So here we are.
One of my favorite movies is Broadcast News, written and directed by James L. Brooks. There are so many things to love about it: the actors, the oh-so-quotable dialogue, the moments (with and without Joan Cusack, in the meat of her scene-stealing moments era), the unconventional ending, and all of the truisms, especially in this scene, where Bill (William Hurt) is chatting with Jane (Holly Hunter) at a party:
Bill: That’s the first time I’ve ever seen you dressed like this. You look so clean and pretty.
Jane: What do you mean? ... Clean?
Bill: Well, at the office you always have this sort of film over you.
For years I thought this was mildly amusing and spoke more to the intensity and neuroses of Holly Hunter’s career-driven character.
But I’m here to tell you that there actually is a pervasive workplace film, as I have experienced it firsthand, at least in my career as a Muppet Performer.
There was a time, long ago, when I did not care what I looked like when I puppeteered. Who cares, I thought. I’m not on camera. I’m under a table or behind a crate or rolling on the floor. Who gives a crumb what I look like? So I wore absolutely no makeup at all. Sure, I looked like crap. But I was literally rolling on the floor. Who rolls on the floor and looks ready for a night on the town?
Those days are long over. I aged, I became vain/self conscious, there were more and more celebrity visitors to the set, and of course, there’s that memorable day, when you see yourself on the monitor with huge dark circles under your eyes, that changes everything. And today, with unforgiving high-definition monitors everywhere, not to mention cameras in every smartphone, one must always look presentable. Plus, you never know which day they’re going to take the cast and crew photo.
So yeah, I wear mascara to a job where my face spends most of the day hidden by the underside of a puppet.
And even still, even with all of the spackle, by the first break of the day at 10 AM, the ladies’ room mirror always shows me a face that looks as though it’s already been through a 16-hour day.
It is the film. I swear it.
I don’t know what creates the film. It could be the years and years of pollutants that build up in a studio over the decades and get stirred up every morning. The lingering sawdust, the ancient oils from fog machines, the old ash from long-abandoned flash pots. No studio ever gets a thorough dusting, as far as my experience has shown me.
It could be concentration and sweat. Even if it’s too soon in the day to have worked up a literal sweat, there is still the mental sweat. Furrowed brows don’t help keep a look put together, either. And yes, concentration is required to make shiny happy television.
Of course, the film could also be caused by all the rolling around on the floor. I guess when you roll around on the floor, you tend to look like crap whether you’re wearing mascara or not... mostly because, in a twist of irony, mascara smudges.
And sure, Holly Hunter’s character never rolled around on the floor, but she had that florescent office lighting and those dusty editing bays. The film doesn’t care what causes it. It always finds a way to your face.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.