Saturday, December 17, 2005

December 17, 2005

A lot of actors have little tolerance or respect for extras. It's been said that the cast and crew of "Gilmore Girls" refer to their extras as cockroaches
(more than any other show, "Gilmore Girls" is the one background actors refuse to do. In fact, when I went in to register with my calling service, the recruiter specifically mentioned it as a show some of us might not want to do).

Then there are shows where the actors are friendly toward us. Of all the shows I've done, there have been few shows where the principles have been more cordial than on "The West Wing." I've done the show several times, and on two occasions, actor John Spencer has chatted with me like you would a genuine, honest-to-goodness coworker. The last time, he sat down and talked to me. A very friendly, down-to-earth man, he spoke about his career and what it was like working on RAVENOUS (and his difficulty in working with producer Laura Ziskin), and laughed when I told him of the fun my buddies and I had with the line "He was LICKING me!!" they played in all the trailers and TV spots.

I was saddened to learn today of Spencer's death at fifty-eight. He seemed in good health the last time I worked with him, and told me he still didn't know if his character (running for Vice President alongside Jimmy Smits) would win the election or not. I have only met or talked to a couple of celebrities who have died, and John Spencer I saw so recently that I thought it worth mentioning, especially because he was friendly to me. He was a good actor and a decent man.

I hope, when I am rich and powerful, with impunity ordering the deaths of scores of better men than myself, that someone will remember me as such.

Rish Outfield

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bodily function-free post

December 14, 2005

I'm downtown, it's seven in the morning. I'm working on a Mastercard commercial. "Keeping your anal virginity throughout your stretch at Ryker's Island . . . priceless. There are some things home-rolled cigarettes can't buy, for everything else, there's Mastercard." The sun is rising right in front of me, casting a bit of warmth on this cold L.A. morning.

I had tickets to see KING KONG on Monday night, but I didn't get out of "House" in time. I was disappointed about that. But you know who was really torn up about it? Jeffrey Dahmer. The message he left on my answering machine was just heart-wrenching.

I did end up getting recalled on "House," and worked a fourteen hour day yesterday (I had free passes to see THE PRODUCERS that went to waste; seems like that happened a lot lately). But I had a good time--I played Spades for a while with other extras (all of them were regulars on the show, meaning they work every episode, getting called in by the production rather than having to call in themselves, scrabbling over the few available spots like starving dingos over the last morsel of Meryl Streep's baby), and had fun. My team not only won thrice, but an unrealistically beautiful young lady told me I was really funny. I'm bad with compliments, but she made me feel all toasty inside, comparing me to Steve Carrell (hopefully not just because my bed is empty).

Joel the A.D. made it a point to remember my name this time around, and that made me pretty pleased. "House" is a show where they really make use of the extras. I played a hospital visitor, an administrative employee, and an orderly yesterday, changing my outfit for each new scene. There's also not a lot of glamour on the programme, with young hot aspiring model/actresses on set, grabbing up the union vouchers and raising my already-strained heartrate. In fact, besides Lisa, the gorgeous Spades player, the only real beauty on the set was Jennifer Morrison, who plays Cameron on the show. To be honest, I don't watch the programme, but she's done a couple of horror movies, and if you know me, you know the only thing I like more than feeling sorry for myself is horror movies (it's a close race). I would've liked to have talked to her about the utterly mediocre URBAN LEGENDS 2, but alas, I didn't get to. Hung around with star Hugh Laurie for a minute or two, and either the guy is a consummate professional, or he isn't really British.

Two days in a row, the Fox studio store gave me their employee discount because I claimed to work there (I was in scrubs both times, which helped), so I bought a total of six DVD boxed sets and a MR. & MRS. SMITH. I might not have bought the newest "Simpsons" set, but the "Lisa The Vegetarian" episode was playing inside, and it was just too great to walk away from.

This morning, I am sitting outside (the sun has already gone behind a building since I've been writing this), with my jacket on, enjoying the fre--whoa, I almost said "fresh air" in Los Angeles--time outdoors. This is a huge booking, what's referred to as a cattle call, and I've recognized many, many faces (and at least one groin . . . hmmm). Cattle calls are bad, since you have to battle a hundred or more fellow background artists (tee hee) to get your voucher, or check in with wardrobe, or find a place to sit, or get a donut. Tempers tend to flare in these kinds of jobs, since there are always A-holes who butt in line in front of you, ex-cons get on the set, and much complaining all around. Oddly, though, this morning at six a woman beside the line grew incensed at a guy and threw her coffee at him (she claimed he'd pushed her). Most of it hit the guy, but some spattered on the poor extras in line to check in. I was next to one of them who swore in every possible colour and announced that his hundred dollar shirt was ruined. Not for nothing, but if you can afford a hundred dollar shirt, you should be off swimming in gold bullion with Uncle Scrooge and Daddy Warbucks, not making minimum wage plus lunch* with the starving artists. Of course, that's just me, constant nonexistent reader, you may have several shirts like his in your closet. If so, here's a twenty to light your cigar with.

Among the multitudes, I found my best friend among extras, Mark, who I call Hagopian (for reasons too stupid to go into). He's damned funny and good at bad impressions. (or maybe he's just bad at good ones), and we riff off each other like seasoned Vaudevillians. I really like this guy, though I don't know if we could hang out. We talk about "Saturday Night Live" and bag on the STAR WARS Prequels, but I wonder what we really have in common. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong and he'll be Best Man at my marriage to Lisa the Spades Girl.

For this commercial, we're spectators at a marathon, and it looks to be an easy day--in fact, we could be done before noon. Even if we aren't**, I'm in a pretty good mood, and though they didn't provide breakfast, I ought to skip a meal or two. Or ten wouldn't hurt.

Blog to you later.

Rish "Obi-Two" Outfield

*Whoops, no lunch was provided today.

**We weren't. In fact, the stupid thing went until after five (over eleven hours), when traffic was unbearable Downtown.

Monday, December 12, 2005

December 12, 2005

I’ve got some free time right now, might as well write a bit in The Notebook of Destiny, right?

Friday was the taping day on “According To Jim.” We were in only one scene and it was a short scene at that (don’t imagine they needed more than half of us, but I’ll still cash the cheque), so I figured it would be a short day.

We were playing gamblers/patrons in a riverboat casino, and I was sitting at a table with a dealer and other players. Instead of pretending to play, we decided to actually play something, and chose Blackjack, since you can play that silently. The dealer knew how to play even less than I did, so I didn’t completely suck at a sport/game/pastime for once. We had stacks of chips to play with, and I lost many of them, but it was fun.

We also got fed really well a couple of hours before the show started. I must’ve eaten something wrong, though (sometimes those dumpsters are just so inviting!), because my stomach began to ache as the day progressed. The taping started at 5:30, we were told, but by 6:30, we were still sitting around, waiting for our scene (which was the third on the schedule). I . . . how do I put this? . . . went to the bathroom once, twice, I believe three times during that wait, and when they finally called us in, around 7:00, I thought the worst was over.

As I sat, waiting for Scene B to end (we were C), stomach cramps began to pay me a visit. Small at first, they increased in intensity as the scene started. The scene before ours had been shot again and again--so much for "before a live studio audience"--and I hoped ours wouldn't suffer the same fate.

In between the first and second times through, my stomach did a violent clench and the time for a bathroom break had come. Painful and somehow humiliating, I held it in until it went away. Good thing too, for I was almost to the point where I was going to get up and run to the nearest restroom, regardless of my (incidental, at most) impact on the show.

Jim Belushi and Company came back in and started the scene over (I have no idea what they changed or didn’t get right the first time, since my attention was elsewhere . . . and we were still playing Blackjack, mind you). Partway through the scene, the stomach cramps came again, and I had to hold my breath, concentrating on my cards, and hoping the worst didn’t happen. Diarrhea is not our friend, kids, regardless of what the Bush Administration would have you know.

Thankfully, they only did the scene those two times, and then we were done. I walked very slowly toward the bathroom, knowing anything from a good jostle to a sneeze would doom me, and had to stop for a minute as the cramps came again, wondering if Jud Crandall was right and "Sometimes dead IS better."

Not to be too vulgar, but when I finally hit the bathroom, what I created was so vile the wallpaper shrivelled up and the ceiling turned black. I staggered out, had an allergy attack, and drove home listening to an old Sting album.

"What don't kill you just make you stronger." It was Gandhi who said that.

Bizarrely, I had no further symptoms over the weekend, except for a bit of melancholy, which I suspect was not diarrhea-related.

Today I am back on "House," one of my favorite places to be. I love the Fox lot, and the cast and crew all seem exceedingly cool. I would like to be a regular on this show. I'll settle for coming back tomorrow.

Rish Bromo-Seltzer Outfield

Thursday, December 08, 2005

According To Rish

December 8th, 2005

I'm on TV show "According To Jim" today. This is a sitcom, shot before a live audience, and when I did background work years ago, these were my favourite types of gigs. I did "Spin City," that ballbusting show "Dharma and Greg," and "The Norm Show" that I recall. This is the first time I'm doing a sitcom like this this year, though. Exciting?

I like Jim Belushi. I was too young to really know or appreciate who his brother was, and I started watching "Saturday Night Live" the year before Jim joined the cast, so while I haven't necessarily been a fan of his, I've always sort of appreciated that he exists, rather than resent his existence, as so many out there do. He actually shot a movie in my less-than-a-thousand-people hometown, and was reportedly nice to my then-thirteen year old sister. Good enough for me.

The extras around me are exchanging Jim Belushi stories. He's either a real sweetheart or a vindictive jerk, depending on the talespinner. I'm wondering if I should've brought my MR. DESTINY DVD for him to sign.

Two days ago, I worked on my first horror film. A dream come true, if you know me at all, though I neither got to kill nor be killed in it (which reminds me, I spoke to a girl for a while today who was a zombie in DAY OF THE DEAD 2 and also appeared in the forthcoming CREEPSHOW 3 . . . lucky stiff). It was a very low budget, very small crewed shoot, with the average age of a crew member being around twenty-seven. They worked fast and loose and it made me yearn to be among them. I played a uniformed police officer . . . again (a couple of years ago, I wondered if I could get hired on by the LAPD, until I came to my senses, that is), and it was old hat getting in the uniform and knowing where the badge, nametag, baton, and walkie talkie went. I got to pick my own nametag, and I chose Biggs, as in First Mate on the Rand Ecliptic.

I was involved in the final scene. In it, the police have broken into a serial killer's lair, only to find him gone . . . escaped. However, his last would-be victim is still there, and though she has been tortured (she's been forced to wear a creepy girl Michael Myers mask) and mutilated (both her hands have been cut off), she is alive. The cops call for paramedics and as she is wheeled out on a stretcher, the camera reveals that the paramedic is none other than the killer himself. Dum, dum, dum!

Then we went home--a short day--and I don't know if I've mentioned it, but an extra gets paid the same if he/she works two hours, five hours, or seven hours. So you want to work either a very short day, or a very, very long one, when you'll actually hit overtime.

You've probably heard this before, but it's who you know in this town, not what you know (another of ZuZu's teacher's sayings). To get anywhere, you have to be a persistent people person, one adept at the mystical art of schmoozing. I have never been--nor do I think I'll ever be--good at that (hence my lot in life, eh?). I only made friends with one casting agent ever, and her name was Sasha. I ran into Sasha on the set of SEPTEMBER, and gave her a call the next week. On Monday night, she booked me on this movie--a tiny shoot with only six or seven extras. Very small shoots are preferable to huge ones, since there's less mistreatment and much more visibility. One of the extras even got to say a line--"Is she alive?"--which not only pays a HELL of a lot more, but makes you not an extra anymore.

The film I worked on was called THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES, and is a LAST BROADCAST/BLAIR WITCH-esque flick that uses the videotapes the killer supposedly shot of his victims to help tell the story. I was surprised to see they have a sixteen day shooting schedule, but not having read the script, there's no knowing the scope of the film.

I love horror movies, and would be making them myself if I found ambition or won the lottery. The crew on this one seemed really tight and friendly, yet professional. The girl who played the victim was very cool with wearing a corset and lying in a coffin with a Michael Myers mask on.

An astounding thing about my own fractured psyche is that I hate not working, hate sitting at home watching DVDs and eating Cool Ranch Doritos. Yesterday, I was quite miserable, thinking about the many roads more traveled I have taken and pondering the difference it might have made to take the other one. But here I am, not even a full day later, on a set, sitting around still not accomplishing my dreams . . . and I'm happy as a clam. Heck, a BEARDED clam.

Jim Belushi just walked by. I know he'll never get out of his brother's shadow, but if "According To Jim" has really been on for five seasons, it's very possible that more people know who he is than know who John was. It's kind of strange, but possible.

"Don't wanna end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard."
Paul Simon

We sat around, watching them tape another segment of the show before ours. Courtney Thorne-Smith is pretty attractive. She sort of looks prematurely aged, though, as if a makeup artist made her look older than she really is for a movie part.

Today's was another short shoot. No way I'll be seen in the episode, but hey, the check's the same. I've never watched "According To Jim." This show seems pretty funny, but you know, they all do when they're right in front of you. Just like plays in the theatre seem more moving than recorded or in films.

It looks like I'm going to be coming back tomorrow for the show's taping. Those are great, and are a lot like plays, since they start from the beginning and go through the show in front of the audience. They only needed a handful of us back and when I asked to get onboard, the P.A. said, "I'm mostly looking for women, not men," I said, "Yeah, me too," and she laughed. A few minutes later, she told me to hang out with the recalled few. For all the jobs, classes, religions, and friends my sense of humour has ruined for me, there are actually a couple of times it's done me good.

Rish "The Tearful Clown" Outfield

Friday, December 02, 2005

December 2nd, 2005

I'm on "The Sopranos" today, which they say is a big deal, since they usually shoot in New York. So, it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance akin to a Smurf getting pregnant or seeing Catherine Zeta-Jones on a bad hair day. I don't care, since I've never watched "The Sopranos," but I'm in a pretty good mood. We'll see if that continues five hours from now.

This was a night shoot, so I had vast amounts of time to arrive, but just before I was ready to leave, it started to rain. Rain, you see, is like Kryptonite to a Los Angeleno, impairing their already retarded ability to drive and causing more accidents than bad baby formula.

I've never liked being late for things, probably because I so often am. I was due on set at 4:00, and around 3:50, with at least twenty minutes more of my fifteen minute drive to go, a strange thing happened: a sense of peace and well-being washed over me, a calming sensation like drinking your problems away or sleeping in your childhood bed again. As the minutes ticked by and I found myself no closer to my destination, instead of worry, panic, and rage, sweet, warm apathy covered me like Gramma's blanket. I just didn't care. When I parked my car, went into a building I thought was home base, and found out I was far from the right address, I shrugged and started over agai. When I couldn't get over to head west on Santa Monica Boulevard and the guy in the Beemer behind me actually SPED UP as I moved into his lane, a surreal sense of unimportance filled my being.

Finally, I found where the shoot was, but crewmembers ignored me when I asked where to park. I discovered the basecamp eventually, and made my way to the check-in point. By now, I was nearly an hour late, and I semi expected to get sent home, but didn't care about it one way or another. Well, they didn't give me a hard time, but one of the A.D.s laughed at me because I used the word "part" in conjunction with what I do. "Your 'part?' That's funny, kid," he actually said, and because I was in my good mood, I didn't call him a giant schlong, but laughed at myself along with him.

The shoot was pretty uneventful, though it was rainy, uncomfortable and entirely pointless. I mean, at no point did we encounter or interact with any of the "Sopranos" gang, but we couldn't even see the camera (and ZuZu's teacher always says, "If you can see the camera, the camera can see YOU."). There were a couple of insanely hot chicks there, more than one decked out in cocktail/premiere dresses. One poor blonde hottie had a black see-through dress that kept getting wet and stepped on. Her suffering helped me get to sleep that night, however.

I was playing a valet, but at no point did I park a car or even get someone's keys. Though we did a Kubrickian number of takes, it was all for naught, since we were far, far away from the action being filmed.

The highlight of the evening, besides staring, slack-jawed at a babe named Andrea, was learning how to play Spades with three other valets (or rather, re-learning how to play, as I was taught a few years before dinosaurs roamed the earth and I had forgotten). In the middle of the second game, a P.A. asked if anyone wanted to go home, and I and my Spades partner volunteered.

And that was it, I changed out of my valet's uniform, got in my car, and drove on home. Barely worth mentioning, really.

Carefree Rish Outfield

First of December

Well, already December, is it? November seemed to fly by, even without the week off I had for Thanksgiving. I certainly worked a lot this past month, but I doubt I made as much money as I did in October. Gotta do the math sometime.

Yesterday, I did practically nothing. No work, just lying around, doing laundry, playing some video game I shouldn't have bought, snoozing. No big deal except that I vowed I would finish three stories by New Year's, so I shoulda been doing that instead of the great pile of nothing I actually accomplished.

Tuesday I was on a commercial for G.E.. The director, Joe Pytka, I had worked with before on a demolition derby shoot, which was my least-favourite commercial shoot so far. This one wasn't nearly so bad--it was a music recital with little kids and I had to sit and clap a few times, then go home. Nicely, it was on a higher rate, as commercials always seem to be. There was an adorable seven year old boy who gets up on stage in front of us to play his violin and freezes. He only had to pretend to be nervous, but after take after take after take with the psycho Pytka, the kid no longer had to pretend. I remember him being crazed and angry on the delotiion derby shoot, but this was way worse. I suppose he is a perfectionist, but he spoke to his crew like they were idiot children, or non-housetrained puppies. Now I know what a James Cameron set might be like. To his credit, he held in his anger as best he could when he was around the child actors, but his intensity was daunting and you'd have to be an idiot child to not be intimidated by him. Even so, I guess the little boy wasn't giving him the nervous performance Pytka wanted, so he (quietly) instructed us to boo the child when he came out the next time. I felt somewhat bad doing that, since he was such an innocent, well-behaved little boy, but I felt worse when I threw a head of cabbage at him the next take.

Okay, that part didn't happen.

We were supposed to do more later--shooting at the beach--but most of us were sent home early. I think I just ended up going to sleep, but I don't remember. Oh, I looked up Joe Pytka on the internet to see if he'd ever done anything besides commercials. Turns out he directed SPACE JAM.

I also went and got a haircut. This was the first one I've had to get since the embarrassing head-shaving incident this past summer. This cut I like more.

Definition of insanity? I watched CAT PEOPLE on Tuesday and hated it. Then, on Wednesday, I watched CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE. Fool me twice . . . shame on me.

I am currently in an unhappy funk, partly because I realise this whole extras thing isn't working out and partly because I've had two days off this week. I guess I should be strong and move back into the bosom of my family's good graces, putting away my dreams and embracing the death that surely awaits me there. I'm still fighting it, though.

Also, I got a call yesterday from Travis at Central Casting, offering me work. He said the production of "House" (the same guy who called me Tim, I have no doubt) had requested me personally to come in and reprise my role as the kiosk vendor. I was very excited, because a) it shoots at Fox, which is near to me; b) I always get cheap DVDs at the Fox studio store, sometimes making a bit of money reselling them; c) I like "House;" and most importantly, d) they had asked for me, which could mean a regular gig on the show and/or union work. All good things.

Well, my excitement didn't last, because I soon found out that my booking agency had me on some never-heard-of show in Woodland Hills (wherever that is) and wouldn't let me do "House." Travis from Central never called me back, so I guess there's a bridge burned on that one. Similar to what they did to me on SPIDER-MAN 3, except I'm not completely foashed*, since I still have a day's work on something else.

But the only time Central has ever called me, and the opportunity is blown.

I might not post this one. It may have been a mistake to start this blog altogether.

Now I'm working a show called "What About Brian?" With a title like that, I don't know how good it can be. I'm a patron in a nice restaurant, and later I'll be a driver getting groceries. Eventually, I'll get over my "House" What If, but for now, I'd rather be a kiosk vendor.

Still, it's a beautiful day today. Seems like there have been a lot of them lately. As it's probably my last December, I ought to take a moment to appreciate the warm sun in the blue-grey sky and the cool breeze that feels like the sweet breath of a woman blowing on the back of my neck. Green trees and orange leaves flutter in the breeze, and though we're not far from the city, I don't hear any city sounds. No horns honking, no tires screeching, no Hip-Hop thumping on the speakers of human excrement, no yelling (in Spanish or English), no one talking too loudly on their cellphones . . . just the occasional hiss of air brakes, car doors closing, planes passing overhead, a leafblower, and the sound of a nearby generator. Okay, to be honest, since I started writing this in my notebook, I heard a car alarm go off, an idiot on his cellphone, a belt sander, and a dude playing his stereo too loud. But it's still perfect weather outside.

I know myself well enough to recognise that, somewhere down the road, when I'm worse off than I am now, I'll look back on these past weeks doing extra work with fondness, nostalgia, and a wish that I could be here again, when everything was great.

Of course, everything is not great. It's never been great. And I'm not stupid enough to harbour hopes that it ever will be. But it's always through the window of memory that we see the good times as truly good, the fun moments as being the norm (not the exception), and the struggles as being not so bad. I'll reflect on the days of driving from one set to another, appreciating the newness of it all, not knowing where I'll be tomorrow or for how long. I'll remember how every day there was a chance to write, and read, and meet new people, and every week I got to do something I'd never done before. And though it doesn't pay a lot, it does pay, and sometimes very well.

Am I jealous of those who have an office job to go to, with the same desk and same routine every single day, always predictable, always secure in knowing what tomorrow brings, and next week, and next month?


Should I be?

Probably not.

In the three months I've been doing this, I've gone all over the county, in studios, buildings, clubs, and restaurants I'd never otherwise see. I've played a lot of parts, some of them even interesting. And got to work with Jim Carrey, Alan Alda, Bill Paxton, Sam Raimi, Bob Newhart, Jason Lee, Jimmy Smits, Clint Eastwood, James Spader, Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, William Peterson, Steven Soderbergh, Candace Bergen, Oliver Stone, Thomas Haden Church, Brian Cranston, Carla Gugino, Alec Baldwin, and William Shatner. Oh yeah, and your mother. Not terribly shabby.

It's a few hours later, the sun has gone down, and I'm sitting in my car. It turned suddenly pretty chilly outside and it's warmer in here. Right now, we're at a Gelson's parking lot (that's an upscale grocery store). They're not using me anymore, but they ARE using my parked car, which means that I'm still on the clock, even though I'm only sitting around. Hey, it beats the hell out of real work. I just read a Batman comic and I'm sort of getting paid for it. Was I complaining before?

I do wonder, though, why it takes so long to do these productions? I really don't get it. This show, which took place in a restaurant and out of doors, had no stunts, no special effects, no dinosaurs or lightsabers or chest-bursters, yet it took, what, fourteen hours, to shoot the day's work. And the crew consisted of a massive collection of assistant directors, sound people, makeupers, costumers, lighting guys, grips, gaffers, transportation, and craft services . . . easily fifty people, and maybe more like seventy.

I just found out that Wendy Jo Sperber died. I was a fan. If I were making my own movies, instead of lurking in the background of other people's, I would surely have given her a part.

Today was quite a long day. I ended up getting home just after midnight, now hopped up on so much caffeine I may still be awake when I finish typing this. I'm a little less blue now than I was earlier, but don't worry, I'm sure I'll have plenty more to complain about come tomorrow.

Rish "Mister Sunshine" Outfield

*There's that word again, "foashed." Why are things so clogged in the future, is there a problem with your butt's sanitational pull?