Tuesday, July 10, 2012

3 D

The wardrobe mistress peered at me doubtfully. "Is this your first time doing background?"

So, that’s not the way I wanted to start the day. The question was asked pleasantly enough, but still.

When I showed up on Friday I had only a paltry collection of earth-tone shirts; it's not a colour I usually wear but that’s what was asked for on the casting call. Wardrobe provided me with an alternate shirt for the for the first scene and we ended up "making do" with a heavy brown shirt of mine for a second one.

So over the weekend I bought new shirts and, pleased to show them off, brought those into set this morning.

It turns out we’re shooting scenes that, in the show, are from the same day as the second scene we did on Friday. And so the wardrobe mistress asked me for that same ugly brown shirt.

The one I'd left behind.


I had given that a brief thought, you know, but I decided that since I wasn't specifically there as a "continuiuty" extra I was good to bring all new shirts in. They were nicer shirts, after all!  So despite having done this kind of stuff A LOT, this is the first time I've done consecutive working days and, hey lookit, I learned soemthing new, the hard way: From now on, bring on all the stuff you've ever worn.

It turns out it's not a hardship on anyone. I apologize to the wardrobe mistress and she brushes it off. Happens all the time, she says. The only thing is that I will sit out the first scene we're shooting this morning, waiting for subsequent scenes that take place on a different day.

So even though this turns out to be no big deal, I feel irked with myself. It seems to me I shouldn't be making "rookie mistakes" at this stage of the game.

A nice breakfast helps to improve the mood. Flavoured croissant, with egg, pea bacon and provolone. A potato pancake. Juice and coffee and paperwork to get me all signed in. All the other teachers are called to the set. I sit in a corner in Holding with a dunce cap on.

Well, no. Not really.

Later, I do get to go in and be part of a scene. I'm just moving behind a window, it's only a few takes and it doesn't take long. I chat briefly with the executive producer whose son played on the same baseball team as mine last year. He gives me the okay to take some pictures of the set I can show my boy later on.

Back again in Holding starts the longest wait of the two days. The talk around the table among the other actors there to be teachers starts with behind-the-scenes stuff. First it's union bureaucracy and then it's sex and the people who use it to get roles. Everyone here knows more than me. I recognize some of the names of the people being talked about. A couple are stars. It's a bit too TMZ for me. I close my eyes and almost fall asleep.

I learn we are calling ourselves BeeGees now. BGs. For BackGround.

On set is Diane, a lady I recognize from the one time I was on set last year, what are the odds! Her daughter is here playing one of the students. I commented to her on the coincidence and it seemed she didn’t find it quite as remarkable. Belatedly I remembered that her main job on set is not to chaperone her daughter, but to be a stand-in for one of the principle actresses, same as last year.  Diane was both friendly and gracious in the face of my doofus-ness.

The hours drag on. This is turning into a long day of mostly waiting. With the heat in Holding, I'm starting to feel like an Ugly Bag of Mostly Water (bonus trekker points if you understood the reference). My smart phone battery dwindles to almost nothing.

Lunch was at around 2pm. The next call to set wasn't until quarter to six. We collected in the "staff room" and waited there some more until we got to go out for a single take of the last scene of the day. We were wrapped at 7pm.

But in the staff room,  prior to turning the cameras around to film that one take with the background, I got to peek through the window past the assembled crew outside and watch the monitors again as Jonathan Torrens and Bette MacDonald performed the scene together.

The people here are so funny. And they’re having a lot of fun. It's a treat to watch them work.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Double D.

I've been here before.

I think I spent most of my time as a twenty-something in this particular building, although due to protocol and confidentiality agreements, I can't tell you where. But it's crowded, it's hot and with all the people here, it's a bit smelly. In spite of all the hours I've spent in this place throughout my life, today I have this weird feeling like I don't belong at all.

There are kids and their moms and production assistants who look like they could be either. I'm here to play a teacher, same as last year for the CBC show "Mr. D". But last year we were at a real school. This year it's a set built inside the ... uh ... building that I'm in.

Have I mentioned it's hot?

I get a shirt from wardrobe and just like that, it's lunch. Yeah! Already! At the table with me is a young man, one of the older kids who is holding court, telling us how he knows EVERYTHING. Also, there are two pretty moms. The conversation is boring except when the mom in the low scooped front reaches down to get something and ends up showing me pretty much everything. It turns out I was fine with that. 

I've brought a book and having pulled it out and read only two more pages, someone approaches and asks "Is that Becca's book?"

Yes, it is.

But it turns out that today won't be a day to read books. Already I'm going to set (3:37 when I peek at my phone) and we shoot the takes of a hallway scene where I'm a teacher reading a magazine in the staff room. We're done at 3:48 and return to "holding". Yes, that fast. It was a little disorientating on set, sitting there in the middle of the "staff room" when my brain keeps telling me we're ... uh ... in the building we're in. It's remarkable, the job they've done to build this set.

In the meantime, I've noticed that I'm the least good-looking among the whole entire assembled cast and also most of the crew. I'm certainly the least cool of everyone. But instead of feeling depressed (as I have in the past), I feel like I'm getting away with something. Like stealing somehow. I must be growing more comfortable with myself.

(The nasty part of my brain helpfully prompts, "Also called: Giving Up.")

Back at holding we teachers are talking about books. One of us is reading the third book in the series of 50 Shades of Grey. Someone brings up having read the Hunger Games out loud. I chime in with Harry Potter, otherwise I don't have much to contribute except for a giggle about having 50 Shades of Grey right there on your lap.

Back on set at 4:19, I'm to do a walk ten beats after the director calls "Action". I will walk from here to there. Beside me, Gerry D., the director (he looks so young) and the writer are having a involved discussion about "Game of Thrones", describing it for Gerry who has never seen it.

We roll. In rehearsals, my shoes are too loud on the floor so I tiptoe, trying to do it without looking like I'm tiptoing. I feel ridiculous. Preston, the AD, reassures me. He's good like that. I've decide to do the scene having a peek at my smartphone as I leave the staff lounge to walk down the corridor to the office. It's my homage to the Pierce Bronson moment from last year. Nobody will ever know that's what I was doing (except us).

We do a bunch of takes. The cameras are turned around. My background action is not required from the new angle. I sit for a while in the Staff Room. I watch the monitor as the actors keep running the scene, making changes on every take, making every take hilarious (how will they decide which one to use? I wonder). I go to eat pizza. There are a couple of crew members at the pizza table and I tell the the story I heard recently about the reporter that asked the Dali Lama if he could tell a Dali Lama joke. This is a true story. Instantly, I'm not getting much back in the way of interest from the crew members. I tell them, the reporter says to the Dali Lama, "The Dali Lama walks into a pizza joint and says, 'Can you make me one with everything?'" The Dali Lama looks at the reporter blankly which is more than I'm getting from the crew members who are working so hard to ignore me that I almost laugh. I plow on regardless, stubbornly talking it right through to the end. They furiously avoid making eye contact. This is suddenly a wonderful moment of performance art for me and I'm aiming to bomb as spectacularly as I can. 

And I do.

I see Preston as I walk away from the table. I tell him the Dali Lama story, mostly just to refresh my palette. He enjoys it more.

I return to the staff room.

Earlier during one of the takes, I had made my cross from the staff room to the school office and was followed a little while later by a pretty girl who entered and (in character) seemed to be looking for someone. After one of the takes I said in a low voice, "He's not here." 

She looked at me warily. "No?"

"No. He's gone out. You just missed him." Then I shut up for a while because it belatedly occurred to me that this was one of the main actors from the scene. I had just committed a bit of a faux pas; as a background performer you do not talk to the main actors, no matter how genial and moderately witty you may think you are.

Later she sat next to me on the couch in the staff room. I said nothing.

That was, until she asked me if I had any plans for the Jazz Fest this weekend. I told her that my plans for the Jazz Fest were limited to me not even knowing that there was a Jazz Fest this weekend.

We talked. There was also a Lebanese Festival going on. I had received an invite for that, but here I was on set and would probably miss it. She told me she wanted to go see the new Spider-Man movie. Good movie, I'd just seen it. Really? Yes. I talked about waiting in line at TIFF to see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus which was the first movie I saw with Andrew Garfield. She told me that Andrew Garfield had his background in acrobatics and had done a lot of his own stunts for Spider-Man.

We talked.

I was just starting to break through my traditional feelings of discomfort and awkwardness when Preston, the big lug, came up to tell me I was wrapped.

So. That may be showbiz, but not really the Hollywood ending I would have picked.