Monday, June 13, 2011

Making sausages

There's an old saying that if you like sausages (or hot dogs), you shouldn't go to the factory to see how they're made.

Earbaby just got a firsthand look at something she likes, and found the view on the inside to be less than glamorous.

EB was recently cast as an extra in a movie scheduled to come out next summer and starring an alumnus of Saturday Night Live television show. Since it was a closed set and everyone, parents, guardians and children alike, were warned about divulging any secrets, that's as much of a description as will be given here.

But EB has always romanticized movies and television stars. Haven't we all? They seem to have such a full and exciting life of movies, television shows, talk shows, limousines, movie premieres, fabulous parties, even more fabulous clothes. What's not to love? And amidst all this comes the idea that anyone, and I mean anyone (!) can be a star. Look at all the reality television shows with wanna be actors masquerading as real people trying to survive on deserted islands (with cameras), meet and marry the woman or man of their dreams (again with cameras, and also hot tubs), or get on any game show that requires the kind of humiliation and self-flagellation that only a true masochist could embrace. But doesn't everyone want to live their life in front of the camera?

A million years ago there was a show called Candid Camera, where people would be recorded reacting to unusual, and usually hilarious, situations. This was in the still innocent age of television, when censors actually censored for bad taste and sexual innuendo, and bad language was bleeped out. This was also before the age when the average person was photographed or recorded about a hundred times (store cameras, traffic cams, ATM cameras) every day. That long-running show eventually was cancelled, but I remember the criticisms then were that it was too invasive.

Now everything is too invasive, and no one seems to mind. Everyone wants to live, breathe and exist only when someone else is watching. Or so it seems. So it's surprising that what actors do when they make movies or television shows, is considered work. Until you actually get to work in the factory yourself.

EB was one of a cast of hundreds and worked two days of incredibly long hours. The actual making of the movie, she learned, consisted of a lot of hurry up and wait (we were told to be there on time, but then there was a two-hour delay before anything actually got started. Then there was wardrobe, props, hair and makeup, and back to waiting). She was fortunate, her teacher was very supportive and EB, for her part, did her homework and worked on her big project to make sure everything was done on time.

The actual shooting meant about 50 takes of the same scene again and again. And she stood for hours. She did make friends with some of her fellow extras, kids from other parts of the state she never would have met otherwise. They were fed, there were teachers on hand (but they were there I believe to satisfy the law, the parents actually had to make sure the kids did their homework during the down times).

After the first day, EB was exhausted. We came home, she ate and finished up her project and didn't really have to be coaxed into bed. Her call for the next day allowed her to sleep in a bit and she was grateful. But she wasn't too talkative about it, despite many questions from her dad. She tried to explain what she was doing during the shooting, but quickly became bored with the conversation. It was work. It was standing for long hours, pantomiming for long hours and then doing it all over again.

Day 2 was much the same. Except it was hot, and when the shooting went outside, it was standing or sitting out in the sun for long hours, doing the same thing over and over. (The irony here is that despite there being hundreds of kids employed in this movie, the rumor is that it will garner an R rating, so she won't even be allowed to see it.)

Only a few short weeks ago, Earbaby was saying she wanted to be on television. The kids on the Disney and Nickelodeon channels seemed to have it all. I reminded her of that after her 11-hour day of shooting, standing, walking, standing, shooting, waiting. This is what goes on behind the scenes. All those takes you did? If you're lucky, we'll see you in this film for 10 or 20 seconds. That's if your scenes don't end up on the cutting room floor. This is what those glamorous kids are doing to get there. Still want it?

EB considers the idea of doing this again. She wants to perform, she actually had done some acting in a video, taken a local theater class or two and is doing a week of theater this summer. This was a good experience for her. Take the romance out of the whole movie-making business, suffer through the long hours (and low pay, the extras were paid only minimum wage and not even paid for all the hours they put in).

But she's not done yet. "It depends," she answers to the question of a return engagement to the big (or small, or video) screen. I'm sure given the opportunity, she would do it again. She is resilient, and apparently has selective amnesia. She's already talking about getting her eyebrows waxed again.

Forget all the tedium of the factory and roll out the red carpet. Earbaby's ready for her close-up.

No comments:

Post a Comment