Tuesday, January 17, 2017

STRICTLY ON BACKGROUND, PT. 4: ELEMENTARY

After several gigs that involved taking 6:30 A.M. vans to such far flung places as White Plains, Queens College, and JFK Airport, it was a relief to book a job that was a subway ride away (137th near City College) at the more reasonable time of 9:45. 

Despite shooting in early December, it was a warm sunny morning -- a good sign for what was going to be an exterior scene. But by the time they were ready for us, the temperature would drop precipitously as a strong wind blew in a thick cloud cover, turning the blue sky to a dark, threatening grey, fit for a Sherlock Homes mystery.


It was appropriate, then, the series I was working on that day was Elementary, which re-imagines Holmes and Dr. Watson working in modern day New York. And if you think the stars bear little resemblance to Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, you win a trunkful of back issues of True Detective magazine and a polyester deerstalker cap.


Before dining at The Edge, make sure it isn't
overrun with extras.
Other than the call time, something else that promised to be different about this shoot was the holding area. Instead of being lodged in a church basement as is often the case, we were ensconced at The Edge, a restaurant with an American/Caribbean/Jamaican cuisine, a gastronomic hat trick that got me hungry before I even checked in. 

Unfortunately, The Edge was merely the host, not the server. Perhaps it's just as well. Once I start eating that kind of grub, you can't get me off my chair until I pass out, which wouldn't do my reputation any good.

The group I was working with waited about three hours before going to the set -- the set being Edgecomb Avenue and 140th Street, where we crossed the street several times while a scene was shot several yards away. As I said before, the weather wasn't what you'd call clement, but at least we were dressed for winter when it was cold. I once had a "winter" shoot where I wore a sweater, scarf, and leather jacket on a sunny, 70-degree afternoon for a couple of hours. If nothing else, working up that kind of sweat is a great way to lose weight.

After 10 or 15 minutes of the back-and-forth, we were then assigned to walk east on 140th as they shot another scene. I was partnered with another guy, and we were told to go about half-way down the block. The p.a. would give us the OK when to start walking toward the featured actors. 

Our job was to look like we were friends, despite us looking completely differently -- he, a well-dressed businessman a decade or so my junior with salt & pepper hair; me in my tan overcoat, brown lamb's wool cap, and backpack. Diversity!

After the first couple of takes, we got the word that we were getting in camera range a little too early. We were then told to start near the end of the block, and, when getting our cue, to walk slowly toward the actors. That's the kind of thing that I really need to concentrate on to accomplish, so it would take some serious acting on my part. 

I think it took just two more takes to get it in the can. While the featured actors were in a two-shot, my co-extra and I were in a wide shot near the end of the scene as the camera crane pulled back. 

When I took a photo of the scene as it aired, I angled on us rather than the entire shot, just so you could tell it's me. You can tell, right?

This is exactly the way I walk against the wind on a December day: head kind of down with hands in pockets. I'm a natural at this extra stuff. Except for walking slowly. Then I need direction.

The Elementary shoot also provided valuable perspective on my job. This being a public area, non-actors were restricted from walking on the street until the shoot was finished. A bunch of teenage school kids, who were quite agreeable in waiting for the all clear, started chatting with us; none appeared starstruck. One of them turned to me.

HIM: You on this show?
ME: Yeah.
HIM: You a TV star?
ME: In my head, yes.
HIM: So you're crazy?
ME: (pause) Yeah, you could say that.


No danger of my ego running unchecked with that kind of interaction.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

LOOKING GOOD IN GREEN

It also helped that, as a young man, he resembled
John Lennon.
Well, it looks like it's time to stop making fun of Donald Trump's appearance. Not because we have to show respect for the incoming president. The last president who was respected by the nation at large was George Washington -- which was also the last time the name "Washington" received respect as well.

Nor is it because Trump will suddenly become overwhelmed by the gravity of his new job, learn to think before he speaks, and stops dressing like someone who finds the  Men's Wearhouse too sophisticated for his taste.

The diaper would be a
good start.
Yes, the man who last year replaced Erich von Stroheim as "the man you love to hate" is, in 2017, someone you want to spend the night with (unless the alleged Russian dossier is true, in which case you're going to need to stock up on industrial strength versions of detergent and self-respect). And, as usual, science can back it up in one simple headline:



Science? you ask incredulously. Science is explaining why we get hot and bothered when we can leave that up to our own eyes?

Oh yeah, this is science, alright, as The Journal of Public Economics proves beyond a doubt:

dRL=1i=if(i)(iiL)1F(i)di                       Now don't you wish you paid attention during 10th grade algebra? 
If you find the above pig's dinner of a formula eye-watering (to use a favorite colloquialism of the Daily Mail), it can be boiled downto this: Attractive people make more money. As they make more money,they tend to become more conservative
This formula doesn't explain Ted Cruz, who resmebles Pat Buttram's idiot brother, and George Clooney, who looks the way your significantother wishes you did. 
Yet movie stars tend to be photogenic (which is why Nathan Lane is a Broadway star) but have the reputation for being politically liberal.Mel Gibson, being anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic, would seem to be the exception. And you'd think those traits would rightfully make him a pariah in the industry. But he isn't.

You see, his most recent release, Hacksaw Ridgehas made $138-million worldwide  on a $40-million budget. His personal wealth is estimated at $425-million.

Get the picture? With that kind of dough, the movie industry finds the odious Gibson attractive as all get-out (which is what he tells Jews and gays who wander onto his movie set). Contrast that with Michael Richards, who's hardly worked since his infamous performance art-wannabe racist rant at an L.A. comedy club almost 11 years ago. He's worth only $45-million. Hollywood will never forgive a pittance like that.

Yeah, better to be Mel Gibson. But remember, Hollywood loved him even more when he was worth $850-million. That was before he had to give half of it to his ex-wife in a divorce settlement. Boy, is she attractive.



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