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I began my day as an extra by learning that there was still a five o'clock in the morning. I was unprepared for this.





In the darkness I stumbled, swore, tried to remember why I was doing this (film, yeah, fuck, film, I like film right?) and made it to my car. It was wet and cold, but the radio still had voices trapped inside. Good. The roads I hit were wet and held together by blurred splotches of light floating in the sky, but I wasn't fooled. I knew this wasn't the time of people. No. Fuck it. It was the last hours for the machines and soulless entities that walked the edges of reality, the time that they retreated to the slow dull decay of their motionless bodies.





But the time I had St. Marys Oval, I had shaken most of this off.

As I wrote last week, I picked up a couple of days working as an extra on a film. Easiest gig I ever landed, since all I was doing was walking down a road. All money should find me this way. Anyhow, the film is called Footy Legends, and tells the story of Luc Vu, a young Vietnamese-Australian who is obsessed with football. The rundown of the film is this: With Luc out of work, and with the welfare authorities threatening to take away his little sister, he decides to re-unite his old high-school football team to win a competition that could change all their lives. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this film is the comedy where the under dogs win and everyone feels good at the end. Think The Full Monty, but without the final scene of nudity.

I was picked up off the street to be a football fan, but when I read that the film was set in St. Marys, which is found in the heartland of the outer Western Suburbs of Sydney, I figured that I had been hired not to look like a fan, but because I look like a some cliched Westie Scum Dole Check Collecting Asshole. I look rough. I look nasty. I look like a biker. You would cross the road when you saw me. You would tell your daughter that I was five steps from holding up a Seven Eleven for liquor money, and that, by the Zombie Jesus himself, she couldn't do this to you... well, maybe I'm getting carried away a bit at the end, but you get the drift. It's not the first time I've been called that, though this marks the first time I've been paid for it.





I was, however, somewhat impressed by the lengths that the film had gone to to keep this image in the scenes I was hired to participate in.

The photos you'll find collected through this entry are of the extras who had the most interesting faces, but who were, also, representative of the people hired. It might be interesting to note that the guy above actually had teeth (I saw him eating with them at lunch), but I suppose his lack of in the film added some unknown authenticity to the crowd, or was just plain funny. I'm not sure which. I've a bunch of photos, but I won't put them all up, so you'll just have to imagine the midget (the politically correct term, he informed me, is short statured, but he didn't care either way, and is School Captain at his High School), a woman who worked as a flag waver on drag strips and also did private 'men's parties', a pair of moari sisters, a girl who'd driven much too far for the day, and a bunch of other guys (and women) who had worked previous days, and some extras who were cast as family. Except for the last lot, there wasn't much of a different to the faces up here. For myself, who is, admittedly, interested in the way that people are portrayed in the Western Suburbs, I found that the way the extras and locations were used was designed to simply play off the cliche without any room for any thing else in a crowd. An example of this from one of the other days came from a fellow extra who told me that he played a dero. He walked down the streets with a shopping trolley and no shirt on. I can't remember if he said he had shoes or not. Anyhow, What he noted was that on the side of the street he walked was old, white weather board houses, which have slowly diminished over the years in Sydney, but which would appear in the film while across the street a line of nice, new brick houses would not.





I began noticing teeth early on in the day. About seven thirty, maybe, maybe earlier, but the thing that struck out a lot was that Khoa Do, the director, had really bright white teeth. You could see them across the room. Personally, I found him quite a pleasant guy, and I never heard him say a bad thing to anyone on the set, even when he did six or seven takes of a tiny scene involving three exchanges of dialogue. But, in the same breath, I couldn't escape those teeth. Afterward, I began counting the crews teeth, noticing who smiled in a pained expression, who didn't smile, and who gave the impression that they might at any stage open their mouth and remove over half of their teeth just to join in. If they did, I never saw it, but I spent a lot of time thinking about teeth.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about the product placement of Australia's Choice Soda, which whenever a drink prop was needed in a scene, was what was handed out. I suppose there's nothing wrong with product placement, but at lunch, everyone drank Coke'a'Cola products.





Do's image of the Western Suburbs is one that I imagine he'll be trading off for the film in comedy and drama, which if he does that, will be a shame as far as I'm concerned. Sydney doesn't need another film with this image.

It's even more of a shame, because today I discovered that making a film is tedious. It is long hours spent repeating what will ultimately be no more than two to five minutes on screen, perhaps not even that. At the end of ten hours of sitting in seats and looking sullen, standing on a street and clapping, standing in a line, standing in another line, walking past a line, and then being at the front of an entirely different line, I was really quite over it. I find it really amazing that so many mediocre films get made, since to my mind, if you have to spend your time doing this, you might as well make a film that aims to push boundaries... but then, perhaps, because of the long hours and tedious routine, film making keeps more mediocre filmmakers than it does brilliant ones. By that same logic, I suppose, the reason why so many mediocre novels are written is because those authors don't have to go out and be social, so those socially inept will write more and more as a form of communication that they can't fully understand... which, you know, might be one of the most easily dismissive sentences I've thrown out onto this blog for a while now. Feel free to do so. I already have.





Will I appear in this film?

Who knows. I honestly don't care, though since I played the fan who was not pleased at the end, it's likely that I will have a few moments in the background. I did, however, find it fitting that I was the lone fan who didn't cheer and race onto the field at the end, since I imagine that this would be how I'd react in a real football game, though I can't imagine why I would be there. Perhaps someone paid me.

I can only hope.





The girl who worked drag strips and men's parties wouldn't let me take her photo. Apparently, she didn't know me, so who knows what I would have done with that image? Funny line, that, given her self professed work.

This girl, however, didn't mind, and I've stuck her up here because, well, obviously a crowd can't be all freaks and jailbirds. That said, however, nearly all the extras were super cool people, and really friendly and intelligent folks. I imagine that the day would have been a lot more tedious if they had been otherwise, and I've only got nice things to say about them. At least three of them were poets, and a couple more wrote fiction, while others were actors with agencies and did the work every now and then for a bit of extra cash. I imagine a couple were failed actors--one guy was, at the very least, had once been in a film as the lead. All of that was to be expected, I suppose, though I was really surprised by how many poets were there. When you think about it, I suppose it's not all that surprising.

The final image I'm going to close with is of Khoa Do, the director. See those teeth?



Comments

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tanuja
Jun. 27th, 2005 03:46 pm (UTC)
That is a fantastic write up, and some great photos.

As an aside, 5 am only exists if:
1) You have exams the next morning and you're a crammer
2) You have a very small child who feeds at this time.
3) You've attended a wedding in Sydney, the whole wedding party has continued drinking until the wee hours and you want to watch the sunrise over Manly.
4) Your spouse/partner is working on project that goes live in 2 weeks time, they have to test links to the London Stock Exchange and can only do so on the Saturday and Sunday mornings. They pick 5.30 as a start time. Over the previous six weeks, apart from hearing them come in past midnight and leaving at 5.30am, you haven't seen your spouse and you know that this will continue for at least the next 3 weeks, so you volunteer to drive them into work so that you can at least pass the time of day with them. Oh, that and the fact that the Tube starts at 5.30, so if they rely on public transaport they'll be driving to work at 4.30, having had 4 hours of sleep. Happy Days!

There is something quite spooky about 5am. If I were to invade a country, I'd start the invasion at 5am.
benpeek
Jun. 27th, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC)
see, five am can exist if i've gone from eleven to midnight to one and two like that to reach it, but otherwise, it's wrong. and you're right: it's country invading time.

thanks for the compliments. i was quite pleased with the photos here. i've a bunch of neat ones.
bodhichitta0
Jun. 27th, 2005 03:54 pm (UTC)
You are a more than fine photographer.
benpeek
Jun. 27th, 2005 10:25 pm (UTC)
heh. thanks. but it's more a case of me taking pictures of people before they have any real time to prepare themselves.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 27th, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC)
you are correct
Film making is the most boring thing in the entire universe. I was in an ad once and also an extra for a film and both times I was close to gnawing my own arm off because at least that would've been interesting.

Yeah, it sure does sound like it's going to string out the usual crap about the Western Suburbs. Sigh.

I don't think you look scary at all, Ben. Not even a little bit.

Justine
benpeek
Jun. 27th, 2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
Re: you are correct
well, i reckon you're one of the few. i get it a lot.

a whole lot of the extras were with an agency, who got them work. for about five seconds i considered signing up, but then, you know, i realised i'd have to pay money for that and that i'd spend my days standing in lines and taking one step over and over for ever and ever.

that five seconds passed pretty quick.
crissachappell
Jun. 28th, 2005 01:17 am (UTC)
I loved reading this...and the pictures are amazing.
benpeek
Jun. 28th, 2005 09:56 am (UTC)
thanks :)
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