Rule #13 –Push the limits of your comfort zone
It occurred to me that I’ve been summarily absent from the blogosphere for quite a while. Since January… mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! But there’s a very good reason why. I’ve spent the past six months doing first person research. Yes, six whole months of pushing myself so far outside my personal comfort zone… I don’t even recognize me. Scary? You bet! Fun? Would I be writing about it if it wasn’t?
It all started last summer with a dare – sort of. My bestie challenged me to join her at an open casting call in Annapolis. Hmmmm, said I… Very interesting thought. But, for some reason, I couldn’t go to the call. But the casting agency wanted anyone and everyone to set up a profile on their website and get into their database. I did it. And what did I learn from that part of the experience? I stink at taking selfies. Enough said about that.
But that database and a forwarded email from my bestie led the two of us to Hopkins - Homewood Campus on the hottest day so far that summer to be extras in a “political drama filmed in Baltimore”. Yes, we knew the show. And that was the day we had to pretend we were New Hampshire primary voters, in the dead of winter, so we could greet the Presidential candidate.
Off we went at 7 am to drive through rush hour traffic. We got to the assigned parking garage with no problem. Once there, we queued up with about 300 of our soon-to-be-closest friends to take shuttles to the staging area. At least at the staging area, it was air conditioned.
Once set up in the staging area, the crew schooled us in background actor etiquette and checked our wardrobe pieces. The colors would determine if we would make camera or just be filler. We also had to look like we were out in the cold, so we needed to be bundled up. Did I mention that this was actually the hottest day of the summer so far?
We all checked make-up and got our clothing pieces together. Then we were shuttled to the set. Outside Homewood Field we were grouped by wardrobe. We ended up waiting about a half hour while the camera crew finished a shot inside. Then it was time. All of us background actors got placed where they wanted us to be. We were told what the shot was supposed to be. We were given direction as to how to react. We were rearranged in the shot like flowers in a vase.
Then the director himself came out. He thanked us all for our work, since we had been at this for a few hours already. Everyone had their marks. The main character of the scene made his entrance and did what he was supposed to do as a Presidential candidate – work the crowd. There were several rehearsals of the scene. Then the crew did some technical maneuvering and we rehearsed and shot several more takes. Then we were done with that scene.
The group of us gathered outside the stadium where the background crew grouped us again. At least for this scene, we could take off the winter gear. We stood there, chugging water like crazy, and many of our lot were dismissed for the day. I got to go with two others over to the trainers’ offices for another scene. But, alas, I didn’t make the final cut… why? I had white on in a spot where it would reflect the light. Who knew?
Sounds like an uncomfortable day, doesn’t it? Weather wise, yes. Excitement wise, no! A lot of great experiences came from this day. I learned a lot about television production from watching how the lighting was used with the natural background. It was fascinating to watch the changes that one shade or blocked window could make in the look of a scene. One part of my bucket list was checked off – the one about being an extra in a movie or TV show.
In my quest to learn more about life, this experience taught me quite a lot. I saw how series shows are filmed in bits and pieces. I learned who has the power on the set – the real persons that are in charge. I learned background actor etiquette and pecking order. I learned that crazy and mismatched wardrobe sells on television. I learned there is a perceived age bias in shows… meaning you can’t look like you are over a “certain” age with hair color or wrinkles. The size bias is real too, but going away in some instances. The knowledge that your day’s work could end up on someone’s cutting room floor is humbling too. It is what it is, in TV.
The day wasn’t a downer at all. I did spend the day with my bestie having fun. I did see Kevin Spacey work close up. I did get “the bug”, so to speak. And I met a friend who is active in community theater near me. Not bad, if you ask me.
So if you are watching “House of Cards”, season 4, episode 1 on Netflix, look for me in the scene where Presidential candidate Underwood is shaking hands in New Hampshire. I am the small white hat in the lower left-hand corner of the long shot for a millisecond. My bestie is up close shaking hands with the candidate.
And we both went on to community theater work with my friend.
More on that later….