Tales from the set Archive

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There is no A/C on set.

It’s time for Machine Gun Preacher to open! So here’s the story behind the story…

It’s time for Machine Gun Preacher to open! So here’s the story behind the story…

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The 48 Hour Secret That Never Was One

Making a movie is a difficult task.

Making a movie is a difficult task.

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The skinny on the skinny jeans

It was like a dream world. Racks of clothes, lines of shoes and two attentive people discussing how nice my rear looked in a pair of super tight skinny jeans. But of course the jeans were too long, the boots didn’t fit and the super ‘omg please let me have that’ tank top was swapped out for a different one that shows ‘maximum cleavage.’

No, it wasn’t a scene from a makeover show, it was me this morning at a fitting for my latest film project. I play a Biker Chick. Seriously. That’s my character’s name! Pretty descriptive.

I admit, I was a little nervous going in. I had no idea what they were going to dress me in. I assumed jeans (since Lisa, the Awesome Asst. Costumer, had asked me about sizes and brands of jeans) and possibly something leather since I was, after all, a biker chick.

It’s strange seeing a rack of clothes picked out just for me by people who haven’t met me before. There’s some sort of art to determining a person’s body type from a picture, and Lisa and Frank pretty much NAILED it. Here’s a note: you can often tell a lot about a production by the people working behind the scenes. A lot of the time, the costumers are tired and borderline cranky when they get to the extras, and that’s been the only time I’ve had to deal with a real wardrobe department in the past. The indie stuff I tend to do is usually one person doing costumes rather than a whole department. E-Von, who did the costumes for The 6th Extinction is amazing, but mostly it was ‘Here, put this sweatshirt on and get some mom-jeans from Walmart’ as his talents were really put to use for the Horsemen costumes (which were so awesome that they put my awesomeness to shame!).

So I walked in and waited for a few minutes and Lisa and Frank came out and took me into the room where I would put on some clothes for them to see. The first item? A pair of jeans.

When I say a pair of jeans, I actually MEAN a pair of skin-tight painted-on skinny jeans in a drab grey color that there’s no way in hell my legs were ever going to fit in because I have this little thing called thighs and I have calf muscles that put Olympians to shame. There’s no way these things are gonna go on. But I had to give it a go anyway, so after being handed a cute tank top an a pair of boots to go with it, I was left alone to figure out how to pry myself into this denim trap.

Slooooowly I was able to slide the jeans up my legs, though they really were painted-on tight. Got them over the calves, up to the knees, past my thighs– wait, I got them all the way up! And I buttoned them without a problem. FRANK! LISA! How did you guys DO IT? Just please don’t wash them in hot water or dry them on high heat or I’ll never get into them!

I admit, I was a bit smug for a moment. I got on this super cute pair of skinny jeans! They were just right, too. They didn’t make my legs look like sausages waiting to bust out of their casing or anything. I fell a little bit in love with those jeans. Then I threw on the tank top and sat down to tug on the boots. Only the top of the boots were soooo narrow, I couldn’t even get my feet into them. Which sucks because they were super cute and I had to make my sad face about them not fitting. So I padded out in my cute skull socks to see what they thought.

Frank made the twirling motion with his hand so I turned around and he suddenly declared that I have a FANTASTIC ass. My ass is amazing, he said in glee. I felt my face turn twenty seven shades of purple and red that have possibly never been seen outside of Photoshop’s neon color palette. It was decided that the tank top made me look too sweet and cute, so we swapped it for this epic one that was black and laced up. If I had to be reincarnated as a tank top, it would totally be this one. It took about five minutes for Frank to lace me into it, but it was sooo worth it. Threw on a black leather vest over it and I was suddenly a biker chick. Everyone was happy, but Frank decided he wanted to see one more tank top just to try it. So I took off the cute black one (glanced at the price tag which was more than I spend on groceries in a week!) and tugged on a grey one.

Wow. It was… uhm… low cut. Suddenly I wished I had worn a super cute bra, since my industrial strength ‘Hi I have a pretty big rack and it takes a lot of fabric to make my chest defy gravity in this way’ bra is not the cutest thing in the world but was suddenly partially on display for the world to see. It was decided that the girls must be shown to full advantage, so I’m gonna wear the grey top and we’d need to get me a super cute gravity-defying bra to go with it. Plus boots that fit.

They grabbed a pair of men’s boots to put me in so they could fit the length of the pants. And the tank top had to be taken up a bit, too. There was even an on-site seamstress who was busy hemming clothes just outside my makeshift dressing room. Aside from prom and my bridesmaid’s dress, I’ve never had clothes tailored to me, let alone a tank top and pair of jeans! I felt all special.

And honestly, that’s the important part. The production people there weren’t just nice, they made me feel special. I didn’t feel like some pretender who someone made the mistake of allowing on set. I felt like they were there just for me and me alone. It was a good feeling. Unusual, but good! I can’t say enough about the wonderful people I’ve encountered so far at their production offices.

Anyway, that’s my adventures in clothing for the day. Enjoy!

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Tales From The Set: Ruins of Du-Khang

Waking up on a Saturday to find that your director has messaged you the night before while you were out, stating that he needs you to call him immediately is never a good feeling. There’s always a sinking feeling of ‘Did he uncast me?!’ or something that lingers in the background. So when I called him and the first words out of his mouth were ‘So how much did you have your heart set on being the hooker in this movie?’ I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I told him whatever’s best for the production and if someone else is better for it– then he informed me that the girl playing one of the leads dropped out, so he bumped Renee up to that role and wanted me to take on Renee’s role. I told him it was fine, I’m not picky. Sure, the hooker role actually had more acting involved in it, but secretly I’m just giddy to be playing a part in the Firefly universe. I’m that big of a nerd sometimes.

Then as if to salve my poor battered soul at having a short but interesting part, he informed me that THIS role is in the sequel. Which is great, even though that’s not really a make-it-or-break-it thing for me. Still, it’s good to know he’ll want me back!

On set of the Firefly movie, The Ruins of Du-KhangSo I arrived to set with my hair and makeup mostly done. I went into the dressing room looking pretty normal and I came out wearing a yoga top, a pair of black knee-length stretch pants, a sheer dance skirt and a veil over my hair. I had on waist-wraps with the coins that dangle off and jingle with every movement, stuff on my hands and all sorts of other little accessories that made me look very bellydancer-ish. Plus I had done the rest of my makeup. I had a rainbow over my eyes. Very Bollywood inspired! I was indeed quite obviously a bellydancer at this point!

Jamie's Angels?Filming went great. It ran a little longer than we’d planned, but that’s pretty par for the course in filmmaking.

People who have never been involved in the behind-the-scenes of film really don’t have a concept of how long it takes to do even the briefest shot. You have to set up the lighting and camera, block the actions, rehearse the lines, run the whole thing a couple of times with minor tweaks to everything, THEN finally you’re ready to shoot the ten seconds of film and it’s only taken you two and a half hours to set it all up. Plus you have to count the location scouting, the driving to the location, the hair/makeup, the wardrobe, etc. For what is a very brief moment of me dancing on stage, then coaxing a friend to go dance, it took us all day.

Oh, and the choreography for the dances took a bit of time. Renee and I practiced our shimmying and our shaking and then it was time to film our big dances! It was fun, if tiring. Once we were done with all that, we all had to get up on the stage and dance around to Ministry. It was so much fun. It amazes me how much that couple minutes of blowing off steam and just letting loose really re-energizes you after a long shoot. Once that was over, most of the cast was wrapped except for a few of us. Renee and I had one last shot of going to pick a song from the greenscreen display and there were some walk-by things to be shot and then BAM! DONE! And I was on my way home to make dinner.

It was a fun day, though long and full of shaking my groove thang. I can’t wait to see how it looks on film!

Happy Holidays from Ruins of Du-Khang!

Happy Holidays from Ruins of Du-Khang!

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Tales From The Set: Red Dawn

One question I am frequently asked is “What’s it like to be on a big budget movie set?” Well, the truth is that each set is different in most ways, but there is always a certain level of the hurry-up-and-wait involved.

As a filmmaker, the process of what is taking place on every level interests me. During the downtimes when most extras are sitting there talking about their warring emotions of excitement and boredom, I’ll often observe the cast and crew as they prepare for the next scene. I watch the lights being moved and how they set them up and tweak them, I’ll keep an eye on the director to see how (s)he ensures each aspect of the shot is being prepared. I’ll watch the cast rehearsing their lines and having their hair and makeup checked.

However, the best part of the entire experience is being part of the pageantry and the finished product. Sure, 99 times out of 100 you’re simply a blur in the crowd that is half hidden by the main actors, but I won’t deny the little thrill of seeing a glimpse of myself in that crowd. I suppose it is the chance of seeing yourself on the screen that causes many inexperienced extras to think that fighting for positioning may help you get on camera, but I’ve learned over time that even if you are directly in front of the camera, it doesn’t mean it will capture you at all. The potential to be seen is always there, but very unlikely. My theory is that if I want to ensure I’ll be seen in a film, I’ll have a speaking role and not be an extra.

I think that after the many films of not being seen, this one may be different! In one of the scenes, a lead actor comes up to me and talks to me and pushes me to get me moving out of the way for an explosion. If they keep the scene as is, you’ll at least see me out of focus next to him as he’s speaking, so that’ll be quite an experience, being able to point at the screen and tell my family ‘Look! There I am!’



If you look at the above image, I’m standing next to the red hydrant!

So what was it like?

It was almost like a scene from the late 1960s: Detroit full of gunfire, tanks, soldiers and explosions. People running, screaming and scared. When someone would fall, someone would grab them and help them to their feet while dragging them along out of the way of danger. It was quite an experience and though it’s entirely fake, those few moments of ‘action’ were very overwhelming and realistic. Several of us had discussions later of how we caught the briefest glimpse of what it would actually be like to be caught in such a situation. We were cold, tired, dirty, hungry and uncomfortable all around. We were wrapped in winter clothes and wool and huddled for warmth. Many of us would start the day wearing at least two pair of socks, some with the hand warming packets used by hunters or the muscle relaxing heat patches stuck to ourselves to keep from shivering. It was miserable and it was glorious and I will forever be able to watch these moments captured in brief flashes of blurry crowds running when I watch the DVD.