November 12, 2007

Ready for the Red Carpet

I have achieved, truthfully, one of my lifelong goals - vain as it may be: a listing in the Internet Movie Database.

Daniel Getahun ... Restaurant Extra

While my now-swamped-with-calls agent updates my bio, here's the brief summary of my explosion onto the Hollywood scene:

When I moved to San Diego I subscribed to the (now defunct?) email list, and every few months I would receive invitations to attend D-list events like the Kid's Choice Awards or Latin Billboard Awards. One day there was an invitation for unpaid extras for an American Film Institute short called "The One" that was shooting in Hollywood the next week. I had couple phone exchanges with the producers, called Beav and told him to get some nice clothes ready, and we drove to the Kodak Theatre on a Monday afternoon after work, not knowing what to expect from the 6:00 PM - 6:00 AM shoot.

The next 12 hours were a surreal experience, and the early morning drive from L.A. straight to work back in San Diego was an incredible feat on my part, no thanks to Beav catching up on sleep, ahem. Anyway, here are some lessons I learned (I know you experienced film industry people will laugh):

1.) "Craft services" are the bomb. This was a short film with a minuscule budget, and we still had a full spread of snacks, drinks, and a 2:00 AM catered meal. I can't imagine what the food is like on the set of a $200 million blockbuster.

2.) Background acting is really hard. Anytime you've seen a busy restaurant/bar scene in a movie, it's absolutely silent on the set. As the bartender, I had to deftly pretend I was busy making drinks, joking with customers and cleaning behind the bar, all while avoiding the slightest hint of noise that could be picked up by the boom mike over the main characters three feet away. You almost couldn't breathe. The microphones are so sensitive we had to stop shooting for a while because a helicopter was flying somewhere near the building.

3.) Getting the "perfect shot" takes hours, hours, hours. I would say less than a minute of the final cut came from our 12 hour shoot. It was just repeating takes over and over and over from different angles, then you get a set-up shot, then you get close-ups, etc. Directing is the ultimate perfectionist job. Now I can understand how Jackie Chan completed 329 takes for one scene in The Young Master.

4.) Assistant directors actually do a lot. So do production assistants. Come to think of it, I bet the assistants do most of the work. Just like in real life!

5.) Being on the set of a movie is a lot of fun. Sure there are long shoots and stressful takes, but it's got to be a good time to act out with your friends for a living. Especially if you're with your friends. What do you think it was like on the set of the Ocean's movies? A great time. I have limited experience in stage productions and now film production, but the cooperative effort toward a dynamic goal has been an enjoyable experience every time.

By the way, unless you're Deborah Read (the director), you've seen as much of "The One" as Beav or I have...

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