Saturday, January 2, 2010

Extra! Extra!

When I was away doing the travel thing, I would often hear of events happening on the home front and would get a sudden desire to pack my bags and start running in the western direction. Awesome shows, birthday festivities, etc…a series of Bad Religion concerts actually had me browsing flight home…mind you, I was in New Zealand at the time. . Yes, I was in NZ, but with these concerts in mind (different sets each night comprised of their different “eras”…songs never played at concerts I’d see) I could only recall my day-to-day work routine of hostel duties, none more thrilling than sanitizing doorknobs and folding laundry. Well, enough reminiscing, but when this most recent of awesome activities fell into my inbox I was truly ecstatic to be a home in California, living in L.A.!

Mid-October, a usual day at work winding down, I suddenly see an email with an intriguing subject line and when opened, there was enough there to get my heart excitedly pumping! Apparently the TV show, Cold Case, was to shoot a hockey episode and used my old hockey coach to track down some female hockey players, myself included. Rock! But who knew what this would entail…skating in circles? passing the puck with an accompanied extreme close-up? a director in riding pants shouting through a plastic megaphone? I could only dream (and hope) what Hollywood had in store for a “hockey” episode. I didn’t care, I was going to be there if I had to get up at 4am and wear a pink jersey. I was going to get paid to play hockey. Well, luckily the jerseys were purple and I only had to get up at 6am. Although after leaving messages and various curtly answered emails with no real details, I began to think it was all a hoax…too good to be true. I’d most likely show up, have my gear ripped out of my hands and locked in a room somewhere. I am NOT paranoid. Luckily I did get contact the day before and drove out of Hollywood in the early morn to meet at a rink 40 minutes away decorated with insanely detailed props, rigging gear, wiring everywhere, and people racing around on headsets with the end-of-the-(their?) world look in their eyes. The rush was on. Huh, I feel right at home, Hollywood transplanted. Only here there was a bonus: a tent full of free food. We’re talking a massive spread; I could have had breakfast, lunch and dinner all in one go. Including appetizers and dessert. “Heeey, so…right…we have to skate around for you and all…but uh, when do we eat?”  After signing away our lives and filling out a time card (pay!) we were shuffled off to costume ourselves in color (not always size) appropriate gear.

The atmosphere had both an air of chaos, like if I stopped to ask anyone if they knew what was going on, I’d get a deer in headlights/why are you talking to me kind of look, but also the energized control of a machine with 20 simultaneous working parts. Feeling like a lost bolt rolling along side the machine, I just followed orders, when someone was aware enough to instruct us that is. It was pretty exciting though, to maneuver around giant lights, cameras, dollies, lighting equipment and a mess of wires on the floor that I was sure one of us would inevitably slice in half with a skate blade and onto the ice while the crew stood ready to pay full attention to us. Yep, I kinda liked the attention.

Well, the hockey aspect of it was less than thrilling, as I imagined it would be. The film process is like a broken record, repetitive and annoying. But when “Action!” is called, an energy does rise out of the mundane “hurry up and wait” method. Even if it was more specifically, “aaaand, background!”.  We basically did the exact same drill for over four hours: 3 forwards regroup with defensemen and then go in 3 on 2, everyone crowding the camera side and then “shoot” on net. For fear of killing the camera (people are expendable) we had to slide it towards the net. Exciting. But I have to admit it was! I thought anyway….hey, I might get the chance to see a fragment of my glove on screen. One unexpected obstacle however was that many of us haven’t cumulatively skated that much in a two years. By the end we were all whining, I especially kept emphasizing that all this work would translate into blurry figures moving in unimportant screen space for about 5 minutes. We were tired, aching, hungry. So hungry.  When the director finally called time and a break for lunch we cheered like we’d won a game, a championship game. It was cool though, most everyone on the set was great and one of the main actors in our scene came onto the ice for a picture and some chat time. Fun!

After the hoopla we were told we had only 30 minutes until our next scene. We raced to the locker room, then ran to pile our plates and eat so fast that our digestive system would have the bulk of the work. We kept waiting for some frantic headsetted person to shoo us back to set. Eventually we wandered back to the locker room and still, no one, no rush. I was beginning to feel regretful of my shoveled and swallowed lunch and was getting the deer in headlights vibe. Did anyone know what was happening? I wandered around, found someone who looked half-informed and inquired what the female players needed yet to do. “Oh, you’re done, you can all go”. Well, how about that. Glad we all knew about our dismissal! But hell, at the end of the day, we skated around for four and a half hours, ate a gigantic meal, turned in our time cards and peaced out. Best day ever. I just got paid more than I do at my real job, for a shorter amount of work time, there was way more food and oh ya, I was playin hockey.

The episode aired in December titled “Iced” and as expected, our scene was a generous 4 minutes, we’re a bunch of blurs, but I think I may have briefly spotted myself. “That is so my stick blade! So is.” I get the magic in it tho…it is exciting, knowing you were there. One last note: the dude who played our coach (and a murder suspect…he didn’t do it…whew) took the part not knowing how to skate, took some lessons the week before, and now, just recently, I bumped into him at the pick-up hockey I go to. Turns out he enjoyed the experience so much he wanted to actually take up the sport! I think we girls inspired him. Well, a positive Hollywood experience as an extra. Be sure to look for my name in the credits under: “Extras provided by Central Casting”. That’s me! Look at me go ma!

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