Saturday, November 14, 2009

That's Showbusiness...

Hi there- this is Andrew, in my inaugural full-length-cheating-by-reposting blog post.

To fully appreciate this news, we have to jump into the wayback machine, and dial back to August 31st, 2007. During this tumultuous time, I was freshly moved (about a month in) to the east coast from Washington. I was still staying at my Uncle Pat and Aunt Nancy's house as I was trying to find my feet. I was job searching, and only in the tentative first steps of a relationship with the lovely Sarah Harrison. This was about a month and a half before I would find the job that I was to stay with.

And on my blog, the now-kaput Misadventures of Andrew Gilbertson (, the chronicle of my single life (in a nice bit of symbolism, this covered my move to Washington and ended with my engagement to Sarah, this blog began following our marriage, and the wedding planning time in-between was far too stressful to blog) I posted this:

"Well, today was certainly a unique experience for me. It began with waking up at 4 a.m. and setting out on a two hour drive which became a two-and-a-half hour drive when I made a mistake with my Mapquest directions in the dark and ended up stranded, going the wrong way on the freeway with no off-ramp to turn around in sight. So, even though I left an extra half-hour of time, I ended up ariving with less than 30 seconds to spare at my destination- the Bayonne High School in Bayonne New Jersey. If you're wondering where it is... it's basically the northernmost part of New Jersey, period. Litterally- the school sits at the edge of a beach, and across the water, you can see Manhattan.

I was there, completely clean-shaven for the first time since I started growing facial hair, in dress clothes that included a borrowed long-sleeve white buttondown shirt, to be an extra in 'The Sophmore,' a Bruce Willis film that will, I assume, be coming out in the next year or two. I, along with everyone else there, were portraying high school students.

After a series of long waits in the Hockey Rink 'holding area' for non-SAG extras (Those not suplied by the Screen Actors Guild) and a number of lines and forms, I was called off along with the massive throng of my fellow extras to the wardrobe department. The whole setup was located inside the school, having taken over nearly every classroom, and at every corner were single-sheet-of-paper signs pointing arrows to various production departments. I arrived in wardrobe to be given a black cardigan sweater with school emblem (which was fairly tight and extremely warm- welcome in the hockey rink bleacher area!) and a marron tie which I, of course, had no clue how to tie. After fumbling with it for a few minutes, I decided that since only about the top inch could be seen above the sweaters neckline, I could get away with looping the exposed portion into something that slightly resembled a tie-knot and leave the rest stuffed haphazardly under the sweater.

Finally, about three hours after my arrival, we were led into the cafeteria of another building, our main 'holding area.' It was comforting to note that already our situation was being labeled with the same terms given to livestock.

The room was filled with desks, already full, and we (the second group of extras to arrive) had to make due with standing around in the back half of the room. I finished my book far too quickly and soon began to notice what many others already had, to their dismay... it was hot. Really hot. And a thick sweater, or suit-jacket as others wore, did not help the sweltering temperatures any! As it turns out, I didn't even need to borrow the long-sleeved shirt- it was completely hidden by the sweater except for the collar, and my own short-sleeved version would have served fine. I was certainly wishing I had short sleeves as we baked in the early morning!

Finally, we were called in for our first shot. We were lined up in rows; I was in row A (near the back), situated as extra #113 next to a girl who didn't know her number and directly behind one of those guys unfortunate enough to have a face that you really can't tell what gender they are. After a few minutes, they started things rolling.

We were background for one of the teen actors to come stumbling past- I'm guessing, actually, that his character was late for our assembly- and the row he decied to run down was right in front of us, so perhaps I'll even be in the final shot- you'll be able to tell by the red folder (which had my mapquest directions to and from the shooting site) which I was holding in every scene.
As for what we were doing... just my luck- we were singing in a group. Only, to keep the sound from the actor's microphone uninterfered-with, they cut off the music as soon as 'action' was yelled, so we had to pretend to be singing, try to keep time with the imaginary beat, and look to a woman standing on a box to wave her arms as the cue that we were again supposed to mouth shouting "America!", our part of the chorus. Of all the things I cannot do... pretending to sing and dance aloud convincingly is pretty high on the list. I can hardly do them convincingly when I'm NOT pretending to! Nonetheless, I did my best to get into it- the director kept calling for "more energy this time," so I started bobbing up and down with the beat- meaning my lack of rhythm could now be preserved on celluloid for all the generations to come.

After that we were marched back into the 'holding pen' to hurry up and wait for another half hour. The extra-director (sort of our liason to the director) came in and said "Well, for this next shot, I need short people. So everyone that's, like, 5-2, 5-4, come to the center of the room." A lot of girls came forward, and the extra-director called out "We need a couple of guys, too!" I heard a number of people shouting encouragements, "Go on, man!" "Go for it!" behind me to the people around us as I went back to my book- until one of them tapped me on the shoulder and I realized they were all talking to me. "Don't be shy, man- go on!" she said. Thanks allot! I stalked into the middle of the room grumbling- I'll have you know I am 5-9! And I was hardly the shortest guy that stepped forward. but apparently I looked that way enough to my surrounding co-extras... that really had me steamed!

We were called in for another shot, lining up in our same rows, and we did yet another session of "America!"s. Then, we returned to the break room. There were some sandwiches set out because it was lunchtime, but they were quickly descended upon and by the time half my group got to them, myself included, there was nothing left.

Finally, they called for people that hadn't been used yet, and almost all of the seat-bound group of extras raised their hands, so they were ushered into the other room for filming... and we stole their chairs. I took a seat up front where I could observe an absolute beauty that I can only recal being bested twice in my life... the boom/crane-arm mounted camera. I was suprised by how many of the components I recognized... I guess I didn't expect Hollywood equipment to have common video components!

Finally, we were called in for our third shot, which ended up being our last. In this one, the principle of the school (represented by the same lady on the box) was in the middle of giving a speech- "When I look at you, I don't see juniors or seniors... I see Friars! BANG!" 'Friars' was the name on all the cheerleader unifroms that I saw, so I'm sure it's the fictional school team- and the BANG! was shouted by the extra director as a cue that the principle had just been shot. Our job... was to dissolve into panicked chaos. Headless chickens, as he described it. I was designated as one of four or five people that actually looked backwards and realized that there was a shooter on the roof of the building opposite us. So, I pushed forward, as if to help the injured principle, turned, did a double take, and tried to fish my phone out of my pocket and pretend to call 911 while being slammed from all sides by rushing, trampling people. It was actually quite fun- you don't get to participate in mass chaos with like-minded individuals very often. The shot had to be done several times as the first few takes were not chaotic enough- people just making straight lines for the door- and a number of people were apparently smiling or laughing at the chaos. Once the smiles dissapeared, and the panic looked more real, and several groups of people were routed to farther-off doors to confuse the foot-traffic pattern a bit more, we got a satisfactory take. Somehow, I kept ending up fairly well in front of the camera, pulling out my cell in the middle of a thinnning crowd (without meaning to) so if they use that shot, there's a good chance I'll show up. Who knows.

After that, it was back to wardrobe to turn things in. I must say that the Catholic school dress uniforms were a lot more modest than what most of the women chose to wear, and I had to make an abrupt about-face while heading for the snack table (back in our hockey rink holding area) as one woman apparently had no compunction about taking her shirt off and changing right then and there. After returning my tie (which had been un-mangled by a touch-up woman before the first shot, though it took us about 30 seconds to get it undone from what I'd done to it first)- and apparently the art of tie-tying is largely lost in today's world, as I had at least three people ask me if I knew how to help them with theirs- I returned downstairs and made the drive back- all told, having spent 7 and a half hours as an extra, while filming three shots. I'm sure I'll be going to see the film when it comes out... if nothing else, to figure out what the plot was about! So, that was my busy day for Thursday- the next few plan to be equally so, and I will keep you all updated!"

After a random 80s-sci-fi-movie trilogy last week (Ghostbusters II, Cocoon, and Innerspace; I didn't know that effects of that quality existed in the history of cinema; if you haven't seen it, SEE IT!!!), we happened to spot the film Assassination of a High School President at Hollywood Video, and we checked it out.

First and foremost, we do NOT recommend or endorse this movie! It is lewd, crass, features male and female nudity and copious profanity, and while occassionally entertaining (Bruce Willis is quite good in it), is very strange.

However, if you DO happen to pick up the movie; and if you happen to go to the 47 minute, 50 second mark, (Our computer shows 47:06) you might find a familliar face panicedly dialing 911, red folder and all...

It's a 32 frame shot (at 24 frames per second, this means it's 1 and 1/3 seconds long, and 12 of those frames have me obscured by foreground students (leaving 20 frames clear), so it's really my 5/6 of a second of fame).