“Ok everybody, welcome!” We all sat along the back wall of the mirrored studio looking up at the instructor. “I thought we’d start off with something fun. Today we are all going to be…monkeys!“
With a flourish, all the other kids jumped up and ran around the room, screeching, swinging and flailing. They weren’t just pretending to be monkeys, suddenly they were monkeys. I watched from my seat on the floor. I had no intention of being a monkey.
The instructor noticed me and came over to see what was wrong. “Jonathan, can you be a monkey?”
I looked around the room and looked back up at the woman standing over me. “No,” I shook my head. “No, I don’t think so.”
I woke up with a start. I had been dreaming about the time—the one and only time—I took an acting class. I was a kid, maybe ten years old, but even at that age it didn’t take long to realize that acting just wasn’t for me. During the actual class I had gotten up and tried to act out a few things but couldn’t really deal with all the attention. I don’t remember if the teacher actually had us act like monkeys, but I certainly felt like one.
That’s when I remembered. “Oh no…I have to act again today. Oh yeah…I have to fight today!”
My first day on a movie set as an extra playing a security guard had been frustrating but I was hopeful my second and final day would be better. The day before I was entirely unable to walk like a security guard, but worse I hadn’t been able to watch any of the production work.
I drove to the location near the Georgia/Alabama border, a little more nervous than I had been the previous day. What if I have to walk again? This of course was silly since they had told us they were shooting a big fight scene. What kind of fight scene I had no idea, but it wasn’t a walk scene. Suddenly I was hit with a terrible thought. What if they want me to walk to the fight?!?!
The halls of the detention facility were empty since the entire crew was outside filming. The director, Kristin Hanggi, began calling for extras, first one or two, then a few more until eventually we were all out in the yard. The yard was a fairly overgrown, fenced in area rimmed with coiled razor wire that felt like the perfect location for a prison riot.
“Ok,” the director said. “For this scene we are going to be shooting Ryan (Spahn, screenwriter guy) and Jake (T. Austin, actor kid) from outside the fence looking back into the grounds. We are going to need the extras to be doing some typical detention-y stuff.”
It turned out we weren’t doing the fight scene. Not yet, anyway. Tessa (the woman I had spoken with the day before without realizing she was one of the main actors in the film) took over background direction and gave us our assignments. A few people over here throwing a football, a couple guys over there talking, one guard standing waaaayyyyy off in the background. Then she turned to me.
“Ok, we are going to need you to walk…”
“We are going to need you to walk with this inmate right up here in the front.”
Of course I had to walk. Of course. They needed the other actor and I to walk across the background, nearer to the camera than all the other extras. We were supposed to be pretending to talk as we walked, but above all, we had to walk. I asked if we could fight instead.
We got in our places, the director called action and we walked. On this day, however, I was ready. I had a trick up my sleeve, something they would never expect. I folded my arms. This devious little device served two functions: first, it gave me something to do with my hands and second, it let me slouch forward. As I said in the previous post, I tend to slouch, so having my arms folded meant that I could walk more naturally. With my shoulders rounded and my head down and nodding like I was listening intently to what the other actor was saying, I could walk without fear. It was fool proof.
Cut! I stood chatting with the inmate, quite pleased with myself, when I noticed a commotion going on among the crew with the director pointing in our general direction. Everyone looked towards me and looked back at her. She kept pointing, but then dropped her hand and said something that made the entire crew laugh. They turned back and looked directly at me.
OH DEAR GOD! GET ME OUT OF HERE!!! (remember?)
My walking failed me again, this time so badly that the entire crew was laughing at me. Fool. The laughter died down and someone took off running with something in his hand. The runner had a long way to go to get all the way around the fence, but once he finally turned the corner and started heading my way I could see what he was carrying. One side effect of walking with my arms folded and my head down was that my messy hair fell in front of my face. Very unsecurity guard-y-ly. The guy had brought me a baseball hat.
The only thing sillier than the sight of me trying to stand up straight is the sight of me in a hat. I have poofy hair, but once that hair is squished down you can see just how small my head really is (I once put on a hat and nearly killed my poor mom when she couldn’t catch her breath from laughing so hard). I put on the hat, let out a sigh and dejectedly walked back to my mark.
I continued walking with my arms folded and my hat pulled low, hoping I was well out of focus. Unfortunately one walk became two. It was decided that, rather than just walk by once, I should turn around and come back through for good measure. They wanted me to head towards the main actor in the scene (Jake) as he began to walk away. Action! Cut! Action! Cut! We did the scene over and over. I became more and more perturbed by the fact that I can’t seem to walk on cue. Apparently it was showing on my face, so much so that, at the end of the final take, Jake jokingly turned and ran away from me, afraid some security guard-y violence was about to break out.
“That’s it! We’re done until 3:00 and then we’ll shoot the fight scene.” It was noon when the director sent us back into the air conditioning and I knew I had a long wait ahead of me. The day had alot of walking and was about to have alot of sitting. I did get to peek at the crew filming the scene once I walked out of frame, but in the back of my mind I knew I was just going to have to walk right back into it. Oooo look at that, the camera guy is…oh yeah…walking…ugh…
Before I went back inside I found out what the earlier laughter was actually about. Tessa, the actress who was directing the extras, pulled me aside. “Oh by the way, when the director was trying to point you out to the crew, no one knew which guy she was talking about until she called you ‘the good looking one.’ “
The three hour wait until we began shooting again suddenly didn’t seem so bad.