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12:21 am - Weds 2/27/08
The AT&T Yellow Pages Shoot

The AT&T Yellow Pages Shoot (Alternate Title: The Word Of The Day Is "Challenging")

Tues 2/26/08 (9:47 p.m.)

Well, the AT&T gig was yesterday, and I’m still recovering from it.

But let’s start from the beginning...

I was able to leave work Sunday night around quarter-to-nine, and ended up going to bed shortly after 10:00 (And slept better than expected; I was up again around 12:30, but quickly went back to sleep, waking up for good at 3:00, only 15 minutes before my alarm).

I was out the door shortly after 4:00 a.m. (Stopping to get gas, even though I had three-quarters of a tank).

Directions were very easy, but I had some pretty high-level panic on the 5, as my mind wandered a bit, leaving me afraid I’d missed the sign for the 135 (Or was it the 138...?).

Cause if I had missed it, how would I even know...?

But everything was fine; it was just a long ways away, and I hadn’t realized just how far past Cary and Kay’s place it was going to be (Even though Cary had said it was “in the middle of nowhere” when we spoke).

When I finally got to the place around 5:40, after driving a couple miles down a long dirt road, a handful of crew people were there, but things weren’t really set up; both the catering truck and the honey wagons were running late; I spent the next half-hour or so either milling around with the other principals & background actors, or warming up in my car, as we waited to be driven from the corral/parking lot to “base camp”.

It seemed like an inauspicious beginning. But when things did get going, they moved pretty quickly; between breakfast (Coffee and a “veggie scramble”), makeup and wardrobe, and filling out my contract, there wasn’t much time to journal before we were being driven to the location (a relatively flat valley surrounded by rolling hills, with dried cow patties all over the place).

There were more “dentists” than I thought there were going to be - there were “Principal Dentists” and “Background Dentists”, at least a dozen of us altogether (Which makes sense, really. I mean, five “dentists” would hardly comprise a “herd”).

The first shot of the day had us milling around this very cool, gnarly old tree, until we’re startled by a jeep - containing the old African-American couple who are hunting us - and break into a run (For that shot, all we had to do was look startled, then just start to dash off on cue).

The rest of the day was pretty much about running.

We did takes running full-out.

We did takes running full-out, then breaking left or right on command.

We did takes running as a “herd”, which meant looking like we were running full-out, while keeping pace with everyone else and trying not to run into anyone, or get run over by anyone (I thought that was the most challenging thing to do; at one point in the afternoon, I actually had to be instructed, as kind of the “point person” in front, to slow down. And I was apparently not the only person “challenged” by this stuff; these “herd takes” were where the injuries happened. But more on that later).

We did takes running towards the camera.

We did takes running away from the camera.

We did takes running past the camera.

We didn’t take a meal break till shortly after 3:00 p.m. (After Jeff A. went down, and his face had to be attended to; fortunately, he was able to finish the shoot).

Jeff A. was the second person to take a tumble, and it was the comparatively more serious injury of the two (He got tangled up with one of the female dentists, which is why he didn’t have his arms available, and ended up breaking the fall with his face). He ended up with a lump under his right eye, and had scratches and abrasions under his eye and on the side of his nose. It didn’t look pretty, but they put ice on it and cleaned things up, and like I said, he finished the shoot, so all the actors were happy for him; we could all empathize with how much it would suck, to take a fall during a shoot and end up missing out on potentially thousands of dollars in residuals

(Steven, one of the youngest guys in the group, had stumbled earlier, but only ended up with a scratch on the arm.)

The ground was relatively flat, but had sandy patches, various little bumps and ruts, and all kind of little rocks and brush and what-have-you (Not to mention the aforementioned dried up cow patties). So add that to the challenge of looking like you were running fast but keeping pace with people running very close to you, and I’m only surprised more people didn’t go down.

And did I mention that some of us, like Yours Truly, were running with sharp dental implements?

While I didn’t fall and get hurt, that didn’t mean I wasn’t hurting; my heel started hurting by noon, if not earlier, and before things were all over, my right knee and groin muscles were singing the blues as well.

I spent a good chunk of the day deeply afraid I was going to pull up lame before the day was over, which would have just killed me.

But happily, I made it through. It wasn’t the most fun day ever - in addition to the fear of something snapping off before the day was over, the morning and late afternoon came complete with a frosty wind that made you dread having to take your coat off before the take - but I was just pleased that I got from start to finish, and I didn’t go down, and didn’t pull up lame at any point (At the end, I was starting to limp between takes, but could “man up” enough to run when the camera was rolling).

And while I did have a few moments of “I just want to make it through this...” commiseration with one or two of my fellow actors (More about our bodily concerns than any complaints about the shoot), I was very professional overall, and was content to let one of the other actors take the role of “Head Complainer”.

That was Jeff C., the African American gentleman who was in the group I initially auditioned with (And who I ended up in the same “honey wagon” with; they doubled up the guys, but the girls had their own. I wasn’t thrilled with that situation, and felt they should have been a little less chintzy with the living arrangements, because “honey wagons” are about the size of a walk-in closet, and are not intended to be two-person units. But I didn’t say anything, because it was what it was. And we weren’t really in them very much, so it didn’t actually matter in the end).

I felt ambivalent about Jeff C. through the course of the day. He was clearly not a bad guy, and really wanted to be the funny “cut-up/loudmouth” of the group. And we got along fine one-on-one, but he bitched a lot throughout the day, and I frankly got really sick of it (And I had the sense that some of the other people felt the same way).

The very last thing, before we were released, was pretty cool; we got to watch a stunt; apparently, in the spot, the vehicle is going to flip over, as it tries to follow the “herd” as it makes a particularly sharp turn.

We watched them do a few takes - with a male and female stuntperson taking the place of the old couple - and that felt pretty fun, and was the only part of the shoot that felt sort of “glamorous”.

The light was gone by then, and our day was - at last - done.

It wasn’t my longest day ever, but it was long enough - 12 hours, from a call of 6:00 a.m., till we wrapped shortly after 6:00 p.m.

I don’t know that I’ve given you the full measure of the day (The roasted chicken I had for lunch was pretty great, but food didn’t figure into this experience as much as it has on some other shoots), but I think you get the idea. If the there was a “word of the day” for the shoot, that word would have been “challenging”.

But I did it.

And I might be doing it again next week - earlier today, JS emailed me to say I was “on avail” for possible re-shoots next week.

On the plus side, another shoot day means another check (and the check that’s coming is going to be pretty good, with four hours of overtime and a meal penalty).

But on the down side, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck today, and the idea of feeling like this again next week, after having a day like I had yesterday (Assuming I can get through another day like yesterday) is somewhat less than appealing.

I think I’m going to tell JS that, in the future, I only want to go out for commercials that involve me acting indoors, preferably from a comfortable chair.

I’m sure he’ll go for that, don’t ya think?


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