Real Life Comedy

filming_arts_scene_film_timeless_tuschinski

Filming an arts performance that derails into a slapstick scene for “Timeless”.

Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton and Mr. Bean are some of the protagonists of my favorite comedic films. Often, in my daily life, I observe my surroundings, wondering what would happen if they were “mixed up” in slapstick comedy style. Many ideas I thus develop end up in my films. Very often, one of my favorite actors – Sebastian B. – has portrayed my alter ego, being lost in strange, slightly twisted situations. For example, the arts performance scene in Timeless, which I based on a rather bland real life arts performance I observed sometime in 2013… And which becomes a chaotic, funny mess in the film.

But, a while ago, I was in a situation that I will not have to change the slightest bit to put into a film. I went to watch a sophisticated contemporary poetry performance in a theatre. As I quite fancied one of the girls performing, I wanted to give a good impression if she looked at me sitting in the audience during the performance. The theatre was quite small (the auditorium didn’t seat too many, but it still had a small balcony) and about half filled with people. When I took a seat right in the front row on the small balcony, I immediately noticed that – for my taste – my chair was a bit too far away from the edge. So, sitting on the chair, I lifted it up – only to regret that a few moments later: The chair had been attached to the floor with metal pins, and by lifting it, I had somehow got two legs entirely loose, while the other two were somewhat still attached to their pins, but raised by two centimeters. Now, the chair was lifted up, standing on two pins, wiggling as I shifted my weight on it. The pins hadn’t been damaged, but to put it back in its proper place, I would have had to stand up and do it carefully. I tried to do so, but as I looked around, I saw an usher behind me, looking around with a bored look on his face, occasionally glimpsing at me. The best situation for slapstick comedy: Introduce a figure of authority that the main character somehow is afraid of; and boy, was I afraid to be embarrassed by the usher if he detected what I had done. How could I impress the girl if there would be a scene with the usher putting my chair back into place? I think I got him a bit suspicious, as he looked at me strangely, so I took my seat again, pretending all was normal.

Filming the opening of the arts performance scene in my film "Timeless".

Filming the opening of the arts performance scene in my film “Timeless”.

I sat there, carefully avoiding to put my full weight on the chair, trying to balance it but not have it slide down the pins with a loud noise. It was quite difficult and uncomfortable. As I looked at the usher through the corners of my eyes, careful not to raise his suspicion further, thoughts ran through my head: What if, during the performance, the chair slid down the metal pins with a loud noise? I would be the one to interrupt this sophisticated performance; what would the girl on stage think?! Finally, the usher left. As I got up to try and put the chair back into place, I suddenly heard applause and quickly took a seat on my wiggling chair again. The artists had entered the stage! So, while this performance went along, I was semi-sitting on the chair, not really putting my weight on it… Tried to look very excited as the artists performed their contemporary poetry… But in reality being afraid of the chair giving in under my weight… That contrast of sophisticated performance on stage and the thoughts in my head, trying to balance the chair, was material for a slapstick scene. I have to put it into a film sometime. As the break started and people were standing up, I could finally fix the chair in a quick moment, and during the second half, I was sitting there thinking what a great slapstick comedy scene I had just been in… One that only I myself had witnessed, surrounded by people entirely unaware of it. A protagonist of a simple Real Life Comedy.

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