Sunday, August 21, 2016

Extra quick

Wednesday's extra gig was nothing like the first one.  First of all, there was confusion about check-in.  I reported at site A, as instructed in the email, but the gate guard didn't have my name on his list and sent me to site B.  I drove over there, found someone to check in with, who asked me if I'd checked in and had a fitting yet.  I explained I'd been sent to B from A, so the gentleman found a shuttle driver to take me back to site A for a fitting.  We got there in time to meet the costume designer about to leave for B.  She told us I was indeed supposed to be at B, not A.  Back into the shuttle to B.  By this time, the driver and I were getting quite comfortable with each other and he was warming up on the topic of his hometown football team.

Anyway, so once we'd established that I did indeed need to be at B, not A, for a fitting, Kelly came & approved my suit, but I guess my white top was a little too bright for camera, and my jewelry not conservative enough.  I got to follow her to her trailer, a mobile costume closet, where she found me a dark purplish top to wear and a pair of very small clip-on hoop earrings.  I was then escorted to one of a group of tall director's-style chairs, where Gina fixed my makeup and Adele made my hair presentable.  (Because it needed to look decent, of course it looked a disaster.)  The production assistant, or PA, let me know I was welcome to help myself to "crafty" - the table of food & drink laid out for crew and cast - but I didn't want to mess up my lipstick or get food in my teeth before going on camera.

More confusion:  I was supposed to be one of 2 or 3 "telecom heads".  The PA told me I had a line to learn.  This was news to me!  He gave me his copy of the day's script, showed me the pertinent line, and left me to it.  Apparently something changed somewhere along the line and he didn't get the word, as "Telecom 1" got all the lines (all 2 or 3 of them).  Not a big deal, of course, as I hadn't expected to have any lines.

When they were ready for me, they took me into the shooting area and had me sit on a stool in front of a green screen.  They explained that I'd be a frozen Skype image (scenario was that I was Skyping into a conference call ).  Sound was told not to bother recording.  They positioned me at the desired angle, set a small laptop in front of me off camera, and started filming.  They had me talk a bit, then count down from 100 "with authority".  While I did so, they would have me "look over here; now back at the lens. ... Over here again; back at the lens. ... Now look this way.  Good.  Back to the lens. ... Glance down at the laptop and tap the space bar a coupla times" and so on.  After a few minutes of that, they thanked me and that was it.

I went back to the holding room, changed back into my own top, hunted down Kelly so I could return her top and earrings.  The crew were just starting to dig into lunch, but I'd already been signed out and didn't feel right sticking around, so I loaded my things into my car and left just 3 hours after I first arrived.  My voucher showed my official time as 2 hours & 45 minutes; MUCH shorter than the first gig!  It was further away, too, and involved tolls.  I joked with the Chief that, by the time I bought myself lunch at a nearby Mexican place (some fabulous grilled-shrimp tacos!), I actually lost money working the gig.  That's OK; it was interesting enough to be worth it.

This time they were in an industrial park.  Site B is where they were shooting; it was your typical building, with offices and rooms of varying sizes along the front and a HUGE warehouse space along the back.  Part of the warehouse space is apparently where they do the actual filming, with the rest being storage and staging area.  One wall was floor to ceiling with shelves full of desks!  There were also a few partial "buildings" and other architectural elements there.  While waiting for them to be ready for me, I wandered over to check out the construction.  These pieces were built to last - very substantial floors for the platforms, and 4x4s for some of the uprights.  What most intrigued me, though, was the way the walls were built.  Theater flats are typically 4' wide and 12' tall, built from 1x4s, with cross pieces (toggles) at the 4' and 8' points.  These flats were built with 1x3s, with upright pieces and toggles every foot, so that they looked like 1-foot boxes from a distance.  I was dying to ask why they're built that way but didn't want to interrupt anyone.  Maybe my Stagecraft instructor would know; I'll have to ask...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Self-indulgent weekend

Because the Chief is in heavy-duty study mode (the US Tax Court exam is just 3 months away), I've been looking around for excuses to stay out of the house so he can study with fewer distractions.  This weekend was perfect for that - I spent Saturday at a G&S sing an hour's drive away, giving him nearly 12 distraction-free hours.  Sunday was another 6 hours, as I headed off to a Regency bonnet-making workshop.  I didn't get my bonnet finished, but I did get a good start on it, along with a very pretty bit of ribbon and some ideas for decorating it once I finish wiring the brim.  The workshop was at a tea room in a little antique shop out near hunt country.  It was a tiny little village, which would make a nice day trip once the Chief gets past The Exam.

Gotta love it - I was able to indulge not just one but two hobbies without feeling guilty about "abandoning" the Chief.  No, I was doing him a favor, giving him so many distraction-free study hours. :)

The first family wedding!

Last month the first of my siblings' children got married!  How and when did he get to be old enough?!?  Anyway, he & his new bride have known each other for 8 or 9 years, so it isn't as though they married in haste.  It was a lovely ceremony; LOTS of readings, nice music, the bride's gown was beautifully elegant, and the groom was grinning ear to ear. :)  The reception was nice, too.  The music was a bit loud for my taste (I loathe having to raise my voice to be heard), but because the newlyweds are both dancers, it was VERY danceable!  I got to dance with both the groom and my brother, though not terribly skillfully.  The floor was just a tiny bit slick, and I had trouble following because it's been years since I've danced with C, and the groom & I had never danced together before.  Didn't matter; we had fun, and the bride got a couple of funny pictures of J & me out on the dance floor.

His brother is getting married in October.  Another dance couple, so that should be a fun reception too.

The two couples have already started a family game night, and their marital homes are only about 5 minutes apart.  The bride who's an only child will now have siblings and the bride whose siblings live in the next state will now have siblings close by.  I love it! :)

Extra again

I've learned that a phone call asking about my availability doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to be booked for that date.  However, I got another call tonight asking about my availability for Wednesday.    Sure, I can make that.  The gentleman then called back to confirm that they do indeed want to book me for Wednesday.  He then called back twice more about wardrobe details, and to let me know that they want me to approximate as much as possible the way I wore my hair when I went to the open call last year.  Wearing the same suit is easy; duplicating the hairstyle could be trickier (it doesn't curl as much as it did last year, for some odd reason), but I'll do my best.

The last time the gentleman called, he apologized for calling so many times.  I thought to myself, "Hey, it makes me feel loved and wanted!"  :D

Getting ready for the fall semester

I cheerfully admit it; I'm like a kid with a new toy, with all this back-to-school stuff.  I happened to poke around a little on the university's site tonight and saw that the professor for my Intro to Stage Management class has posted the syllabus and textbook list.  I did the 21st-century thing and spent at least half an hour on line comparing prices.  This site was very helpful for that.  The range of prices continues to amaze me; one site offered one of the texts for at least $15 more than I ended up paying for both of them, including shipping!

Now I'm itching for my other classes to create their pages for the Fall semester and post the textbook requirements so I can order 'em in time for the first day of class.  I'm starting to get eager for the start of the new semester; you'd think it was my first, not my third. :D

Easy come, easy go

It turns out I won't be "extra-ing" tomorrow after all.  The phone call I got the other day led me to believe I would be; obviously I'm still learning how the BG booking process works.  I'll just keep my eyes open for future opportunities.

Hebe! Who the deuce may she be?

My next show will be another Gilbert & Sullivan - HMS Pinafore, this time, as Cousin Hebe.  I missed the initial read-through, ironically because I was singing Hebe at an all-day G&S sing.  My first rehearsal will be this Saturday - can't wait!  I'm always eager for the first rehearsal of a new show, and this one will be interesting because the company generally does Broadway classics, not G&S.  I wonder if this will be like my last Mikado, also with a non-G&S company, in that I'll get to see a whole new group laugh at Gilbert's jokes and discover Sullivan's music.

The director told me at callbacks that she'll be relying on me and the MD to help her with her lack of G&S experience.  I take that to mean she trusts me not to be a know-it-all about it. :)  She's also counting on me to help with set building & painting.  Can't wait!

No summer class after all :(

I was all psyched up to take Hair & Wigs for the Stage this month - ordered my book the same day I signed up for the class, so I had it in hand weeks ahead of time.  Then, a few days before the first day of class, I got an email telling me the class was canceled for insufficient enrollment.  Waaah!

At the Chief's suggestion, I reached out to the instructor about similar classes elsewhere, or intern/apprentice opportunities.  She was very gracious, noting that she freelances and therefore can't make any promises, but would keep me in mind for future shows.  She let me know that most professionals start out with a cosmetology license.  Turns out that's rather expensive training - $15K-$17K for 12-15 months of school.  The instructor said the university plans to offer the class again (hopefully with more notice, instead of waiting until June to set it up), so I'll won't be signing up for cosmetology school anytime soon.

Extra quick!

The check for my extra gig arrived today, a week to the day after I was on set - $111.48 after taxes.  Extra work isn't the sort of thing you put on a resume, but it pays, and the novelty hasn't worn off yet, so I'll continue to keep an eye out for further opportunities that fit into my schedule.  It'll be harder to do that once classes resume two weeks from today, and I'll have rehearsals to work around as well, but since I don't have to pay the bills this way, it isn't critical.  (Yes, I realize how very blessed I am to have landed a job that doesn't just pay a pension, but pays one I can actually live on.)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Extra, extra; read all about it!

Had my first-ever TV extra gig on Monday.  Last summer I'd responded to an open call by a professional casting company, which got me in their database and on their email list.  However, Monday was the first call for extras that I'd been able to show up for.

This being my first time, I showed up not really knowing what to expect beyond that I should plan to be there 12+ hours.  (It turned out to be 13.5 by the time I checked out that night.)  As instructed, I wore one wardrobe option suitable for the scene and packed 2 or 3 more options.  Fortunately, Wardrobe liked what I wore so I pulled my "entertainment" and a pair of flip-flops out of my suitcase, put them into my tote, and locked my suitcase in my car.

We had been instructed to report to a church parking lot, where they had trailers set up for Wardrobe, Hair & Makeup, and a few others (crew rooms?).  Once we'd checked in, been cleared by Wardrobe and Hair & Makeup, we boarded a shuttle to the shooting location, where we were directed to a great big tent (air-conditioned, thank heaven!) - Holding. They had a small breakfast buffet set up for us, and a constant supply of 4-oz water bottles.  There was also a small trailer with 3 little restroom cubicles.  I was expecting a porta-potty; not so!  These were actually rather nice-looking - they were decorated!  They had "paneling", a pergo-style floor, a flush toilet (presumably into some sort of tank, given that it was a trailer), a framed mirror over the sink, and even a framed picture anchored to one wall.  Three cubicles weren't really sufficient for our numbers (150?  200?), but at least they didn't stink, despite the August heat.

I was reasonably well prepared for my wait.  I had a tote full of crossword puzzles, some music to look over (most of which I didn't touch), and my flip-flops to wear in Holding instead of the heels I'd bought for the occasion.  Boy, was I sorry by the end of the day that I hadn't had time to break those new shoes in at all!  I wasn't the only one with spare footwear, either; I saw at least 2 women wearing very comfy-looking slippers in Holding.

We got a "pre-lunch" of sandwiches and sides (apples, bananas, granola bars) around 11, and a hot lunch starting around 1 or 1:30.  They announced the order - crew first!  The union performers would be next in line, with non-union performers going after the crew & union folks had filled their plates.  Some of the people who'd done these before said that working as an extra often amounts to getting paid to sit around and eat.

Those extras (called "background", or BG) in military uniforms were called first.  Mid-morning, they took about half the rest of us for an exterior scene.  It wasn't until 2:30 or 3 that they called all of us for the final scene to be shot that day.  They herded us all into the church, where we sat while they tweaked some technical things, and even tweaked a few of us (Wardrobe adjusted collars, brushed away fuzzies, etc., while Hair fixed a coupla women's tresses and Makeup powdered a few scalps so they wouldn't gleam).  They then ran the same short scene over, and over, and over, until I imagine most of us could recite the one principal's lines right along with her.  They adjusted the lighting and sound equipment, herded us first off to a corner, then back to Holding while they got it just right, and brought us all back.  They then ran the same scene, or tiny parts of it, several more times.  Each time, I think they tweaked some light or sound setting, or changed a camera angle.  For some of the runs, they had stand-ins come in for the principals.  (I wonder if that's to give the principals a union-required break, or the stand-ins some union-required work?)  In the end, it took about 5 hours to shoot a scene that ran only a couple of minutes.  Quite a difference from stage work, where you run a scene pretty much straight through, and don't have to worry about camera angles.

I was interested to see how very many crew they had.  Because we were told to stay out of their way & let them do their jobs, I couldn't exactly ask what they were doing or "What's this for?"  Still, it was interesting to see how very many different versions of tool belts & kits they were wearing and what they were stocked with - gaff tape, scissors, safety pins, makeup brushes, multi-tools...  One surprise was when they were adjusting the canopy overhead from which several cables were hung.  They started tugging on it and it moved!  It turned out to be a big, inflated rectangle!  They used several guide lines to move it over to a side section of the church; rather reminded me of the people who "walk" the big character balloons in the Thanksgiving Day parade.

Some of us were issued various props.  If you received a prop, you had to surrender an ID - something you'd definitely want to get back.  You got your ID back when you returned the prop at the end of the day.  That was just the first step in the check-out process.  Once you'd turned in any props you'd been issued and gotten your ID back, you got on one of the shuttles to go back to the church parking lot where we'd checked in.  Then we all stood in a long, slow line to finish filling out the forms we'd gotten at check-in, get checked off their list, and be sent home.  Filling out the form wasn't the boilerplate exercise you might think.  The several copies were not all the same form!  They were all stuck together as if they were multiple copies of the same form, when in fact the last 2 pages were a different form, that you had to fill out front & back.  No wonder the line was moving so slowly - none of us first-timers expected two different forms to be stuck together!

I'm already scheduled for another extra gig on Tuesday.  This time I'll have a better idea of what to expect.  For one thing, I won't be wearing brand-new heels for the first time!  Based on what I was told, I think I can get away with a pantsuit, which means flats, which means I won't have to take spare footwear for Holding.   I'll still take my suit w/ skirt as one of my wardrobe alternates, but will cross my fingers that Wardrobe will OK the pantsuit.  I'll also know how to fill out my paperwork this time, and will be sure to do that while I'm in Holding waiting to be called, instead of in the check-out line, in the dark.

It's only been a week, so I haven't gotten my paycheck yet, but one of the "pros" was saying extras get paid something like $88 for 8 (8 1/2?) hours, then time and a half for any time after that.  Apparently you don't get paid for the half-hour lunch break (the 8.5 hours?).  If that's accurate, that would mean I worked 4.5 hours at time and a half.  That works out to $74.25 for the overtime, plus $88 equals $162.25.  I wonder how much of that gets taken out for taxes...

I think the hardest part was probably sitting on set, as the pews in the church they were using were not very comfortable after an hour, and we were there much longer than that.  I was exhausted by the end of the day (about an hour's drive each way on top of a 13-hour day), so I didn't offer to work any of the calls later this week.  However, I did get myself booked for this Tuesday, so you can see that I didn't hate it.  We'll see what they have us doing that day.  I heard some good stories in Holding.  One VERY tall guy regaled us with stories of playing some sorta monster or Viking or something in some movie.  They rigged him up with a wig & beard and even built some sort of fur-lined cape that he had to wear for the fight scenes, which were filmed on a beach.  He said it was a week-long shoot, hard work - not just swinging whatever weapon he had, but wearing that cape, which he said got really heavy when it was wet - and that he loved it.  Another woman said that one gig she worked consisted of running a short distance, over & over & over again, along with a bunch of other people.

As I told some of my fellow extras, signing up for this has made me look at TV shows & movies with new eyes.  All those street scenes, scenes in clubs or restaurants or gyms or what-have-you, all need a LOT of people to make them look realistic.  Nobody particularly distinctive, just average janes & joes to "lend an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative."  Just call me Vera Similitude. :)