Sunday, June 03, 2012
All You Zombie
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.
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?
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.