Friday, September 11, 2009

Breakdown of the Background

Since I started doing background people keep leaving me Facebook messages saying "I can't wait to see you!" Well, by definition, you probably won't! Frankly, I hope you don't! But who knows...

Usually background actors are blurry busybodies required to make a setting seem realistic. In restaurant scenes we're often instructed to walk right in front of the camera to make a black silhouette for a moment, as if the characters are on a hidden camera show. For indoor scenes in which the camera sees out the window background actors are used to walk along the sidewalk and drive their cars on the street! Those aren't real pedestrians or motorists! Other times, background actors get their whole face on the screen, in focus, for a brief "reaction shots." No, they don't tell us when they use us in that capacity, but if it's for more than three seconds they're supposed to pay us more or credit us, or something!

In my two months of doing background, there have only been a couple times when I think I might be recognizable. With the new network season starting next week, here's a rundown of what I've done:

Big Love
In a brown suit, I was one of many business types walking in an office/courtyard/lunch environment in a scene with Bill Paxton, Matt Ross and a guest star. I have no idea how HBOs schedule runs or what episode it was.
On location in Pasadena.

The Sarah Silverman Program - Comedy Central
I follow Sarah on Twitter, but have never seen her show; I want to start! Hilarious! I don't want to give the scene away, but it involved a wedding on the steps of (the real) LA City Hall. First I was just someone going into the building; you might see my bright teal shirt, especially since I was walking with a girl in red. Then I was seated right in front of the four lead characters during a political inauguration, in a dark suit.
On location, Downtown, Los Angeles.

The Forgotten - new on ABC
I was a sports bar waitress in an episode called "Football Joe." It's technically the third episode, but will be the fourth time the show airs if you count the pilot. You might see me in one or two scenes waiting tables at "Original Nates."
New York Street, Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank.

Flashforward - new on ABC
I was an attendant in an art gallery where Christine Woods and Navi Rawat had a scene; you might see me in a lovely teal dress. I was also in a restaurant scene they had, but likely just a blur.
On location in Hollywood.

Heroes - NBC
All I know is that we were outside a diner in Texas and at one point I think I saw Masi Oka in a hospital gown. Later he was talking to a red headed girl. In three different scenes I walked up and down the street, pretty far from the camera, in a light paisley shirt and jeans.
On location in San Fernando.

Valentines Day
This is a Gary Marshall film with an insane cast! I was "deep background" in a restaurant scene with Topher Grace and Anne Hathaway. I even sat with my back to the camera, being paid to eat my delicious dessert, so there's no way you'll see me!
On location at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills.

CSI: New York - CBS
I am wearing a black dress in a crowd of people watching a card hustler on the street when Malina Kanakaredes and (the super cute) Eddie Cahill come to arrest him.
On location in Hollywood.

Mad Men - AMC
Although I was dressed to the nines, I don't think the camera saw me, but who knows. It's a scene at a fancy banquet for the anniversary of the company and I think one of the leads becomes a partner or board member or something to that effect... My black and green evening gown was covered with a tan mink and my hair's in a fabulous 60s updo!
On location at the Biltmore Hotel, Downtown, Los Angeles.

Accidentally on Purpose - new on CBS
I was in two scenes of the first episode in this hilarious new Jenna Elfman comedy. (It may be the second show to air this fall if they replay the pilot.) In a cute brown jacket and hat I sat near the three lead ladies in a cafe. I don't recall what I wore in the club scene, but you'll probably see me standing, talking to a cute guy, while the ladies sit at the bar.
CBS Radford Studios, Studio City.

Bones - FOX
In episode three Tamara Taylor has two scenes with her on screen niece (I think). When they're sitting at the counter, in a diner, you might see me at a table behind them. I think I was in the same trendy brown jacket mentioned above.
New York Street, 20th Century FOX Studios, Century City.

Criminal Minds - CBS
In an episode in which the team travels to Louisville, Kentucky I was a "clerk" at the Louisville police station, delivering files to the officers at their desks. I was so uncomfortable during this three day shoot in a hideous tan sweater (issued by the wardrobe lady) that did not at all match my gray trousers. Its not about what the nameless character on TV looks like, but I wanted to tell everyone I met in real life, on set, that I didn't pick it!
Quixote Studios, Los Angeles.

Raising the Bar - TNT
In one of the later episodes of their current season I'll be a patron at the pub they always go to after work. You might see me at the bar in a cream blouse, a person away from Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Jonathan Scarfe.
Riverfront Stages, Sylmar.

Numb3rs - CBS
First I was a patron of a farmers market for a 10 second scene with Peter MacNicol. There were no lines, he just smells some berries; I was in a light blue strapless dress. Then I changed to a rioter in a colorful tee and gray hat and scarf in a scene with the guest star standing on a police car shouting into a megaphone.
Los Angeles Center Studios, Downtown, Los Angeles.

CSI: Miami - CBS
I was in two different scenes in an episode that flashes back to the 90s. First, in a gray suit, I walked into the Dade County Police Department as David Caruso and another actor did a "walk and talk" away from it. Then I was in the lab in a black FBI jacket doing paperwork with other lab techs while Caruso, Eva La Rue and Sophina Brown had dialogue at the front of the lab.
Raleigh Studios, Manhattan Beach.

Dollhouse - FOX
I worked the very first episode of the new season; although my party dress was bright red, I doubt you'll see me. I was in the back of a garden party of rich people in a 15 second scene in which Eliza Dushku and Amy Acker kiss (I think).
20th Century FOX Studios, Century City.

Brothers and Sisters - ABC
I don't know the episode but Calista Flockhart and Rob Lowe will be at the Griffith Observatory for some sort of event. As they're interviewed by the press, you may see me walking in a lovely teal dress with a gentleman in tan.
ABC/Disney Studios, Burbank, to the Griffith Observatory.

Californication - Showtime
I worked this show twice, as a patron in the restaurant the main characters frequent. In dark purple, you might see me over Evan Handler's shoulder as he waits with Pamela Adlon to hear from their realtor. Then in the very last episode of the season Evan Handler and David Duchovny had a really funny scene at the bar and I think I was in a dark gray shirt.
Stages somewhere in Venice...?

Iron Man 2
I was one of literally 300 people attending "Stark Expo" and then running in horror from the attacking drones. I can almost guarantee you won't see me... but I was wearing the trendy brown jacket that I've discovered wardrobe people love, my cute brown hat and jeans.
On location at Sepulveda Dam, Van Nuys and Los Angeles Performing and Visual Arts High School, Downtown.

While I've worked on all the major networks and a few popular cable channels, I've only been to two big studios. I can not wait to work on my lot, Universal, as well as Sony and Paramount!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bad Samaritan

I would rather ask someone for a kidney than ask them to help me move or take me to or from the airport! Would you agree? So last Tuesday when I returned to LA I opted to take public transportation back to my apartment.

LA is a car city, so public transit is a little bit of a scary thing here; I'd dipped my toe in previously with the Flyaway buses. They're nice charter buses, with the crazy upholstery that looks like movie theatre carpet, that go from the airport to three bus stations across the city. I'd taken a cab from and been picked up at the station here in the Valley, but discovered that if I took the Flyaway bus to Union Station, downtown, I could then get on the Red Line subway which ends up a few blocks from my apartment. My beau was none to happy about this plan, but I survived and even derived a pathetic sense of accomplishment from the experience.

Sorry to disappoint, but the subway is not where my story takes place, it's just part of the exposition and dramatically added to my travel weary state. I must note though, that 80% of the people with whom I rode the subway were lazy bastards! I could not believe that when we poured off the train at our final destination most people stood in line to ride the escalator up to the street. They stood in line and then just stood on their step once on it. Of course some folks had baby strollers or bikes, but for the most part, it was a sad snap shot of our society. I opted to wait with my 48.5 pound suitcase for the line to disappear.

I digress, while in Ohio I held a yard sale and had a nice bundle of cash on me; on my way from the train station to my apartment, I was walking past my bank. Even though I'd been up since 3 a.m. LA time, reeked of airplane and red line and was tugging my big ole suitcase behind me, I decided to deposit my cash. I thought perhaps my luggage would cause concern, but it did not. It was around 4 p.m. so the bank was pretty busy; after bumbling through my things I stepped up to the next available window and slid my cash under the glass.

I immediately noticed a wallet on the counter to my left. A sense of urgency propelled through me as I picked it up, saying "Oh-no! Someone's wallet!" My teller said it belonged to the gentleman who had just been there; we both looked toward the door as he exited. *GASP* "Will you watch my stuff?" I asked, speaking of my suitcase and carry-on that sat in front of her window. I literally dashed across the bank and out the door, where the man was getting in the backseat of a white car, with two other men in the front. "Here, you forgot your wallet!" I immediately noted that he wasn't too terribly grateful as they drove away.

I walked back into the bank to find a puzzled look on the tellers face, "where did you go, the man is right there." WHAT?! The man she pointed to, who was by the door when I ran past, continued to linger there aimlessly. Instead of springing to action my teller preceded to tell the other two tellers what had happened, as if we were in a bloody beauty salon instead of a quazi-theft situation. Time seemed to freeze and I just stood there mortified.

Was I in trouble? ... is my transaction complete? Why the hell did that guy let me run past him with his wallet in my hand? Why didn't my stupid teller bang on the glass or yell or something when I took off?! Logically I wouldn't have run to someone still in the bank! "I gave you a funny look," she said. A funny look? Are you freaking kidding me? I can not describe or explain, even to myself, why I seemed to think it was of critical importance that the wallet was returned immediately. It was just an instinct that I now regret. But I do know there was enough time that the teller could have and should have had me give the wallet to her.

Eventually the rightful owner meandered over to the window, where I was profusely apologizing to the teller and then to him. His response? "Don't worry about it." What? I felt like I was the only one actually processing what had just happened, as the tellers continued to pass the story like the latest gossip in a junior high. I was the only one with sense enough to say, "Hold on, we all saw that man leave this bank. Who was he? Which window was he using?"

Unfortunately he wasn't an actual customer and they didn't have his name. By this time a manager appeared and my teller proceeded to tell him what happened while the wallet owner went back to a desk by the door and sat with his head in his hand. Very strange. I stood there still uncertain of my fate, then realized there was a deposit slip on the right side of my window. "Is this mine?" I picked it up and my teller said, "No, it's his."

I tried to understand: his wallet was to my left, his deposit slip was to my right and he was by the door...? The man came back to the window, where I suggested we call the cops. "I can describe the guy and the car... and aren't there security cameras to see his face?" But the man didn't want the cops involved. It was clear he was either on some sort of illegal substance or had been kicked in the head by a horse as a child.

The manager took him off to discuss things and my teller completed my transaction and told me not to feel guilty. Guilt was most certainly among my emotions, along with complete and utter befuddlement. As I slinked out of the bank with my huge suitcase and embarrassed face, I again apologized and again the man said not to worry about it.

I looked over my shoulder as I walked to my apartment; I would not have been at all surprised if he'd come after me in anger, but he was devoid of emotion. What on earth had just happened? I tried to make sense of my urgency to get the wallet to its owner and my tellers lack of action or authority. I wondered what the hell was wrong with the wallet owner, how much money he had just lost, thanks to me, and if the bank would replace it.

Maybe if I wasn't so afraid to ask for a ride from the airport this wouldn't have happened. Maybe if I hadn't waited for all those lazy people without fifty pound suitcases to get on the escalator before me, I wouldn't have been there in that moment. Perhaps this was the mans wake-up call to get his act together. Or, maybe the asshole in the white car really needed the money. I guess we'll never know...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm working background on Heroes tomorrow morning at 6:30 a.m., so I need to get some sleep now, but coming soon... A crazy story of accidentally facilitating a theft at a bank upon arriving back in LA Tuesday!

Almost three weeks... really!?

In my last post I was whining about my inability to book a trip home due to roommate drama. I thought it had been a month, but as it turned out, my beau and I went two months without seeing each other; the longest in our relationship. So my time home from the 19th of August until the first of September was much needed!

It was well timed too, as we FINALLY GOT AN OFFER ON OUR HOUSE IN OHIO!!! It was the first offer in a year of being for sale. We negotiated a great deal (for this real estate market) and I got home just in time to prepare for the inspection. Then there was the appraisal, a step all those HGTV shows never feature! As long as it comes back at or above the negotiated price we'll close this month, my guy will have to be out by mid October and he'll make his move to LA in the new year.

I spent my time in Ohio cleaning, sorting, boxing and selling. It's a never ending process that most people could probably do faster than me, but I am an extremely organized packer. I can't just throw shit in a box; I assess it's need and pack each box full of like items in the best possible arrangement. I surprised myself by my lack of emotion in the process; having been gone for over a year, it's easier for me to disassociate with things that I can obviously live without! And I plan to go back to move our remaining belongings into storage and move my guy and pets into their temporary housing. He tells me I don't have to, but I would never expect him to do that by himself and the last days in the house that we've turned into a beautiful home probably will be difficult.

Bittersweet is the best way to describe it. As great as it is to finally have the place sold, the new reality that it presents to my guy and our dog and cat is a whole new shit storm of logistics and expenses. It's sad to leave our first home together, but not so much so that I've even for a second regretted this life choice. I just can't wait to have them here with me...