Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Making of a Featured Extra/Walk On

Several months ago I saw a Twitter tweet by Simon Helberg (Howard on The Big Bang Theory) asking for contributors for a film on Kickstarter. I checked out Kickstarter to see what this was all about.

Kickstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. Every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields. A new form of commerce and patronage. This is not about investment or lending. Project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work. Instead, they offer products and experiences that are unique to each project. All or nothing funding. On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk. Each and every project is the independent creation of someone like you. Projects are big and small, serious and whimsical, traditional and experimental. They’re inspiring, entertaining and unbelievably diverse. We hope you agree... Welcome to Kickstarter!

Then I looked at the "I Am I The Film"page, watched the video and loved it. It was hilarious and the story sounded interesting. So I looked down the list of pledge levels and decided to contribute enough money to become an Associate Producer. I figured that this would be my only chance to be a part of a movie and have my name in the credits and on the IMDB website. I was wrong.

I began looking on Kickstarter for opportunities to be involved in the making of another movie and came across a film that would be filming in NY City this year, "Girl Clown The Film".

GIRL CLOWN is a short romantic comedy about a girl named Laura, who is painfully shy. She lives by herself, works as a secretary, and she's secretly in love with her next door neighbor. In a desperate attempt to overcome her shyness, Laura decides to become a professional clown. This is the story of meek little Laura entering into the colorful and crazy world of clowns, and attempting to find true love.

I watched the video and decided to get involved with this movie too. I looked down the pledge level list and saw a level that would allow me to be an Associate Producer. A little further down I saw another level that would let me have and acting role, a featured extra/walk on role in the film. This was perfect for me. I'm retired so have all the free time I want to do this and I live only about 50 miles east of NY City and a simple train and subway ride would take me to the set. Besides, how many chances would I ever have to actually be in a film and be listed in the credits as an actor. I was hooked and decided that I'd pledge both levels and become an Associate Producer of my second film and a featured extra/walk on in my first film. I didn't really know the difference between a featured extra and walk on, but I was going to be both of them.

I waited patiently to see if both films would reach their funding goal and lucky for me, they both did. It was official, I was now an Associate Producer of two films and soon would be an actor. Okay, a featured extra/walk on, what ever that was, but it's still acting.

Months go by and "I am I" was filmed. A few more months goes by and I receive an email from Crystal Scott, the woman that plays the part of the Girl Clown, in "Girl Clown The Film". Filming was scheduled for last two weekends of July. She told me that she thought I'd make a good clown, so I would be filming my part in the children's birthday party scenes the last weekend of July at a house in Upper Monclair, NJ. I had to be on the set at 9:00 am. Holy crap, I was really going be in a movie!

No way I was going get up at the crack of dawn and drive to NJ, so I made hotel reservations for Friday night. Lori came with me, because she loves hotels. She just wanted to hang out in the room, swim in the pool and get room service.

I got up early Saturday morning and made the 15 minute drive to the house where the filming would be done that day. The house was a 3-story home built in 1880 with a detached garage and a decent sized back yard. I walked around back and was greeted by Crystal Scott, the writer and star of the film. I finally met the woman I'd been exchanging emails with these months and was giving me my chance to become a "movie star". She introduced me to Sam Kirkpatrick, the 1st Assistant Director. By then the rest of the clowns had arrived. Sam told us where the coffee and bagels were and to hang tight and until they were ready for us to get in costume and make up.

I wandered around taking pictures and watching the crew set up the set to film the scene in the garage. This is supposed to be where the clowns got dressed and hung out before the children's party scene. It wasn't long before Crystal found me and asked me to follow her inside so she could select my costume and get dressed. Then I was sent to the side porch to get made up. What do you think?

About 10:30 everyone was ready so we were sent into the garage to film our scene. Beth Spitalny, the Director, assigned us our positions, explained what the scene was about and got us props. My prop was a banana that looked half eaten. It was supposed to look like I was eating it, but not really eating it. Then she gave us our instructions. I was suppose to interact with the two clowns to my left and make it look like we were practicing and talking to each other before the birthday party. But only look like we were talking, no actual talking and we couldn't make any noise.

WTF? I didn't have a clue what I was supposed to do. Fortunately for me, the two women were professional actors and clowns and helped me tremendously. During the filming I followed their leads and did pretty well. I don't know how many takes and camera movements there were, but each time we all tried to remember what we had done in the previous takes and repeat it. Finally the scene was wrapped and it was time for lunch.

During the filming in the garage, the parents and children of the back yard birthday party arrived. Everyone enjoyed the delicious lunch that was provided. During the lunch break Crystal saw me and told me that I had done an excellent job and was very professional. She also suggested that I consider being a clown professionally. I knew she was a professional clown, but later found out that she has her own agency and provides clowns, magicians and actors for parties and corporate events. That made her compliments much more meaningful for me. I also discovered that the clowns and main characters were either professional clowns, actors or both.

Time to wrap up lunch and get ready for the birthday party scenes. So it was back to make up to repair what the wraps, salad, chips and drinks ruined. The first scene was being shot while the I stood around watching intently. The entire process is fascinating. The Director and Director of Photography (DP) discuss the set up and how they want the scene to look. The actors run through the scene while the DP runs the camera and the Director, Beth, watches on a monitor. I tried to stand behind her and see what it will look like on film. Of course the first take isn't satisfactory, so it is shot again. The lights are moved as well as the reflectors numerous times. Finally the DP and Beth agree they got what they wanted and they move on to the next scene.

The last scene was shot from different angles with the two main actors interacting with each other and several children. Once in a while one of the clowns would walk through or be in the back ground in the scenes. I got to be in four of them. In this one, walked back and forth across the scene after the Laura the clown gave the little girl a balloon animal. In another I interacted with three kids while they had a sword fight with balloons. In one more I walked over, handed a little boy a balloon animal and followed him out of the scene.

Now I knew what the difference was between a featured extra and a walk on. The other clown extras were in a scene two or three times, but as the featured extra, I was in every scene that required a clown in the back ground, for a total of five. Even in the garage scene, I was in the scene each time they moved the camera of close ups. I really got my money's worth with this donation.

They finally called a wrap on the day about 5:30. Crystal said they liked my work, so would I like to come back the next day and film the clown agency scene. Of course I told her yes. Lori and I drove back to Long Island later that evening, so we could sleep late the next day, since I didn't have to be in NY City until 3:00 pm.

I arrived at the Roy Arias Studios at 2:30 pm. They had set up to make the studio look like a casting agency for children and clowns. I was directed to the end of the hall to be made up and wait for my scene to be filmed. Not much happening in here, but I could hear kids singing and playing a piano as if auditioning for the agent.

I got my costume on was made up. Then I just waited and waited for the rest of the clowns to arrive and for our scene to start.

The clowns started arriving. All of them had their own costumes and make up. While we waited, I listened to them talking about their careers as clowns and actors. They were all professional clowns and some actors too. One clown has his own show in NY City and performs every day. A couple people had heard of him. Again, another day I would be working with professionals. Well at least now I had one days experience and had an idea how to do what they wanted.

We all went into another room while they set up in the hall. We would line up along the wall as if we were waiting to be called in for our audition. Finally they were ready for us so we lined up as instructed. I was lined up facing two girl clowns and told that we should interact. One girl was going to juggle, but not to worry if she dropped a ball. Things like that really happen, so that would look natural. The other girl was suppose to act like she was talking to us and this time I knew what that meant. I'd do just want I did in the garage scenes. Laugh without actually laughing, talk to the girls without actually talking and move my hands around and clap with the juggler did well and not move my feet an inch.

I had my back to the door the actors entered, so I could see thew scene, but was able to turn and watch as the practiced what they were supposed to do. It took about eight takes to get it right and then they moved the camera for a close up. I watched the 3 or four other takes from the agents office" and finally it was a wrap. Yes, they really say "IT'S A WRAP!"

They wanted to take some cast and crew pictures, so we went back into the first room and lined up. I set my camera up on a piano against the wall and videoed this part. Then took a few more pictures. This is one someone took of Kim, the make up artist that made me up and the other is of Crystal and I.

Here's a short video right after we wrapped the shoot.

1 comment:

pocket69rockettz said...

Totally cool post. I would so be a clown in a movie. Major fun!