Friday, September 23, 2011

Extras On Set: Total Recall 2012

Wow, whadda couple of days.  We are both dead tired, but so ecstatic about it.  We couldn't have asked for a better experience.  The people from the studio were so professional, the other extras we met were amazing, and Colin Farrell was such a gentleman - even when I nearly broke his nose.  I'm not kidding.

Loads to tell you, and a few pictures - but we signed confidentiality agreements, so I have to keep mum on certain things.  And keep certain pictures from you.  It's not fair, I know, but I'd like to potentially work in this business.  I'd like to keep a trustworthy presence here, y'know? *wink* 

Our call time for the first day of shooting was 7:45 am.  My mum was kind enough to dogsit for us and drive us closer to the city to catch public transit to Pinewood Studios.  Arriving just in time, we didn't have to worry about the kufuffle happening in wardrobe, so we headed straight to hair and makeup.  There was about 250 of us all getting ready for the shoot!  My hair was blowdried, nothing fancy, my own makeup done with a neutral look.  Lynda, a wonderful hair stylist, grabbed me and asked me how I felt about beehives.  Well, let me tell you ...

She promised me a 'futuristic beehive'.  Yeeeeeaahh!  I snapped this picture on the bus on the way to the studio.  I was so scared of taking pictures with all the confidentiality stuff and all.

We were all taken by a few buses to "New Asia", the indoor set where we would be working.  The description in the email had warned us that "it's always raining in this part of the world."  They weren't kidding.  The street scene consisted of a block of restaurants, convenience stores, dress boutiques and sex shops, and a large club on the end of the block with an Asian-fan-style bridge connecting the block into a square.  

There were quite a number of interesting characters and costumes that made appearances - can't say who or what, don't ask.  Our job was to simply make the place look populated and lived-in - we walked around a few times with purpose, interacted with each other and whatnot.  Nick ended up on an earlier shuttle than me, so we were separated on set.  S'okay, I know what I'm doing - I tromped around with a purpose in the rain with my little parasol, piped from a hidden-in-plain-view black hose wound with prop electricity cables for set dressing.  Problem was, my boots were starting to come apart from all the water.  I had a few colleagues joke that "I'd already lost my 'sole' to Hollywood North."  Nyuck!

So, that's what we did all day, really - walking around in the 'rain' while it rained outside.  What made it worth it was that Colin Farrell shot scenes on set with us.  No shit.  We were a stones throw away from him the entire time - Nick's got a few scenes with him with shared screen time.  No cutting room floor for him, surely!  He was a real gentleman to everyone and was rather patient with the whole process.  Honestly, you get impressions of certain individuals only because a few bad apples spoil the bunch (ahem, Christian Bale - sorry, quiet part loud, loud part quiet).  It's not starstruck per say, but wanting to make sure you don't screw up or make an ass of yourself in front of your boss, that kinda deal.  Well, I almost made a big impression in the shape of a door frame on his face.  More on that later. 

Here's a shot of Nick and I in full costume!  Look out for us in "New Asia"!  Nick likes the ladies, so to speak.  You'll find me in a few different places - I get around.
Nick and I in costume on set of Total Recall (2012).

The holding tents (cattle, much?) the extras hung out in were packed with Wonderbread, peanut butter and jam, digestive cookies, apples and oranges, tea, instant coffee and powdered ice tea and water.  We got hot snacks every so often - corndogs and beef patties - but considering they're paying 250 people and half are just waiting in a tent all day.  The hot lunches they fed us were pretty good - the chili on the second day was better than the chicken on the first.  I wasn't really complaining, though, at least there was something edible.  We were armed and ready - lots of granola bars and water bottles in our duffel bags. 

A bunch of tired extras on their way home after the first day of shooting.

The first day was more gruelling than we thought.  I've never worked on a film set of this calibre before, but I have worked on more moderate film projects to understand the extreme difference in process.  It's a big hurry-up-and-wait game, and you're just sitting around and hanging out until they call you in for the shoot.  There wasn't a lot of down time on the first day once we got to work about three hours after we arrived at the set.  After that, it was mostly on set in the rain, then outside, in the rain.  Rough.

I did have a great opportunity to share some screen time myself as a background actor with Colin in a very brief street scene when he climbs a set of stairs.  Myself and another young man were pulled out of the crowd to settle ourselves in a visible corner and act as if we're just hangin' out.  Being a theatre actor, I'm used to playing to the back of the crowd.  

Yah, guess what I did - freakin' Beetlejuice arms, might as well have been.

We heard a cut and the assistant director's voice on the mic, "Colin, good.  Boy, girl - a little less, please."

Ladies and gentleman, if I can point out a little lesson that I learned here, and something that should be pointed out to actors who may not know - there is a big difference in presence between film and live theatre.  In film, the audience is quite literally in your face.  What you need to express with an overemphasized shoulder shrug to the back row needs to be done with an eyebrow and a hand twitch on film, if you catch my drift.  In short, TONE IT DOWN.  The camera catches everything, and if you do too much, you're distracting and taking away.  Lesson certainly learned as I sat on my hands for the next shoot and kept my posture more casual.  I hope it was noticed - I hope I was natural. 

It's almost thirteen hours when they've called it a wrap, save a splinter shoot for another scene where they'll need about fifty extras or so to film a scene with Colin.  Nick and I went for it - hey, we could use the money!  Heading back into the set, we were given our places and directions in a different area of the set that wasn't heavily used earlier in the day.  With confidentiality gagging me in regards to the set placement and what the scene was and all that jazz, I will say that during a shoot, I had decided to go through what I assumed was a safe door, pushed and almost knocked Colin on his ass on the other side as he was trying to come out for his entrance.    


The first thing out of his sweet Irish mouth - "Are you okay, love?", as I'm trying to apologize.  Cut's called, we swap a few quips about having nine more toes to break and went back to first positions.  The set assistant who was directing us had claimed it was his bad - he didn't tell me where to go exactly, which relieved a little pressure.  He told me where to go, and action was called - "Rain and roll!" was the popular phrase of the day.  Everything went smoothly, I went where I was supposed to, I let Colin merge into pedestrian traffic as he strode ahead of me.  Cut was called and he turned around and walked toward me.  I held out my hand to offer a high-five and asked if we were still friends.  

Let's just say he watches the elbow when he delivers, and there's nothing like honesty in a friendly shake then eye contact.  A little humanizing moment for me in a way.  Everyone joked about how I made a "new friend".  I was just glad I wasn't thrown off set.  Hell, we were all tired, so certain things are forgiven, no?  

Nick and I headed to our hotel room in the city after a total of about fifteen-and-a-half hours of work - we'll say about seven or eight of those hours spent on set.  Can't complain.  I just wanted a hot shower after not being able to escape the rain.  We had a bit of a later call time for our second day.  Sleeeeep and warmth was all I was wanting.

Unfortunately, my wedge boots bit the dust come the second day.  The wedge heels started to separate from the boot itself - waaaay unsafe on a rainy set, no?  I had asked wardrobe if there was any way to fix them, or if there was a replacement pair I could borrow for the day.  Wardrobe gave me these beautiful babies.  I should have held out.  If I didn't want to get paid for second day's work, I would have just taken these home.

:: tan suede boots with heavy chain detail, BG Max Azria, Pinewood Studios wardrobe dept. ::

The extra work was really light on the second day.  Almost three-quarters of us didn't end up on set at all by the end of the day!  A few of us got lucky, however.  We were witness to some pretty awesome stunt work with Colin and his stunt double dangling from storm grates and running from helicopters and gunfire.  These people took safety seriously - there were more rehearsals that I could count for the gunfire bit before they considered letting the squibs off.  Don't wanna damage the star's moneymaker, no?  

I'm a little stuck on what else I can describe, with confidentiality and all.  I will say that I appreciate the hard work that went into the detail of the set and costumes.  The folks at Pinewood Studios were amazing and made us feel really welcome.  We had a few folks tell us that when it comes to the film industry, Toronto is the place to work when you're looking for a more natural atmosphere in your film.  One set assistant had said a few places have reputations for their extras posing a little too long in front of the camera (ahem, Los Angeles - dammit, again!).  

We made a lot of really cool friends that we're hoping we can get together with again very soon.  This experience has been absolutely positive for us and has given us a great impression of the professional film industry, especially the people that work in the front lines.  Nick and I have some great memories from the set we'll be telling our future kids!

August 2012, hurry up already.

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