Thursday, November 24, 2005

Charmed, part 2

I'm back on set, back in uniform, doing "Charmed" my second day.

I was late for work today--guess traffic is worse because of the holiday tomorrow--but it was no big deal. I've lived too long as an irresponsible git to change now.

Like I said yesterday, I wasn't really wanting to be at work today. Nothing against Paramount or "Charmed," but I had to get to Vegas by three or four. I was kind of freaking out, because if my ride left without me, I'd be . . . well, foashed, as my pal Merrill used to say. I guess he didn't want to use the word "scragged" in mixed company.

I mentioned in yesterday's entry that I was the only cop working with a moustache and goatee. One of the guys asked if anyone had given me a hard time about it, and I said no. He said, "I woulda thought they'd kick you off the set lookin' like that." I explained that without my facial hair, I look like a twelve year old boy. That must've been why no one mentioned it yesterday, right? Either that or extras are human props and even in a close-up, like I got yesterday, we're never really looked at with any interest.

Oh, right, unless you're the aforementioned hot chick.

I worked with Holly Marie Combs today. I don't know if she's good-looking or not. Shoulda brought a slide rule.

They had a little kid on the set for a couple of shots. He was seven, and had no lines, but made more than I did all week.

I had a rubber gun today, whereas yesterday I had a nice-looking Heckler & Koch 9mm replica. Actually, I know nothing about guns, but it was heavy and made me feel like a man when I held it.

At one point during the morning, I was placed at the door of the SWAT vehicle, in charge of securing the door once the SWAT guys run out. Then one of the principles (again, that means "actor with speaking lines") asked me if I'd hand him the bullhorn when he negotiated with the bank robber, so they replaced me at the door. Then, after rehearsal, they decided the negotiator would already have his bullhorn, so I was S.O.L.. But THEN, there's a part where the bank robber calls the negotiator on a cellphone, so they had me run up and hand the cellphone to the negotiator ("You want my blood, take my blood!"). We rehearsed it again, and this time he handed me the bullhorn and traded it for the cellphone. When we actually shot it, the negotiator ("I'm a stranger to you, you have no idea what I am capable of.") took off his jacket and dropped it on the ground when he tried to do the trade-off. On the next take, I took both the bullhorn and the jacket. We shot that three times . . .

And then I heard some words that chilled my very blood. It was the director, a sour-looking man with a grey beard, and he said to those next to him, "You ever see a street cop with a goatee before?" I raised my hand to cover my face, but the damage was done.

I told the director I had my razor and could run and shave it off. "Do," he said, with less humour than Collin Quinn. So, I tore off running, nightstick flopping, to the nearest bathroom, and used liquid soap as shaving cream to lose the goatee. It was rough going; either soap is a bad idea or the razor is dull. I considered shaving my moustache as well, but every cop I know has a moustache (heck, even the one in the Village People, right?), and I left it.

I ran back to the set, and they had already moved on. Travis, the handsome extra I called a chingaso yesterday, had replaced me and done the trade off. And gotten the girl too, with my/his luck.

Well, I went back to controlling the crowd for the next scenes. One of the A.D.s told me to shave the moustache as well, and I did, a lot slower and a lot less happy, since I wanted to go home by then and it was clear I wouldn't make it to Vegas in time.

I came back. We had to pretend the helicopter was flying over, since they only had it the one day, and turned on a wind machine to simulate its presence. Among the onlookers was a very intimidating black guy with a bald head and a cool brown trenchcoat. He didn't fit, and hadn't been here yesterday, so I approached him and beat him with my nightstick (hey, he was black, wasn't he?). No, actually, I asked him if he was a bad guy or something. "I'm a demon," he said. We talked for a few minutes. The guy's name was Gary and he was really cool. Especially for a demon. I asked him if he got fan letters from horny women, like the murderers in prison do, and he said, "Oh, you have no idea." That was pretty neat.

Right around then, a prop guy saw me and said, "Didn't you have a beard yesterday?" "They made me shave it," I said. "Well, that's gonna f**k up continuity. Didn't you tell them you'd already been established yesterday?" I didn't know what to say, so I did what people in Los Angeles do when you ask them directions: I pretended I didn't speak English.

Okay, that's a lie, I just apologised and went about my business.

Which was only for a few minutes more, as they wrapped us around quarter of twelve. I called my uncle as I was changing out of my uniform and he said he'd wait a little while more for me. I went immediately to the freeway (which was, like, a half hour later, since this is L.A.) and ended up stuck in slow-to-stopped traffic when I hit the I-15. I cursed with a sore cursing, as the guys used to say.

During the drive, I listened to a lot of Eighties tunes and thought a great deal. I came up with an idea for a neat little Sci-Fi short I could shoot over Christmas with Merrill and at least one other person. I got pretty excited about it right around Jean, Nevada, even though it'll probably never get made. But it's great to have dreams.

I'll say no more, as it's four in the morning and I need to get SOME sleep. I'll be sleeping in my childhood bedroom for the first time in . . . I don't know, twenty years maybe.

My mom was happy to see me. Nice that one woman does.

Rish "The Beardless Warrior" Outfield

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

November 22nd, 2005

Jeff talked to me about "Salem's Lot: The Illustrated Edition" the other day, so I bought one as soon as I could. It's very nice, even though I already have a hardbound "Salem's Lot" (anybody want it?), and includes some deleted portions from the first draft of the novel. Those were what I was most interested in (indeed, the only useful part of King's "On Writing" to me was his few pages about rewriting that awful short story about the haunted hotel room), and in skimming over them, I made a disturbing realization. What does it say that material deemed expendable from something King wrote at age twenty-three is better than ANYTHING I've ever written?

Something to think about.

Today I'm working "Charmed" at Paramount. Not a far distance from my place, I faced practically no traffic in getting here this morning. I must be grateful for the little things, as my grandma used to say.

I just called a real handsome extra I see a lot on sets a chingaso. He didn't seem to appreciate it when I told him what it meant. No big shock that my number of friends left in the world is now countable on one hand.

A leper's hand? my evil inner voice asks.

I'm re-reading "Harry Potter 4" on set. Another writer who's better than I'll ever be. But hey, aim for the starts, like they say, maybe you'll lose control and fly into the sun.

So, "Charmed." Another show I've never watched. Strange, though, since it's been on since 1998 (I checked) and that Alyssa Milano is one good-looking witch. Even if she used to have really bad teeth.

I haven't seen any of them, though. The girl from the John Ritter show that everyone said was so hot is on set. I guess we're doing 2nd Unit stuff. Holly Marie Combs or whatever is over doing First Unit.

Shoot, I just remembered I was gonna try to take that Harry Potter girl to the movie. She was pretty cute, but even more personable, and I called her "The Girl Who Lived" until I learned her name. I met her on "Desperate Housewives" and saw her a lot on other sets; she was friendly. I was going to ask for her number one night when we were both on FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, but she disappeared. A part of me says, "Who needs the aggravation? She never woulda gone for you anyway." While that might be true, she seemed like the type who could've been fun to hang out with. The sort who would call me too, if she wanted to do something.

"If only I could meet someone new. I guess my chances of that happening are somewhat diminished, seeing that I'm incapable of making eye contact with a woman I don't know."

This is much more of a stream of consciousness thing than an organized essay or journal entry. Sorry, kids.

On the show, I'm playing a uniformed cop again, this time a San Francisco P.D. officer. There's a patch on the arm with an eagle on it and the motto "Oro en paz, fierro en guerra." That's interesting, sorta. I have a beard and goatee for some reason, but nobody's given me a hard time about it. Don't know if it's allowed or not.

We're shooting on the New York street at Paramount, where a bank robbery is taking place. A car has driven through the bank window (good aim) and a helicopter has landed right outside its doors. A cadre of SWAT Team members are aiming impressive-looking automatic weapons at the copter, while the uniformed police like me are holding back onlookers behind sawhorses and yellow tape. A gruff, unconvincing dude has grabbed the "Eight Simple Rules" girl and is holding a gun to her head, dragging her to the helicopter to make his escape. The SWAT guys are a little more believable--they're all muscular and differing degrees of ugly--I have on good authority that they're really SWAT Team members.

In one set up, the policemen are in a stance, awaiting a move by the bank robber/kidnapper and have our weapons drawn. I asked one of the SWAT guys if he wouldn't mind showing me how to hold my pistol. He showed me the way real police hold them and the way movie cops hold them. I chose the former.

At the end of the day, for some reason, they singled out me and my partner (a bald black dude with a voice like Vanity Smurf) to be in a close up, two-camera shot. Amazing. I'd like to think that it's because I looked so professional. Or because I showed initiative. Or because I was the only one with a goatee. Or because my partner was so darn cute. Or because of some kind of kharmic retribution, but I'll give my kidney up on eBay if the shot actually makes the show.

They told us about halfway through the day that we would not be coming back tomorrow. At first I was disappointed, because a paycheck is a paycheck (as I think I've mentioned), but then I thought it was for the best, since I need to drive down to Vegas for Thanksgiving. Then, as they were sending me home, they changed their mind, and I do have to come back tomorrow. So, it's up in the air whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. But hey, like Sarah Conner's coworker said, "In a hundred years, who's gonna care?"

When they started up the helicopter, it made the coolest sound and caused a pleasant wind to kick up around it. The weather is absolutely perfect today, as it has been for a week. At six this morning, I didn't even need a long-sleeved shirt. Something I should keep in mind the next time I'm tempted to move back home.

Speaking of which, it looks like I'll be heading north on Wednesday sometime. I'll be hitching a ride with my uncle and spawn in Las Vegas. I should be happy to be going home and seeing my family, but I'm afraid they'll all look at me with disappointment in their eyes and ask how I lost my job and comment on how fat I've gotten.

At least HARRY POTTER was good.

I've really enjoyed doing this blog journal thing. Even though I doubt anybody but tyranist and the Spaminator ("try my evil new website!") are reading it, it's given me more of an inclination to write what's been going on each day. And because so much changes and I work so much, it'll all melt together in my memory, and soon the details will be lost, like a photograph left out in the sun.

Stephen King I'm not.

I think back to when I was first in L.A., and the extra work I did then. Would've been cool to read about those adventures ("Today I sat around on 'Boston Public.' They only used me in one scene. I wish I had died at birth.") on a blog. I guess I could go through my old journal entries and put them online. Don't know if anyone would be interested (even me), but it's sort of a posterity thing. Those future not-to-be children wanted to read it, maybe future nieces and nephews would too.

Heck, maybe I should tell my mom about my blog. She complains that I never write or call enough. Would she be interested to know I just checked out the "8 Simple Rules' girl's ass?

Looked pretty good, actually.

Rish "Not J.K. Rowling Either" Outfield

Sunday, November 20, 2005

September part 2

Today was more of the same, in the same location, same wardrobe, same makeup (although I got spattered with fake blood today and not yesterday). I was less tired today, since I got some real sleep last night, but they worked me harder. We started a lot earlier than yesterday, and Stone shot many, many takes of the same action as yesterday. I'd say I stumbled around, confused and dirty, for thirty takes today.

Nicolas Cage was indeed on the set today, and I was told that he was there yesterday too, though he was hard to recognise. The man seems to have lost a great deal of weight for the role (either that or he's just starting to gain it back from playing the skeletal motorcyclist in GHOST RIDER) and had a moustache. I was able to watch him psyche himself up for a performance (he jogged in place quite a bit), but didn't get a chance to talk to him.

Oliver Stone was wearing bright red today rather than pink. I had no interaction with the man, though I did bump into him yesterday, leaving something of a grey smudge on that hot pink shirt of his. Have I mentioned that I may be the least-coordinated human being on the planet?*

A guy named Nick, a police officer in Santa Monica, acted with me, guiding me through the crowd, and he was a real professional and a darn nice guy. He wants to do screenwriting, but can't get through his first script. But he has a black belt and is proficient with nunchucks.

Not much of note happened today. I did only the one scene, just shot from different angles and managed to keep most of the makeup and soot on my hands and face, though it itched and irritated my nose a little more today.

After a while, I just sat in holding (the sort of waiting/rest area for extras) and read my book (getting it supremely filthy in the process) and chatted with others (an Israeli and a German). I got into a discussion about Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS, since it comes out on DVD on Tuesday with the guy from Israel. I really didn't like the film (to make a long story short: my face still hurts from that slap of an ending), but the friend I saw it with just thought it was so darn fine that it must have been my own black, corroded soul that tainted it for me. So I'm honestly curious what others thought of it.

As we were talking, a small, middle-aged woman spoke up. She plays an alien on the TV show "Invasion" and said that she refused to see WAR OF THE WORLDS for personal reasons. She then told us about Tom Cruise's crazed Scientology antics, how badly the extras were treated on set, and how he's another in a long line of homosexuals set up with starlets by managers and/or publicity teams. Clearly running the show now, she told us she had asked her agency not to book her on WAR OF THE WORLDS, and wished they had not booked her on this particular movie either.

"Oh, is Oliver Stone a gay Scientologist?" someone (might've been me) asked her.

The woman told us her reasons: she was from New York, had lived through September 11th, and out of respect for those who gave their lives and those survivors whose lives were torn apart from the events of that day, she didn't want to work on the movie. Not giving me a chance to ask her to clarify, she began to cry, telling us she was sorry to be there, where people were capitalising on the tragedy, but was booked on the gig before she had a chance to turn it down.

Well, I didn't wish to upset her further, so I let her change the subject to the opening of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and the part where the kids hide in the outhouse in SCHINDLER'S LIST, and then the German guy interrupted her to talk about the historical inaccuracies in those films, and how the World War II-era Germans weren't all evil, and how the Russians were the real bad guys. Somewhere in there, I got up and went in the other room, preferring to read my book.

But afterward, when it was time to go home, and all the sooty and/or injured extras were sitting together, I mentioned what she had said to the others, wondering if any of them knew what she meant about being sorry she was there, and the disrespect this film showed to those who perished on that awful day.

I honestly don't know what she meant. I mean, movies are where we (Americans, at least) get our history, even more than classes, fever dreams, and Time/Life books. The vast majority of what we know about the Old West, the Great Depression, and the Dark Ages comes from movies, same with World War II, and do you think 90% of people under twenty-five would even know what The H.M.S. Titanic was without James Cameron's movie? I remember taking my little sister to see PEARL HARBOR a few years back, and afterward, she said, "Did that really happen?" I explained that yes, FDR really did stand up, kids really were playing baseball at seven a.m. on a Sunday, and indeed, Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett fell in love with the same girl back in 1941, among other things. She said, "Wow. I thought we fought the Germans in World War II." I said, "No, that was the Korean War."

But I digress. I wanted to know what upset her, specifically. Knowing nothing about the script, I thought maybe she thought SEPTEMBER would be another of Oliver Stone's conspiracy theory movies (like JFK), but I think she was opposed to the idea of ANYBODY doing a September 11th movie. Is it because it's too soon? Is it the idea that someone could possibly make money from telling the story of this particular event? Is it because watching it unfold on a big screen might reopen still-healing wounds? Is it because we were shooting in L.A.? Is it because filming it might cheapen the occurrence, make it into some kind of melodrama, or be historically inaccurate (like U-571)? Is it because of all the grab-assing I mentioned yesterday (and yeah, there was excessive amounts)?

If you have any ideas, I'm genuinely curious.

Professor Rish Outfield

*Katie Anderson, who once tried to teach me to waltz, could attest to that.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

September in November

I'm very, very dirty right now, and that's not just my strict religious upbringing talking.

Today and tomorrow, I am working on Oliver Stone's 9/11 movie, tentatively titled SEPTEMBER. Like on SPIDER-MAN 3, today is the first day of the shoot (in L.A., anyway), and like SPIDEY, Downtown L.A. is subbing for New York City. This time, however, we're shooting in a nicer, cleaner, more scumbag-free area of the city, and there are legitimate businesses on this street (like a Subway, Burger King, and Washington Mutual).

There are a handful of familiar faces among the extras, most of them from the set of SPIDER-MAN. Also easy to recognize is Oliver Stone, standing out in a bright pink t-shirt (an odd-looking man up close, he makes Sam Raimi look like Steve McQueen).

I am playing a New York pedestrian again, but as it's set in the summer and in the business center of the city, I am in a nice shirt and tie. Or I would've been, had wardrobe not changed me out. You see, besides the many firefighters, NYPD, paramedics, FBI agents, postal workers, construction workers and nudists, the crew asked for ten volunteers to be soot-covered survivors. There were twenty or so who volunteered, and I was among those chosen. I have always loved to put on makeup and pantyhos-- er, makeup and stage blood, so I was happy to be dirtied up for the production.

Another four volunteers were chosen to be walking wounded, and they got cuts and blood all over their clothes (which were partly theirs and partly wardrobe's). One guy was so blood-covered that he looked like an extra in a George A. Romero flick (and I was really jealous).

For me, they subbed out my shirt and tie, then put glycerin on my face, neck, and arms (to appear as sweat), then dusted me up with soot and ash (which I was told was actually flour, dye, and baking soda). It smelled like cake mix, and I got it all over my arms, hair, back, tie, neck, and face. I was fortunate or unfortunate enough to be one of the most filthy ones, and my normally brown hair has been grey ever since.

After we had changed and waited around for an hour or so, a new guy--someone I'll call Guido--joined us in the line. I guess he had heard of our volunteering and assumed we would be paid extra for getting dirtied up (a "makeup bump," I think they call it). Lots of times, there are people like Guido, who understand instinctively that the rules don't apply to them, and they always win in the end. You see it almost constantly, and not just in Los Angeles: he's the kind of guy who sees the Please Turn Off Your Cellphones message before a movie, and yet his rings an hour later. Guido's the guy who smokes his cigarette right outside your open living room window, so as not to stink up his own apartment. The guy who drives onto the soft shoulder of the freeway to get to the exit before all the cars that have been lined up there.

Well, this time, crime didn't pay, because the A.D. who asked us to volunteer had written down our names in the morning, and pulled him out of the line right before we finally had our makeup applied. Guido was cast out with the devil and his angels, and is now ducking over to craft service when it's time to go back to set.

Wow, that was a tangent, but it's either write this blog or sleep.

I'll make a confession to you: I'm happy to be working. I worked six days last week and six the week before, and it looks like this week will be the same. I don't have to work so often, but I choose to. I like overtime. It's gotten to the point where I don't even mind getting up at five o'clock. It beats the alternative: sitting around my flat, eating Cool Ranch Doritos, and pondering why I'm so alone, contemplated where my life went so wrong.

Now, on with the countdown. I was worried that it would never come out of my clothes, shoes, and backpack, but it's already gone from my pants and most of my white shirt, having simply fallen or rubbed off during the shoot and long downtime (if you're ever a film extra, ALWAYS bring a book to set; I usually bring two, as well as the notebook I'm writing this in).

The fourteen of us volunteers have had a very easy day so far: I and another sooter were used in one shot where I stumbled around, looking confused, while the police converge to decide what to do. There were many takes--perhaps ten, but the cameras moved onto various characters throughout, so it wasn't so bad/inefficient.

There are many extras--a hundred maybe, but none of the other dirty or wounded extras were used by the time lunch rolled around.

Or perhaps I should say "by the time lunch SHOULD have rolled around." In my last journal/blog entry, I stated that a production technically doesn't even have to give its non-union extras a lunchbreak, though it had never happened in all the times I've worked (they'll sometimes make you buy your own lunch, or will dismiss you before lunch comes along), but define irony--today seems to be just such a theoretical instance.

We started at 5:30am, and it's now 1:30, so lunch SHOULD have happened if it was going to. People are saying that the production doesn't want to lose the daylight, so they're opting to work through lunch. For those who are in SAG (the union that covers extras as well), the rewards will be great: for every fifteen minutes after working six hours, they will earn what is called a meal penalty, a payment in addition to their hourly wage that will continue to add up until they are fed or dismissed. Those lucky souls in SAG will make as much in meal penalties as I will for my full day's work.

'twould be nice.

Let's see, what else can I tell you, since I'm not doing much except sitting and getting everything I touch (this notebook included) filthy?

What we're shooting today involves several New York Port Authority cops and FBI, none of which I recognize. Well, there is one young, dark-haired cop that is familiar in an Italian-friend-of-Leonardo-DiCaprio's-in-TITANIC sort of way. But he seems like kind a tool, to be honest.

Wait, scratch that--I shouldn't say something like that about the man, just based on the hour I was around him. He's a pretty big tool, to be honest. How's that?

There was a lot of joking and horseplay among the featured actors (the "principles," as they are known in the industry), with dancing, fake fighting, singing, and more cursing than a visit to Dakota Fanning's dressing room. I understand that all actors can't be Sean Penns or Daniel Day Lewises, staying in character and professional through the entire shoot, but I did have to ask myself, as the papers and debris were raining down and the firefighters rushed into their unwarranted doom, if there was this much grab-assing on the set of SCHINDLER'S LIST.*

I'm a hypocrite that way, I know, but I've always tried to give these jobs my all--as much as when I was a real actor once upon a time--and when I see extras walking around the base of the soon-to-be ex-World Trade Center with dumb smiles on their faces like they got off the short bus to Disneyland, I wonder why I've never gone anywhere in this industry, and so many others sure seem to.

Maybe I'm being unfair, though. There were always some, even among my own friends, who were willing to do anything in one of our film productions (though none more than me, he said with absolutely no false modesty), and some were a little more hesitant to wreck their cars or jump into freezing water or make love to a giant spider puppet. Doesn't mean anything, I guess, just personal preferences.

There are always those who will succeed by getting around the rules or cheating their way to top, like our friend Guido tried. I can only hope that they end up being extras in my own productions once we all get to Hell, kids.

Rish Ramblin' Outfield

P.S. No more than a half hour after I finished writing the above, we got broken for lunch. I had already gone to McDonalds to grab a couple sandwiches, though. I was worried by how shocked people would be by my physical condition, but in asking the manager if it was okay, I was even more shocked that she didn't speak English. Regardless, the Union extras got eleven meal penalties when we finally ate, so they'll still get to cry themselves to sleep tonight on gold-lined pillows.

*Some of the actors playing cops were not actors, but real NYPD cops, and a few of the technical advisors (including the man Nicolas Cage is playing) were actually there that day. And I wondered how they felt seeing these idiots jump around like back-up dancers in an M.C. Hammer video.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

November 16, 2005

Not much to report on today. Yesterday I worked on "House," which I quite enjoy. Today I worked on "CSI: New York," which I'd never done before. I can't think of anything noteworthy about either shoot, except that the A.D. on "House" remembered me and kept calling me Tom. As Tom is not my name, I wonder if he remembered someone named Tom, or actually remembered me, just not my name.

In military terms, the extras are the lowest rungs on the ladder; the grunt privates used for cannon fodder. There's a hierarchy on a film set, from director (or producer in television's case) down to grips, or even lower, craft service. And at the bottom of the list, way down below pets of the crew, you find me.

I'm the guy who can get it for you.

Whoops, wrong production.

Extras, traditionally, aren't treated very well, and are respected even less. It's understandable, really, since a quarter of all extras are ex-convicts, scumbags, and alien replicants. Plus, the potted plant or the chair your actor sits in doesn't wander off the set or have to be given lunch.

George Lucas is notorious for not liking actors, preferring to create digital/puppet/miniature creatures, armies, and background players. And I imagine most directors, assistant directors, and P.A.s feel that same way about extras. I've worked several big gigs ("cattle calls," they're sometimes called), where cardboard cut-outs and/or dummies are used among the extras, or in place of them. And you'd never know the difference, except the fake ones don't complain about the long hours or need a place to smoke cigarettes.

There are exceptions, to be fair. When there are hot extras with big boobs and visible thong underwear, I'd imagine the attitude changes a little.

To be fair.

Rish "Human Prop" Outfield

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bounty Hunter show

As in many industries, the unions run the film business too. If you're in the union (the Screen Actors Guild) as an extra, you're in luck. They treat you better, feed you better, and you can almost make a living on what they pay you. If you're non-union, however, the kid gloves are off (it's possible that, technically, if you're a non-union extra, they don't even have to provide you with water).

Most extras want to be in SAG, especially those who hope to be real actors one day (oh, sorry, I meant "real" actors, P.C. fans). The three best ways to move up from non-union to union are:
1) Be a hot chick;
2) Make friends with the casting director or crew of a show; and
3) be a last minute replacement for someone who is in the union.

That's not exactly what happened to me today, but it's close. Still smarting from what they did to me over the weekend (which I won't go into for fear of looking even more pathetic than the stepkid of a homeless guy, or maybe his step-nephew), I was out of work today, about to read "Harry Potter" again, when I got a call to replace some guy on a TV show about bounty hunters. Would've been nice to work with Bossk and IG-88, but they didn't show.

Not even Dengar was around, just a guy who stunt doubled for Steven Segal, a soft-spoken tattooed long-haired dude, and the guy who played Vin Diesel in his death scene in FAST & THE FURIOUS: The DVD Edition. We were doing a reenactment (my first) about a team of bounty hunters who bust into a suburban house in the middle of the night to catch a fugitive, shoot the place up, tie up a couple of teenage girls, rape a cat*, and terrorize a little boy . . . only to find out they're at the wrong address.

I was playing a uniformed police officer (one of two) who comes on the scene afterward, questions them, checks their bounty hunting paperwork, and makes sure Zuckuss and 4-LOM keep their names straight. I guess they were going to do a firefight later, involving squibs and weapons with blanks in them, but alas, I didn't get to participate in that.

They cast another guy to play my partner, and he arrived really, really late. He explained that he had driven up from San Diego (about 170 miles) and had traffic problems. Sadly, they had already gotten someone to replace him and he had to go home. The guy they pegged to be my partner was about twenty-five, with long blond hair, and at least a week's beard growth. The man they'd gotten to advise on weapon use, special effects, and police procedure said, "If I was directing this, you'd be in the back of the squad car, not driving it." So they made him grease his hair back and shave (he had no shaving cream, but the man told him to use soap). Unfortunately, he cut himself pretty badly on the cheek, and spent half an hour dabbing at it with tissues. He still got off easy compared to the San Diego guy, though.

The production was small and there were few of us. They shot it all in and around a nice Burbank home in a casual and quick manner just like the best college film shoots. They had three hand-held digital video cameras that they used simultaneously, and I'll bet you could make a fine feature film just that way.

The real police came by at one point and said the neighbours had complained, so there could be no firearms (real or rubber) in the front yard. As soon as the cops left, the pistols and sawed-off shotgun came right back out. Also much like student film work.

The afore-mentioned technical advisor was a craggy ex-police officer who must've so doubted his own masculinity that he had to throw his weight around to prove he was the Alpha Male in the room. Even though I only had to stand there in my scenes, he took it upon himself to show me how to hold my baton ("Everybody in the movies gets it wrong"), where to place my badge ("You mean your target? A badge just makes a bright shiny target for perps to shoot at"), how to squeeze someone's fingers together when you're taking them in custody ("You can even squeeze their thumbs"), and how to hold your right wrist with your left arm while standing (That way, your right arm is covering your firearm, while your left arm is free to elbow the extra you're demonstrating this on in the stomach).

He then asked me, "You ever use handcuffs? Besides putting them on your girlfriend, I mean?" I guess I should thank Buddha he didn't say "boyfriend," but I wasn't feeling super grateful.

He showed me how to handcuff an arrestee, that you press the cuffs down into place, neither clasping nor slapping them on. Then, so the girls would REALLY be impressed, he pressed one of them on me. "I only did one of your wrists," he said, "So that you'll have the other one free to try and find the keys to those things." Well, he may have thought this was funny, but it might have really not been. Luckily, I was . . . "blessed" with having the wrists of a seven year old girl, and I simply squished my left hand and slipped it out from the cuffs. Otherwise, I think it's safe to say he would have been an asshole.

Oh, it wasn't all bad. It was a very short shoot, and there wasn't much traffic on the way home. This gig was unique because I got to do so darn much (on camera). The director said, "Talk to the family, let them know the situation and make sure everything's alright," and we got to improv our scene. We did two takes, and I got to basically be the Senior Partner, since I was better at ad-libbing than the other cop. And then we were free to go.

It's for the History Channel, which I don't have (of course), but I wouldn't care if it was for the White Supremacy Channel, the Sodomy Channel, Lifetime, or the Let's Make Fun of Ugly People Network: money is a good thing to have.

Rish Greedo Outfield

*Okay, maybe I made that part up. But not the rest.

Friday, November 11, 2005


I worked on "Scrubs" today and yesterday, my first time on the show (and second, if you have to get technical, sir). They shoot it at a closed hospital not far from where the 101 Freeway meets the 405, and it's pretty unusual. The bottom floor is waterstained and fairly unmaintained*, the upper floors are where they shoot and have dressing rooms and such, and are quite impressive. I guess they're in their fifth (and last?) season, so it's been a good investment for the production, or studio, or network, or whoever.**

I have never been in a more familial atmosphere on a show than I have on "Scrubs." There is a big twisting room that is for extras, and they have couches, and magazines, a radio, tables, and a television/VCR with several donated tapes to entertain them. People know each others' names, many actually have I.D. badges with their own faces on them, and the regular extras have been known to get to deliver lines from time to time. Also amazing was that each day, there is a new face among the background, that of a common person who won an internet auction to come and be on the show, hang around the set, and meet the people who make it, all for charity. The man I talked to today was from Connecticut, had paid his own airfare and lodging to come do the show, and had donated over six thousand dollars to charity for his one day's work (he can expect his check for fifty-some dollars at the end of the month).

I really like it when cast and crew eat together, and this show is no exception (and the food was excellent). Yesterday, I sat down for lunch at a table, with John C. McGinley at the far end, and no one else. Soon, however, three more members of the cast and today's episode's writer sat down there too, filling every seat. I felt like a fly on the wall to their banter, conversations, and shenanigans, but a little uncomfortable, since I clearly wasn't one of them and never will be. Still, they seem like a close-knit group, a family of sorts, and I'm SURE that fans of the show would kill to be where I was on that.

Later on, they picked me and another guy to be paramedics, and we acted in a scene with McGinley, one that I screwed up two takes on. The first was, in pulling a stretcher out an elevator and toward the camera, the stretcher ran over my foot. The second was more embarrassing, as I pulled the stretcher into the room, my butt hit the Steadicam. D'oh.

Even so, there was no yelling, and I was still asked back the next day, where people continued to hang out and be extraordinarily friendly to one another. And me, as a couple people shook my hand at the end of the day, and one of the actresses (she who was on the stretcher) actually gave me a hug.

Often, as an extra, you don't know what you're going to be from one day to another. For example, my last week's gigs have been as
1) a restaurant patron ("The West Wing")
2) a New York City pedestrian (SPIDER-MAN 3)
3) a courtroom observer ("Boston Legal")
4) an airport traveler ("Malcolm in the Middle")
and 5) on "Scrubs," a hospital visitor, a bathrobed patient, an orderly, an EMT paramedic, and a surgical intern.

It beats the order entry job I had in '02-'03, where every day was almost a Xerox copy of the day before (the only variances were my colour of tie, where I'd eat lunch, and what salesgirl I was infatuated with each day). Not in pay, of course. Or hours. But who's counting?

Today was also unique in that, to my knowledge, it was the first day I've ever had my name on the call sheet. Even when I was a stand-in, years ago, I think it was a last minute thing. But there it is, first and last name on the sheet, which maybe I'll take home to remember. Should be a bigger deal, I guess, but since I'm still making Taco Bell wages, name on the call sheet isn't quite so glamourous.

But it could be worse.

Rish Scrub Outfield

*Actually, after writing this, they shot some on the bottom floor too, so I was wrong.
**I also didn't find out until after I wrote this, but the show isn't even on the air anymore. They're a mid-season replacement coming on in January after my pal Jeff's favourite show, "My Name Is Earl."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

An Extra Effort

I got word from a future son of mine that he'd like to hear more about what his father was doing prior to killing himself, thus robbing him of his singular existence. Or was I murdered? I wasn't really paying attention. Heck, it might not have been a future son at all, but a kid selling subscriptions to Martha Stewart Living. And where's my wallet?

Regardless of the reason, I thought it might be a good idea to write up a semi-regular report on what I'm working on lately, since it's marginally more interesting than what I used to do (and that was only slightly more interesting than what, say, Hume Cronyn is doing right now). And since I, at one time, had an internet blog, I thought maybe that would be a good forum for it.

Oh, and it helps that my worst pal tyranist mentioned yesterday that he'd discovered my now-defunct web blog. The bastage.

I moved to Los Angeles, California some years ago, with the dreams many small town kids share of working in the greatest industry in the world, telling my stories, and being paid an honest wage to do something I love, as well as dating ridiculously young, drugged-out former child actresses.

Unfortunately for me, I was born with no ambition (and, incidentally, no left testicle, but let's keep that between us), and I went nowhere literally before I started, and found myself looking for work. Having been a Theater Arts major once (and also wanting the chance to work on "Star Trek"), I decided to try extra work and called up Central Casting.

For those of you far from the pretentious and over-caffeinated, an extra is a person hired for a film, television show, or commercial, who has no lines and fills the background of any given scene. Basically a human prop, they move to and fro, inconspicuous, to flesh out the universe of filmed sequences. They are called Non-lined Actors, Atmosphere, Environment, or even Background Artists, but you know them as Extras.

The first work I did as an extra was on "The X-Files" (actually, a couple years earlier it was "Touched By An Angel" first, but let's also keep that between us), and there's a pretty good story about that day (maybe I'll tell it sometime), and I actually did extra work full time for a few months (my last work was on Fox's "Boston Public," remember that one?) before going on to . . . well, less fanciful pastures.

Years passed. The world turned, and suddenly, it turned back to where it was before. And hey, so did I. I'm back doing extra work again, and I've had several fun and unique experiences (and gained fifteen or so pounds, I reckon), from the first show ("24") to today's ("Scrubs").

I don't know how long this will last, but if I write about it, maybe I can make the best of it.

With a little extra luck, that is.

Rish Hollywood Outfield