Tuesday, September 16, 2008
On my day as an extra
of a friend
who is also now a friend
T, has written a black comedy series called Taking the Flak, about a fictional country in Africa, journalists, war – I’ve only read part of the script but it looks great. She’s also producing it and it’ll be aired on BBC 2 I think in 2009. Anyway she asked me if I could be an extra. A “glamorous and sexy journalist called Saskia.” Hmmm. Not sure I can pull that one off but I gave it a go… And it was fun. Oh such fun. So spent the day (and night) shooting on a rooftop in the middle of town. Ah, what a fabulous view it was. The mountain was out in full splendour (Mt. Meru, forgotten little sister of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Gorgeous in her own right and massive), the Jacaranda trees are just starting to bloom and the day was glorious.
And when it got dark the full moon was up - happy, fat and looking to burst with pride at her world below.
I got to the hotel in the morning and was whisked away to the makeshift costume room in the hotel. Took me right back to drama school and the wardrobe there. (I specialised in directing and costume and set design for my last year, hoping to get away from the prima-donna actors and dancers but alack, alas in the wardrobe it’s even worse. Coz they don’t want to look ugly. And they kick up such a fuss. And this was only drama school! Bloody prima-donnas. Directing was a better coz you just tell them what to do and they have to listen. Nyahaahahahah.) Anyway so the costume lady, G, was really really nice and we tried on a few things and eventually settled on an itsy teeny skirt that kept doing some impressive Marilyn Monroe stunts. Up on the blustery rooftop. Heh heh.
There was a guy in the costume room, heavily made up (he came in like that) trying on all these boots and making poor G run around after him. Each pair she brought he’d try on, sigh, roll his eyes, throw them to one side and say “too small” “too big” and eventually “These will have to do”. And she was being so nice and patient. Then he did the same with hats. "Ah gawd, famous person syndrome” I thought. Must be one of the lead characters and has just flown in from the UK.
We get up to the roof the eyeliner guy starts getting into character (and saying loudly “I was carefully cast for this role because I look the part”). The crew and other actors, looked around at each other confused, like “who is this guy?” It turns out that he is to be my (Saskia’s) cameraman, along with another (really nice) bloke who is actually the accountant and just filling in. So he says to the nice accountant bloke, S, “so what exactly are we doing, what must I do? What is my character like?” and S says, “oh, nothing really just when the cameras roll walk from one side of the set to the other. It’s not a big deal”. The dude gets really cross. “I need to get into character for this you know”. I don’t want to be too mean about the bloke. And I could. There’s lots I could say! At first I thought he must be a real prick but by the end of the day just realised he was just really…well… …not all there, you know? I don’t think he means to be like that. He just is. I have a tendency to attract weirdos to me. I try to be all understanding and sympathetic (especially if everyone else is mean to them) but it usually just lands me in trouble (most often in the guise of offers of sex. Noooo, thank you). So this day I just kept quiet around him. And anyway he was far too important to talk to me.
So on the rooftop they had two little blue tent awning things that had tea and water and biscuits under (I know how organised is that!) And every hour or so they’d have to change the camera angle and the tents needed to come down and all the kit needed to be moved. And – get this- they had people to do this for them. I kept trying to get in to help until I realised that I was just getting in the way. I’m just really not good at sitting and watching people work around me without helping. That’s not to say I jump in every time I see labourers on a building site (Jeez, I’d never get anything done) but in this situation, I dunno. Maybe just coz I’m used to being on the other side. And of course I was also trying really hard not to be a prima-donna which must have been really annoying.
And every time you finished your scene or were waiting to go on someone would come with an umbrella and stand over you with it. This made me feel mighty uncomfortable. I’m an extra for goodness sake. I don’t even have any lines. I’m fine, really I don’t need you to hold an umbrella over me. And then they bring you water and give you a fleece at night when it was cold.
And everyone was so nice! The famous actor people, the director, the lovely makeup lady and costume lady. All so lovely and they even remembered my name!
I kept asking T “So that guy over there – is he like, famous? What’s he been in?” And T would patiently say “well, he has been in Titanic and …..” and go on to list a whole long list of things he’s been in. And her? ‘Oh….” And another long long list. Oh. I need to watch more tele. “No,” said T “it just shows you have a life”. Well, yes but if you knew how much time I spent blogging…..
And then towards the end of the evening, at about 10 at night I feel a biig old fart brewing. I am famous for my farts. I can clear rooms and probably factories too. And a rooftop full of BBC crew and actors – no problem. So I kept having to go off and stand in the corner hoping nothing would happen. And then because all these people were so nice they’d come up and ask if I was okay. “Yes yes, fine! Just keeping a fart in.” I didn’t ever say that, perhaps I should have.
Just so you know. It was fine. I didn’t and we’re all still alive and all. That would have given them all something to talk about and taken the spotlight off the weird guy. Hey, maybe I should have just gone and stood next to him, farted, looked horrified and walked off. Hahaha!