----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: Extra, Extra!

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Extra, Extra!

I think I have cured myself of ever wanting to do extra work again.

On Saturday evening, I snuggled into bed and turned off my light at 9:00, in preparation for my 4:30 a.m. call time for Memoirs of a Geisha on Sunday. Of course, I didn't really fall into a deep sleep, but I felt marginally okay when the alarm went off at 3:15 the next morning. Normally I need a solid nine hours, but there was no way I could have gone to bed at 6:15 p.m.! So, I had to make do.

I tell you what, it's really dark at four in the morning. And it stays that way for another good three hours. It's also really, really cold at that hour in San Francisco in the middle of January. Still, I found my way to the movie set in the middle of the Presidio, got checked in and then proceeded to wait. They had a breakfast buffet all set up for us extras, but who can eat so early in the morning? Eventually, though, I had a banana and a bowl of Rice Krispies, just to have something to do. I figured I'd need my strength, and I thought that ingesting some calories would keep me warm. Hah! We were all waiting around in a drafty tent, and it only got worse from there.

At around 5:15, I headed into wardrode, where I had to peel off my jeans, turtleneck, cardigan and wool coat in order to put on seamed stockings, a longline bra that had to be stuffed to give me the popular "bullet" shape of the 1950s, a slip and a mid-calf length dress. Did I mention how cold it was? Luckily, the dress had long sleeves and I got to wear gloves. I also had a cute little hat. Once I was dressed in my costume, I headed into the hair and makeup tent to wait some more.

Nearly 75 people were waiting for hair and makeup, but I got lucky. In an effort to speed things along, a P.A. was taking select extras into the principals' makeup trailer, and I was the first to get to go. There, Noriko moisturized me and made me up in true 1950s fashion. She even plucked my eyebrows to give me more of a "Sophia Loren" shape. I had false eyelashes, red lipstick...the whole bit. But it wasn't until I got my hair done that I really looked the part. The stylist pinned my little hat in place and got to work with the curling iron. My bangs were styled into tight little curls, and I had little curly wisps by my ears. It was very glam. I almost didn't recognize myself.

Once my hair was done, I waited some more. Finally, at about 8:00, we headed over to the set. I was paired up with a pseudo-husband, and we were instructed to buy hot dogs from a street vendor (the cart was really steaming and we got real, though uncooked, dogs) and then walk into Central Park. Yes, indeed...although we were shooting in a parking lot in San Francisco, in the finished film, it will look like we're in New York! Ah, movie magic. We were shooting the last scene of the movie, which maybe lasted about 45 seconds. Of course, it took about six hours to film those 45 seconds. First, we had to do about 15 rehearsals with the stand-in. My toes went numb from the very fashionable but oh-so-uncomfortable authentic '50s high heels that I had to wear. The star, Ziyi Zhang, was wearing similar heels, but of course, she was relaxing in her trailer while we peons were rehearsing and getting whipped by the freezing wind off the Bay. And when Ziyi did come out to shoot, her assistants ran after her after each take and helped her slip into woolly boots. It's good to be the star! As the hours wore on, I really began to envy the girls who were being ferried around in the taxis and the horse-drawn carriage. Of course, you won't be able to see them on camera, whereas I might actually be recognizable because I and my pseudo-husband (and our hot dogs) cross right in front of Ziyi on our way into the park.

At 2:00, director Rob Marshall was finally happy with the shot. We broke for lunch, and some extras stupidly thought we might be wrapped for the day. Oh, no. We had more work to do, numb toes be damned! After lunch, about 30 extras left to do shots around Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park. The rest of us stayed behind to shot in front of the blue screens. We walked back and forth across the street, pretended that we were waiting for the bus, and just generally milled about. Some of us, including me, were even photographed from a variety of angles so that visual arts could make holograms to fill in the crowd. I can't wait to see the finished product. As we started to lose the light around 4:30, all the ladies prayed that the shoot would be ending so we could go home and soak our feet. Alas, it was not to be. We were instructed to get on a bus, which we did, and we proceeded to wait some more. At least we were finally sitting down!

Finally, the bus groaned into gear, and we circled the parking lot with some taxis and old cars a few times. If you go see the movie, please note that yes, there were real people on that bus! After a few minutes of that, we were wrapped. At last! Then it was a mad rush for wardrobe so that we could get out of our period costumes, corsets and garters, and back into our comfy modern clothes. I slowly began to regain feeling in my toes. My contacts, on the other hand, were totally clouded over because of all the eye makeup. I had to go rinse my eyes in the nasty Port-a-Pottie just to clear my vision enough to drive home. I got my hat unpinned, wiped off some of the extra eyeliner, and at six o'clock, 13 and a half hours later, I was on my way back home.

I staggered in the door and my dear, sweet husband helped me draw a hot bath while he cooked dinner. Soaking in the water was the only way to get the shellacking of spray out of my hair! I changed into pajamas, ate some dinner and fell asleep at 9:30. This time, though, there was no alarm waking me at an ungodly hour. I slept a solid 11 hours, but I still woke up achy and sore. I think the balls of my feet are bruised, and all the muscles in my legs are tender. I never knew that wearing heels could provide such a workout!

All this, and I earned 54 bucks for the first eight hours. I'll probably end up with about $70 after taxes. Oh, well. I did it for the glamour and the glory (ha!), not for the money. Show biz...what a life.


  • At 10:19 AM, Blogger Kelly Love said…

    What a life is right! Wow, it sounds so glam. That's one of my favorite books...I'm so glad they're making a movie from it (and I'll be sure to look for you in that scene).

    And hey, since you're almost famous anyway, my friday questions at www.microfamous.blogspot.com would be easy for you!


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