Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Day Without Celebrities Is Like a Documentary About Snails...

...slow and boring.

I feel a need to bring my readers up-to-date on my experience as a celebrity. Although maybe I should be careful about playing it so fast and loose with the word "celebrity." "Slave" would be more accurate, or maybe my proper title, "Background."

I got called back Monday and Tuesday of last week as an Extra for "Whip It." I'd had such a fun and unique experience the first time that I decided to go back for round 2. I went solo this time, and felt a little like the new kid in school, or else a kid whose best friend has moved away so she has to try to get to know the other kids now, even though she ignored them completely before and mocked them on more than one occasion.

I was a little nervous.

I got to the warehouse and knew right off the bat as I pulled into the Extras parking area that this was not going to be like last time. How did I know so quickly? Because Stripedy and Dubber were not there. It was with a heavy heart that I pulled into my parking space as guided by the security guard directing traffic (what little there was) this time. He was friendly enough, but he was no Stripedy. How could anyone live up to that title?

I entered the warehouse and found a much smaller number of Extras there than before. Score one for Katherine - I'd be in more shots! I retired to my corner of the holding tent and read a little bit in between people watching. I saw a few familiar faces: Afro was back, as were Short Skirt, Underage Hottie, McMuscles, and a few of the Self Importants (no Business Man By Day, though). We were called in fairly quickly, which was nice, and got pretty darned busy standing around. I ended up next to a really nice woman who was all sorts of motivational. She was telling me that I can do anything I put my mind to. That's right, I can! Let's hear it for Motivational Lady!

The rest of the day was, well...let's just say that there's no reason to break down the day minute-by-minute this time around. It was hot as BLAZES in the warehouse, and they didn't bring water around to us nearly enough. Needless to say, we all got a little grumpy pretty quickly. To top off the heat, thirst, and grumpiness, we had a severe lack of celebrities in the house! When we first got there, Kristen Wiig and Eve were there, but that didn't last too long. They filmed a couple of scenes, then Kristen was done for good here in Detroit. She came back a few hours later with a new hair cut and her copy of Derby Girl (which the movie is based on) for her fellow actors/stand-ins/stunt people to sign, and stood right next to me talking to them. Then she left. I ran after her crying and screaming, begging her not to go, to come back and entertain the Background, to hang out with us, anything to make the time go by quicker, but she simply patted me on the head and said, "Katherine, Katherine. Silly girl. You're just Background. I'm afraid I can't help you, minion." Okay, so I didn't really run after her, and she didn't really talk to me, but I wanted to, and I imagine that's what she would have said.

The rest of the day was spent standing, screaming and shouting, standing, pantomiming, standing, sweating, standing, complaining, and standing. The terrible thing was that, not only were Stripedy and Dubber missing, but so were Sarah's and my Boyfriends, as well as the rest of the regular crew that was there last time. Even Drew was absent! Where were they?! They had a new crew there, which included Dana Carvey Look-alike, and Good Looking Stunt Director (Jeff Dashnell). Jeff was pretty funny, but New Extras Coordinator (who replaced Stripedy, Dubber, and Sir Mics-A-Lot) was a little grumpy and rather like a high school gym teacher. I was never a big fan of gym in high school...

Despite my former mocking attitude, some of the other Extras were super-duper friendly, and I made some new friends: Girl From India Whose Name I Can't Remember (she was really nice, and we spent quite a bit of time talking about the Others, including Guy Who Didn't Know Where India Was...), Two Girls Who Were Funny and Friendly, and Interesting Guy Who Likes To Talk About Books And Looked A Little Like A Lumberjack. I also made an arch-enemy: Guy Who Pretended He Knew Me But Was Really An Annoying Git. I think the name is fairly self-explanatory...

A rather important highlight from this time was my New Boyfriend Jamie. Ahhh, Jamie. Jamie was there last time but slightly out-shone by my Old Boyfriend. He (Jamie) plays one of the referees, but also works the skate camera (any shots you see in the movie that are in with the skaters are shot by him). He had a pack strapped onto his back and a $200,000 camera in his beautifully muscular arms, and skated around filming. He was dreamy. And, unlike with Old Boyfriend, I actually talked to and flirted it up with Jamie...and he flirted right on back. (For details and a wedding invitation, see me.)

Tuesday was better since the weather was cooler, Juliette Lewis was back (though only for a little while), I got a high-five from Jeff, Guy Who Pretended He Knew Me But Was Really An Annoying Git wasn't there, and we only had an 8-hour day. Not as magical as before, but at least I got paid.

So, as we like to say in The Biz... "Cut, check the gates...that's a wrap, folks."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Do You Hold A Moonbeam In Your Hand?

A few nights ago, Elizabeth and I were chatting late in the evening. It might be more correct to say that it was the wee hours of the morning, actually. She was checking the news online and came across an article talking about a Group that was protesting a new movie. While we could sort of see where they were coming from, we still felt like this Group was taking the meaning of the movie the wrong way.

Elizabeth decided that her new calling in life was going to be renting movies and finding reasons to protest them. She realized that this might be less-effective than protesting movies that are in theaters, but figures you've got to start somewhere. I suggested she start with "Singin' In the Rain." She decided the first movie she'd tackle would be one of her favorites, "The Sound Of Music."

Keep in mind, it was very late.

So, what is there to protest in this movie? Well, first, why does the Fraulein have to be played by a woman? Why can't it be Fraulein Mario? Or...whatever the male equivalent for "Fraulein" is... Elizabeth said that instead of nuns in a convent, the movie could feature monks in a monastery. I suggested that Mario Lopez play, well, Mario. Elizabeth suggested that he wear lederhosen. I suggested that he also wear a hat when running through the fields singing "I Have Confidence!" Then there was some singing (by me) of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Ma-reee-oooo?" and some gut-busting laughter as we pictured the monks singing and dancing through the monastery with Mario in his lederhosen...

It only got better from there.

I figured that Captain Von Trapp could still be a Captain, but should be Mrs. Captain Von Trapp. It took us a while to figure out who should play Mrs. Captain Von Trapp. After a lot of thought, Elizabeth decided that the perfect person for the role would be none other than...Julie Andrews! She can be all strict with her whistle-blowing (and I don't mean calling attention to illegal activities...) and will fall in love with the clumsy but lovable Fraulein Mario. Of course, the kids will still play the usual tricks on Mario - the frog in the pocket of his lederhosen, the pine cone on his dining room chair, etc. Of course Mario will play the guitar, but in a modern twist, he will teach the kids how to dance. And naturally he will make clothes for the kids out of the draperies - he's a liberated monk with mad seamstressing skills!

I think we knew we'd gone too far when we talked about Liesl being played by a guy who is only "16 going on 17" and needs to depend on his older girlfriend, the telegram delivery girl. We did decide that Uncle Max will remain Uncle Max, though The Baroness would of course be switched to The Baron.

There's already been Oscar buzz...

Maybe Elizabeth and I should stop speaking to each other after midnight. You never know what we'll say after that.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

15 Hours Later...

I'm Famous!! I know you’re all dying to find out how it all happened, so I’m gonna tell you. I thought it’d be best to give you a minute to minute report, then realized that might be too long. And dull. So here's a briefer, yet still broken down, report of my brush with fame. (Times are approximations. I didn’t actually write down every moment that something happened.)

10:45am: Sarah Frantom (aka Franpom) picks me up, looking all punked out and awesome.
11:53am: We arrive at the Extras parking lot. Guy in a Blue Shirt tells us to go over to where "Guy in the Stripedy (pronounced stry-ped-E but said quickly) Shirt" is. We later find out that their names are Chris and Ryan, though we shall always know them as Dubber and Stripedy. (Dubber because he supplied us with our first nickname of the day by calling, or dubbing, Ryan's shirt “Stripedy.”) Both are in charge of directing the Extras. We park (as directed by Stripedy) and make our way into the warehouse.
11:57am: We sign in, get our paperwork, and go into the Extras Holding tent (which is still inside the warehouse - it was a big warehouse). We fill out our paperwork, wonder what the heck we’re supposed to do with it, and end up people-watching for a while. MAN, there were some weird people there! Needless to say, we come up with many more nicknames as the day progresses.
12:45pm: Sarah and I get free donuts and apples and eat a late breakfast.
1:30pm: Half of the room is taken out to film, while we sit and wait and People Watch. There is a group near us of Self-Importants (people who have been Extras more than once and who are aspiring actors), including Business Man By Day, an odd guy who went a little over the top with his costuming - ie: sprayed his hair blue & added a small blue hair extension at the front...yikes!
2:30pm: The rest of us are finally asked to herd into the main filming area. In this area is a roller derby rink surrounded by grandstands on three sides (which have creepy “Inflatables” – inflatable upper bodies with masks, wigs, and clothes on), with a bar (part of the set) and concession stand (with roller derby paraphernalia for sale – also part of the set) at the fourth end.
While Sarah and I are waiting in the grandstands, we spot Drew Barrymore. It was surreal to see her; she’s smaller in person than I thought she’d be. After that first Celebrishock (the shock of seeing a celebrity), it feels really natural to be around them. They just seem like normal people and were super nice and fun!
2:48pm: They move Sarah and me over to the end near the bar, and we are at the edge of a shot with Marcia Gay Harden! They do the scene lots of times with Drew giving Marcia instructions in between each take just feet from us. I can hear the whispered instructions - Drew is trying to really get her into character and into the emotions of the scene. We get stuck behind Afro Guy, who plagued us throughout the day. We also get annoyed that Old Lady With a Hat got in the second shot with Marcia. Sarah and I are SO much more punk rock! (We both had dark eye make-up on, Sarah had on a red tank and hard-core cargo pants; I had on a black short sleeved tee over a long-sleeved gray one with punk rock jeans on and, in some shots, black gloves with the tips cut off- just so you know what to look for when you see/buy the movie.) At this point we also see Jimmy Fallon on the rink and have another brief Celebrishock. I love that guy!
Around this time Sarah and I also find our respective Boyfriends. Mine has a slight Anderson Cooper look to him (and if you know me you know how much I looove A.C.), but younger. He is a grip or something – he helps with the main camera. Sarah’s Bo. fri. has on a yellow AARP t-shirt (though he was definitely NOT old enough to be a member) and a red hat. We were always very excited to see them throughout our day there. It was meant to be.
4:03pm: Sarah and I have to move to another spot, which turns out to be a “sweet spot” – people have to get on and off the rink right where we are. Some of the skaters also have their baskets of gear by us, so we get to hang out next to Ellen Page, Eve, Juliette Lewis, Kristin Wiig and others while they gear up and get on and off. Drew spends more time near us talking to said celebrities, so we feel pretty dang special. I realize later that one celebrity I didn’t recognize at first is Alia Shawkat, none other than Maeby from Arrested Development!

Drew gives us instructions throughout the day as to how we’re to act, etc.
In one scene, those with birthdays from January to June cheer for the Hurl Scouts, while those whose birthdays are from July-December cheer for the Holy Rollers. I cheer for the Holy Rollers, and get to get high fives from all of them! Several times, actually, since there are several takes. I’ll never wash these hands again. Well, I did already, actually. Too much of a germophobe. I DID have my gloves on during a couple of these takes, so I may sell them on E-bay to the highest bidder/biggest Juliette Lewis fan.
5:22pm: We’ve come up with several other nicknames at this point. Some are Extras: there’s Boobs McGee and her boyfriend McMuscles – we try not to have her in our line-of-sight if we can help it; Annoying Guy, who obviously wants to be Discovered, so sings really loudly between takes (really badly) and talks loudly about Drew and his opinions on her movies; Guy From Our Table in the Holding Area, who turned out to be from Ann Arbor and really nice; Short Skirt, who should NOT have been wearing a short skirt – we are terrified she will bend over.
Then there are the Cast and Crew members: J.W. (who’s real name is Jonathan) a.k.a. Sir Mics-a-lot – he is the one who calls us all to order, gets us excited and re-energized, and calls “action” and “cut.” I don't know his official title, but he is sort of the voice of the directors. There is another crew member who wore one of the wigs from the Inflatables for a while, so I think of him as “Wig.” Then there's Angry Guy, this man with chin-length blondish-brown hair and a full beard and angry eyebrows. He is the Hurl Scouts’ coach in the movie and wears a white sweat band on his forehead and cut-off jeans. Awesome! The coach of the Holy Rollers (at least that’s who he seems to be - he doesn't do much) is wearing a striped shirt and always seems to be dancing…and not well. But he is hilarious to watch! He also has beautiful curly hair that I really want to play with. Anyway, we call him Stripey Dancer.
5:48pm: We’ve seen some AWESOME roller derbying scenes! Juliette Lewis isn’t the best skater (she falls a lot), and has a stunt-double. Ellen Page has one, too, but doesn’t use her as much. We’ve had to do a lot of pantomime, which apparently was a new word for a lot of the extras – they started cheering and J.W. had to say, “No! Pantomime!” They finally get it when they see what the rest of us are doing. Jimmy Fallon is hilarious (as is his outfit for the movie) and keeps the Extras laughing.
6:00pm: We break for “lunch,” have to wait in the longest line known to mankind for it, and are rejoiced to finally be able to sit down for a while.
7:12pm: We’re called back to set and the fun starts up again. Sarah’s and my Boyfriends are adorable and devoted to us, and our relationships are stronger than ever.*
8:02pm: Jimmy Fallon comes over towards Sarah and me and I wave (not a crazed fan wave, a “’Sup, Jimmy” wave) and he smiles at us and tells us we’re doing great. Sarah and I are about to launch into a deep conversation with Jimmy when a girl near us says, “Hey Jimmy! Do you remember me?!” Jimmy turns to her, rolls his eyes a little and laughs, then goes back out to the center of the rink. Stupid Girl-Who-Ruins-Meaningful-and-Potentially-Lifelong-Friendships!
9:28pm: We’re moved to the opposite side of the rink. We end up in a small group that kills several of our brain cells just by existing. One bleached-blonde girl tells us that one of the camera guys (not my Boyfriend, of course) said he’d get them some beer. She is lovingly dubbed Eighteen Year-Old Bimbo. (We calls 'em like we sees 'em...) Our group is given a short break, but I stay and hang out to watch a scene that they’re shooting with Jimmy. That guy is such a hoot!! He really works the crowd and cracks us up with his ad-libbing.
10:56pm: Sarah and I are moved back to the other side of the rink, but up in the stands now. Dubber asks who is there for the first time, and picks Sarah and me to move into a prominent position at the front of the stands. We are right in a shot of a conversation between Juliette Lewis and Ellen Page (they’re Jammers on opposing teams – Juliette – a.k.a. Dinah Might – is a Holy Roller, and Ellen – a.k.a. Babe Ruthless – is a Hurl Scout). A guy below us is dubbed Crowd Surfing Pro because he REALLY wants someone to crowd surf and goes on and on about how he knows what he’s doing. He asks Stripedy if he can do it, and Stripedy says Heck No, or something along those lines. Afro Guy is below us for a change. Annoying Guy gets moved…’cause he’s annoying. Juliette hangs out and chats with the Extras. We also chat with the other Holy Rollers – they’re real roller derby players and are super nice. One of them gives us this card telling us about the Detroit Derby Girls, which has several teams. Now that I’ve seen even a simulated game, I’m totally hooked!
12:07am: We’re given a brief brake with snacks. I call Elizabeth and chat for a while before we’re called back in.
12:22am: Sarah and I are faceless cheering arms in the crowd.
12:48am: We’re back near one of our original positions and everyone’s getting a little goofy. We do a scene so many times that I’m starting to think of Drew Barrymore as “Madame Perfectionist.” We’re near Crowd Surfing Pro and Underage Hottie.
1:13am: Sarah and I move to the other side of the rink for the last shot of the day. While they’re setting up, they play some dance music, turn down the lights, turn on the mirrored disco skate and the set turns into an impromptu dance party! Sarah and I break it down with Juliette, Jimmy, Stripey Dancer, Dubber, Ellen, Kristen, and the rest of the cast and crew. SO fun! “Dancing Queen” comes on and we all get excited and break it down more. Woohoo! The energy level picks back up and we get ready for the last shot. I’m not sure if you’ll see much of Sarah and me, but you may see our hands clapping and pounding on the track as we root for Babe Ruthless as she recovers from a fall. Sarah and I get a smile from Dubber as well as a thumbs-up from Stripedy. We know they love us more than the rest of the Extras.
1:50am: They wrap! Drew gets on J.W.’s mic and thanks us all, telling us how AWESOME we are and how much they all appreciate our enthusiasm. She gives Sarah and me a personal thank you, telling us that we can call her any time. Okay, maybe that last part didn’t actually happen, but she did look at us a few times throughout the day and smile!
3:00am: I get home. What a day! I had SO much fun, exhausting as it was. This is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives! I’m really glad that I went with Sarah. It may have been awkward otherwise, and she and I had a great time Naming People.

P.S. I know you were all hoping that Scenario 2 from my previous post would happen. Sadly for YOU, it didn't. Yet I STILL might end up in the Blooper Reel - At one point, Jimmy Fallon started to sing along with "Hey Ya" on his announcer's mic (it's the kind that hangs down from the ceiling like in a boxing ring) and Drew was roller skate-dancing around him. They played music often during the down time between shots, but this time they were still filming, so they told us all to dance. Sarah and I were behind them in the shot, so were breaking it down pretty hard core. So keep your eyes out...we might be more famous than you can imagine!

*It should be noted that the only contact made with our Boyfriends was maybe if they brushed past us, and while we did catch them looking at us frequently, very little, if any, words were actually exchanged. But sometimes...you just Know.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

15 Minutes...of What, I Don't Know.

So it's getting closer and closer to my big day. The day that will change my life forever. The most important day of them all. Yes, that's right, the day I'm going to be an Extra in Drew Barrymore's new movie, "Whip It." This Friday, August 9th (W.I. Day, I like to call it), I will take that biggest of steps into movie stardom. Or into Pedestrian Number 3942-dom. Possibly Roller Skater Number 412-dom. Or maybe just That Girl in the Back Who We Had to Edit Out Because She Kept Looking at the Camera Waving and Giggling-dom. No matter what happens, though, there is one thing that is pretty much guaranteed. I will, somehow, make a complete and total fool of myself.

I'm not just being down on myself. I am cynical, yes, but I am also mostly optimistic. I wake up each morning fully expecting to, at the very least, fall up the stairs in a blaze of glory. I may do something smaller like accidentally touch a VERY hot pot lid. Or run into a door frame. Or drop something, usually that's breakable and/or valuable. It's a part of me, of my very existence. It's who I am.

I am a klutz.

There, I said it. Ask anyone in my family and they will confirm it. Heck, watch me for a half-hour and you can confirm it for yourself. I can't deny it because Elizabeth will call me out, so I must share it with the world.

So here's my problem. I told the Extras Casting People that I can roller skate. This is not a lie. When I was in kindergarten, I roller skated around our basement and garage, usually rocking out to Madonna's "True Blue" album (her best stuff by FAR), and I could skate circles around anyone! (Quite literally - you couldn't do much else BUT skate in a circle in those small spaces.) It's just that it's been a while. When you're in kindergarten, if you fall you are fairly close to the ground. Plus, you haven't been walking all that many years, so the fact that you can roller skate at all at that age is pretty amazing. But when you've been walking for nearly 27 years, it's not so cute when you fall down and go "Ouchy!" I'm thinking that roller skating is like riding a bike - once you've done it, it's not that hard to pick up on it again. However, my klutziness-to-age ratio has increased over the years, and I have to factor that in. It is very possible that I will get on set on W.I. Day and, as they say, "fall down go boom."

So, best case scenario, I walk in, the director (Drew Barrymore herself) sees my innate acting skills and instantly decides to put me in the forefront of all the scenes as well as to re-shoot most of the other scenes they've done so I can be featured more prominently. (She'd cast me as star but has contractual obligations, so promises me a starring role in her next big film.) I'm smooth, whitty, and graceful, and the envy of all the other Extras.

Worst case scenario, I walk in, the director (Drew Barrymore herself) is knocked over by the door as I open it (too fast); I trip over her but manage to stay up on my roller skates, but lose my sense of direction as my helmet has fallen over my eyes; I then go careening into the closest camera person, who falls backward into the camera, knocking it into the executive producer, who spills her coffee all over the sound board, and all the while I'm still shooting all over the set like a ball in a pinball machine, my arms flailing and Mormon-style expletives ("holy monkeys!") falling from my lips.

Well, at least I'll make it into the Blooper Reel.