Most of you have probably heard of the “green screen” that’s used in movies as a background for whatever and where ever the director wishes it to be. De Niro is not in Dublin solving a series of murders but safely in front of a “green screen” that shows whatever city he enters. Even walking down the streets of Algiers is nothing more that walking down a carefully selected path in a safe sound studio with a turkey sandwich waiting for you in your trailer when you’re done.
Just look at a character’s shoulders and you can see how clean and neat it appears yet slightly not in union with the background. Welcome to money saving location shots. Fake? yes. Realistic? You bet, these guys have perfected the art of imperfection. Fooled? Not if you’re drawn into the story and don’t even notice that Pacino is not inside a bank. Acting? I imagine that this is more acting than actually being in Algiers which would help your character development. Standing in front of a green screen with a fan blowing demands some kind of acting, doesn’t it?
I’ve been ordained a priest less than a day and my first Mass is in the parish’s convent next door to the rectory. My real official “First Mass” isn’t for another two months but the resident priests didn’t feel like having Mass for the nuns less than my 24 hour dripping wet ordination. So, I carefully follow the book to honor my first “out there” experience to a group of nuns who do this everyday. The consecration prayers come up and I expect a little Algiers-action or at least some smoke behind me. Nothing happened. The nuns are silent with heads bowed and I’m speaking the words of Jesus. (I had longer hair then and a little fan to my left might have helped those powerful words be delivered.)
The Mass ended, the nuns were content with their daily ritual and it’s 8:30 a.m. in the morning and there’s no turkey sandwich waiting for me in my trailer with my name on the door (along with a star!) and the director telling me that the first take was the best. It was just another Mass for another group that expected another Mass for a new day.
After 34 years I’d still like the “green screen” to accentuate this ordinary daily Mass experience. Alas, I only have the same old crowd, doing the same daily ritual and calling upon the extraordinary power of God to be the “green screen” I don’t have behind me.