In my last year of high school, I joined the VTR club. I recorded events to an ungainly reel-to-reel video tape recorder, mostly girls volleyball.
Years later, remembering how much fun that was, I started to volunteer at the local cable station. At first I operated a camera in studio, then later I progressed to working local sporting events. Near the end of it, I was learning how to use the editing bay.
One of the people working there... like really working, not volunteering like I was, one of the people on staff ... was Mike Clattenburg. Among lots of other things, Mike was producing a show called appropriately enough "That Damn Cable Show". Mike and I would often crew sporting events together, but my involvement on TDCS was limited to one sequence where I played "The Wrangler's" dim brother who was interviewed for camera on how he hadn't seen his him since he (The Wrangler) had mentioned he was going off to try to find the Squatch.
For those of you without a program, the Squatch is the Sasquatch and the Wrangler is Dave Gaudet, another Channel 10 staffer. I was the guy who couldn't quite keep a straight face through any of the many takes we did, Mike holding the camera, the both of us cracking up. Me especially. A bad failing for a comedy actor. But we had a great time shooting it.
Dave Gaudet has gone on to be an underwater cameraman for, I think it was, Ocean's of Mystery.
Mike Clattenburg went on to create the Trailer Park Boys.
I went on to direct a Truro production of "West Side Story", mentioning this only because said production included a talented young man named Corey Bowles who now regularly appears on a show called ... "Trailer Park Boys".
Life, she is a circle.
The people in my office, those that know I do some acting stuff on the side, have been almost desperate for me to get a part on the show. In six seasons of episodes though, I had only auditioned once. I hoped there might have been some kismet going on since that part was for a guy named "Mr. Maloney" which was also my maternal grandfather's name.
But I didn't get the part.
This year I had my second audition.
Now, I can't remember quite what was going on ... maybe I was out of town, I don't know. But I ended up doing my own audition tape from home. I figured (gleefully) that this was totally unfair to everyone else who auditioned since I got to do as many takes as I wanted and then run the tape through the computer to edit a final product. In fact, when I saw it, I realized I hadn't quite played the scene the way it needed to be played and so re-recorded the whole thing downstairs producing a perfect and hilarious take. The next day, a Saturday, I took the tape downtown to drop it off for the casting agent. It was so unfair. I decided I was going to do the rest of my auditions this way.
Now the funny thing was that my son also auditioned. There were two parts that I'd read for, a crown prosecutor and a father. For the father part, I'd included my son and gave him an ad-lib line: "Yeah man, you suck!", hilarious for a six-year old and delivered with panache. He went with me to drop off the tape at a downtown hotel. The casting agent was due to come and pick it up in a couple of hours. We might hear something later in the week. My son was already counting his chickens, figuring we were on TV.
Across the street from the hotel is a park. The two of us were going to make a day of our downtown trip and so, leaving the steps of the hotel in the bright warm sunshine, I started to explain to him, enlighten him, to bestow unto him - my son - all my great wisdom concerning this audition process into which he was now included.
"See, we did the audition, now we forget about it. Pretend we didn't do it. You can't expect that we get the part. Lots audition. Very few are cast. Nobody ever gets called to say they didn't get the part. Don't think you've ever got the part until someone calls and tells us you, You got the part."
At this exact moment - and I'm not making this up - my cell phone rings.
Twenty steps out of the hotel lobby my son looks up at me and says, "Did we get the part?"
Well, no. We didn't.
I confess it was irritating the way we didn't get the part.
It wasn't the phone call - that was just my wife calling to check in at the perfectest possible moment. My agent e-mailed me to audition for a couple of roles in Trailer Park Boys, an e-mail that I didn't get until after the fact. And - strangely - it loooked the roles were the same ones I'd done on the tape. And so it turned out. But why did I need to audition for roles I'd already auditioned for? It was a head-scratcher all right. I was irritated that I didn't get better notice of the audition before it happened. I was further irritated to find out later that the tape I'd made for the audition played ... completely blank. For reasons heretofore unexplained.
"Some things are just not to be," she said philosophically.
Oh, well and a sigh.
She asked if I would still want to come in sometime as background and I said yes, absolutely. She also thought my son looked great after visiting my web site and watching the movie-of-the-moment. (That nascent editing experience I picked up from Channel 10 having exploded full into producing home movies through the home computer.)
The call came a few weeks later to come in and play on set of the Trailer Park Boys. Come for two days. Bring your son. We were both happy to oblige.
Our scene was to involve a model train convention and the special guest of the show was a guy named Sebastian Bach. I smiled at the name, ignorant me, thinking it was made up. But no. It turns out that Mr. Bach is a real guy, ex-lead singer from the band "Skid Row" and now out on his own, touring, rocking, starring in an episode of TPB. From an article in the local paper: "I told Axl Rose about the show when we were on tour in Europe with Guns ’n’ Roses," Bach tells Clattenburg between takes. "He needs you to send him some copies. When he gets into something, he just goes for it."
Of his fame, I had no clue. The girls cast as the "rock chicks" knew. At least the way they were looking at him during and between takes makes more sense now....
So I'm hanging back as usual. The treats for me are to see Mike again after almost 20 years (my god.... ) and to be there with my son. Mike is the guy to say hi first and we shake hands and both of us ignore the fact that so much time has past. I don't mention the old days and neither does he. I remember him walking through the halls of Channel 10 Halifax with texts on film-making. Seems he taught himself well.
And he's having a great time on set. After doing this for years, Mike's relaxed and unstressed, taking people through the shots easily and efficiently, sitting back at the monitor and laughing delightedly as the scene plays out in front of him. He's like a kid. I'm so pleased for his success and I'm there envying him greatly, enormously, that he gets such a kick out of his work.
Some of the dialogue in the scene is made up on the spot. A scene is done and the actors ad-lib are sprinkled in, adding to the script that's written. They do another take and they build on the ad-libs from the previous take. Then they do another. And another. Building, crafting, embellishing the scene. Mike makes a suggestion. Sebastian Bach makes a suggestion. "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" Mike says every time and laughs.
Lunch comes at 3pm. We're all to head off to The Park in our own cars where they'll serve us. The park? I don't know what's the park. I pick a car to follow and I lose them, ending up following the wrong beige van into a Shopper's Drug Mart parking lot.
I head back to the set at full speed, hoping to find someone else who hasn't left yet. Turns out there's someone I recognize driving out as I'm driving in. It's Mike Smith. Bubbles. He's driving Sebastian. I hang a quick U-turn and head off in hot pursuit. There they are, three cars ahead. A car turns off. Another. We're on the four lane artery and I close behind them. They're driving fast. It's hard to keep up. They go through a light and I'm hard pressed to keep with them, barely making the yellow. We're heading deeper into Anystreet U.S.A. as my wife likes to call it. Car dealerships, cineplexes, fast food joints. A left. Another left. A right. The park? I'm thinking. What the heck is the park?
It occurs to me that I'll be very embarrassed if Bubbles is going home and I pull up behind him in his own driveway.
It occurs to me that he might realize he's being followed.
He pulls into a parking lot and I pull up beside him. He looks at me as he gets out of the car. A bit suspiciously I think. On the other side, Sebastian Bach is getting out. I say something to Bubbles (although without the glasses and the chin, he's untransformed and just "Smith"). He doesn't recognize me from the set straight off. I tell him we were following him for lunch trying to get to "the park" and the penny drops.
"Oh!" he says. "I'm just having lunch at Harveys."
Helpfully, he gives me directions to the exterior location for the Sunnyvale Trailer Park. Or just, "The Park".
My son and I show up about 20 minutes after everyone else and I go in and get a chicken stir fry. My son, six, doesn't go in for that at all and ends up having bread and honey. Had we followed the rest of the extras, we would have had pizza.
But, and here's the thing, after being on set for an hour or so, my son was no longer technically an extra.
We've shot some inserts, establishing shots, people gaggling around looking at train sets. The camera moves around combing pictures of us looking at the different models circling tracks through miniature stations, tunnels and villlages. After this, the cast and crew set up for the main shot where Sebastian comes in (playing himself) and addressing the crowd. The rock chicks are up at the front making eyes at him. There are about two dozen others gathered around the stage to listen. People are strategically moved. Posters are hung and then re-hung to better advantage. My son and I start out near the middle, are moved to the side and then nearer the back. We're set to go and we roll. We're standing for the next take and Mike comes up and asks my boy if he can say a line at a certain point in the dialogue. The line is, "The Swayze Train!" My son does the line for him and Mike laughs. We do a few takes like this and my son hits his cue every time. Mike comes back and asks him to say, "The Swayze train. BAM!" and point his fingers like he's a gangsta rapper. My son complies to the delight of all present.
I'm completely upstaged.
The casting agent goes back to the office to draw up contracts for my son who is now an Actor and could now get into the Union should he so choose.
Six years old.
I'm on set with him reflecting that in this very blog I had written somewhere about extras who would come on set and hope to get a line and how this NEVER happens.
It happened for my little boy. First shot out of the box and he's a star. But because he got a line and was elevated to "Actor", we only got to work the one day (it would have cost a lot to bring him back for the 2nd day as an Actor where he wasn't going to say anything). But it was a good day. A very good day.
I keep asking him if he'd like to do more of this kind of work. Free juice, cookies, snacks, lunch and pretty girls. So far he remains non-commital.
When the cheque comes for the shoot, his is going to be for a lot more than mine. I may be forced to change careers and become his manager.