Sunday, September 16, 2012

Watching myself on Boardwalk Empire and being on the season's final episode

Tonight, the first episode of season 3 aired on HBO -and 21 minutes into the hour-long episode, I got to spot myself over Richard Harrow's (Jack Huston) target shooting rifle!

I was asked to stand behind Jack at the last moment and got some screen-time
Two days ago I was finishing up an overnight shoot on the Greenpoint set for the last episode of season 3 -so seeing myself was kind of a full circle closure for me.  It's really gratifying to know that my eight appearances over the past seven months have somehow contributed to an exciting production.

The lights of "Atlantic City's boardwalk" during tonight's shoot
Although this scene was relatively "calm": a dour Nucky Thomson walking alone on the Boardwalk, pausing occasionally at the railing in a kind of self-reflecting mood, while the rest of us extras provide a populous effect in his wake.  The only time we saw Steve Buscemi crack a smile was when the director, Tim Van Patten gave him some funny comments near the Chop Suey part of the set.

What made this shoot interesting was the consequential banter among us extras.  In the holding area, one of the guys was making fun of the other guy's fake mustache (he had to keep his fingers pressing down on it in order for it not to fly off during our conversation).  Later on, a heavy accented person provided some un-political commentary about the upcoming election that caused the guy next to me to stand up and leave.  When we lined up for obtaining our props, I was given a heavy pick-ax which brought immediate guffaws from the film crew when I appeared on the set and very quickly a replacement walking cane was provided for me instead of the dangerous and out-of-context prop.

On the set with my new prop
The incident with the malapropriate tool provided me with a number of conversations from several of the people around me, one of whom became my female partner in the upcoming "walk-on-the-boardwalk" scenes.  The two of us had a lot of fun chatting it up as well as faking conversations when "background action"  was called.  We swapped actor experience stories as she told me about her cosmetics commercial gig and I told her about my blog.  She was one of the most pleasant people I've had the pleasure of meeting.

My partner-in-crime for the night
Toward 4 in the morning we saw the character of Chalky White being set up for a scene... but most of us were wrapped a half hour later, so we never got to see him in action. At this late hour we could live with that and were happy to leave 1923 behind so we could check out and get back into our 21st century street clothes.  Funny thing about changing into our usual duds... it was hard to recognize each other... somehow the magic dust disappears.  Oh well, perhaps gossip from the hairdressers will come true and there will be a 4th season to continue the funtacy.  I hope so.  I really got to like working on this set, visiting the Steiner Studios, working with the actors, the fuss over the period clothing (the clothing designers must have given me a million wedgies to get my pants to stay up), being treated to decent food... and those short haircuts -the fact that I haven't had to pay for one all this year... LOVED IT!

Poster in Steiner Studios' haircutting room

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Party at 666 Park Ave.

The person on the other side of the casting-phone immediately asked if I had a tux?  Which of course, I did! And I was immediately given a checkin number with instructions on what to do in order to be on episode 5 of 666 Park Avenue. Sweeeeeeeeeeeet!

It was my first time at Cinemagic Riverside Studios located near the Williamsburg Bridge and not too far from my "steady haircut joint", Steiner Studios.  I arrived a bit early and so did another person.  We asked the guard which was the best way to get to holding and he told us "through the front door".  Together we roamed around the studio's offices until a very festidious office worker told us exactly how to get there.  To our surprise, it was straight down the path from the guard's location.  It would have been easier to just let us go through a few steps... but nooooooooooooo!

Anyway, we didn't mind the jaunt because we got to see the prop shop, the wardrobe department, the makeup rooms, accounting, shipping and receiving, the bathrooms... and finally the holding "deck".  It was a georgeous day and a large white tent was set up for us non-SAGs to sit in  -of course SAG members were given inside window seats.  But we didn't mind it too much because the scenery of being on the edge of the East River, overlooking the NYC cityscape between the awsome bridges... well, it was breathtakingly unique, especially hearing the water splashing against the banks and watching the river traffic go by.

Breakfast was ok and soon we were called to the set inside. It was built to mimic the lobby of the title building's envyrons: a long corridor decorated for Holloween, complete with spider webs, archaic candle stands and of course a DJ and colorful spotlights (just to keep things familiar on the modern day scene).  Originally, after doing some web research on my own, I thought we'd be going to the Ansonia building on NYC's upper west side since this was the image of the building being used in the series.  But the disappointment was shortlived due to the ambiance created inside (and outside) the studio.  We were all given unique masks, a prop drink and paired up with various people during the numerous scenes.

I was wondering if  this would only be a template or if the real actors would show up.  My wonderings were soon answered.  ALL of the actors were there!  Terry O'Quinn appeared in his tux and smilingly bantered with a couple of extras as he was placed on his mark. Vanessa Williams was in front of me, engaged in friendly dialogue with a couple of the other young principals.  I was paired up with a zany gal who provided a lot of laughs with her running commentaries.  Our direction was to walk through the crowd at various moments.  One of the other guests was "Elvis", who stuck a make-believe microphone toward me during every take of that scene... I "Thanked him very much!".


At other times, an unmasked ax-man was stalking after someone in the crowd; a goth-themed female impersonator was hanging out with a "medi-evil" king;

Cleopatra was cavorting with a cowboy and a Tippi Hedrin character dressed in Ann Taylor type suit was decorated with stuffed crows on her collar and sleeves; a nun-character was dancing with a devil... no  wonder that the episode was entitled "A CROWD OF DEMONS".

Each of us held glasses with "drinks to sip".  (Note to self:  Never take the wide martini glass.  It always spills, and then the PA's give you dirty looks as they run to wipe the floor... while courteously saying that "It's no problem!".  Sorry about that guys.)  During breaks the food was plentiful and no one bugged us when we snuk into the SAG-food area for some of the baklava cakes!

At nightfall we were back outside taking photos of the twinkly lights outlining the Woody Allan-esque city across the East River -a clear full moon was above (how apropos).  I almost didn't want this day (or night) to end.  It was so cinematically magical.  It's rare that one can experience such a beautifully framed work-day.  And to get paid for it... albeit not much pay -but pay nonetheless.

I was second on the checkout line and packed up my bag, chatted a moment with a new friend and headed out to the street by way of the "forbidden driveway".  It was just about pitch black but the walk was nice and short to the street and I waved good-by to the erstwhile guard who prevented our entrance earlier in the day.  He snorted a "So long!" acknowledgement and went back to sleep.  Midnight was beckoning and I hurried to my car down the block... I wanted to make sure that I witness the moment when it turns into a pumpkin!