Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Him and Her and Me (and Us)

March 29/30, 2006

This week I was booked for work on a Disney TV production called "Him and Us," a concert scene shooting over at the Staples Center. Concerts and sporting events are often irritating, because although they book hundreds of us and we're crammed in tight together with no room to breathe, there's never enough of us to fill a stadium, and we invariably have to move from section to section to make it look like a packed house. I know some extras who refuse to go to gigs of more than a hundred people.

One thing I ain't gonna miss too much about living in Los Angeles is that it doesn't rain for three months, and when it does, it pours down. They call it torrential rain, and it fills the streets and crashes down mud and million dollar homes. Well, due to some of this typically torrential rain, they moved locations on us, and made us drive to Disney in Burbank.

I'd never been to the Disney studios before, and enjoyed seeing murals and displays of the classic characters in windows and on the sides of buildings. Our holding was in a big stage next to the one where they had (hurriedly) built the concert venue. Cooly, an underwater set and the interior of the Black Pearl set from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3 were housed in our holding stage. I wonder what becomes of those sets once the shoots are done.

Elton John is the producer of "Him and Us," though he wasn't there, as far as we knew. 97% of the jobs that we get, we are instructed to bring a certain kind of wardrobe, and 75% of jobs, we are supposed to bring more than one option for the wardrobe people to choose from. In this case, though, we never had to go through Wardrobe, and got to wear what we wanted. I saw John the Ladykiller--or rather, he saw me, coming over as I started to read my book. He chided me for always shuffling off by myself to read (or hide, as he called it), and told me my antisocial ways were one of the reasons no woman liked me. Also, apparently my clothes, shoes, and haircut are what my Irish friend would refer to as shite.

Also on hand was the small, attractive lass we hung out with on "The 12th Man" last week. She shot toward John like a Scud missile, but because I was by his side, we became instant friends. I found out her name was Tiffany, and once again drawn to her. Maybe it was her light Oklahoma accent, maybe it was her sense of humour, maybe it was her girl-next-door good looks, I don't rightly know.

John, hearing about my unfortunate need to give up this whole extra thing, told me not to leave, to be strong, and not to be a pussy. I don't think it's really about that, but his words did strike me pretty hard. He asked me what I moved to L.A. for and why I was giving up. He then said, "If you want to make movies, just do it. Mark and Jonathan and Bryan and LesbianJanet and Pogo and Klaatu and I will all be in them. We'll help you out." That also gave me pause. Even though PHANTOM MENACE was lame and the way Jake Lloyd delivered the line was even lamer, "the biggest problem in the universe is that no one helps each other" is a pretty big truth.

Well, after but a moment, we moved through the rain to the next stage, where we'd be watching the concert. We sat down where they told us, but John wanted to sit on the end for some reason (later, I would find out why). Somehow, due to this, Tiffany and I ended up sitting next to each other, and one of the A.D.s immediately pointed at her, wanting to take her away from it all. He paused, "You're not WITH anybody, are you?" Without thinking, I shot out my arm and put it around her. The A.D. shrugged and said, "Okay, you too." He marched us over to the section on the right, pretty close to the stage, and John followed. "Not you," the A.D. said, in a less-than-polite tone. Poor Ladykiller John had to head back to his seat in the middle.

I felt a bit sad about that, and later in the night, we got the row to scoot down one seat so John could rejoin us. Tiffany had this cute little way of talking, and referred to what we did for John as "ganking" him a seat. He joined us, but didn't enjoy himself so much, and snuck out to smoke cigarettes after every setup.

Once the concert started, it pretty much didn't end. The performer, Maxx Flash, was energetic, middle-aged, and very British. Tiffany laughed when she realised who it was: the man who played Giles in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." There were two songs performed, over and over and over. One song was fast and sounded like "The Bitch Is Back" (it was called "Without a Fight") and the other was slow, ending the concert, and sounded a bit like "Crocodile Rock." Our job was to stand up, cheer, and dance around. Because they played the tracks so many times, the girl and I actually did learn the choruses of the songs and creeped the people around us out by singing along with Maxx.

So, we broke for lunch not long after. It was what is called a Walkaway Lunch, which, as the name implies, means the extras are dismissed for an hour to find lunch where they can. Because we were on a studio lot, it was pouring rain, and was night, there weren't a lot of places we could walk to, so we went to the studio commissary. I thought John was with us, but he either stopped off to smoke or went back to get a jacket, because we didn't see him the whole hour. Tiffany and I (I really should come up with a nickname for her rather than using her real name, don't you think?) discovered a Panda Express there, and both loaded up on Chinese food, then found a table. After a while, the woman from DARK STREETS that called Bijou Phillips a bitch saw me and sat down next to us. A friend of hers joined us, so suddenly, it was me and three ladies at a table. Who's the Ladykiller now, Johnny?

Tiffany was excited because she got a gig on "American Idol" being the stand-in for that really hot blonde girl with the southern accent (my sister was living with me for a while and she made me watch it . . . SHE MADE ME!!!). That is pretty exciting, even for a non-fan like me.

We went back to holding and found John there, pouting or something. Tiffany assured him we hadn't ditched him, and that I had told her I saw him heading toward the commissary (turns out it was some other underwear model-looking guy).

Practically immediately, it was time to go back to set. They were going to get their money's worth on this one. I found a couple of seats right by the stage, and Tiffany sat with me. John didn't want to sit there, though, as it would make his duck-outs more difficult.

So, for ten hours, including lunch, I sat next to this girl. I thought it was . . . well, everything my life has not been. I was funny, she was cool and friendly, John kept ditching out to smoke cigarettes and not work. It was fun, even though people were tired and it was raining outside. We went until late. John got twitchy and headachy. She got sleepy and sullen. I got, I don't know what, grouchy maybe.

They gave us roses for the last number, which they'd then take away, distribute again, take away, then redistribute. I didn't really understand that. Why not just do the first song until they were done with it, then do the second? The only guess I had would be to keep it interesting for us, but that shouldn't be a factor--it never has before.

Tiffany and I got along really well (I thought so, anyway). We found out we both like Elton John songs and sang a couple together. Then she went to sleep while I sang "Your Song." She said nothing, but the girl in the row in front of me complimented me on the song. I felt good.

At one point, the thought occurred to me that literally ANYBODY else would have put the moves on this girl to some degree or another. An inner voice said, "At least put your arm around her, man." I battled with this inner voice, that often tells me to do way more than I am doing, driving me to distraction. But finally, I thought, "Look, your whole life, you never lean in to kiss the girl or take her hand or put your arm around her unless she instigates it, because you're afraid she'll react badly like ole what's-her-name did back in, what, the Cretaceous Period? If the worst that could happen is that she recoils in horror (like Jurassic What's-her-name), who cares? Chances are she won't do that, and if she does, you can always kill yourself." Encouraged by this inner voice, I did as he asked.

You gotta understand that to me, a successful night at the club is having a few laughs with friends and maybe TALKING TO, or, if I'm lucky, DANCING WITH a pretty girl. If John spent a weeknight (let alone a Friday evening) that way, he'd eat the barrel of a shotgun.

Toward the very end of the night, Kim Cattrell came onstage and did the Rock & Rock version of “The Actor’s Nightmare.” It was strange that the people around me did not know who she was. Tiffany told them she played Samantha on “Sex & the City.” I told them she was the MANNEQUIN. At one point, Cattrell sang the chorus to “Toucha-Toucha-Touch Me” from ROCKY HORROR. Found out that Tiffany and I sang the rest of the song together. If there was a match made in Heaven (for me, Hell for her), it would appear to be us.

At 12:45 or so, I went on John's smoke break with him. I don't smoke (perhaps the only thing I like less than someone yammering away on their cellphone), but he just seems to enjoy sneaking away so much that I had to join him at least once. The second we got out in the rain, John laid into me (or at least that's how I took it) for being a dick to him and a . . . I don't know what--to the girl. "Stop with the kissing jokes, will you? Jesus!" he said, where I thought I was the charmingest ever. "Why do you keep mentioning my girlfriend?" he asked, and except for once, when I asked him if she wanted to see V FOR VENDETTA with us tomorrow, I didn't think I had. He said I had brought her up about six times during the night. Well, it really pissed me off. I was surprised by the level of anger I felt, perhaps reacting to his words as negatively as possible. I glowered for a few minutes, really angry and he knew it, actually having to take a walk through the rain to clear my head. But John is only trying to help me. I guess. "Let them come to you," he said, though I'm leaving in a few days, and there's no chance for her to come to me.

If I've not mentioned it before John is rather smooth with the ladies. I've seen it time and time again, and this time, with Lil Tiffany, he kept touching her ear and she'd bat his hand away, then he'd do it again. He claimed her ear was an errogenous zone--whether just for her or for all women, I have no idea--and if she really had wanted him to stop, she would've made it clear. Not to slight someone I considered a friend, but I think I now understand why he didn't want me mentioning his girlfriend.

I went back inside, soaked and surly, and sat down next to Tiffany, who still slept (she had spread herself over the three seats I had reserved for us). To keep people happy (fat chance, though, extras are almost as complainy as . . . well, actors), the production had ordered about a hundred pizzas, and I had a couple of slices. John poked his head in for a moment, scooped up one or two that was left, then was gone again.

That was the swan song, though, for the production called it a night after the pizza was gone. The line to check out was massive, but somehow I got there ahead of most people and was back on the freeway before the last person checked out. Everything is subjective, I know, but I choose to remember the positive about my evening on "Him and Us." For me, this was a fun, enjoyable, and worthwhile night, even if I was angry for an hour of it and tired when I got home.

Rish Casanova Outfield

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Curtain Call of Sorts

March 22nd, 2006

My father had some home-spun wisdom he would repeat ad nauseum, chief among it was "Any fool can stay up all night, but it takes a real man to get up early in the morning." My Mom always used to say, "No matter where you go, you'll find good people, people you'll need and love."

Both those sayings came back to me today. My father's because I had to get up before the sun to work on a pilot. My mom's words come back to me at the end of this sometimes fun, sometimes lonely, sometimes dull, but usually interesting road of being an extra. I'm writing this, sitting in my Comfy Chair at seven-thirty in the morning, working on something called "The 12th Man" at the L.A. Colosseum, and it's sort of like the end of THE WIZARD OF OZ or "The Inner Light" here as I find nearly everyone who made an impact on me during my few months doing background is here today.

There's Mark, my bald friend, who talked for hours with me about "Saturday Night Live" and the STAR WARS TRILOGY, befriending me better than people I've known for years. There's the mop-headed loudmouth I first saw on "House" and has plagued me ever since. There's John the Ladykiller, sleeping in a sitting position with his mouth half open, and still managing to look handsomer than me by far. Next to me is the old man who I sat next to all night when I first started and worked on "Big Love," giving me advice and telling about his life of adventure. There's James, the chain-smoking extra who got doused with soot like me in Oliver Stone's 9/11 movie and, like me, didn't get paid for it (the difference is, he eventually got a check and I didn't). In line to get breakfast, I saw the girl who called Bijou Phillips a bitch on DARK STREETS (we were all thinking it). There's the General, a middle-aged guy with red hair who played the French commanding officer in THE GOOD GERMAN. There's Javier, who worked with me on my very first commercial, for Ford, which paid so much I thought I'd be doing this forever. Also from that show is the soldier who marched behind me and made me paranoid by telling me I was doing it wrong. And there's that kid from THE GOOD GERMAN holding tent who still remembered his boyhood when Jimmy Fallon was on "Saturday Night Live," and told me Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS was the best movie he'd ever seen. I just said "Hi" to that Christian guy who got offended when I used the word "chingaso" and took my part on "Charmed" when I had to shave my beard off. Walking by is the bald black guy who got a line ("Is she alive?") on THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES. Wow, there's Guido from the SEPTEMBER set, who was really just trying to get ahead in life, like everybody else.

There's supposed to be three hundred of us here today, playing fans at a basketball game. Chances are, I'll see more familiar faces, here to send me off as my time as an extra comes to a close.

One of my first days as a "background actor,", years ago, was on "Boston Public," playing a student watching a talent show. One of the extras had brought a guitar and he strummed oldies while we waited to go on set. Unable to get into the book I was reading--it was "The Fellowship of the Ring," the first time I tried (unsuccessfully) to read it--and after a while, I went over and sang Beatles songs with the guy and the backgrounders who had gathered around him.

Off in the corner, a new guy has brought his guitar (heck, he may even be that same dude--I'd never know it) and has been playing Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, and yes, the Beatles, for the last half hour. Could it be that six years have not gone by, that it's the fabled year 2000 again, and I'm just starting all this, instead of leaving it behind?

I doubt it, though the sentiment sure is nice.

***

This was a long day, consisting of us sitting and pretending to cheer, then being moved to a new area. They were shooting several games' worth of crowd shots, so we rearranged and changed the colours we had on (or waved). The heat wasn't on and a lot of people complained about the cold, but because the show was set in a non-California setting, we had our coats with us.

I feel lucky that I got to sit with Mark and Ladykiller John and Brian, a red-haired due I'd worked with a dozen times and never once talked to. They were funny and friendly enough to laugh at my jokes and let me hang out with them. They were all as tired as me, and more so, since John had been up all night drinking and whoring, and complained about the show, which, I believe was a pilot for Fox.

I didn’t recognise anybody in the cast, except Jodi-Lynn O’Keefe, who my little sister met years ago in Salt Lake City, Utah, and doesn’t seem to even qualify as a celebrity anymore. "The 12th Man" was a Comedy about guys who never get to play in the games, but just sit on the bench all the time, as far as I could tell. No idea if it will go anywhere.

It was Brian the Red-Head's last day as an extra--apparently, he'd gotten himself an agent and was going to go out for real acting from this point on. He had brought his head shots (you know what those are, right?) and resume, and we all chuckled at the pics of him decked out like some kind of ninja.

Besides the fake basketball players, there were some shapely dancing cheerleader-type girls we ogled for a little while, but even that gets boring after a while. For some reason, the guys were restless, and kept trying to ditch out for cigarette breaks, to take naps in their cars, or to raid the craft service cart. Regardless of the little weasel I apparently come across as from this blog (don't get me started), I try to be quiet, easy-going, and obedient on TV and movie sets. Today, though, I felt rebellious, and joined them in one of their jaunts. We emerged in the light of day, feeling much like we were John Hughes characters skipping out on school or detention, and ditching the security people armed with deadly walkie talkies. I found that to be a lot more fun than I can explain.

There were others up to no good as well (apparently, when it's a huge cattle call like this one, there's a lot more opportunity for mischief), and we witnessed a very high-schooly pissing contest between a frowning stud-faced punk and a big Afro-wearing black guy. The big Afro-wearing black guy had apparently befriended the world's most obnoxious extra (Moptop) and was repeating the words "Nutter Butter" again and again. Frowning stud-faced punk finally got sick of it and asked him to please shut up. Afro-wearing black guy told him to mind his own f#$*ing business, and Stud-face told him what he could do with his business and Nutter Butters. The Afro-wearing black guy had friends (they always do, right?), whereas Stud-face had none, but Stud-face wanted to fight. Afro-wearin’ told him to take a swing, but Stud-face didn’t. It got pretty escalated, and Stud-face even told Mark to shut the eff up when Mark said Nutter Butter wasn’t worth getting mad over (I sort of disagree). Later, P.A.s were told of the little altercation, and I did feel bad when they warned Afro-wearing black guy that there better not be trouble, but nothing to frowning stud-face punk. That didn't seem right.

I’m not sure why I went on and on about that, since it’s surely not all that interesting, but hey, I write what I write.

At one point, alcohol was even produced (Brian might have been celebrating, I don't know), and a couple of blondes came to sit in the area, both attractive and one a huge Monty Python fan. She looked like that little girl that showed up at the end of the "Buffy" series and was in EUROTRIP, only with light hair and seems like a real keeper, if I'd even gotten her name.

I wonder sometimes*. I really do.

***

It was not an eventful shoot--we cheered, or pantomimed cheering, and pretended there was actually a game going on. At one point, someone started a rumour that they were on the last shot, and about fifty of us ran out to line up to sign out (the lines can be interminable, especially when you've got a group as huge as this was, so if you can get in line early, it saves a lot of grey hairs). We stood there for ten minutes, being joined by more and more, before we found out it wasn't the last shot at all, and we had to go sit down again.

By the time all the above had been written, we had been there more than twelve hours. I'll admit that the company (and all the screwin' around) made the time go much faster. On their last water and cigarettes break, I stayed in my seat to write in my notebook and ended up being selected to join a little group away from the rest of the main throng.

They were shooting a scene where, after the game, the team is marching toward the locker room, and our little group were fans hanging around the exit. We only did two takes and then everybody else (that wasn't in our little group of maybe thirty people) was wrapped (which, if I've never mentioned, means they get to hand in their vouchers and go home). The rest of us, nicely enough, got to go to craft services and eat pizza. I had a couple of pieces of Canadian bacon and pineapple (my favourite). Then, without us having worked again, all but fifteen were wrapped, split down the middle. Once again, I was among those that stayed.

We shot a scene where the team is heading to the showers and get complimented/chewed out by the coach and the team's owner. The extras in our group played obnoxious lookie-loos, waving and trying to get the attention of the players while security held us behind velvet rope. After they got all of those shots, they made the extras who were standing in the back go to the front and the ones standing in front . . . got to go home. There were now six extras left, and I was one of them. Pretty cool (or terrible, depending on your attitude).

We did a couple more takes of the same thing (it was supposed to be after another game--though why the coach and owner would be dressed exactly the same way and standing in the exact same spot must be part of the comedy), then all were wrapped. It was the longest day I've had this year, I believe (from 6:30am to 10:30pm, though they wrote down 10:15 on our vouchers**), and after this month of practically no work, it was welcome.

This didn't turn out to be my last day--I got a call around two to do two more days on DREAMGIRLS--but with so many familiar faces, it would've made a perfect one.

Rish "The 13th Man" Outfield

*That is, about myself and why I continue to exist.

**Which they ain't supposed to do, since we had to walk all the way back to our cars to leave (they're supposed to take into account the time it will take us to get on our ways). But ah well, I got paid plenty just to sit around.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sing It, Gladys

"L.A. grew too much for the man;
(too much for the man, he couldn't make it)
So he's leaving the life he's come to know.
(he said he's goin')
He said he's goin' back to find;
(goin' back to find)
Oooh, what's left of his world,
The world he left behind . . . not so long ago."


This, of course, is from Gladys Knight and the Pips's hit song "Midnight Train To Georgia." Its lyrics are about as apt as you can get. But more on that in a moment.

A little out of it right now. I had my first all-night shoot with DREAMGIRLS last night/this morning, and got in around 8:30. Traffic was annoying, but not as bad as it was the last time I did this, coming home exhausted from shooting "The X-Files" and having to endure the 405 Freeway at its worst.

Seriously, there was no one I recognised on set. I knew the costuming women and the A.D.s, but as for the extras, I don't know what happened. It was like there was a two year gap from the last time I did this, and everybody I knew had moved on.

One guy, a very nice man in his forties with Reed Richards-style grey on his temples, recognised me, and rightly told me where we had worked together. I didn't remember him at all, though.

I hadn't worn a tuxedo in I don't know how long. I'm trying to remember if I wore one in a previous extras gig. None are coming to mind right now.

I have to admit that most of the night, I just sat and read. I'm not complaining, it was a very good book.

It was in the same stage where we shot the first couple days of DREAMGIRLS, doing something very similar . . . watching our three ladies do their thing. Or perhaps, more appropriately, their thang.

I apologise for using that word.

In the end, I got to see Beyonce one . . . last . . . time.

Okay, so "Midnight Train To Georgia." As Ms. Knight sang later in the song, "He's goin' back to a simpler place and time."

The song itself I was not familiar with--nor indeed many Motown songs (you see, I grew up in a village so hick and whitebread that when the miniseries "Roots" aired, they retitled it "The Good Old Days")--until I was on the set of "Boston Public" a few years ago. Loretta Divine taught it to us in a fake class and I never forgot it.

Only hearing it again a couple of days ago did the lyrics sink in. Except for the bit about selling my old car and having a Gladys Knight who'd rather live in my world than live without me in hers, that song could be about yours truly.

Yep, I'm packing it in.

All of us have enemies--or less dramatic, obstacles--that prevent us from doing what we want and being where we want. In my case*, chief of these enemies/obstacles is me myself. So, due to that pesky, nefarious character, my time as a professional extra in the great city of Los Angeles (well, great weatherwise, anyway) is drawing to a close.

I came here to be a screenwriter, not an actor. But I guess I should have specified PROFESSIONAL screenwriter, or PRODUCED screenwriter, 'cause I have written several photoplays, as they used to call them, but done little with them. I started out doing Extra work as a lark in between jobs, and last year sometime, that became my full-time job.

Even in extra-work, I had my dreams. I wanted enough SAG vouchers to join the union, I wanted to play a zombie or monster, and I wanted to work on "Star Trek." Alas, these three dreams will not come true.

Yet.

I keep telling myself I will return, head held high, when I've saved up enough money (and dreams) to get back for a second go-round. Those around me, though, don't think that I will. They seem to think I'm giving up, putting away childish things, and slinking back like a whipped dog.

And maybe, in a way, that is true. But who knows what is around the bend, who knows where my destiny lies, and can I really afford to pay $3.19 a gallon for gasoline?

"He kept dreamin'
(dreamin')
oooh, that someday he'd be a star;
(a superstar, but he didn't get far)
But he sure found out the hard way,
That dreams don't always come true."


Rish "The Enemy Within" Outfield

*Though there certainly have arisen some from the outside; perhaps more on that later.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Back To (Day) One

"Back to One!" is the command an assistant director shouts at the end of every take, telling the extras to return to their starting point for another go. I didn't always know that, however, and am reminded of my first day as an extra here in Los Angeles.
(rubs long white beard)
Seems like it was just yesterday . . .

August 21, 2000

I’ve always been a problem sleeper. Maybe not all my life, but ever since childhood, when my mom would wake me up to go to school and then come back a half an hour later to find me still sleeping, with no recollection of her waking me, my sleeping habits have gotten me in trouble.

Take lately, for example. This week, through a tiny bout of courage and determination, I enrolled myself in Central Casting, and managed to book myself on "The X-Files." The only bad thing was, the call time was at 6:30am, meaning I’d have to go to sleep around 9:30 to get myself eight hours of sleep.

But I couldn’t seem to get tired. So 10 o’clock rolled around, then eleven, then twelve. Finally, I told myself I had to go to sleep or I’d be suffering like my soon-to-be-damned soul in the morning. 12:45am arrived, and I tried desperately to sleep. I couldn’t even yawn. One o’clock. One-fifteen. One-thirty. I was in trouble. My mind wandered to a thousand different subjects, and though I kept reminding myself that I had to sleep, I couldn’t get comfortable, and worse, I couldn’t get tired. 1:45am arrived, meaning I had been at it for over an hour. What the hell was wrong with me? Two o’clock came, and with each fifteen minute interval, I’d do the math in my head, exactly how much sleep I was going to get. Even worse, I thought, if I don’t fall asleep soon, my alarm’s gonna go off at 5:40, and I’m going to simply shut it off without thinking. A terrible thought since I knew my penchant for doing that very thing.

It was close to two-thirty when I thought about just getting up and going to Ralph’s to buy toilet paper and some razors. If I wasn’t sleeping, I might as well make myself useful and buy groceries, right? I couldn’t bring myself to do it, though, hoping that any minute now, I’d drift off to sleep. Again, my thoughts were everywhere. I was thinking of things and people and songs and phrases and stories and ideas that never would’ve been worth my time during the day, and were only making me miserable in the wee small hours. I tried to clear my mind of all thoughts. I tried lying perfectly still. Heck, I even tried self-hypnosis. But I was awake.

I got up and went to the bathroom. The light was blinding. My face looked pale and haggard (but hey, don’t it always?), and when I went back to bed, I saw that it was 3:15am. I didn’t even want to do the math. I was dead meat.

That’s the last time I remember looking at the clock before my alarm went off, so I must have fallen asleep after that.

I got up. I didn’t even push Snooze. I showered, dressed, and got out of here. Luckily, the location was even closer than I had anticipated, so I got there early. I was among the first to be given my wardrobe: the uniform of a Baltimore Police Officer. I didn’t know how I’d look, considering I think I barely pass for an adult, but the uniform fit well and was really cool. I got to carry a gun, pepper spray, a badge, a CB radio, and two ammo clips for my pistol. I even got ushered into the makeup trailer and got my hair cut.

Actor Joe Morton was guest-starring in this episode, and I talked to him a minute about his death scene in TERMINATOR 2 (he had been in a car accident and tried to recreate the experience of having a crushed lung). I should’ve talked to him longer, but I always feel uncomfortable about that sort of thing. Also on hand as a guest-star was Danny Trejo, who plays this episode’s villain, Cesar Campo, the Spiderman. I talked to him for a minute about always playing a villain.

Most of the shoot, I just sat around. I read probably a hundred pages in two books and had a sleep-deprived stomach-ache for a while. All around me were other extras, playing cops like me, detectives, prison guards, perps, or prisoners. Some of them got involved in a poker game, which I watched with awe (depressed and feeling like an outsider), especially since they were playing with real money (maybe I just felt like a depressed outsider). When I finally got my moment to shine, it was one of those shots where I’m not going to be seen, so it makes me wonder what they even needed me for. A couple of hours later, I got to sit at a desk in the precinct, but again, it’s doubtful that I was visible.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were elsewhere, so today’s lead actor was Robert Patrick, the scary dude with evil blue eyes, who was also in TERMINATOR 2. We also had a conversation, but it consisted of: “How you doin’?” “Just great, how about you?” “Have you seen this boy?”

The workday ended and it was time for people to go home, but the assistant director asked if any of us wanted to stick around to play other parts. Knowing this was the first work I’d had in what seems like years, I asked if I could (and frankly, I love doing film and TV work so much, I would've done it for free). They were happy with my volunteering, and I suddenly found myself no longer a police officer, but one of the lowly prisoners. Stripped of all my props and uniform, I put on a bright orange jumpsuit and a pair of Keds.

A couple of hours still had to pass before we got escorted to the set (herded like a bunch of convicts, I might add), and by this time, my lack of sleep was wearing on me. The set was a two-level prison, with about eight cells on each floor. All was made up extraordinarily realistically, and it was only on close inspection that I realized that the cinder blocks were painted on, the toilets were fake, and the metal bars were made of wood. I was escorted to my cell, where I sat on my bed, waiting for them to finish rehearsing and setting up the shot.

Sometime later, I heard a snoring sound from the cell next to mine. The convict beside me had fallen asleep, but nobody really noticed because all the action took place on the floor below us. When it was time for us to go back to the rest area (they called it "holding"), I woke him, but he just stayed there. We came back twice more, but never was any of the action focused on our level of the prison. The lights were hot and bright, and I leaned back in the hard little bunk (is that what they call the beds in a jail cell?), listening to the directions and line readings. My eyes closed, opened again, closed . . .

I awoke with a start. I opened my eyes (it had gotten darker), sat up, and checked the cell next to me for the snoring man. He was gone. All the prisoners were gone, as a matter of fact. Down below was just a scattering of people, taking down lights and carrying equipment. Embarrassed, I made my way past the crew and out of the studio to the background holding section. There too, everyone was gone--the chairs, the cards, even the food. It was like one of those bad dreams, the kind you have during a good night’s sleep.

I found one of the assistant directors at a table, doing paperwork. She glanced up and asked what I was doing still dressed in my jumpsuit. I didn’t know what to say, so I just said "Sorry" and ran to the changing truck. I changed as fast as I could and traded everything back in. I felt like I had been caught doing something indecent by my mother or religious fanatic aunt, and was afraid of what would happen when I returned to the A.D. (which is illogical, after all, I had put in fourteen hours of exemplary extra work, what could they do?).

When I finally checked in, I said, "This is gonna sound stupid, but . . ." and explained it to her. She laughed and said, "You’re right, that was stupid," and told one of her buddies about it. But no censures came and that was pretty much all she said. I was sent on my way, still feeling tired and ashamed, and stopped at Ralph’s before I came back home.

So, that was my first day as a full-time extra. I’m going to sleep now. I hope it causes me no further problems.

Rish "Blast From the Past" Outfield

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

March 3rd, 2006

Most of the time, it's not too hard to be an extra. Free food, lots of downtime, interesting people, no manual labour involved. There are a couple of downsides, such as the low pay and long hours, and the occasional time when you work into the night and have to be up early the next morning. That happened with me this week. I didn't get home from WIZARD OF GORE until past midnight, then had to be in Hollywood for "Commander In Chief" at 5:18 the next morning. I love sleep a great deal, but going without for one night didn't kill me.

We were supposed to be in and out by ten that morning, but things went a little long, as they always do. I was a bookstore patron in a little scene with only eight extras and three actors, shot in a real bookstore (but with phony books, oddly enough). At the craft service table, I saw Geena Davis for the first time. I know this is the pot calling the kettle something dark, but she looked strange.

It was an easy day, and had I not been sleepy, I might have called in for more work in the afternoon if some came available. Also working with me in the scene was the girl Ladykiller John asked about setting me up with--the one who was all over him like suck on a Pauly Shore film. She was pretty friendly with me, talking about who she hated on the set, and choosing to sit next to me and eat, so I started thinking about the second-to-the-last time I worked on "House," and how the guy used the line, "Hey, you wanna make out sometime?" and how I vowed to use it someday. This girl, while not pretty per se, had something . . . something intangible about her, that was alluring and attractive. I don't know, maybe it was her busoms, but I actually considered laying the line on her. The worst she could say was, "You're a goblin-esque little man with bad breath and spindly arms, and no one will ever love you."

And she probably wouldn't say that. In fact, she'd almost certainly think I was joking.

So, on the shuttle back to set, I patted the seat next to me and had her join me. But literally the SECOND she sat down, as if she had some kind of telepathic knowledge of what I planned to do, she began talking about her boyfriend, and how well they got along, and how they live together but don't see each other as much this month as last. "Boyfriend?" I said, almost adding, "Guess I won't ask you to make out with me now," instead saying, "Great," in my least-enthusiastic tone. She praddled on about how they liked to go hiking. I had already mentally checked out, wondering if my sick turtles will regain their sight, and if my sister and niece would be living with me another week, and how long I had that video I forgot to take back, and why Indian people always have the last name Patel, and whether I would be working the next week.*

The next day, I was working on a film called FRACTURE, ostensibly with Sir Anthony Hopkins.

I was playing a party guest, wearing my tired old black suit over an Armani shirt and tie Wardrobe lent me. They actually gave me the choice between shaving off my pathetic excuse for a beard or having them colour it in so it looked darker. I see-sawed, and finally, the makeup woman took black mascara and painted it for me. It looked strange to my eyes, having always had light facial hair ever since I started growing it. Which, I believe, was at twenty-two, you smug Chewbaccas.

We were in Downtown L.A., shooting our scenes--once the sun went down--on the roof of the Standard Hotel. We had to take the elevator to the top, then get out and go up a flight of stairs to reach the roof, and a fairly-impressive view of the city. The bottom level was a bar, and many of the guys were tempted to sneak down there and down a bottle or two. I don't know, 'cause I'm unprofessional, but I imagine one could get in trouble for that. On the roof was some kind of lounge area, complete with swimming pool, bar, bright red lounge chairs and big enclosed balls with waterbeds in them (like an adult version of a McDonalds Playland), and garbage cans in the shape of hippopotomuses. Once again, something I'd never ever get into if I weren't being paid to be there.

Our group was fairly large--maybe sixty people--and I recognised only one or two among them. For the first take, I hung around an easy-going black girl from Boston, as we were both supposed to exit the bathroom around the same time. The bathrooms were strange in that we both shared the same sink and mirror, and if you looked under the mirror, you could see the womens' stalls and the men at the urinals. I'll never really understand stuff like that.

After a while, we were joined by a dude--who claimed he was normally a Stand-In but was slumming it that night as an Extra--who was one of those people who knows absolutely everything. He had read tons of books by the author of my book, he knew people on the crew by name, he knew the ins and outs of the writing business, and he spoiled the ending of Stephen King's new book when I told him I'd just picked it up.

Luckily, I was only around him for an hour or so, for in the next setup, the A.D. gave me a seat at a table down near the principals. I was given directions, we rehearsed it, then had those directions changed, so all I was expected to do was sit and pretend to drink. The guy sitting across from me was actually quite cool, and told me all I could ever want to know about the TV show "Firefly."

FRACTURE stars (sans Hopkins) Ryan Gosling and Rosamund Pike, and both were working atop the building with us. The scene was simple: they meet, share drinks, then go to the edge of the building and talk, then separate. I never know why scenes like that take all night to shoot, but they invariably do.

Though the thermometer atop a near building constantly mocked us with its statement of how nice the night was, a cold, sharp wind was blowing the whole time, and even with heaters set up all around us, it was uncomfortably cold.

In between each take, the actors would be given coats, while the extras would quickly huddle under the nearest heater. As the night progressed, people got in the habit of getting up and going to the heater as soon as the camera moved off of them. All the while, the thermometer claimed it was in the mid-fifties outside.

My good friend tyranist often says "you bastard," when I do or see something he wants to do or see (we've a loving relationship). As he's the biggest Rosamund Pike fan I know, my working with her might be one of those times. In fact, I got to sit in her seat. Or, she sat in mine, I guess. Sometimes I'd have to wait for her to leave it before I could plop myself down again.

Very attractive and very British, I was an admirerer of hers in both PRIDE & PREJUDICE and (the awful) DIE ANOTHER DAY. Up close, she didn't strike me as all that gorgeous, though.

If I saw her in a mall, sure, I'd check her out, but my eyes would probably keep on moving. I don't know what it was, really, and I'm curious to see how she appears in the finished film.

After lunch, which was at ten p.m., conditions got a little better, as they turned on the bar heaters and provided all the hot chocolate and/or coffee you could drink (and when that ran out, all the hot water you cared to pour sugar into). We were all prepared to go until sunup, as the crew told us they'd be shooting until five or six, and we at least hoped we wouldn't hit morning traffic. Luckily, however, they canceled the last setup of the night and we were released at three-thirty.

Unluckily, I didn't get any more work after that. Basically, my whole Thursday was screwed because I'd stayed up all night and didn't want to work in the morning. No excuse for Friday, though. Or Saturday. Or Sunday. Or Monday, etc..

Turns out this may be my last post for a while. It came as a surprise to me, and I've enjoyed the work and writing about it in these pages. I wish I had a big, exciting tale, full of glitz and glamour, laughs and fun, to tell you about if this is the last time I tell you about my day.

All things considered, I can't say being an extra wasn't fun while it lasted.

Rish Outfield

*If you'd care to know the answers to those ruminations, they are: by mid-March they would be fine, one more week, I had it two days but the rental was for three, I really don't know, and unfortunately not.