Sunday, May 16, 2010

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Back when txrad and I first moved into our first apartment together in Los Angeles, I was working and he wasn't. (Gee, kind of like now!) Our apartment manager must have had some connections to the film industry because she got him involved as an extra in an Ice-T music video shoot. He ended up on the cutting room floor.

In the late 1980s when Mike Nichols was shooting Biloxi Blues in Fort Smith, Arkansas I went to a casting call for extras and got selected. I was living in Little Rock at the time so it was a long haul over to the site of the shoot. I may have stayed at a Motel 6 for a day or two. I can't even remember.

My biggest moment in the film was during the theater scene. I was running late that day. When I showed up, all the other extras had already been transported by bus to the site where filming was taking place at Fort Chaffee, a military training facility just outside Ft. Smith.

I was kicking myself for lack of punctuality and thinking I'd really blown it. But I did have full unrestricted access to the snack table of various fruits and other goodies, and I suspect that was for the principals, not the extras.

Soon I was escorted to a room to have my hair buzzed again. This happened a week or two earlier when I was selected to be an extra in the film, but apparently my hair had grown enough to require re-militarization. There were only three other people in the room besides me: my groomer, and another groomer who was working on the actor seated behind me, and that actor happened to be Matthew Broderick. I was about to shit myself. He was having fake five o'clock shadow applied to his face.

After this we were both transported to the room where the theater scene was being shot. As we arrived, all the other extras were present and seated. It was a big room filled with extras. I expected, being late, that I'd be in a back row. Instead I was escorted down to an empty seat near the front about 2 or 3 rows behind where Broderick was placed. I've always wondered how the hell that happened.

In the film, I am clearly visible for several seconds as the camera pans back and forth in the theater scene. I am munching on popcorn.

Anyway, what brought all this up was that I just asked txrad about his experience as an extra. He thought the Ice-T video was low-budget and not very well coordinated. They didn't give them any detailed instructions on what to wear or anything. And I said, "Oh, you should have been an extra in a decent budget film like I was."

Upon selection as extras, we were taken to a big old army barracks building where we had to dig through boxes of military attire -- and I'm specifically referring to garments that would not even be seen on camera. Like....underwear. Yes, I had to pick out an army green wife-beater to wear under the shirt I was given to wear. Can't remember the socks but I'm sure those were in character as well. Crazy.

It's kind of weird knowing that you are out there, and a few million people have probably seen you, and will continue (in decreasing numbers) long after you are gone. When I'm watching any film, I tend to notice extras because of my experience, and wonder why they got involved, how they got involved, whether they did anything else film-related, or just went on with their lives?

Which leads me to a Question of the Day. Who saw Biloxi Blues and did you have any idea you were having a konagod moment? :-)

I probably would have been given a speaking part in the film, if only I'd been fluent in Italian Spanish. (Yeah, Litbrit, I studied both, but you'd never know, would you?)

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