Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Law and Order... finally!

Mariska Hargitay and Danny Pinto


I've been trying to get on this gig for the longest time... I mean EVERYBODY's been on it but me. I've had to endure so many conversations about it from my fellow extras. And now my ambition has been realized (Yabba-Dabba-Doo).

It was a late morning call time at JFK's terminal #4 and I decided to self-report via LIRR and AirTrain combo -since I lived relatively close to the set. But as it turned out, it would have been cheaper for me to go into the city and take the specially rented shuttle bus ($19.95 vs. the $$25 I spent for the double-train joy-ride). Be that as it may... it was all worth it to get on the show.

My wardrobe passed muster at the first check this time and I settled in for the wait to be called to set. My table started to get lively when the bus arrived from the city and the cast of characters quickly got friendly with one another. The girl next to me was a former Radio City Hall rockette; the young guy across the table from me was a sketch artist... and a bit innocent (we had to explain the difference between a "hipster" and a "metrosexual" to him). He was very talkative -which was a good thing, and practically interviewed everyone around the table. Next to him was a middle aged guy who was a screenwriter and had made forays into producing a TV pilot... unfortunately, it didn't go anywhere -but he was good natured and took it in stride. On my other side sat a young girl with a heavy french accent. She spent a lot of time on the phone in perfect francais conversations. She was reading a book about acting and we got into a method vs. experimental theater conversation. And suddenly we were called to the set on the 4th floor.

A couple of us were selected to be business types crossing the path of a fleeing felon. He bolts as soon as Mariska Hargitay and her sidekick, Danny Pinto question him from behind the name-holding chaufer line. They chase him down in the airport and a confrontation ensues. Needless to say, we all get jostled in some way or another from the running principals. Loved it!

Director Peter Leto

Mariska was very friendly with us... she joked around and was definitely a decisive voice in how the scenes should progress. After all, she'd done hundreds of episodes and knew what worked and what didn't. The director, Peter Leto was very good in the debates with the cameramen. He knew what was needed and expressed it creatively to us thrugh his assistants. I was impressed with the way the large airport space was managed and utilized for the short shoot.

My partner in this scene was a former PR person who left the industry for a while but realized just how much she was re-enjoying it again and was getting ready to get back into it. She had a friend on the crew who explained the scene to us. I asked if there were any cameo stars in this episode and she mentioned that Chloe Sevegny was downstairs in her trailer -but unfortunately not in this scene. ZUT ALORS! Chloe is one of my favorite actresses and I was thoroughly disappointed at not being able to catch a glimpse of her. EH BIEN... that's how life is scripted.

Meanwhile, our blocking was soooo good that most of us were wraped early and sent home at 3:30 PM... still daylight!!! WOW! That hasn't happened to me for a while. Even the checkout went pretty quick. Great shoot...great experience...

Epilogue 1: Aired on 4/18/2012 - a very quick chase scene!
Oh... whooosh... suddenly I remembered that I had been conducting some pretty confident interviews in the past month in hopes of getting back into the "paying-job" genre of my working life. But quite frankly I don't know which way that decision will go by the powers that be. And so I'm self-reflecting, realizing that I'm on pins and needles about it. I'll find out by month's end whether I get the "big gig" or if I continue to be a regular extra this summer (perhaps on Person Of Interest)...sic.

Epilogue 2: Afer 5 interviews, I didn't get the real-world job... bummer.

Monday, February 20, 2012

SHAT happens! (as his T-shirt proclaims)

William Shatner exits the Music Box Theater

We watched as the 80 year old actor, known to most of us as Captain Kirk, exited the Music Box Theater near Shubert Alley to thunderous applause and cheers. His one-man show, "SHATNER'S WORLD -We just live in it..." is running for a limited engagement and we just had to see him in person -at least once in his lifetime!

The show is a couple of hours of rambling... we didn't really care what he was talking about... it was just great to see him do his "Shatner-style" of story telling complete with his one-of-a-kind delivery replete with halting emphases (yes, the multiple version of emphasis).

Bill's mini-catharsis was entertaining for the most part, at times we nodded off but found ourselves paying attention to his various forms of homage to some major stars that he performed with (noticably absent was his stint with Angie Dickinson -wink, wink).

He didn't give any autographs and from what we heard through the crowd was that if you paid $275 a person, you could get a backstage tour from him. They didn't call Shatner "The Negotiator" for nothing! So after a moment or so of waving to the nighttime crowd, he entered his black Mercedes and as far as we were concerned... boldly went where no star has shone before.

Live long and prosper Bill!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Gala for A Gifted Man

...a.k.a. Patrick Wilson playing the part of Dr. Michael Holt -in this shooting of the last episode of the season (I remember him as Nite Owl 2 in the WATCHMEN movie). The scene is a gala affair taking place at the Roosevelt Hotel. The same hotel I spent 2 weekends as background for Man On A Ledge, which my wife and I went to see yesterday in the movies and loved it (even though the critics panned it -never trust any critics!).

But getting back to the topic at hand, the call time for the CBS production was at 8:30 AM today (the day of the Giant's parade down the Canyon Of Heros on the other side of town) -still, everyone showed up on time to get their wardrobe and makeup checked. The women got the best of the deal -yet again the most attractive of the 50 or so extras needed for this fete. Our holding area was inside a ballroom at the hotel, where we were not allowed to bring any food (yeah, right)!? I snuck in a bagel and lox with cream cheeze -which I wolfed down to avert the evil decree of being discovered with food and getting ejected. Luckily our PA, Bernard, was a friendly and tolerant guy. He was professional and focused mainly on the directorial part of the job.

After consulting with the ladies at my table for the best choice of ties, the dark brown was overwhelmingly selected. Unfortunately, my wardrobe check failed the tie test and the wardrobe supervisor decided to temporarily trade my voucher for what I thought to be a very non-descript piece of "shmatta". Be that as it may, I acquiesced to the requirements of the scene (what do I know anyway?). After that there wasn't much to do other than chat it up with my table mates. The conversation flowed around vitamins, politics and agents; I got a few "how to get more gigs" tips out of these encounters. It was a friendly group and getting familiar with each other's backgrounds made the waiting time fascinating and informative.
There were two scenes: one was milling around outside the balroom while Patrick and company chatted with some of the awarded-guests-of-honor, and the second scene dealt with sitting around the dinner tables while watching one of the speakers faint. I was one of the people picked to suddenly stand up in shock at the unexpected show-stopper (my only hope of being seen in the final cut).

EPILOGUE: Yes, that's me in the circle again (behind the plant)!? The season finale aired 3/2/2012

It all went well as David Platt, the director, darted between the cameras and the actors to get just the right effect.

Director David Platt

The shoot went on for us until almost 7:00 PM and then we were released. It was a great relief to exchange my voucher back for the ND-tie. I turned my cell back on, collected my phone messages and saw that a real-life job interview was being set up for me. In a way I was elated and in another way I was a bit sad. And then reality set in: I have bills to pay!

I quickly bade good night to my fellow table buddies, got my voucher ok'd -got my coat on and raced down the stairs only to come face to face with the star, Patrick, himself. I spontaneously smiled and said "take care" - he spontaneously reciprocated "you too"... and in a few moments I was out in the Manhattan night air. Walking up the block, I was kicking myself for not asking him if the show was being renewed.................. or, if he was making another WATCHMEN movie!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Participants in The Revolution

Finally got my wife to join me in one of my extras gigs. We were part of the audience in a new daytime TV show, THE REVOLUTION. Got to the Chelsea Studios in the early morning and waited in the studio's driveway with all the other audience guests for an hour or so to be let in.

While we were waiting, I let one of the PAs know that we were part of "Christine's people"!
-"O.K. -Come with me, and stand against the other wall" and soon all the other people, standing against the original wall were ushered in first!? Oh boy... did I do something wrong? Were we just cannon fodder now?

As it turned out, there were other "Christine people" joining us and we too were soon allowed to pass through the "metal detecting" security check to the basement holding area. Here we "decompressed" from our long wait and were entertained by the funny "warm up guy". And soon the entire crowd was taken to a huge service elevator which crawled up a few flights and eventually opened to let us file out in orderly fashion to the studio set.

More warm-up funny stuff and eventually the show started. There were four people who made up a pannel of "tipsters": house-builder Ty Pennington, fashion runway expert Tim Gunn, ob-gyn physician Jennifer Ashton, advice expert Tiffanie Davis and personal trainer to celebrities Harley Pasternak. They started the show with some gross discussion about "buggers", eventually transitioning to interviewing a celebrity, Monica Potter, and finally concluding with providing support to an obese mother.

Our direction was to clap enthusiastically on cue with "happy-happy-joy-joy-having-fun" expressions. Extra shoots of these clapping/smiling sessions were needed after the show ended, and suddenly my wife realized how staged all the audience reactions must be for other shows as well. She now enjoys these shows with a new understanding (i.e. you never know what the audience is really reacting to... real situations or fake prompts).

Ahhh... education about media-manipulation; it's soooo refreshing to see it dawn on others.