Friday, December 3, 2010

Back in White

Date: December 2010
Job: Outland
Location: St Kilda

Amazing! Barely a week has passed and I’m back on the job! This time I’m a pharmacist in a new series about gay sci-fi fans. They dress me in a white coat, a scarf and some reading glasses on a chain. I chat to a handsome young man while waiting to be taken to the location, but after two hours of sharing our ‘acting’ experiences, movie critiques and innermost secrets we just about run out of things to say. I invite a second young man over to join us. We are eventually taken to the location. The two young men seem to hit it off and it’s a case of two’s company. Given the premise of the production we’re working on, it’s not surprising, I suppose. The second guy has only been with an agent a short time but has already made some TV commercials (very well paid incidentally). His very good looks must have something to do with it! I’m a little green, I have to admit. They are both with agents who charge nothing to have you on the books, unlike mine. However, the fee is much less than others I’ve heard of and it does cover your headshot. Must do some more investigating. (Sorry to bore you non actor/extras with these details but for the rest of you it might be helpful.)

The extras have to walk down the street as 'Fab' (Adam Richard) talks on his mobile outside a pharmacy. I wait patiently as the others are given their directions, assuming there will be an interior shot involving me, but in the back of my mind is the memory of extras who were on set for hours and never used. Eventually the AD asks, ‘Are you one of us?’ and tells me to walk into the shop. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense, the pharmacist walking into the pharmacy. But, hey, I’m glad they didn’t forget me altogether. Wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to glimpse myself on screen. I recognise the director from City Homicide. He actually chats to the extras (a rarity) and shakes my hand, which is quite a change from before, when he didn’t even acknowledge me despite there being only three actors and myself in a relatively intimate set. I don’t get it, but I smile enthusiastically and hope he remembers my face. For next time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holy Hairspray

Date: November 2010
Job: Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey
Location: Richmond

So there I am, thinking that my agent has wiped me from the database, when I get a call for a four hour job as a 1980s church goer. Another small step in my journey of stardom. (Talking of stardom, I’ve just heard that a former drama student of mine-Brett Tucker- has won a role on CSI. Not bad for an Aussie kid from the Yarra Valley! Of course, I taught him everything he knows.)

Anyway, when the wardrobe person calls I happily tell her, yes, I do have a 1980’s outfit, complete with padded shoulders. Actually, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I bought it. However, when I arrive I find out I am a ‘featured extra’ and have to wear one of their outfits. Apparently it might end up covered in grape juice! I don a coral pink / orange jacket (yes, it has padded shoulders) and squeeze into a tiny matching skirt, then toddle off to the next tent to get my 80s hair and make-up done. Half a can of hairspray later I join the other extras in a communion line in the Catholic church. We ‘featured ones’ get to stand at the top of the line. We watch comedienne Judith Lucy collapse in a drunken heap then stagger up the aisle and grab the chalice from the priest. While waiting in line with us, she strikes up a conversation. ‘Do you get much of this sort of work?’ she asks. The young man in front of me says ‘Yeah’. I say, ‘And what about you?’ She laughs. I’m chuffed. I’ve made a comic laugh. I think I also made a priest sin.

My short skirt is even shorter when I’m sitting cross-legged in the front pew and as the actor playing the assistant priest is about to be filmed, he is momentarily distracted by my legs! They’re not anything special, let me tell you, but there is no mistaking the direction of his gaze, and the change in his expression from one of slightly perverted shock to priestly solemnity is obvious. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed or flattered!

As usual, we extras chat between takes about the jobs we’ve had. Actually, we whisper. I'm not sure whether that's because the crew is so quiet or because we're in a church. Two new bits of advice: in big films, don't aim for the front; you're more likely to get used again if you haven't been seen. Secondly, in TV series, check the clapperboard to see what episode you're in. It also seems that your willingness to say 'yes' when offered work is of less value than your availability. In other words, if you're not in regular employment you'll get more offers. We notice a fellow extra, a woman, who is clearly out of it, struggle to stay conscious in her seat. Seems they’ll take anyone in this line of work (me included!). I’m there for over three hours for what will probably be a ten second scene. I’ve heard the ABC caters well but there’s barely a cup of water to be found so I’m a bit parched by the time I head off to find my car in the maze of inner suburban streets, hoping I haven't got a parking ticket.

I do a spot of shopping on the way home, expecting people to turn their heads at my coiffure and preparing to explain to sales assistants why I look like a cast member of 'Dynasty', but I don’t even get a second glance. What's happening to the world? Is it possible that, with regard to hair fashion, anything goes nowadays? Heaven forbid. I am almost disappointed. As I sit perched on a stool in the food court, sipping my latte, I realise that I got more attention from that priest.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

From Little Screens Big Screens Come

For the 'story so far' please make like Maria and start at the very beginning .
To loyal readers: So sorry for keeping you in suspense. Let me relieve your agony with the latest episode.

You’ll be thrilled to hear I recently appeared on the small screen four times in three weeks! So far no strangers have stopped me in the street to ask for my autograph so my anonymity remains intact. Obviously I am so skilled at immersing myself in my character that the real me is unrecognisable. Then again, maybe it's because I’M JUST A BLUR!! (so much for getting pally with the steady cam man). Anyway, a summary of my background artistry: two appearances as bescrubbed figure in Offspring (I’m almost recognisable in caesarean #2 but they omitted my meaningful look to Dishy Dr Don-obviously too steamy), one fleeting walk through hospital carpark (Offspring again) and one momentary blur in City Homicide (beats me why they bother with wardrobe and make-up). It’s probably just as well I’m a smudge in that one, as I never did nail that ‘glance and nod.’ .

Since my last ‘medical’ job two months ago, there's no extra work except for one offer that I have to renege on.

It’s a good quality ABC drama-Bed of Roses (nice!), they want ‘fire victims’ (dramatic potential!), it’s for an eight hour call (a whole day!) and it’s on a Monday (my day off!)... and a Tuesday. Damn. I say yes anyway, ignoring my resolve to decline jobs that fall on a work day. But after a later discussion with the co-ordinator at work I decide I must pull out. I send a very apologetic email to the agent--withdrawing from a job you’ve agreed to is a big no-no--and luckily she’s okay about it, but since then it appears I’ve been thrust to the bottom of the barrel.

Not to worry; I‘ve got bigger things in store. Forget the small screen-I’m gonna be on the next-size-up-screen. Yes, in Short Film Land I am Mrs Popularity. I’ve scored speaking roles in four student films (three mums, one teacher), and I’m having a ball! In one film (Pieces of Us) I play the caring mother of four children in a somewhat dysfunctional family, which is strangely rewarding (seems to accommodate my maternal/histrionic tendencies). Hopefully it’ll get a screening at film festivals frequented by Hollywood directors looking for 'mums'.

So, my agent may not be swamping me with offers of fame and fortune but at present my thespian cravings are more than satisfied. To tell you the truth, I’m feeling a little bloated.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Scrubbing Up Again

Date: August 2010
Job: Offspring
Location: Preston

Okay! Back in scrubs. I got my fix. I walked the hospital corridor. I feel better now.

This week I was on set again with Dishy Dr Don. I got to walk past him. No saving babies' lives together today (see The Mouths of Babes, June) but that's okay. Such is the unpredictable life of a professional extra.

There are seven of us 'background artistes' playing hospital staff and patients. There's a young man taking photos of himself in scrubs who tells me everything he's been up to lately and shows me a photo of his baby nephew, who is apparently a lady killer, in the first five minutes of meeting him and without invitation.

Anyway, I'm eventually summoned and told to wait three beats then walk down the hallway with the orderly, past Dr Proudman (Asher Keddie). Wait so many beats then return with the nurse. I have to mime chatting, walk more slowly, act natural, stop at the water cooler, stop at the door, walk off when the lead says 'two minutes', be more animated. 'Don't just stand there like an ironing board,' says the AD. Okay, but you just told me to be natural and I'm remembering the time I got told to 'tone it down' (Surviving Amateurs, June). I ain't arguing with her, though. Earlier, when she was giving us our places, one extra asked if he could go to the toilet. She kicked him off the set! (Well, he was warned!) But now I'm worried she thinks I'm stupid. I am so busy concentrating on being animated I forget the instructions.

I'm 'wrapped' but get to have lunch before I leave. Most of the other extras get to stay on for another four hours. Not to worry. I got my fix.

Trouble is, how long can I last before I give in again, say yes to the call from the agent (whenever that might be) and, throwing caution to the wind, take another day off work? How long before the lure of being seen on the screen theatens my wellbeing, my job, my very soul?

For now I resolve to stay strong. I will only take jobs on my days off. I will focus on the roles I have in two student films. But like a true addict I'm probably kidding myself.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Agony and Ecstasy

Date: July 2010
Job: None
Location: Nowhere

May and June turned out to be a busy time for the world of film and TV in Victoria. I had seven days’ work in seven weeks. I had to turn down five jobs in one week because I couldn’t take time off work. (A bit different from the one and a half days’ work in my first six months) And now, nothing. It’s been four weeks since my last call and I’m going through withdrawal.

I repeatedly check my phone and my emails for my next fix. In the meantime I write this blog and apply for unpaid speaking roles in student films. So far I’ve got three auditions. Seems there’s a lot of ‘mum’ roles. Could be good experience. Anyway, I’ll let you know what happens. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Horses' Mouths

Date: June 2010
Job: The Cup
Location: Flemington Race Course

I recently spent spent two days shooting a film about the Melbourne Cup, manoeuvring into the front row of the crowd at the mounting yard and strategically positioning myself in the grandstand in direct relation to the camera and the leads. I have become quite adept at ‘being seen’. I’ve also become a superficial, self-absorbed, competitive attention seeker. I am truly ashamed.

Okay. Now, I’ll tell you how I got my face in The Age! Yes, that’s right! There’s an article with some photos of filming in progress, including Stephen Curry just before he got thrown off the substandard nag they have cast in the lead horse role. In fact many of the horses look mangy and second class. But back to me. There’s a large photo of the crowd in their Cup splendour (had to go shopping again) and I’m right in the front row behind the fake roses. Okay, my dad had trouble picking me out but it’s me alright and I look fabulous in my hat, if I do say so myself. Never mind that I was FREEZING. It’s mid winter (not the warm spring day it’s mean to be) and all the women’s heels are sinking into the water logged lawn. Oh, those poor young things in their strappy dresses and strappy shoes and bare legs! The day pretty much goes like this: ‘Coats off!’, wait shivering until we hear ‘Background!’, then smile, chat, applaud, sip fake champagne then, ‘Cut!’, hastily throw coats back on. As the shoot progresses and the women realise no-one can see their feet they exchange their super stilettos for ug boots, which adds an interesting touch to their ensembles.

There are about three hundred of us and the queues at arrival, lunch and leaving are a pain (I earn an extra twenty dollars standing in line for an hour waiting to sign out, though). Once again the camaraderie helps while the day away and I pick up lots of useful tips on the industry. I meet a theatre critic, a would-be film maker and lots of would-be actors as well some people off the street. One of these is Peter, who looks like a fair dinkum punter in his tweed trilby and moustache. Turns out he is. He was helping a mate paint the logos on the mounting yard lawn the day before and he and his young offsider were ‘spotted’. We couple up from time to time. He’s a retired principal so we have a bit in common but in schools the word ‘extra’ has a much more negative connotation, let me tell you! Then there’s the young girl who never stops telling everyone how much she knows about horses (this goes on for two days) and a short, elderly Italian woman who pushes into the front of the crowd when filming and tries to push in front of me in the coffee queue but I stand my ground. She seems to think she’s an endearing, eccentric character. She’s not. Peter and I watch with amusement as the short, elderly Italian woman and a short, elderly Russian woman have an argument. The Russian has also committed the extra mortal sin (that’s ‘extra’ mortal, not extra-mortal) by asking Stephen Curry to sign an autograph and pose for a photo. Tsk, tsk.

After lunch on the second day we all change into black and white for ‘Darby Day’. Filming continues til dark when they bring in lights and a large reflective screen. I head home worn out from the early starts and long days of standing around!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Training Reels

Date: May 2010
Job: Training Video
Location: Suburban office

I’ve heard other extras talking about doing ‘training videos’ and now it’s my turn. I arrive at the office and meet the crew of two. The director says, ‘So you’re an actor, right?’ Not wanting to disappoint or lie to him, I mumble something about 'doing bits and pieces'. I feel like an impostor. Which is a bit like an actor, right?

I’m playing an OHS officer who’s using a DVD on workplace safety. So it’s a training video about a training video. I have to fiddle with the computer and pretend to have a telephone conversation. Easy peasy.

Except that I can’t seem to lower the fancy office chair. But neither can they, so they bring in another one. I find it hard to 'show warmth' towards a workplace safety video (now I know how actors in TV commercials feel) and in each take I have trouble closing the DVD case. Then when they do a close up of me operating the mouse my hand gets stage fright. It becomes completely unco and my middle finger dances a random solo with every click.

We move into the ‘board room’. The director’s assistant sticks on a hard hat and they rope in a guy from the warehouse and a female employee. I have to improvise running a meeting with staff. Fortunately I rock at this (it’s just like teaching, only without the abuse) and really show those amateurs how it’s done. After all, I am the professional actor here.

I change out of my suit in the ladies’ toilets, wedged between the basin, the hand-dryer and the cubicle door. I’ll have to have a word to them about a caravan.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Swinging in the 70's

Date: May 2010
Job: Eye of the Storm
Location: City

Seven weeks after the ad I do a film set in the 1970s so costume and make-up are provided, which is kind of fun. At the unit base I dress in a tent (no, I don’t wear a tent, that was late 70s, this is early 70s) and later I’m called into another tent to have my hair and make-up done. Of course the stars, like Geoffrey Rush, have a caravan. Sigh. One day.

Eventually a mini bus ferries us to the location, a posh Italian restaurant a few blocks away. We extras sit out on the street chatting, a habit we've all developed to pass the time. Should I be offended that they’ve married me to a grey-haired man in his late 50s when I’m… much younger? Not to worry, he’s a handsome, articulate man, and a good conversationalist. Once inside I am a little disappointed to find we are placed in a booth right at the back of the restaurant. Then they have the audacity to take my husband away and give me another! We find out later my second husband’s modern crew cut is the reason for his demotion from a table near the leads to one right up the back with me. There are lots of riotous jokes about wife swapping. Hubby #2 and I are left to our own devices as we realise, despite what the agitated AD tells us, we are not even in shot. The huge, and I mean huge, vase of flowers between us and the camera is a dead give away. So much for ‘being seen.’ And the trouble they went to dress me in this lovely orange knitted suit with gold trim and matching gold handbag and shoes and jewellery, not to mention my flicked back hair! So we sit there with our plates of cold pasta and glasses of grape juice playing ‘Pass the pepper. Which pepper? Oh, that pepper.’ (I’ll have to show you one day. Hours of fun.) and exchanging personal trivia in hushed tones.

Later I am given some herb cigarettes to smoke and my spouse and I work out a routine involving lighting my smoke with a candle, as we are thrilled to find his face and the back of my head will be blurs in the distance! Moving up in the world. The trouble is the cigarettes will not butt out and I have to keep replacing them and after several takes I realise I’ve smoked a whole pack. And I don’t even smoke! I try to hold the cigarette elegantly like I’ve seen in movies when it was considered cool, but I end up spilling ash everywhere. By the time we are finished there is a plate of pasta smothered in pepper, a mountain of cigarette butts in the ash tray and a table cloth mysteriously littered with grey filth and candle wax.

At lunch the extras are the last to eat, as industry propriety decrees, and I struggle to find things that satisfy. Against my better judgement, I eat a corn cob and have bits stuck in my teeth for the rest of the afternoon. Not that it matters. I could smear tomato sauce all over my face and it wouldn’t be seen.

During an afternoon break I see ‘The Rush’ sitting alone and decide to say hello. After all, we met just a few weeks before, at which time he chatted amiably with my daughter. I ask whether he remembers. He does. Then I stupidly tell him he looks tired. ‘Oh, we’ve been filming here today.’ ‘I know,’ I answer, ‘I’m one of the extras.’ I don't usually dress like this, you know.

The wardrobe people arrive and give us new outfits. We are re-arranged at the other end of the restaurant so that the camera can film the same scene from a different angle. I end up with an elderly gentleman. This time I’m facing the camera and actually within view of the leads! (Glad I didn’t go with the tomato sauce idea after all.) An AD tells me I’m a PA out to lunch with my boss. His ‘wife’ is now sitting at another table. More jokes about naughty goings on. ‘The boss’ and I chat between takes but when they yell ‘background!’ he will not make eye contact and, given we are miming, it’s impossible to co-ordinate our ‘talking’ and ‘listening’. So I give up and do my own thing.

It’s well after 7 pm by the time we get out of there. I whip off my costume and head off to a private screening of the docudrama I was in (see The Trial and Error, June), which is coincidentally showing at a nearby restaurant. I am wearing my 70s hair and make up but it’s not til much later that I realise I am also wearing a gold necklace that I have inadvertently stolen from wardrobe. Pity it wasn't the suit. That would have been something.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Being Seen

Date: March 2010
Location: Point Nepean.

There are two hundred extras on set, pretending to watch a cycling race. We’ve been here since 7.30 am, (after meeting at Springvale Station at 5.15!) and won’t leave until after 5 pm. Most are young things and there are quite a few hotties of both genders. And then there are the cyclists in their lycra. We have to cheer them on. And on. All day. Up to ten times in one position. We’ve all got the same thing in mind. Be seen. So I observe extras of all ages grabbing their spot by the barricades and guarding them fiercely. Some move in on others’ territory. I hang back with Rob, who I met on the set of The Trial (see The Trial and Error, June). But he’s tall. If I’m going to be seen I’ve got to get into the gap between two shortish pretty girls. So I cheer and clap and jump up and down as the cyclists and the camera on the back of a quad bike go whizzing past and lose my balance and fall forward onto the pretty young thing in front. I apologise, but in the next take she’s gone. More room for me. But then another pretty young thing slips in and I’m back in the second row with Rob. It seems the front row is getting more full with every take. Everyone has the same idea. But who are we trying to kid? All we will see when the ad hits the screen is a blur of faces or a split second glimpse of ourselves as we say to anyone who will listen, ‘There I am!’

So that's what it's all about. Being seen. I’ve been doing extra work for twelve months now and I’m yet to see myself on screen. The Trial has been banned in Victoria and in Rush you'd have to play it in slow-motion on a super HD wide screen with ultra zoom to see me! In the bank ad - you know, the cycling race I've just been talking about (you mean you didn‘t get the connection??)- you see about a quarter of the extras who were there and they’re just a blur, as I expected. In the first job I did on Offspring (see The Mouths of Babes, June) I thought, ooh, this is good. There's only four extras and three leads in a relatively intimate scene. Then they give me a cap to wear. And a surgical mask. Great. Then in the third job the medical expert says I don’t need to wear a mask and I think ‘woohoo!’ (or was it ‘yippee’?) but they stick one on me anyway simply because Dr Don is wearing one. I mean, it's not for me to question their artistic decisions, but whatever happened to authenticity? Really.

Now I don't want you getting the wrong idea. It's not like being seen is my main aim in life, but it would be nice. Of course, much of the work I’ve done recently is still in some stage of production and in some of it, hey, I’m not even wearing a mask, so fingers crossed.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Say Good-bye to Hollywood

Date: February 2010
Job: Neighbours Audition
Location: Casting Office

It’s day one of a new teaching job, the week before classes start, and out of the blue I get a call telling me I’ve got an audition for a well known soapie on Tuesday at 2.15. I know I can’t say no and I don’t really want to but it’s during the first week of classes at a new school and I’m worried about asking for time off. Luckily the co-ordinator is fine about it. In fact, he turns out to be very supportive as the year goes on. I think he likes the idea of associating with an actor. Not that I would describe myself as an actor. Background artiste I think I’m called.

The script is emailed to me and I learn my lines. It’s a scene about an internet date. My character is pretending to be somebody she’s not. Ooh, intrigue. A soapie within a soapie. Just like Shakespeare. I practise at home, not really knowing how they want it. Comic or mysterious? It’s hard work getting it to sound natural so I practise with my husband, who has not one acting sinew in his body, but somehow it helps. My daughter cannot understand how someone like me could get an audition. I'm not sure myself.

I go along to the audition deliberately wearing something I think the character would wear, that is, something middle aged (no idea how it got in my wardrobe). I am led into a tiny white walled room with a chair, a video camera and a computer on a small desk. Hollywood here I come. The camera checks me out like a mechanical sleaze, its single eye vertically scanning my body, right down to my fat, sweaty little toes (it’s hot, okay) and back up again. I wish I’d worn something a bit more se-I mean, attractive. I think the camera would have been impressed. I play the scene with a woman who performs both the role of the male character and the camera operator. For some reason I find it a little hard to act like we’re on a date. She gives me a bit of direction, we run through it a few times and then it’s thanks and good-bye.

I realise my chances of winning the role are slim due to my lack of experience, which is a relief because I don’t know how I will get time off work and I’m afraid people will laugh at me for being on the soapie. It’s not as if it’s an aspiration of mine. On the other hand, what a great opportunity! And after all, look at all the actors who started out in soapies and made it big in Hollywood. There’s heaps... Really.

Okay, I’ll get back to you.

Unlike the casting lady. Alas, soapie stardom will have to wait for another day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Trial and Error

Date: June 2009
Job: The Trial
Location: City

I’d like to take you back. Back to a time when I was a mere, green, fledgling extra. Back to a time when…
Yes, that’s right. I scored what every extra hopes for-a speaking role-on my first job! How did I do it, you ask? Can they gauge one's talent from a photo on a casting website or was it just a fluke? The latter, no doubt. Here’s what happened:

I arrive at the location, the County Courthouse, ahead of the appointed time, as advised by my agent. We’re doing a docudrama on a big trial and I’m the jury forewoman. I have been reading some background notes on the case that I got from the internet, on the train. I meet a man called Rob who knows nothing about the job but has been doing extra work for years, so while we wait for the crew to set up I fill him on some background and he entertains me with stories of his extra work over the years. (I hear some of the same stories a few months later when we meet on the set of a TV commercial!) He tells me he’s nervous. So far, I’m not.
The crew is quite small and the atmosphere relaxed, which is not exactly what I expected, but suits me fine. I am given my lines, which basically consist of ‘Guilty’, ‘Not guilty’. (There are several defendants). I feel quite at home on set. I have seen lots of ‘behind the scenes’ footage of films, but still I am surprised that I am so relaxed. I try to pretend that I have done this a hundred times and realise I may have pulled this off when two of the crew tell me I look familiar. They ask me what I’ve done lately and was I on ‘Rainer’ (which, I discover later, is another docudrama). I answer with deliberate vagueness, lest they discover I am a novice, saying the last thing I did was a long time ago. (Thirty years, in fact!-I was in a short film). We film several shots from different angles and I pretend I am a jury forewoman in real life, rather than trying to act the part. This naturalistic approach seems to be what they want. In fact, when I am called back to do another half day’s filming a couple of weeks later, the director has to tell one of the actors playing a lawyer to ‘pull it back a bit.’ I use some things that I learnt in my screen acting course earlier in the year, like adding a look or something at the end of a take (which the director comments on favourably!), and giving something for the other actors to work off. So I listen attentively in the jury box as they film the lawyer (Rob) giving his spiel and he rewards me by looking at me and laughing when they film me listening to him, and I have to really control myself to keep a straight face. Thanks Rob. (But it’s okay, because they didn’t use his shots in the final cut! However, he did get paid twelve times what I did, for about four times the lines!)
It’s all quite civilised and we have lattes and yummy cakes and biscuits for afternoon tea. I chat to one of the crew, the art director, about his film making.
When I leave I feel on top of the world. I’ve just done my first professional acting job! I leave the courthouse and walk though the city streets in my high heels and smile at a strange man in a suit who smiles back. I feel good.
Na na na na na na na.

When I get called back I wonder if it’s because I stuffed up, but I am assured I ‘was fine’. This time there’s a bigger crew and more actors playing lawyers and jury members. There are even some actors who I recognise! And I’m acting alongside them! One poor man, who looks the part with his white hair and beard and lawyer’s gown, looks terribly nervous and cannot do his lines with any sort of conviction. He’s obviously an extra with no real acting ability. After all, simply signing up to be an extra is no guarantee of any skill! I feel for him, though, and try to will him to get it right, to no avail.
Later in the year I scour the Green Guide every week to see if the docudrama is screening. I am going to be on TV! With lines! But it appears I’ve missed it. Finally, months later, I discover a blog that informs me that the film screened all around Australia, but not in Victoria due to legal reasons. (I do get invited to a private screening in March however, and now have a DVD of the film.) Anyway, after six months of being an extra all I’ve seen of myself is a reflection in a window and a figure in the distance!

One day I will be seen.

PS: Update
You can find The Trial here:

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Mouths of Babes

Date: June 2010
Job: Offspring
Location: The former PANCH

We're filming a new 13 part TV show about an obstetrician. This is my third job with this production and, as I did with that independent feature film last year, I'm playing one of the 'medical staff'. Must be getting typecast. Are they underestimating my range? Hm. It's a four hour call and the last time I was here, I put on a nurse's uniform and walked across the car park a few times then went home. Okay, it's harder than it sounds. No, really. We changed positions three times, we had to time our walking and the AD was a bit grumpy.
You're right. It was pretty easy.
There is a young woman of African descent who I've met on five different sets. She walked across the car park too. She told me she's going to America to try and get work there. Good luck.
Anyway, today we are filming another caeserian scene in the operating theatre, just as I did in my first job on this show. This time we're using both fake babies and real babies! Again I'm in scrubs and tending to the newborn alongside the paediatrician played by Don Hany. Forget Dr Dreamy, this is Dishy Dr Don. He's actually lovely to work with. The first scene is quite straightforward. The next is not. We practise the procedure with the dummy. (Dummy baby, that is) Check baby's heart beat using the stethoscope, while Doc tries to revive it with the 'bag'. Share a look. It's not good news. Take over pumping oxygen bag while Dr Don administers injection into fake placenta. Baby revives. Dr Don looks meaningfully at Nina (Asher Keddie). Happy ending. Yay.
I hope to goodness I don't stuff it up.
There are lots of rehearsals and direction from the director and instructions from a midwife, the medical expert on set. It's actually quite intense, especially when they bring in the real baby (his first big break in television) and he's crying and it's hard to make it look like we're reviving him. Dishy Dr Don puts his gloved finger in the little baby's mouth and he sucks on it contentedly for a while. The baby must like the taste of latex. They cover both the fake baby and the real baby in jam and other slimy stuff. The real baby does a real poop. Fortunately it's just a little bit but the noise is pretty funny. Yeah, I know, small things... Then Dr Don makes me laugh again when the fake baby's penis falls off and he puts it in the baby's mouth like a dummy. Small things, alright! The good thing is I get to look into Dr Don's very nice eyes when we share looks of concern.
Anyway, it works out pretty well. But the takes with the real baby feel quite different from the those with the fake baby. Hope the editors do their job.

Dr Don and I certainly did ours.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Copping It Sweet

Date: March 2010.
Job: City Homicide
Location: South Melbourne

I'm at a studio in the city for a four hour 'call'. I'm playing a social worker. It's been a few hours since breakfast and I'm feeling a bit peckish. One of the regular extras, a petite and pretty 'cop' (not sure how believable that is) shows me where there's coffee and fruit. I grab a tiny apple and wait outside the set with the others (a male and female 'uniform', a male detective and an Asian female detective who looks about 19 and is so tiny the suit is just about falling off her--not sure how believable that is, either!). There's no rush. You always have to wait. I should know. I'm a professional. But then someone comes over and says, 'Can you all come with me.' I'm munching on the apple, it's yummy and I don't want to throw it in the bin. The next thing I know, I'm on set, a police interview room, and Nadine Garner comes over and introduces herself heartily. I put the apple core in my other hand and she shakes my apple juiced hand. I apologise for it. She's intense and has amazing blue eyes. They start filming. No-one's told me what to do, apart from where to sit, and I've got an apple core in my hand along with folders and a pen that they've given me. So I go with the flow. Thank goodness it's only a rehearsal. I look for a bin just outside the set but can't see one. A crew member comes in and fiddles with a wire so I ask him what to do and he takes it from me. Phew.

The scene is quite a dramatic one involving a 'minor'. Finally someone gives me some direction. I'm told to share a glance with the second detective at a particular point in the scene. On the second take I miss it altogether. Oops. I concentrate really hard so I don't miss it the next time. But I'm not sure it 'feels right.' At home I repeat the 'glance' in the mirror. No! I did it all wrong. It should have been a quick, 'It's okay' sort of glance, not a slow ponderous, 'Hm, I'm not sure about that' sort of glance. I'm kicking myself. You might actually get to see me on TV this time. Hopefully my failure is not too obvious. Did Meryl Streep ever doubt herself like this?

I resolve to do better next time.

Surviving Amateurs

Date: December 2009.
Job: Surviving Georgia
Location: Warburton

An independent feature film called Surviving Georgia is being made in our area and they're looking for local extras who are prepared to offer their services for free. My daughter and I volunteer by email and I make sure they know I have 'experience'. We turn up at the golf club for a wedding reception scene along with a heap of locals, mostly retired people because it's a week day. The young man we've brought with us is selected to be the groom because the suit doesn't fit the person they had in mind! He has to come back for another day and do the ceremony. All unpaid. Anyway, after hours of waiting around on this cold morning, a small group of us is selected to do an outdoor scene. We are told to mingle, sip wine (apple juice) and mime conversing with one another. So I 'chat' brightly with my co-extras and act like I'm the queen of the party, while Holly Valance and Shane Jacobson do their scene. We mime saying 'peas and carrots' and 'Auntie Mable's got cancer'. An old lady that I've never met and I kiss each other and act like we've known each other for years. They yell 'cut' and the DA comes over and tells me to 'tone it down a bit'! I realise I've been overacting, as if I'm on stage, and probably compensating for the fact that I can't talk. I feel a bit stupid. But fortunately I get a chance to redeem myself.

I come back to do a hospital scene. A baby is being delivered. The scrubs don't fit the person who's supposed to be the doctor so I get the part. Cool! But all I have to do, after waiting for a while trying to make conversation with extras who seem to think they know more than me, even though they are amateurs, and hearing a crew member rave on about the plight of Australian movies, is walk down a corridor, away from the camera, as Pia Miranda walks past. Hope my bum looks good in scrubs. We do a take. I've been told to walk with purpose. So I walk like I'm at work. (I'm a teacher and always in a hurry. Except when I'm on yard duty.) For the next take I'm told to start further back and walk more slowly. More slowly? This is hard to do, to find the balance between purpose and casual self assurance. This is not walking with purpose as I know it. I have to really concentrate. I think of Stanislavski and muster my acting skills.

Somehow, I manage.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Copping It

Date: August 2009
Job: Rush
Location: Moorabbin

It's my second 'acting' job, my first as an 'extra', and it's a top quality cop show that I'm a fan of. Anyway, I've been told to ‘wait here’ but that was ages ago and it’s getting boring and it’s cold and if I step a few metres away from the crowd of crew and extras I can not only see Rodger Corser filming his scene but I'm in the sunshine which is so lovely and warm on this cold winter’s morning. But then the AD (Assistant Director to the unitiated) waves at me madly to get back! I could accidentally be in the shot! Oops!

We film several takes and I’m in two shots. I'm wearing my new suit (no black allowed so I just had to go shopping) and carrying a brief case and I think I look pretty good. I'm paired up with a guy who's also wearing a suit to make a corporate couple. At first we're onlookers in the background and then we move into a station arcade. The bad guy-a greasy haired drug dealer- runs right past us, chased by actors Nicole Da Silva and Josef Ber. Can’t wait to see it! You'll see me for sure! In between takes, a bogan on a bike stops and asks the two 'cops' if they caught him. Ms Da Silva tells him it's all pretend, that they're filming a TV show, but he refuses to believe her.

Anyway, weeks later, when I finally get to see the episode on TV, I’m just a dark reflection in a shop window and a momentary figure in the distance.

I tell myself they couldn’t have done it without me.