Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Extra Gig #9: Guess I'm Still Pretty Even in Glasses

While I was at Comic Con on Thursday's Professional Day, I get a call from a gentleman at Comer Casting seeking my interest in being an extra on The Good Wife. Since I'd never done a gig at Comer Casting & the gig was for the next Tuesday and Friday (when I had no other plans), I signed on. Generally speaking, if you give me advance notice on things I'm more likely to show up. I need to mentally prepare for things & as I mentioned before, I come from a sorority chapter where making people go to last minute, unplanned events was punishable by death (not literal but definitely metaphoric death). Maybe some of your Greek chapters also operated this way?

On Friday, I thought "Wait a minute! He didn't tell me what role I'm doing." I know the basic premise of The Good Wife, having read about it in various legal scam blogs so I knew it was a "lawyer" show. I asked & it turned out I was portraying a member of a courtroom gallery. Specifically, a Midwesterner.

I mentioned my concern in asking so I wouldn't be portraying a prostitute or a rape victim (as an actual, real life lawyer I wouldn't do such roles in an extra gig situation for a production not handled by people who know & respect me). I also told him he could make a note in the file that I'm an actual lawyer so those sorts of roles are out for me.

Another first with this gig was that the shoot was outside of NYC. It was in Mount Vernon, in fact so there was a courtesy bus for extras (as well as a van for crew & stand-ins). Both days had levels of interesting in them so I'll go through both here.

Comer Casting operates in a similar way to Central Casting with the calling in for details and the like. They also called me the day before the gig to make sure I was still available so if my company were in the market for extras, I would consider them based on this.

Of course, I reserve my final decisions on when I get my paychecks and if they are good. The same goes for Scott Powers; I've not seen that money yet and if I don't, I most certainly would file in small claims court if I didn't get any status updates or hustle on the issue. You don't screw over lawyers, as history has shown. Especially this one. I remember that stuff & would be telling that story far & wide. Plus, that's violating trust & if you treat ME that way, how are you treating non-lawyers? Likely worse. I suppose I may also have to give some leeway for this recent storm. More on that tomorrow but I'm doing okay here.

So, other observations:

1. Based on what the gentleman at Comer told me about glasses being good for portraying a Midwesterner, I decided I'd wear mine. This turned out to be a very good thing since A) shooting went into overtime & B) my eyes did not end up being in pain from doing this because of it. The glasses also made me different from the other redheads in attendance.

2. Yes, there were other redheads at this thing, though not a large number. Maybe about 2 or 3 besides me & I'm not sure if they were natural or not. It's not the same if you're a bottle redhead; you're CHOOSING that experience & could leave it when you wanted without being ostracized or harmed by folk. Plus, it's not tied into your identity like it is if you had to grow up with it & live it since your parents refused to let you dye your hair.

One had curly hair & remarked that my hair was "vibrant." Not "pretty" or "gorgeous" as I'm used to hearing but "vibrant." I said "Thanks," but went no further. I mean, how do you respond to that? I couldn't tell if she was being complimentary or insulting. I've heard both in my time. Plus, not sure if she was a natural redhead or not; if she was, she easily could have been jealous. Apparently, she was in the union as I learned later on in Day 2.

3. This show has some good PAs and crew. Our PAs, Self & I believe Andrea, introduced themselves right away to us. Self also complimented my looks even though I was in glasses (if you were being sincere, thanks since I think I look horrid in them). There was also Tom, our set PA and the assistant director, Colin.

Colin is the sort of AD I'd kill to have on a project. He actually made an effort to learn our names & learned mine right away. Tom told us that Colin did this on every shoot they'd had. I value that sort of humanity & with my company's reputation for it, I would insist on someone with that kind of humanity handling our background folk. Plus, being able to remember the names of even 20-30 extras is a skill & he was trying to learn names for about 60 or so on this set. I remember hearing he'd done this on sets with 80 something extras. If someone can do that, that shouts "detail oriented" to me. Plus, that person is perfect for sales roles & dealing with the clients. From what I saw, Colin deserves to go far in this business.

4. On that note, this was a very friendly set. I saw principle actors talking to extras during breaks & don't think extras approached them first. As I said before, our set folk were awesome (including the lighting guys who talked to me) & Self had to put up with a lot of craziness. Personally, if any PA can put up with the stuff they have to and not start hurting folk, that person's a keeper. That's true generally but especially if they have to deal with some of the the whiny & self-absorbed people I've seen doing background work.

Some of that "too close for comfort" stuff came up again. I thought the actress playing the DA looked familiar & on Day 2, I figured out why. She was on a show that someone my people know personally was also on. Not sure how close he is to this actress today but my thought was "This could be awkward in my exec life." More signs it's time for me to hang up the extra work.

The director, Griffin Dunne, is apparently notorious for meal penalties & going into overtime on folks. I learned the crew even had an inside joke around it. If you're paying me & I can get to food, I'm not worried about it but I know it can play a toll on you physically. This made me appreciate how hard a crew works even more than I had already (trust me, you do background work for TV & you'll get that appreciation).

I also learned that Julianna Margulies doesn't like working on Fridays (and who can blame her? I don't either) & does engage in the social graces, even with background folk. I was sitting in the same row as her at one point & had one of my sneeze fits; I'm not allergic to anything & it's not a sign I'm sick but do have those sneeze moments from time to time in a day. It might be slight weather allergies. She said "God bless." I said "Thank you," since I'm polite. Remember, I don't go around pestering people for autographs unless they pester me for legal advice or referrals.

5. I did get to sit down for most of this. That made me happy since oftentimes you stand up in extra work (often in high heels if you're a woman opting for those gigs). People warned us that we had to be in court & it was boring but I didn't find it nearly as bad as real court. In real court, you don't get breaks while they realign the shot. You don't get to clear out while they move the lights. You don't get to go back to holding while they're shooting scenes without the background.

Instead, you have to sit for 3 hours & pretend to be interested while the opposing lawyer is having a witness drone on about something completely dull and inconsequential to the proceeding at hand. It's worse when you're a legal intern for one of the lawyers/firms involved in the case since you can't just leave or fall asleep. I never felt like falling asleep when I was in the scene, no matter how many times they shot or rehearsed it. You get zero relief in real court so this was a picnic compared to my real life experiences.

6. TV vs. reality is still the same with this show. I also, in a twist of irony, picked a CLE disc on evidence to watch during breaks (disc 2 of the set I'd watched in Extra Gig #8). Since, after all, if I'm going to be confined someplace for a long period of time without Internet access it's a good excuse for me to catch up on CLE DVDs so I can get credit. The scene I was in would definitely have violated rules of evidence since you don't get those surprise moments in real court.

However, I totally get why writers do that. If they didn't, no one would ever watch a lawyer show where a lawyer had to go to court. In fact, the audience might never watch a lawyer show at all. You'd be bored to tears & want to chop your own head off to end the misery.

I do give this crew points for accuracy, though. The attire was 100% on point and the wardrobe people were extremely conscientious about that. They did not have the judge use profanity like I've heard of happening in scripts; in fact, that actor reminded me of a lawyer I know from City Bar's Entertainment Committee. Those two looked similar. It does seem The Good Wife wasn't taking too many leaps into utter absurdity from what I saw & were being as true to the courtroom lawyer experience as possible in the realm of a TV show.

7. As for wardrobe, I had to get more pieces from them since many of my clothes weren't Midwestern enough. However, some of my purchases were good (like my black plaid Old Navy jacket & these darker khaki pants I'd bought for working on Wall Street). They said "no trendy stuff" so I had a time scrounging for things though I opted for stuff I'd gotten from relatives that looked very conservative. I had a few pieces I bought for myself (like the black plaid jacket & the khakis) but generally, my style is more fashionable & doesn't fit into one box since I dress as I feel on a given day. Some days, I feel more conservative. I like to think of myself as a chameleon & stock my wardrobe accordingly so nothing seems out of place on me.

On Day 2, I had to bring more & different clothes (thinking I couldn't bring black dress pants on Day 1, I brought them on Day 2 since the wardrobe PA I dealt with on Day 1 asked if I had any). Turns out those clothes passed muster, including this pinkish/maroonish blazer I got at a thrift store that was a little big on me but that I'd never had an occasion to wear. When I'd seen it, I foresaw wearing it to court.

Day 2 was rainy & the forecast had called for a lot of it so I wore other clothes to prevent my good ones getting ruined. After we shot our first scene, it was pouring rain when we cleared the set. Since my plaid coat is wool, I left it handing on a rack at the window where I saw another coat hanging when I left for holding (I was wearing a hoodie over my other clothes though my dress pants still got messed up; both were machine washable, though). My thought there was "I'm not damaging my stuff in this rain unless production plans to pay for the cleaning." You have to take care of yourself in this life & when I got back, my coat was fine where it had been. No harm, no foul since it wasn't raining later on in the day & the coat didn't get messed up.

8. The first day's lunch was interesting since apparently, not only was production responsible for feeding the crew & extras but also had to feed the people at the church. I guess no one told the caterers about that since there were non-union people who didn't get food (I wasn't one of them, though annoyed with lack of dessert at the end even though I'd brought my own candy bars to snack on at my leisure). Day 2 brought much more food. I also ended up in the union food line by accident.

I was getting up & preparing since the union people had been called to start eating. A gentleman near me told me to go ahead. I figured "What the hell?" and went on. These union people should probably not be dicks to me, I thought, since I could torch their careers very easily if they messed with me. Self had said the day before that the union folk got to eat first since there would be hell to pay with their people if they didn't. Well, there would be hell to pay with me if you cause problems and seeing as I am an entertainment lawyer & have a company that is getting to higher levels it probably serves best interests not to get on my bad side. I don't really need people to raise hell for me since I do a much better job of it myself & have been doing it for others on some level for quite some time.

Plus, the crew eating first is one thing (I've gone over that before in this series). The union eating before non-union is a different story. Maybe there should be some classification for "people who can kill our careers in this industry" in the eating order.

Poor Self said he didn't even get to eat on Day 1; if that's not dedication & respect for background, I'm not sure what is. That guy should be commended since I don't think many in his shoes would have done that.

9. I still contend that actors as a group are whiny bitches. I heard people talk about their experiences on other sets. Some of them are things I would object to or walk from; no, I don't turn off the "lawyer" or "film industry exec" if I'm doing something unrelated to those. That stuff will come out if you start problems & it takes time to make me mad. At this point, I've seen enough of what goes on to know what is a good set or a bad set.

My major reason for this is that the same girl who said my hair was "vibrant" pointed out while we were on the bus to leave after midnight that they had to drop us off at either Grand Central, Port Authority, Penn Station or some other transit hub (I don't think she mentioned but apparently there's a 4th one they had to use) since some of them were union & it was union rules. The PA on the bus told us that we were going back to 96th Street, where the bus had left from on both days.

She goes "Oh, that's not near my train." I decide to chime in at this point & say "Well it's not near MINE either but it is a subway station." I pointed out that if she had the money, she could take a cab if she had to go elsewhere. I had no sympathy considering I had to take 2 trains to get home & wait around with my stuff; I'm also quite certain no one else hearing her had sympathy since they probably had places to go as well. She then gets all hyped up & says it's a union rule (which I didn't know about). I thought "Well, go take it up with them" but didn't say anything at that point since I figured she might know what she was talking about & if she got this victory, it would shorten my trip some.

At the end of the day, we did end up getting dropped off at Grand Central. My beef here was how she handled this. She could have brought this up in a much more diplomatic & polite manner than she did, perhaps citing the union rule first. Instead, she came off as a whiny, entitled bitch & that topped off my negative vibe around her.

10. On Day 1, I heard about another story that I was tempted to interject on but didn't. During lunch, a girl at my table was talking about a representative at a Comer set giving her the creeps and sexually harassing her and other women. I forgot his name; I want to say "Pedro" but don't quote me on that. One guy in particular was encouraging her to come forward with this but she said she wouldn't b/c she knew she'd be branded as a problem & never get work.

Had I interjected, here's what I would have said:

"I own a business myself and I'm the in-house lawyer there. It's my responsibility to make sure we don't have legal liabilities hanging around. If someone at my company was doing this, I'd want you to tell me. My colleagues would also want you to speak up since we don't want to be known as that place that lets creepers bother folk. I, in particular, take our reputation very seriously & don't tolerate BS in my business. Any sane business owner wants you to speak up & won't blame you for it. If they do, they are a pack of dumbasses who will ruin themselves since people like me won't work with them & let them drag us down. People also talk & you'll get a negative reputation in the actor community. Reputation is huge in this industry & "birds of a feather" is very true around here."

I would probably have also talked about my experience at the scam TV network & what I learned about the CEO's casting couch practices along with what I did as a lawyer who was talking to potential investors. I'd have also mentioned what the web designer did to fuck up this lying bastard (and the fact that he's got friends who were apprised of this guy). People thanked us for warning them about this scam artist & I would do that again if anyone scammed me or mine. If you employ the casting couch, I'm going to speak up since no one's going to lump my company in with that bullshit or the reputations of anyone I know for a fact isn't doing it. Why should the honest & ethical among us be punished for someone else's lack of ethics?

I think I'd have probably concluded with the fact that since I'm a lawyer/business owner in this business, I'm viewed as a person of trust in society (and especially in the entertainment industry) so I have to speak up if I hear about that kind of shit or risk harm to MY reputation & possible punishment by the state ethics committee if that silence would constitute an ethics violation. As any licensed attorney can tell you, ethics rules aren't just for your conduct in legal representation. They go to your behavior everywhere & at all times. I take that duty seriously at my company & as I've stated here, I don't use my position to cover up for or co-opt scumbags, cretins, etc.

Don't be a shithead in the first place & you won't have to worry about me telling your potential investors, my colleagues or anyone else that you're not someone they should be doing business with. I'd want my contacts to do the same for me.

For me, keeping your mouth shut on things like that is akin to not reporting a rapist who attacked you. You're doing a disservice to future victims & that's not right.

After doing this gig, I came to an important conclusion: the Hollywood route to acting isn't for me. First off, I'm facing too many of these "too close for comfort" moments in doing extra gigs.

Second, no manager wants to deal with me. I'm not going to "turn off the lawyer." That's one of my strengths. Why not just ask me to dye my hair blonde while you're at it? Reality is what it is & I'm not altering my career path to make some agent or manager feel better about himself/herself. Dorothy never had an issue with my being a lawyer & she's an industry vet. We got along fine & she was never nasty to me.

Let me also point out that being a lawyer in the entertainment field is not the same as being an entertainment lawyer & even being an entertainment lawyer is different from being an entertainment lawyer who has ownership interest in a production company. From what I'm hearing, it seems I can personally have a hand in helping some agent or manager that treated me well since I could get that person meetings with the proper folk & an "in" they wouldn't have otherwise had. I also have contacts that the average lawyer doesn't & am seen in a different way based on my looks (which are what they are naturally). I have gotten approached much more often, maybe because I have a creative background as well as a legal background.

With all that, I don't see where an agent or manager is going to be beneficial to me. That person would have to be at least as good as me; I'd want better but it feels like at this point, that might be too much to ask for. I don't think most people could advise me since who's actually done what I'm doing? I've yet to find anyone who has or is doing all that stuff.

Third, I've got a family & zero desire to live in LA. I'll visit if you can find a way for me to go without being sexually assaulted by TSA just to board an airplane but until you can, I'll stay here or take the bus/drive.

Fourth, I'm not shelling out a fortune for crazy stuff. I'll do classes for me if I see something I like & want to take it but otherwise, I'll use my money in more efficient ways. Pick things I like, not because someone else told me to do it.

Finally, can't really do the crazy set hours & demands that principles have to do. It feels more like the legal world with this striving to get a series regular & the like when conditions can be just like BigLaw: long hours, trading a ton of money for your soul, a pack of sycophants telling you you're awesome even when you're full of shit & in some cases, abusive treatment.

There's also the public recognition & at least one good thing you can say about BigLaw is that associates and partners aren't going to be mobbed for autographs or forced to wear disguises to go have a cup of coffee in their neighborhoods. Nor do they usually have to worry about being in the tabloids.

I could take on that commitment for my team or my projects, where people respect me & I won't be forced to endure massive discomfort or not get to see my husband. We know that wouldn't be the case on someone else's set.

I suppose my view there is much like my view of working for someone else vs. working for yourself. I have much more passion for my own business & will work harder for it than I ever will for someone else's. If I'm treated like crap in someone else's business, I won't even bother or would probably just walk away.

Now I still love this business & have a passion for it but like anything else in life, I'll be successful on my terms & with my way. That's just how it's going to be; life is too short to not live on your own terms. I'm not going to waste my time with people who don't respect that or get it. You can't really explain such concepts to them & if you're going to have power in life, you need to use it for good. I've managed to defy plenty of odds before so I really see no reason to change things. I'm open to opportunity but if it's not terms I like & find fair, I won't bother.

Want to convince me otherwise? Prove you know what you're talking about, get my personal situation (not generalities about being a lawyer or assuming things about my company that you know nothing about) & aren't full of shit. Those demanding pay for their services need not apply.

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