Only in Hollywood can someone be set on fire, charge through a major explosion, and fall 50 feet – and be completely invisible.
It’s Oscar season again. Which means that once again, we’re starting to hear folks make the case for the great missing piece of the Academy Awards. And I don’t mean the absent Best Director award for “Little Women,” or the lack of attention to “Rocketman,” or the alarm clock to wake up the audience after five and a half hours when it’s finally time to announce Best Picture.
No, this is an area where the film industry has long been stunted. Literally.
Hollywood has a complicated relationship with its stunt men and women. In an age where action movies of all sorts rule the box office, a good stunt performer is more necessary than ever, even in these days of computer-generated effects. But at the same time, the audience also needs to forget that they’re there. A too-obvious double for the actor is like a boom mic suddenly dropping into the frame – a bit of reality that suddenly takes you out of the story.
And so, the athletes and daredevils of the film world mostly work in obscurity. The only time a studio calls attention to the stunt work is when it wants to underline that an actor or actress “did their own stunts” in order to emphasize how incredible the film is … and even then, it’s likely there was a little quiet help behind the scenes.
No worries, right? After all, the audience also isn’t supposed to think about the cinematographer, the sound editor, or a dozen other specialists and teams who helped build the magical tale before their eyes – except that each of those get called out and honored, however briefly.
Stunt actors appear everywhere. They make the story work. And if you don’t know to look for them, you’d never realize how much they mean.
We all know people like that, don’t we?
This last week, my friends and I at the Longmont Theatre Company lost one of those “vital invisibles.” Mind you, Tracy Cravens wasn’t a stunt woman. In fact, she would have laughed her head off at the mere suggestion of it, likely with a joke about catapulting out of the way of the set-building crew.
But from the background, Tracy made sure that the show would go on.
Tracy, who served on the LTC board, was frequently the producer of our shows. In Hollywood, producers are big deals with bigger headlines. In community theater, producers are usually one line in the program and the smiling person you met for 15 seconds in the lobby. They’re also the hubs that keep the wheels spinning so that there can be a show, the masters of logistics who make sure that everything turns up in the right place at the right time. And that often includes tirelessly promoting the show, so that the audience turns up as well to see the wonders that have been created.
Tracy did that. With humor. With energy. With occasional head-shakes of exasperation. And always, with success.
To its credit, LTC recognized her phenomenal efforts before she left us way too early at the age of 53. A while back, she was given the Brooks Hall Award, the annual honor given to the people who have gone above and beyond for the theatre company. She was clearly startled – and just as clearly honored.
That sort of recognition is important. For all the vital invisibles out there.
Take a moment. Remember your own. Think about the folks who get the work without the glory, and make it all happen. The ones who hold everything together. The ones who suddenly get missed when they’re gone.
Take the time to thank them. And if you ARE them, thank you. You’re the ones who make all of us better.
And that’s a pretty amazing stunt.