Sunday, April 23, 2006

Korean show

April 23rd/24th, 2006

Today may well be my last day doing extra work. And it's a unique one.

My pal Matthew told me that Koreans are supposed to be the most attractive Asians. I don't know where he obtained his knowledge--tentacle porn is my guess--but I hadn't heard that before, and made a note of it.

Today, I've been working on my first non-English-speaking project as an extra. It's a Korean TV pilot according to some, a Korean miniseries according to others (and a movie according to one). But it IS Korean, that's for sure. The majority of the crew speaks a few words of English, but when they tell me to do something, I have to ask them to repeat it so many times they usually just fetch the Korean-American P.A. to translate.

At lunch, if you can believe it, I actually had a conversation with a few of the Korean crewmembers . . . in Spanish. Seems one of them had married a Bolivian woman and the other two were his children. That was surreal, but they explained a bit about the production and told me it was called "The Beast and the Witch." At least that's English translated from Spanish translated from Korean.

Today is Sunday and I'm very tired. For the last while, I haven't been doing extra jobs, but instead working with the U.S. Marines in the desert at the Twentynine Palms military base. Every morning, I got up between 3:30 and 4:00, and I just got home last night. When I heard I had to be here--in the city of San Fernando--at 6:30am, I groaned, but remembered that it's an hour later than I'd have gotten up yesterday.

We're shooting in a warehouse where there's a mockup of an airplane and an airport. I was here once before, on an episode of "Malcolm in the Middle," before I started my blog. That day we shot in the airport side of the warehouse, and I chatted with Bryan Cranston about a horror flick he did called TERROR TRACT. Today we're shooting in the plane set, so it's mostly been sitting quietly (some have actually managed to sleep in these seats, but I've not been so lucky).

I actually got moved up to First Class at one point, sitting across from the principles, but that wasn't a big deal because I don't know who they are and will assuredly never see this programme air. I don't speak a bloody word of Korean, so I've been pretty lost and wide-eyed about the goings-on. I have noticed that they went from saying something that sounded like "Queue!" to "Action!" and say "Cut!" or "Okay!" at the end of each take. They are fast and efficient (about, say, one thousand eight hundred times more than an American production), but they're shooting on video and a heck of a lot more by the seat of their pants than we do.

For example, the lighting guys tend to just hold the lights in their hands, rather than doing lengthy setups, or hold varying scrims or bounce boards in front of lights. Also unusual is that they simply grab us (the extras) and bodily move us when they went to make a change, and have had us say oddly fragmented dialogue (such as "I am happy you are back") at the spur of the moment. Of course, a U.S. (i.e. Union) production couldn't do that, as they'd have to pay heavily for a line like "I am happy you are back."*

The young stars of the show are unfamiliar to me--but are apparently real sensations back on their home turf. I didn't get the guy's name, but the girl is almost ridiculously beautiful, and gets more so as the hours pass. Matthew may have been talking about her when he gave me his Korean info.

Oh, I got her name, Bo something, but I've forgotten it. I'll ask again before I go.**

I know less than nothing about Asian culture, only that theirs is very different from ours. The Korean acting technique certainly was unique; I actually had to look away a time or two. I have seen more subtlety in Saturday morning cartoons from the Seventies.

The Sunday shoot was pretty long, but they fed us and didn't make us wait for paychecks, and that made the hurt go away. It was to my shock that I discovered they shot fourteen pages today. Wow.

They asked who wanted to come back the next day, and I volunteered for some reason (in retrospect, I was glad). The Monday shoot was at LAX, subbing for LAX and Las Vegas airport.

We hung out in one of the terminals, sleeping or reading or talking (a guy who called himself Johnny Laos brought a guitar and entertained us with Johnny Cash and Elvis songs), and crazily, they gave us a per diem to buy lunch with (that had never happened to me before).

There weren't a lot of us, so we got used a lot, occasionally in the same scene. From time to time, I'd be moved because I had been too visible in another shot, but most of the time, I assume they just think we all look as alike as many of us think they look alike.

They also depended on us to help them communicate with the non-Korean-speakers in the airport, asking them not to look at the camera or to stand in a certain place, and that made us feel more important than we usually do.

These guys really know how to hustle and they pay in cash (they were generous, too, in a town that never is). And something else, for a couple of shots, they brought out the Steadicam, and shot their scenes so fast, that sweat was running down the camera operator's face. I've NEVER seen an American Steadicam operator sweat, and since I'm writin' this little account, neither have you.

It was like guerilla filmmaking, but with permits. I worked on a super-cheap American production a few weeks ago that was the complete opposite of this in pretty much every way. The Koreans were all polite, all seemed friendly, and got their work done quick. It was a cool experience, tired as I was.

I'm in a fairly good mood today. Days and days in the desert sun gave me a slightly healthier pallour, and listening to three of my squad members tell me I'm too hard on myself and need to believe in my own abilities has given me a more healthy glow. I'm about as handsome today as I'm ever gonna be (right now, I'm just itchin to say something like "that's like a zombie saying he's as alive as he'll ever be," but that kind of thing bugged the crap out of Mark when I did it, so I'm trying to cut back), and I'm glad to be back in my apartment for a couple more days. My life, folks, is never going to smell like roses, but I'm struggling to avoid the thorns. How's that for a senseless metaphor?

I'm going to try to be positive in the next few days. So, positive comment #1: I'm ahead of the game financially for the first time this year. I'm almost back to the point where I look for people to give things to again.

#2: Yesterday I got an email from the girl of my Nineties dreams, just writing to say hello. It don't mean nothin', but it is the first time she's written since 1994. I still care a torch for her, and I guess I always will. No biggie, though.

#3: I lived in constant fear of returning home to find that the parasitic thieves of my neighbourhood would've broken into my apartment for the fifth--count 'em FIFTH--time while I was away. I was almost disappointed, in some sick way, to find everything perfectly fine when I opened my door last night. I went from corner to corner, sure I had missed something, that it was too good to be true, like the X-MEN 3 trailer.

#4 I gotta say, I'm glad I'm not a Marine. To be shouted at for hours all day when I was uncomfortable and tired is not really my definition of a swell time, despite the hefty paycheck.

And I've really had a ball being a professional extra (or "unprofessional," as a few have said) these last few months. This could well be my last blog post about extra work, so I had to say something. I've met good people, like my mom said I would, and gotten up early, like my dad would've wanted.

But really, it's been a vacation, as I learned at Twentynine Palms. To get on set and get (mostly) free food, sit around and read or write, watch babes like Elisha Cuthbert and Rebecca Romijn and Miss USA and Beyonce Knowles and Callie Fredericks and Paul Walker (whoops, did that one slip out again?), doze and dream . . . Well, it ain't been the most trying work.

And if you've gotten a smile or a nod out of it, then it's been even better.

Rish "Mister Brightside" Outfield

* That reminds me, one of the extras near me was given the line "I am going to the bathroom," and said it for two takes, then boasted about the pay raise he was going to get during lunch. I'm not sure what his reaction was when he found he was getting no extra pay for delivering dialogue in the movie/show.

** It was Lee Bo Young, actually. Her male co-star, whose name I've misplaced, was all over the IMDB, and the next day, Korean travelers constantly asked him for his autograph, so he must've been the real deal.