When I went through my photo collection (see the previous post) I shared with my friends some of the embarrassing snapshots I had of them. I’m not going to post these photos on here, because it’s their shame to share. If my friends want to showcase their bygone dorkiness, they can get their own blog.
One of the friends I shared an embarrassing photo from the past with reciprocated with the above photo. While not embarrassing, it is presented with an odd caption that requires context, hence an entire blog post.
When this photo was taken, I was unaware that I was modelling as a potential love interest for paedophiles for a pamphlet (or book?).
The photo was from the set of a 1991 educational film targeted at the deaf community.
As a child, before the shyness kicked in, I dreamed of being an actor. I suppose I already didn’t like myself and wanted to pretend to be other people. So, when my agents (my parents) told me about an audition to be in a film, I was all for it. My aspiration to become an actor was so strong that the details didn’t matter.
Would I get paid? Would I get my own movie set trailer? Who are the caterers? Are they going to shave my head? Least of all, what was the movie even going to be about?
It took months after the audition before I received a letter announcing that I had earned a role of some sort in an untitled film about something.
The day I arrived on set, my outfit choice–my favourite outfit–was criticized by the director. She made me trade in my oversized neon coloured speckled t-shirt for another actor’s grey Scottie sweater as this actor’s mother had the foresight to bring several outfit choices.
After changing into our costumes and having our faces powdered, the seven of us were led into a classroom where large blocks were arranged in a semicircle, facing the lights and cameras. We were directed to watch the teacher, who I thought was going to discuss our roles with us. Instead, the teacher randomly started lecturing us about inappropriate touching, using stuffed monkeys as visual aids.
I did not see that coming at all.
At the end of the day, after many uncomfortable takes, I understood very well that an adult was not to touch me in the bathing suit area… or the mouth. Other than that, I was concerned about having performed poorly. I didn’t even do my lines!
Wait… why didn’t I have lines?
The title of the film was revealed when I received my copy in the mail: Sharing Secrets. I was in the flashback scene which explained why the director didn’t approve of my very 90s tee. An audition and a full day on set amounted to a two-second-long shot of me acting like I was confused by my own existence.
“…who am I?”
Given the purpose of this project, my plight as a pigeonholed child actor is completely insignificant. I didn’t know it at the time, as I was not one of the kids affected, but there was a sexual abuse problem in the deaf community which is what the film was trying to address.
The lack of sign language interpreters and other resources for the deaf in small towns meant many deaf children were sent to a residential school far away from home. Without local resources or support, many of these parents never even learned how to communicate with their deaf child. So you can imagine how vulnerable it made all these deaf children, having been separated from their families and being unable to communicate, to something like sexual abuse.
Indeed, I was fortunate to have grown up in the Vancouver, BC area where my parents were easily able to take sign language classes. I had to travel further than most kids to get to school, but at least I got to come home at the end of the day. I was free to be a semi-normal bratty child.
In 2008, I was preparing to move back to the mainland from Vancouver Island. A week before the move, my roommate decided to expedite the packing process by tossing all my stuff from the living room into a box, including a VCR player and a small, unusual collection of VHS tapes. The VCR player and all the tapes, except for Sharing Secrets, were left behind by a different roommate who collected oddities. While Sharing Secrets was an educational film about sexual abuse, the other tapes were… satirical pornography. (Here’s an NSFW photo of the VHS boxes for a couple of them.)
I didn’t feel like the VCR player was worth keeping and the humour in displaying creepy porn in my living room had waned. Big Brothers of Canada whisked away this box to one of their donation centres. As Sharing Secrets, at the time, was the only video I had ever seen that was done entirely in ASL, I saved it.
The next time I held this tape in my hand, I was living in Vancouver. I hadn’t acquired a new VCR player but wanted to show a friend the photos that were on the inside of the hard plastic case. However, when I opened up the case, it appeared to be a reveal of my preferred porn genre.
I did not see that coming at all. (But I bet you did.)
Of course, my dickhole of a former roommate had swapped the educational tape about sexual abuse with some grody skin flick! Sharing Secrets was likely still inside the VCR player the day it was donated. Whoever ended up with the VCR would be treated to a brief close-up of my confused seven-year-old face as I watched a teacher demonstrate molestation using plush monkeys.
I never looked at toy monkeys the same way again.