Do you ever wish you could go to a huge party, with cool people, eat gourmet food for free all day long, and get paid handsomely for it? Kind of sounds like the celebrity lifestyle huh?
I swear… some days I have to pinch myself it’s so good. And if you get into this business, these kind of days will be common for you too.
So we’re shooting in a swanky Hollywood nightclub, huge chandeliers, white couches, mirror tables, huge paintings – cool. We’ve got this techno club music playing and the dancers start warming up. Everyone is mesmerized watching these dancers.
I talk to one of the dancers. He came to Los Angeles from Puerto Rico to do street hip hop. Once he got here, he met other dancers and they said, “Hey, you’re good! You should get an agent.”
So he got an agent, quit his job and now dances full time. He says people know him as a dancer and recommend him to auditions. Now he’s getting into acting. He says he’s got to get an acting agent now and get people to know him. But once you get things going, he says it snowballs. That is so true.
Anyways, we spend the entire day shooting the dance scenes. The music plays for 30 seconds, the camera rolls and the dancers do their moves.
We must have done 30 takes. The film is shot piece by piece, but when the shots are cut together it will look like one big jam session.
On this shoot, the dancers are dancing with the mannequins as if they were alive. The propmaster makes the mannequins move their arms. Well, they KINDA look like their dancing, but it the edit, it will look cool.
So after a 12 hour day, we’ve probably heard the song 100 times. People are singing it in the lunch line. We can’t get it out of our head. We go home singing the damn song. At least it’s a good song.
This shoot is 6 days long. 12 hour days. Monday through Saturday. We’ve got 2 cameras, a camera mounted on the crane for the overhead and floating shots, and a camera on a dolly track that zooms along.
Now we’re shooting a concert scene with 40 background actors, 8 principle actors, and 30 mannequins. The song blasts through the speakers, the AD yells “Roll camera!” and the crowd yells and waves their hands.
We have spot lights, and blue lights and flashing lights, it looks just like a rock concert. The camera is on a crane and floats over the screaming crowd.
The background actors group together to make it look like a crowded dance floor. They’ll take these shots and digitally multiply the people. Cool.
The 1st Assistant Director moves a guy with big, funky hair in the front of the crowd. When you’ve got a feature like cool hair, you’ll probably be placed in the front. I’m sure he’s happy because he’ll be easily recognized on camera.
The background acting job is pretty sweet on this shoot. $350 for the day for 8 hours. Over 8 hours the rate goes way up. Time and a half after 8 hours, and double time after 10 hours. So background actors can make $600 or more in a day. And they get a bump for bringing their own clothes. In fact, they get $17 for each article of clothing, so $17 for pants, $17 for a shirt.
And here’s the real kicker! We’re shooting 2 spots right now, one for Canada and one for the US. The actors don’t know it now, but when they sign out at the end of the day, they’ll find out that they’re on the clock for both commercials and they’re going to be paid double. For the overtime too. So depending on how long they’re working, they can make $1200 for 1 day of shooting. And that’s for working a total of 1 hour, jumping and screaming for the camera. Crazy money in this business.
So today the background actors work for 30 minutes, scream on camera, then go back to to a room and read a book, work on the computer, hang out and talk, eat craft service. Not a bad way to spend the day.
This set is very laid back. I went in the production office and the door was shut. Why? Inside were 3 dogs. A big fluffy one and 2 little guys.
There have been some kids stopping by too. Some crew members bring the kids to the set to see the action. They love the music and the dancers. They won’t stay too long though, maybe only 30 minutes because after all… everyone is working!
It certainly is a fun atmosphere. The 1st Assistant Director just announced someone won a iPod for suggesting something that made the shot better. And this morning someone went around and collected $1 from everyone that wanted to put in for the big lottery tonight. If one of our numbers get picked everyone who bought a ticket would split the proceeds.
Update: We didn’t win the lottery… We’ll just have to keep having fun for a living! :-)