Extras Casting

Late for my last day at the only job I’ve ever really liked, I woke in a pool of someone else’s sweat…and by sweat, I mean urine…

Little over a year ago, still unpacking from the move to Austin, I got my big break—a barely paid 80 hour-a-week internship as extras casting assistant on the HBO production, Temple Grandin. My duties consisted of perpetually highlighting the same required fields on the same form, explaining why, and how, to use ceramic hair rollers instead of foam for achieving the most authentic 50s wave and calling students or mothers mid-night begging them to wake even earlier. Superb.

9 pm the night before — she convinces me with words unspoken to put down the work phone, nightly call-time messages left undelivered, and flashback to a 90s hip-hop sing-a-long downtown at the Drafthouse. Between ‘GettinJiggy With It’ and ‘Regulators’ my work and personal phones take turns dancing in pocket—I don’t feel a thing, tequila over mind, Mixalot over matter. Tomorrow is the last day of filming with background (extras). And for all intents and purposes, tomorrow is my last day, my last day on set and my first day on camera.

I don’t remember much between that last “Ice Ice Baby’ and the first monotone beep of my alarm clock, but I remember a little bit. I remember drunkingly seeking refuge from air conditioning under a fake down comforter. I remember cozying further under flannel sheets. I recall warmth flowing from a body beside. I see brief interludes of semi-consciousness spent plastered against the wall seeking respite on the shallow end of an olympic sized pool of sweat. A lot of fucking sweat. And I remember waking wet with only a tiny headache, no time to shower, barely time to dress, enough time to say goodbye and definitely insufficient time to peel back each layer of bed covering and investigate the final circumference of her oblong off-yellow sweat stain permanently marking my territory. Maybe later.

I arrive on set looking opposite of how I feel. I feel great. “Good mornings” exchanged right and left—universally recognized by crew and wholly adored by recurring extras–a perpetual whiplash of head nods. For the first time I have my ‘cool kid walking through high school hallway in slow motion’ moment. I lift aviator sunglasses and closed-mouth smile at my boss. If she’s mad about spending the last few hours recruiting and shuttling teens from a nearby high school to fill gaps I left last night, I don’t see it. All I see is a soft-lit reflection in the mirror from my fold out make-up chair.

We were terribly desperate. Even before last night’s abandonment of responsibility we were going to be short on bodies for today’s scene. That’s the only reason my roommate and I were ‘cast’ as college graduates. Through months of filming I emanated calculated indifference towards on-camera participation and I really didn’t believe to care. But as Mick Jackson, best known for directing a possibly pre-coke Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard, yells action and I’m shaking hands with someone from the Bourne movies not named Damon, I feel special. There I am, contributing in the most diminutive way, affecting on the most micro level, leaving totally indistinguishable traces on a film that will appear only on a small screen. But it’s finally appearing this weekend and I am pretty fucking excited.