Friday, March 21, 2008

On the Set of "The Open Road": My Experience

Yes, good people, I FINALLY got a movie role again. I was a paid extra on the set of The Open Road. This is my first acting gig this year, and also my first paid gig since the end of 2006. The Open Road centers on the adult son of a baseball legend(Justin Timberlake) who, together with his girlfriend, embarks on a road trip with his estranged father (Jeff Bridges). Lyle Lovett is also in the film.
My call time was 10:30 PM. I got off work at 6 PM and tried to take a nap. It didn't work so well. As I started getting ready, my younger brother Travis Barbee called me to tell me he had a friend that I might be interested in. I don't really like being fixed up, and she's in freaking Texas (!!), but I took her number. Next, my friend Mario Lindsey calls me fussing because I didn't tell him that Soul Men, a film starring Samuel Jackson and Bernie Mac, was also filming in Memphis. I told him that I was focusing on The Open Road right now, and that I had to go.

I made my way downtown. I parked in the Peabody Hotel garage, then I made my way to the lobby of the Peabody. I was directed up a flight of stairs, and I was soon in extras holding. First, I ran into a guy that I was an extra in an indie film with back in 2005. His name's JP. He had moved away, but happened to be back in town when they started filming. When I actually got into the extras area, I saw Lavita Brooks (Tricks, What Goes Around), Don Myers (The Ancient One, Eat), Janeen Farmer (SCJ Project), and Trent Dee (21 Grams, Tricks). Trent Dee had just gotten off the set of Soul Men as Bernie Mac's stand-in. Now, he was an extra on The Open Road. I told him that he was trying to take my title of "Hardest working man in Memphis film". He joked that he still hasn't done 50 indie films in a year like me. I've never done 50 films in a year!! Maybe 25, 30 tops, but that would also include shorts films as well as features. The wardrobe people liked what I had on, so I went to the set.

Once I got on set, I ran into William Westbrook, a local actor/filmmaker. He was an extra on the set yesterday, and he was hanging out today. We chatted until it was time to roll the cameras. I was playing someone trying to check into the hotel. I was actually acting with two real employees. One was a woman named Lindsay. She and I were extras on My Blueberry Nights, or as I like to call it, the last time I got paid to act until now. We chit-chatted and talked about those insanely long days on the set of My Blueberry Nights. The life of an extra is tiring and thankless. Lindsay and I had pantomimed a whole routine. We couldn't talk, so we had to whisper or use motions. If you talk, they have to pay you extra. Also, you become eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild, or SAG. As we were doing the scenes countless times (they need several takes at several angles to play with in editing), I heard a loud, African-American voice bellow out, "I ain't gone do sh@%!!!" I thought to myself, "That can't be an extra, whose being all rude and disruptive?" I turn around and I see Bernie Mac, fresh off the set of Soul Men. He is staying in the Peabody. I also "worked" with Justin Timberlake and Lyle Lovett. Lovett was playing a bartender. This family came down and they were curious about the film. When we showed the littel girl in the family where Justin Timberlake was, she had to cover her mouth so she wouldn't scream. Wow, I wonder what that level of fame is like?

After that scene, we went and changed our outfits for the "day" scene. I met another aspiring actress named Ericka. She was real cool. We chit-chatted and exchanged numbers. You can never have too many contacts. During the day scene, we were looking at the Peabody Ducks. They actually woke them up (it was really night). I believe what they say about working with animals is true. They were rather unruly, and we kept having to put down bags and stand close together with our legs closed to keep the ducks from running off. They kept getting free and running wild. Also, they kept pooping. My friend Angela (another actress/Peabody Hotel employee) had to clean the poop up a few times. I told her I felt bad for her, but she said that since she works in PR, she's used to it. Don Myers asked me if I thought that the ducks were SAG or non-union. I said that since they lived in a penthouse, I consider them SAG. Quick rant: I don't really care about the ducks. Okay, they quack. They poop. They run around and walk into a pool. Big, hairy deal!!! I have never really had a great desire to see this. They live better than me, and that's crazy!! Okay, end of rant. By this point, it was after 2 AM, and fatigue began setting in.

After that scene, we changed back into out original outfits for a scene that took place before the first scene we shot. Most movies are filmed out of sequence. I hope I didn't shatter anyone's dreams with that statement. I was sitting at a table trying to read a menu. I began nodding off. Fortunately, the scene was not long. They fed some extras and had a few more still acting in the scene. Thank God, I was able to go to the eating area. In a few minutes, the other extras came back, and we were wrapped. We all said our goodbyes, and I felt good. I was explaining to Lavita and Trent how I begin to lose confidence when I am inactive. I said something about having to do a "Rocky" montage to pep myself up. Trent told me to call him. I don't think I will. My sensitive ears can't take that much profanity. I feel good, though. Longtime blog readers know that Markus was going through a slump. The slump is over. I have acted and gotten paid. Oh, the swagger is coming back, people!! Of course, I only got a few hours sleep before I had to go to work on Thursday. By the grace of God, I made it through. I then went home and instantly crashed until 1 AM this morning. We have to make sacrifices for the dream, people. Hopefully, this will result in a few more roles for me this year. I have another credit and a nice little paycheck. Be easy, readers!!!

PS Shout out to local filmmaker Robert Saba (Delusions) who was working behind the scenes. It's always good to see local people working as crew.


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