As an actor, my point of view of filmmaking has always been from in front of the camera and all that it entails to become camera-ready. When I first started working in movies all I knew about filmmaking was what I had learned from the experience of being a spectator. Everything I thought came from my own personal experience of watching movies; my own taste and the performances of actors that I liked formed my opinion. If the movie did not entertain me, didn't evoke some kind of emotion or philosophical response in me, then I didn't like it. If I enjoyed it or it moved me in some way, then I liked it. I never considered the style, the photography, or the editing as being important. I wasn't really aware of the essential roles they played in my enjoyment of the movie. I wasn't aware of how movies were made. All I knew was that I loved watching movies, and I wanted to be in them.
When I started working in front of the camera, there was one other thing that I knew that was essential—how to act within my own circle of concentration and how to use my imagination in my acting. I soon started to learn more about the jobs of the others around me on the set. We were all part of one desire: to make the movie the best that we knew how, with each person concentrating on their own job. My job was that of the actor.
In the beginning, I played very small parts in big movies and lead parts in student and no/low-budget films. I wasn't yet a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and I was working in Europe, so there were no restrictions on what parts I could take. I worked on experimental video projects with no scripts and did scenes for film production classes in schools. I took any opportunity I got to be in front of the camera and be on a set. As long as I trusted the people I was working with not to exploit me in any harmful way, I was willing to put myself into whatever situation was necessary to learn more about acting in film and get in front of the camera. As my experience grew, I naturally became more discerning in my role choices, but at the start I was pretty much willing to go anywhere and do whatever was asked of me.
Because I had a lot of friends who were at the Film and Television Academy in Berlin I would often have the opportunity to be actively involved with the script development process. I was included in discussions when the other crew members would discuss how the script could be photographed, how the set would be designed, and which locations to use. Many times I was allowed to see the rushes (sometimes called dailies, because they are the unedited raw footage of the day's shooting) with the crew. If I knew the director very well, I would visit him while he was editing and converse with him about his editing choices.
The apartment where I lived was very spacious. Some of my roommates were filmmakers, and many of the first films I did were shot in this apartment. I found that the more I learned about movies, the more I wanted to know. I learned to respect everyone's input, and slowly, as I worked on bigger and more expensive projects with strangers, I learned where my job as an actor fell in the hierarchy of moviemaking. I loved every aspect of the collaborative art of moviemaking—I loved being photographed, I loved acting in front of the camera. I began to enjoy every kind of moving image presented on a screen, whether it was telling a story or merely existing for its own artistic sake, as my appreciation for the craft of filmmaking widened.
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