Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I am an Expert Hallway Walker

I got my first gig through a tarento agency! (That's not frivolous Engrishing, you can really call them that. At least, Metropolis Magazine does.) I now have a modicum of Movie Extra experience.

I don't know how much specific information I can give without stepping on a nondisclosure agreement I signed when I joined the agency's talent pool, so this is pretty lacking in details. If I get the OK to mention the name of the film or the lead actor's name, I'll have to edit it in later.

On Monday, I got up at approximately dawn o'clock in the morning to be at Shibuya station in a suit and makeup by 6:30am, where I met up with an agency rep and a handful of other foreigners to get on a bus and head to the filming location. Unexpectedly, the agency provided breakfast: two types of onigiri and a hard boiled egg, plus a can of oolong tea. It might be industry standard, I have no idea, but I wasn't expecting anything so I thought it was pretty generous.

Before lunch there were about a dozen of us. I met some really interesting people – a drummer that used to work for Disney, a psychologist from Germany, an Australian that was once Frankenstein for an ad campaign, a civil engineer stationed at Yokosuka, a former US govvie from Kansas, and a number of people whose backgrounds (and names) I didn't quite catch. I had brought a book, but I was too interested in finding out about the people I was working with to bother reading.

The location was a large, openly constructed hotel or conference center (or both), but it was so fancy that there was a koi pond in the parking garage. Seriously. It was either that, or it was the most tasteful and aesthetically pleasing moat I've ever seen. And the least threatening moat monsters.

We spent about two and a half hours walking down a hallway. The same hallway, over and over. The hallway had a glass wall facing into a courtyard, and on the other side of the courtyard was a conference room. All the action was taking place in that conference room.

The attention to detail was astonishing. We, the anonymous background entities, were given very specific directions about when we would start walking down the hall, but who we would meet, approximately how long we would make fake conversation, and where we would end up at the end of the interaction. Beyond that, inside most of the prop file folders were charts and documents related to the plot of the movie. We were also given fake ID tags with logos and names (my new name is Naomi Thompson), not that anyone will ever see them.

There was one guy in that conference room that I believe to be one of the major characters and he looks really familiar. I can't quite put my finger on where (or if) I've seen him in a movie or TV show before. But because none of us could decide if he was famous and he didn't crack a smile all morning even when the cameras weren't rolling, we chatty extras safe on the other side of the glass dubbed him Serious Face. As in "Serious Face is serious. He has his serious face on. Do not mess with Serious Face!"

Bento lunch! Thankfully there was a fish bento available, so I didn't have to eat around the slabs of pork and hope for the best.

After lunch, the rest of the extras arrived, bringing our attendance to approximately 50 people. Second scene of the day, a wide-angle shot in the enormous lobby near the koi moat. There was at least one famous person there, but I wouldn't know who he was if I saw him on the street. Serious Face was also there, and I think he actually cracked a smile, but I was approximately a quarter mile away at the top of the lobby stairs (have I mentioned this building is tremendously huge?), so I can't be sure.

Perhaps half a dozen of our morning group wound up at the top of the aforementioned stairs (an area that led into a seating area, an outdoor balcony, and around the edge of a large auditorium) without direction. I'm pretty sure nobody noticed we were gone, so we might have missed something interesting. Or not, there's no way to tell.

The third and final scene of the day was in a conference room setting. The idea was that a presentation was just finishing up and we clapped politely. More attention to detail: all of the laptops on the tables had plot-related documents on the screens, mostly PDFs about general topics, but mine was a budget request spreadsheet. I don't know how dull the presentation was supposed to be, since the spoken lines only covered the last three sentences, but if my character's idea of distraction/keep-awake reading material is a budget request spreadsheet, it can't be good.

I was at the table next to two speaking-part characters, which was kind of cool, although neither actually had any lines in that scene. I definitely saw Serious Face laugh right before we wrapped up for the day, three hours ahead of schedule.

We got on the same bus back to Shibuya and I was home in time for a semi-late dinner with the husband.

I imagine this was an unusual gig in that it ended early and was both easy and fun. I'm glad I had the opportunity to be a part of it.

Edit: It has come out, so I can talk about it, but I still haven't seen it.
Additional Edit: I bought the DVD and got some screen grabs.

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