Character Building

Writing 101, Day Six: A Character-Building Experience

I met the guy once, and to be honest I’m not sure I even remember his name. I think it was John. I’m not the most observant of people to begin with. I’ve never been a people watcher; their lives and motives never interested me enough, perhaps because they were completely opaque to me. So I certainly wasn’t sure what to expect of a “film maker”. I suppose if you’d asked in advance I would have pictured someone with a good helping of ego, side by side with an equal amount of presence, along with a side dish of theatrics. Our brief phone call had not been particularly illuminating. But when he arrived at the door, tall, dark haired and lanky, probably about my age, unremarkable in dress and person, while not what I’d describe as a typical kiwi bloke (he was lacking in “she’ll be right”), he was quite sweetly down-to-earth. He didn’t burst forth with some version of “hello dahlings!”, but waited diffidently for an invitation to come in, while dusting his shoes on the mat. He did have those sensitive kind of features you’d expect on a creative sort, or perhaps it was more the guardedly sensitive expression that was settled on his features, quite unintentionally I’m certain, or he’d have wiped it off, at least the sensitive part.

He was here for a box of skinks*, of all things, and very grateful to have them, enough to travel across town to get them.

Skinks! Apparently they’re dead hard to catch, but don’t tell my kids that. An urgent social media twilight bark had been put out for a skink dynamo to star in a scene in John’s in-the-works sci-fi movie, and through degrees of separation, a friend who happened to be acquainted with the lizard-rustling super-powers of my children, passed on the call to us. Which is how John landed up at our door.

It was an odd little stage he’d come on to; the kids’ father had brought them back from a visit to meet John and personally hand over their skinks, and there was what could have been an odd confusion of husbands owing to the annoyingly persistent proprietary machinations the children’s dad breaks out in my home whenever there’s company and which throws me off my stride every time, so I was grateful that John seemed, within seconds, to have quietly and accurately assessed the situation and taken it in his (what looked to have been rather long) stride. His dark eyes could evidently look further into a situation than the stillness of his features would convey. In fact, stillness seemed central to his personality. Not the stillness of inaction, or even reserve, although I’d guess he was that with all but those he trusted, and those would be few. More the stillness of a pool of clear water cupped in a dip of land, just being.

We had a brief, politely bland conversational exchange about his movie. I said he was not a typical kiwi bloke, but his understated style was certainly blokish enough. Very understated indeed was the gratification he evidently had in the fact that his dreamchild was finally being birthed after years of gestation. Pleasure and pride were stitched delicately between the lines rather than present in the actual words.

In that brief, mundane exchange, I had a sense of someone whose story, more even than his movie, would be fascinating to listen to, not so much because of its action-packed script, but because of the delicate touch of the narrator, the intellect of the observer.

My impression of a gentle but observant intellect was crystallised still more by what I later read out of curiousity of his interactions on his movie’s work-in-progress Facebook page, where there was not an unkind or jarring phrase. I was left with the flavour of a rare person who would realise a dream without breaking the backs of others to achieve it.

 

*skinks being small lizards

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