Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bourne Background, Act 3: Girl, Interrupted

Wednesday morning, 12th of October, 3:00am. Last day of the shoot.

I sat with Londin inside the holding tent. Her stalker Ahmed was nowhere in sight. Londin and I both felt bad about freezing him out at the end of the previous day. When you stripped away the stalkerish reading of some of his actions, he seemed to be a nice guy. Awful thoughts flitted through my head. Of Ahmed hanging from an improvised noose in his closet. The guy had been doing background work exclusively for two years: he wouldn't just flake on the last day. What had we driven him to do...?

I had my costume on while Londin was off getting her hair done up. I wasn't eating again today. Instead of a 5-Hour Energy Drink, I'd brought a Sugar-Free RED BULL. My body's more familiar with the effect of RED BULLS, I imagined it might give me an easier time. Instead of chugging it at the very beginning, today I would wait until we were called onto the set. Which happened a lot sooner than I expected.

"I need 25 people who are ready to go to the set!" hollered the AD. Another portly man who'd been hitting on Londin.

Throughout the holding tent, people were still grazing on their breakfast buffet plates. I didn't feel like volunteering first thing in the morning -- but when you don't eat, you're essentially ever-ready. I dutifully put on my gloves and stepped outside the tent with the gathering 25.

That's where I met her.

Truth be told, I'd met her briefly on a line the previous day. She'd made a comment and I responded and I thought maybe we'd have a conversation -- but then I made the assessment that she probably didn't want to be chatted up. And I wasn't here to chat girls up. So nothing happened.

But today, she was among the 25, ready to hit the set. She had this adorable pixie haircut that made me think of Mia Farrow in ROSEMARY'S BABY. She made a comment to me:

"That P.A. just referred to us all as 'ladies'."

"They've got us in this sexless uniform," I suggested. "Covered head to toe. It's an honest mistake. I choose not to be offended."

She ran her thin fingers through her tousled, black hair. A little self-consciously. "I've got a boy's haircut," she said. "I'm surprised they haven't confused me for a boy."

I studied her for a moment longer. She was inviting a conversation. "Have you done anything like this before...?" I asked.

And we were off...

We kept talking as we were led to the set. She'd never done anything like this before. She was a book editor. She'd heard about this "Marcher" shoot from someone who'd incorrectly guessed it was some kind of low-budget horror movie. And she'd signed up for it.

We were positioned next to each other on the production line and I was getting excited at the prospect of spending the day with her. She extended her hand. "My name is [blank], by the way," she said.

I shook her hand and smiled. "Malice."

Then, cruelly, we were interrupted. I was unceremoniously pulled away from her. Repositioned elsewhere in the factory.

That's when the last day of this arduous shoot turned into a personal mission. I had to find my way back to this girl. Back to [blank].

The hopelessly teenage romantic in me posited that perhaps this was the larger significance of me doing this shoot. Of me enduring all three days. Maybe the Universe was compelling me to do this, had conspired to get me to this place under all these desperate circumstances so that I would meet this one girl.

If I hadn't been so hard up for the cash, I might not have done the shoot.

If I'd bailed out with Sherwin after Day One, I wouldn't have met her.

If I'd been eating, I wouldn't have been part of that 25 and I wouldn't have had that conversation with her.

It all made perfect sense now. Pieces of a puzzle fell into place. I needed to find [blank]. I needed to get her information before the clock ran out on the day. Exhausted and vaguely delirious on a hastily chugged RED BULL, I was suddenly convinced that my entire year had been leading me to this one day.

Day Three was all about waiting for the sound of gunfire. And running.

They took a few minutes to record some screaming/yelling reactions of the workers so that they might layer it into the sound mix later. I was supposed to be a part of this but I backed off and took a picture instead. I wasn't about to have my voice recorded, even as part of a cacophony.

Lunch break, I wasn't eating. Londin was giving me the business when we were interrupted by the miraculous return of Ahmed. We hadn't pushed him to suicide. Apparently, he'd overslept and had to take a car to the set this morn. His Londin-fawning was curbed by his worry over being blacklisted from the extras casting calls. He depended on this work.

The lunch hour wore on. An obese Chinese guy arrived at our table: DJ. He pressed Londin for her phone number. It was a last day move. Do or die. If you wanted information, you had to gun for it.

Londin gave DJ her number with the warning, "... but no booty-calls because I have a fiancé!"

Ahmed heard this and, after DJ departed, clarified, "Wait... you have a fiancé...?"

When Londin confirmed this, the effect was instant. The magic spell shattered. Ahmed immediately turned his chair around and started talking to another group of extras. He was done making an effort with her.

Meanwhile, I stole glances at a spot a few tables over. There was [blank]. At a corner of a crowded table, eating her lunch. I would have gone over there but there was no room at that table. Yes, it was the last day, but I didn't want to pull an Ahmed or a DJ. Didn't want to be That Guy. I needed to find a better opportunity.

Back at the shoot, we filmed variations on the Running of the Filipinos. From the cover of machinery, I made the day more interesting by trying to get a picture of the stars. Extra cautious to not ruin any takes by having my camera's flash go off during filming.

From the extras perspective, the stars were the background artists of the shoot. Their names rarely came up. Their celebrity lives less vital than the networking taking place among the lot of us. Our interaction with them was minimal. At one point, Rachel Weisz awkwardly, reluctantly bleated out a "Hi..." to some of us as we waited to shoot. It was half-hearted and unnecessary.

Which is not to suggest there was any negative sentiment toward the stars. There were just sort of there. Doing their job like we were doing ours. (Albeit, at a slightly better pay-rate.)

They had their makeup and wardrobe people tailing them as we had our separate team of makeup and wardrobe people keeping us in check throughout the day. Everything in its right place.

One of the final shots of the day was a wideshot of all of us running toward the exit. We all had to run a ways down a hallway to clear the shot. I was positioned toward the front of the crowd and was looking forward to the physical activity. Anything to jolt some life into me.

We were reacting to gunfire. Fleeing for our lives. When they called action, I was ready to sprint out of there. But I couldn't because some of the people around me actually wanted to be SEEN in the shot -- they were doing this slow-motion jog that did nothing to suggest "running for your life from random gunfire".

Throughout the shots, were were constantly reminded to keep our face masks up. The grand escape shot at the end was the one exception. "If you're Filipino, you can have your mask down while you run." I considered it for a moment but ignored the offer. I wasn't looking to be easily identified in this movie.

As the shoot was winding down, an extra I'd befriended who'd been playing a supervisor called me over to hang out in his area. Efren. He wasn't an actor, either. Just a guy looking for a job on Craigslist who stumbled on this curious opportunity. A week later, he was a supervisor in a pharmaceutical factory in Manila.

I could see [blank] standing one station over from me. This was good. I needed to make this happen.

The director of the movie -- Tony Gilroy -- quieted us down to make an announcement. He was a screenwriter with a long list of produced movies and this was his third as a director. I'd met him briefly in college, after a screening of a movie he'd written called "Dolores Claiborne". Back then, he had long, curly brown hair. 16 years later, his hair's gray and close-cropped. An A-list screenwriter who's leveling up as a director. A career trajectory worth coveting.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he announced. "We are done shooting."

Cheers, applause. People tearing off their pink and blue costumes as they walked back to the holding tent.

I timed my walk so that I'd be casually striding next to [blank], who I hadn't talked to since we were torn apart early in the day.

"So, do you go back to playing a book editor tomorrow?" I asked her. It acknowledged that I remembered the conversation we were having this morning.

She smiled. "Tonight, actually. But it's good that we wrapped early. I'll have a little time to get myself together before getting back to it."

As we walked back to the tent, I peeled off my pink smock and she admired my ink addiction.

I wanted to get her information. There was time enough to get her information. With all the lines, checking out at the end of the day was a big ordeal. But I didn't take this extras gig to meet people. Certainly not a girl. I was off my game. I had no game. But I couldn't let her go without making SOME effort.

Back at the tent, I gave her my card. I hoped that maybe SHE had a card and would automatically offer me hers. She didn't have one but seemed sincere about her promise to contact me and keep in touch. In the days afterward, I would kick myself for not getting her number. A fucking business card was never going to work. In the end, we had barely talked.

The rest of the time seemed to go in slow motion. Londin let the word get out that I was a screenwriter and all these Filipino filmmakers dogpiled on me with business cards and invitations to festivals. I kinda like when Filipino people come up to me and start talking in Tagalog. It's like an immediate sense of kinship. Even though I don't understand a word of what they're saying.

Ahmed came up to me and shook my hand. "Say goodbye to Londin for me if you see her," he said as he walked away. Londin had been right behind me, in plain sight.

Londin and I played the Lottery Game on the ride back to the city. "What would you do if you won the lottery tomorrow?" It's a great conversation generator. Reveals character. Hopes and dreams. The ultimate question being, "What would you do if you didn't have to worry about money? If you took money entirely out of the equation, what would make you happy?"

Londin screwed it up, though. She talked about investments she would make. I was only partially present anyway. [Blank] was sitting on her own toward the front of the bus. I wasn't going to ditch Londin so I could awkwardly hit on a girl who was probably as exhausted as I was.

Bus arrived at 36th and 3rd. Everybody shuffled out and scattered to the wind. I walked Londin a few blocks before parting ways. Three days and she seemed to have accomplished a lot of productive networking. Networking I might borrow on at a later date. She was like the kid sister I never had.

I had a drink. Alone at a bar. A few drinks. It felt like I'd just stepped into someone else's life for three days. It was a drag but you also meet these people who become your best friends for a really compressed period of time. The high of production. At the end of it, I don't know how much I really accomplished. Didn't make a significant sum of money. Didn't get the girl's number.

Maybe it was one of those experiences that would make more sense over a longer arc of time...


Anonymous Soju said...

Nice. Looking forward to Act 4.

11/11/2011 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous mm said...

moving !

1/05/2012 01:38:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home