Wednesday, October 07, 2009

468. EXTRAS, EXTRA! The Central Casting Experience, Past and Present! (Bonus Scientology Adventure Included)

Today I "dragged" myself into Central Casting in Burbank, essentially a great starting point for experiencing the "on-set" major motion picture scene. I was first introduced to Central Casting by my cousin Mike Dillin, who informed me that all extras on the movie/television sets he had been working on were all in the loop of Central Casting. There really aren't too many other legitimate ways in order to be "surrounded by greatness" in Hollywood. There are so many cluttery scams found on the internet--all these agencies that will supposedly book you on major motion pictures and other venues, but about 95% of them are money-grubbing scams. I fell victim to a couple of them actually.

Central Casting is off of Olive-Flower Street in Burbank. I ended turning off of Verdugo St in order to finally found Olive. I bugged my father quite a bit for the directions--bad me--I didn't do my internet homework before! The strange thing is today I didn't find myself venturing too deep into "memory lane" of my previous Central Casting experiences... perhaps because they weren't exactly of too much worth for reminiscing.... Last time I was at Central Casting, I believe it was around the Spring of 2007, when I was doing some elderly-caretaking-house-cleaning-work in Orange County. I just came out of the money-grubbing pseudo-Hollywood experience of Barbizon, and I was finally going to take some initiative and sign up Central Casting. It was also right around that time in which I went to Randy Olson's production/film/studio across the street from Paramount. I was very nervous and jittery at that time. I was on leave of absence; doing things that were "intuitive" to me, but I didn't know where I was heading. I didn't know whether I was going to return to graduate school. And in terms of my "buffet" of artistic experiences, film-making was the last pit stop.

I found Central Casting and was overly conscious about preparing my hair and my make-up-plaster-bullshxt-foundation they call it? Well I wear foundation not from a self-beautification perspective; I actually plaster foundation for the purpose of MATTING MY FACE--ultimately a photographer's perspective. The foundation color is rather dark. I remember approaching the building of Central Casting which seemed like it was out there in the "behind-the-scenes" streets of Burbank--not much showiness to them feeling so important and excited--I would finally have the opportunity to be exposed to the Hollywood scene--directly--with my own eyes! And then when I entered the room, I encountered 200+ other people who perhaps felt equally as important, but then as soon as they encountered the masses of people who were signing up, suddenly they felt like they were "part of the herd," and perhaps the experience isn't as glamorous as they thought.

Just as today, we received a brief orientation to the paperwork. We had to fill out a basic profile form, a W-4 (claim 3) and an I-9 (SS + Drivers License). I did a lot of guess work in terms of my dress size, waist size, chest size... all those sizes I don't necessarily want to know. I was prepared today and filled out the form with my own pen--their remainder pens were all out of ink, essentially. And then being in the back of the room, in terms of registration I was close to last to be registered... well maybe more so in the middle. First set of people who go in line to be registered were the dregs from the previous registration period--they forgot their SS or other form of identification and had to wait in line... TWICE. Second wave of folks to get in line were those sitting on the table. The third wave included "us folks" in the back of the room. And the people who got the dregs were in the catty corner of the room by the photo booth. Poor them.

So, we had a lot of time to kill. Today I forgot the line was to be a line as long as the Disneyland log ride in scorchig 100'F weather; I should have brought Mike Davis' "Dead Cities" to read to pass the time, but I wasn't in my full faculties today. I didn't jog. I was feeling hyper and dirty. I knew that Central Casting only took a half-body shot of me, so I didn't even care what I was wearing on the bottom half of my body, which was jogger shorts. The line was moving as slow as ever, so all I could do was kill time by talking to other people around me. I met a rather shy girl who was an English/creative writing major just graduated from USC (probably in major debt) who's signing up for work as well as applying to be a substitute teacher. There was another talkative guy who did a dating reality show that twisted his info as presented to the world. And then toward the end I met this guy by the name of Dwight Andrew Galbraith of Bluff Entertainment, and this guy knows the ins and outs of Hollywood. He provided a lot of advice and tips, and maybe I'll be able to do some volunteer production assistant-related stuff associated with his work. Well that's good. I felt like I got a score. I met someone who may be able to help me some time with my future experiences. I shall enter this information into my Contacts List and Facebook. He helped delineate to me the boundaries of Cinematographer--mainly the dude who sets up shots and controls all the lighting. May have a few to hundreds of guys working under you, depending on how small or big budget the film is.

BRIEF MENTAL INTERRUPTION FROM FACEBOOK: MAN! I'M SO BUMMED! I COULD HAVE BEEN A DODO BIRD AT THE SCIENCE CENTER! I COULD HAVE BEEN A DODO BIRD! But no, we are interviewing for Roadtrip Nation. I responded to Ty letting him know that if this EVER happens again, please let me know, because I am actually qualified with my height! It's SOOO way better than being a Disney Character, like Pinnochio or something.

Okay, the other surprise is that Central Casting did not make me pay $25 dollars for re-registering. Bless them and the trees! The money now goes toward gas. The last time I was stuck in the line back in spring of 2007, I ended up talking to some teenage girl from Arizona and her mom, who both had great aspirations to become the "next big thing" in Los Angeles... just like everyone else in the room. Zooming back to today, there were two people who stuck out of the crowd of "ordinary people" (including myself). There was this lean African-American lady and her man of equal height, both color-coated in orange. She was wearing a colorful dress that had an American interpretation of African art-design patterns. Her face was of optimal mathematical proportions for top model beauty. I didn't know why she was signing up for Central Casting. I think she should have signed up for an acting/modeling agency/management company. Her beauty is so radiant so distinct, she'll be picked out of the crowd in no time. That woman was definitely one of those type of people that if I saw in the grocery store I would just go up to her and say I'll make a portolio and Zed card for you, free of charge, just for my own portfolio building aspect of things.

The first time I went to Central Casting, I felt that I didn't really meet anyone in particular who could advance my own internal growth and pathway to life, so at least this time I met Drew. The problem is last time I was a sucker. As soon as I vulnerably left the Central Casting building (after all the form signing and picture-profile taking), I was given a "free acting workshop" voucher. It was very obscure in concern of what this was about but this voucher turned out to be affiliated with "The Hollywood Church of Scientology." Gxd forbid, I dare say... I fell off a log and started venturing into a bizarre culture. I was naive enough to go out to the free workshop. I had been by that Scientology Church off of Gower (101 or 5 freeway?). A geology grad student at UCR by the name of Dave told me how his brother lived across the street from that church. His brother wrote screenplays as well. I first went there because apparently there was a bar across the street from the Church/Hotel where Robin Williams showed up and hung out.... I've always wanted to meet Robin Williams. Sigh. So, I already had initial curiosities about the church, and then this time I took curiosity to the next level. "Free" is the sucker in to becoming a money-dumping "convert" to the "bridge" that leads to "infinite freedom or enlightenment." I'm paraphrasing tremendously. The Church of Scientology is a rabbithole for curious and very VULNERABLE souls (post trauma, without direction), but if you get to deep, I have a sense there is no way of getting out.

So, I went to the acting workshop eh? It was very useful. We leared the ARC principle. Affinity. Reality. Communication. aka positive emotions, positive communication, building common positive reality. Essentially a mimic of a triangle I have created for myself. Emotions/values. Language. Cognitive maps. They all feed off on each other in a complicated web. The other aspect we discussed is the notion of expressing problems and realities through "building blocks" or these "non-designated cubes." So, it was about transferring your language mind into a "building block" visual mode, and life is essentially about playing a game of chess. There were a few other key elements that were useful from Scientology, like their own matricized version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, but what really bothers me is why are all these philosophical/practical/scientific tools tagged with other incorrect myths, housed in a bureaucratic institution of religion?!! That bothers me tremendously. I can see why Tom Cruz, John Travolta, Barbara Niven, and several other artists resort to Scientology because there are several basic tools and exercises that can foster the creation of art, but other than that... there's a lot of money-grubbing hoakiness to the whole seen. Overly pushy niceiness. Plus they OVERLY glorify L Ron Hubbard to a point of godliness. He's the one who said (paraphrased) "If you want to make a lot of money, invent a religion." And so his money-making venture is coming full circle! (There was this stupid cat analogy, the reality of a cat, mental image in your head, whatever).

So, for EXAMPLE, I was so pleased by the free acting workshop (plus they gave me all these free books and brochures that were to inform me of the basics of Scientology) that I paid a measly $35 for some course in "personal efficiency." They keep prices very VERY low for newcomers. I actually met a prize-winning science fiction writer when I first began the course. I never finished this personal efficiency course, and never INTEND to... BECAUSE... (1) they were pushy about my own personal habits, for example, they said to eat a good meal and have good sleep, and I couldn't consume any food while in the course, which violates my own personal habit of gum chewing and candy-slurping and jaw clenching and (2) the personal efficiency course required a LOT of WRITING. And the questions were forcing me to write certain answers that were forcing me to wire my brain in a way I DID NOT WANT TO WIRE IT. I was strong enough to say that I already have my own personal philosophy. I am not going to let these people make me WRITE WHAT THEY WANT ME TO WRITE and ESSENTIALLY BRAINWASH me. (Some UCSB course took a group of students to have a tour of the place for a religious studies class) (I had to take some Scientology personality test, personal improvement test).

Even though the Scientology folks kept pestering me for months on after (even Txriel was annoyed by my bothersomeness with such things)--with phone calls and junk mail (even to this DAY!) to follow up with my Personal Efficiency Course and to extend beyond my free 6-month membership and all these expensive Flagship cruises and the like... I just had to cut the strings and distance myself. And so again, I experience a certain cult of people, a certain organization, and I take what I want from it and dump all the rest as dissolved bullshxt. Enough experimentation there!

What a curious, naive, vulnerable sucker I am! At least in this case, my White Stripes Instincts "Ohhh, I think I smell a raaaaattt, Aowwwh, I think I small a RAT!" kicked in just in time before things became more weird and perhaps inescapable to my monetary-debt bridge to infinite freedom. There's a lot of bad PR surrounding the Church of Scientology. I think the whole group is banned in Germany. Anyway, I just scratched the surface with this adventure, but it's a starting point. I have more details at home.

The one thing I was impressed with though was this little hoaky Scientology "e-meter." I had that e-meter done to me once, and when the dude operating the meter asked me questions, there was no movement of the "needle." Then he asked me about my current job, which was caretaking arthritis-wheel-chair-ridden Momma in Mission Viejo, that needle SPIKED as if I were just electricuted, except I was electricuted by my own INTERNAL ANXIETY! I think that experience was one of the last straws for my quitting that job. It certainly was a sign. Besides, Blue Horizons summer 2007 was coming up. That program saved my life, physically, mentally, emotionally, holistically-spiritually, whatever.

Well, TALK ABOUT A SIDE-TRACKING EXPERIENCE! The Scientology diversion was indeed an ephemeral time-hog in my life. I feel sick even thinking about it. Other than that, back in spring of 2007 I left Central Casting feeling pretty empty, with the question subliminally haunting me, "What's next?"

Maybe it was a week or so, but I finally called in the non-union hotline and I excitedly booked my VERY FIRST extras job. I found out later it was a Cattle Call for Made of Honor starring Patrick Dempsey (who was surprisingly very short). I was to be an "airport chick" hanging out at an abandoned airport with a thousand other extras (and a few cool production assistants). I think it was a 12-hour work day. That day was so fun. I met so many interesting people, including a guy who was the "stunt man" for Danny DeVito. He's about the same size and has some similar facial features. I also met a couple of musicians--singer, piano player--and just an overall intriguing group of people to chill out for the day. I was getting used to the notion that all I had to do was sit around, do nothing, blend into the background, eat lunch, and... DO NOTHING. And I got paid 100 dollars a day to do nothing. It's pathetic. Pathetically cool. And it came to me, I started to understand why the great Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) frustratingly complained about film-making. You sit around all day for 12 hours only to have 30 minutes of disjunct filming and acting. And then, upon returning to the Royal Theater in Britain, Patrick Stewart becomes involved in 3.5 hours of NONSTOP ACTING! He loves theater much more in its dynamics.

The second time I was an extra was an even COOLER EXPERIENCE. Two months later, I called in the right time for a Cattle Call (right before a jog in Lake Forest by Lillian's house) for Made of Honor AGAIN, but this time was awesome because it was the BIGGEST HALLOWEEN PARTY I had EVER been to IN THE MIDDLE OF MAY at OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE. I dressed up as a hippi punk rocker with a rainbow wig and received full attention from one of the make up artists. I was first in line. She added sprinkles and little peace signs to my cheeks. I even received a "special stamp" so that I could receive the union fancy food over the sack lunches. I felt sooo special! I met this guy who was dreadfully good looking and he actually started talking to ME of all things and we hung out for the day. He was a dude with a guitar and he had some good music tracks but I just felt that they didn't raise above the bar--they didn't evoke the chilling or warming emotions of Alexi Murdoch. I don't know where this guy's at. He's one one of my myspaces. He's from the other side of the country trying to make it in Hollywood, like everyone art. I met this African-American dude with a really cool American Judge outfit and he had an opportunity to interact with Patrick Dempsey (who wore an OJ Simpson mask at the party). This dude received formal education in acting from California Academy of the Arts?!! So he was a blast to talk to. I also remembered hangin out with 5-6 cheerleader-types who received SAGs from this cheerleader teeny bopper film. I even received a card from a production assistant who was providing me some advice, and I tapped into the mind of a SAG/union actor who gave me a lot of insider politics/scoop of Central Casting, and when it's best to call it. I also received advice from this cro-magnon dude who signed up for Extras Management, and he said he was managing to make around $1500-2000 a month as an Extra (mind you, this was BEFORE the recession, when Bush's croanies still kept this country in superb delusion).

Ephemeral, fun culture (of mostly single people, movers and shakers) of meeting and greeting with random people who were all living life on the edge, and most of them had their own personal creative projects they loved to share with other people. All of them held the American Dream of becoming the Next Big Thing... but I think that Dream sucks because you become the puppet of many corporations. That dream of becoming "famous" comes with a huge sacrifice of your own personal freedoms and ethics... unless you are Michael Moore or Randy Olson. Not too many of those around....

So, about a year later, when I had returned to UC Santa Barbara (I think I was struggling to get into UCSB), the film Made of Honor was released as a DVD, but never hit the movie theaters. It turned out the Halloween party was completely edited out... oh dear, let's just be politically correct! Whatever. I picked up the DVD and read the back side... oh lord, it's a totally cheezy slime-bag date flick. I felt appalled about being a part of a project that had no motive of responsiblity beyond the notion of cheap-thrill entertainment. WHAT TRAGEDY!

I didn't participate in Central Casting for two years. Two year hiatus. School swept me off my feet, perhaps in a good way. But then suddenly, I had a motive. AND A VERY SPECIFIC MOTIVE. I had this great fondness, great subdeityness of Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind sunk deep into my psyche--illustrating that the environment is a construct of the mind (with its special effects). Then watching huge chunks of Adaptation, then watching The Science of Sleep, blips of Be Kind, Rewind (trying to make creativity and community building accessible to the world at large, he's a humble person of the masses, for sure, there's not a snoot of snootiness about his air in all interviews, written and filmed, just a playful child, never grew up and society allowed him to never grow up) then the Human Behaviour music video, and then DECLARE INDEPENDENCE, my mind started going NUTS with creativity! My dream of meeting and having a civil conversation with Michel Gondry became bigger and bigger and bigger and more magnified, as his own work had trickled deeply into my own psyche. He has become a part of my thought processes and yet all he has been to me are pixels on a screen, an electical box. There's no interactivity. I cried several times, perhaps 15 times over the last 3 years, with a deep, inner yearning to interact with Gondry, to even merely verify that he is real, so that I can just stare at him in the face, shake his hand, and come to the simple epiphany, "If you can do it, then so can I." I found out as a teenager he wanted to become a scientist, but never went to college... and did all this art stuff. Largely self trained in pragmatic skills rather than bullshxt university theory. GO GONDRY! Three prominent pieces that I wrote, am currently writing that are DIRECT INFLUENCES off of Gondry's work is "The Peacock and the Bowerbird" (imagery from Declare Independence provoked the onset of writing the rough draft, which is an eleborate theory of the cycle of human communication to me) (rough draft sitting in my computer, as we speak), "Origins: Be Kind, Rewind" (a song/poem that used the title words from his indie flick) and "Catch Share," a short story that I wrote I have submitted to several literary journals. I included Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman in my devotions, because I felt that the story was a different theoretical spinoff of surrealistic, intellectualized human relationships from the Eternal Sunshine movie.

So, as you can see, internally I am ACHING. Deeply aching. Hours of internet searches, reading blogs and stories about Gondry and Kaufman. It's just not healthy. It's not an obsession, of course. It's just a longing to meet the colleagues who dramatically influence your own personal work, just as Dr. Jeremy Jackson made me cry from his collaborative Historical Overfishing paper. I need to meet the people who have ALTERED MY TRAIN OF THOUGHT. It's inevitable! The problem is, in academia, it's easy to track professors down. In Hollywood, film directors are surrounded by producers and big actors and publicists and journalists and the likelihood of ever having any ability to reach these people in a capitalist, closed-ended universe of underground Hollywood is close to zilch...


... within the last few months Michel Gondry had SEVERAL FREE PUBLIC APPEARANCES upon the release of a second collection of videos (I have his first video collection set; I haven't watched all the flicks). Gondry has made himself quite publicly accessible, but every single time I was either uninformed or just couldn't make it. I have been ripping my hair out! Maybe that's why I received two gray hairs this summer! I made a retroactive realization that I am ten miles from Michel Gondry when ComiCon was occurring in San Diego. This guy, who's largely in New York and France; it was the first time I realized I was within TEN MILES of this living tourist attraction! Oh, what agony of such an epiphany! I just can't take it anymore! I need to meet this guy!

Then there came Roadtrip Nation. I have craved to meet so many inspirational people and somehow Roadtrip Nation has allowed me to obscure the pixel-screen boundaries between me and my heroes, to finally make them real. Two people I NEEDED to interview or nevertheless meet BEFORE Roadtrip Nation is over is Michel Gondry and Pete Docter (Pixar). I had several interactions with Gondry's publicity team at ID-PR and I finally received an email response. I had no nerve to open it, check it. Because I know what it's going to say: Gondry is busy filming The Green Hornet. He can't hold extensive interviews right now. And then I was trying to figure out a way how to get on the set for The Green Hornet. I had IMDB Pro for 14 days and so I randomly started calling production assistants listed on the crew, asking how in the hxll did you get this position? I want to help / volunteer! What do I do? I even called a division of Sony Casting to get access to the production company information to see what I could do to help. I chickened out and never called. Chicken Vic!

And then, as my mission became more narrow and determined and focused, I talked to Cousin Mike who actually knew the director for The Green Hornet, he even texted her a hello and friendly phone exchange. I checked again and the Central Casting director shifted to a new lady. I called her in directly and left a message on her answering machine, stating that I was a Ph.D. student at UC Santa Barbara and I was intended on volunteering for The Green Hornet but was advised to contact you in terms of becoming an extra background actor.

And lourdy of all lourds all mightly greatness, a nice youthful voice contacted me Friday evening before I jogged (meeting up with Julie for the evening) stating that I could be on the Green Hornet, so easy and just like that; all I have to do is re-register at CC and call this number, and low-and-behold, I'm squared away! I jumped up and down and felt so happy; it was a moment in which I was wondering whether I could recall how happy I was--like getting the NSF Fellowship or joining the UC LEADs program? I was happy, I jogged so fast my usual Goleta jogging route, but is was more like I was sprinting (I'm lifting a heavy weight off my chest, for sure!), but then I was calm... and I didn't really tell anyone about this monumental feat of founding an avenue to finally see in the flesh one of my heroes, Monsieur Gondry. Michel, mon beau, some day mots qui vont tres bien ensemble, tres bien ensemble... variation of Michelle, Ma Belle oldies song. I no longer have to sing in mourning isolation, but in immense anticipation!

The Gondry/Kaufman Rabbithole in My Head is so deep, I don't think I can get into anymore details! I'm sure they will reveal to me once again, in due time....

So now, here I am, again, today, with everything coming full circle. The avenue of Central Casting opened up in the past and being re-inforced today, but now, I have a very specific-full-fledged mission. "Success in Hollywood" is a repulsive, artificial American Dream. There is no such thing as "success in Hollywood," but what is REAL is the forging of deep, strong bonds with individuals, and how these deeply committed bonds fabricate a novel reality and build a community of creation around you. And the outcome is a film, a book, a whole campaign, a whole new universe. And it spreads... and then somehow... you get money for it... and the byproduct of it all is the digusting label "success in Hollywood." It should be the passion and pursuit of friendships--soulmates--of higher consciousness. And that is the only thing that is truly real.

When I entered the cattle call room at Central Casting, I felt more calm and composed. All the other people were just other people. They were no longer my concern. I no longer felt vulnerable. They were background actors to my mind, because I set foot into Central Casting with a VERY specific mission. And I need to be motivated by the topic of the project from NOW ON. I left Flower Street coming to realize that across the freeway is a very pauche side of Burbank, and that my sister Jenny and friend Lauri were only about a 15-minute drive away. I'm starting to feel like home, even with Central Casting marked on my cognitive map.

If I want to elaborate this Central Casting story of mine, with images and details and the like... I have a plastic bag and folder full of information to tap into, back in my home in Riverside.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you people have a facebook fan page? I looked for one on twitter but could not discover one, I would really like to become a fan!