Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Alpha House with Beta Tenants

John Goodman

It seems that Amazon.com has jumped into the competitive field of private-productions and going up against the likes of Hulu and Netflix.  Alpha House is one such "beta test" of the expanded revenue-generation prospects. By producing their own product (with the help of Doonesbury comic strip writer, Garry Trudeau)... in this case a video series entitled Alpha House, about four politicians living under the same roof... Amazon Studios can control the subject matter and distribution with greater freedom.  And in the process providing additional jobs for us background extras.

I was told to bring 3 suits for this stint -as were the rest of us senatorial atmospheres.  I have one black and one blue suit, but only the blue one sufficed for the casting director.  So I went out to the nearest department store and "bought" two new suits of various gray and tan shades (with the plan of returning them after the job was over).  Such are the quick thinking modus operendi of a resourceful extra. And during wardrobe checks, the wardrobe lady complemented me for providing just the right kind of suit choices.  Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the only one I had to use was my own blue suit!

Inside the Bar Association -there were portraits everywhere.
This happens so many times lately.  They tell you to bring a number of changes for various scenes and we usually wind up wearing the ones we show up in.  Sometimes I know how to out-think them (and go only in a single get-up) or I have to schlep my schmattas all over the place (trains, buses  city streets) for nothing. That's why I love to do period pieces.  They fit you at the studio, transport your wardrobe and it's ready for you on site... and you wear the same thing all the time.

Matt Malloy
But being on this "politico" set with John Goodman and Matt Malloy at the New York Bar Association was worth the schlepping.  It was a dinner scene where John's character is responding to insinuations that an adversary to his office was being groomed: a popular football coach, no less.  He finds the concept distasteful and walks out... past some of our tables... that I, for one, was dining with two other "senators" -which in all likelihood will not be in the shot.  We extras know this instinctively because none of the makeup people came over to us to "powder the shine" in any of the retakes -as is usually done when you are near the principal actors.  So we just kept up our "pantomime chat" for s&g!

The "large hall" of honor being set up

The other scene dealt with Matt Malloy in a large hall receiving an honorary award from "The Council For Normal Marriage" for being a senator who promotes "straight sex" relationships.  He accepts the award and comically goes off on a tangent berating other forms of unacceptable sexual relations -while we in his audience are directed to start looking at each other as if to say"What the heck is he talking about?". We did quite a few takes of that performance, with each being funnier than the next.  A short stocky young man with "squinty eyes" was playing a reporter nearby. They called him "Haley", and although I might have seen him on the TV screen before, I just couldn't place him. I was also unsuccessful in getting the name of the director... the PA's called him "Matt" but I never got the last name. More IMDB homework to do.

Before lunch was called, we saw the crew munch on some quesadillas here and there, and our mouth started to water.  Soon a cart was pushed to the side with plenty of the delicious cheesy treats left on them.  One by one, we nonchalantly partook of the much needed vittles.  A minute later, lunch was called... burp!  Suddenly I felt like a glutton!  But the hot lunch food was also delicious, the conversations flowed engagingly with my bg-friends at the holding-area tables, and our meanderings through some of the inner sanctum areas at the Bar Association building made the time go fast.  Surprisingly, it was a 9 to 5 day in New York City's Times Square.  It brought back some memories from my real-life working days in this neighborhood.