Oh Khaled. Thank you for writing your book. And yes, thank you for the *work*
When you live in San Francisco and you are a SAG actor, it is not like major roles come flying your way unless you have a hardcore agent. You do though as a working theater actor in The Bay Area get called from the casting agents for commercials, industrials..
And SAG Extra work.
What is the difference between SAG Extras and Non Union Extras? Well compare it to riding first class if Southwest had that service. You sort of get to sit in the front of the plane to get off first.
SAG Extras? We get served first in the lunch line. We also (admittedly ) get paid a little more. But overall, it is the same job: You are background. You are as important and possibly a little less than the actual props and furniture on the set.
You are moveable furniture. A necessary function, but furniture all the same.
As an actor who does extra work, I do not put these credits on the resume. You just don't. You don't wish to be pegged as an extra. But, it pays and gets you through the lean times when the auditions are not coming in.
In this spirit of enthusiasm, I have become "The Laziest Extra You Can Find" There are a lot of people on sets that are indeed the characters Ricky Gervais had portray on the show Extras. Which makes this show all the more hilarious. Extras thinking they can bug the living daylights out of an A.D, director or even worse the LEAD asking if there is a bit role for them.
Not me. I know good and well this is not going to get me anywhere outside of getting booted offset at worse. I don't even wish to be SEEN in the movie. The rule: The farther away, the more you work another day. I want to be a blur. A half of a shoulder. My face covered with something. The moment they actually see your face is the day you are wrapped officially on the movie. Sometimes a girl likes to eat.
Oh no. Please you pushing yourself towards the direction of the camera....Go ahead of me. Have your day in the sun. Give me my voucher. Call me again. let me walk "Back To One" in the background with a boom box in front of my face. Pursuit of Happyness? It paid for my Christmas!
When Kite Runner was scheduled to shoot, I got the call from the casting agent here. I'm your auxiliary African American Woman. It was two days of work.
One and a half of those days was flying kites. GLORIOUS!
I never owned a kite as a child. Always wanted one. Never got one. Thought they were beautiful. Lots of Disney Movies with Kites (even ditties named after them "Up in the atmosphere. Up where the air is clear...oh lets goooo...FLY A KITE)
I arrive in a cab via train to the sight. I lovingly call the SAG actors in San Francisco "The Usual Suspects" An older African American man with coke bottle glasses. Another african american fellow whose ongoing twenty-five cent bet: When do we think we are going to be released today? And my improvisational and scripted actors where we sit around and talk about upcoming live shows.
(Improviser Kari Wishingrad and myself on the set of Kite Runner)
You really have to come prepared for being an Extra. The Matrix? On set for a week and a half. By the end I had blankets and music and books. Pursuit of Happyness...a lot of reading and computer work was done.
Kite runner? Downloading music during the waits.
The Extras are walked to the park location. I'm put far in the back (good) with the man with the Coke Bottle glasses and two African American children. It was a park BBQ set up. The older man was elated to see a park chair there. He immediately bundled up...and went to SLEEP! It was awesome! He got paid to sleep in the park!
Me on the other hand was actually more inquisitive than usual. There was a trailer filled with beautiful and colorful kites. The owner was a professional kite flyer and is part of the San Francisco Kite Festival. They were handing out kites! He came over to me and asked if i knew how to fly one:
Me: (sadly) No.
Him (smiling) You will when you leave here.
He brings over this MONSTEROUS kite. I'm looking at this thing going "You have to be shitting me"
It turns out it is easier for a beginner to fly the huge ones as they catch wind faster. So I literally felt like a rock star when I held it...and the wind just took it up without me even trying.
I felt like a kid. I let out a squeal. "THIS IS THE BEST GIG EVAH!"
Basically for two days I played frisbee...football...threw a baseball around with kids...
And flew the most beautiful kites in the world. I started getting brave and started flying the more complicated ones. Watching other kids cut the strings of others and seeing kites fly away off into the boats. Must have been annoying for crew? But its the kid in me snickering along with the other kids.
The following day I did not fly kites. Instead I passed out food to people at a picnic. Not as fun. I wish to be a shoulder. Or a fast blur.
And yes. When Khaled arrived onset there was all sorts of buzzing. From a very safe distance (because I'm not the sort of person who approaches writers, directors or actors onset as an extra....it is rude) and thinking: Wish I was not as professional as I was, as I would have thanked him for that book there.
Yes. How passively aggressive it is *now*
We were released from shooting. I walk back to camp and they were getting ready for the night shoot. Coming in as extras were men. All dressed in CCCP military wear. It was really very strange and disconcerting. Yet I have read the book. I know what they are going to shoot.
One man who looked like your classic Soviet Soldier in every way shape and form....
...talking about if he should get his headshots from Lisa Keating Photography here in Oakland or just go to L. A.
What a strange profession I have chosen.
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.