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11:12 am - Mon 12/13/04
G.E.: Bringing Good Things To Light

G.E.: Bringing Good Things To Light

Thurs 12/9/04 (11:23 p.m.)

Well, to start this entry out on a fun note: Pat (My former co-worker at Borders) saw my Time-Warner "Dish Police" commercial today!

Interestingly enough, I was talking to someone about the spot recently, and when I mentioned I'd never seen it, he said it was probably airing a lot on the east coast (Pat lives in NYC).

(A few days ago, I once again e-mailed the producer of the spot to ask for a copy, but I don't expect anything to come of it--It hasn't so far, anyway–so what I need to do is send them a tape. It costs about $20, for the tape and postage and all that, but obviously, I need tape of the commercials I've booked. Especially ones like Time-Warner, where I actually did something.)

The GE extra gig was yesterday.

It was originally going to be an outdoor shoot near Simi Valley, with a call time of 2:30 a.m.

I was pretty discouraged by that call time, since it meant working till close at the bookstore, getting home sometime after midnight, then having to leave for the shoot an hour or so later (I didn't find out the call time till around 4:30 in the afternoon).

I asked permission to leave work early, at 10:00 p.m., and as I rode my bike home, in the rain, I remember telling myself that this was some kind of "cosmic balancing act", because the Jack-In-The-Box shoot had been so easy and so close-to-home. I told myself it was a good "lesson", a lesson that not every gig was going to be enjoyable, that sometimes it was just going to be work.

But the rain that was adding to my gloomy mood turned out to be my salvation–You might be brighter than I am and have already thought of this, but at the time, I didn't; the rain actually meant they had to find a new, indoor location (The Sony lot in Culver City). And because of the extra prep they had to do as a result, the call was pushed to 5:00 a.m.

(Perspective is everything, isn't it? I mean, if the call had been 5:00 a.m. in the first place, I'd be bitching in here about the godawful early hour I had to show up for this thing. But under the circumstances, 5:00 a.m. made me do a little "happy dance" cause I was going to be able to lie down for few hours.)

(Being an extra for this, and it being a 16 hour shoot–You'll be hearing more about that–I had a lot of time to write. As a result, the entry detailing yesterday's shoot is going to be very long, and for that reason, I'm going to make that its own separate entry, and you can read it or not read it as you see fit.

The G.E. Shoot

Weds 12/8/04 (5:45 a.m.)

I'm at Sony Studios in Culver City, on a soundstage with 100 or more disreputable characters (a.k.a. "the background").

My call was at 5:00 a.m.; I arrived around 4:30, and by the time I got through security at the gate, and parked, and wandered around trying to find the stage we were on, I ended up getting to the set right on time.

(I always find myself a little bit lost at the start of these things, trying to figure out where the action is. I've taken to looking for a group of people hanging around, drinking coffee–the crew–to let me know I'm in the right place.)

(6:20 a.m.)

Just got back from hair and makeup (I was one of the first people to go). They actually made me up more for this than for anything I've done so far (After I saw that Jackie–the makeup person–had given me cheekbones, I joked "Can you come by my place and do this every day?").

The guys at the table behind me (We're in an empty soundstage that's being used as the extras holding area), are a group of Western extras who call themselves "The Buckaroos". They can ride and shoot and have their own gear; a number of them have worked on the HBO series Deadwood.

A lot of other people seem to have come more or less in wardrobe (All I was asked to bring was a pair of black boots).

It's going to be a long day, but that's fine by me, even though I got about three hours sleep last night. It's not like I had any big plans.

If I didn't have this, I would have had another audition today. I had to call JS back when I got the message, and say "Ummm, guys? I'm gonna be kinda busy tomorrow...".

(One of the guys at the "Buckaroos" table laughs like Ricky Ricardo. Which is both funny and annoying.)
Looking at this motley assortment of characters, it strikes me that whatever you look like, there's something you can do as an actor.

(I should have brought my "camp chair". Don't know why I didn't...)

(8:40 a.m.)

Just got back from wardrobe.
I was hoping I'd get kind of a cool outfit, like the guy in front of me, who looks every inch the dapper "gentleman gunfighter". But no dice–I'm wearing oatmeal-colored pants, kind of a beige shirt, a brown jacket, and a too-small brown hat sitting back on the crown of my head. More "Clem Kaddiddlehopper" than "gentleman gunfighter".

In front of me, some crew member are playing half-court basketball with Joe Pytka, the director (Apparently, he always sets up a basketball net on all his sets).

(This director is huge in the commercial biz. He directed, amongst many others, the classic "This is your brain on drugs" PSA, and the Larry Byrd and Michael Jordan "Nothing But Net" commercial for McDonalds. He's had thirty commercials debut on the Superbowl.)

They're playing very loud "techno" music to accompany their game (Since I'd guess the median age of the male extras is about 55, I'm guessing people are more annoyed than entertained by the pounding rhythm).

(Sure enough–the game just finished, and when the one of the crew members cut off the music, he was greeted by a smattering of cheers and "thank yous".)
(9:45 a.m.)

Back from getting a "final look" from the guy supervising hair and makeup (For the record? I look "great").

Don't want to get my hopes up, but Keith (a.k.a. "Dapper Dan the Gunfighter Man") mentioned the possibility of getting bumped up to "featured extra". That would be nice–it's more money–but I don't think I'll plan on that happening.

(Guy at my table looks like Harry Shearer. I'm pretty sure it's not him, though.)
(11:40 a.m.)

Just finished lunch–Grilled chicken with rosemary, sour cream mashed potatoes, broccoli, salad, corn, and rice. With a piece of spice cake with butter frosting for dessert (In a tribute to my self-restraint, kept myself down to one dessert, since I've eaten a whole lot of junk so far this morning).

A SAG rep just came by our table, to see if we had any questions/concern/complaints (There were lots of questions about "bumps" and "upgrades", everyone angling for every dollar they can get from this. Makes me realize I'm going to need to study up on my new union...)

We still haven't really done anything yet...
(12:50 p.m.)

Still haven't done anything yet.
If I'd thought this through, I would have brought my Xmas cards here and worked on them. Oh well...

We're over eight hours now, and haven't done anything, so we're looking at some serious O.T. money.

(After eight hours, it goes, I believe, from time-and-a-half, to double-time, to "golden time", which means that at 16 hours, they have to pay you an additional $291.80, which is the "base rate". From then on, you're making $291.80 an hour.)
(3:05 p.m.)

Got a "five minute warning" around 2:15. Then we were ushered onto the set (Sage brush and tumbleweeds, some green platforms in the background, and some giant green screens behind us, to do CGI of the two trains).

Spent about 35 minutes standing in the group (Of some 180 people) while the composition of the shoot was debated.
(I doubt you'll see me in the final spot, but I'm on the left, in back, on one of the platforms (Standing next to Keith, aka. "Dapper Dan", who turns out to be a pretty funny guy).
(4:35 p.m.)

Just finished shooting the first part of the commercial.

Basically, what we're doing is posing for a picture (At the "Golden Spike" ceremony commemorating the completion of the underground railroad). We've done a number of takes of us milling about, then getting together to take the photograph.

The director, Joe Pytka, is–mincing no words here–a prick. And he's one of those pricks who's proud of being a prick (I'm actually glad I'm not a "principal" on this; in a crowd of 180-some people, he's really not taking much notice of me, and under the circumstances, I'm fine with that).

We're into O.T. now–after eight hours–and I'm hoping we'll get at least an hour of "Golden Time".
(5:20 p.m.)

Just got back from having my "soot" airbrushed on (Wondering how I'm going to eat like this...).

(6:00 p.m.)

Dinner–Grilled Turkey Burger with Swiss cheese and onion, shrimp salad, and strawberries.

Mon 12/13/04 (9:29 a.m.)

Well, I was about to continue the transcription of "my day on the G.E. set", but just realized I left my "book journal" on the set of another shoot I did yesterday (More on that later. And by the way, "D'oh!").

Basically, my writing from the G.E. set "tailed off" at that point anyway, as I wandered around the "holding area", exhausted, bouncing between wanting to go home, and hoping the day would go on as long as possible (For the big "Golden Hour" prize money).

It took quite awhile to get everyone made up as if they'd just taken a face full of soot (I guess from the arriving trains). And by the time they got to the end, they'd changed how they wanted to do it, so I had to be re-done on the set (Basically, they went from trying to be "artsy", having us scrunch up our faces this way and that for just the right effect, to making everyone look like the "lawn jockeys" of an earlier, more insensitive age).

When they ushered up back onto the set, it seemed like things moved more quickly than they had before (Perhaps because of all the overtime that was adding up). But basically, they shot the group, then little clumps of people, and while it did take awhile, I was starting to see the finish line at that point.

After we finished, the group of us has to line up and basically be gone over with a leaf blower, to blow the dust off our costumes (It was a pretty funny visual). Then we got out of costumes, and lined up at about six or eight sinks in the bathroom, and tried to get our makeup off; I went from looking like Al Jolson to looking like Alice Cooper (I just couldn't get all the stuff off from around my eyes).

A lot of people were complaining at that point, saying that they should have provided us with stuff to get the makeup off easier, but I didn't really care; I was just going home at that point anyway, and figured I'd have all the time in the world to shower the next day. And besides, I figured the longer it took to get out of wardrobe and makeup and check out, the better for my pocketbook (That's why me and Keith held back in the "leaf blower line", while other people seemed to be racing to be done).

I checked out at 9:15, so I got my "golden hour" (Which is apparently very rare).

It's hard to give a real "wrap up" of this experience. I don't know that it's appropriate to describe it as having been "hard work" when it was mostly just waiting around, but it felt like hard work. It was very tiring, in any case.

But I enjoyed the cameraderie (Though I mostly just talked to a few guys while I was there). And of course, Jim likes his craft services, as you know.

And unlike, say, the non-union Hyundai shoot, where I was going to get the same money whether I worked 8 hours or 18 hours, they paid me pretty well to be tired and bored on this one (After my single non-union extra gig years back–a two-day job on a movie called Frank McKlusky–I didn't feel too motivated to do it again, since it paid even less than Borders. But now that I'm union, while I might not seek out extra work, I'll probably check "yes" in the little box at auditions that says "Would you be willing to be an extra on this?". Why not?

As "acting", it's not terrifically satisfying, but it pays better than the bookstore, and there's free food to boot, and that ain't all bad.

 

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