change after that. We spent almost all of our coffee breaks in each other’s company, and extended this togetherness with dinner once or twice. Our on camera relationship was keeping pace, although often still stalled by writers consumed with delay … delay. To be honest, daily responsibilities hindered our reality as well, what with scripts, filming, PR commitments and others of life’s little problems. The whole world seems afflicted with a shortage of carefree moments.

One evening at dusk, we stole a stroll along the foreshore. An early crescent moon rode in the sky, and slight breezes riffled the casuarina trees. The sea had about it that incredibly deep blue colour that can come with that time of day.

We walked and chatted for quite some distance, delighting in the freedom, when he stopped and took off his sweater, to place it on a grassy knoll not far from the sand. We both sat there, enjoying the sight of a wayward ibis late on its journey home. Then he turned to me and touched my cheek with a fingertip, to trace a wandering line across my lips. I absorbed that dear face, his eyes bent downwards, lashes caressing his cheeks.

Things progressed until we lay full length on the knoll, side-by-side, entranced, and learning secrets. We remained there for minutes, absorbed in each other, not touching, and yet so close I could feel his breath on my skin, sure he could hear my pulsing body. The scent of crisp apples returned and I rose toward him, restrained no longer …

It was then that the director, God bless her, called ‘Cut’.

© June Saville 2008. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without written permission of the author.


  1. Flaming Hell June, that was getting me goin' there ! Feel like a washed-out dishrag now hehe... Am off to read another one now. Cheers Kate x.

  2. I hope all of this reading of my stuff isn't too bad for your health Kate. Take care!

  3. you are wicked wicked wicked

  4. MAMPI
    Got you did I?
    Thanks for the giggle ...


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