I don't know if you could feel it yesterday, but the internet was a lot lighter. I wasn't Googling my name or obsessively compulsively checking my e-mail every 3 minutes. That's because I was being a bonafide movie star! That's right, I was a featured extra, or at least that is what my resume will say, in an indy film. I saw Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, and Robert Duvall. They were so close that I could have pepper sprayed them, and I almost did.
Saddle up fair Nick Gibbons blog enthusiast, because this is gonna be a doosy!
It all started this Monday. I was searching my favorite actor's job seeking tool, Craig's List, when I stumbled upon a listing for extras. I e-mailed them my head shot and info. Immediately I received confirmation along with an invitation filling me with much elation.
The film is set in 1930 something, so there were strict costume requirements. Luckily, or unluckily if your married to me, I have a closet full of assorted costumery. I hunted and peck until I found a 30's business casual look. I was ready for my wide shot.
The instructions were to travel to the shoot location in Dallas, GA Wednesday morning. The call time was 5 am. Dallas is about an hour away so I had to wake up at 3:45 am and hop in the ol' Honda Fit. I Google mapped the place and was on my way. Good news, no traffic, bad news, driving in Georgia is like trying to find the G spot on an Elephant.
After several wrong turns, U-turns, and accidental correct turns; I arrived at the shoot site. This wasn't however where we were supposed to park. Parking was two miles down the road. When I got there, two other cars were stopped and a security guy was telling the car in front where to go. He then instructed the second car back and myself to follow the front car. The old woman leading the pack was confused and kept stopping and driving really slow. I was upset already because of my misadventurous journey, so this didn't help my mood.
We finally get to the ONLY turn we had to make. The sign clearly read turn right. The woman however, possibly dyslexic, decided to turn left. The car behind her, not unlike a lemming, follows with reckless abandon. I started to, but quickly correct my turn, almost getting run over by a huge truck that was behind me. Me and the truck safely park in the extras parking lot. It was actually an unlit muddy field. We have to walk a good quarter mile to the "processing" center. It was a muddy, dark trek over very rough terrain. I was scared I might break my leg. I'm not sure how the older folk that showed up made it safely.
Up ahead there are white tents. I could see makeup chairs in one of them. I spotted a line of extras about 30 deep. I assumed that was where I was supposed to stand, but after doing a little ease dropping, I found out I was supposed to be in another line. To my dismay, this line was about 500 people long. The call time was 5 am. It was exactly 5 am, which means most of these people had been there since 4 am.
I reluctantly got in the back of the line. This was when I start to realize it was 26 degrees outside. I'm just wearing a suit, no jacket. I start talking to a nice younger couple that was behind me in line. We talk and wait in line together for 2 hours. That was how long it took us to just get to the end of the line. At the end of the line was a photography waver we had to sign. I'm assuming it was saying they could show my image forever where ever and whenever.
After finally getting to the front of the line it ceased moving anywhere. We sat there, for 45 more minutes. Luckily it's now 31 degrees. At this point the nice couple started to have normal rational thoughts. Unlike everyone else, their delusions of movie stardom started to fade and they decide to leave. I don't blame them, not at all. All of us were treated horribly, and the craziest thing is 90% of the people stayed. Including this guy. What the hell's wrong with me?
For 3 and a half hours we stood in the cold, shivering, and not being told anything. Not once did someone come out and let us know what was going on. All they would have had to do is say they were working on getting us through, or anything. All we wanted was a little beacon of hope.
Eventually we all got to go into the holding cell, I mean tent. I swear to God I couldn't feel my toes for an hour and a half. I was seriously scared one of them might have snapped off. I lucked myself into a folding chair next to a heater and defrosted.
Finally a guy pops into the tent and tells us the reason it's taking so long is that there are only six wardrobe people, outfitting 1000 extras, and each person has to go through the one "costume guru". I know this was a low budget film, but they should have known better. Planning is everything in any project and over planning is even better.
Most of the people there were just normal folk, not actors, so they were loving being a part of a movie. I however was not digging it at this point. Eventually after another hour, they make an announcement for all the men without vouchers or colored cards to come to the wardrobe tent. I ran over there because I was sick of waiting. I was 3rd in line, got approval and high tailed it to the bus.
It was now 10:30 am, and they shuttled us over to the set, 2 miles down the road. It only took 5 and a half hour wait! Hooray. The set was a huge clearing in the woods. It was pretty cool I have to say. It was like being in an amusement park called "1930's Land".
That's when the day started to get much better. Right out of the gate I was steps away from Bill Murray. He was joking around with the extras and it was pretty cool. I love that dude. I milled around the set and took it all in. Suddenly the annoyances and uncomfortableness of the morning started to melt away, like the toes of an unappreciated extra.
I met a guy named Ron and we were paired up together to walk into the ultra wide crane shot of the entire campground. I then upgraded my "extra" role to a "walk on".
From the moment I got on set, I noticed craft services had been grilling frozen hamburger patties and hot dogs. I thought it droll to grab one at 10:30am, even though at that point all I had to eat was a "free" granola bar because by the time I made it to the magic fun tent, all the coffee and hot food was gone. So I waited until noon, walked over to the grilling station, grabbed a burger, and enjoyed, uh, excuse me, ingested is a better word, my burger. There was a stack of sodas and I tried to nab one, but the woman sitting on them said it wasn't lunch time so I couldn't have one. Movie set rules suck.
There were a few more set ups, then around 1:20 they called a 30 minute break for lunch. I had already eaten so I sat down. I was next to the main grilling station and the poor craft services dude was extremely pissed off. Apparently they wouldn't let him grill while they where shooting, so he had no food ready when they called lunch. The poor guy was stressed out. The line of 800 people waiting for food didn't help. It took an hour just to get everyone food.
They had a raffle for the extras after lunch. They gave away two prizes. The first was an autographed script and the second a flat screen TV. I didn't win either of the prizes. They only gave away one script, which seem a bit chintzy to me. These poor people had been in the freezing cold for 5 hours and it's coming up on a 9 hour day at this point. Send an unpaid PA over to Kinkos and run off a few more copies for Spielberg's sake.
Eventually we shot some more stuff and I worked my way up, closer to the action of the scene. I felt it was crucial I be up close to the action for my character, Dr. Wilfred Millbanks, the town's acupuncturist. He's had a tough life, no one in town knows what the hell acupuncture is and his wife just left him for the towns blacksmithe. I created quite a back story for myself. You'll see it all unfold on screen I'm sure. Especially in the scene were I'm miscellaneous 1930's man, 46 from the left, 27 from the bottom. Finding me in this movie is going to be like playing battle ship.
Around 3pm the burger I ate started to punch me in the stomach from the inside. I needed to drop a deuce and there was no way in hell I was doing it in the port-o-potty. It was like Hiroshima in a 1 by 1 room. Nope, this plane was gonna have to sit on the tarmac for a couple of hours. My wife wanted me to tell you what I texted her at this point, because it made her shoot milk out of her nose, and she wasn't even drinking milk. All I texted was, "My tummy hurts. I have to poop." Well, it did, and I did.
I met a couple of really nice women towards the end and we laughed and talked about our day. They shot a couple more set ups all the way up until 7pm. I was telling the ladies that I was under the impression from the Craig's list ad that this was a paid gig. It was advertised as 100 dollars a day. Apparently most of the people there were "volunteer" extras, and I needed some form of voucher to get paid.
I hate confrontation of any kind, but I was seriously going to raise hell about not getting paid for 12 hours of work, when I'm a working actor after all. Apparently they were doing another raffle at the end of the day. I couldn't make out what they were saying because it was very echo-y. The assistant director started to call out numbers. I didn't have my ticket out because I didn't realize what was going on. I heard the last 3 numbers and thought it sounded very familiar. I pulled out my ticket and when he repeated the numbers, sure enough I had the winning ticket. Turns out I won the other 37 inch flat screen TV. The horrors of the day were officially mute. My plans to raise a raucous were thwarted.
They took down my name and told me to pick up the tv back at the parking area. It was dark and cold again now. The day officially started to mirror itself, as we all waited for one of the two buses to pick us up and carry us to the parking field. Again I somehow got at the end of the line and had to wait, toes refreezing, for another 45 minutes.
Making it back to the tents, I claimed my prize. Me and an unpaid PA shoved it into the Honda. It barely fit. Bleary eyed, I drove home. I got lost and had to call the wife for directions. She hopped onto Google maps and guided me home.
I arrived home at 10pm, having officially been awake for 19 hours. What a day. I think you will be able to see me pretty good in some of the shots, so my "walk on" has been upgraded itself to a "featured extra" and made it onto my resume.
I have to say, once we were on the set it was all worth it. The crew was great, the AD really made us all feel wanted and appreciated. The pains of the morning melted away pretty quickly. I know I bitched a lot in the above blog, but that's what I do, and you wouldn't read my blog if it was all rainbows and teddy bears.
Thanks for a memorable and fun day Hollywood! Best of luck with the movie. Here are my possibly illegal extremely crappy cell phone pics: