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Bucket List or, Making Sausage

2015 March 12
by Bill

If you recall the movie classic “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” (1954 starring Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Russ Tamblyn and Julie, oh my goodness, Newmar) you may remember a scene where they are all dancing and the camera pans back to see a fellow sitting on the outhouse. All you see is his back. I have always told my children that I could have played that part. Never mind that in 1954 I was eleven, I still could have done it.

I related this story recently to a friend of mine who is a big-time Hollywood producer, director and videographer. He and his wife opened a studio and acting school here in Charleston, SC, this year and are currently (March 2015) shooting five, count them five, movies in this region. He politely laughed at my story and then said that he might have a part for me in one of his epics. I thought no more of this friendly exchange until a couple of months later when his wife came to me and said that she would be contacting me for a part! Sure enough, the next day there was an email directing me that my “call time” was 0730 the next morning! I was to report to a soon to be replaced building at the medical center, downtown. I arrived at 0730 and was told by my fellow extras that 0730 was when I was supposed to be in costume and ready to shoot! First error, but not career-ending.

I was given a set of “scrubs” and returned to the “Extras Holding Area” where we nine sat around and got to know each other. My role was to be a doctor so I was issued a stethoscope which I wrapped around my neck like a real doctor. At that point I had not stayed in a Holiday Express, but thought about it. Some of my peers were experienced, some first-timers like me and a couple were actually supporting themselves by traveling the circuit, making about $5 an hour. One lady was in “Army Wives” as an extra for five years!

Next they had us move to a hallway adjacent to the actual area where the shooting was going on. Here we had to be quiet and wait patiently for the “call.” Shortly several of us were pulled to the “stage” and directed to walk past a door way on cue. This was done several times until someone who we never saw was satisfied with the action. Once done we returned to the hallway until the next need. Several hours later three of us were sent back to the “stage” and did another on cue move. This time it was a run and we repeated it six times until he/she who had no name was happy. Then it was back to the holding area.

Lunch was ready around 1:30. We could smell it and we were quite hungry. My other first-timer and I went to the smell and helped ourselves to a lovely lunch. We then found a break room, sat down and enjoyed our lunch. Shortly a crew member came by, gave us a dirty look, left and then came back and did it again. The casting director then came and informed us that the crew eats first and extras get what ever is left! I couldn’t believe that an alleged adult male actually ratted us out rather then explaining the rules. Second error. In my defense, this rule had never been shared with us plebeians so I didn’t feel at all guilty, but this crew member could have just said something and saved a lot of angst.

Some still shots were taken of each of us both as a group and as individuals. Shortly thereafter we were given real looking ID’s and sent back to the holding pen. For the rest of the day I sat. At 7:30PM we were sent home with an 0730 call time for the next day, but for only two of us.

We two arrived on time the next day, changed into our scrubs and waited…and waited…and waited. My associate extra was called to do a scene once but otherwise we waited…and waited… I found a comfy chair and took a nap having read 2/3 of a 300 page book. Some smarty pants took my napping picture which I explained away as my rehearsal for a long flight that I’m set to take in May but no one buys it. At 8:00 PM we were released to go home having done absolutely nothing all day. My next call time was 1030 the following Monday.

This time we had an extra group of a dozen! Once again I was never called to do anything. Lunch this time was at 5PM. We extras stood against a wall in the food area while the crew came through. While standing there a friend on mine called my attention to the wall behind us. At the top it said “In Memorium,” and under that was a series of 8×10 head shots, principal amongst which WAS MINE! I didn’t get called because, evidently, they had BUMPED ME OFF! Maybe, I don’t know for a fact, it was that early meal that I had on the first day. Perhaps I didn’t walk or trot quite right in my two shots. Maybe it was the nap, who knows. What I do know is that this is not my “cup of tea.” The release time that day was close to 11:00 PM!

I am grateful for the opportunity to check off that bucket list box, and I am more aware of extras in movies and shows that I watch. Other than that, it was neither pretty nor exciting. It was more like making sausage. I’d rather eat it than know how they make it.

One Response leave one →
  1. John Quick permalink
    March 13, 2015

    I won’t tell my class matesin acting about this…I promise Dr.Bill.

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