Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Background Work on "Crash"

As we were planning to relocate to Santa Fe, I thought what fun it would be to do extra work. There are three television series that film in Albuquerque (about an hour drive from Santa Fe). A number of films are also done each year. Occasionally over the summer I would google New Mexico casting and visit a website that posts casting calls. Now that we are New Mexico residents, I decided it was time to follow through on my research. Moving can be very stressful and I was definitely feeling the tension of camping out in our house until furniture arrives and other craziness going on with the house. To divert my mind, on Tuesday morning I sent my headshot and resume to "Crash" casting for extras.

My early research showed that they would be in production until around October 9th. The notice I was responding to had been posted back in August and I really had no expectations. You can imagine my surprise when I got a call around 5 PM Tuesday to see if I was available for work the next day. I gulped and said yes and then was told I needed to bring three "upper middle class" looking outfits. Well we have very few clothes here... just one suitcase each. Somehow I figured out two outfits and then visited Walmart and picked up a purple jacket that could give a different look as well as some shoes in case the "Keen" casual shoes that I live in won't work.

Then I waited. I thought someone would call with directions. At 8AM I was called asked "Where are you? You're supposed to be here at 8:48 AM. I live in Santa Fe, but the call was for a place in downtown Albuquerque. I had my bag packed and dashed out of the house at 8:10. Speeding is not a character trait. If anything I am more likely to be rear ended by a speeding turtle. But I got there, and ahead of two others who were late.

After signing in, wardrobe looked over my three outfits and selected a first outfit and a second if needed. Luckily the first one they selected was my own and my hope was that I would be able to return the Walmart jacket along with the shoes. Back to our "holding" area to wait for instruction. The Assistant Director in charge of extras then asked if any of the extras had driven because they were short on "upscale" cars. He asked us to raise our hands if we had a car that wasn't red or white. He then asked us each the kind of car we had. I shared that I had driven a 2001 SVU Mitsubishi Montero Sport. Two of us were selected to join the line with a Porsche, a Mercedes, and a BMW. We were led to a parking lot where the action was to take place.

I must say that this felt like back in the dance studio only now it was about choreographing the timing of seven cars to get the effect they wanted. It was also great fun to be given instructions rather than be the director as I had been for thirty some years. We were each given a walkie talkie set to a channel for our car director. Each car was assigned a name. I was L2 meaning second car coming from the left. We then rehearsed several times the timing as the police closed down the street for us. Periodically the street would reopen for a few minutes and then close down again. Once they were satisfied with the timing we did about five more run throughs while they filmed one of the lead characters in the show getting into a car from various angles with us providing the background. Once done it was back to the holding area where I put on my selected pedestrian outfit.

A half hour or so later the twelve pedestrian extras were transported in a van to a new site. Two of the shows lead characters were doing a scene sitting in the front seat of their car and we provided the background of a street. The AD looked over our group and assigned us various places in the street. I was placed with another woman to cross as if in conversation. The AD following the script assigned us entrances to create a random impression. Again we rehearsed and then they filmed from many angles.

More walking again across the street and then back to our original places for shooting another angle they wanted. In between takes we had a "holding" space and it was interesting to learn about the other extras. A doctor who wanted to do this just for fun, several who had done quite a bit of extra work, several between jobs, a student, a social worker, and one or two who I hunched were aspiring actors.

It was a wrap at 4 and we were all transported back to the base holding area and invited to have dinner which was an impressive spread. The AD came around and signed our time sheets and thanked us for our work. I was surprised to see that not only did I get my $9 per hour for 8 hours, but that I also received extra money for the use of the car!

As I drove back to Santa Fe I thought how good it felt to be part of a production. Since retiring from directing the Avodah Dance Ensemble I have missed that energy and group collaboration. To have had an opportunity so soon after arriving in Santa Fe was indeed a blessing and a definite stress buster!