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.

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