Film Production Jobs: The real ‘scene’ is on the film set

There are many interesting film jobs in Hollywood.  I think that the best way to give you a feel for these jobs is to take you to the film set and describe what happens as if you were there.

Today’s shoot, for a high end athletic shoe, started out at a high school close to Compton. Compton is gang central in LA. The projects literally surrounded us. We had security guards and were working within the fenced school grounds, so it was fine.

As I drove into the parking lot, I saw some big guys dressed in basketball uniforms having breakfast.   Some of these guys had great physiques and could pass for NBA players. But I knew they were movie extras. You’d never see a NBA player hanging out in a parking lot eating breakfast with everybody. Celebrities usually stay in their trailer until it’s time to shoot.

One of the first shots of the day was the bus scene. The basketball players were going to ride in the bus, chanting, getting psyched up, supposedly on the way to a game.

One of those modern buses with the tinted windows wouldn’t look good for the shot – so instead we had an old yellow bus designed for kindergardeners. With no air conditioning.

These poor guys had to squeeze their long legs into the cramped seats and sit there for an hour, pretending to be having a blast.

Not all the extras were real basketball players. We had to hide some of the chubbier extras between the fit guys. And one guy with an older looking head, had to move altogether since the back of his head was too prominent in the shot. Most of these guys were getting paid $350 to be there and may only work for this shot, so it’s not so bad..

The director chose one guy to start a chant, he yelled something like “This is!” and the rest of the extras would yell back something like “Our house!” That guy now will now be upgraded to making $1000 for the day, as he has a speaking principle part.

In the shot it will look like a bus of fired up basketball players on the way to a game, but we had no game to drive to. Instead, we drove 50 feet forward in the parking lot going 10 miles/hour, then backed up and did it over and over again. Filmmaking at it’s finest!

On the first series of shots, the Director of Photography and the Director shot from the back of the bus. With that huge film camera with its accessories and monitors sticking all over it, they were more cramped than the players!

For the next series of shots, the DP and Director shot through one of the bus windows, where the grips had built a little platform to carry the Director, DP and the huge film camera.

Between shots, the medic would pass out water through the bus windows, which the extras would suck down fast. It was like a steam room in there. Everyone was dripping, so the make up artist would go in between shots and pat people down. We got that shot done, then off to the football locker room scene.

Now you can’t use a spacious air conditioned locker room. Nooo. The shot has to quickly register as a high school locker room.

So you’ve got 50 guys in football helmets and full uniform, chanting and getting psyched for the game. Sounds kinda fun, until you’ve got to be there. The smell was intoxicating. 50 sweaty bodies – with 20 more sweaty crew members cramped in a small room trying to shoot the scene.

Nasty. I even heard over the walkie, “you don’t want to be in here if you don’t have to be!” I feel sorry for the wardrobe stylist having to take all these heavy, stinky uniforms in their car to get dropped off –  these uniforms were all rented.

The shot took an hour, and we were off to the football field to do our next series of shots. We also shot a lot at the basketball court where we could see these guys really spread their wings.

I talked to some movie extras and found out that the audition was at an outdoor basketball court and they played basketball and football for the audition. The ones that were chosen had to audition twice.  Many of these guys were semi pro. Most of them made $350 for the day.

Still, it was funny to watch them take a break off the basketball court, file outside and have a smoke.

Gotta love the film industry!

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