Monday, March 12, 2007

Spike Lee's M.O.N.Y.


My first gig in 7 months since working full-time (and still being employed) in the real world!

Of course I had been getting cast calls... one of the most recent one being The Bourne Ultimatum. Grant Wilfley called a couple of weeks ago but I had my car radio on so loud that I didn't hear my cell phone ring. And consequently when I finally realized that I had a call (2 hours later), Michole (?), the person I was supposed to contact, was no longer there and in all likelyhood, all extras had been selected. That hurt! I really wanted to see old Matt Damon do his stuff.

And then other opportunities arose. A possible photo shoot at the Paramus Mall for $50... hmmm, maybe? But then Desiree's email offers got better: Mayor Of New York with Spike Lee as director was offered for a weekend gig! I submitted for it and the old ball was in full swing again. I was #119 and got my location instructions from Sylvia Fay's call-in board: CITY HALL -excellent!!! I could finally see the place "from the inside".

The call time was for 1:PM -rather late in the day for a shoot... but who cared- I could sleep late and take my sweet time getting there. I did my IMDB research on the project and found out that it was an NBC TV pilot for which the principals were Bobby Cannavale and Carmen Ejogo.
I've seen Bobby on other TV shows but Carmen was a new name to me. I was pumped up for the occasion.

HOLDING was across the street from City Hall in the ancient Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank on Chambers Street. A grand marbled structure that was pretty well preserved from it's heyday of keeping fifty some odd tellers busy at the "jail-barred" windows. The last time I was in a bank like that was Brooklyn 1959!

The extras were assembling in the center of the bank under the grand ceiling that had huge oval stained-glass designs depicting the various industries the bank catered to... I sat under "Engineering". Near the check-in area there were rows of food -none of which was available to us for some weird reason. In fact we were only provided with pretzels, lollypops and tiny Snicker bars with some juice for the rest of the day. Not even coffe or tea! Just another typical crew-class discrimination (and starvation).

After check-in I met up with a couple of regulars I'd seen on other sets. I settled down at a table where I started chatting with my acquaintances, one of whom was Bill "It's a RAPP" and the other one being Pat. The conversation flowed generously... and it's a good thing too because we weren't called to set for another 5 hours!

The first scene for me was to walk from across the long hallway with a colleague business-type as the principals were walking behind. I was given the NY Times and a briefcase for props. This only took about 10 takes, during which we got to see Carmen stroll by -she's much prettier and younger than her photo depicts. Bobby was shorter than I expected... but then it seems that I always expect these guys to be "bigger than life"!? And Spike was definitely shorter than I expected -a striking character non-the-less. He projects an interesting charisma -somewhere between "cool-calm-and-collected" and moderately aloof.

Our second scene was to be a bunch of "power brokers" seated in a small room behind the principals. Our direction was to look busy, sign things, and "shuffle paper around". As it turned out, I was shuffling my papers rather loud for the second take and the boom-man indicated that we should make like there was "no papers there" becasue the mike was picking up too much noise with it. The warning was appropos but alas, too late. Spike was heading for us from the opposite end of the hall. We all knew what was coming...

He crouched down to our coffe table level, raised his eyebrows above the hoot-owl glasses and quietly and demurely explained that we needed to make no sound with the papers... and that this was the last scene of the day... and that we would be out of here at 8:30 PM if it went right!

Well! That was the best incentive. After all, we had been in holding from 1:PM to 7:PM... only had to do background work for an hour and a half and it was WRAP-time! So we mimed through the scene 2 more times and all went well. City Hall was evacuated fairly fast as we all headed for check-out...at 10 hours...and HOME!

Epilogue: I got a call the following day from my agent... way too late in the day for me to rework my plans... for a callback! Apparently there was a "mix-up" in communications (i.e. no one told us) and Spike needed everyone back for the second day! Unfortunately I had already commited to going to a birthday party and a Moroccan wedding! And I stuck with my commitment. Sorry Spike -better plans next time.