Monday, December 05, 2005
Up All Night. Never Again.
I ended up being out all night from Friday at 6:00 until Saturday at 7:00 am. But I was not wild partying. Oh, no. I was working. What's worse, I was working outside in the freezing cold. I got to witness firsthand the first flurries of the year. I only wish it had snowed like it did last night. At least then, the shoot would have been called. No such luck.
You see, I was on the set of a film. But not as any ordinary actor. I was there in the most ignoble and detestable of roles. I was there as an extra. For many people, the chance to be an extra is an axciting prospect. They travel in from Westchester or New Jersey and feel like professionals. For me, it's a degrading and abject experience.
Extras are atmosphere. The director (in this case Julie Taymore) never deigns to talk to them. Instead it's an assistant with a bullhorn. Extras are talked down to. Like they are retarded. Like they are kindergarteners. The only thing lower than being an extra is being a nonunion extra. Nonunion extras don't even get to eat form the same table as the union members. They get payed a lower rate, and are not guaranteed the same protections.
I have always known that I would hate being an extra. I don't like following orders and I loathe being talked down to, and so, I've never done it before. But, I thought, this job might be worth it. A job on a Julie Taymore Beatles movie. Sweet. I'll get to see her work maybe. And, since it's an outdoor shoot, it'll be done early and I can head to my day job. Not even close. Itwasn't a day shoot...a fact I was informed of same day. And there were hundreds of us poor saps suffering in the cold. With hand warmers that gave out halfway through the night and toe warmers that gave out even sooner.
By the end of the night, as a group we were delirious and angry. I had lost my voice from the cold and shouting. The one thing done right this night was that they saved for last a shot where police are dragging protesters through an angry crowd onto a police bus. The crowd (the extras) are surging around them, hurling abuse. By the time they got to this, we were all really at the end of our rope, so the artist may have gotten what she wanted.
What I find most interesting about the whole experience is how traumatic it was. I think back to the times I stayed out all night drinking or ingesting other harmful substances and realize that a good part of the effects I felt after a long night were simply sleep deprivation. I hadn't touched a substance, but after a night in the freezing cold, I felt like an alien on the way home. I lost my glasses in the holding area, but was too stupefied to effectively look for them. And, after a 4-hour meeting the next day, which I went to on one hour of sleep, I slept from 4 pm to 1 pm. 21 hours.
I hope I get my glasses back. And I hereby solemnly swear, I will never be an extra again.