In this clip from Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio, actor Jeff Daniels describes the challenges of filming a scene opposite high-caliber actress, Meryl Streep. He compares one of their scenes in The Hours to a ping pong match and argues no one is better than Streep at moment-to-moment acting. Daniels anticipated subtle changes in her movements, inflection, and delivery from take to take because “they’re not going to use the one where you’re good, they’re going to use the take where she’s great.” They shot one scene eight times before Streep figured out what hadn’t felt right. It was the difference of her ending the scene sitting instead of getting up to leave.
As for what drives Streep’s moment-to-moment acting, “She’s chasing instincts. She’s chasing this new thing she just felt and is going this way with it,” Daniels says, pointing off to his side.
This video has been on my mind for a few days because of its relevance to my current efforts to re-examine how I’m spending my free/creative time outside the ol’ 9-5-er. I refer to myself as an “enthusiastic” Catholic because the word “devout” doesn’t capture the excitement I feel about Jesus. The time commitment of serving as a lay leadership member at my church has grown substantially, and so has my involvement at a local rehabilitation center. This introvert who used to allow only one extracurricular weeknight activity now is busy at least three nights/weekend days of the week, outside of work. I know full well there are people spread more thinly than I, but my personal limits have been stretched. It’s been possible because I’m passionate about and deeply committed to the initiatives in which I’m involved. All good things, but my time for writing, reading (which I consider “filling up the tank” for writing) and painting has taken a huge hit. Not to mention, Jon got me a killer camera for Christmas and I can’t put it down. The fact that I feel a loss, and a stirring of frustration about it, gives me pause. I feel guilty for saying no to additional service opportunities that inevitably arise through my current commitments. How can I sit in a chair alone in the evening, writing, knowing a group at church is busy planning an event and I declined to assist? That being said, I’m tired of going to bed each night frustrated that I failed again at finding time to create. I’ve been carrying around a notebook every day to quickly jot down ideas because inspiration is coming faster than I can write.
I liked the part of the video about Streep’s instincts. She was arguably born with a creative whisper that she listens to as she’s acting. I think everyone has a whisper, a talent, a gift. And I hope people don’t allow life to busy them up or put them in a box to the point where they ignore it or can’t hear it. I’m fortunate to have a job that allows for a healthy work-life balance. The challenge I’m facing is that my commitments outside of work have grown, and I never anticipated reaching the point that my pure creative time would be compromised, or that I’d care so much. I know The World isn’t waiting for my next word, but I think God gave me a writing whisper, an instinct I should listen to even if I don’t have an editor or a deadline.