Living by instinct

We learn a lot about our true desires in childhood. Children are instinctive. I felt a calling to be a performer.

We learn a lot about our true desires in childhood.

Children are instinctive.

I felt a calling to be a performer. My brother was called to mechanics.

As a young boy, he occupied himself for hours watching construction crews on worksites. Today he is a mechanic and drives a truck.

I spent a lot of time alone in my room with my tape recorder hosting imaginary talk shows. I remember an endless parade of superstars of the early ‘90s — Michael Jackson, Whitney Huston, the New Kids on the Block and Oprah Winfrey — dropping by for engaging interviews in my bedroom.

Now I live in Vancouver and one of my favourite pastimes is hanging around movie sets.

A wonderful part of living in Vancouver is you never know when you may run into a film set.

I have watched the making of Case 39 (Renee Zellwegger, not yet released), Fantastic Four (Jessica Alba), Personal Effects (Michelle Pfeiffer, Ashton Kutcher, Kathy Bates, currently in post production) and a handful of independent productions.

The process of making of movies fascinates me.

The first film set I encountered was Zellwegger’s thriller.

Local gossip suggested a prop house would be burned down in the middle of the night. A friend and I hopped into her car and threaded through the streets, looking for a flaming house in the residential area around Knight Street.

When we found the set, several observers crowded together on the fringes of the location.

The air was cold and wet.

Our attire did not account for the weather conditions.

We huddled with the crowd and chatted to the extras. An imaginary rope kept us separated from the cast and crew.

One of the extras, in a blue shower robe, spouted rhymes and in general showboated to our delight. He seemed insane.

I wonder what he thought of us.

An hour into the hype and excitement, a black SUV pulled up. The door opened and out popped a diminutive Renee Zellwegger, a stark contrast to her larger-than-life magazine portraits.

Assistants guided her to the heart of the set.

She disappeared from my sight into the crew. I moved around to get a better view.

Was she speaking with the director?

I heard Zellwegger’s hearty laugh above the conversational buzz. She was downright jovial. (Tip: must possess positive attitude on set. Check.)

I inquired about the house burning. No one knew. We waited … shivering. We waited some more.

When we thought nothing was going to happen, someone called, “Quiet on set …. Action.”

Zellwegger ran up a pathway leading to the prop house and banged on the door frantically.

The door opened and she entered. The director yelled, “cut.”

I wondered whether Renee felt our presence on the sidelines. (Tip: On set remain focused).

The scene required two or three takes. I was ecstatic we were getting to see Zellwegger in action. When the director appeared satisfied they moved on to a scene in which Zellwegger drives a small white car five metres, slams on the brakes, excitedly exits the car, leaving the door open and scurries around the front of the vehicle.

The director yelled, “cut.”

That scene also required two or three takes. Two hours passed.

I have stood on the edge of many such film sets observing the movie-making process.

I dream the director sees me in the crowd of onlookers. He plucks me from the patch, sensing my innate acting abilities.

But not that day, not with Zellwegger centre stage.

The observers eventually gave up on the burning house and trickled away into the wee hours of the morning.

I constantly ask myself, are my daydreams an effective tool to brainstorm, a precursor to action or the procrastinations of denied fear?

Is it wishful thinking or the initial stirrings of determination?

If not from dreams, where does the rigour of a new path begin?

Western ideology is rooted in dreams of the future.

When Canada first became a country, people dreamed of a prosperous life in The New World.

Settlers plowed through the northern regions, with little regard for the natives who occupied the land, in pursuit of a dream — gold flowing in the rivers, fur-bearing animals everywhere and that every human spirit could live free.

Was it all a pipe dream, or the pursuit of a deeper longing?

History is the multi-layered story of mankind’s relationship to his dreams, some broken, some realized, many never engaged.

Is it the outcome that measures the quality of our lives, or the experience gained through the struggle of realizing our dream?

Everyone answers this question for themselves.

For me, the dream that my current reality can be altered in a moment drew me to the fringes of Zellwegger’s movie set, and others like it.

Despite years living with my dreams, it wasn’t until late in my university degree that chasing them gained immediacy.

I was motivated to seek my future, and it overpowered my hesitation.

I enrolled in acting classes.

I enlisted in singing lessons.

I signed up for rock ‘n’ roll burlesque dance lessons.

I joined a soccer league in Vancouver.

I began acting classes.

Fulfilling my dreams as an adult is simply indulging in my earliest childhood instincts.

Each small step is a mighty leap toward my point of origin … to work with Martin Scorsese one day.

Ashley Hunking grew up in Teslin. She is now a freelance writer and actor who lives in Vancouver.