Notes from the Set: The Last Sin Eater, Salt Lake City, Utah

Peter sent us notes that he had written about his work while filming The Last Sin Eater. These notes are extremely interesting and exciting to read. They give us a glimpse of Peter’s feelings about his role and how he approaches his craft. We are so happy and appreciative that Peter shared this with us!

A note of caution: Peter does reveal a few details about the movie that you may consider to be “spoilers”. If you don’t want to be “spoiled”, don’t read any further.

From Peter:

This is a great role!

I am playing a character here that doesn’t look like me, doesn’t sound like me and doesn’t move like me. I can’t think of a better definition of an Actor’s role.

And to increase the challenge even more, you don’t see his eyes for 90% of the movie. Acting on film is all about the eyes. On stage it is also very much about the voice and ‘presence’. But film is about thought, seen through the windows of the soul.

But not this time; not for me.

My character, The Sin Eater, lives separate from all Society. To look upon him is to be damned. So I play in a huge leather cape and hood and there are only the merest glimpses of his face throughout the story until the climactic moments when he is unmasked.

This presents a really interesting challenge for an actor and what I am exploring in tackling the problem is to think about it quite differently from how I would normally approach a role. This feels more akin to a dance piece or a cave painting. It is about bold, dramatic shapes; shadows and silhouettes; mythic figures moving across the vast canvas of a half-dreamed landscape. It is about rhythms and flow, about wildness and the monsters of our subconscious.

Having said all that, it was two weeks in before I had to do anything of significance in the film, for the obvious reason that I am constantly trying to be invisible. I spend a large portion of the movie either off camera or running to hide from view in the forest; my first days I was nothing but a voice off camera and a momentary wipe across the lens!

But now we are into the meat of the story and the Big Scenes on which all hopes rely.

I think in any story, in any characterisation, there are a few moments on which everything hinges; if they don’t work then the characterisation is hollow and falls, the story is shallow and loses our complicity.

Acting is a funny business. It’s so rare that you are actually called upon to do anything of consequence. Most acting work consists of walking from one place to another and having conversations which really do little other than fill the audience in on plot info, stuff where you have to be accurate but you can’t be brilliant. In these moments, a thousand different actors would be totally interchangeable.

Today was the first of the ‘significant’ scenes: the funeral ritual. The eating of the sins of the departed so that they might pass on to the afterlife purified. It’s the kind of scene where each actor brings something quite specific and definitive, something that speaks of their view of character and story and in this movie it sets up the entire world and belief system that we are trying to create. I think it went well.

The true challenge in all of this, for me, is to make the character believable both as a myth and also as a human. Because that is his journey. And in styles, that is the journey from bold theatrical strokes to filmic naturalism. You don’t often get the chance to make bold choices. Naturalism is our modern idiom. Smallness. The everyday. So this is a real thrill ride and I’m grabbing the opportunity with both hands. This is a chance to really run the gears and see what power there is under the hood (literally as well as figuratively in this case!).

It’s a wonderful challenge.

And I am loving it.

And I think I may be doing the best work of my career.

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