Well, after thinking that my brief stint on the set of the A&E mini-series Bag of Bones was over, you can imagine my surprise when I received the following email from Johanna at Ballyhoo Casting a few weeks later:
We are currently looking for background performers for a scene in Stephen King’s Bag of Bones that is scheduled to take place Friday September 23, 2011 in Halifax. We are currently looking to see if you are available on this date. As the hours on a film set can vary, we ask that you keep this in mind and that we do not know in advance what time it will start or finish. You would be required to bring your own costume consisting of upscale high end clothing, this includes business suits, office attire and upscale casual.
Please let me know as soon as possible if you are interested and available!
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Unfortunately, this email came through on the 19'th and I was now reading it a full day later. Although I'm still enamored with the charmingly romantic Luddite notion of not owning a smart phone (and the thrilling emancipation from digital ball n' chains like Facebook that comes with it), it also keeps you dangerously out of the loop when a speedy reply to such queries is critical.
And trust me, my current phone is dumb. Like, beagle-level dumb. Put it this way: my phone rides the short bus to school.
Mercifully, it wasn't too late. After I confirmed my initial availability, I received this:
Good evening everyone!
Thank you again for taking this call and joining us as background performers on Stephen King’s Bag of Bones on Friday September 23! The location will be in Bayers Lake and the exact civic address and call time will be emailed out tomorrow night after filming has finished for the day.
Please find the costume notes below:
NYC Bookstore Patrons
This look is high end - big city - very sharp and crisp – non seasonal – colors should be earth tones. Shirt colors should be pale grey, off white, creams, blues. The style range is from business suits/office attire to upscale casual attire. Jewelry should be tasteful upscale for business attire can be larger for upscale casual attire.
Thanks again everyone,
Soon Johanna sent another email asking me if I could do Saturday as well. This offer was both unexpected and fortuitous. If I could get into a continuity group, I knew this might translate into a lot of additional hours on set. She also tried to pin me down to confirm that I possessed "a variety of wardrobe." Here was my response:
And here was her reply:
Great! I will put in for both days, you will be wearing the same thing both days too but please still bring your options. As per the wardrobe listed below, sounds good but just avoid the patterns or anything flashy.
Have a great day,
I was in! This immediately set me up for the sometimes-protracted and always-painful process of waiting for your call time. Typically this involves coming to grips with getting up the next morning at the the most ungodly hour you can imagine and then shaving two more hours off of this just to accommodate your nigh-impractical, bus-locomoted travel time.
There was one clue in the previous email that did look very promising, however. Johanna had made a vague reference to a bookstore scene to be shot in Bayers Lake, all the while remaining somewhat coy as to the exact address.
First off, I was already heartened that I wouldn't have to travel very far, since my apartment is only about five minutes away from Bayers Lake by car. Normally when I do this sort of thing I'm forced to shlep myself and my 80-pound garment bag all over hell and creation by bus. Being acutely familiar with the business park, I also knew that there was only one possible location we could be shooting in. This was confirmed when I received the call sheet later that evening:
Thank you for taking this Background Performer Call for us.
Have a great day on Set with us and please remember that it is not good Set etiquette to ask for autographs and the taking of photographs is strictly forbidden...thank you for understanding!
You have been asked to PLEASE COME CAMERA READY WITH WARDROBE, HAIR AND MAKE-UP IN PLACE
Location: KIDS ZONE CHAPTERS BOOKSTORE 188 Chain Lake Drive Bayers Lake NS
Parking: Please park in the upper parking lot up from Chapters towards Empire Theatres
CALL TIME IS 8:30AM
PLEASE REMEMBER TO CONFIRM RECEIPT OF THIS EMAIL
Review of costume notes:
NYC Bookstore Patrons
This look is high end - big city - very sharp and crisp – non seasonal – colors should be earth tones. Shirt colors should be pale grey, off white, creams, blues. The style range is from business suits/office attire to upscale casual attire. Jewelry should be tasteful upscale for business attire can be larger for upscale casual attire.
NO red, white or black
Ladies, please make sure your shoes are not too loud as the microphones will pick up the noise
Please bring 3 options from head to toe
I was right! Our location would be the free-standing Chapters book store up by the movie theater. In many ways, it was a great location for the cast and crew as well. There would be ample parking, little to no traffic congestion, amenities close by and it would likely be very quiet on an early Friday morning.
While waiting to receive this valuable missive, I'd also begun the tedious process of washing and ironing everything precious, even though I suspected that this was a colossal waste of time. Although I've been lucky enough to appear in every film I've done background work for, I also know that you're likely to be on-screen for only about a nanosecond or you'll be reduced to nothing but a blurry blob in the foreground or background.
Nevertheless, I can't help but make a tentative effort to look semi-presentable. And trust me, I despise ironing. It's pure hell for anyone who's as OCD as I am. Mercifully, my Infinitely Better Half (I.B.H.) helped me with this unpalatable task, for which I'm eternally grateful.
Knowing that my trip to the set next morning would be relatively painless, I actually slept quite well. After breezing though my morning ritual, I got a lift up to the bookstore courtesy of my I.B.H. Man, I am so grateful that I'm hooked up with someone who is so understanding and accommodating. I love ya, babe!
The tell-tale movie set signs were unmistakable. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot we saw a slew of trucks, lighting equipment and crew members out front guzzling down liquid consciousness and scarfing sugary jolts of fried energy. As I hopped out of the car and grabbed my garment bag out of the trunk, I couldn't help but wonder how much the production company would be paying to the store to keep it closed for most of the day. It had to be a tidy sum, certainly.
Director Mick Garris arrived on set just behind me. Once inside, Mike, one of the film's Production Assistants, directed me to the Indigo Kids section in the back corner. En route I took stock of the feverish activity going on all around me. The art department was re-dressing the interior to make it look as if it was hosting a major metropolitan book signing. The Chapters signs were all obscured by a new store name: "Watermans". Fake posters promoting the "personal appearance" and mock-up copies of Mike Noonan's fictional novel They All Fall Down decorated the once-mundane space. I was completely amazed by how perfect the illusion seemed to be.
When I got to the back of the store, about thirty additional extras were arrayed in a semi-cirle of folding chairs, all dressed like well-to-do Manhattanites. All of the chairs were facing a small table where P.A's Mike and Maria were frantically trying to keep up with the deluge of sign-in paperwork being generated. Fortunately since I can fill out these slips in my sleep now, I was able to complete my check-in, find a place to hang up my garment bag and eke out a spot to sit down in quick order.
Occasionally Mike and another P.A. named Adam called for our attention in order to impart some critical instructions. During these interludes, I couldn't help but wonder if these guys would have more success wrangling a pack of nip-intoxicated cats. In quick succession they supplied pertinent pieces of information to complete our paperwork, summarized the do's and don't of set etiquette, and confirmed those among us who were tapped to come back the next day for continuity work (myself included). Their most explosive revelation, however, was that the Chapters store was intending to stay open during filming!
Given how imperative it usually is to ensure a complete and total lack of noise on a film set, this announcement immediately set tongues a-wagging amongst the horde of background actors. Despite the obvious challenges that I knew this will pose, I also suspected that a Friday morning wouldn't be too busy and that the crew would be more then capable of retaining some semblance of order.
The stand-in for Mike Noonan and his wife Jo soon appeared. They looked very familiar to me and I assumed that they were most likely local actors of some renown. At precicely 9:10 AM a blocking rehearsal began. Unlike so many others who are either texting, gabbing or preening (or sometimes doing all three at once) I edged up to the boundaries of our designated playpen to watch what was going on. From my vantage point I could clearly see Mick Garris presiding over the hive of activity.
Annika, one of the wardrobe assistants, breezed through, looking for blatant fashion faux-pas. She quickly and efficiently made her way through the crowd, eliminating any blacks, whites, gaudy jewelry, seasonal clothing, wild prints or any other styles and colors deemed too gouache for a dignified New Yorker. I got an initial pass but didn't make it past the keen aesthetics of the main wardrobe lady, who reminded me a bit of Edna Mode from The Incredibles. Apparently she thought that there were just too many guys dressed in blue shirts.
"Did you bring anything else, dear?" she queryied, her reference to me sounding vaguely fraudulent.
"Yes, I certainly did," I replied. "In fact I kind of went overboard!"
Of all the options I'd brought along, the shirt she picked out for me to wear was a vaguely iridescent, maroonish affair. Not willing to bait her aura of authority, I hastily got put it on and then went to fetch my tie collection as instructed. I quickly picked out the one which I thought looked to be the closest match.
"Oh, goodness, no!" she protested, turning her nose up as if I'd just pulled a piece of St. Bernard poop out of my pack. "That's far too ugly and busy...what else do you have?"
Slightly wounded, I rummaged around in my bag filled with psychotropic fabric and pulled out a second choice that met with her grudging approval. Now cleared to proceed, I hung around the hinterland of our holding space to see how things were progressing. It was then that I noticed a very distinctive-looking woman meandering around amidst the stacks of books.
She was very slim, attractive, and held the vaguest resemblance to a young Sigourney Weaver. She was clad in a white blouse with red flowers and a slim, knee-length red skirt. Except for her distinct aura and eye-catching wardrobe, she was behaving like a typical shopper, browsing around, picking up the odd book or knick-knack for closer inspection. Despite her low-profile, I recognized her right away.
It was Annabeth Gish, who's been consistently busy as a film and television actress since appearing as "Jesse" in the coming-of-age drama Desert Bloom in 1986. She's also been Julia Robert's sister in Mystic Pizza, played Julie Nixon Eisenhower in Oliver Stone's Nixon and shared screen time with both Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd in the thriller Double Jeopardy. Personally I remember her best for her stint in the last two seasons of The X-Files as special agent Monica Reyes.
After meandering amongst the bookshelves, Annabeth was corralled by one of the costume ladies who chided her for strolling around barefoot. She produced a pair of comfy slippers which the actress happily slipped on, then she drifted back to her directors chair. The actress enjoyed a quick wrap for breakfast while swaddled in a comfy, warm blanket. After that she used her phone (which was clearly more intelligent then my own) to check her email.
"Okay...husband still there...check! Kids still alive...check!" I heard her joke with the makeup girls.
This seemed to buoy her spirits considerably. After a quick 'Good Morning!' exchange with Mick Garris, she resumed puttering about the store, phone now anchored to her ear as she continued her quest for gifts to bring home.
Her two young sons must have a Star Wars fetish since she lingered close to the Clone Wars story books in the Kids Section for quite some time. I immediately had to tamp down the urge to rush over and shout "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T BUY ANYTHING THAT HAS JAR JAR BINKS IN IT!"
I can only imagine how much these people must miss their families, spirited away from them for months at a time. After all, this was day thirty-five of a thirty-nine day schedule for Bag of Bones. That's actually a fairly long shoot, but then again, the show is supposed to materialize late in the fall on A&E as four hour long episodes.
Eventually Mike and Maria gathered us all together to go over the scene. Mega-author Mike Noonan (Pierce Brosnan) is making a special appearance at bookstore in New York City to sign copies of his latest best-seller. Noonan's wife Jo (Annabeth Gish), anticipating an awkward and lengthy exchange with a very intense fan, excuses herself from the table to go to lunch, kisses her husband and then dashes off for a secret errand at a pharmacy. En route back to the bookstore, Jo is tragically struck down in the street by a bus.
After we were given the synopsis I struck up a conversation with another background performer. I can't remember his name off-hand, but he was a motor coach driver who dabbled with background work in his spare time. We got to talking about a variety of subjects: cruise line guests, history, screenwriting and a slew of other engaging topics.
So engrossed was I in our dialogue that I failed to heed my own Golden Rule: listen to the P.A.'s at all times and try to be the first one on set. At first, I just noticed a small trickle of extras filter by so I just assumed that these were the ones specifically designated as "Noonan Fans" on the call sheet. In other words, I thought these guys were pre-designated for the front of the line-up.
But when that trickle became a flood I realized, all too late, that I'd missed the initial general call for the continuity people. By the time I rushed out there I found myself towards the back of the lineup. The down side was that I'd be too far away from the table to watch Pierce signing autographs. The upshot was that I met two fantastic people. I got to know them pretty well since, for the sake of continuity, we were asked to stick pretty close together.
One was Shannon, who's 12 year old son is already making quite a splash as an actor, particularly in Haven. Her awareness of the local film and television scene gave me some awesome leads especially in the arena of voice acting work and possible ways to secure transportation to far-flung locations. Shannon would prove to be witty and insightful company over the next two days.
The other person was Ashley. It was her first time doing background work on a movie set and I couldn't help but be reminded of my own introductory experience on Hobo With A Shotgun. You could tell that she was bursting at the seams with excitement. She seemed to be very aware of the process and always had relevant questions, particularly in the realm of continuity. Whip-smart and possessed of a wicked sense of humor, Ashley could always be counted upon for a wry observation or a funny quip.
Now arrayed in the line-up, some crew-members came by and gave us one of Mike's many "novels" to hold as a prop. Turns out that Mike Noonan is a pretty prolific dude; I noticed at least four or five distinct books dressed up with fake titles. I was given a copy of his latest release: They All Fall Down which was featured in the bookstore's promotional material.
I was amazed by the detail. Wrapped around a real copy of Stephen King's Duma Key was an illusory dustjacket that looked completely legitimate. The graphic designers had composed an evocative cover image depicting a silhouetted figure plummeting to earth between several high-rise buildings with crow-like birds flying in the air around him. They'd even gone through the trouble of coming up with a plot synopsis, inside flap notes, author's bio, and a photo of Pierce as Mike on the back cover. Brilliant!
The guest of honor himself soon arrived. Pierce Brosnan came on set and walked all the way down the line, bidding us all an individual 'Good Morning' as he went. As he passed by me, I held up the back cover of the prop book with his picture and said:
"Good morning! Great book by the way!"
He paused for a second, cocked an eyebrow and said in his best deadpan manner:
"Yes! It's just as good as King's!"
We had a good chuckle as Pierce made his way to the back of the lineup and said 'Hello' to the other extras who were placed strategically all around the story as casual patrons. He then proceeded to putter around for a little bit, examining the odd book before drifting back to the table where the "signing" would take place.
A rehearsal of the action then followed. A few people at the head of the lineup got to "meet" Mike, had their book's signed and then turned to leave, miming excited conversation as they went. Then the "Superfan" showed up, bearing a massive stack of first editions in his arms which he then dropped in front of Mike with a tremendous crash. Although I couldn't see the exchange from where I was standing, I could certainly hear it.
"Hello, Mr. Noonan," the Superfan said, his voice sounding monotone, yet assertive. "I'm your biggest fan."
This cracked me up, since it was clearly an homage to that other King-spun tale of obsessive fandom gone horribly awry: Misery.
"So...," Mike/Pierce replied, "I suppose you want me to sign...all...of these?"
"Yes, all of them," came the insistent reply.
"Right, then," Mike heaved a sigh as he resigned himself to a bout of carpel tunnel syndrome. "And how should I make these out to you?"
"To my BEST FRIEND," the Superfan replied.
"Best...best friend, huh?"
"BEST friend, yes."
I can hear members of the crew, chief amongst them director Mick Garris, begin to chuckle uncontrollably as the rehearsal spun down. Soon we were getting ready to go for real. Mick and his A.D. started coordinating a steady-cam shot along the right flank of our prodigious lineup. As the camera passed by, we were tasked to crane our necks ahead, act anxious and excited and then turn back and forth to other people in the lineup and mime a conversation. It was a tricky shot since the steady-cam operator had to navigate a narrow path between us and several large display tables, while nailing all the required coverage at the end of the shot.
While the final choreography was being ironed out I started joking around that a prominent display rack featuring Justin Beiber's latest magnum opus First Step To Forever would spoil the shot.
"You can't have that there," I told one of the crew. "It's gonna date the film. People are gonna watch this movie in five years and go, 'Oh man! Remember when that little twerp was popular?' Maybe I should just light it on fire. Does anyone have a match? D'you think it would look weird if there was a flaming bookshelf in the shot?"
People around me started cracking up. I think the crew thought I was onto something because they rolled the display farther back out of the shot to clear a path for the camera man and all the trailing wires. Later on a pair of girls who were w-a-a-a-a-a-y too old to still be suffering under the residual effects of Beiber fever, were asked to stand walk over to the same display and flip through the book. Frankly, if they'd asked me to do that, I would have thrown a diva fit and walked off the set.
The first time we did the scene the camera operator moved in a bit too close to the book signing. The second time he was a bit too far away from the action. Mick Garris then instructed him to "split the difference" and on the third take, he nailed it.
Between takes I overheard a girl chatting loudly about board games, trying to convince her friend that she was missing out.
"Yeah, I really like this one too. Settlers of Catan."
My ears instantly perked up as soon as I heard someone mention a reasonably good board game. We then had a quick chat about how Settlers is so much better then crap like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit.
"Is it a hard game to learn?" asked the curious noob.
"Nooo!" we both scoffed simultaneously.
"It's just a bit different from any game you've ever played bore, so it just takes a little bit to pick it up," I said.
"How many people can play it?"
"Four, but you can get an expansion that allows you to play with six," the other girl said, continuing her concerted sales pitch.
Just as I went back to my spot in the lineup, I spied Carcassonne out of the corner of my eye on the opposite side of the table.
"Hey!" I called back to the board game vet. "This one's great too. Have you played it?"
"No!" she replied, excitedly. "But I heard that it's really good! I've actually been there, y'know, to the real city. To Carcassonne!"
"What? Really!" I called back, instantly jealous. "It must have been amazing!"
Her face fell a bit as she described the once-proud, ancient medieval city.
"It's amazing from the outside, but inside it's gotten really commercial. Very cheesy and touristy."
Unbelievable. You'd think the French, the ones who despised Euro-Disney so vehemently, would have been immune to such a blight. Sad.
After the shot was completed we were herded back to holding. Fortunately the sound department had a little monitoring station close by. They proceeded to shoot a series of close-ups to capture the interaction with the "Superfan". It was a real thrill to watch these performances captured "live" for digital posterity. It's positively magical to me.
I could now see what the "Superfan" looked like: a husky, pallid, conservatively-dressed, blank-faced dude with a side-sweep haircut. I could also detect Pierce Brosnan's blatant wince of pain as the stack of books got plunked down in front of him as well as his look of stark amazement as the fan made his series of nutty requests. I'm was also delighted to watch Annabeth look on with bemused surprise as the avalanche of books came slamming down onto the table.
Between a break in the action everyone went into a brief holding pattern. Annabeth found a book that she seemed interested in buying: Canadian author Micheal Ondaatje's latest novel The Cat's Table. I humored a silent 'Yay!' at this irrefutable sign of good taste! I marveled at the concept that my very own book was sitting somewhere on the shelf in the very same store, sharing shelf space with such stellar company. If Stephen King, who was once rumored to be involved with a cameo in the film, had walked in, I would have marched him right over to where my book was sitting just so I could tell him: "Look! I have you to thank for that!"
Annabeth began expressing some frustration over her phone's failings and Mick asked her if she owned an iPad. When she told him 'no', the director suddenly launched into an amazing testimonial for Apple's waver-thin technological marvel. He spun a pretty convincing sales pitch, particularly when he mentioned that he could actually watch the film's dailies using the little wonder tablet. Incredible.
Time was beginning to tick by. More and more slack-jawed gawkers (designated as "bogeys" by the crew) were trying to weasel their way onto the set. In addition, the staff of the store and some of the real-life customers were becoming star-struck, even attempting to take a photograph of Pierce at one point in time. Adam the A.D. had to step in at one point and put the kibosh on that.
I also had a brief chat with Andrew, the manager at the store who agreed to stock my book on the shelves. His initial surprise upon seeing me besuited and part of the background quickly passed as I came near and said:
"Not your typical day on the job, huh?"
Indeed. At one point in time a woman with a wailing baby flipped out after being denied access to the kid's section of the store. During all the drama all I could think was: 'Cripes, Honey, circumstances are a just a little bit unusual right now. Maybe you could kindly take your larval air raid siren out of the store for a bit and come back when it's out of gas. The store ain't goin' anywhere.'
Back to first positions we went. The first few fans in the lineup were now gone, so we moved up closer to the front. We could now see what was going on at the table, which was great. Initially we lensed a few more wide shots, but this time we didn't have to mime our conversations, we could actually talk to people around us. Me, Ashley, Shannon, and the dude standing behind us had a great time coming up with crazy shit to say to one another like:
"*Whoof!* We're almost there! How long have we been waiting in this lineup, anyway? Three, four weeks?"
"Man, if I don't get Pierce Brosnan's autograph today, I'm gonna hunt you down and murder you in your sleep!"
"Have any of you guys actually read They All Fall Down yet? It actually kinda sucks."
"What are the odds that the ten people standing in front of us in the lineup will suddenly get hit by lightning? Wouldn't that be great?"
We paused again as catering arrived with several platters of awesome-looking food. Once again, I'm amazed by the pampering you receive on a proper movie set. There I was, getting privileged access to a world I once thought impenetrable. A world that I would have gladly paid money out of my own pocket to be a part of.
But not only was I supposed to be here, I was getting paid to be there and they were feeding me on top of it all! Indeed, there was an endless parade of coffee, tea, water, apples, bananas, clementines, chocolate bars, donuts, juice and a huge variety of sammichy goodness all free for the taking! I consider this treatment to be so rarefied and privileged that I still bring my own lunch to set!
After our little group nosh I noticed that all of the equipment was being turned around for a reverse angle shot, presumably to accommodate the scene where we all of us hear the commotion outside and Mike gets up and runs towards the doors, fearing the worst. It took quite awhile for the crew to accomplish this, taking great pains all the while to ensure that no open windows would betray the very un-Manhattan like skyline.
During this time, the cast and crew was incredibly approachable. Mick Garris hung out at the table where I was standing so I had a chance to talk to him about the actors who shared the graveyard scene with me. He took the opportunity to praise his supporting cast and told me that a wonderful Toronto-based actress by the name of Deborah Graham played Rogette to perfection. It was a cool little moment and I have to thank him for being so accessible.
I shared another encounter with one of the crew members only moments later. While I was waiting for the next summons back to our places, I found myself standing by a table laden with books about World War II. One book in particular, about tanks from that era, really caught my eye. As I lifted the front cover I heard this:
"Zat vas my grand-fazza's tank."
I look up to see a trim gent, 40-ish, with long graying hair and a goatee who was wearing a brown hat, red checked shirt and some sort of black equipment harness. He gestured to the illustration of the mean-looking armored vehicle on the front of the book.
"Oh, wow, really?" I said. "What kind of tank is it? Panzer IV or...?"
"No," he replied (or perhaps it was "Nein!"). He flipped to the page which identified the tank. "It's a Tiger."
The coach driver I'd befriended earlier jumped into the conversation, rattling off Rain Man-like details about the tank's specifications.
"Panther...Leopard...," the German prop master muttered to himself as he identified each vehicle in turn.
"Amazing machines," I blurted, clearly allergic to the threat of even so much as a second's worth of awkward silence. "Along with the Russian T-34 those were some of the best tanks of the war."
"Ja, very much so" he replied, seconds before being called back to work.
That wasn't my only encounter with the same dude. Later on, when I was totally engrossed in talking to the coach driver, he came up to me again and asked:
"Do you vant your book signed?"
I turned and frowned at him. I couldn't fathom why he would asking me that.
"Sorry?" I asked, sounding painfully obtuse.
"Your book!" he practically shouted. "Do you vant it signed?"
I hefted up the massive tome and blinked at it remotely.
I handed the thing off to him, wondering if it would earn me some kind of bonus scene in which I'm lording the signed copy over my fellow Noonan fans still stuck in the line-up. Regardless, the thought occupied my mind for no more then a millisecond as I went back to the conversation.
Soon he reappeared and handed the book back to me. So engrossed was I in my wanton gabbery that I just accepted it, thanked him and then went on to summarize my discussions forth and final stupid point. Soon we were called back to set and the A.D. quickly coached us as to what our reactions should be to the chaos erupting outside.
While in the lineup with Shannon and Ashley, the topic turned again to our prop books. I opened mine up to show them all the little details that the art department had added to the dust jacket. As soon as she spied the hand-written scrawl on the inside front cover, Ashley shrieked:
"WHAT is THAT!?!"
I stared at the large, flamboyant script inside the book.
"Um, I...I dunno," I replied helpfully. "Looks like some kind of signature."
Everyone within earshot crowded around to try and decipher it. It read (as far as we could determine):
"Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!"
"What? What is it?!" I asked.
"He signed it! Pierce Brosnan signed your book! Why did he...how did you do that!?!?"
"Hold on now, just wait a minute!" I protested. "We don't know if that's his signature. I can barely read it, fer Crissakes!"
"I'm pretty sure it says 'Pierce'," Shannon jumped in, gleefully pouring kerosene on the fire.
"How...how did you get his autograph?!" Ashley demanded, practically grabbing me by the lapels, which, in retrospect, would have been really bad 'cuz I wasn't wearing any lapels.
"I...I didn't," I sputtered back, now totally flummoxed. "I was just standing over there and that intense-looking German dude just asked me if I wanted to have my book signed so I just gave it to him!"
My fellow extra moved in closer. I backed away, fearing that I had only seconds to live before I was beaten to death with a woefully un-customized stunt-book.
"I came here with one goal and one goal only: get Pierce Brosnan's autograph. You're gonna give me that book when your done."
"What?!" I shouted, holding the hardcover to my chest. "No way! They're just gonna make me give it back anyway!"
"Why?" she persisted. "Why would that guy go through the bother of getting the damned thing signed if you weren't supposed to keep it?"
I had to admit that it really didn't make much sense. After all, we were still standing mid-way in the lineup and the next scene would most certainly be Pierce running towards the door, leaving the rest of us forever waiting for his "autograph".
Just as Ashley leaned closer to deliver what was sure to be a fatal application of the Tongan Death Grip, the A.D. called for "Quiet on the Set!", followed with the familiar succession of "Picture's Up!", "Roll Sound!", "Roll Picture!", "Speed!", "Mark It!" , "Background!" and then "Action!" Once again we flawlessly mimed talking cheerfully to one another before reacting to the sounds of impact and the sirens just outside. Regardless of the risk to my own life, I have to admit that Ashley probably deserves a nomination for Best Performance By An Extra Who Only Seconds Ago Was On The Verge Of Murdering A Fellow Extra.
I managed to calm her down between takes and the last few shots flew by in quick succession. Our reaction to the ruckus outside was filmed again a few more times. Then the steady-cam operator reversed his original angle by running backwards down the aisle, first capturing our quizzical reactions to the imaginary noise and then halting as a horror-stricken Pierce got up and ran towards the front of the store. Several variations of this scene were shot, including a request by director Mick Garris to have us break out of the line up and run after Pierce as he flew past us.
Soon "That's a Wrap!" was called and we begrudgingly turned in our cool props. I lingered for as long as I could hoping the German dude would just look and me and say "Zat ist okay. You can keep zat book if you vant!"
Instead he was supervising the return process. Before I gave the book back to him, I said:
"Ummm, excuse me, I just had to ask: why did you get this book signed?"
He cocked his head and looked at me as if I was derranged.
"Vat do you mean?" he demanded.
"Well," I shuffled, suddenly rubbing my neck and feeling churlish. "A few hours ago you came up to me and asked if I wanted my book signed. A said 'yes' and you took it, got it signed and gave it back to me. I was just wondering why you did that."
He kept staring me as he took back a prop cell phone. As I kept talking he was staring at me like a dog listing to something weird on the radio.
"I don't know vat you're talking about," he maintained. "A lot of them ver signed."
With that, I gave up, handed the book back in defeat and slunk back to holding. At least I could tell Ashley now that I tried to keep the book for her. I was hoping that this would make her charitable enough to spare my life.
They called our names at random and I was one of the lucky folks to sign out almost immediately. Just before I left, the wardrobe people snagged me for a continuity photo and threatened to gibbet me if I didn't wear the exact same thing tomorrow morning. After deciding that a trip to Montana's for ribs while wearing the same duds was probably a bad idea, I gathered up all my crap and humped out to the bus stop.
I had one final odd encounter as I was waiting for the bus. I was speaking to an ACTRA member who seemed quite bitter that this past summer was supposed to have been very busy, even though he hardly got any calls. He seemed especially resentful that he wasn't being asked back to do continuity tomorrow and intimated that non-union folks like myself were taking jobs away from ACTRA people.
Now, interestingly enough, during the course of his monologue he revealed that he didn't have an agent nor did I get the impression that he was trolling the casting websites every day to drum up work for himself. Now, granted, I've only done four films but even I know that I'm really gonna hafta kick it into high gear if I ever decide to really pursue this wacky business (especially if I decide to do voice acting and especially if I'm self-represented at first).
Rather then feeling as if this encounter was negative or discouraging, I actually thought it rather hopeful. More and more I was getting the impression that, like any other work environment, film crews really only want to be surrounded by positive, upbeat, accommodating people who will do what's asked of them without a lot of bitching and complaining.
For some reason, I couldn't help but feel as if this meant well for my future. As I rode back home on the bus, packed in with my fellow lemmings into this massive mobile box, I pondered what adventures would await me on the morrow.
But that is a story for another day.
EPIC Link to Ballyhoo's website. Set up a profile and see what happens, folks!
FAIL I really hope this kid can start using his prodigious powers for good instead of evil. That is, before his target audience starts to get all bitter and angry and start listening to The Cure.