Living in the greater Southern California area for much of my life, and with Hollywood being so close by, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that I've done movie work. No speaking parts of course, and certainly never within squeezing and grabbing range of any luscious starlets, but as an extra, or as my last pay stub stated, "Non-Talent Performer Payment Voucher". My first "appearance" was in the 1985 film Radioactive Dreams, where, much like all of the other productions I've "starred" in, I saw the top of my head for approx. 50 milliseconds near the end of the movie. It was fun, as we basically got paid $40 a night to hang out and party, and many even got laid.
The set was inside a huge and cavernous old tire factory that I believe now houses a huge and cavernous shopping mall filled mostly with people who have huge and cavernous spaces between their ears. The scene was taking place in a post-nuclear-apocalypse town called Edge City, which should have been called Mutant City to more accurately reflect its primary residents. Every genre and sub-genre of cultural and musical mutation that existed in Los Angeles County at that time (1984) was present: Punkers, Metalheads, New Wavers, Greasers, Homies, Gangsters, Gangstas, Skinheads, Hippies, Deadheads, Shit-Kickers, UFO Worshippers, Religious Nuts, Rappers, Break Dancers, Hare Krishnas, Homeless Transients, Yuppies, Yuppie Larvae, Drunks, Drug Addicts, Manson Family members; you name it, it was there in strength.
I had a buzzed head and was wearing a black trenchcoat with a machine-gun cartridge belt and had the "Tuco joins the Gestapo" look going. An assistant director who was kind of hot grabbed me and several other big and tall dudes, gave us blue coveralls and prop shotguns, and made us part of the Edge City Police Department. I wound up slamming a Punker who was fucking with me against a (prop) wall that also went down with the punk, but that part didn't make it into the movie. It seems that all the parts I was in were cut, as per usual.
Something I noticed early into the first of three nights, and has been part of every movie or TV show that I've been an extra in, is the hurry-up-and-wait factor. When you're an extra, at least 90% of the time spent on a movie set is waiting around. However, it's not the time to schmooze with the movie folks or get autographs. The movie people are usually assholes who don't want anything to do with you, and don't want you anywhere else except right where they want you to be. To be fair, they're usually on a tight schedule and even tighter budget, so they simply don't have time to fuck around. Yeah, fine, I'll be the clay in the hands of a bunch of self-important dicks and cunts.
Another factor that became immediately obvious was the strict hierarchy and pecking order. There's a scene in the classic 1950 Hollywood-skewering and savaging movie Sunset Boulevard that illustrates this very well, showing the chain of people leading all the way up to Cecil B. DeMille, only to deliver a simple message. The directors and their assistants have absolute authority on the set. The extras are really nothing more than animated props that have to be paid and fed. The hierarchy extends to the food as well. "The actors eats first, then the crew, and then the extras." They really do make you feel right at home. On the second night’s dinner, I accidentally started a fight by throwing a paper airplane that flew into a Metalhead’s mile-high hair-do. He shrugged it off, but then another Metalhead got the cue and launched another paper airplane, this one poking Mile-High Hair Metalhead in the eye; Mile-High Hair Metalhead proceeded to attack Missile-Launching Metalhead, which for some reason triggered an Animal House-like food fight. Most of the offenders were kicked off the set.
Moviemaking also has to be one of the most inefficient undertakings on the planet. As stated earlier, huge amounts of time are wasted for any number of reasons. For something taking place during the Civil War, airplanes and helicopters are obviously a huge problem. Hint to the producers; don't film near a fucking airport. There are takes after takes after takes after takes. On another shoot, we did a scene in the hot sun 16 times before they were satisfied. The "talent" themselves are also the cause of much delays; John Belushi was infamous for being out of it for days and weeks at a time. They also spend millions of dollars and considerable time on a certain scene, only to cut it from the final product. In Radioactive Dreams, there were several of these, once again denying me a chance at super-stardom. They obviously had a bigger budget than I thought.
The last production I was in was called Family Tree, which was a very short-lived and very dumb-ass series on HBO, created by Christopher Guest of all people. I was within spitting distance of Sir Christopher, and couldn't help but to think of Spinal Tap, as recently at work I had been turning things up to 11. When I saw Jamie Lee Curtis make an appearance, I asked someone if she was starring in this, but was told that she was married to Sir Guest had had been so for many years. Hmmmm, didn't know that, but why would I give a fuck? It was pretty typical for a movie shoot; hurry up and wait, you need to get back in position, where the fuck are those stupid fucking asshole extras, etc, etc. I've taken a break, and don't plan on returning, unless the chances are good that I can get a least a sniff of a A-list starlet's crotch.