This month marked one year since I was hired for a role playing character at the Naval Justice School (NJS) in their mock trial program. Since that first class last December my character and responsibilities have grown. There’s even been a change in the government contractor that administers the contract. But through it all, it has been an amazing experience.
The majority of projects I have worked on the last twenty years have largely been one day or multi-day projects (particularly for film projects). But this recurring opportunity is not only important work for NJS but greatly contributes to our acting experience and respective networks.
While a few of us are original to the program, the majority have been part of the program since March. For me it feels like a traveling troupe of actors with our audience being the students and our stage being the courtrooms of the school.
For this round I was directly responsible for bringing on new actors. As I mentioned to some of them this past week, when I receive a resume I always try to find some sort of six degrees of separation or similar project. One of the actors had previously done a mock trial program at Harvard, so that was a no-brainer.
In my view it works when an actor is open minded to the process of one of these role playing characters and gets along with other actors. The latter may sound a bit obvious, but it’s probably the most important because we spend so much time together. When I think of the amount of socializing we did this time it confirmed that we had a solid group for this round.
The one thing I can’t emphasize enough is the networking part of it all. When I was doing background on a film earlier this year, one actress and I hit it off and she was the first one I thought of when filling one of the larger roles. With another, I came up with the idea for an original story with her in one of the starring roles. Another one of the actors has been enjoying a successful run in Rhode Island theater circles and some of us plan to see him in his latest play next weekend. But there is one actress that I’ve worked with since last December, that sadly won’t be returning this coming March as her husband has been transferred to another military base.
When I first met Helen last December, she was so positive, with a constant smile and eagerness to help others. It didn’t take long for us to become fast friends and when I was in Newport this past summer we caught up over lunch.
So many of us are coffee drinkers with constant walks to the kitchen or the Starbucks on base. Helen, who isn’t a coffee drinker, suddenly arrives with a coffee maker, filters and coffee! As we were all struck with amazement and gratitude her response was along the lines of, to make our day easier. On our last day this week Helen wrote each of us a personal note. This wasn’t email, but a handwritten note!
Helen’s generosity, kindness and talent is something all of us should strive for.
The weather in Newport last week could not have been nicer. On the drive home Friday, I was reflecting how fast time flies and the weather we had last December and March. Let’s just say it wasn’t very cooperative from black ice to blizzards! But this round could not have gone smoother. From the trials at the Naval Justice School where fourteen of us participated as role players in their mock trial program to evening festivities and touring, it was a great time all the way around.
As I discussed with one of the newer actors to the program, this is probably one of the most unique acting gigs they will do. It’s one thing role playing a character, it’s another interfacing with over sixty students, instructors and leadership at the school. It’s that depth of involvement that has many of us returning for every class.
But with another class over, it’s time to return focus on to other projects. That new idea I mentioned in my last blog post means I will be firing up Final Draft this week. While I won’t go into the premise just yet, it will largely be a one location drama. The genre—science fiction.
As a writer my ideas come from a particular moment or experience. With Justice Is Mind it came from writing the sequel to First World. For this story, I had a basic idea for it last year and wrote down some thoughts placed in a folder called, brace yourself, ideas. But it was over the last four weeks at the Naval Justice School when I started to think about it again and talked to one of the actresses who I already have in mind for a part. Perhaps it was also the fact that fourteen of us are either in a classroom or a courtroom that the idea started to blossom.
Like I told this actress, I generally can’t start writing a story until I have an ending in mind. I need to know where the journey will eventually end. Now, that may change at some point, but it’s something to work towards.
As for the genre, the numbers I’ve been gathering over the last several years just reaffirm the market interest in science fiction. Ten years after its release First World is still generating revenue. The psychological sci-fi of Justice Is Mind, combined with a dramatic story arc through a courtroom, is what brought audiences to theaters and now online.
But for this weekend it’s time to decompress from the last four weeks. However, I will leave you with one word that will be mentioned in this new story…