What I Learned on the Set of Avengers: Endgame

CULTURE | 7 mins

“I’m going to stop trying to be who I’m supposed to be, and just be me.”

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I just walked out of the theater after experiencing Avengers: Endgame. I’m speechless, which is why I’m typing this article. (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here. I’m legally bound by a nondisclosure agreement.)

This film is the largest cinematic event in history. It’s destroying everything in its path—opening weekend box office sales, the internet, and my expectations. I laughed. I cried. I somehow managed to make it through the entire thing and not pee myself. I can’t wait to do it all again.

I’m no film critic, but as the 96% on Rotten Tomatoes suggests, this motion picture is nearly perfect. Unique storytelling, instant classic action scenes, and the ending… oh, the ending. How could you possibly close out a decades-long story, told across 22 different movies? You create Endgame, that’s how.

I know first hand how much time, effort, and money went into this final chapter—I was part of it.

In October 2017, I spent two days in Atlanta on the set of Avengers: Endgame as an extra. Even as I type this, I know how amazing that sounds. But let me be honest, it’s not at all what you assume. Reality was 20 hours of mind-numbing work, in stifling southern heat, surrounded by celebrity-obsessed fans. The scene I was part of? It lasts all of twenty seconds. My big debut is less than 1% of the entire film. Still impressed? I’ll save autographs for the end.

My scene comes in about half-way through the movie. It’s an emotional moment for an Avenger, and the choice he/she makes in that scene is pivotal to the rest of the film. Not to toot my own horn, but it’s a big deal. And yet, for all the effort I put in on set, you can’t pick me out on the screen (keep looking, Mom!). But you know what? I don’t even care. Even though I’m not noticeable or listed in the credits (I stayed late to make sure), I know that, in some small way, I helped bring this blockbuster to life. And that was a dream come true.

There’s a scene in the movie I’ll never forget because it sums up my short time on Endgame perfectly. One of our heroes, to paraphrase them, says something to the effect of, “I’m going to stop trying to be who I’m supposed to be, and just be me.” This wasn’t a cop-out, a laissez-faire excuse to do whatever they wanted to do. Instead, in this moment, this Avenger chose to shed the expectations of others in order to live their own life, to become who they alone were created to be.

I’m 26 years old. I have a full-time job that I love. A wife that’s amazing. And I’m expecting my first child. I’m in Avengers: Endgame for crying out loud. And I’m still trying to learn what it means to be me.

Somedays, I feel confident in the choices I’m making and the person I’m becoming. Other days, I’m ready to go Thanos-snap on the whole thing. In those moments, though, I think back to the handful of days I spent on the set of Endgame, and three important lessons I learned while I was there.

1) There are no small parts
You’ll never find my face in Endgame. But I was part of production. I am a piece of cinematic history. And the truth is, the movie wouldn’t be the same without me. That’s not me being self-important. That’s me being honest. No, I’m not an Avenger. I’m not a Hollywood A-Lister. Chris Pratt doesn’t follow me on Instagram. But I was there, and my effort made a difference.

There are no small roles—in movies or in life. The credit goes to the person in the game, whether they catch the touchdown or merely set up the play that allows someone else to score. A bigger part—be it a promotion, or a relationship goal, or better vacations—won’t necessarily make my life more meaningful. The truth is, I can change the world from any spot on it, from the C-suite to the fast food counter. That’s because attitude and behavior is what changes things, not loftier titles or larger paystubs.

Which leads to point #2…

2) Recognition doesn’t equate to importance
Two years ago, when I walked onto the set of Endgame, my phone was confiscated. I don’t have any photographs of my time as an extra. I didn’t have anything to share on my Instagram story or Facebook page. Remember the non-disclosure agreement I signed? That meant legal ramifications if I did. I didn’t get any “Likes” or “retweets” for my efforts in the Georgia sun. And guess what? It was still meaningful.

We live in an insta-world. It’s all too easy to judge the meaningfulness of our life events by the social media traction it creates. All that feedback from social media can be thrilling… and very confusing. I’ve found that my “friends” and their online interactions with me exert way too much influence on the person I’m becoming. It makes me prone to become the person others want me to be, instead of the man I actually am.

Which leads to the most important thing I learned on the set of Endgame

3) Trust the director
On set, I had one task—do whatever the director asked. For much of my life, in trying to determine my identity and purpose, I thought I was the director. But lately, I’ve realized I’ve been sitting in the wrong chair. I believe there is a God who created the world and, even better, he actually likes me. The more I’m able to remove myself from the director’s chair and let God take his rightful place, the more my identity and purpose come into focus. It’s not easy. Sometimes I get it wrong. But I do my best to listen to Him, even dare to do what I think he’s saying. And I’ve made an astounding discovery: He’s pretty dang good at being God. Imagine that.

I believe God has good plans for my life. I believe He has great plans for your life as well. Those plans may not include recognition or more “important” jobs or roles. But I trust Him because the way he’s directed my life so far is light years beyond anything I could have ever achieved for myself, or even dared to dream. The Bible says it’s by His power at work in us that our lives begin to change. The more I’ve leaned into trusting that, the more I’ve seen it take place.

Other people may never know your story and you may never have your name in the rolling credits of life. But I believe this about you, because I’m learning to believe it about myself: you have a special purpose in the story God has been crafting since the beginning of time…and only you have the special abilities to fulfill it.

You being who God created you to be…now that’s a real superpower.

Written by Greg Tiffan on Apr 29, 2019