A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Capital Capitol

The Rhode Island State House, near which much of the Showtime series Brotherhood is filmed, is a familiar landmark to the New England background extra crowd. Quite a few films have been set in Rhode Island, starting with Providence Commander in 1898. High Society, Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Jaws, Heaven's Gate, The Witches of Eastwick, Dumb and Dumber, Amistad, Meet Joe Black, There's Something About Mary...these are a few of the better known. And lots more to come, since the Ocean State has been offering economic incentives to the film industry.

The State House, completed in 1904, is built of white Georgia marble, and boasts the fourth largest self-supporting dome in the world. On top is a gilded bronze statue of "Independent Man," who symbolizes the spirit of Rhode Island. The building was used as the U.S. Capitol building in the film Amistad. Pretty impressive!

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Today I worked as an extra on the Showtime series Brotherhood. The show films in and around Providence. Call time was 7:30 a.m. so I spent the night at M's lake house, which is much closer to Providence than either of our houses. She had a part as well, so we drove in together.

I was told I'd be in two scenes. I needed upscale business clothes for a scene on a train, and jeans for a picnic scene. I brought along a camel tweed jacket, a light brown glen plaid jacket, a beige silk blouse, two skirts, jeans, two longsleeved cotton shirts, a tank top, sneakers, loafers, and heels. Wardrobe likes to have choices.

We arrived in good time. I put on the jeans, tank top, and a checked blouse with the sneakers (the most comfortable option). Wardrobe was fine with it. We had plenty of time for breakfast and sitting around before the call. The craft services meal trailer is supposed to be for crew and union actors only, but nobody was checking. They provide everything from Belgian waffles to ham steaks, whereas non-union flunkies have to settle for cold cereal, fruit yogurt and doughnuts. I'm happy with either setup, as long as I can get coffee.

We were bussed to the green in front of the Statehouse. The action was in one of the highrise buildings bordering the green, so that's where the cameras were. In some shots, the principal talent was near the windows, and we comprised the view. Some extras were "picknickers," sitting on the grass, but not me. I and most of the others were given trajectories, and had to amble along between "background action!" and "cut!" We did this over and over until just before rain threatened, whereupon we were hustled into the bus. If a member of the Screen Actor's Guild gets wet during filming, he has to be given extra "wet pay." Production doesn't like that.

So it was back to holding. The train scene never materialized. As we lined up to check out, the Assistant Director called for ten more people for a scene. The casting assistant picked SAG actors, who hurriedly rushed to change into suits as instructed. No sooner were they ready than the word came: scene's off. Everybody go home. The actors ran back off to dress down again.

Glamorous and exciting? Not. Mindnumbingly boring for most. But massively interesting to an actor who's really a writer. More fodder for the book.

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