Sunday, April 29, 2012

Scary thoughts

On Thursday night, I played the stretchiest role of my fake acting career — frat boy-slash-zombie — for a horror flick to be shown on the SyFy Network.

Filming took place in one of Baton Rouge’s ritziest neighborhoods. So it was no surprise that we had to climb a ladder over a fence to get to the set from the parking yard. Two ladders sat side by side — a metal one and a wooden one, each about five feet high. I took two steps on the creaky wooden one before thinking better of it/nearly falling and using the metal one. After that, I didn’t see anyone even try to use the wooden ladder.

The scene was a frat party at Halloween, so we were asked to bring costumes, especially the kind that you could improvise “out of the back of your closet.” So I took out my high school football jersey, added a headband and knee-high socks and taped together 15 T-shirts to resemble shoulder pads. I didn't know how long (or if) the pads would work, but they held up. The director thought they were real, and the wardrobe designer thanked me for making them. 

Above: The product of 5 minutes of ingenuity.
When they started to slip later in the night, they looked like boobs, but hey, improvisation. Wardrobe later fixed them for me, which I didn’t know was a thing they could do for a lowly extra and his fake props. So that was neat.

What they looked like 13 hours later. I looked similarly unraveled.
Two girls from Lafayette recognized the jersey and asked me if I had gone to Lafayette High. I said I had, and asked them what year they graduated. 2007. Sheesh. (I graduated in 1998.)

Just being cast for the role was a shot to my self-esteem, because the call was for college-age kids (which another call for the same shoot specified as ages 19-26). One of the first people I met told me her husband didn’t make the cut because he was too old — 32.

My age became a running conversation piece throughout the night. Several times, completely different sets of people came up to me, with one person saying to their friends, “Guess how old this guy is?” Only one guy guessed as high as 30, mainly because he figured there was a reason for this line of questioning. So the night was a long parade of college girls saying, “Oh my god, you do NOT look 32” and, “You look just like one of us, dude,” which may be the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.

(I experienced the flip side of this during a costume fitting on New Orleans on Friday. I’m going to portray a Civil War re-enactor — specifically, a Union soldier, which led the costume designer to take a picture of me in costume next to a sign that said, “Ian McGibboney, Union.” (An extra can dream.) Part of the costume is period hairstyles and facial hair, the former which I don’t have and the latter I barely ever have. Two days before, they tipped me off to stop shaving, which I did. When they saw me face to face, a woman immediately said, “come back clean-shaven. We’ll have fake hair for you.” Also, to her co-worker: “He looks so young, I think he can get away with it.” So to recap: youth is good when you’re nearly 32 and can mix at a college party. It’s not so good when you play a virile, manly period soldier.)

One of the guys nicknamed me “Throwback” for reasons that should be obvious. I like that.

As so often happens, we had prop drinks; mine was an Abita. Though they passed around water at regular intervals, I got so thirsty that I was actually sipping on the filler water in the bottle (which they always tell you not to drink). Someone told me that, prior to the shoot, the prop masters poured out all the beer. Your movie budget at work!

In between scenes, they ask you to leave the bottle on the prop table, on the numbered square where you got it. For ease of continuity, I chose square 40, since that was my jersey number. I still somehow managed to get a different bottle.

After the first break, I left my headband on the table under the holding tent, and wasn’t able to get it until after dinner break. In other words, one-third of my scenes are a collective goof. We’ll just say I took it off because it’s hot, because it was.

One scene involved a guy taking body shots off of a sexy sorority girl as the crowd hoots on appreciatively. I didn’t get to see much of that, but I’m told that, despite the casting call I read, no nudity was remotely apparent. Blast, cable!

I danced stupidly. And the sky is up and this is a blog.

There was a scene where we’re all on the floor intertwined with one another. It wasn’t as sexy as it sounds. Or was it?

I was one of a handful of people selected to “vomit” on camera. We accomplished this by holding a sip of water in our mouths and chewing half of an Alka-Seltzer tablet. Let me tell you, that works like a charm. The only challenge is in not having your cheeks puff up too much to keep it in until the cue. With the full force of the camera on my face (I could even see it in the viewfinder), I had to mimic being shot Ark of the Covenant style and projectile-spit the froth toward the stage on my way down to the ground. Two takes later, and we were disappointingly done.

One scene shot when I was out of the room involved a stuntman thrown against the wall. One loud crack later, there was a giant hole in the wall. They threw a spider web decoration over it, though the hole itself looked like a spider web.

In my part in that scene, I had to hold and comfort a beautiful blonde who I guess was my girlfriend, and was about to hurl from spiked punch. Her real boyfriend’s name is Ian.

I also hung out with a dead girl. She was nice.

The shoot dragged on for 13 hours. I actually managed two quick naps. A party girl caught some winks on my knee. We must have shot enough, because they didn’t call me back on Friday night.

I will be very prominent in this film. Look for me.

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