Sunday, June 01, 2008

Blog change

Hey, everyone. So, I've decided to switch to a different blog site. My new blog's at: http://shawnabuchanan.wordpress.com/ Might want to change your bookmarks.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kittens!



Yep, so I got a couple kittens. Got them over a week ago, actually, so they're about eight and a half weeks old now. Their names are Lorcan and Lysander, and anyone who can guess where I got the names without looking it up gets extra-special-bonus points.

As you can imagine, they're keeping me pretty busy. Otherwise, things are pretty normal. I'm working my way through Throne of Jade, the second in a series of fantasy novels by Naomi Novik. Quite good, actually. Dragon-riders fighting Napoleon. Pretty unique, and well-written. Yep, that's about it for now.

Friday, September 21, 2007

There's no place like it





I have been in a bit of a slump of late. I haven’t been out of the house to do anything besides work and run errands for at least a few weeks and things have been pretty boring, all considered. So, Tuesday night I just thought, darn it, I wanna be on “House”. So, on Wednesday, I was. What’s funny is that I’m only slightly exaggerating how easy it was.

The unfortunate thing was that I got off work a little after two a.m. and my call time was at nine. So, I went home, took a shower, ate, puttered around on the computer a bit, got ready, and left. I left at 6:30 so as to be there early, especially given morning traffic in L.A. Which was a good thing, because by the time I drove the 13 or so miles into L.A. (which took over 45 minutes), parked, put my makeup on, waited for the shuttle, rode the shuttle over to Fox studios, got past security, and walked to Stage 15, I pretty much had time to meet the people that were there and be friendly for a few minutes before we were being called to check in.

Walking from the gate to the stage, I walked through a fake street complete with fake shops and what looked like a fake bar, where several people and a large machine seemed to be creating some other bit of setwork. As I wandered in the direction that security guy at the gate had told me, I got a friendly greeting from one person, and a quite obviously gay fellow noticed my lost-looking-ness and pointed me more specifically to the right building.

I saw another extra standing outside and he told me that there was a place to sit inside. So, I went in, walking through the corridor created by the wall of the soundstage and the bare wooden backs of the set doors, occasionally catching glimpses of tile hospital floors and doors labeled “Exam Room” which humorously led nowhere (or, in at least one instance, into the extras holding area).

The holding area was at the end of the building and around the corner a bit, in what was some sort of false exterior. There were brick-looking walls which had fake ivy hung along it, a stone-looking bench on the side opposite the building, and a woodsy exterior backdrop hung behind that. The main area was like the outside of the hospital, with a sort of enclosure with benches and such. Big glass windows and doors gave us a good view of a big interior set. I think it was where the clinic part was, or the lobby for the clinic. I’m not sure.

When I arrived, there were four other people sitting there. One of them, a middle-aged black man named Glen, immediately assured me that I was in the right place (clearly also noticing my lost and confused expression) and introduced me to the other three. From this and his casual demeanor I gathered that he had been on this show fairly often, so I asked if they were regulars, which he confirmed. He was very friendly and greeted some of the other extras with hugs as they arrived. There was also a woman around my age named Francis, as well as two men whose names I can’t remember. After that, it was hard to tell who all the other regular extras were, but there seemed to be several.

Soon the guy in charge of us came in, very down-to-business. He was short and wore sunglasses the whole time so that even when he was looking in my direction, I couldn’t tell if he was actually looking at me. As he made his announcements, the first thing he said was to remind us that “House” is an Emmy winning show and that that’s because of their high standards. He told us when it was on and said that it was watched by 4.2 million people every week (I believe that was the number) and that we would have 4.2 million people watching us, which made me smile, because of course they aren’t going to be watching us. Background actors are not meant to be noticed, provided we do our jobs right. Then he laid down some ground rules, such as: don’t move the cameras, don’t plug any electronic devices in on set, don’t go into Hugh’s trailer and ask him to speak to your wife on the phone. I was nearly laughing at all these, because who would be stupid enough to do such things, or why would one need or want to? But Glen was laughing, too, because, he said, all of those things had happened. He wouldn’t expound on that except to say that someone had plugged their laptop in, it surged and got fried, and they tried to sue the studio, so they couldn’t have any working outlets on set or something.

Soon after, we got our vouchers, then got sent to wardrobe. I followed Francis, as I didn’t know where the wardrobe trailer was, and she was nice about letting me. I had brought some changes of clothes just to be safe (because they say we’re supposed to bring at least two options) but I knew I was going to be a nurse and they would dress me in scrubs, so it was pretty pointless. So, the wardrobe lady gave me some scrubs to wear and I went and changed in the bathroom, then returned to holding. Not long after, they sent us to props, where we stood around waiting for some time for the props guy to show up. When he did, I just got handed a plastic bag with a stethoscope, pen, one of those little flashlight thingies they use to look in people’s eyes, a radiation monitor, and two ID badges. I couldn’t quite figure out why I would need two ID badges, so I just picked the one that looked the most appropriate.

We all went back and waited in holding some more, where we all sat and talked. There was a great deal of amused chatter about something that had happened the day before, when a male extra who had been told he would be playing a patient was told to sit on a table and put his feet up in stirrups. He was, obviously, quite surprised by the stirrups, and the people were like, “Oh, they didn’t tell you? You’re having a testicle removed.” Evidently he took it in stride, though, even when he was informed that the show “Extra” was also there and filming, as well.

I was sitting on a wooden bench in a group with some other people in chairs. One was a middle-aged woman who plays the head nurse. She certainly seemed to know a lot and I wondered if she was an actual nurse (a lot of times they’ll have someone who’s an R.N. on set in a small role like that, in case there are technical questions). There was also a black woman and a woman with dyed red hair (which looked like it was originally brunette), both of whom seemed about in their thirties. The conversation was...rather serious. Most of it seemed to revolve around cancer, baldness, and wigs. At one point, the red-haired woman complained about her knee and brought out a brace and I said, “Oh, is something wrong with your knee?” She just said yes, but didn’t elaborate. Considering they had just been discussing cancer, I was afraid to pursue that topic any further. As I asked the older lady some questions about my appearance, I noticed some differences between this show and others that I’ve worked on. I mentioned how the people on “Monk” had fixed my hair for me when it was frizzy and she said, “Oh, they would have just sent you home.” They do seem to be very focused and professional on this show, as one of the extras told me (to be precise, the exact word she used was “anal”). But I was quite glad for my investment in a straightening iron several weeks ago. It helps to tame my nigh on Hermione-esque look and helps me achieve, if not a Fleur, then at least a Ginny, whereas on my best days without it, the most I can hope for is a Luna.

Finally, we were called and led over two Stage 14, where a little buffet area was laid out with breakfast. We were told we had ten minutes to eat before we were needed on set. Of course, he had previously said in his little speech that ten minutes on this show can mean thirty seconds, and I didn’t really feel like wolfing something down (and I wasn’t really hungry, despite not having eaten in about nine hours), so I just had a sip of water.

Shortly thereafter, we were told to go around the corner to the lobby. So, around the corner I went and found myself in the hospital lobby, where the nurses station sat in the middle (I’m assuming, as it had a sign that said “Nurses Station” on it. I would have guessed “Nurses’ Station” would be more appropriate, but what do I know from hospitals?). A woman was running around, telling all of us where to go, what points to move between, giving us “business”. There was probably 25 or so extras, so it took her a while and she was still running around even as they were setting up the shots. I was told to walk with another woman from near the hallway at one corner to the other corner, hang a left, then proceed down and through the doors at the other end, then to just sort of keep moving around in the back after that (as there were glass walls which could be seen through if the camera pointed that direction).

The woman I was walking with was middle-aged and dressed like a doctor. Her name was Leoni. I asked her how much she’d done this and she said a few years. Sounds like she’s already been with this show since at least the second season, probably the first. Considering the greetings she got from several crew members, who knew her by name (as was true with several of the other regulars; the director talked to the “head nurse” lady by name), that wasn’t too hard to believe. I asked her if her family watches the show and she said that her mother does, though it took her a while to learn how to watch the background and listen to the story. I suggested one almost needs to watch it through once, then watch it again.

While standing around the lobby, I took note of a few amusing things regarding the set. For example, the vertical blinds (at least in some cases; I did not inspect them all) in the large windows between the lobby and individual rooms are not actually normal vertical blinds. Instead of being made of whatever blinds are made of, they’re a sort of stiff mesh, so that, when closed, they don’t so much provide privacy as a minor blockage of light. When looking at the windows from the lobby, one thinks for a moment that one is only seeing a reflection, but soon realizes that no, the inside is just tinted. Also, the lovely water fountains in the glass wall area, which normally you see as panes of textured glass or stone which water flows down, are not glass at all, but also mesh.

As we stood there, I heard something that sounded like a rock falling to the floor, and looked over to see a piece of gum had fallen near the nurses station, presumably having been stuck there some time ago and only released now that it was sufficiently hard and dry. Kind of gross, actually. No one else seemed to notice it, but eventually Leoni just went over and kicked it out of the middle of the floor. In another part of the set, I also saw a fairly sizeable cricket, which no one else appeared to notice, but kind of weirded me out to see.

The most amusing person on set to watch, I almost think, was the DP (Director of Photography). He was this oldish cockney fellow who sort of shuffled around with his face seeming to always point at the floor and everything he said appeared to take great effort. Ever sentence sounded so strained, like he was trying to push it out through vocal chords that weren’t quite up to the task.

Hugh Laurie came out while we were all still getting set up and just sort of stood around, preparing for the scene, looking at sides (miniature script pages of the scene being shot), that sort of thing. He’s really quite tall. Well, taller than actors tend to be, anyway. And it’s a horrible thing to say, but it really does look as if his face is slowly melting off of his skull. But that’s one definition of aging, I suppose. He was never an incredibly handsome man and his long, thin face only exacerbates the effect. Definitely a person whose appeal does not lie in looks alone. Though he’s not, you know, bad looking or anything. But he’s just plain awesome, anyway, so what does that matter? One interesting thing I noticed is that, even between takes, when he was talking to the director and such, he never dropped the accent. Some of the extras were commenting on this earlier, as well. I suppose it helps to stay in character. Sorta surprising, though.

The scene involved House and some other doctor I didn’t recognize having a walk-and-talk, coming down a hallway I couldn’t see, turning past the glass wall area, walking through the lobby, then stopping by the nurses station and talking. I couldn’t hear most of what they were saying, just enough to gather that they were arguing over the results of some boy’s tests (which didn’t seem all that unusual) and at the beginning, before they turn the corner and I’m busy with my very professional walking-from-one-place-to-another, the doctor says something to which House replies, “Absolutely,” then the doctor says something else and House says, “Absolutely not.” Now I’m curious what the other guy was saying.

They were also being followed by a guy with a camera. Apparently, in this episode, someone’s making a documentary at the hospital. After our first take, the director told us all that we should “notice” the camera (which made sense, as it’s not really usual to see a guy with a video camera following doctors around a hospital) and that the first time it looked like we were all just determinedly walking to our destination. I rather liked that it gave us something more to do. I decided that I was a grumpy nurse, that I did not approve of the camera. Over the course of several takes, Leoni and I got our act worked out pretty well. We timed our walk so that we would walk directly in the path of the doctors (and thus, the camera) when it was close enough for us to reasonably see and react to. We would pretend to be making some sort of comments to each other, which would allow me the opportunity to, looking at her, look past her and notice the camera. While she looked at it, then back at me in perplexed way, I carefully scowled disapprovingly at it, then looked at her in an “I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I don’t think I much care for it” way, as we continued on our way, she split off and then I walked through the doors.

Watching this room full of people just standing in random positions, then moving as the actors approached, as if they’d been moving all along, quite amused me. It reminded me, yet again, of how fake this all is. In real life, when you walk into a room, people don’t just start going about your business because you walked in. It made me think of something like “The Truman Show” and how funny it would be if that happened, if you found out that whenever you left a room, people stopped putting on the show of being busy and it was only when you entered again that they acted normally, that otherwise everyone was just standing around, waiting with bated breath for you to enter. I made mention of this to Leoni, and how our job could rather be described as “professional mover-about”, to which she agreed. If one were to go to a career day at a child’s school, it could be described very excitingly (“I work in close quarters with famous celebrities on well-known movies and TV shows.”) or very boringly (“I sit around, do nothing, and wait, then walk across a room from one point to another...for twelve hours a day.”). It’s all in perception.

Once while I was walking back to my first position, I saw Hugh looking about with quite a serious expression on his face and I suppose some part inside me took it as a challenge, because a thought flitted through my mind: “I could out-scowl him.” I know Dad doesn’t seem to hold much of my scowling abilities, but I daresay I can conjure up a mean one when I want to. I shall have to get an agent and tell them I want a part on “House” ...anyone unpleasant.

Often when I walked back to my spot, I’d pass Glen, who would start walking girlishly in an obvious attempt to good-naturedly tease me about my walk. Once I asked him, “Are you making fun of the way I walk?” but he didn’t answer. Though one time he did clap me on the shoulder and say how good it was to see a tall woman there (he was fairly tall, himself). There was at least one other tall female extra, but I take his point. Tall actresses are even more scarce than tall actors.

We sat around a while by the mesh waterfalls while they were moving stuff around, setting up to film with the big camera on the dolly and all, and I chatted with this pretty young black woman, a bit younger than me, perhaps, about shows we watch and such. She’s a writer, as well, and was telling me some of the sort of stuff she writes.

Soon they told us to get into our positions, or rather to figure out where we would be when the actors are at a certain point. Leoni and I figured out we had to cheat forward a bit due to the location of the cameras, but we worked it out. While we were standing there waiting, we observed a crew guy who was holding House’s cane, swinging it a bit as it dangled from his hand. I mentioned that I liked the flames at the bottom and she concurred with my amusement at the irony of it, like a turtle with racing stripes. Even at the time I realized how completely pointless our conversation was, but it’s not like there was anything more stimulating to talk about at the time. When that subject grew old, we looked over and noticed the makeup lady touching up Hugh, so we watched that and I remarked how impressive it was that hey could just make a few minor changes, use a brush here and there, add a bit of darkness under the eyes, and it didn’t seem to make any difference at all, except it made all kinds of difference. Later, the hair lady did much the same thing and I smiled in amusement as she delicately brushed small sections of hair back in what seemed an utterly futile manner. Never having been one to know much about either hair or makeup, I suppose I’m a bit impressed and befuddled by the artistry that goes into such things.

As the director (or rather, whoever it was that commands such things, as it seems to rarely be the director, who apparently stays in another room watching monitors most of the time) called the various commands that equated to a countdown to “action”, Hugh looked around, then darted from the room. I listened to the guy get closer to calling “action”, wondering when he’d realize the star was not there any more, and supposed even before anyone said anything that he was looking for his errant cane (which had apparently wandered off by itself whilst no one was looking). Finally, the lady who had told us all where to stand rushed over and handed it to Hugh, who was somewhere behind the glass wall area, and we were ready to go.

And that was it. One little scene. Then it was back to holding. We sat around for a while longer, growing quite hungry as it was around noon by that time. Finding myself to be quite exhausted from not sleeping that night and apparently not getting enough sleep the nights before, I even curled up for a bit of a nap on the bench. I awoke to names being called by the short guy in sunglasses, and a large percentage of our group were taken back to set. Rather bummed to not be going back myself, I looked at the clock to discover it was about 1:00. A bit later, the guy came back and called some more names, but these were people to be sent home because they weren’t needed any more. I wasn’t in this group either, for which I was glad. As I said to one of the other extras after the guy left, I had hoped to get at least one more scene in. I cracked open my copy of Eragon, read about a sentence, and heard my name called. I jumped up, hoping he was going to send me to set. To my disappointment, he said they decided to let one more person go home and for some reason I was it. Now quite bummed, I returned my props and costumes handed in my voucher. The guy may have been quite serious and professional, but at least he was also polite, thanking me and bidding me a good day as I left.

It was probably for the best in the long run, for I was quite thoroughly exhausted and also it allowed me to not miss any work that night which I would have been forced to make up on the weekend. But it left me feeling sort of like I’d gotten an appetizer, then sent home without dinner or dessert. Just a taste...certainly enjoyable, but not really satisfying. I must try to get on that show again.