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Notes from the Cold: An Actor's Odyssey

Our noses are the color of apples, glowing in the snowy landscape. I clutch the hand-warmer in my pocket, so tempted to do it without a glove (the warning label on the package tells you not to). Susan Stewart The sound technician gives me his jacket because he says the cold doesn't affect him. I wait inside the cave in the woods where we are shooting, waiting for the magic word 'action' and think - If I were in Hollywood, they'd make sure I was warm. The director calls the prompt (I suddenly forget the temperatures) and the scene is great. The independent film The Future, by Casimir Nozkowski is in the can.

Weeks later I'm on set of a big budget made-for-television movie. We're on location outside the subway and, once again, we are freezing. The ultra-famous actress waiting in the train station is shivering, as PA's wrap her in layers (and hand-warmers). From B-movies to lobster-catering sets, we are all cold.

I've gone through a lot in the 20+ independent films I've worked on. From the families we form on a project, that disbands as soon as we wrap, to the uncertainty of a new movie's success. Working on a flick is a metaphor for life or, in some cases, a substitution for one. Contrary to my more feminist nature, in many of the roles I've played, I've found myself supporting struggling men.

My initiation into the film world was on the movie Tracks. It's about a girl who befriends a criminal homeless man in my hometown New York City. From there I went on to shoot Regret, a story set in an illustrious, futuristic vision of New York City, in which I drop a loser beau to get with an old flame. Among other films shot since then was Barbara Sicuranza & Chris Stein's Drive, where I'm chasing my son in the Spanish ghetto. In Jeff Huston's (Kissing Jessica Stein) Portrait of a Sellout I'm in love with a deadbeat who drinks canned beer.

Recently I wrapped filming in frosty Rochester on Death of Murphy, by Bryan Ferguson (a protegé of Spike Lee). Once again my character is in a miserable relationship... and again, life on the shoot went from cold to freezing!

So why do we endure? Actors and filmmakers withstand more than frostbite to complete a project. We brace against the cold with a burning passion for a cooler tomorrow.

Susan Stewart has been featured in New York Magazine, Real Simple, The New York Times, and Time Out New York.

The Future can be seen at

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