Extras Gig #4: The Office, Part 2

(Go to Part 1)

Wow. I never noticed how nice his eyes are. Funny how the camera can miss so much. He has really pretty eyes. Really pretty eyes that are… waiting. Maybe I should say something.

“Hello.” I replied. He smiled in return.

Steve Carell and I spent what felt like an hour locked in an awkward, courteous gaze. Both of us smiled and nodded.

“So…” He said, trailing off and looking around.

Oh! He’s as embarrassed as I am. Heh. He’s blushing. I probably am too. This is cool! We’re both blushing and confused! Wait. Actually it’s just incredibly awkward. I should say something nice to end this.

“I’m… waiting for the bathroom.” Brilliant. That will leave a lasting impression.

“Oh! Oh, I’m sorry! I thought… They said…” Just then, the 2nd AD rounded the corner.

Second ADs hate extras. We are constantly over-complicating things. Many of us are either vying for that extra little bit of screen time, trying to get a celebrity autograph (or worse), desperate to “prove” how much we “know” about their job, or begging for a SAG voucher. I’ve had that job. I can seriously relate. I’m sure this didn’t look good.

“Sorry, Mr. Carell,” he said. “Hair and makeup is through here.” He gently guided Steve into the next room. Steve gave me a shrug and a smile, the 2nd AD gave me the “I’ll deal with you later” look. He never did. I didn’t get a SAG voucher, either. Steve didn’t even say goodbye. After all we shared.

A woman left the bathroom right as the commotion was winding down. She looked into the room and then back at me with the “was a celebrity just here?” look. It’s a great look. For a moment, you are elevated to celebrity status by proximity. I call it proxi-lebrity status. Or maybe celemity status? Vote in the comments below.

A bit of Hollywood advice: if you achieve proxi-lebrity status, try to keep a level head about it. “I saw Johnny Depp in line at Starbucks” is interesting blog fodder (and awesome), but it’s not an appropriate answer to “how’s that entertainment career coming along?” Geek out about it, for sure. I’ll geek out with you. Just remember you still have work to do. Occupying the same space as another person is not actually an accomplishment. Unless you are literally occupying the same space as another person. That might get you a Nobel Prize. Though even that could just be an accidental slip into another dimension or a transporter malfunction. I digress. A lot.

After that excitement, they finally called the pool experts to the set. As I walked down the winding staircase, I couldn’t help but notice a noise that sounded like a large fan. I am presenting it like was a minor thing, but it was actually deafening. It sounded like a wind tunnel. It only came on between takes. Obviously, I had to ask what it was.

“It’s an indoor skydiving thing.” Some PA at the base of the stairs was responsible for communicating between the set and the noise. That answer raised more questions than it answered, so I asked if I could take a look.

What sounded like a wind tunnel was actually a wind tunnel. A giant fan blew people up, suspending them in midair while giving the illusion that they were falling. So yeah. Guess what I did for my birthday later that year?

Yeah, baby!
Indoor Skydiving Thing!

The PAs paraded us through the crowd of very tired half annoyed/half intrigued extras. We took our spots and were given the rundown. The first thing we were told was that the balls were fake. Since actual pool balls make noise, only the stars were allowed to hit them. We had to play with racquet balls lacquered with pool-ball-colored paint.

The actual pool experts were at a total loss and understandably disappointed. Rubber balls flew everywhere for the first several efforts. I just laughed. I went back to the message on the casting hotline. No one doing this job would need to sink shots, do tricks or even make contact with the balls. In fact, the fakers had a much easier time than the experts.

Once we were in place, they brought in the stars.

I have to confess something here: at this point in time, I didn’t actually watch The Office. I had seen an episode or two and knew the general storyline and the major characters, but I just couldn’t get into the show. I wasn’t in love with my job when the show first came out and the last thing I wanted to do was to go home from my real-life awkward office world and watch a fake awkward office world.

I fixed that after this job. I had so much fun on this set! Actually, I probably had a little more fun than I should have…

Extras Gig #4: The Office, Part 1

Part 1? Yeah. I’ve done this before- broken a long narrative into multiple posts. People appreciate shorter blog posts, or so the blog gurus/content optimization experts say. I’m also really good at cliffhangers.

 

 

That didn’t count.

Moving on. I’ve chronicled my “career” as an extra in a few other posts spanning several years. Want to catch up? First, I explain the process of becoming an extra. Then, my first gig on 100 Questions. (The first of those questions being, “is that an actual show?”) After that, I moved on to a chilly night on the set of Cold Case. From there, I had a sadly un-Fillion experience on Castle. I wasn’t exactly excited about doing these things anymore. Especially after having been passed as an “Avatar fangirl.”

 

courtney hoskins avatar freak
Come on! This took forever to wash off!

I was about to give up on it entirely. Until…

One day, I hit the extras jackpot. It wasn’t all luck, mind you. Like all big breaks in Hollywood, it took skill, determination, persistence, and a fair amount of lying.

A random call to the casting hotline surprised me when I heard they needed people for The Office. I didn’t hold my breath. Popular shows fill up fast. This was a four day shoot, to boot. That’s about as long-term as one can get as a TV extra. I actually skipped past the general call, fairly certain all the spots would be filled. I paused, however, when I got to a message asking for extras with a specialized skill set.

Having an unusual skill can get you a featured extra role or a coveted SAG voucher. Alas, I have no facial tattoos, cannot ride a unicycle and my car at the time was the useless color of black (they don’t use black cars for background because they distract the eye). I can, however, play pool.

“We need males and females who are pool experts. Please don’t submit for this role unless you can sink shots and do tricks.” I immediately submitted.

Before you send me a message challenging me to a game, you should know that technically I can do neither of those things. I CAN sink shots. Sometimes. And I can do really neat tricks where balls jump over other balls. Accidentally. This was my best chance at getting on the show, though, so I submitted anyway. I knew that they were not going to get a lot of female applicants. I also knew that they did not actually require pool experts. All I would really need to do was make my blurry shape look like it knew roughly what to do at a pool table.

baby-playing-pool
This, right?

 

Of course, this didn’t stop me from worrying about it. What if they DID need me to do trick shots? Do I actually hold a cue the right way? Do I lean over the table with the proper form? And then there was the guilt. What if I just took a job away from someone whose ONLY skill set was “pool expert” and here I am, a talentless hack, raking in the fame and money? Oh, right. This is Hollywood.

I was accepted on the spot.

The set was “on location” at Universal Citywalk. My Winter-in-Scranton sweater and the 90 degree “location” weren’t the best match. Luckily, all of our scenes were indoors and they had the air conditioning cranked up to “Arctic Front.”

Climate control wasn’t the only luxury. I meandered over to crafty. Unlike my previous experiences, crafty was not a folding table with a box of assorted chips and a Costco-sized tub of pretzels. The set of The Office was fully catered. I had my choice of drip coffee, tea, espresso or freshly-squeezed orange juice. For food, I could choose from fresh Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelets, granola, yogurt, (gluten free, of course) toasts with jams or peanut butter, bagels with real cream cheese or a variety of fruits. The good ones. This wasn’t just soggy melon balls and grapes! This was mango, papaya, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and ALSO melon balls and grapes!

It didn’t take me long to realize that the “pool experts” were the royalty of extras. (Yes, that’s tough to envision when everyone is making minimum wage, but… work with me.) We got to laze around between pool shots because they couldn’t risk reusing us in the background. It might destroy the continuity. It also didn’t take me long to realize that almost all of us lied about being “pool experts.”

All of this made my job a little boring. After several hours of reading and not a single moment on the set, I got a little restless. I wandered over to the restroom. Thwarted by a locked door, I leaned against the wall, stretched my back and started wondering what I would read once I finished my book.

That was when Steve Carell said hello.

A Perfect Sky

blue sky
Arctic Sky from Picsora.com

I’ve been a little low key on social media lately. I lost my brother rather suddenly and tragically at the beginning of March and things just haven’t felt “right” since then. I wanted to put off Writing Wednesdays until I could write a beautiful and poetic blog post about my brother- how great he was, the circumstances of his death, and the lasting imprint he will have on the lives of the people he touched. I’m not there yet. I might not be there for a long time. I do want to write, though.

Tragedy throws our lives out of balance. I’ve done a lot of mind work in my life and have dealt with a fair amount of tragedy. It doesn’t make sudden loss or struggle easy, but it does help. When a tragedy like this strikes, it’s the difference between being thrown off balance while allowing yourself to break down, mourn, cry, etc. and being totally unable to function, submerging and sinking into a sea of depression and anger. Neither reaction will result in my brother coming back to me, but the second reaction is not where I want to be.

I allow myself to be sad, to lean into the emotion and let myself feel what I need to. Doing so actually keeps me from sinking. I try not to indulge in “what if” and “if only” thoughts or do too much superhero fantasizing about going back in time and changing it. I feel and then gently push myself to keep moving.

Whatever emotion we need to feel, we should allow ourselves to feel it. It is what it needs to be. There is no right way to be.

I had this insight when I was about 16: I was driving a friend in my car and she commented that the sky was “perfect.” She meant that there were no clouds in it. It was blue from horizon to horizon. I thought on that for a while. Is a cloudless sky perfect? What about a sky with puffy little white clouds? Or one streaked with a rainbow? Or one blazing from the colors of a sunset? What about a sky full of thunderclouds or fog?

rainbow tree
Is this not a perfect sky? (image- Dan Bush http://www.pbase.com/missouri_skies/portfolio)

The truth is, all of those are “perfect” skies. The sky is exactly as it needs to be. We are the ones who impose our definitions of “perfect” or even “acceptable” upon something we cannot control. The same can be said about us. If we wait until all of the things we believe make us “perfect” are in alignment, we will wait our entire lives. This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive to improve upon ourselves or our situations, just that we should soften our definition of “perfection” and give ourselves a break when we need to feel sad or we don’t get the job that we want. This is life. Sometimes it rains.

Baby On Board

(Easily one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons…)

For the past nine months, I have had a baby on board. It’s been a wild ride full of ups and downs (thankfully, more ups than downs) and many surprises. This journey is almost at an end. I am standing by for either that first contraction or word from my doctor that she needs to induce, so I decided to write about my experiences to keep from losing my mind…

I get many of the same questions wherever I go. There’s the standard “so, what’s your major” trio that tends to happen when I am standing in line or waiting in an elevator. They usually come in this order:

1. When are you due?

2. Is it a boy or a girl?

3. Is this your first?

The answers, in order, are April 9th, boy and yes. Usually, after these questions are answered, there is a polite “congratulations.” Sometimes this is followed by a bit of advice or an anecdote if the person has their own children. Sometimes these tips are welcome: “being a parent is an amazing experience” or “here is the name of a friend of mine who is an experienced doula.” Sometimes they aren’t: “say goodbye to your life” or “that’s a terrible name- you should pick names from the Bible” (a verbatim quote. Tip: never discuss names with people and never discuss babies with crazy people). Occasionally, the questions are just shocking. “How old are you?” was rude and confusing, particularly since it was asked because I looked “way too young to be having a baby” (only in Los Angeles). “You’re not carrying twins? That’s a HUGE baby!” almost got a little old lady kicked in the shin. I have had the urge to smack one or two people, but I’ve yet to do it. That leads me to some of my own little surprises about pregnancy. Maybe these are myths, maybe these aren’t, but these are a few of the pregnancy stereotypes that didn’t quite fit me:

Pregnant women are crazy. Are they? I’ve seen so much about the “crazy hormones” that us pregnant women get. I think a lot of it is to make people feel better about being insensitive assholes. Typically on an internet Q&A forum:

Q: HELP!! My wife/girlfriend got angry at me and says I never help around the house but I totally did the dishes once last week! She used to be so happy and carefree and let me do whatever I wanted and made me sandwiches all the time. What is going on?!

A: Relax, bro! It’s just hormones. Women just go inexplicably crazy when they are pregnant. It’s for sure nothing you are doing.

I only had four real emotional breakdowns and they all had VERY valid reasons, one of which included being in my third week of fighting a terrible virus while simultaneously being 9 months pregnant and unable to take most medications, lie in a comfortable position or sleep. At all. Between coughing fits, I was pummeled with tiny fists and feet begging “why are you shaking my house so much, mom?!” I felt terrible because I was horribly sick, but also filled with guilt whenever I would cough, sneeze or blow my nose. I was terrified of going into labor in such a state. I was… quite justifiably… a little emotional. Nah. I’m sure it was just hormones and I was probably just upset about getting fat or whatever…

I do admit that my BS tolerance levels are at an all-time low, but I don’t attribute this to “crazy hormones.” It’s not comfortable being pregnant and it never lets up. You are building a new person 24/7 for nine months and you’re already not getting your usual amount of sleep. You need help. You’re nervous, excited, scared, responsible for every step of that little human’s growth and in a great deal of physical discomfort. You can’t have a glass of wine to unwind and I sure didn’t get to do any of my usual “stress busting” activities (see photos, below).  Hormones were the least of my concerns. Sure, there was the occasional “silly” tear shed for pet food commercials and at movies that weren’t tragically sad, but hey, if you don’t cry during that Sarah McLaughlin Humane Society commercial, you probably don’t have a soul.

Those tears fell LONG before I was pregnant! Which leads me to my next myth:

Pregnant women have wild food cravings. No again. This was another of those FAQs for which I never had a satisfying answer for anyone. Yeah, I love potato chips with a jalapeno pepper slice and dipped in ranch dressing, but I created that little concoction years ago. I had a woman approach me in the grocery store when I was buying ice cream: “Wow! Do pregnant women seriously crave ice cream?” Well, sure. But, uh… do you not? (By the way, being pregnant is apparently like wearing a giant sign that says “PLEASE APPROACH ME AND START A CONVERSATION!”) I probably ate more peanut butter than usual, but otherwise, my diet was pretty much the same. The only exception was my miserable first trimester. That was the only time I had real food aversions. I could not abide chicken. I couldn’t eat it, smell it, look at it or even think about it without feeling ill. Most of the foods I craved at that time were either starchy (bagels) or sugary (lots of fruit- especially mango and watermelon). I didn’t ever wake my boyfriend up in the middle of the night and insist he go get me Pad Thai with a side of chocolate cupcakes and pickle juice. Most of these food preferences were less about a “craving” and more about wanting to eat something that wouldn’t make me feel sick to my stomach. Which leads nicely to:

Morning sickness is bullshit. I don’t mean that it doesn’t happen, I mean that “morning sickness” is cruelly misnamed. My nausea usually came at night, right about as I was leaving work. It came off and on throughout most of the day, as well. It was paralyzing. The worst part is, I didn’t actually get sick, I just felt like I was constantly on the verge of getting sick. Though I will admit, hearing about Kate Middleton’s horrible affliction made me complain a little less. Because these symptoms lasted weeks and came rather randomly, I couldn’t really take time off of work, but I had to cease most of the activities I normally would have been able to do in that first trimester. Most notably, this:

Courtney Hoskins on Aerial Silks

And this:

Courtney Hoskins Stunt on Rope

And this:

Courtney Hoskins on Flying Trapeze

Sigh… I know I will get to do these things again, but I have really missed them over the past nine months.

We live in an advanced society and people aren’t weird about pregnancy anymore. Um. No. I’ve had all sorts of obstacles to overcome with this. I’ve dealt with loads of outright discrimination and this strange mix of over and under-reaction to my physical activities. I have had to explain to people how my baby is not- even by scientific definition- a “parasite.”  Yes, there were people (coworkers, even) referring to him that way. Even if you WANT to make that argument, don’t make it to a pregnant woman whose feelings about her own pregnancy you do not know. It’s not clever or cute. I had one guy at work get outright angry at me because after a meeting, some of my coworkers lingered to ask me questions about my (newly announced) pregnancy. As our meeting was clearing out, this guy barked, “come on! We have to do a conference call in here in ten minutes and you girls are over there talking about PREGNANCY!” I guess us “girls” don’t get that you need a solid ten minutes of no lady talk before a room is fit for a conference call. Also, for the people who are “grossed out” by pregnancy: you were once a fetus too. Grow the eff up. Yeah, it’s not always pleasant and it’s sometimes gross, but I don’t need you explaining why it’s okay for you to be offensive and make me feel like I should be hidden under a tent. Oh, and while we are at it:

I don’t have a clue what I am doing. Apparently. I’ve never read a book on pregnancy. Never looked it up online (what is Google?) I don’t have a doctor I can talk to. I have no maternal instincts. I’ve never even known anyone else in my entire life who has been pregnant and can tell me things about pregnancy (e.g. my own mother). I am SO HAPPY you know everything about my “condition,” person I hardly know! Please enlighten me. One woman tracked my every movement every day: Did I know I couldn’t eat feta? I should probably sell my cat because of her litter box? I should probably leave my boyfriend because he will be just like her ex husband? My showers are too hot? No wait… too cold? I should see my doctor more often? I shouldn’t get my hair dyed? I shouldn’t drink coffee? I should eat more, even if it doesn’t seem appetizing? I wish it ended there, but this woman had me wondering if I should just quarantine myself. As if it’s not stressful enough that so much of the information out there is conflicting.

It’s all by the books. Except the books say different hings. And why in the world are fetuses measured against the size of produce? I suppose it’s because us ladies spend so much time doing the grocery shopping and wouldn’t be able to envision “golf ball sized” versus “baseball sized” or some other consistent size comparison. But seriously, what the heck? Here is an example of how one baby app sizes up my growing kid:

Week 4: poppyseed. Okay. Yeah, I got that. He’s tiny.

Week 5: appleseed. Yep. I can see that.

Week 6: pea. Again. Pretty consistent. He’s pea sized. Got it.

Week 7: blueberry. Um… wait. I just grabbed a handful. Some are smaller than peas. I don’t…

Week 8: raspberry. Okay? Is he not growing?

Let’s jump ahead to week 11: lime. Okay. That’s bigger than a raspberry. Got it.

Week 12: plum. Week 13: peach. Wait wait. Are we talking about organic fruit or…? Son of a bitch. I give up. Right now, I am at week 39: watermelon. Well, hell! THAT’S gonna hurt:

watermelon

Next week, I will be at week 40: jackfruit. Whatever the f*&$ that is. Why do I even want to envision him as something edible anyway? Maybe that’s why people dress their babies as food for Halloween.

I’ll get by with a little help from my friends. This one is true. My friends have really been there for me. Sure, there were a couple who shunned me (pregnancy is not contagious, you know) and acted like my professional and social lives were over, but by and large, my real friends and family came through for me. Sometimes the love was almost overwhelming, but for those of you who have been checking in on me, inviting me to hang out, reminding me that I can ask you for help, driving me to my appointments when needed, cooking me food: you are all wonderful and I love each and every one of you. You kept me sane and happy. Which leads me to my final point:

Pregnant women are smug. Hmm. I was feeling a lot of things: tired, happy, sad, brooding, worried, alone, scared, overwhelmed, gassy, bloated, lazy… Sorry Garfunkel and Oates, but smug just wasn’t one of them!

 

 

 

 

Science and Television

Ah, Futurama! One of the few things on television that actually fact checks their science references… and takes great pleasure in ripping apart things that don’t.

The recent meteor event in Russia has made me wish that newscasters and blog writers had Morbo sitting next to them whenever they made some lame joke or speculation about some scientific phenomenon.

I suppose the news stopped being objective and checking their facts a long time ago, and about more than just science, but the confidence with which newscasters and writers present their scientific “facts” really irritates me.

I don’t claim to be a science expert, but it is a passion of mine. I studied astronomy and physics for a while and almost made a career out of it. You don’t have to get that far into science, though, to know how to do a quick cross-referenced Google search. And if you are about to explain some scientific phenomenon to a worried public, you should consult a scientist. Otherwise, you end up saying stupid things like this:

(Please ignore the fact that this video clip is coming from a UFO playlist- it is a very much identified falling object.) First of all “I tracked those meteors…” No you didn’t. You simply did a Google search to see if there were any meteor showers that happened to be taking place when the footage was captured. Also, meteors don’t actually come from constellations, they just appear to. Constellations are apparent arrangements of stars many light years away, not throwers of fireballs. And while the name “Quadrands Muralis” is obsolete, constellations do not “go extinct.” We just decide we don’t like them anymore. Then we have “they are often hard to see because the northern sky is usually cloudy.” That’s right. Clouds like to gather in the north… for… strategic… science purposes. Forget that “The Northern Sky” is relative to where you are standing and… you know what, I’m not even going to dignify that statement with further commenting.

Actually, the women who were joking around were absolutely right! This was, in fact, a Russian rocket body that entered the Earth’s atmosphere, broke into pieces and fell to the ground. I suspected it was something like this the first time I saw this footage. First of all, it is moving pretty slowly. Meteors streak and burn up quite a bit faster than this. Secondly, if you compare the colors and the shapes of the fragments to actual man-made objects burning in the atmosphere (sadly, the Columbia footage comes to mind), this what it looks like.

Then the facepalm moment. “I mean you know it all, Tomer. YOU’RE OUR METEOROLOGIST?!” A. Meteorology is not astronomy. B. Please see my comment about “northern clouds.” An actual weather scientist should know better.

The reason the recent Russia event reminded me of this was that I am getting sick of every streak of light being attributed to a “meteor shower.” I wish the above footage is what a meteor shower looked like! It would make those chilly early morning trips to the mountains so much more exciting than the 10-15 quick streaks you actually end up seeing.

Early reports of the Russian meteor were that it was a meteor shower or even… meteor rain? I’m sure everyone has seen the footage a million times at this point, but here it is again:

Okay, some quick vocabulary (from NASA):

Asteroid: A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.

Comet: A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.

Meteoroid: A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.

Meteor: The light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.

Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands upon the Earth’s surface.

So, an asteroid or a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere where it become a meteor. It either burns up or it makes it to the surface as a meteorite. OR in the case of the Russian event, it’s a bolide, or fireball or in this particular case, a “detonating fireball.”

Pretty cool, right? Contrast that with a meteor shower. Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through clouds of debris from comets. Yes, you can have all of that excitement in a meteor shower, but usually what you have is tiny streaks across the sky over several hours. Still cool, but not quite as spectacular as either of the two videos above. They are also global events (you can’t have a Russian meteor shower, for example) and come like clockwork every year- not just randomly.

And meteor rain? That… doesn’t exist, actually. At least, not in scientific terms.

So the next time a newscaster attributes some weird thing in the sky to a meteor shower, I want Morbo there to tell them:

Extras Gig #3: Castle

Me on Castle... Kind of

A while back I thought it would be a good idea to chronicle some of my extras gigs in my blog. Then all the social networks, my day job as a web developer and my noveling and screenwriting efforts made maintaining my website seem more like a chore than the fun thing I used to do. This is a return to that. I’m not going to make the promise that I will regularly update (a promise that I will inevitably break), but I would like to get back in the habit.

As for extras work, it was a super fun thing I did when I first moved out to Los Angeles and could afford to fart around before getting down to business. I don’t mean to diminish the life of the full-time professional extra. It’s actually a tough way to make money and if you can do it regularly, you are magic and I salute you. Yes, it’s quite possible to make your living being a “blur” as people will so kindly refer to them (hey, ninjas are blurs too, and NO ONE messes with ninjas), but I had other aspirations and other obligations. Sadly, my blur days are becoming just that… So I want to write about them before they are gone.

My first gig was 100 Questions. A very short-lived sitcom on… some network. I don’t think my scene ever made it onto the small screen, but I basically had to sit in a pants suit and fake sip a fake martini. I’ve already written that story. I’ve also already written the Cold Case story, so you can catch up on those if you so desire.

My third extras gig was Castle. NOW we’re talking! Though I don’t watch it regularly, I do enjoy the show- especially the Nathan Fillion part of the show- so I was excited when they told me I would be in it. They informed me that I would be a New York subway patron. Sweet! I can play that! I lived in New York for almost four years. I know from ridin’ the subway, yo! I decided to go method for this one.

On that note, one thing you should know, should you desire to be an extra or find yourself on set one day: background work is NOT acting. No one appreciates your efforts to stand out. You are “background talent.” Your goal is to blend in (see earlier ninja comment). Also, no one on the set really wants to hear about all of the acting you do, the workshops and schools you attended, the people you have met… Actually, scratch that. Some people do want to hear about that. And they are sitting at that table over there. Not at my table, where I am clearly trying to read American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Yes, I was being crabby on the set that night. It took far too long for me to find parking and meander through the trailers to find the 2nd AD. Plus, this was a night shoot and I’d heard rumors that we might not get done until four in the morning. There was also limited food for my then-vegetarian self to eat and I was starving. Knowing every eatery nearby would be closing soon and I would be reduced to eating chips and fruit snacks for the next six hours filled me with dread. On top of that, I found out that the scene we were shooting would have NOTHING TO DO with Nathan Fillion. At all. I have this annoying curse of being where he is- sometimes EXACTLY where he is- and never getting to see or meet him. More on that later.

While I was sitting at one of the few tables that had adequate reading light and feeling sorry for my(let’s face it, pretty spoiled)self, I got a call. When I answered it, the voice of my dad’s partner answered back and I suddenly got very nervous. Don’t get me wrong, we get along great and I love talking to her, but it was a bit odd to get a call from her late at night, knowing that it was three hours later where she was. As it turns out, I had reason to be nervous. My dad had suffered a heart attack. Now, I do love suspense, but not where my family is concerned, so let me just spoil this and spare you: he’s fine. Everything turned out great. However, that information would not come to light for another few weeks and the rest of my time on set was spent worrying about him.

I felt trapped. He would need a surgery and I wanted to fly out for it, but I was unable to do anything about it. I alternated between distracting myself with my book and researching flights on my ten-percent-battery-life phone. I decided the best thing for me to do would be to just finish out the night and go home. Needless to say, much of the evening was a bit of a blur after that. I remember walking with my book, trying to look like a New Yorker. I was depressed and self-occupied, so I think I pulled it off quite nicely.

The one detail I do remember from the night is that I was selected to be one of the subway patrons who would go through the turnstile right as the bad guy jumped over to escape Beckett. Since my face would be in the shot, I had to pretend like I noticed, but not really care. Much like I would have reacted in New York had I seen someone jump over the turnstile. The turnstiles the actors were to jump over were very clearly marked with tape. We were told that we could go through any of the other turnstiles, but that we had to stay out of the way of the marked turnstiles.

When the first take came up, I found an unmarked turnstile and set my intention to walk through it. I headed toward it (without looking like I’m heading toward it) and BOOM, the bad guy jumps over the unmarked turnstile. Any look of shock I had as this actor came hurtling at me uncontrollably was completely genuine. They called a cut. No one blamed anyone (mostly because it wasn’t my fault… they have no problem yelling at extras, but tend to hold back with the talent), but I was much more cautious about approaching the turnstiles on subsequent takes. I mean, I would love to be a stuntwoman, but that’s a completely different pay grade with a totally different set of rules and insurance requirements.

I did manage to make it in the shot, at least- see above picture. This was season 2, episode 18. I’m that blur that looks kind of like… well a rather gothy New Yorker. And see that green blur? That’s my copy of American Gods (that book really did help me get through that shoot).

I was later used in three other shots, but never made it onto the screen. It’s pretty amazing. With the exception of two people veryone you see on the screen was an extra or a stunt person. Some of them got paid more than others. I got paid about $80 to be there that night, and I was on the lower end of that price range so… do the math. It’s expensive to put bodies in scenes!

Scientific Mysteries – Rain in Los Angeles

Recently, “winter” started in Los Angeles. What this means is that for about four days, I had to break out my winter coat (read: hooded sweatshirt) and think about maybe carrying an umbrella around with me. I had to weather-proof my apartment, mostly by taking the fan out of the window and verifying that the heater I had never used actually works. My sunglasses were rendered nearly useless as I only needed them about 40% of the time I was outdoors. Despite all of that, me and my fellow Angelinos managed to make it through.

I heard on the local news that this weather was responsible for countless traffic problems. Being from Colorado, where I had to drive my 1988 Honda Civic while dealing with weather phenomena such as hail storms, tornado warnings, blizzards that dump a foot or more of snow,  sub zero temperatures and black ice on a fairly regular basis, I found it hard to relate, initially. I assumed the problem was psychological. Upon further study (and my gradual SoCal acclimatization), however, I have come to the conclusion that the weather- and probably science- is clearly to blame. Here are some of my findings:

1. Turn signals no longer work. How else can we account for the complete lack of them? I hypothesize that either the precipitation seeps into most vehicles’ electrical systems and attacks only the turn signal functionality, or that the rain droplets somehow refract the light from  turn signals so that they go unseen by the drivers behind or around them. Both of these explanations satisfactorily explain why visual signals are rendered useless, but horn-honking functionality remains unaffected.

2. Braking can only be applied forcefully and suddenly. Gradual braking is not an option, possibly due to the coefficient of friction approaching zero when there is moisture on the road. Sudden and forceful braking must be applied to overcome this. Another possibility is that the rain droplets refract light around objects and intersections, making them essentially invisible to drivers until they are literally right there and have to turn or stop.

2. Drivers can no longer see lines on the road, read road signs, or see traffic signals. I believe this is due to the refraction of light through the rain droplets.

3. The laws at intersections no longer apply. This isn’t as much of a scientific problem as it is a legal one. I still haven’t learned what the alt-weather laws are at four way stops, so this is probably just my fault. That or refracted light through rain droplets either cloaks vehicles completely, or alters our sense of time and space, making us unable to determine who arrived first and has the right-of-way.

4. Perspective changes and varies dramatically from person to person. An acquaintance claimed that he couldn’t see ten feet in front of his vehicle while going seventy miles an hour down the highway on his way in to work. This cannot possibly be the case, as visibility was not limited and it is impossible for any vehicle to move at seventy miles an hour on an L.A. freeway during rush hour. Yet he believed it so fervently and dramatically, that altered perspective (possibly due to refraction of light waves by rain droplets) is the only explanation.

5. Wifi and cell phone signals no longer work. Okay, this one isn’t related to traffic, but a guy in a hotel was explaining to me that this was the reason the internet service that I was paying $9/day to use wasn’t working and he couldn’t refund me. And also my calls like NEVER go through and sometimes my tweets get held up for ages. What the hell, science? The only thing I can think of is that the signals used in such devices are some how “refracted” through the rain droplets and re-routed to people who don’t have AT&T or Time Warner Cable.

6. The world essentially ends. Seriously. I didn’t feel like going to the beach, people had to cancel their flying trapeze and paddleboard classes and I totally didn’t feel like eating at Pinkberry. This is most probably due to the refraction of joy out of life by rain droplets.

You might detect some sarcasm in this post (and a lot of refraction). It’s not that I don’t appreciate that relatively speaking, a couple of days of rain is a monsoon and forty degrees is freezing, it’s just that, well come on, SoCal. You are where the weather forecaster stands when talking about weather happening in the rest of the country.