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Archive for November, 2009

As an extra on the three sets of Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot I had interesting experiences.  First I will tell you that being an extra pays minimum wage with no benefits.  The hours are long, and if you are really lucky you get to eat when you are hungry, and get to go to the washroom as needed.  Some movie sets are great, some are boring and painstakingly long days.  There are also sets where you have cattle calls; these sets I like the least.  Basically it is hordes of people gathered together and told every so often where to move.  The days last forever.  If you are a Union person, this is most excellent.  You get at least $40/hour.  Getting to be part of the Union takes forever if you are an extra.

Before I went to one of The Royal York Hotel ballrooms for one shooting, I went to a place in Toronto for my wardrobe.  I was super lucky and found a flattering red gown for the ballroom scene.  It was V-necked, with a bodice and from there it flowed gracefully to my feet in three layers.  It reminded me of Marylin Monroe’s white dress she wore over the subway grate, which got blown up by the passing of a train.  Only of course mine was red and I wasn’t Ms. Monroe.

On the set I was fitted with a wig that was the colour of my hair.   It was all done up in a very high-styled do.  I was given costume jewelry that if it were real would be worth a fortune.  It also would have been really heavy.  I got full-length white gloves that went past my elbows.   Of course I then went to makeup and got all made up.  I felt like a little girl playing dress-up.  It was a thrill.  I wish I had taken pictures of the whole thing.

After I was all finished being made up, we sat at big round tables  and waited to be called to set; we were in Holding.  I sat with the “dignitaries” of South America.  The scene we were to be a part of was a ballroom scene with President John Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and others.

Right before we were called to set we were told that one of the ballrooms they were going to used had a fire in it.  It turned out that the lights they were using to film made the place so hot, the alarm went off.  We went no where but if you were out in the hall you could hear the elevators say in several languages that there was a fire, to take the stairs.  Since we knew the fire was under control, no one moved.  In fact, we carried on as usual.

When we were called to set, we were given champagne glasses with ginger ale in it.  We were told to talk without speaking a word.  In other words we were supposed to move our mouths, but not say a peep.  This was hard because even if you didn’t know the person you were talking to you had to make conversation without words.  It was also hard because many of us had to prevent ourselves from laughing aloud at this Tom Foolery.

In this scene we had to maneuver around John and Jackie, and a man with a huge camera on his back.  You knew it was heavy because of how built this cameraman was.  He was short and stocky.   He had a huge set of straps around him that supported the weight of his camera.  He also sweated bullets due to the strain of all that weight.  As he and the actors moved toward us we were to move aside gracefully and make up the space they left behind them.  We did this shot several times.  After the third or forth time we were pros and moved exactly where we were meant to go.  It was one fluid motion.

Then we had a dancing scene and this is even funnier than trying to speak with no words.  We had to dance without any music, except some was played in the very beginning to get the beat.  It was hysterical.   Some people who know how to dance did not have any problem with it, but others were way off beat and looked silly.  When you watch a film where the characters are talking in a dance scene, watch the people who are dancing and see if the same thing is true.

Then I got to be in a huge scene.  No, you will not see it except on the cutting room floor I imagine.  In fact extras are rarely seen or heard from.   I was basically the decoy or interest that JFK was looking at as he held Jackie’s arm and paraded down a recession line of dignitaries on both sides (the guys I sat with in holding).   Of course I did have the main actor looking at me for some time as we did this scene.

It was hot from the lights and all the people.  It was jammed packed full of people in costumes.  However, I did consider this a lot of fun.

Tune in for the next blog post and I will tell you a story about the Woman in the Red Dress.

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The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (3rd Edition) by Christopher Vogler (Author), Michele Montez (Illustrator) is a valuable book for writing any story or script.  It is interesting and informative.  I advise you to read this valuable book if you are at all serious about writing.   It is based on the work by author Joseph Campbell who wrote Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers

A book that the head of Acquisitions and Distribution at Alliance Atlantis suggested to me in 2001 (right before 9/11) was the book Making a Good Script Great 2nd Edition by Hollywood script consultant Linda Seger.  It is “A guide for writing and rewriting” scripts.  

If you are looking to be a writer in Canada then the book, The Canadian’s Writer’s Market 17th Edition, by Sandra B. Tooze is an important source.    Besides being a valuable tool for helping you be a writer in Canada, it

…offers practical advice on manuscript preparation and marketing, income tax for the freelancer, copyright, and libal law.  (Please see my post Protecting your Script).

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If you like film, crowds, excitement, and traveling you can visit many famous film festivals.  If you are lucky some will be right in your own backyard.

The top five film festivals are:

The Sundance Film Festival in Utah, founded by actor/director/producer Robert Redford.  The beauty of this festival is you will see independent films as well as more high profiled ones.

The Cannes Film Festival (travel package info included in link) is one of the most prestigious film festivals.  The world’s elite grace this Red Carpet in Cannes, France.

The Berlin International Film Festival or in German, Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin is also considered one of the world’s leading film festivals.

The Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF is a huge event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Over 300,000 people attend this festival.  The tickets are a bit of a headache to get.  I personally think it is a “red-tape” nightmare.  However, if you can endue their archaic process of buying tickets, picking films and attending them, then you will have a great time.

The Venice Film Festival or Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica di Venezia in Italy is (according to Wikipedia) “one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals and is part of the Venice Biennale, a major biennial exhibition and festival for contemporary art.”

There are also local film festivals that may be available in your area.  In my area, there is the Ancaster Film Fest (blogspot link) which, is tied in with the Toronto Film Festival.  It is a great event for people who live in the Hamilton, Ancaster, and surrounding areas.  It has however, grown enormously in size.   It has increased in attendance so much that they have made an additional time for patrons to view all the films.  One showing is usually at 4:00PM and the other is at 7:00PM.  At least for the 7:00PM showing it is advisable to get there two hours earlier to get a decent seat.  They show their films on a Monday night in Ancaster, at Showcase Cinema in the Meadowlands.

I did enjoy the earlier years of the Ancaster Film Fest when it was a smaller, more personal experience, however, they have some great films.  If you are willing to take the time to get a seat, you will enjoy the film experience.   They even have guest speakers who may have produced, acted in, or directed the films.

If anyone has been to any of these festivals, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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