Sunday, January 18, 2004

I spent all day yesterday at an exhausting shooting of a Kirin tea (e.g. Kirin Ichiban) commercial with this famous little singer girl and about 20 other extras. We stood around all f*cking day and my feet were killing me. They didn't let us drink much except cup after warm cup of the featured tea, which they poured on the rocks--plastic rocks. People kept dropping their plastic ice cubes and there were several attendants in white gloves who were carefully washing and drying and polishing the glasses and ice cubes. The guy who gave the special cup to the star before every take was incredibly 'grovelly,' and acted like she was a queen. She was clearly a pampered little starlet, what with these three severe-looking women surrounding her all the time to perfect her cute little hairstyle or talk to her like a little child.

I did feel a little sorry for her a couple times, when the director put these smelly homeless-looking guys in shots with her. On one occasion, she had to drape herself all over this guy and pour tea into his glass, and he was clearly enjoying it, and made it be known by making a number of inappropriate--albeit funny--comments. One guy clearly made his living as a homeless extra, and appeared with a huge, ratty duffel bag full of his clothes, wearing about twenty layers of long underwear and such. He kept taking his shirt off and wiping himself down with a hanky because he was sweating. He would rub his armpits for minutes at a time, and then promptly tie the very same andanna right back around his neck again.

There was an absolutely huge bodybuilder there who claims to be the current Mr. California, and the old homeless guy went up to him and had a little bodybuilding chat, saying how he was the 1957 Mr. Philadelphia. He looked like it was the truth, considering how old he must be. However, he has been left with these weird little man-boobs that he kept cupping in his hand and jiggling. At one point he was babbling incoherently in the face of a stand-in for the starlet, and he was cupping and jiggling his man-boobs and talking about HER boobs.

I was shocked that neither he nor another clearly demented man were not asked to leave. They kept talking gibberish and moving closer and closer to the starlet in all the shots, getting in front of everything that was going on, imploring her to pour them some tea. I guess it may have made the whole thing more authentic, actually, because the commercial was set on the streets of New York (they did an admirable job with the set, although there were some funny spelling bloopers: I pointed out to them that they probably wanted “Broadway” instead of “Broodway” on the subway sign).

After the first 6 hours straight of standing around under the hot lights, which was especially unpleasant for me, as I was one of only a few people wearing suits, we were fed enormous hot bowls of Japanese curry and rice and udon noodles and chicken and pickled veggies and salad. Then, after downing that in about 10 minutes, we went back on set. While earning an extra $400 bucks on my days off was well worth it this time, I am extremely glad I don’t have to eke out a living with the dorks, wannabes, and losers who frequent these sorts of shoots. They all seem to think they are about to get their big break, and there were a number of people who were all intent on “being in” every shot, and would push and shove to get there.

When asked to move by the English-speaking “assistant director”, they would inch a bit and then point at someone off stage and say “That guy in the hat told me to stay here" (a lie). I ended up standing in the back much of the time after the initial shots because it was cooler temperature-wise to be apart from the mass of wannabes and be able to talk to the other people or read my paper or magazine they had as part of my costume. That really saved me—being able to read. The inane conversations and pitiful theatrics of them flirting was a little too much at times, and it took considerable will power to remain calm when I so wanted to butt in on conversations. I guess someone’s gotta do that stuff. In any case, it was an interesting experience, and it made me appreciate my education and the fact that I am not going to have to do that for the rest of my life.

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