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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Hurry Up and Wait

If patience is a virtue, then I'm a downright saint. Waiting is the name of the game. It's one thing if you're getting paid for it, but when you're just doing what a mom does, then hopefully you'll be satisfied with a "Thanks Mom, you're the best". Luckily for Caris, I'm satisfied. Plus, I got a few hugs out of it too.

Caris got a page from Central Casting last week. They put out a call for background kids for a feature film in production called "Yours, Mine, & Ours." You might remember the 1968 movie with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda where a widow with 10 kids and a widower with 8 kids meet and marry. This Paramount remake stars Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo. We don't often get calls for a weekend shoot, so this was something pretty cool. Caris' best friend Taryn was also booked and so her mom and I coordinated carpooling. On Sunday, Taryn's mom couldn't go, so Charlie got to "stand in" as her guardian and visit a set for the first time since Caris started doing background work over a year ago. It was nice to have someone to hang with. Though I didn't see him much since he was walking around watching how everything worked. He made me giggle with his wonderment at the process.

Movie shoots can run notoriously long and are, despite what people think, very unglamorous and sometimes very boring. I've learned over the 18 months that Caris has been doing "atmosphere" work that there is a lot of just sitting around. HOURS of sitting around waiting for set up, blocking, lighting, etc. By the time you hear "ACTION!", you have to be nudged awake by the person standing or sitting next to you. Hopefully they're awake.

Over the course of the first day we were on set, I noticed that the director, an amiable guy named Raja Gosnell, kept looking over in Caris and Taryn's direction. The Assistant Director then asked a group of the teenage background actors to form a group and he and the director started talking quietly to one another. He asked Caris, Taryn, and 3 others out of the 100 plus kids on set if they were interested in working late and then into production the next day. They'd actually get a credit if they agreed to stay. Apparantly, they needed this small group of kids to be the friends of one of the principal teenage actors. Hey, we thought, a credit as "Christina's Friends" on the screen is better than "Background by Central Casting", ya know? So, for the very first time, hundreds of takes, and HOURS later, Caris might have her first closeups because she's standing next to a principal actor. Then again, we know that all that work could very well end up on the editing room floor. That's just the way it goes.

I often hear parents on the sets of these productions complaining about the long hours of waiting and how boring it is. I see them nudging their children forward and pushing them to make themselves "seen" by the directors and producers. I listen to them as they talk to other parents and pull out their kids portfolios and talk about what projects they've worked on and the number of "national campaigns" (nationally run commercials) they have on their resumes and how they're SAG and AFTRA members. And then comes the inevitable question they ask; "So, what has YOUR child done?" I smile and say, "Well, right now, THIS is the project we're doing, and that's just fine for now."

I'll hear these parents complain about the food, or the production staff, or how their kids should be "treated better". I laugh to myself because I just come into it knowing that we're BACKGROUND. The pay isn't great. In fact, by the time Caris sees a paycheck, it's been "percentaged" to death. The management company gets a cut, the Coogan account gets a cut, and what she's left with after is around $68 for a day. The money isn't the thing for her. It's the experience. Where else can you get paid for taking a nap or reading a book until the director says, "ACTION!" and then see yourself on television or in a movie? Even if it is just the back of your head?

Ahhhh...movie magic. It's all a waiting game, but what fun when you're 17.


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