Sunday, April 3, 2011

Extra Gig #4: Getting Paid to Wear an Evening Gown, Selecting Your Assistants and The Interesting World of Extras. Also, Foreshadowing?

Last night, I got to do my very first evening extra gig for a TV pilot. I'm not going to violate any confidentiality matters or give you names of people. As a general matter, you shouldn't rely on me to know who some famous person is b/c I just don't care. I've got my own problems & unless that person is giving me $, getting my student loan debt canceled, making sure my husband gets the promotion he deserves or otherwise doing something mega nice for me, my business or a loved one, it's not worth my time to be concerned about such things.

I was quite happy to get this call. For one thing, I own a LOT of evening gowns; I'm talking 8 or so. Many of them could use alterations, I'd like to get repairs for some & my bridesmaid dress from my sister's first wedding is way too big on me now but I still look awesome in them. After all, I make it a point to pick things & dress in a way that you won't see 10 other people doing unless they specifically copied me.

I also love getting to dress up in these things. The right dress can make you feel like royalty. For me, the evening gown is the height of feeling like the most beautiful woman in the world. I suppose it's like the leather jacket or a uniform for a guy: even the ugliest woman can look 1,000 times better in an evening gown.

I actually wanted a job where I had to wear evening gowns. I figured I could be great at that since I always feel gorgeous in them; plus, no one could make you do all that much or you'd mess up the dress.

So, unknowingly Central Casting gave me a shot to live that dream. You'd better believe I was taking it.

They asked people to provide 2 gowns; I brought 4 since I had them, including the black dress I wore to get married. That black dress was the one they picked, along with my bling that went with another dress I was originally wearing. Not a combination I'd thought of but I defer to the decision makers when I'm on someone else's set. Worked well, I think. Also didn't have to deal with my hair getting caught in the rhinestone straps of the dress I was originally wearing, which was a relief. That dress works so much better when my hair is up but I'm not a beautician. That's one job I think will always be available since people are shallow by nature. But I digress...

Some observations:

* This set had the most congenial group of extras I've ever encountered. I've been to gigs where no one made real effort to speak to me in holding or people clung to those they knew. Here, a woman sitting at my table actually engaged the table in conversation and spoke to me. Another lady at my table also liked that I got married in that black dress & how I structured my wedding. We're still going strong after over 4 years so I think flouting tradition was the way to go here.

At one point when I was waiting in the hair & make-up line (because, again, I like to let the decision makers say whether I look acceptable to be on the set), one young woman who'd just gotten her make-up done tried cutting in front of me & a bunch of other actresses. A different young woman who'd gotten her make-up done earlier says "Lots of people are waiting here to get their hair and make-up done & haven't had anything. The line starts back there." The attempted line breaker asks me if I'm in line for hair specifically & I said "I'm doing both, whatever I get first." Then, she moves to the back of the line.

The lady who spoke up said she apparently saw the look on my face when this line breaker tried that & wanted to keep others from getting screwed. Guess I'm more obvious in expressing my real feelings than I think. I appreciate the sentiment, though I didn't actually mention about being a lawyer + having my own film company & friends who could easily hear about this. Remember, you never know who's doing extra work.

This couldn't be more true that in my conversation with a gentleman who was commuting from a very long way to the shoot & had done a lot in the business.

Considering that someone who tried to call me incompetent was immediately blacklisted when I wasn't even a partner at the film company, can you imagine what would happen if you were an ass to me & I revealed it to my people? I think that says it all.

I even got a business card from the woman who complimented my dress & non-traditional wedding arrangements.

* Didn't see a single person I knew from the scam TV network or my behind the scenes work. That's a shocker, though I did see someone I worked w/briefly on Gig #1. However, didn't speak to her.

* I also saw some wonderful professionalism from a particular extra I worked with for a scene. While I see many being Chatty Cathys on the set, even though you're supposed to be silent while the powers that be are trying to direct, coordinate, set up equipment, etc. I tend to only speak when spoken to, keep the conversation brief & then in whisper (as a compromise to professionalism vs. not being rude to whoever spoke to me). The gentleman I was working with said "I hope you don't find me rude." and explains that he listens when they say to be quiet.

THANK YOU!!!!! I explained that I've been on sets, have my own company & don't like to disturb other people's ability to work.

* The person in charge of corralling the extras was the best coordinator I've ever encountered. Now others I've dealt with were good but she was great. She introduced herself, told you what her role was on the set, was congenial & didn't give me a vibe of superiority. She seemed to give authority without the least bit of brusqueness. I heard extras say positive things about her & I think some of them felt more motivation to do a good job for her benefit. As a behind the scenes person, this is the sort of person I would want on my set.

* One downside: didn't like getting a 7 p.m. time & not really having food for a while. I didn't have a viable way to eat a real dinner since I didn't get home until about 3:40 + set dismissal was after 1 a.m. There was a craft services area in a small hallway. It got backed up.

One smart ass crew person, whom I'm not sure was serious or joking decides to quote the famous Silence of the Lambs line in motivating people not to hang around the table while others were in line. A variation on "Put the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again." Something about "going back to Holding again?" Not sure if he heard my comment of "you may not want to say that to a psychotic" but I didn't hear him make that crack after I said my piece.

He'd also made comment on how craft services were a courtesy for doing the work. That's half true. We have a little thing called labor laws & unions; plus, I'd have a case for false imprisonment if you confine me to a location for a long time period & don't give me food. People in offices can go to a vending machine or leave to take a break. You can't leave a set.

Little tip: if a master of sarcasm has to wonder if you're serious or joking when you say something you may want to try a different tact. Some of us could help your career or end it. Go back to the part about never knowing who your extras are. Being a dick is a good way to end your career before it starts.

Oh, and attorneys are revered in this industry; messing with us is like stealing food from a lion or taunting a snake. Eventually, things are going to end badly for you & most people will say you got what you deserved, perhaps earning yourself a Darwin award.

Not to mention attorneys are looking for any hustle they can get to pay off six figure loan debt considering the legal job market stinks.

So, what was it like getting paid to wear an evening gown? I think I would want to wear comfortable shoes for a good part of the day, get sitting breaks & according to my husband, I'd need arch supports. My lower back kills me if I'm standing for too long & my toes were killing me when I got back. A carpeted floor might be okay as well. Good news is I broke in my new black high heels that I bought specifically for formal wear & in anticipation of extra work.

Aside from that, I'm officially doing fewer submissions. I might take gigs if asked & don't have schedule conflicts but I have to guard my image carefully. I don't want extra work obscuring other things I do. Even with over 100 people present, I was still the only natural redhead who looked like me. The person who helped with the attempted line breaker was the only person who even came close to me in appearance.

I think I've just about gotten the learning experience, which is the main reason I decided to do this in the first place. As a naturally observant person, I'll always take notes of who is professional vs. who's not & hopefully have more conversations w/people since that gives me insight on people's views, motivations, etc. I also think the experience has given me a general respect for background actors & direct insight into motivations that I might not have had.

Plus, I have to pick #5 carefully since after that, I'll no longer do any submissions. It will be a strict asking thing by that point. I've also still got job limbo issues to deal with so I figure my schedule could easily change up & I'd have no time anyway.

On another note, after I got home & settled I went to sleep and had an odd dream.

In the dream, my ex who was 14 years older than me was in it & had a younger brother. This sex buddy I had in college called him "dirty old man." Whether he was jealous or not, I have no idea. To my knowledge, the dirty old man ex didn't have a younger brother.

In this dream, my sister was having sexual relations with the younger brother. I happened to pass outside & see them in her bedroom through a window. At a separate point in the dream, I see her, the younger brother & a friend of hers naked on her bed. I was outside with my ex and in the dream, we weren't together. I asked him "When we were dating, did you think I was sexually adventurous?" I remember feeling that my sister was taking the crown away from me since my dream self (and my real self, for that matter) wouldn't do a threesome. He reassured me that I was & seemed somewhat concerned about the brother but not nearly as concerned as I was about my sister.

Now, I'd been wearing these pajama pants that were part of a set this ex got me for Christmas one year. It was the most a boyfriend had spent on me for a Christmas gift before my husband (he'd gotten me a lot of other clothes from the same place as well as some Sketchers sneakers, starting my love for Sketchers sneakers). I don't associate these clothes with this ex, they're just part of my wardrobe like anything else.

Anyway, I notice that there's a hole in the center of the back & point this out to my husband. I asked if he knew about it & he said no.

Later on, he pulls me onto his lap where I'm facing him. He decides to make this hole bigger & literally rips off the back of the pants. I told him he should buy me new ones; he was cool w/it.

I find it creepy that I'd had a dream about that ex & then that happened. No conscious thought trigger memories of that ex. The only thing might have been my niece's passing 2 years ago yesterday & my hanging around him the evening my brother in law died in 2003 despite our having broken up earlier in the year with no real closure. He proved he was capable of being a decent person that night & as I've not had much of that in life, I still appreciate that gesture since it gave me a sliver of faith in humanity. Plus, he's one of the few exes I don't wish harm on though I'd never try that being friends stuff. Symbolism? You decide.

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