Friday, July 17, 2009

Fodder Figure

I thought I had returned from the Wannabeeinamoviekiddo experience with my pride intact, but that was before I read RedBaboons' expose (just below). Now I'm checking to see if I am missing any body parts.

Truthfully, the overall experience was what I expected - mainly boredom, punctuated by physical discomfort, with the occasional breath of fresh air (mainly when I snuck out of the Tsongas Arena in Lowell where they were filming fight scenes for The Fighter for a little actual fresh air). But I also was up close and personal on the set, could hear the director's comments to the lead actors (Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Jack McGee), and was asked to pantomine my reactions to the same few scenes filmed over and over from every possible angle.

To some small degree I acted in a movie, though I can't say for sure if I was ever on camera.

I don't want to bite the hand that fed me, but as regards, Red Baboon is pretty much on target. I may be just that more cynical than RB however, as my sense is that 99% of the people who respond to, just want to be up close and personal with their favorite stars: they want to be exploited. I would also say that- to a certain degree, is filling a real need for productions like The Fighter. There were probably 1000 volunteer extras in the stands on the day I was 'on set', and though they were given drinks, snacks, and a Subway lunch - that was probably a far less expensive option than paying for even non-union extras. It is also important to note that there were also at least 100 SAG (union) extras on set that day.

------but let me provide a chronology of my day, for those of you with less experience than Red Baboon.

On the plus side, being one of the Beinamovie 'invitees' meant free parking near the arena, and very little waiting before we were ushered inside (unlike many other cattle calls where you wait in line for hours only to be quickly dismissed). On the negative side, it is a cattle call: from the moment you arrive you are herded into pens, then herded down a path, then herded into seats, and so on. As Babboo suggests, no matter what your role, it is probably always smart to bring a book (or knitting) to a movie set. I brought two books, reading glasses, bottled water, a banana, a granola bar, a pen.. and I ate them all.

But don't be so prepared to wait, that you forget why you are there in the first place ('for the experience', remember?).

If you are not content with being part of the herd, don't just sit where they say and wait to be told what comes next. If you really want to get more out of this than just a glimpse of a so-called star, than as soon as you walk through the door you should begin to suss the situation.

What was clear to me from the outset, was that extras were going to get a chance to get down on the floor, and into the movie. To my credit I had tried to dress appropriately (donning an old zippered sports coat (think 'Members Only') that would look right for the time period (late 1980's), along with a button-down shirt, tie, beige khakis, brown shoes.

I had not realized though that the fight scene being filmed this day had actually taken place at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas (I should have done more research). Had I known the locale, I could have tried to emulate the high rollers who are usually in the best seats at Vegas fights, keeping in mind the instructions that no one wear any bright colors or logos.

Still I was dressed somewhat appropriately and - given my age, probably looked like I might have attended such an event. In any case, for whatever reason, I was pulled out of the crowd, and moved to a seat amongst SAG performers (and friends of various crew members) as the actual filming began.

And there I stayed, as the entrance of both fighter's entourages, and three rounds from the famous Sanchez-Ward fight were filmed. What may take up no more than five minutes of the finished production, took 10 hours to film.

It was fascinating to see how the director worked. It was surprising to see how little time was given to setting up each scene, or angle (though perhaps that preparation took place well before I had arrived). There were at least six cameras filming at all times. I got the sense that the real direction would take place when the film was edited. I took at least twenty pages of notes in a small reporters' notebook and, as I had pen and notebook in hand, I decided to adopt the appearance of a sport's reporter on film - pausing as the scenes progressed to hastily jot down notes as to the fighter's appearance, the reaction of the crowd..

I had left at 6:30 that morning, and I was in my car headed home twelve hours later. Maybe there should be a web site called, ""?

1 comment:

RedBaboon said...

You certainly made a monkey out of me. Your account of being pulled out of the crowd is, by coincidence, nearly identical to Dick Cavett's in his autobiography. Cavett was an extra, playing a spectator ringside at a fight. "Some inner voice" had told him to bring a necktie. Because of it, he was assigned a line. Instant pay raise!