Thursday, April 14, 2005

So You Wanna Be In The Movies -- Part 6 and last (I think)

The film-makers had a problem looming over them. We had done a bunch of shots in gloomy, cloud-covered light on Monday, but since then things had been sunny. Wednesday was also predicted to be sunny and clear, so the next step was obvious.

We had to come in earlier. As it happened, only a half-hour earlier, but in addition, I expected that things would move very fast as the crew scrambled to get in as many shots as possible before the sun came up fully and the morning clouds cleared away. I was right. Call time was 6:00AM, and by 6:40AM we were on the set, watching people hurriedly get set up.

By 7:30AM, I had gotten something to do. They needed more shots of "Sara's" pickup coming into the plant, so I and two other guys were sent up 3-4 floors to provide background as it entered and drove by. It made for good exercise, as I had to climb up and down steps in heavy work boots.

This sort of thing went on for the next 90 minutes. We would be moved from one part of the plant to another, given our marching orders, and they would get in a few shots. Most of the time I couldn't see what the main action was, but I did see the end.

We all watched as the last wisps of cloud began to clear the sun. Sara was down on the pavement with the fellow from Monday (whose name I never caught), apparently finishing whatever discussion had been interrupted by the clearing sky. The crew had fashioned massive shades of stretchy black cloth and light tubes that might have been aluminum in an effort to minimize the growing glare. I think they got the shot, but when the clouds finally vanished that was it for that scene. We got the "take five" and headed for the snack truck. It was 8:51AM.

From here on in, the action took place up high on the generator towers. Remember, when I say tower, I don't mean some slender, relatively clean thing like a lighthouse. These were somewhat squat, with stuff hanging all over them, with grilled flooring, and cat walks at various levels between the towers. Equipment, pipes, and tanks stuck out at odd angles, and sometimes got in the way. It was there the camera, sound and lighting people moved and began to set up.

I'm sure that a life in pictures eventually innoculates you to working all manner of strange environments, but watching those folks hanging lights and other heavy gear all over those tight spaces up high impressed me. And from 11:00AM onward, all the action was up there on the platforms, roughly six stories up. I watched Gellar dash across the catwalk between towers several times. Let me tell you, if you anything like a normal fear of heights (you know, the sort of fear that might keep you from jumping out of a perfectly good airplane for "fun" or keeps you away from steep drops because, you know, falling would be bad) dashing across one of those things was no picnic. The wind was blowing pretty hard up there too, which I doubt was fun for a small person like her. Once she almost lost her hardhat in a gust and they had to restart the take.

At noon we broke for lunch, and as I munched on a delicious piece of pork roast with grilled summer squash and a brownie for dessert, I reflected that I damn glad it wasn't me up there playing one of the Flying Wallendas, perhaps complete with the tragic fall.


So it was that at 1:55PM, I found myself at almost the very top of the power plant, and my action was to climb up a flight of steps in order to reach the actual tip top of the plant. I tell you, I was Not Enjoying this aspect of acting. I could see across to the other tower where the action was taking place, and what I could see was not much. In all honesty, I'm not sure the reason I didn't see much is because much of the action was taking place behind masses of piping or because I was mostly looking down to make sure my feet did not somehow inadvertently head off into empty space

This was the first time I had spent much time in close proximity to this particular PA, whom I mentally referred to as "the boy PA" because of his baby-faced features. Up until now, I'd had pretty negative opinion of the fellow, since he was the one who seemed to spend most of his time chivvying us extras into out-of-the-way corners where we couldn't see anything.

But now, up close, I had to say the fellow was nothing if not solicitous. He asked if we were okay, not too tired, if we needed water, etc, until they finally had enough shots and we could come down. It was a major relief. Of course, I left my windbreaker up there and had to go all the way back up to retrieve it. After that, a nice long drink of Big Red from the snack truck was what I needed to settle my height-jangled nerves. Fortunately, at 3PM, I was done with the high-wire act.

Shooting continued, but much of the crew activity at this point consisted of packing away gear. It's possible I could have seen this on the other two days, but all but one of us had never returned to the set after lunch for any extended period of time. I only had one more interesting set of shots.

About 2-3 floors up, a group of us gathered. The camera was to watch someone working down below, who was to stare at Sarah "significantly" as she climbed up some steps. I was to mime talking to another extra, and then we were to walk over a catwalk to the other tower. First, her stand in did some climbing while they got the lighting right, and they she came over and we did some takes. I think she'd ditched the hard hat for these. When we were done the director called out "Okay we are goodbye to Sarah for the day and we are goodbye to the power plant." Many cheers all around.

And that was that. We got in the van to return to the base camp, got our pay vouchers signed, turned in our costumes and props, and we all went home.

Thanks everyone for reading this, I hope you found it entertaining and perhaps even educational. I'll try and do a bit more of the actual Stay-At-Home Dad thing for a while. Not to mention try to get back to my regular posting schedule.

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