Being in a Movie with a Preteen Actor
By Daniel Rock
Steven hadn’t acted before. He hadn’t ever done anything in front of a camera, and his lack of experience was only slightly less than mine and every other actor in the film. He was excited to be in the movie because to him, being a movie meant notoriety and money. More important of the two was the money, and we gave him the dream scenario of how he would earn one million dollars, but also reminded him that this dream was not likely going to come true. Steven has always been like the little brother I never had. I’ve known him from the time he was a very small child and have been there throughout most of his development into the young man he is today. I knew him the most of everyone on the production, and because of that, he felt most comfortable with me.
I started my training for the part of Jerry well before Steven’s training began, so I had some experience by the time we brought him in for rehearsals. It was a challenge at the beginning. He had difficulty focusing, looking his fellow actor in the eye, picking the line off the page, etc. He, like all of us, had little tics he had to work out, and more than anything, needed to practice the fundamentals, and convert a lack of experience into new muscle memory. I was there in the beginning of training and worked across from Steven when we first started, but after a while I was relieved of my duties when the directors of the film decided to focus on working with Steven solely during a series of fundamental training sessions.
It was natural for Steven to be nervous as he took on this new challenge. As most actors can attest, the beginning is the height of the discomfort and perhaps it's best to embrace it. I wasn’t there for a lot of the nights he learned the fundamentals and only got regular reports from the other producers of his progress. When I came back and worked with him, the difference was obvious. His focus improved and his skill increased mightily. He was much better at picking the line of the page, focusing on his fellow actor and mostly, he was more confident.
The first day of production included a scene where Steven and I were outside Josh’s house (where my character Jerry was staying for the summer). I remember feeling uneasy about it. I think everyone did, as it was really the first test to see if our pipe dream was actually plausible. The first day went well enough that we decided to do a second, third, etc.
We faced a ton of challenges each day we were on set. Sometimes Steven just wanted to have fun, and there were a lot of times where fun wasn’t happening. Some days he would come in with a poor attitude but he always found a way to get into the zone and give something. I think the most incredible thing about the whole experience with working with Steven as an actor is that we were lucky enough to capture those last few months before he hit puberty. It's crazy how lucky we got, because the change came almost immediately after we wrapped. In this film, we show a young boy that will never be that way again, and that’s something special. When we're all much older and living whatever our lives become, we’ll be able to look back on this project, hopefully with some nostalgia, and get a glimpse of how we all used to be.
Most of us don’t remember much about what it was like before puberty set in. I know I don’t, but for Steven, for better or worse, he’ll be able to. He is an incredibly sweet kid with a big heart and great sense of humor, and the movie wouldn’t be what it is without him. I really believe he steals the show and makes the film so much more than what it would be without him. We’ll always be indebted to him for sacrificing his 12th summer in helping us pursue our dreams.
WATCH THE OFFICIAL "JERRY" (2014) TRAILER:
Daniel Rock is a co-founder of DreamStreet Limited, an independent movie company. "Jerry" is his feature film acting debut. Watch more clips from "Jerry" at DreamStreetLimited.com