Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Both Tedd and Glenn were there in full regalia last night -along with the rest of us penguins. It was a black-tie affair wherein Glenn Close is presenting a prestigious award to a fellow lawyer...
[That's me sitting in the back... and never to be "discovered" -at least not from this show! It was a day's work for 2:43 minutes of this episode. So, approximately 3 minutes of showtime per day means about 2 weeks of work for a 50 minute show. Hmmm....]

Later as she dances with him, Tedd's evil-mogul character cuts in and the two antagonists are now arm in arm to the tune of Harry James' sentimental music. But the cozy scenario quickly deteriorates as Glenn's character provides an effective digg -accusing the high-powered businessman of letting a girl die as she cries after him, "Arthur...Arthur...ARTHUR!!!" But after a number of repeated takes it all sounded like a Broadway book-show.

It was great to see the two actors up close... way up close this time. Ted Danson was standing right in front of me and my "chanteuse partner", asking one of the PA's for his lines... sat down at one of the dinner table chairs and repeated it to himself a few times. After being satisfied with his lines and the blocking, he was in full swing as his confidence kicked in and his acting improved.

Glenn Close kidded around with the dinner-crowd as she stood by a podium ready to deliver a mildly roasted intro for the award-winning lawyer associate. In the beginning she blew her lines (they were kind of tough and jumbled) but eventually she got them out and kidded with us to break the tension... "So a lawyer walked into a bar..." we had to laugh at that one! Then she sang an etherial tune (not a bad voice)... and the scene was eventually completed to the director's satisfaction. Our part was to pay attention - laugh - clap!

This was a completely different Glenn Close than the one I had experieced back in episode #3! There she seemed more focused, stern and disassociated from the crowd. Here she was acting almost like a kid. At one point after the "Arthur...Arthur scene", it was supposed to be "silent" as the two arguing attorneys (are there any other kind?) separate -but Glenn just had to get that Cruella De Vil's "wicked witch laugh" out as Danson is storming off the dance floor -and of course that put the entire crowd into giggle-land. At this point a woman asked me "What was that 'Fatal...something' movie she was in? And I responded by saying, "Fatal Repulsion'.

Couldn't resist that one.

At break time we got 10 minutes to eat... this meant finding the catering truck (which was parked way the heck down the block) and then finding a reasonably ballanced place to eat. I found a fire-pump on which I ballanced one leg and a can of pepsi while juggling a small hero slice and a veggie-wrap. (Oh, the things that hunger and decent-looking food can motivate you to overcome!) While doing my ballancing act... Glenn Close and the award-winning lawyer actor saunter by on the street, walk up to the crafty truck near-by and have a snack with the rest of the SAG people. A few minutes later they are on their way back and I watch them pass in front of me with "blank forward-looking" expressions on both their faces... It was very tempting to wave my hand in front of them to see if they weren't sleep walking. But I'm digressing into fantasy-land here -and it's really neither here nor there how they walk and how they look... they are who they are; for whatever reason that they are. I can only observe without judgement.

The shoot soon ended, an orderly exit was made by all voucher-signed participants as our seven hours of celebrity exposure began to fade in our dressing rooms. Cipriani's fancy coach was back to being a pumpkin again... and we were all left looking for that missing shoe.

Friday, August 17, 2007

VERIZON with Paul Marcarelli and a cast of dozzens

I don't know if he could hear us now... but we were all jibber-jabbing about his fame and monetary success! We, the extras, standing on the green-screened floor hung in there for the $150 session just to be in a Verizon commercial. Wearing the hats, shirts, jackets, tools, etc. that the wardrobe department supplied us with -and we just shwitzed away the time in Silvercup's Studio #5 -while Paul, "the Verizon-guy" held up the latest version of the brand's cell-communicator... (not a word from Paul -just face time to the camera as we stood behind him en mass). As a matter of fact -someone had mentioned that we were supposed to be on Mars!? Oh yeah... even the aliens will be using Verizon soon -just to call Earth.

During breaks I sat across from a young guy who was well prepared to while away the hours in a crowded room (where there were, according to our attractive raven-haired PA, exactly 160 chairs). We played WAR with cards -but then he suggested a rousing game of DOMINOES! I haven't played that since I was a kid, -remembered something about having to match the dots... but that's it. I would have to learn it over again. Luckily the process was quick and we were having some high-felutin' competition over our lunches. Now I'm hooked. (Later, I bought a set in the nearest 99 cent store.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Michael Imperioli FOR ONE MORE DAY

Dressed as number 11, he swung the bat at his hometown field during the nostalgic 1970's -where he returned to commit suicide. But his mom (Ellyn Burstyn) comes back from the dead to talk him out of it. (And whether he lives or dies makes no difference to us extras...we just wanted to get out of the blazing sun bearing down on us before we had a meltdown in the open bleachers.)

That's the quick and dirty version of this film's plot. The long version dealt with our 6:30 AM to 7:PM stint, spent getting fitted for post-hippy chic. I was given bell-bottomed pants that didn't fit and I had to keep pulling them up until I finally got my hands on a large safety pin and reduced the 44 inch wasteline to a more managable one that could remain escalated around my girth. Afterwards, I was sent to make-up to have "porkchop sideburns" pasted on my cheeks in order to better fit into that period -a period which I lived through in polkadot shirts, tight pants and western boots. Certainly not the pukey mustard-colored tight-fitting terrycloth shirt I was given!

Quite frankly, some of my fellow extras fared a lot better... even with the wigs! I think the wardrobe department had a "Mod Squad" fetish... My friend, Karli Bonne, came out looking like a brunette version of Peggy Lipton.

The made-for-TV movie is an adaptation of Mitch Albom's book -and presented to the boob tube by Oprah Winfrey through the directorial exhuberance of Lloyd Kramer. Once Oprah recommends a book, it becomes a sure-to-make-it-big on the best sellers list. Thereby assuring an audience for this production... most likely to be aired on ABC... TBD!

Michael Imperioli took more guff from some of the more "experienced" cheering section than the non-specific direction given to our cadre of fans had called for (e.g. "What a lousy slice -you bat like a pussy!"). So that when the cheering got a bit ugly, the over-enthusiastic yellers were approached and told to cease the all-too-accurate jeers. After all, we were instructed to make believe that his first hit was a homerun (even if it was a foul). But Michael bore up well and was a real trooper. Such is movie-reality.

We were relocated several times in the bleachers to make the crowd look thick (I had tons of exprinence with this in the CMA Forex commercial a couple of weeks ago). The bleachers, however, had some obstacles in store for us: At one large area they were covered by squashed berries that had fallen from the overhanging tree; at another there was a wasp nest and they were zooming about our heads rather antagonisticly -enough so that a couple of us went running up and down the steps to try to escape their attacks and eventually we had to yell at the assistant director to stop reseating us in this section! Lloyd's bullhorn kept on with "...aaaaand.... ACTION!" They didn't care. The scene had to be completed while there was daylight...

Most of the people were called back to the bleachers after our meager roast-chicken lunch break... I was not among them -and didn't really mind. I had somehow been spared a second grilling from the August summer's hazing sun. I just cozied up to my seat in holding and let the hours pass until wrap time. Outside, a scene with Michael and his "father" would take forever. Something wasn't going right and the extras were kept in perplexity as to the reasons for the delays in the shoot. When the participating extras returned a few hours later, I got different stories from different people. But the gist was that it was a mess... the scene wasn't working. They had us for the past 12 hours -additional time would incur OT... so now it was WRAP time!!! Ah, the rush of stamping feet as they returned their wardrobe and hair-pieces for the exchange of the "ticket to leave", our VOUCHERs... which we now had to get signed. And now the lineup -an occasion to banter among each other while we wait for the PAs to process our IDs and at the same time trying to focus on the availability of the nearest exit door.

I made friends with a couple of people, and one of them quickly economized on it. Angelo asked if I could give him a ride into the city. I told him I could drop him off in Queens and off we went. While enroute to Queens, I learned that Angelo was a dancer persuing acting. He was post-college-age whose favorite dancer was pre-kiddie-Michael Jackson... and now Angelo wanted a career. I knew exactly what he meant -it was time for me to start getting back to mine also. The one in the real world. My phone rang -I got an interview scheduled in the middle of the week with a large firm in midtown NYC. More calls follow with opportunities of large salaries and full benefits and bonuses... etc. Reality beckons and acting strange now presents new challenges in both worlds.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A 2-day Odyssey with HONDA

[ I always find it ironic when there is a NO PARKING sign posted for a CAR commercial!]

The 4:AM call means a 1:AM wakeup ring on my alarm-cell-phone; catching a 1:56 AM Long Island RR train and hoping that the NYC subways are running… and that there are some people around so that you don’t feel like you’re going to be a target for muggers. But NYC has a rhythm all its own –and you really can’t guess it, no matter how street-smart-savvy you think you might be. I’ve done all these musings before, and each time the results were pleasant.
The trains had a bunch of early workers starting out and the streets had groups of couples whose partying had finally taken it’s toll and now it was time to go home and rest (for more partying, no doubt). In this state of mind, I arrived 30 minutes early to the holding area that was at a Presbyterian Church on 55th Street and 5th Avenue.

The food truck was servicing us and I wasted no time in getting the fresh fruit with yogurt as my breakfast of choice for this fine and unusually chilly August-weekend morning. Others began to drift in and I noticed some familiar faces, and some not-too-familiar figures: one in particular was that of an emaciated looking young blond woman. Her face was pretty but her jeaned-up legs were spindly-thin and her arms, although covered with some muscle tissue, had given the impression that she may have been sick and was now coming back to possible health. Her demeanor was reserved and I noticed that one of the PA’s was fawning over her to meet her much-needed caloric-needs. I never actually witnessed her ingesting anything…

After our breakfast snacking, we were ushered into the church and two floors down, where we set up our “base camp” for today.

“Yoo kin put yer fookin’ things doon an’ git fookin’ coomftahble while we fookin’ fill out some fookin’ papers…!”

Derek, our handler, was Scottish and had no problem with telling us what to do and where to go! He was pleasantly serious and gave us a real listening treat with his heavy accent. I impressed him when I found his wallet on the bathroom floor and returned it to him. “You’re an honest mahn…(and after checking the contents to be intact he intoned further kudos)… a very honest mahn!”

Our wardrobes were checked and half of us, 20 or so souls, would be “shoppers” and the other half would be “business” –only 10 would be called back for the 2nd day’s shoot. I was to be a member of the latter group. An hour or so later, we were taken to the set which was in front of Harry Winston’s jewelry store on 5th Avenue. Classy!

Our direction was given and it was explained that we were to be the background-part of a Honda Odyssey car commercial. The commercial, however, would only be shown abroad –most likely Japan and Europe. When we saw the car, we realized why: the driver’s seat was on the right side. Groaaaaaan! Oh well, at least the pay was good.

Then came an entourage of people, in the center of which was a tall statuesque model with Barbie-doll-like spaghetti-thin features. ~~~Tidle-dee-dee, Tidle-dee-dee~~~… I realized that it was the girl I saw a few hours ago by the food truck. She was wearing a classy short chiffon-pleated dress that barely grazed her knees, some shopping bags and tons of makeup over her face that had to be touched-up on a regular basis by the Japanese makeup crew (army). And it was chilly, so that her thin constitution started to shiver… luckily, between takes, the Japanese contingency would bring her a coat to drape around her shoulders. Ultimately she bore up well and kept her composure, always focusing on her “delivery” to the camera. I gained a lot of respect for her very professional attitude.

The streets were wetted down by the water truck and the shoot began. Some of us were told to walk south, others north and Lindsay, the model would remain in place by the curb while doing a Queen Elizabeth-hand-wave in expectation of a pick-up by her oncoming Honda-driving acquaintance. Much of this shoot was done through the inside of the oncoming Honda car… an apparent signature of the director, Sano Yutaka. He had done Honda before, as shown on his production company’s website DAY-O… usually with some NYC landmark clearly seen through the car’s window. I suppose to signify that the right-sided-driver Honda Odyssey “gets around”! Interesting concept…and from what I observed on his website, cleanly depicted in each of the company’s commercial projects. Nothing was “lost in the translation”! He was good.

A small sliver of sunlight began to squeeze through to the concrete jungle’s skyscraper valley that we were now inhabiting. This light was to be used for a special shoot. While they were setting up their equipment, we were given a few minutes for a break. I decided to go into the direct line of the sun’s rays while leaning against the door of one of the fancy storefronts. I closed my eyes and just let the warmth of the sun penetrate. It felt soooo good after the long morning’s chilly weather. Suddenly my reverie was interrupted by a rude uniformed SOB behind the glass door. He was tapping it vigorously with his white-gloved knuckles and giving me some dirty looks to indicate that I should be off-of-there!!! Reluctantly, I complied… I vacated the door and the comfortable spot and receded back into the frigid grey light of inscrutability.

Bantering with the PA’s and the other extras during takes created a friendly networking atmosphere that allowed us to exchange headshots and contact references in hopes of a new gig. I had met two of the women here on another set and we commiserated on past experiences. One of them, who also worked on Adam Sandler’s “Zohan” set had the same disenchanted rotten experience that I did –and we both swore never to see that movie! The other woman was the UMAS waitress from the “Damages” restaurant set we filmed at DUMBO. Once we recognized each other we instantly resumed our “sentient” subjected conversation.

The time was rolling around to 10:AM and the stores were starting to open up… this was the desired cut-off time and pretty soon the “gates were checked” –and we were dismissed. My trip home was a lot less apprehensive, even though I was going against the flow of the incoming Saturday morning crowd. It was nice to be home before noon.

Day 2’s call time was a half hour later: 4:30 AM –big whoopy! But since it was an early Sunday morning call, I decided to drive to our new location –the Flat Iron District: 17th Street and 5th Avenue. This was my wife’s and my old workplace neighborhood in the mid-1970’s. A time when we would go to lunch together in the nearby park –so it brought back some romantic memories. My romanticism, however was quickly ended when I learned that Lindsay, the Barbie-doll model, would not be here today. Today’s shoot would only involve “the car”. Bummer!
The 10 special extras, which WE were –had to be posted effectively for the shoot since the streets were lacking human forms that would otherwise fill in the void of NYC’s sleeping Sunday population. The water truck did its special shpritzing for the slick photographic effect and we watched it go by from a safe (and dry) distance a dozen times or so. Everyone’s energy level was low…you could sense it…we were all sleepy and it showed in our lack of enthusiasm. But that didn’t matter –the takes went on endlessly as the Honda and the camera crew circled the blocks over and over again. Between takes, the only drama we could get involved in was that of a hopping baby sparrow which had fallen from its nest and the ensuing frantic prods of the sparrow family to get the baby flying. In its efforts to escape the pedestrian onslaught, the baby sparrow kept coming perilously closer to the certain doom awaiting it in the ceaseless traffic of 5th Avenue. My “sentient” friend kept blocking the baby sparrow’s path off the curb, hence saving it from the inevitable. But this could only last between takes and once we wrapped up, the fledgling would be left to fend for itself. We, special extras, after all, had to go sign out and get home to our beds for some much needed rest, so that we could continue to remain “sentient”.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On a COLLEGE ROAD TRIP with Martin, Raven and Vinny

My agent must have gotten inspired by the title of this movie because the "coordination bug" really bit her for this gig. She arranged for groups of people to travel together in car-pools to Oakville, Connecticut. The movie company couldn't get any locals so we would be given the "coveted WAIVER" if we showed up. And it would have been pulled off flawlessly had it not been for THE STORM FROM HELL!!!

I was paired up with Pete as the driver, who lived in the next town over from me. We agreed to meet at 6:15 AM for the 9:15 AM call time. Sounded pretty fair... planning 3 hours for a 2 hour drive... yet our plans still went awry (or AW-REE, as my wife likes to pronounce it).
When I arrived at Pete's house, it was a gentle rain that drizzled upon my bare noggin as I switched to his car. A short wait and Pete was ready to pick up another passanger in nearby Inwood. But as we began to get on the main roads the sky opened up and the rain was now pouring down making visibility almost non-existent as Pete answered his cell phone. It was our agent... "Could you pick up one more passanger in Astoria???"... The rain was now a deluge as we turned onto the highway, Pete fiddling with the phone and the car swirving a bit here and there as his attention was being distracted at the thought of having to go out of our way.

The water on the highway was now at curb level as Pete "calmly" explained the delaying situation to our persistent agent, and eventually she relented so that we could continue on our way to pick up our scheduled 3rd passanger nearby. It was still dark and the oncoming storm made it even darker as we searched for the house number. After a few missed turns we found it and Pete, still dressed in his shorts and T-shirt, got out with an umbrella to help Donna into the car. It was a 2 door sports car so that negotiating the narrow door-space in the torrential rain delayed her entry and prolonged Pete's unscheduled soaking -his large stature requiring that the driver's seat be readjusted after Donna's ingress, thereby extending his exposure to the elements. The unbrella was useless now. The storm was raging, lightning, thunder and tremendously wild winds were the fare for the next hour or so. The radio was warning abut possible TORNADOS right in the area where we were traveling -the south shore of Long Island!!! (Later we learned that an official tornado, with strength EF-2, did touch down in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn at 6:30 AM... uprooting treets, roofs, CARS, etc.).

But who cared. We wanted those WAIVERS! Donna had one already but Pete and I were going for our first one. Three waivers will get you into SAG... which meant we would earn SAG money (almost twice the usual amount as for non-SAG extras). And we were going to show up for this gig -no matter what kind of weather slowed us down. But slow us, it did. We arrived at 11:15 AM... 5 hours driving and 2 hours late.

Luckily, they were understanding and the PA's treated us with consolation... we wouldn't be penalized for the "tardyness". Our arrival time would still show as 9:15 AM. Thak you PA's!

At noon we were called to set at the TAFT school. It was a pretty large, well manicured campus for a boarding school. A nice place to simulate a "college atmosphere". On the set there were "toga party" type pledges scattered all over the area. We, the older looking types, were to be "faculty". But for now, the faculty types were told to wait by a tree while Martin Lawrence and Raven, dressed in red gym clothes were screeching a golf-cart to the school's entrance... TG far away from us. Vincent Pastore also has a role in this movie -but he wasn't around. The scene was repeated for a long time... we were never called to be on camera and told to return to holding.

As it turned out, the production of that scene was running way too long and we, "the faculty", would not be used today. The announcement was "Call your agent to see if you will be needed tomorrow?!" We didn't care... we all had plans anyway. But as it turned out we were finished... not used for the scene... and we got our coveted waivers.

The trip home... in the calm dawn... was a lot faster.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

TAKING CHANCE with Kevin Bacon

A sad story to be played out on HBO, based on the real life of a 19 year old Marine who gave his life in 2004 Iraq, so that his fellow Marines could all survive. His body, as prescribed by the Marines' tradition, is accompanied back home to Dubois, Wyoming to his family -never left alone during the entire trip. Kevin Bacon plays the accompanying Marine... Lt. Col. Michael Strobl.

The director, Ross Katz, got up to the gym's microphone and explained the story to us in heart-wrenching words. It was very emotional and the hundreds of extras listening were all appreciative of the director's efforts to address us in this way.

It was an early morning call to a sleeping New Jersey town's high school gym, but it was also an early afternoon release. One of the quickest sessions I've ever attended. The scene was relatively simple:
  • the grieving family enters the gym and walks slowly to their seats

  • we stand up in respect

  • the high ranking Marine asks us to sit and begins to deliver the intro to the eulogy

We had to be sufficiently somber as the multiple cameras did their work while the scene was on...

In between takes however, we were attempting to be jolly... couldn't be helped... The guy next to me had a huge beard and it was his first time as an extra. His innocent questions and my wiseguy responses were a diabolical mix. Add to that the zaftig "reading woman" on my other side whose informational jibes were unexpectedly comical... well, we just needed the boost between the downer takes.

I was in the second row as Kevin Bacon walked around being one of the "funeral goers" and would occasionally get tips from the "real Marine" advisor on the set. His appearance reminded me of his role in "A Few Good Men" as the naval prosecuting attorney: stiff back, crew cut, no-nonsense attitude. And like other actors I've seen for the first time, he was shorter and skinnier than I had imagined from the screen. The only time I noticed him perk up was after one of the "check the gates" calls -he walked by and gave a wink & smile to the girl in front of me, who, I figured was somehow well known by the crew people who kept coming up to her earlier in the shoot session. I didn't recognize her to be one of the actors. Oh well -have to wait for the movie to come out, I guess.

The zaftig woman mentioned that Tom Wopat was playing one of the mourning family members and after looking at his Dukes of Hazard photos, I believed her... although, he was sporting a scroungy beard for this role.

The brown-bagged lunches we eventually received had consisted of a mushy ham and cheese sandwich with an apple and a bag of potato chips... I gave it away to one of the hungry PA's. I just didn't feel like eating anything after the morose atmosphere. I really didn't expect it to affect me this way -so I guess I must have acted pretty good in this one.