We all know people with the IT factor. They have a magnetism that exudes positive energy, that draws others to them like snowflakes to a driveway. It's storming again today - a good 'ole late winter nor 'easter is whipping up a frenzy outside my window, so I hope you'll forgive the allusion to snow. Seems like a good day to sit quietly and ponder whether this IT factor actually exists.
There was a time when I would've said 'pshaw' to such a nebulous concept. But I've had the good fortune to spend some illuminating days on film sets with people who not only exude talent and confidence, but also seem to have this magical quality which, in some ways, is rather humbling to witness. I think it's safe to say that no single field is without its IT factor folks. For the purpose of this blog today, though, I'd like to comment on an actor. And before the actors reading this get defensive, let me add this - I know you work hard at your craft. You don't rely on the IT factor to find success. But I think that for at least some of you, part of your work ethic may be imbued with this magical quality. Call it confidence or self-assurance, I don't exactly know. I sure wish I had it.
If you've been following me on Facebook you may recall a short film I posted this week featuring actor Charlie Bewley. I posted it because I was binge-watching Nashville a few nights back (hey, a rare day off, I swear!) and he stumbled onto the show in what I thought was likely a guest role, although it appears now that he's got a recurring part as a love interest of Juliette Barnes, aka Hayden Panettiere. What struck me funny about seeing Charlie on Nashville was that I worked on the old short film I posted, Stuffed, while studying film production at Vancouver Film School. There was something satisfying about seeing an actor from one of our old productions in a recurring role on a hit American television show. (Post script to this - Hayden Panettiere was shooting Heroes while I was at film school. And one day my son and I discovered that she was shooting a film at his high school, Centennial, in Coquitlam. WHILE he was in high school. Studying. Yep. School was surrounded by film trucks and gear. Let me just ask you how a seventeen-year-old male is supposed to focus at school while an American TV star is shooting at his school? In this case - he didn't have a clue who she was, so I guess it was 'all good', as they say!)
Back to the IT factor. Let me tell you the tale of my first introduction to Charlie Bewley. At VFS there were often a number of mid-term and final projects (films) casting at the same time. Once Directors of each film were announced, the team had only a few short weeks to pull the thing together. On Stuffed I was doing First Assistant Camera (focus pulling, etc.) and so while we were casting I wasn't necessarily all that busy in the audition room. I recall taking turns with some of our other crew - there were ten of us all together. So the night Charlie showed up I was upstairs in the lounge greeting actors who were coming in to audition. It was a little crazy, as there were other productions casting as well. Our actors were scheduled but I recall our Director (Shane Tanny) not feeling wholly satisfied that he had a good selection to choose from. So when the door whipped open and this good looking British guy wandered in, inquiring about any available parts that he might read for, I brought him downstairs to the audition room and introduced him to the crew.
What do I remember about Charlie? Well, I clearly recall what he was wearing - jeans and a white button down style long sleeved shirt. His hair was a little messy, spiked a bit, I think. He was super casual but also carried a palpable sense of curiosity. Still, he had that British air of nonchalance that maybe contributed to his IT factor. I don't know if he had auditioned for other VFS films or whether he just happened to be walking by the school but I do recall him saying he saw a sign on the door that suggested there was casting magic happening inside. He didn't seem at all surprised, relieved or happy that I agreed to take him downstairs to meet our Director. He wasn't in any way awed by the environment. Instead he just seemed to take it all in stride. "Oh, you have something I can read for? Cool. Great." All in a very casual 'what will be will be' vibe.
I seem to recall that he got the part rather hands down. No question. I think he was tending bar at the time to make ends meet while he worked on bettering his craft. Seems I gave him a ride one day, to a small apartment in Kits? Big departure from playing the gazillionaire in Nashville! Anyways, on to the shoot - part of the film was shot in my friend Derrick's penthouse in Burnaby. I actually used that building as the basis for my character Charlie (no connection or inspiration whatsoever with Charlie Bewley) in the Drifters books! I recall we had a fire alarm that made us walk down thirty-one floors? Memory is hazy but I do recall standing outside waiting for permission to get back inside so we could finish our long shoot day.
Charlie was a gem throughout the shoot. He was a pro - relaxed, easy to work with, nice guy. Pretty sure the make-up gal had a huge crush on him. I was older than most of the others and they were mostly guys, and I know they went out and had some fun times after the shoot. So they got to know Charlie pretty good. I doubt the guy even remembers me, maybe in some vague way, but I will say that he is the only actor I've ever met who exuded a quiet, calm confidence that just screamed success from the moment he walked into our school.
I dunno. Maybe I'm just psychic or at the very least intuitive, but I am not at all surprised at Charlie's success. I do wonder though whether he still retains that quiet centre now that he's working with the 'big boys' (he was Demetri in the Twilight films, and I've also seen him in a feature role in the Sundance acclaimed film Like, Crazy). It must be challenging to always remain confident as the stakes get higher and higher. But maybe that's what the mysterious IT factor can do for a person - somewhere in the genetic make-up he / she is simply a calm, confident individual. I'd be curious to know.
At any rate, I'm glad my path crossed with this actor who I do believe deserves his success. We worked with a female actor on one of the VFS productions who I think we were all terrified of! I can't say I'd wish her a similar success. No IT factor for her. She was good, but difficult and complicated. Charlie was genuine and real.
I'm proud of our little film. I had a good time at film school. Vancouver was an adventure. I will watch Charlie's career with interest and pray that he remains the same nice guy with that curious demeanour who wandered so haphazardly into our audition that fine evening. Did our little film have any input on his success? It'd be fun to think so, but I think the thing is, 'when you got IT, you got it.' Y'know?
Have a great day, folks :)