The voices echoed off the white ceilings. I was an extra in a film, standing with a small group, being shepherded around different sites. Things I didn’t understand were being explained to us but I couldn’t tell if what was being said was actually the script being read by an actor playing the guide, such was the disorientation. Everyone seemed to be in character. Even the group I was with. So I decided to improvise my own responses.
The theme of the film was another thing I was unclear of. I hadn’t seen the script or been introduced to the casting director. The codes and conventions, the behaviour around me suggested that the film was similar to those made in the early seventies about complex preparations to explore space.
We were herded into a bus, stopping at one place then going off somewhere else without any explanation. The buses revealed ‘Zone 1’ or ‘Zone 2’, etc. One place we were led to had the feel and scenario of a waiting room where we were separated by gender and taken to a warehouse that was divided into dormitories. It was expected that we were to retire for the night. During these jaunts my eyes met the figure of a young woman whom I felt a connection to. Initially I thought she was a principal character. I spoke to her for the first time in the waiting room then outside my dorm. On each occasion, and since, I felt a strong impression that she was still in character. Sensing this I played along, responding to her in a way I believed was expected of me. After we spoke I forgot what we had been speaking about. While our interaction felt significant it was also restrained.
In another zone I found myself connected emotionally to another girl, a different character, I first believed, but on closer inspection it turned out to be the same young woman I’d met previously. I tried to touch her shoulder. I felt that this is what my character wanted to do but she said that she was disappointed at my connection to the first girl. This confusion only increased when the project we were part of followed a strange plot that I couldn’t control, where, without quite knowing what my motivation was, or how I ended up there, I found myself running through houses, backyards and dropping off a first floor balcony. Before I was able to question how everything I’d once begun to accept had fallen away I found myself on the bus, going from one place to the next, often finding myself in crowded corridors, seeing people going in and out of rooms with no objective. And yet, in my story, if I wasn’t with this girl, I could feel her near me, in every scene. In every zone I looked for purpose and motivation.
I’m still inside the project. I’ve long since forgotten why I’m here at all. Even though there are dormitories I never sleep in. The momentum of the crowd that never question or judges the flow just keeps moving me along.