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Lost in Translation, 11/01/2007
Jennifer Jonassen
by Jennifer Jonassen

I was so excited because I finally booked a paying gig that was shot on location and everything! It was going to be for an industrial that centered around the reenactment of one woman's spiritual journey that led her to lose 300 pounds. The reenactment was to be shot by a Japanese film company that is based in Northern California. I have to admit to you that I wasn't thrilled to play the "before" character. Needless to say, it is hard to play a role where your body being criticized is the plot.  But in the end I was drawn to the project because it was a true story of a real woman who had struggled and found a spiritual path to weight loss as opposed to some hokey diet. They hired me sight unseen (I never auditioned with them in person) and asked me to fly out immediately.

Before I accepted the role, I asked for a script which they said was only written in Japanese so they instead linked me to her story on line. I did some additional googling and was impressed and moved by her story and decided to take the project on. I was very clear and upfront about what my boundaries were: I don't want to be a fat joke ( i.e., no slo-mo running with pork rinds) & I won't do any scenes depicting binge eating in a comical way. I was assured repeatedly that this was a project that was demonstrating the spiritual program that led to her personal transformation.
Upon my arrival, I was met at the airport by a young member of the film crew who (in his own estimation) didn't speak English too well. While making obligatory & awkward small talk he mentioned that the project I was shooting was actually a sensationalized news program in Japan that featured funny news stories (not an industrial for a spiritual weight loss program). Red flag.  So now I am freaking out and text messaging all my friends and family for support and advice. When we finally arrive at the location I voice my concerns to another member of the production crew. She assures me it is not meant to be comical. However, when we finally begin to shoot the first thing they want me to do is step on a scale that would break and read error. They openly admitted it was meant to be humorous. So I asked if they would just shoot my reaction to stepping on the scale and leave out the joke. They would not do it. Further, I was told there was at least one other comical scene involving the woman's love interest where the two characters just eat uncontrollably. They would not change that scene either. Mind you, these were the only two scenes that I objected to out of several that I was willing to shoot. The production assistant and I mutually agreed that the project was not a good fit for either of us. And after many calls to casting directors and producers they finally agreed to fly me back home right away. On the flight home I couldn't help but wonder if the woman who had lost 300 pounds would want her life portrayed that way.



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