Thursday, March 15, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read all about it

Last night, I served as an extra on the film "The Hot Flashes." A few stray observations:

• I make far better corner shots in pool under the glare of a motion-picture camera.

• After five hours or so, a beer-bottle prop really makes your hand sweat.

• Prop smoke smells like maple syrup. It doubles as pure humidity. Late in the shoot, someone pointed out that, despite the thick bar smoke, not a single bar patron had a prop cigarette.

• My two cohorts in the scene were also journalists, one who covered the Saints and another who is based in Baton Rouge. Microscopic world.

• Some background players do it full-time. Some of them asked me why I came all the way to St. Rose from Baton Rouge. Others not only did the same thing, but live down the road from me.

• There's enough paperwork involved to make Ron Paul almost seem like a good choice.

• I wish they'd let us take pictures on the set, but I fully understand why they don't. One crew member did take pictures of us afterward, including one where I posed with the guys I called "my best friends for life in the movie."

• I spent the first several hours sitting at a table with several women who kept comparing themselves and each other to famous actresses. I've learned two things from this: 1) it's best as a guy not to get involved with this conversation, because they'll never like or agree with your answer, even if they seek your opinion, the actress is beautiful and the comparison is valid; and 2) that's it. 

• The producers will see my dancing and assume I was nervous for the camera, though I was just following the filmmakers' lead to be as genuine as possible.

• I learned how to fake clap, which is a way to cock your hands so that no noise actually results. I will be looking for this in every movie I see for the rest of my life.

• I will also assume from here on out that that every crowd I see in a film is way too exhausted to be as happy as they look.

• They served a meal. Crawfish, among other local cuisine. I think that more than tax breaks is the reason Louisiana is the new film mecca.

• They asked us to wear western wear. Luckily for me, I happened to have a work shirt that I rarely wore because I thought it looked too cowboy. The fashion director loved it, raving that it "would do."

• I would love to pick the brains of the crew in charge of us. (I'm sure that makes one of us.) They were all very cool and approachable, considering how overworked they had to be and how people like us probably give them headaches at times.

• The production brought in its own prop trucks for the establishing shot of the bar. Just in case nobody in rural south Louisiana had a 1970s-era Ford pickup.

• Wanda Sykes had an assistant whose job was to hold a small fan to her face. She sang Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" on karaoke. Because of the way film works, we heard only her vocals without music. She sings like she does comedy: funny.

• If asked, Virginia Madsen will gladly show you how to retrieve billiard balls from a pool table without popping in a quarter. She is incredibly stunning in person and there's no way in hell I would have pegged her for 50. For one glorious take, she handed me her pool cue on her way out of the bar. But that was too difficult based on where we were standing, so she told me she'd hand it over to the film's writer, who stood next to her. I think I'll be a writer now.

• Daryl Hannah is a very approachable person and hung out with a few of us during a break. She happily answered a couple of my questions about the production. Camryn Manheim walked up and asked me how I was doing before a take. Brooke Shields didn't really mingle with anyone, but that's hard to do when makeup artists and hair people are constantly swarming you. She is incredibly cut and still has it.

• Every person I talked to had amazing stories about being on the circuit. I can see why.

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