Friday, February 10, 2006

February 10, 2006

"We're your dreamgirls, boys, we'll make you happy;
We're your dreamgirls, boys, we'll always care."

This happy refrain (I really have no idea what those words mean) has been repeated again and again on the set of DREAMGIRLS, directed by Bill Condon. I'm at L.A. Center Studios in Downtown, a small, but still nice studio, where they shoot the TV programme "Numbers," among other stuff.

I'm on DREAMGIRLS for three days, and it's been darn easy work (I mean, compared to marching in a uniform or wearing shorts when it's forty degrees, not compared to flipping burgers or wearing a suit to an office).

Dressed in Sixties formal(ish) wardrobe, we're in a nightclub set draped in sparkly blue, watching the singers perform. I guess DREAMGIRLS was a Broadway show about the rise of the Supremes, but I hadn't heard of it before now. It stars Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and Beyonce Knowles in the Diana Ross-esque role. Today and yesterday's scene has been the three singers (Beyonce, Anika Noni Rose, and Jennifer Hudson) in long white gowns, dancing about as the song plays. Yesterday, I sat in holding, watching videos and stuffing my face for ten hours, and only got on set for the last shot of the night ("The Martini"). The singers performed for three takes and then we went home.

Today, though I was either lucky or unlucky, depending on your attitude, by being used from the get-go.

There are three levels of tables and I'm in the second (table 14B for you scoring at home), right in front of the stage. There are eight of us at the table, and they seem like a friendly sort. I have to admit that, watching Beyonce sing and smile, I started to imagine that she was singing to me, looking at me. The woman has charm. Big and dopey me, I fuzziness came over me like when I saw THE LITTLE MERMAID for the first time ("Where is that music coming from? What is this feeling in my chest? What is happening to me?"). Also, after every take, Ms. Knowles adjusted her bustline entirely without any self-consciousness.

This has been fun, really, and though I have no interest in the Supremes, I'll probably go see the movie.

If you know me at all, you know I keep to myself--almost as antisocial as Ebeneezer Scrooge or tyranist--and yesterday, I spent pretty much the whole day in my own company, finishing Golding's "Lord of the Flies," and watching DVDs on my sister's player. But today, especially since I've spent much of it on set, I endeavoured to be more sociable, spending time with Jonathan the Cartoonist, a girl I'd never met before who loves PRIDE & PREJUDICE more than life itself, John the Ladykiller, and chatting with the people at my table, all much more experienced than I am.

People, my sainted mother used to say, are so interesting, and you'll find good ones wherever you go. It was cool, everybody has horror stories to tell in this business, since almost everyone starts at the bottom and works their way to the second rung. Really trying to be outgoing, I asked the group what their best experience doing extra work was, as well as their worst, and if anyone had ever worked with Harrison Ford. The woman next to me was especially loquacious, telling about being on "Baywatch" and almost being set on fire for a reenactment show. The woman across from me was very nice, talking about the headaches of working on THAT THING YOU DO and WATERWORLD. The man between them, a balding, round New Yorker, was quite funny, and had been doing extra work for two years. He told me about being a regular on "Karen Sisco" and bumping heads with a surly craft service person, who teamed up with a haircut person to get him fired (mere days before the show was ultimately canceled anyway). I talked about working on FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS last fall, a real high point for me.

I have shared with you a few stories of my experiences--not all of them interesting, I recognise--but these folks had fascinating tales. Since we were together on set for most of the day, we got to know one another pretty well, but it wasn't until I brought in this notebook that the true personality of the woman next to me revealed itself.*

"What is that? A journal?" she asked. Usually, when people ask this, I explain that I am a writer and put stories in it, or sometimes write what show I'm on, or that it's a letter to the Corpse Bride inquiring if she has any sisters, but this woman was asking in a derisive way, so I owned it.  "Yep," I said, "but if you find it rude for me to write in it, we can keep talking." We spoke some more--she used to work for TV Guide, the woman across from me was a photo double on CARNOSAUR and had to dye her hair blonde, and the round man had once killed a Colorado child model just to watch her die. All things I have yet to experience.

Beyonce and company continued to perform, lip-syncing to playback, and doing clever period choreography. I saw this woman up close, and dang, girl, she's a handsome woman. Her awesome physical characteristics notwithstanding, I was amazed by how good-natured she was, take after take, and her ability to spin around, stepping over the microphone cord so it didn't trip her. Also, her smile and gaze out at us really did make me feel like it was me she was performing to. I remember Jason Lee in ALMOST FAMOUS saying, "I look for the one guy in the crowd who's not getting off and I make him get off." Ms. Knowles has a couple of advantages over Jason Lee, as far as I'm concerned.

"Hey," the woman next to me said, "What's your name?"

 I told her.

 "Last name?"

 I told her.

 "I don't want to see anything I've told you to appear in a magazine, do you understand?"

 I didn't, so I asked her to repeat the question. "A magazine?" I asked, "Weren't you the one who worked for TV Guide?"

Strangely--and irritatingly, since she'd do it twice more through the night--she repeated herself without clarifying. "You are not to publish any of my stories. I don't want it to appear in a magazine. Yes or no?" It was so cold and businesslike, I think she would've had no compunctions with squeezing my huevitos in her fist until I answered.

Returning a bit of her hostility, I said, "First, I don't know what you're talking about, and second, no." There was tension in the air and I hate confrontations more than George McFly and Rex from TOY STORY combined, so I pretended to focus on the performance and only spoke to the others at the table for a while.

Later, the guy began to make fun of the craft service lady (she was a good little Nazi), and the woman next to me says, "You better watch what you say. Don't you know they're recording us right now?" 


 "Didn't you know, they record everything the extras say. There's a guy at a soundboard listening to us right now."

I couldn't resist, I told her I have a paranoid friend who's a huge conspiracy theorist and I thought they'd really hit it off. She replied by telling us she was on a sitcom and made a suggestion to another extra and the producers heard it and incorporated it into the show. I didn't argue with her, but the round man did, and she would not be swayed.

Later, however, he made a little joke (a very little one) and she got immediately furious, saying, "I don't like people putting words in my mouth."

 He said, "It was a joke, relax."

 To which, she replied, "I don't like people putting words in my mouth."

"Okay," he said, "Okay."

To which, she said, "I don't like people putting words in my mouth."

The man couldn't take any more, and said, "You know, the only person with a problem here is you. First you jump on the kid for writing in a notebook, now me for what was clearly a joke. We all have to work here, so just shut the fuck up and sit quietly." The dude came to my defence, and even cursed at the woman for me. I was really impressed by that, especially since it's common knowledge that I was born without a spine. Amazing I can walk around, really.

A few minutes later, we were sent back to holding, where I wanted to talk to the guy. Instead, the woman came up to me--presumably to stab me to death before I could tell you this tale--and growled, "I don't know what was wrong with Vincent. I just don't like people putting words in my mouth."

Afterward, I did run into the man later and he unloaded a cartful of profanity about it, calling her as loony as a toon, and said, "You can print whatever you want, kid. If she didn't want it known she got her eyebrows singed off at a mock Great White concert, she should've kept her mouth shut. Once it hits the air, it's public domain." While I don't know if that's the case, I don't feel at all bad for the other boxer. If she hadn't freaked out like she did, I wouldn't have even mentioned her, let alone wasted a whole notebook page on it.

Day two was a pretty short day--I think I got home around eleven p.m.--and was hardly exhausting. Indeed, the hardest thing about extra work is often just the waiting in line to get your voucher, waiting in line to get your wardrobe, waiting in line to change your clothes, waiting in line to eat, waiting in line to change again when we're wrapped, waiting in line to return your wardrobe and get your voucher back, waiting in line to get signed out, and waiting in line to get on the shuttle to take you back to your car.

I've got one more day--the big call--next week, where I've got a great, tacky Seventies tuxedo on. I don't know that anything will happen of note that day, but if it does, maybe I'll say something about it.

Until then, I remain,

Rish "Dreamboy" Outfield

*I don't know why my Spider Sense didn't warn me about her (the alien symbiote must have nullified it), but the woman was as wacky as Drew Barrymore at a pet store.

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