Friday, January 18, 2013

First Time as a 'Background Artist,' or I'm Very Supportive

6:23pm - The address given over the phone is to a well-appointed townhouse in The City's Medical District. I highly doubt that's where she wanted me to go, so I park in the lot across the street. It's a dark, unlit parking lot adjacent to a bustling Former President Street's Italian Eatery. It feels unsafe and safe all rolled into one mysterious package. Arriving 30 minutes early, my nerves are getting the best of my bladder, so I decide to take advantage of Delicious Sandwich Shop's public restrooms and purchase one their signature cookie-based milkshakes. Back at my car with frozen treat in hand, I spot security personnel looming in the shadows. To the left of them I spot insignia'd baseball caps atop glowing puffs of amber and smoke: I've found the teamsters. I'm in the correct place.

I'm here to support you, television crew. I'm here to be a Background Artist.

6:52pm - As if being approached by law enforcement when pulled over, I'm greeted through my diver side window by a cool fluorescent beam of flash'd light. He tosses a smile and gives a good once-over to Spencer, the while reason I was chosen to be a Background Artist this evening. Spencer is, of course, my silver two-door power-nothing Korean Car. He's little, he's silver, and at this and many subsequent moments throughout our relationship, he's chuck full of life's crap. All things I need, but full nonetheless. Background Artist Check-In Guy doesn't seem to mind, which makes Dr. George M. Loumbas M.D. (oh yeah, I created an entire back story to my on-camera character) feel relaxed. TV Show's casting notice called for local drivers with cars, so here Spencer and I sit. Check-In Guy is cool and handsome, with tight jeans and well-manicured 5 o'clock scruff - surprising for a seemingly straight production assistant.

He jiggles his flashlight with an unhurried nonchalantness. There's no rush here, I think. "Are you one of our drivers tonight?" he asks as he examines my drivers license. I tell him, "Yup," in addition to explaining why the name I gave the casting people doesn't match the name on my license. 'Tis the annoying perma-factor of going by ones middle name. He lets me know we're currently in one of several holds, so I'm free to chill around the neighborhood for another two hours before we even begin.

Two hours to enjoy my cookie shake and blog? This I can do. The thought of two hours stings, but it was expected. Time for The Simpsons' "Tapped Out" and Angry Birds' Star Wars edition to pass the time.

7:40pm - Other Background Artists have arrived. Based of the casting woman's voice mail, there were to be five drivers. I count three at the moment: myself (late-20s white dude), an early-to-mid 20-something black dude with dreads, and a woman in her 40s in a soccer practice minivan. (I discovered many hours later that she's actually a young 20-something...oops) It's a wide-spread demographic. Interested in meeting the rest of the group.

7:48pm - Upon greeting Black Guy in the car next to me, Check-In Guy informs him he's free to wonder the neighborhood until our new call time. "Feel free to hop in a Major Coffee Chain or watch some of The City's Basketball Team [play tonight's game] in a bar." Funny, he didn't suggest I go watch the The City's Basketball Team's game.....

I can't tell if Check-In Guy was pandering to the other dude's blackness or my nerdy whiteness.

7:54pm - Oh, I-9 forms, how I've missed you. Thanks, job I held at Major Regional Theatre Festival.

8:36pm - Fourth driver spotted: late 30s Latin woman in a Tahoesque SUV. It truly is a cavalcade of rainbow diversity. TV Show knows to represent all the different types of drivers in The City. Clock's been clicking away and I'm ├╝ber curious what we'll be doing on e camera start rolling.

Character back story ... go!

Dr. George M. Loumbas M.D. (30yo) is a recent graduate of a major Midwestern medical school. He is one of The City's newest psychologists out and about in the newly posh Medical District.

Dr. George M. Loumbas, M.D.

9:11pm - I am asked to move from our holding pen in the dark lot to the busy thoroughfare on the opposite side of the building. A new holding area. The set, I learn. We're situated closer to Italian Eatery, whose waning wafts of seasoning and red sauce still hang in the humid January air.

Yeah, it's January in The City and there isn't a single snowflake on the ground.

It's wet and humid out. Oddly enough, we're filming a Winter scene, so I'm asked to get in costume so wardrobe can ok it. Dr. Loumbas wears wrap-around earmuffs, a black pea coat, black gloves with smartphone grips on the pointer digits, and a warm-colored scarf from the Gap's Christmas line four years ago.

I'm told the other two women are across the street in Major Coffee Chain, so I head in to snag a beverage and use the loo. They, an early 20a black female and early 60s white female, ask if they should move their cars as well. Seeing as we're in another 2-plus-hour hold, we agree there probably isn't a huge rush. When asked if they've been Background Artists for this show before, in case wardrobe needed to see their ensembles, the older woman snapped, "Many times," followed by stoney silence.

Then more silence. Then some more.

Upon a deadpan reaction from me, she suggested, "Might as well buy yourself a coffee and join us." A noncommittal smile lurched across my face while the younger girl's eyes begged, "Please save me." Having people to talk to would be a nice change of pace, but I don't have time for Baby Boomer Mom with her hair - the mom bob; you know the hair - throwing me shade. I have enough queens in my life filling that role, thank ya v'ry much. Needless to say, I snuck out the back door to spend more quality time with Spencer.

10:54pm - In the past, I've prejudicially concluded that live theatre is so much better than film work. After a night like this, I can state it with a sound, fact-based voice.

11:17pm - With a cookie-based milkshake and caramel-based coffee drink in my system, my bladder was about to burst. I wander away from Spencer towards the Nearby Bar to relieve the stress. Upon approaching Background Artist Wrangler to make way into the bar, his face grows long. "We're at about another 30 minutes until everyone arrives," he prepologizes. I nearly run him over as I pee-shuffle past him. "Just need to piss," I blurt. "Sorry about that, man. It's hard to do the pee-dance sitting in one place, huh?"

He knew the score.

An oh, if any other 28-year-olds want to feel like a creepy uncle amidst The City's swinging younger crowd, swing by the bars around Former President Street and Michael Meyers' Psychiatrist's Avenue. Babies in bars.

Sooner after peeing, Driver Number Six just replaced Driver Number One in line on the street behind me. Unfortunate, as Number One is a black dude who calls me, "Brother." Knowing upwards of, say, seven black people, I hold ins like Number One's familiarity like a white n' nerdy badge of coolness. Number Six is a white dude in his late 30s. His ride is a diesel-guzzling muscle car - the kind you'd see when Everydad goes through his midlife crisis in Everymovie. Sleek, black, and loud as hell. He revs its engine every few minutes and my innards rumble with involuntary force. Sure, it looks like one of the gorgeous stunt cars from Tarantino's Death Race, but it wreaks of olde timey "ah-oogah!" Model Ts at an amusement park - hugging its singular track, eliminating any sense of real excitement, adventure, or individual choice. The smell of exhaust is only out-douched by his head of greased-back hair. A class act all the way.

11:57pm - The AD just introduced himself through my window. We are a "go."

12:20am - As annoying as Number Six's car is, it's looking more and more familir as I stare at it though my rearview mirror.

And then it hits me: it's the Lead Character's muscle car.

The moment this hits me I spin around in my seat to see The Show's Star leaning against Spencer's rear bumper going over his lines with his Female Co-Star. You know, the dreamy actor who's currently staring in the Academy Award-Nominated Bin Laden War Movie. Spencer was placed directly in front of the scene's action during the rehearsal period ... only to be moved a few spaces further down the road once filming began. Apparently too many bumper kisses on Spencer's behind made him look a little too rough for high definition.

Unfortunately, or fortunately since I got to loosen up and act a bit, Dr. George M. Loumbas M.D. wasn't as doctory as originally expected. 20-someting Minivan and I end up getting paired together by the wonderfully kind assistant director as a couple who recently parked their car, J-walk across the street, and run onto the sidewalk as soon as the two stars hit their mark. She and I countered The Show's Star and his Female Co-Star as they walked down Former President Street and walked into Local Bar.

15 takes. 3 angles. Several minutes of small talk with Taylor. What a hunk. Several minutes of small talk with Lauren. Beautiful.

1:43am - And we're done. That's a wrap.

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