Sorry about taking so long to post this. But it's been long hours down at the shoe store and this is the first free time where I felt like doing anything. Anyway, here's what I learned about movies: Standing around all day waiting for other people is in fact, hard work. Even after one 9 hour shooting day in the sun, I was completely wasted and spent the next two days as a Zombie. How people do this everyday is beyond me. Now for the positives. Life as an extra isn't all hanging around with famous movie stars, but it still has its perks. I did get copious amounts of free food, I did get to use actual Hollywood movie props, I experienced an actual movie production, checked out an awesome Porsche Cayenne camera rig, spent plenty of time outdoors and made $50. So not too bad.
I woke up way early at 5:15 and made my way over to the speedway at about 6:30. Then I had to fill out payment vouchers, grab a bite to eat then head over to wardrobe. One great thing about movies is that even extras have to change clothes for every different scene. And by change clothes, I mean in a hot, musty, smelly tent that you have to share with other guys. Definitely no trailers for us common folk. I did get to wear a neat photographer's vest at least. Then it was over to the props tent to pick up a camera and bag. It was nothing fancy at all, but I still had to drop off my driver's license with the propmaster anyway. Then time for the first scene.
For the first scene, we shot a flashback victory scene where Will Ferrell met his future wife. This was the first time I had seen an actual movie set, a mock-up of victory lane at Bristol circa 1996, and let's just say that it had an extremely temporary look to it. Here I learned how slow the movie process can be when they had to delay shooting 15 mins. just to switch out the correct "flashback" car. While we were waiting for that I happened to look over to my left and saw Will Farrell chatting with the director. That was cool. Anyways, for this celebration scene I stood behind the car and pantomimed taking photos. Remember, no noises on the set- I couldn't actually press the shutter button as that would make noise. Several times me and my fellow photographers got blasted with stray confetti, which was a lot of fun. Next, the director got some different dialogue from Will's skanky on-screen girlfriend, including a family friendly airline version. My group of extras wasn't needed for this scene, so I just found some shade and relaxed.
Next up was the "victory lane" at Talladega, which consisted of two walls, a car, and the actors. This time I saw how stand-ins are used to help set up the shot, etc. Getting everything just right is a painstaking process, and I understand why it takes so long just to shoot 30 seconds of a scene. Again I was a photographer and lucky me I was standing about three feet from the two leads, so I could catch all the dialogue. This isn't Oscar stuff but there were definitely a few improvised lines that made me want to chuckle. In the scene Ferrell and Reilly give each other new nicknames, and I have a couple that I'd like to see make it to the movie. If they don't, well it will be my own personal DVD "behind the scenes" moment.
The final shot for the day was probably the most involved and complicated in the day and showed how tricky it was to create a movie version of reality. Basically hundreds of extras had to act like they were going through the ticket gate on their way to a race. Mix with security guards, a couple of camera moves, and Gary Cole (yes, Lumberg) running through the crowd and you've got a shot that took a surprisingly long time to put together. There was just a lot of different things to coordinate for one scene that most viewers won't even think twice about. But by this time everyone was getting tired and sunburnt after being in the sun for eight hours so this was definitely a tough one to do. Eventually after shooting around 10 times the director got what he wanted and wrapped the shoot for the day.
I was really interested to see how people handled the movie. Most of the employees were in fact really polite. I figured they would be total jerks, because that seems to be the Hollywood rep, but at least around us the workers seemed to be cool. Overall I would describe the atmostphere as business like but also quite laid back. Smokers would love working on a movie set because, well, you can smoke any time anywhere apparently. Hollywood also appears to attract quite a share of cute girls as well to work on movies, on-camera as well as off. I guess that's a big surprise there. As for the extras, there seemed to be some "weekend warriors" like me doing this on their day off, but for some of the others let's just say their employment opportunities were probably more limited. One guy I talked to was the night producer of a local TV station. I have no idea how, but he managed work all day on only two hours of sleep. I'll bet he slept soundly.
As for the actors, it was interesting to see that "crazy comedian" Will Farrell was in fact really low-key and laid back, while "serious actor" John C. Reilly was the wild guy. Unfortunately, Sasha Baron Cohen (Ali G) wasn't on the set that day. That would have been awesome to see. The person who gets the best job is undoubtely the Director. He really doesn't have to do a hell of a lot of anything at all- the Assistant Director (and others) handles all the minutae and grunt work. But guess who will get all the credit if the movie does well.
Well, that's all of it for now. If you managed to read everything this far, congratulations. I'm sure I'll think of some more stuff to post up soon. The movie, called "High, Wide, and Handsome" will come out sometime next summer. The wait begins...