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.