Friday, May 23, 2008


So this last week I got to shoot a Sci-Fi mockumentary commercial.  Big reveal: I hate Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  Brett's really into WoW and I have endless fun making jokes about him being a level 72 Druid Enchantress Rogue Healer or whatever the hud he is.  (Keep in mind as long as I keep it quality material, he loves it.)  On one hand I couldn't wait to poke fun of this genre but on he other I know shoots like this are delicate.  We are making fun of people.  People I'm not married to.  And we have to cast people to play the people we are making fun of.  Unless we cast total pros that are in on the joke and cool about laughing at themselves there can be hurt feelings.  We have to tread lightly with our people and make them feel as super-dee-duper special as possible.  Which is why I am not at all cool for laying into a man we will call, "Mr Extra."
Mr. Extra catches my eye in the line of actors waiting to be given costumes because he's really tall.  I immediately plan to put him in one of my favorites.  A big black alien head with all these cool hoses sticking out of it.  The one the Director loved.  What he doesn't know is that he has just been blessed with the chance to be our favorite character.  But today Mr. Extra has chosen to bring to set with him some unwanted friends we will call, Expectations.
He comes up while I am smack in the middle of ten other things and says, "I can't breathe in my mask."  I say, "OK, not good.  I will put it on my radar and when we get closer to shooting we'll talk about that again.  In the meanwhile don't wear it.  Have a coke and hang out."  And I go back to doing my ten other things.  About fifteen minutes later Mr Extra comes over with a length of tubing from an alien costume he pulled from a box or found on the floor or something.  He asks, "Can I cut about this much off from this hose to use to breathe out of my mask with?"  I stop.  He now has my full attention.  I square up and look him in the eye.  I say politely, "Absolutely not.  These costumes are rented from Universal Studios.  You can not remove a piece of tubing from a costume and cut part of it off.  What you need to do is keep your mask up off of your face until we shoot.  When you hear, "Action" you put it on, and breathe through the mouth slit.  When he yells, "Cut" take it back off and breathe."  And I demonstrate how to breathe.  In-Out, In-Out.  "OK?"  I point to the part he thugged. "Now go put that back." 
After a Herculean effort by make-up to get everyone done, the actors are put in their places.  (So to speak.)  They are pretending to be uber fans waiting to see the phony new film, Trek Wars, The Meekshaw Prophecy.  We are shooting outside in a light rain at the Tower Theater.  Mr Extra is placed towards the front of the line under the marquee.  There are forty or so other "Meekshaw Fans" trailing down the alleyway.  We start to shoot.  For the first two full takes I am occupied elsewhere.  On the third, I stop to watch.  Mr Extra is clean in the shot without his mask.  So I check in with the Director about what's going on with Mr Extra.  He says to get in there and tussle.  I trot over and ask, "Where's your mask?"  Oh, not to worry he's just sitting on it.  But when I look, there on his chair is some green latex thing.  I ask where the original mask went, the one with all the cool tubes coming out and he says he couldn't breathe in it and so he got this one.  I tell him to put it on, please.  I do not question it because one of my assistants may have opted for that as a solution and ours is a unified front.  Mr Extra grudgingly obliges.  I step back behind camera.  Erin from the crew tip-toes over and tells me that Mr Extra said out loud while snacking at crafty that he wasn't going to wear any stupid 'ol mask because he wanted to use this spot for his reel.  Mr Extra will not be identifiable to future clients in a mask.  Mr Extra is creating a false story line he is now supporting by cutting up my costumes.  Mr Extra wants this to be his shoot.  But as is always true in life, when you have a selfish agenda, you will eff things up for yourself every time.  
We shoot an hour more and it begins to rain harder.  We wrap quickly.  We have to be out of the Tower Theater so we move to a tent outside.  Everyone comes out to return their items and they all say thanks and are super cool.  Mr Extra comes up all glowing and high.  (I've seen this before.  Theater people say you're bitten.  Which is why Sarah Jessica Parker named her clothing line Bitten, but I digress.)  Mr Bitten Extra hands me his outfit and smushed mask and a length of black segmented tubing.  I ask him, "What is this?"  He then shows me where he ingeniously cut a hole in it to create a breathing apparatus.  And the part that gets me is that he actually looked proud of himself.  I ask him where he got it.  He said something dodgy like, "I just found it."  I say, "Did you ask someone for this?"  He says no.  I ask if it was from Costume and he says "Yeah, kinda." Kinda?? "Didn't I tell you these were rented costumes?"  I notice that I am sounding very stern.  He goes, "Yeah, but it's just a piece of tubing..." He smirks.  He is NOT sorry.  He acts like I'm killing his buzz.  I am now going to be all over this guy in front of a line of people and some crew.  I say, "So after we have a conversation in which I specifically tell you under no circumstances are you allowed to cut into the costumes, you find a piece of costume and cut a hole in it?"  He sort of snorts, like, "So what?"  I explain that we put deposits on these costumes and we are under contract to care for these costumes with UNIVERSAL STUDIOS and we will have to pay for this thing that he did.  (Money isn't the point...)  And Mr Extra with an eye roll in his voice then tells me to just give him the tube and he'll go to the store and buy a new one for like .75 cents.  And he rudely begins to try and take it out of my hands.  I yank it back and tell him that he is dismissed.   
Over dinner the Director's brother asked if I had a problem with Mr Extra.  I admitted that regrettably, I had.  He told me he saw me giving him the talking to.  And then he thanked me.   Mr Bitten Extra had tried to get a bump in his rate because he felt that he had been made a Featured Extra.  Mr Bitten Featured Extra and his entourage of expectations left a wake of bad feelings with the people on set.  I sure hope he's gonna get ever so much work with that killer reel he's working on.  

1 comment:

avalentine said...

The spark of familiarity this post set off in me! Me oh my! And now I remember I'm dressing 15 extras for a video next Tuesday... "friends" of the band... wonder if there will be any "stars"......... please know that someone understands your struggle....