Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Holding Pattern

Perhaps by design, you never feel smart on a film set. You find yourself asking the most rudimentary of questions. Like, "Is this where I'm supposed to be?" There’s no way to ask this question and appear smart. But we try. I remark to myself that background people adopt this kind of - authoritative tone when they speak. Not bossy, more like, I-know-what-I'm-talking about. As if compensating for some inferiority complex, go figure. I'm probably guilty of it myself. I reflect on this as I park in the crew parking lot and start to look around for someone in a headset who can tell me where I’m supposed to go.

But here I am. Crane shot flying in, circling down from above, finds MAN in parking lot. Viewer asks self, “How did he get here?”

Well, I’ll tell ya.

I got a call late the night before I started writing this, asking what my work schedule was like for the next day. Good enough, as you can no doubt tell only this far into the post.

They're shooting a movie about the FLQ in our little city. This ain't going to be that movie, but I mention it because I auditioned for a speaking part in the FLQ one just a few days ago. At the time, thoughts of this blog flitted through my head.

Here's how all these universes are connected:

The Trudeau movie prequel finally aired two weeks ago. In the wake of that, a couple of co-workers excitedly asked the "Was that you?!?" question. I had two, count 'em TWO, lines in that two-part mini-series (and when they aired, I missed them – my wife called from another province, “Did you SEE it?!?!?” “See what?” I asked and then flicked on the TV, but waaaaay too late.) I filmed these historic lines a year and a half ago. Ever since then... nothing. As by now you should have noticed, Gentle Reader, from the gap between posts.

I left my FLQ audition feeling hopeful, which I'll remind you in this business is a no-no. I got to thinking that if I got consecutive speaking roles, I'd be disrupting the whole theme of this journal, dammit, it being designed to focus on the lowly caste (pardon the pun) of Extras and here I was getting consecutive Actor roles.

But when the call came last night for this, I figured...

Oops. I must interrupt myself. Sorry. Someone just told me we're all in the wrong room. Ha. Our room, apparently, is somewhere else, and so a traveling we will go. Over there.

Quick as that, I’m back. My paperwork is all done. I’m signed in. At the moment I'm actually getting my hair trimmed. For what, I’ll tell in a sec. Just let me get back to what I was telling before we moved.

So anyway, I figured when the phone call came last night I needn't fret anymore about suddenly becoming an Actor and having no more opportunities to post as a Background Performer since the work I was being called to do was obviously for background, ergo, I didn't get the role for which I auditioned.

But wait! Come to find this is a different production called "A Christmas Wedding". So perhaps there's still hope for an Actor part role in the FLQ series.

(Okay, no there isn't. Rule number one about Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club. And rule number one about auditioning is you walk away and expect nothing. The numbers are always against you. Got it? Got it.)

The first room today smelled of pool. It was a large size banquet room that doubled as cast and crew lunchroom situated in the bottom floor of the airport hotel. The pool was across the hall. But we moved to be closer to set and now we’re in a somewhat cramped office space adjoining one of the non-descript hangers that border the airfield. I keep having to move my legs as people try to manoeuvre around the space. At some point  I realize this is office and hangar space for Cougar Helicopters, the company that provided the helicopter for one of the early shots introducing the research ship in the movie "Titanic". This room is one degree of separation from the Oscar for Best Picture. I realize that sitting in this extras holding area in this helicopter hangar might be the closest I'll ever get to the Academy Award.

Now stay with me: somewhere in the middle of the last paragraph I went away to Wardrobe, stripped to my briefs and came back in costume. In the scene we're doing I'm a pilot. I'm currently outfitted in a blue blazer with four gold stripes on the sleeve and a set of gold wings pinned to the breast.

I got a look at the cast list after I put my clothes back on. There wasn't anyone whose name I recognized aside from one local guy. Seems this blog entry is destined not to be about “who”, but rather “how long”. Notwithstanding, somebody mentioned that one of the stars is from “The O.C.” only I wouldn’t know an “O.C.” cast member if I fell over one. That's not aspersion, just a fact.

Here’s another annoying break in the narrative to let you know that the low-battery message on my iPAQ caused a forced cessation of creation while I finished my day on set. It’s now the next day and I’m concluding this post from my computer. There’s not much to sum up from last night that can’t be summarized by me telling you that my eyes feel like two piss-holes in the snow.

To explain, a timeline:

  • Call time 3:30pm - arrived at Base Camp about 15 minutes

  • 3:20 pm Arrived at Lunch room, hotel airport

  • 3:30 pm Moved to relocated Extras Holding

  • 4:00 pm Wardrobe.

  • 4 - 6:30 pm  - Holding

  • 6:30 - 7:00 - Lunch

  • 7:00 pm - 12:30 am - Holding

  • 12:30 am - Recostumed from "pilot" to "passenger"

  • 1:00 am - Travelled to set. Rehearsal. I get headphones to pretend to listen to music in the airplane's business class. My seat mate is to pretend to read a magazine and she's handed the current issue of Cosmo opened only incidentally to where there's a sample pack of KY Jelly which is at the same time both intriguing and irrelevant.

  • 1:30 am - Cameras roll

  • 1:45 am - Scene and extras wrapped - returned to Extras Holding

  • 2:00 am - Signed out. All in a day's work.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a lot of holding.

You should know that I point it out not to be judgemental of the process but just because it's the way things go. Remember the first episode of the Lexx? We showed up at seven in the morning and never got to camera until nine-thirty that night.

There's a lot of hurry-up-and-wait in this business, you'd think it was the Army.

And I'm not just adding this caveat because I'm sucking up to whatever production people might be peeking in ... since I mentioned this website Chris, one of the A.D.s and Chris a very nice guy and all who wrote the address down on the back of his hand which got me to wondering what the heck have I might have said on this site now that my cover is blown....

Oh well.

What the heck was I talking about?

Oh yeah.


Those of us in the union were a bit surprised we weren't wrapped at 12:30, that being the magical eight working-hours from our call time (you don't count the hour for lunch) after which 8 hours we turn into "pumpkins" (first time I've heard it put this way). This is when union rules kick in to up your hourly rate for overtime. So when the cheque comes it will be richer.

And I'm never going to have anything bad to say about getting more money.

In the short term, I'm kind of stumbling through the day, rather sleep deprived (does it show?), having driven a fellow cast member home (she ain't no fellow, I remind myself) and finally getting to bed at 3:30 a.m. This morning I'm up at 6:00 because I'm getting a CT scan on my schnozz and surrounding area. In my fuzzy head I wonder if I'm going to kill anyone on the way to the hospital, not the least of whom might be myself - I'm so deep into zombie-land after 2 hours sleep but here I am, about to go out and operate the heavy machinery that is my Acura. 

My son gets up and before I go I make a point to tell him I love him.

I do the CT scan, and come into work. I tell a co-worker I was up late and then answer why. She say, "Cool!"

No, it ain't cool. It just seems that way when the scene shows on TV.

And that's Hollywood, baby.

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