As a part of my never-ending quest to participate in only the most random and bizarre activities I have a chance to, I was an extra on a small, no-budget, independent short film last night. That’s right, I only had one line, “Waiter!”, but I’m pretty sure they’ve already engraved my name on the Academy Award for The Best Background Restaurant Patron Who May or May Not Actually Even Be In the Shot. From here on out you may address me as Madame Actress Newlin, of the Hollywood Newlins. It’s my official title.
My friend, Kristin, another nutty Realtor-type, wrote and is directing her first film. She has done a ton of hilarious video blogging as part of her real estate marketing over the last few years and discovered a love for the medium that has inspired her to pursue film-making on a larger scale. Here’s her video from a few days ago explaining to the real estate world that she’s checking out for a few days to do this:
She’s adorable, right? The script she wrote is a short, funny story revolving around a few characters she actually based on some of her Realtor friends. It’s possible I inspired the exhausted, over-committed, boxed-wine guzzling mom with a constantly dying orange car, Lindsay. Although I’m pretty sure most of those details were exaggerated. That doesn’t sound anything like me, right?
So Kristin invited me to the set last night to be one of the extras in a scene in a restaurant. I got to meet the actress playing ‘me’, Shellie. Even though she drinks wine out of a Harkins movie cup (I only do that when I’m actually at the movies) and burped drunkenly during the scene I watched, I approved because she’s super skinny, and if I’m going to be portrayed as a drunk on film, I at least want to be a skinny drunk.
Anyway, since I’ve never done anything like that before, I learned a LOT about the movie making process and I thought I’d share some of it with you.
Ten Things I Learned About Filming a Movie:
1. When they say your ‘call time’ is 6-10 PM, they actually mean you’ll be needed from 10:30 PM-12:30 AM. But you should still show up at the time they tell you to because there will be lots of weird and interesting things going on you’ll want to see. Just don’t expect to be home any time soon.
2. If a haboob knocks over your lights and ruins the outdoor ‘restaurant set’, what you do is move everything inside, completely rearrange the furniture and start over. That’s called ‘making it work’.
3. In a pinch, an extra may be asked to do hair and makeup on the ‘waiter’ because the makeup girl has gone home for the night. This is even if the extra doesn’t really know anything about makeup and doesn’t have daughters she’s practiced brushing hair on and mostly just tells the guy playing the waiter he has pretty hair and looks fine and sends him back out. This is also ‘making it work’.
4. You know that thing in the movie credits where they always show an actor screwing up the same line like 11 times in a row? THAT TOTALLY HAPPENS. It’s like a mental speed bump or something.
5. Even if the movie is about a bunch of people who drink a lot and you’re handed a wine glass for your scene, they’re going to give you a thing called ‘movie wine’. Don’t get too excited. Even though ‘movie wine’ sounds like it should be like really great wine, it’s sort of like ‘magic underwear’. It’s like a way less exciting version of the real thing without all of the alcohol and sexy parts. There’s a good chance, however, that actual wine is floating around somewhere because they had to put the stuff from the prop bottles somewhere. Check the pitcher in the fridge.
6. If you switch from ‘movie wine’ to real wine you found hidden in the fridge before you actually need to be in front of the camera because you’re a little sleepy and bored, you will probably have to pee by midway through your takes. It’s fairly embarrassing, as a completely unimportant extra, to have to stop taping so you can run to the toilet.
7. If you have to whisper and pretend like you’re eating dinner at a restaurant, it’s not as easy as it seems like it should be to also be paying attention to your cue to say your line. This acting shit is more complicated than it first seems.
8. The one single time the entire cast does their parts perfectly in the very first take a fly will land directly on the sound mike (the mic? I need some technical lessons here) and ruin the entire take. Like that actually happens and the sound guy isn’t just fucking with everyone. It’s fairly demoralizing.
9. The cast and crew are all super committed to the vision of this. It’s really not at all easy to do the same thing over and over until late into the night and not just look like a walking zombie while reciting your lines. In fact, if the scene is going to get done correctly, they have to get better with every take. I was so impressed with the determination of everyone involved.
10. I’m not sure I have what it takes to kick as much ass as Kristin did with this project. I’m pretty sure I would have either said, ‘Oh whatever, it’s fine,’ two takes in, or I would have burst into tears 35 takes in because it WASN’T PERFECT. I don’t think there’s any way I could have found the balance she seemed to have with her eye for detail, but knowing when it was time to move on because it would just be ok.
The point of all of this is, I have a new perspective on this whole movie making thing. These people work their butts off to keep us entertained. I’m thrilled I got to be a part of it. I also cannot wait for the red carpet screening. I’m already shopping for my dress.