On the breakdowns, one can submit for extra work (definition: someone moving in the background who is rarely recognizable in the scene) or principle work (definition: an actual character, usually with dialogue).
Anyone with any common sense would not submit to extra work without monetary compensation. Often, the projects that ask for extras to work for free promise a copy, credit and meal. However, if every extra was given a credit in a movie- it would look like the Old Testament rolling up at the end of the movie. No one cares whose arm that was on the table next to Brad Pitt. And no one cares if you walked in the background of some shitty student film no one would see anyway.
However, extra work for money is not a bad gig. I submitted to a project promising cash for extra work on a French short film. Two days of work, $64 for 8 hours and Over time if needed. Over time is always needed.
So I arrived on set Monday morning to a small restaurant in Hollywood. The production took over the venue and was even building on top of it. They must have had a lot of money for the production. Who knows where that money could have come from . . . it is more likely to get pregnant from dry humping than make money off a film short.
I was taken in back and given a cute french dress with a cute hat to wear. Accompanied with my cute, brown and white striped sailor dress, were vintage heels. I am not a fan of heels since I am already tall. When I wear heels, I can actually look over the stalls in a public restroom. Are you impressed?
I feel like a monster in heels. That said, the vintage heels were far more comfortable than modern heels. The heel itself was made of wood, shorter with a broad base so balancing yourself didn't feel like such a feat. Modern heels prop you up like barbie and squeeze the shit out of your toes. Often, I will talk to people wearing those Wizard of Oz heels, and I can see the point in their foot where the blood has been cut off to their toes and flesh turns violently pink, then white. They keep walking and talking like nothing is wrong.
Good God, people.
The vintage heels were pretty, helped my posture and never hurt my feet.
I was positioned at a table with a guy behind the principle characters. The whole film was in French, so I couldn't tell you what it was about, only that we were all going to be gunned down at the end of it. I offered to take it in the head to spare my dress. I was never a fashion type of girl, but since I starved myself to a size 6, wearing pretty dresses is absolutely delightful.
When seated with my actor, I tried to figure out if he was a homosexual or not to pass the time. I came to no conclusions over the course of two days.
They asked if anyone could smoke for camera. Over the last few years, smoking has fallen out of favor in Los Angeles. To be a smoker, you have to have a budget set aside to pay for high taxes on cigarettes and not be bothered by standing out in the cold away from the entrance of restaurants or dance clubs.
Smoking comes in and out of my life. I find it comforting in moderation and it helps a lot with my diet. It kills the taste buds on my tongue, so food is less seductive. It also helps pass the time on set, so you can think to yourself, reflect, breathe. Delicious.
I quit to help Abe, the alias for my boyfriend, quit his smoking habit. Smoking for Abe is more a compulsion than an event. When you smoke more than a few a day, you don't get buzzed. You just smoke. You might as well be taking out the trash or brushing your teeth. Its not special anymore.
So when the producers asked the extras if anyone could smoke (notice, not if they smoked)- I thrust my hand in the air. I was dying to smoke without the guilt of cheating on my promise to Abe. Only one other actress put her hand in the air, and she said she quit last year.
I was given a generic cigarette, called "Wild Horses". Never heard of it. The crew member who gave them to me said they were $2.95 a pack.
No one cares what you do in the background, as long as you don't make a noise or stare at the camera. I developed a character for myself. I decided I would be the mistress to the guy at my table, whose sexual preference was still in question. The actor followed my lead, but watched me develop a mood for the 5 scenes we were in.
The first scene, I decided to be disgusted with my salad and blow smoke at the waiters. The second scene, I decided to drink fake wine and pretend to get drunk and (quietly) laugh my ass off. The third scene, I smoked and blew rings while neglecting my dessert. The fourth scene, I smoked and did more tricks, while flirting with my actor. I put my foot on his leg and fondly gestured to my pink parts.
The fifth scene I died.
It took two days to shoot all five scenes. Unfortunately, my scene lover was very boring to talk to. Not a surprise there, most actors are vacuous human beings.
He talked about his career, how he was writing a play, how he was studying film . . . blah fucking blah. Jesus Christ. When someone chats me up about them self, I try to act distracted by something in the background. It didn't work with him. I was a captive audience. At least when he was talking about inspiration for his play, I could follow him. When he started talking about how weather patterns effected the color of his eyes, I slipped into mental hibernation.
He was instructed to throw a piece of bread at someone in the beginning scene. I thought he was over the top- but the directors (a couple) told him it was "genius". There was a ping of jealousy there, I will admit. I mean, have they fucking noticed ME!? Anyway- at that moment that "genius" slipped of the director's tongue, I knew I wouldn't stop hearing about it until we wrapped. I was right.
He's a genius for throwing the roll. Wow, your a genius! He said, the director reviewed the footage and thought it was one of the best moments in the short. La de fucking DAH! If this joker throwing a piece of bread was one of the best parts of the film, let me tell you, your film is going to suck.
So, there is a scene where one of the principle actresses floats towards another table. I don't know why, some kind of confrontation with a woman in a mink coat. During the scene, as she was pushed on a dolly on the frame- I decided to blow rings. The air in the room carried my rings by her side, as she floated by. Once the director shouted, "Cut", I heard the DP (Director of Photography) say, "That was sick." They tried to take pictures of me blowing rings, but the photos were overexposed.
The smoking tricks I have mastered for such occasions as French films or when I am in a club in Vegas and wanting to impress someone, are all acquired from when I was 14 yrs old. I shoplifted my cigarettes and would spend time really trying to nail some of those tricks.
The French Inhale was something I learned from watching a Madonna video, shortly before my parents canceled cable, due to the neighbor catching me with a cigarette.
The French Inhale and the Rings, which I call the "Cheshire" are pretty standard. In the fourth scene of seduction, I had a few other tricks up my sleeve. The "Pinwheel" which is blowing out your mouth while using the air in your nose to spin the smoke in circles at the same time. The "Gattica" I call it, since I learned the trick from watching Jude Law in Gattica blow smoke into a wine glass. The effect is a mountain of misty smoke billowing out of your glass. This was Bread Throw's favorite effect. I think because when blowing the smoke into my wine glass, my mouth was open and my eyes were fixated on him (for my character). His mouth was wide open and it suddenly occurred to me that I was in the amateur-blow job-porn-position.
That is one point in the heterosexual category for Bread Throw.
The other trick I did, was panting with the smoke in my mouth. I have never seen that before, I just invented it. So I named it after myself. It probably didn't show up on camera, but Bread Throw kept wording "Sexy" to me. Of course, when camera was off- he would go back to his high pitched voice, what actors he looked like and how awesome he was.
That is one point in the homosexual category.
The final scene was upon us, and we were all being instructed on how to be gunned down. It was a real gun brought to set by a "gun expert". Usually, gun experts are overweight men over the age of 45. This one even had an NRA baseball cap. He was complaining about people who were afraid of guns. Those of us who heard the story about Brandon Lee had good reason to be afraid of guns.
The actress was given the gun and we were told she wouldn't fire it. Of course, on action, she fired the gun repeatedly at us. Bread Throw and I looked away- um . . . yeah.
So we wouldn't fall on camera, rather the camera was going to go over our fallen bodies with a steady cam. We stood in place, as the crew tossed fake glass on the ground and overturned all the tables.
The Assistant Director told me that I should lay on my overturned chair, "with your stomach down, maybe . . . " I looked at him. Are you fucking serious? I am in a mini skirt. He said, "Just try it, let's see how it looks." I know how it will look, like I am in the position to receive a gentleman.
So I did it. I put my stomach flat over the chair and hung my head down. My ass was at least a foot over my head. I could feel the skirt tickling just below my ass. Now, I haven't done laundry in a while, since I have been frantically doing audience work. So it was very lucky I had this particular pair of panties on. I have been going commando, but in that cute dress, I knew it would be too risky. I suddenly remembered some cute Christmas panties I bought from Target several months ago and put on a pair of red and white, striped Santa panties. I just want to take a moment to Thank God. Thank you, God.
Various people on the crew would come up and say, "Nothing's hanging out but I can see your panties." Sometimes, I would feel strange hands arrange my skirt or adjust my arm. Otherwise, my head was barely touching the floor, watching the male crew members laugh and take pictures. Yeah.
Due to my impeccable talent for carving a character for myself in the background, the director asked I hold a burning cigarette in my hand. A poetic end to my smoking French mistress character. The arm holding my cigarette was position behind my back, and over my ass. I felt like the only thing I was missing was a gag ball in my mouth.
This, and my ass hanging out, garnered more time for me on camera. I heard the director ask to pan over me.
DP, "How long do you want me to spend on stripes (me)?"
Director, "Get the cigarette and pan over to the next victim."
DP, "Is she featured? Should I put some light on her face?"
Director, "Um . . . no, just get a feel for her."
Now, what that means was that my face was not important enough to put light on, but my ass was important enough for its own cameo.
So they do the shot five times. I hold my breath, and stare blankly at someone's Diet Coke off camera. And then they call "Wrap." The end. It's over.
As I pulled myself up, wiped the fake glass shards off my knee and pulled my skirt down. I looked around, all the crew members who had been flirting with me for two days, offering me cigarettes or making small talk, wouldn't look at me.
They were done with me. I was used up. Finished.
Bread Throw, however, came up to me and said, "They put your ass right in my eye line. You blocked my shot."