Friday, June 8, 2012

Hooray for Hollywood

I wasn't able to post earlier this week. You see, I was on the set.

Doesn't that sound cool?

There's a great big movie shooting in our great little town all summer. We haven't seen this much excitement since the U.S.S. Constitution sailed here in 1997. Which is more exciting? Ask my daughter's generation that question and ... well, there's just no question. After all, she doesn't remember boarding the historic boat because she was still t-minus one month old. Yes, I was one of the "lucky" ones who won the lottery to visit Old Ironsides. Negotiating an antique naval vessel when you're eight months pregnant and it's 98 million degrees out is just about as fun as it sounds. Which would be ... Not!

The town had been buzzing about this movie for months. So, when we heard that they were going to use hundreds of extras and that they would give priority to local residents, we rearranged our Mother's Day plans to go to the open call. From then on, my daughter sang a pretty continuous song: "Do you think I'll get to be in the movie? Do you think I'll get to be in the movie?"

A couple of weeks ago, they shot outside the middle school. As parents, we received detailed alternative route information for morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups. We were also assured that "the movie people" would not have access to our kids (and vice versa). This was, of course, disappointing to the seventh and eighth graders. But just knowing that the production was on campus, along with occasional glimpses of celebrities from a classroom window, made the day out-of-the-ordinary special.

Of course, that was also the day they started using locals as background actors. Since every self-respecting teen and tween is linked to every other one via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and text, news spread fast. "im in movie tomrw!!!!!!!!!!!" "got calld 4 movie!!!!!!!!" "me 2!!!!!!!!"

At some point, one hopes that one can feel joy for the successes of others. Alas, that point is not when one is fourteen. For each of the gleeful extras there were at least twenty envious classmates. I'm sure I wasn't the only mother comforting my aspiring movie actress and reminding her that the production would be in town for two more months. The policy was that if you worked in a scene, you would not be called again. So, surely there would be more opportunities. 

Sooner rather than later, we got a call from the casting agency. Could my daughter work the following Monday? Absolutely! Could I be on set with her all day? Absolutely! Could she wear bright colored summer clothing, no logos or store names and bring an extra outfit? Absolutely!

Needless to say, the daughter in question was thrilled. Absolutely.

Our call (that's movie lingo for when we have to be there) changed not once, not twice but four times. Finally, we parked and were taken by a small bus to the "Extras Holding Area," a deserted synagogue now owned by the town next to ours. We sat there for three hours. They brought us snacks. Then, they had us all board another bus and we were taken to a rival middle school. There, they served us lunch and we sat in the catering tent for another few hours. Finally, we were brought into the school gym, where we — again — sat, and where we — again — were brought snacks.

It had been nearly seven hours when a production assistant (that would be "PA" for those of us in the know) came for all the kids. The scene they were going to shoot was the last day of school with kids going in and out of hallway lockers and classroom doors. Clearly, this would take some very subtle and sophisticated acting. Luckily, I had a friend with me (her daughter had been called as well) which made the time go by a little faster.

As we neared the nine hour mark, we were taken to the auditorium, where they were "holding" all the kids who hadn't been shot yet. There was my daughter, looking slightly worse for wear. Her iPhone was dead. She had finished the book she brought. Suddenly, all the kids and all the parents were whisked off the set and back onto buses. In Massachusetts, fourteen and fifteen year-olds can only work nine-and-a-half hours. Our time was up.

I expected some post-drama drama. But, my daughter was actually pretty philosophical about it all. It probably helped that the majority of kids there that day did not make it onto the set. Most just waited around. She still had a good time. She still wants to see the movie. She still hopes to meet some of the stars in the weeks to come. And, she's looking forward to receiving her check just for showing up.

The good news is that because she didn't end up on camera, she is now in a priority pile at the casting agency. They will most likely call her again.

Oh wait ... maybe that's the bad news.

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