Friday, June 29, 2012

Green Lantern: Don't Fear the Reaper

I think I've said a thing or three about how much pleasure I got out of voicing Sinestro on the audio drama "Green Lantern: The Man Without Fear." I auditioned for the part during the very small window (less than a year) that I went out looking for voice work, and ended up feeling very rewarded, since the character could well have been one-note and moustache-twirling. Not that that wouldn't have also been fun, but author Jovian Lab poured a surprisng amount of depth and feeling into the part, and it required a lot of me to pull it off (if, indeed, I did the words justice).

But there is no justice in Mudville, because it would seem that GL:TMWF is no more. Apparently, Warner Bros. legal sent out one of their dreaded Cease and Desist letters, asking Jovian and MJ Cogburn to remove the podcast, despite their inclusion of a fan production disclaimer, and their never having made a dime off the show.

One of my buddies is an entertainment lawyer, and he seems to still have his soul (though his children WERE born with cauls over their faces, and they laughed when each was removed), but it's a real shame that podcast had to get slapped down like that. It certainly honored and respected the legacy of Green Lantern more than, say, that Ryan Reynolds flick last year.* I had hoped that the excellent writing and thoughtful take on the characters would get the creators real, legit work in either the comics or entertainment industry, but instead, it got them dishonor and threats.

This, kids, is why more people don't put themselves out there. It reminds me of something I heard recently about the failure of Disney's JOHN CARTER (OF MARS): apparently, studio executives were squinching their longjohns in delight at the downfall of Andrew Stanton's would-be blockbuster, pleased as punch that a creative maverick like that would get tossed down to earth like Icarus with a forty pound tumor. They weren't just happy Disney had a flop and that their revenues were up, they were giddy that somebody had put all their efforts into something that didn't work for them, and were humbled publicly for it. Like they were royals squelching a peasant rebellion.

Now, it may not be the same thing, but I hope that neither Stanton nor the Green Lantern podcast guys give up their dreams. I hope they pull themselves up by their bootstraps and succeed so hard, it gives the naysayers vertigo, maybe motion sickness.

I wish I had the balls to fail or succeed in something.

Balls like you, sir.

Or ma'am.

Rish "Voz/Sinestro/Atrocitus" Outfield

*If you listen closely, on moonless nights just like tonight . . . you can still hear that movie losing money.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sherman Hemsley R.I.P.

I don't know that I have anything worth saying on this one, and I was going to let it go, but I kept on thinking about it, so here it is.

Sherman Hemsley died this week.  He was 74, and famous for his work on "All in the Family," kitchy Old Navy ads, and playing George Jefferson.  I barely knew his work,* and chances are, I never watched a single episode of "The Jeffersons" in my childhood.  But during the summer between my Junior and Senior years of school, I interned at a Los Angeles talent agency, and one of their clients was Sherman Hemsley.  By the time my privilege of working full-time for no pay ended, I somehow ended up with a pile of 8x10 glossies of Mr. Hemsley.

One, in particular, sticks with me all these years later.  On it was written "Keep your ass groovin', Sherman Hemsley" in black marker.  I took this to college with me, to amuse somebody I no longer know, I'm sure, and inexplicably it ended up as the cover of my school folder.
This is the headshot his agency would send out (alas, not the signed one).
I was involved in several film projects that year, as a writer, an actor, as the boom operator, and it became a fun challenge to fit that signed Sherman Hemsley picture into every production I worked on.  Sometimes it would be on the wall, sometimes an actor would be holding my folder, once I remember sticking it on a chair like it was an honored dead family member or a throw pillow.

Part of the fun was the relative obscurity of Hemsley, but also, that odd, almost-cryptic message written on it.

So, Hemsley is gone now, and we'll probably never see those delightfully awful Old Navy commercials he was in again.  But I do hope that all of us can keep our asses groovin', in memory of him.

Rish Jefferson

*Sadly, the only time in my youth I remember seeing him in something was an NBC TV-movie about teenagers wherein I first found Allyssa Milano attractive.

Nora Ephron R.I.P.

I got really, really down in the summer of 1991. In some ways, I was more miserable then than I am now, though I look back on that year today with fondness.*

One afternoon, in the midst of a lot of doubt and heartache, I watched WHEN HARRY MET SALLY... and I was happy. Seriously, that movie took my unhappiness away and replaced it with delight.  I wanted to be that clever.  I wanted to talk that cool.  I wanted to have a friend that close, and fall in love, and do the New Year's Eve thing.  I wanted to get every joke there.  I wanted to grow up and live in the city and find out what there was to know, and be surprised I didn't know everything, and go out and live more.  I wanted to sing "Surry With The Fringe On Top" in front of Ira.

I'm still around, and I still wanna do those things. Thanks, Nora Ephron.
Ephron died this week, from leukemia.  She was seventy-one, which strikes me as almost as shocking as her death.  She was a strong, admirable woman in a field that has always been pretty man-centric.  She wrote films as diverse as SILKWOOD, the terrible Will Ferrell BEWITCHED, and MY BLUE HEAVEN, but most people know her from SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE or her last film, JULIE & JULIA.

But for me, it'll always be Harry and Sally.  I will never write a movie that good, but if I'm lucky, I'll see one or two before my obituary comes.

Rish "You made a woman meow?" Outfield

*I felt really sorry for myself in those days, and I think, if I could go back to that time, I wouldn't smack myself on the back of the head and tell me to get over it, but I'd put my arm around that kid and tell him that it's a hard time, but he's not alone, and there's good out there as well as bad. Just don't ask me to tell you it'll get better when you're older. It doesn't. You just get calluses.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Saddest Boy In The World 4

These should be faster to produce, really. This one took, what, an hour?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Richard Lynch R.I.P.

Last week, Jeff told me he had rented THE SWORD & THE SORCERER, which was a 1982 cash-in on the success of CONAN and a video store staple of the Eighties.  I had seen it a few years ago when, after seeing CONAN THE BARBARIAN for the first time, I attempted to track down its many copycats.  I didn't remember enjoying it very much, but I told Jeff I wanted to watch it with him anyway.

It starred Lee Horsley (who I knew from TV's "Matt Houston"), with Richard Lynch as the bad guy.  Lynch always played baddies in the Seventies and Eighties, because he had a cold, menacing way about him, and a scarred face that seemed cruel and vengeful.  He had apparently set himself on fire as a young man while using LSD, and I saw him in so much stuff in those days that when he showed up in a Nineties "Star Trek: TNG" two-parter, I couldn't help but exclaim, "Hey, it's that guy!"*

Well, Jeff and I watched THE SWORD & THE SORCERER together, and really enjoyed it.  It wasn't a great movie, but there were moments that really worked, and it got more and more fun as it went along.  Also, Richard Moll was cool as a demon, and it made me wonder what became of him.  Also, the female lead (played by Kathleen Beller) was interesting in that literally every character she ran into wanted to have sex with her; probably not an element feminists would appreciate today).  But a movie like that is best watched with a friend and with a smile on your face, and I had both.

Oddly, a week later, I read that Richard Lynch had died.  He was seventy-six, and checking out his IMDB page, it would seem he kept working, all these years later.  His last film was directed by Rob Zombie, about the witches of Salem coming back after three hundred years, and is sure to be neither pleasant, nor fun.

I've been to a couple of Horror conventions, and they are populated by some creepy, frightening denizens . . . the sort of people who really, really love Horror, so much that I feel like I've never actually seen any.  But I hope Lynch went to a few of those, and felt the adulation of the crowds, and got to shake a lot of hands of people who said, "You scared the hell out of me in _____." 

A lot of these actors light up when somebody remembers their work fondly, are happy to meet a fan, and really appreciate being appreciated.  I remember Richard Lynch's work fondly, so there's that.

Rish "The Gobbler" Outfield

*This is the fate of a lot of character actors.  A small percentage of them end up being, "Did you know that ______ was in _____?"-type celebrities, but the vast majority end up being nothing and unrecognizable.  I would hope that those in the middle category would be happy to be recognized, even if it's as, "the dude that got killed in that episode of 'Renegade.'"

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stupid Thing of the Week

So, there's a water park in town, and I hadn't been there since I was in my teens.  I remember one time my friends all went, and I had to stay home, and I missed seeing ole-what's-her-name in a swimsuit, and it sort of soured the whole park for me (in my mind, anyway).

But now I live with two children, and my sister thought it would be fun if we all went to the water park together, and she was kind enough to get me a pass, so that I could help her take care of the children when we went (they are one and four, so they can be a handful, and you need to be vigilant with them around water).

So, I went and we had a really good time.  The four year old was afraid of the waterslides, but we rented an innertube and I sort of forced him to go on it with me, and though he was scared the whole wait in line, by the time we got to the bottom of the slide, he wanted to go on it again.

At one point, I saw one of the waterslides you just go down without a tube, and a man came out of the end with what looked like a six month old in his arms.  The baby--can't even be called a toddler, in my estimation--seemed confused, but not overly frightened, so I asked the lifeguard at the exit what the age limit was on that thing.  He told me there was none, but that kids under a certain height had to ride with a grownup.

So, I went over to the wave pool, where my sister was wrestling with her kids, and grabbed the one year old to go on that slide with me.  He, like the newborn I'd just seen, is too young to know what's happening, or to complain ahead of time, so I just held him through the line and, sure enough, they let me hold him and go down the slide together.  This was one of those waterslides where there is a large . . . what would you call it? . . . toiletbowl-like container at the top that fills with water, then flushes out on top of you, forcing you down through the slide with the water.*  The day and water temperature were fairly warm, so it was no shock to the baby when we started to slide down, but it was a shock to me when, about halfway down, we stopped.

For a moment, I was confused.  All the water pushed past me, but instead of carrying me along, it left me with a toddler on top of me, like a beached whale there, unable to get moving again.  I believe the operator of the waterslide saw what was going on there (I assume so, anyway, since there are lifeguards whose jobs it is to watch out for accidents and horseplay and people who don't make it down all the way), for a second or three later, a large burst of water came down and sort of shoved us out of the dry spot, until, very slowly, we made it to the end and splashing into the pool there.

The baby didn't seem to love it or hate it, but I immediately told his brother about it, and suggested the two of us try it.  Now, he is afraid of everything, but is trusting enough that I was able to get him in the line with me, then distracted him by singing the Black-Eyed Peas song we'd been hearing on the intercom (which plays something called Radio Disney, which is apparently made up of only six songs on rotation, none of which are from Disney movies).  We got up to the top, I showed him how the tank filled with water and then flushed people down, and luckily, there was another kid, probably three years of age, ahead of us in the queue, that neither cried nor shat his pants because the ride was inappropriate for a young, young childe.

We got on, and got flushed down . . . and then, at the exact same point as before . . . we stopped.

Now, I recognize that I'm overweight.  I'm not gargantuanly fat, but I could lose a few, and if there were absolutely any chance of hooking up romantically with a partner, I would lose the pounds.  But I don't think I'm fat enough to get stuck in a goddamn waterslide, not when Louie Anderson and Melissa McCarthy were zooming through it like a bad enchilada through a tourist.

But I couldn't move.  I tried to lay flatter, hoping to float through the slide, but nothing happened.  I tried to crab walk with the boy on my stomach, and only made it a few inches.  A moment later, more water came through the tube, but it didn't work.  Finally, I sat up and used my legs and arms to scootch us forward, hoping to get some kind of momentum, but had no luck.  A moment after that, I felt another burst of water come through, and thought that would solve my problem, but instead, I got slammed into by another rider of the waterslide.

This was a girl, and her feet struck me in the small of my back (since I was sitting up at that moment), then she somehow skied up and around me, and on down the slide, leaving me and my nephew glued in place, but now in pain.  "Crap," I said, "We've got to get out of this if they're still sending people down."  Finally, I took the boy off my lap and sent him on ahead--he seemed to slide like greased lightning, and I sort of crab-walked after him, all the while afraid of somebody's feet shooting into the back of my head John F. Kennedy-style.

We emerged from the other side, my nephew far enough ahead that the lifeguard had to scoop him out of the clutches of Poseidon's child-hungry fingers, and wonder, "Who the hell sent a pre-schooler through this thing by himself?"  I swam over and took the boy from the lifeguard, and got us up and out of the water.  "Sorry," I said to my nephew, "I guess that wasn't fun."

He didn't argue.  And I didn't want to go on it again either.

But what was the deal?  Is it just that I'm too fat?  Are people supposed to rub bacon grease on their posteriors before entering the sliding area?  Was it my posture?  Heck, I'd even guess that I was destined to get stuck in it so I'd have a funny story to tell . . . except that this one hasn't been very funny (and nobody I told it to laughed).

Man, I hate those fables where the message isn't clear.

Rish "Aquaman" Outfield

*Guess I'm not cut out to be a writer, since I couldn't find the words to describe how that slide works.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ray Bradbury R.I.P.

Famed Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury passed away this week.  He was 91, which is a pretty long life, and he wrote many books, movies, short stories, and television episodes, which is a pretty great career.

He scared the crap out of me with his "Playground" episode of "The Ray Bradbury Theater," and I was a big fan of the Disney film adaptation of "Something Wicked This Way Comes."  I own several of his books, and I really enjoyed reading "Fahrenheit 451," when I finally got around to it (as a thirty-something). 

I never met Mr. Bradbury, though I had a couple of chances when I lived in L.A.. I was even going to a signing and address he did on the 50th anniversary of his book "Fahrenheit 451," but something happened and I ended up oversleeping. I was pretty bummed about it at the time, and now, I'll never get to meet the man.

Guess I'll stop there (I wrote all this on the day he died, and meant to go back in and flesh it out later, but I never did.  Maybe this whole post has been more about regret than Ray Bradbury.  Sorry).

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Zombie Tough Guy (a post-script)

So, I was doing my write-up after getting home, and this happened:

For the most part, everybody in the group of zombies was very cool and easy-going.  Sure, there was some complaining about the makeup and the heat (which, when combined with the smoke machines, was worst than any mugginess I've ever experienced in this country), but people seemed to understand that it was a rare opportunity, and even though we were not given any instruction beyond "You ever watch 'The Walking Dead?'  Yeah, you're like that," the performances were pretty-much Romero-quality.

Oh wait, I forgot.  There was one moment that bears mentioning.  The group sitting immediately next to me was a funny, frat-boy-type quartet, talking about drugs and objectifying all the women they saw, passing the time playing Poker or Spades or Hearts or Blackjack (they'd even thought to bring Poker chips).  They made each other do push-ups and make animal noises (sometimes simultaneously).  They mocked each other pretty relentlessly, calling each other "faggot" and "tree-monkey" and "pussy" and "mongoloid" and the like, the harmless fun males partake of when they've got too much testosterone and nowhere to go.

When one of the guys called the dude next to me "dickless," he took it in stride, saying "That's not what your mother found out last night," and it was the next guy's turn to take a swipe.  But he didn't.  He froze, his nostrils doing that thing the T-Rex in Jurassic Park did.  Apparently, a line had been crossed.  He said, "You don't know nothin' about my mama," in a tight whisper, staring daggers at my neighbor.  The offender shrugged and said, "Alright," then meant to go back to his game.  But the offendee's friend shook his head, and the look in this guy's eyes was nothing short of murderous.  "You say you're sorry," he muttered.  "What?"  "Say you're sorry about what you said."  The guy next to me said, "Let's just let it go."  And the friend stood up and went around the table.  "You say you're sorry right now."  Now, I know that boys will be boys and a bunch of stereotypes, but this was not cool.  Everybody within range picked up on what was going on, and any and all camaraderie and easy-goingness (if that's a word) had fled the room.

To the guy next to me's further credit, he said, "It was just a joke.  Forget it."  But dude if the defender of a full-grown man wasn't out for blood now...  "I'll give you one more chance to say you're sorry," he said, like something out of a really bad Godfather knock-off.  He looked like an enraged bull with two swords already in its back . . . unless that sounds racist.  In which case, he looked like an enraged convict with a shiv in a prison movie who wears a do-rag and sports a wide array of colorful gangland tattoos.*

I don't know if I mentioned that these guys were friends, had partied together the night before, and had all driven to the set together that morning.**  Finally, the guy next to me, who was half the size of the bull/convict, put his hands up and said, "Yeah, I'm sorry.  It was a bad joke."  The two who'd been upset (they were cousins), left the set because they needed a smoke, and didn't come back for a while.

There's a full moon out tonight.  Maybe he was bitten by an asshole in the woods years ago, and now, every time the moon is full and bright . . .


And here's the thing: as scary as that was, I don't know if I would've apologized either, if I'd been the guy next to me.  The reaction these two--sorry, I've gotta say it--douchebags had was so out of proportion with the wrong they'd been dealt, and the fact that, had there been some kind of extenuating detail we didn't know about (such as his mother being dead, or a crackwhore, or a saintly sweet woman who ne'er did nobody no wrong) that would have explained his macho posturing and near-homicidal demeanor, it would have been perfectly alright to explain it, instead of just demanding the apology because he was the Alpha Male.  It was so ugly, and so unwarranted, I too might have stood my ground, if only to say, "You may be stronger than me, but what you're doing right now is one of the weakest things I've seen."

Of course, those would've probably been my last words, and in the moment, I may well have caved, but considering the good-natured ribbing and over-the-line name-calling that had been going on all weekend long, it struck me as the complete opposite of being a tough, admirable example for males to follow.

Now, I had a cousin who was a bit like that growing up, and sometimes I think I'd like to hit him with a brick, just to see what color his blood is, but he never frightened me the way this psycho did.  If he had, well . . .

Let's change the subject.

Dang, talking about this has bummed me out.  I think I might delete all this, or at least put it in its own post, because it ruins the fun of playing a zombie in a movie. 

At least a little.

Rish Outfield

*And if I still sound racist, how 'bout if I suggest that I saw that same look in Kirk Cameron's eyes one time when an interviewer suggested the earth was more than six thousand years old?

**Afterward, the guy sitting next to me said that the only reason he backed down was because they were his ride home, and if he had driven them as he had the day before, he'd have just let them find their own transportation.  I gotta wonder what that drive home was like, though it's more than likely that both cousins never brought it up again and acted as though nothing ever happened.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

All You Zombie

One of my aspirations (dreams, really) when I was a film and TV extra was to be a zombie in full makeup.  Another was being in a hot tub with Alyssa Milano.  Despite working on "Charmed," neither of those ever came to pass.

So, I jumped at the chance to be a zombie in a low-budget flick shot locally.  It was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, then they bumped it to Thursday and Friday, and finally, Saturday and Sunday.  Guess it says something about my social calendar that there was minimal juggling necessary to accommodate their production schedule.
The shoot was on an indoor soundstage (a converted warehouse in the industrial area of the city an hour's drive away), but made to look like slums and back alleys after the shit has hit the you-know-what.  I was really impressed with the sets, and the detail of the playbills and overflowing dumpsters, the downed lightpoles and trashed cars, and the layer of filth on practically everything (but not REAL filth, which makes all the difference in the world.  I remember shooting in downtown L.A. subbing for New York, and the strewn garbage and urine puddles were just as genuine as if they'd been produced on the east coast).

Basically, all our scenes were either approaching the main cast, attacking soldiers, or being killed by soldiers (though there were a couple of scenes where we were just standing around, crossing, or lying on the ground, having already been killed).  The 1st A.D. did most of the directing of the actors (and his words had to be translated when addressing the Russians), while the real director seldom left his chair behind the monitors.  Hey, not every director can be Sam Raimi, kids.

I didn't get a head count, exactly, but it looked like about twenty-five to thirty zombies were on the shoot (with the fog machines in overdrive, it sometimes seemed like a lot more, but sitting around eating or playing cards, it seemed like way fewer).  I had gone out and bought a new ensemble for the project, because my friend and I are always talking about doing a zombie walk in August (instead of just missing it like we do every year), and I could wear these clothes for that.  I don't know anymore, though, since the clothes are so filthy and matted with fake blood that it would be a crime not to burn them.

Most of the outfits the zombies wore were provided by wardrobe, and for some reason, there was a distinctly Seventies vibe to the clothes.  Honestly, I always think of Dawn of the Dead whenever I think of zombie movies, but it would surprise me if anybody else does (still, the two movies everyone kept referring to yesterday were Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead--so you could do worse). 

Oh, I'm writing this early in the morning of the second day. Yesterday, I was so blooded up that everything I touched became stained or marked, and it was hard to even read, let alone let my hands pass over a notebook again and again. I wanted to document this like I used to--before I found out that somebody somewhere didn't like it--because the background work was something pretty unique I did/do, and honestly, some of those film shoots aren't even memories anymore.

The wardrobe department did what they called "distressing" of my outfit, which was white shirt and tie, dress slacks, and shoes, and tore them up in practically no time, then patting them with phony dirt and grime, grease, and copious amounts of fake blood.  And that, kids, was the worst part of the whole experience.  That red liquid--made up of corn syrup and food coloring, as you Scream fans know--gets into your clothes, into your skin, hair, and mouth, and makes you feel unclean and sticky.*

Then it was time for the makeup department to do essentially the same thing to my face.  The makeup chair wasn't unpleasant, and both days I was the first one in.  My makeup girl was attractive and smelled nice, and she started with a grey cream all over my face and hands, then used a red/purple for my eyes and lips.  She put on a prosthetic the first day of a tear/scar in my forehead, but the next day, she just used thickening face blood to create a tear-like effect (and that's preferred, since I had to have a makeup guy remove the prosthetic at the end of the first day.


First sitting down, I told her of my exuberance to do this project, mentioning that I would've done it for free.  She wilted a little bit and said, "They're paying you?"  Apparently, she was doing zombie makeup for college credit and the value of the experience. 

By the end of that first day, "I would've done this for free" was no longer true.  I was really glad they were paying me.  Especially when my alarm went off before six on the second morning.


Even so, I remember the time I was paid to be Lucky the Leprechaun with that oddly-fitting, hot suit and that giant, hot head.  That was way less comfortable than being a zombie.  And it's nice to have highs and lows to measure things against.

Somebody just asked me what I was writing here, and it made me self-conscious.  I remember on the Dreamgirls set, there was a woman who was super convinced that I was writing about her.  She said, again and again, that I couldn't put her in a book or mention her in my report to the mothership.  The only reason I even remember interacting with her instead of staring at Beyonce's bosoms was because of the irrational paranoia of that strange woman--and again, here I am writing about it.

Man, it's so weird what you remember from these experiences.  For example, I remember a bunch of us extras passing around a flask on a basketball game set, but not what it was for, and I remember this dude's insanely-lame Sci-Fi costume on that Leonard Nimoy commercial, but not what I wore or what the commercial was even for (Alleve . . . it just came to me).  Entire series I worked on that I no longer remember, but I can still see Heather Locklear's legs on the one day I was on the "Spin City" set.

I don't know what to write about here, because I'm too close to it.  I think I'll recall what it was like to have all that blood on me, and maybe the gunfire, but who knows?  I might remember the bald guy who played a zombie, but wouldn't let them put blood on him and insisted on wearing his glasses (he really stood out).  Or the woman who stood about four-two and they covered her face in blood, so she looked like a child every time the camera was on her.  Or kicking a dude in the hat.  Or the Russian girl in the pink shorts.

Oh, the first shots I worked on were done with a camera, like a little pocket Nikon or Canon.  I kept waiting for the real camera to come in, and when it didn't, I wondered what kind of quarter-assed production this was.  But it turned out that was the stunt coordinator ordering us around, recording footage for the director to look at, since we ended up doing it again with more zombies, smoke, and live ammo.

Wait, what do you call blanks?  Are they live ammo?

In L.A., because the unions look out for the extras--even the non-union ones--there are all sorts of "bumps" (or bonuses), for any unusual work aspect.  So, I'd have gotten a makeup bump, a smoke bump, a wardrobe change bump (though I never ended up switching to another character), a hair bump, and a stunt bump--maybe even a blood bump.  Here, I have only my self-inflicted bumps or my unlovely lady lumps. 

Usually, an extra sits in holding (the relaxation area off the set, designated for us "background artists") most of the day--sometimes the WHOLE day--but there wasn't a heck of a lot of that with this shoot.  I read my Harry Turtledove book (my first), but only thirty pages or so.  The zombies beside me played a few hands of Poker (the losers had to do pushups), but kept having to abandon their games to go back to the set.  A couple zombies simply splayed out on the floor and went to sleep, but the one time I tried that, I kept touching my tie or my face, getting my hands all bloody (and when I had to stand up, my back was stuck to the floor).  Oh, and holding was just a couple of tables in the same stage, so we heard every line delivery and every gunshot.



I had a surreal conversation with an also-undead woman standing around waiting to see if they'd use us or not where she wondered why, if the only way to kill a zombie was to destroy its brain, they always moaned "Braaains" and wanted to eat brains.  And if you ate somebody's brain, why would they become a zombie?

Sometimes I really hate Return of the Living Dead.

Another first for me was being close to guns being fired.  The soldiers killing the zombies had pistols, automatic weapons, and in one case, a shotgun.  Because the latter was so deafening, all of us were given earplugs, which had to be painted by the makeup department to either match our skin, or look like bloody wounds.  Unfortunately, once those earplugs were in, we could no longer hear our cues, or the shouts of the assistant directors and P.A.s.  Everything became muffled except for my own breathing and internal sounds, which became amplified, kind of like when you dunk your head in a bathtub when you're a child (or in my case, a very fat adult).  And I have to admit that, in the lead-up to the very first firefights, I was getting nervous, or at least anxious enough to hear my own heartbeat.  Partly this was due to the adrenaline of the scene, but partly because there were many things to keep straight (the order of my death, for one, and falling onto the ground in a safe, yet still realistic way, for two), not to mention the fear of screwing up the take, when resetting would take an hour.

The stunt zombies died way harder than we did, including one who fell from a scaffold onto the roof of a car . . . twice.  They got hit with squibs and bloodpacks and fake machetes and a real briefcase, and impressed me with their willingness to not only do the stunts again, but to get killed in a new way an hour later as a different character (there were only three or four of them).

The blood spraying out the squibs was hot, as I guess real blood would be.  In one scene, I was pretty sprayed with it, and that meant there was all the more red on my face and costume for the rest of the shoot.  I didn't really understand how they'd reset if one of the squibs didn't work (which happened once) or the shot wasn't right (which happened more than once), since the detonation seemed to blow a hole through the stuntman's clothing.  Did they clean it off and paste over it somehow, or have to provide a whole new outfit?

Anyhow, the shoot went really long, especially on the second day, when we showed up earlier and stayed later than on the first day (the actors were going back home the next morning, so we had to get the work done that day, even if it meant shooting longer than anticipated).  Even so, it was a good experience, and writing it up has been more of an ordeal than getting the makeup off was. 


Sure, the 1st A.D. seemed a bit of a screamer, but the crew was pretty great. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing a lot them again in the future (especially the cute ones). And the extras were all pretty cool to work with, and seemed pretty dedicated (although a couple of them were doing it for the first time, and said they'd not ever be doing it again).

The film has gone without a name, mostly because I am now a coward when it comes to my blog, but also because there is virtually no chance it'll be released in this country (and literally no chance it'll get a theatrical release here).  When I went to Walmart afterward to buy wet-wipes to clean my hands and arms, the cashier asked me what the movie was and when I told her, she seemed disappointed for some reason.**

Like I said, it was a long shoot, and were I in Los Angeles, in a union production, wow, the money I would have made for what we went through.  At the same time, the unions in L.A. would've prevented common extras from participating in what I did today and yesterday.  About a decade ago, I asked stunt coordinator Peter Diamond how many times he thought he died in the Star Wars films.  More times than he could count he perished, playing aliens and stormtroopers and Rebels and Imperials getting shot and blown up and dropped and lightsabered.

Well, I don't know if any of it would be in the finished product, but I died again and again these past two days, and not only in multiple takes of the same death.  In all the time I was an extra in Hollywood, I never got to be killed.  I never had blood spatter me from others being killed, or had candy glass rain down on me from stuntman deaths.  So that was cool.

You know, it may be that people in California are just spoiled.  I suffered through a couple of unpleasant shoots, one or two even more uncomfortable than this one (the only time I've caught pneumonia as an adult was on the beach in Santa Monica, pretending it wasn't cold and windy until the wee hours of the night), but people would have pitched a fit about being forced to lay on the ground while soldiers run back and forth, or breathe in surely-poisonous fog banks while being covered with sticky, skin-staining (and Harry Turtledove book-staining) fake blood. 

Because when you work in the circus, you don't ooh and ahh when you see elephants.

And if I have complained, more so than I should have, I apologize.  I was lucky to be able to work on this project and realize one of my dreams, and with overtime pay, I can probably see Prometheus next weekend, instead of just rolling my eyes at those that do see it.


And hey, now I have an outfit for that zombie walk I've been planning to go to in August.  Probably the grey makeup on my arms and in my ears will be faded by then.

Rish "Night of the Flesh-Eaters" Outfield

*Then, taking it off at the end of the night, you find it got in your chest and leg hair, and taint.  As pleasant as it sounds.

**That reminds me of something Kevin Pollack said once.  He said people will always come up to him when he's shooting on the street and ask him what the movie is.  When he'd tell them the title, they'd always seem unimpressed that they didn't recognize the title of a movie that hadn't come out yet, often saying, "Never heard of it," so now, whenever somebody asks him what movie he's making, he always says, "The Godfather."  It's a funny story, and I can totally see some guy responding, "Hey, that's a great movie!" and walking away impressed.