Friday, December 2, 2011

Scholastic Filming Event

Back story
In fifth grade, I learned to love books.  No, I mean seriously-- books were my daily dose of glorious imagination captivation--delving into the stories of people from someone's mind that were a lot like me--insecure, determined, youthful,  and in pursuit of something amazing. 

My son R.
Taking home the book orders seemed equal to or greater than going to the toy store because I could sit and crave every single book as long as I wanted plus beg my parents for one or two books, which they often obliged.   I loved book orders so much, I took the extra ones my class didn't need and pretended to be the teacher collecting book orders from students to send to the book order companies.

My kids are a lot like me--minus asking their teachers for leftover book orders.

When the opportunity arose to actually go to the Scholastic building for a paid gig--I was over-the-moon ecstatic (as you can assess from my last post). I felt like Charlie Bucket going into the chocolate factory for the first time.  I tried really hard to look at everything and just absorb the moment.  The red flag waving a welcome, the kindly security doorman, the amazingly decorated tree and goodness underneath, the brightly colored rooms and the stunning auditorium. It was like my daughter once told me, "Dreams do come true!"

I walked into the auditorium with the golden floors and the red seats all folded up in a modern-looking way and then down to the stage with its signature red curtains and lights blaring onto the green screen.  Did I mention that I've always wanted to do something on a green screen--because it can take you anywhere--digitally.

Director and Make-up Lady 
The director, Rick, and the make-up lady, Caroline, were down at the front and they looked surprised when they saw me. Call me corny, but I imagined they were surprised because when I walked in I imagined a bright beam of light streaming from my face right into their minds--so they could immediately grasp my excitement.  Mostly, they seemed momentarily stunned--I guess my excitement light was too bright.

The director came and gave the make-up person to "tame this"--pointing at my head and I had moment of attempted to cover-up terror-- and then he added, "all these fly-aways." Whew, that's a relief!

The director (Rick, I think) asked, "Did you bring any other clothes for your son? He's wearing green. He won't show up on the screen."

"Oh, I wasn't aware he was going to be filmed," I said.

Back story 2
In the mad dash to get everyone to school and I just got T (my 3-year-old) into some clothes he would actually wear.  He's on a serious outerwear strike lately and his wardrobe of acceptable clothing to wear has dwindled to three shirts (two of which are identical) and two pairs of pants, which are about three inches too short. And summertime shoes--ugh.  I choose to pick my battles carefully and my theory until this morning was that when he gets cold he'll be glad to wear different clothes. My theory is changing. Again.

Super Women
Gratefully these women, Anna Hemphill; (the girl in the middle who's name temporarily escapes me with great photography tips; and Jenn; knew precisely what to do.  They ran up to another department and borrowed some shirts. [Thank you very much for doing that!] They showed him these lovely shirts and he acted indifferent to all of them. Yeesh!  Then they picked one and he literally ran to the other side of the room.

Silently praying in my head that I would know how to get him to wear the chosen shirt I began to do the pretend-the-shirt-has-a-personality-and-a-voice thing and he came close enough for me to remove the shirt he was wearing and put the new one one while playing hide and seek.  Then we all complemented him on the shirt.  This was all while I was getting make make-up and fly-aways fixed [mental pat on the back].

The Filming
Then we zipped down to the green screen. The sound guy gave me a mic and I turned around to modestly install it.  Modest is hottest, right?! Caroline, the make-up diva, came and gave me a touch-up (another check on my dream list--the pre-film touch-up).

Then they fed me lines to say "like you are talking to your son, with animation."  Only thing is--it was all about thanking my mom.  Something about thanking my 3-year-old son for being a good mom, just didn't set right in my head so I chose to think of the camera as my mom and I meant every word.

"Thank you mom for teaching me to love others."  "Thank you for teaching me to cook."

They asked me to think of the things my mother taught me. . . I thought this thing was only supposed to last an hour--that question could take all day. I picked a few out of my mental hat and spouted thank you's to the camera.

In My Head Filming Back Story
Then they asked for a specific time that meant a lot to me and I thought of the hours my mom reading to us in the car and then having us read and hearing my dad's voice say, "Loud and fast, read loud and fast."

Or the time that we spent all morning cleaning and grumbling and afterward Mom took us out to the back yard and poured a pitcher of water on us starting the most momentous water fight I can remember--and there were a lot of water fights. I can still hear her laughter in my head from that day.

But I settled for the image in my head of all my family gathered around the piano singing and laughing together while my mother played the piano. . . good times.

T Filming
They asked T to give me a kiss. He did. Then he gave me a good hug. Then he kissed both sides of my face several times.

M.E.M. (Most Embarrassing Moment) 
Then they asked him, "What do you like about your mother?"
He buried his face in my shoulder.

"Tommy, I prodded. What do you like about me?"

He turned his face out to the audience and said loudly, "I don't like you!"

I accidentally rolled my eyes. Talk about pressure. My mind was hollering, "NOOOOOOooooooo!  I did NOT teach him that. Regroup. Regroup!!!!"

I did not regroup enough to have him apologize--which I would have if I had the presence of mind, but at that moment I was just intent upon the dismissal of potential future insults. [So if you were there and reading this, please consider yourself apologized to by a three-year-old and his mother].

They said, "Can you tell your mom you love her?"

Again his face was buried in my shoulder. Then entered the bribery.

"T," I whispered, "If you can do this then you and I can go get something special, just the two of us, right after we're done."

That did it.  "I love you, Mom," he muttered.

"Can you say it louder?" they asked.

"I love you MOM!"

"Do you want to see yourself on camera?" they asked T.

We walked down and looked at the screen.  It was an eye-opening experience.  I was not prepared for the immediate self fault-finding I found myself doing as I watched myself roll my eyes at the M.E.M.  Note to self: When they offer to let you see yourself on film remember that sometimes ignorance is bliss--though I learned a lot about myself in that ten seconds.

Is that how it is for everyone when they first see themselves on screen in front of filming professionals? I could swear I had a lot more personality.  I looked awkward, but I felt perfectly calm and composed for the majority of the time.

After that we gathered our stuff, returned the microphone and went to get our stuff from the lobby of the auditorium where another mom was getting ready.

The Scholastic Store
Then we got our gift certificate and went to the Scholastic store. That place is seriously kid heaven. . . toys and books every where--It is amazing!  I got a few Christmas presents and we went home exhausted.

Summar-ical Thoughts
This may shock you but it will not be a major motion picture.  In fact, it is likely you will not even get to see it.  It's going to be an internal magazine sponsor viewed clip only--isn't that cool? It's like an exclusive club. If you'd like to see it you'll have to be an advertiser in Scholastic Parent & Child magazine.

Can you feel my mental excitement beam of light? It's shining right at you. :D [That emote is me smiling at you like I'd just told you this whole story in person].

Thank you Anna, Jenn, Photography Tipster, Danni, Caroline, Rick, Sound guy, and Camera Man. I really enjoyed the experience!

Thank you Emily and Whitney for telling me about it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Scholastic Mom Taping

My friends, Whitney and Emily forwarded me something from one of the parent groups in the area with sweet notes how they thought of me when they saw this.  The forward said:

My coworker at Scholastic needs moms for a video being filmed this Friday. Please contact Anna Hemphill at . . . if you're interested. The details are below.

Judy (mom to T&E)
We are filming a video and we need moms! Unfortunately no P&C staff can be featured so we’re looking for friends and family to get involved!

The filming will take place in the Scholastic auditorium on Friday, December 2nd.  Each mom will be required for 1 hour, and we will schedule the day based on availability.  It’s a simple shoot – we will be working with each mom one on one, no experience necessary, little to no memorization needed.  We want women who will be comfortable speaking to the camera.

We are looking for a diverse group of moms with children of different ages (infant to teen).  The children do not need to be present for the filming, but we welcome any who need or want to be there!

As a thank you, we will give each mom a $50 gift certificate to the Scholastic Store!

If you know of anyone who would like to participate, please tell them to email me ASAP and to include a picture.  I am happy to answer any questions and will send them additional information about the details of the video.

We appreciate your help, especially with this tight turnaround. Thank you!


My curiosity was piqued. It was like it was shouting at me practically--if something can be truly shouted when read.  So I instantaneously emailed Ms. Hemphill with:

Dear Ms. Hemphill:

If the opportunity to be in your video is still available, I would really love to participate.  I heard about it from your friend Judy in the Sunset Park parents group.  

I would love to bring my son (age 3), if possible--but if not, I think I can make other arrangements.

My photo is attached.



She wrote back with:
Hi M,
Thank you for your interest (Love the pic!)! [M thought interjection--Oh! Thank you!]  We’re already booked now, but I will contact you if we need any last minute replacements before tomorrow!  Thanks so much, and we’ll keep you in mind for any other projects that may come up.

Thank you so much!


I was a little sad, but I thought--hey they want me for future projects. I don't know what it is about the phrase "future projects" but, to me, it sounds so full of possibilities.  

Then a little while later . . . .

Hi M,

So sorry for the late notice, but we need to fill someone in the. . . slot for tomorrow...  Would you still be interested?? [I'm anything, but sorry-thank you :D Yes! Yes!]. We’re asking each mom to allow about an hour, and we would love to have you and your 3 year old son join us! [Just how awesome is it that they'd be great if I brought my 3-year-old?  Super amazing great--that's how awesome. I am dancing a little happy dance inside my head].

Please wear a solid-colored top (no patterns), and please do not wear white or green (we will be using a green screen, and these colors will no appear in front of it).  You may wear whatever pants you are comfortable in – jeans, slacks.  We want you to look natural. [What on earth is my "natural" look?  Clothes party]. We will have a makeup person on hand to do touch ups [Ok, confession here. I have always wanted an experienced movie-making make-up artist to check/fix/do my make-up--YES!], but please come with whatever makeup you normally wear.  If you don’t wear makeup, don’t worry – the makeup artist is there to help you look natural on camera.

We will give you a $50 gift card to the Scholastic Store which you may use at any time!! [I cannot wait!!! I love books, books, and more books!  My kidlets love books, notebooks, and books and Christmas].

The address is . . .  Please check in with security – we will have your name in the computer [Look--I'll be official]– and you will be directed to the Auditorium where we will be doing the filming. [Hi Mom!]

Please let me know as soon as possible if you would like to come in and if you have any questions.  We’re excited to work with you! [No way you're as excited to work with me as I am to work with you.] My cell phone number is . . . if you need to contact me! [Yay!  I am so excited!]

Kind Regards,

Anna Hemphill.

I'm so giddy right now with excitement.  I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.  Maybe I'd better get better at following the parent groups. I love opportunities like this! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

CSI:NY "Crossroads"

Read about the actual experience . . . here.
See the episode "Crossroads" at

Where is M?

Here. . . fr-ooooo-zen. At about 6:55 into the show.

 That day was so cold.  When I got home I realized that my face was beet red under my light colored make-up so I think I may have looked slightly corpse-ish.  No wonder the guy was wondering if I was cold--because I was shivering like a leaf--and I looked scary.  For the next scene (the one where I am at the top of the stairs) I sat in one place and shivered in peace, nodding at the other background artists that walked up the stairs past me and back down.

 Ta-da--it is me. Hooray!  I thought that bag was so cute--but turns out it looks huge and cute-but for that shot, mostly big. I think I was sitting up straight (thank you Mom). 

This was at about 18:25 into the show. These were filmed first in the early afternoon.

Thank you very much CSI:NY people. It was a great opportunity. Despite being cold I had a great time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Aired!

They told us that they wouldn't air until the 7th of December-ish.  The -ish was my own addition because it was as -ish-ish as possible.  The aired it at the end of October for the first time.  I showed my sweet husband the pictures and he asked if I had been on the show. I said, "Yes, I was on the show, but not as a contestant."

This is the one with my friends, but you cannot see them very well.

Yay for the long-haired-dude!

I'd like to thank my local laundromat. Without them I couldn't have watched myself on the television (I don't have cable). I would like to thank all the laundromat patrons that treated me like a movie star--with the exception of doing my laundry for me. I love my neighborhood!

I think I mentioned in my last Who Wants to Be a Millionaire post, but it bears repeating, if you are going to go be on the show--remember to take a back brace or a stadium seat cozi-fier because those seats are very, very uncomfortable.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My friend, Nelta, invited me to go to the Rachael Ray show with her and a couple other "talk show addict" friends, Patrice and Jean.

This is the photo that the show took and it is posted on the Rachael Ray Facebook page.

Since we were a part of the "Human Lab" show there were no big, exciting give-a-ways (ugh!) but we did get a bag of nuts and a couple of magazines (and a muffin/breakfast snack with a bottle of water if needed).  Of course, the next audience got tickets to see the Rockettes at Radio City--I'm really attempting to not be jealous.  

I think they felt bad because in the last twenty seconds Ms. Ray's husband rushed in with their dog, Isaboo. He gave her a big kiss and then Isaboo pulled Ms. Ray's hubbie around the room and then they ended in the front for a photo.  I guess they were the special non-miked guests.

RC Smith was the comedian that kept things running. He used a lot of the same jokes that the other comedians use when warming up the audience, but I felt like he really liked what he was doing and the people with whom he worked.  He kept us laughing (often at other audience member's expense--and sort of pleasure). He told Jean, who was sitting next to me that she had a lovely smile.  She's in the white.

 I'm not certain when it will air, but I know it will be after Thanksgiving. Thursday was the last filming date before Thanksgiving.  I think they were all really excited for a break.

They were very serious about no photographs in the filming studio, they made one of the women in front of us delete any pictures she had taken. These photos were taken in the okay zone--pre-studio.

If you're interested in going to the Rachael Ray show be sure to get their early--even if they send you an email that tells you to come later.  GO EARLY, like 1.5-2 hours early.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Unforgettable" follow-up

Added After the show was posted on the CBS website.  The episode is "Up in Flames" which aired on on 10/11/11.  This is about 1:11 into the show.

This one is at 23:41-ish.  For the record, the second picture was filmed first.  And is not known for their HD quality. But hey--I wouldn't be in HD anyway. Finding yourself in these shows is like a version of "Where's Waldo."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Anderson Cooper Daytime Talk Show

You know that guy with the white hair that has a perma-eyebrow raise?  That's right, Mr. Cooper.  Well, my friend Nelta and her friend Patrice had tickets her sister Marie came too.

To some, the fact that I wore my super-stylish new high heel shoes prepped with foot saving materials to abort potential blisters, aches and pains would just be a piece of useless information, but to me it was the crux of the whole day- - - of which it took six days of wearing out of season shoes for the next two weeks.

We went and saw the movie I Don't Know How She Does It.  It was hilarious, but made the stay-at-home-moms look like women who do nothing more than go to the gym while their kids are at school and are just selfish busybodies.  Which, is not how the majority of stay-at-home-moms I know act.  For the record, many people think that being stay-at-home-moms is much harder than working because you are at the beck and call of your children and spouse--without pay and often no gratitude.  Many children feel it completely acceptable to holler all of their requests in a broken record sense--which many people will relate to bosses.  Soooo, no I did not agree with their concept of stay-at-home-motherhood.

For the record, I have always loved the working mothers and know they are completely capable women, that seem to make things run so smoothly they make it look effortless.  If I had a problem with the working mothers it is just that they are so busy that I don't have a chance to have a good conversation with them . . . and sometimes I envy them, just a little, because of all the adult interaction they get. . . but I am glad to be where I am.

I laughed a lot during the show and when the people from the movie came onto Mr. Cooper's show Greg Kennear and Olivia Munn kept us laughing a lot.   They had one part where they suggested that we try two different types of cookies to pick the homemade on and the store-bought (Entemanns--as per my friend's opinion) cookies. There were two lucky Sex and the City girls who won $700 bright red shoes.  The audience zeal went waaaaaay down after the comparison dawned on all of our gypped minds. 

Mr. Cooper stayed way over on the other side of the room, next to the $700 shoe people. I am not sure if you could see me on screen because of that.

He was amusing and we laughed at some of his jokes.

One thing that seemed to stand out was his answer to the girl who asked how to become like him and get to where he is now and he began to answer, "I got out and interviewed people on my own. Oh, that's not what you wanted to hear is it?" I cannot remember the rest of his answer, but what that girl did not want to hear, is exactly what I did want to hear.  Not that I want to be exactly where Mr. Cooper is now, but it's good to know where some people claim to have started.

He also mentioned that his mother used to take him to the Studios (which studios, I cannot remember). So, I guess it started long before he decided to go and interview people--like when he was three or four.

Overall I felt like my feet hurt like crazy--really--crazy.  It was very interesting to watch how it worked with a new show. More than anything I really enjoyed my friends. Even when they shook their heads, humoring me, at my hollering of the words "Silver Foooooooox." Yes, I am cheesy.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire????

No, I am not offering any one any money--or even a job. . . sorry.

Have you seen it?! Have you seen Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

I have. In person. . . Right behind the contestants.  It's true. Turns out (I found out the last show of the three they filmed--that am on screen for nearly the whole time . . . almost as much as Meredith.  The ratings are for sure going to sky rocket.

Look for the blonde behind the contestants December 7, 8, and 9th.

I went to the show last week with my dear friend, Nelta and her friend (and now mine too) Patrice.

Right before I went in my green ticket fell down into the grate just before I went into the building. Gratefully the entrance people recognized me and knew I had been waiting. Nelta and Patrice shook their heads and laughed--just like me to do that.

 I got to "audition."  The reason I put that in quotation marks is because what they do is give you a test of thirty questions that you must answer in ten minutes. I thought it was mostly going to be about pop-culture (for some odd reason I felt I probably should know the names of the main people in Gossip Girl). So my friend NeLta--a pop-culture-ista, told me the names of the people three or four times.  But, they were not on the test so forgotten Gossip Girl crisis avoided.  But if you decide to go in there and "audition" then I would suggest getting to know Harry Potter quite well.

There were some lovely women standing in line behind me that decided that my bag was the enemy. I think I might have bumped them a couple of times and they said something and I apologized profusely, but they decided my apologies were not enough and every chance they had they touted their anger against my bag.  For the record I love my bag.

Also, the guy who was showing us to our seats asked us where we would like to sit--we weren't sure.  He told us that if someone said they wanted to sit at the contestants chair that he would put them on the show if he could.  I thought that was nice. Note to self.

Just for the record, when I was reading online about the "audition" and such they  told us we would not get to keep the pencils. Since that person wrote, the rules have changed and they give the audience the pencils.

Also, they give out a paper, mine was blue, upon which you answer several different questions about yourself.  For example, what do you think is the funniest thing about yourself. Somehow I felt like this was about the same thing as "Is there anything that you are mortally embarrassed to tell people about that you'd like us to air on world-wide television for you?"

They asked the normal questions like, "What would you do with the million dollars if you won it?"

I think about this question and my plausible answer, but the truth of the matter would undoubtedly be--studient loanieas destructivus upon the completion of the said I would immediately go on romanticus cruisius withimus my-imus sweetheart-icus and then downpaymenticus on a houseimus.  Does this sound Latin-ish?

It was humbling to take the test.  I thought I would know the things about Harry Potter, but to my surprise I did not. I think it was a combination of those questions and nearly every other question that pointed to my test-erly demise.  But it is okay, I'll just have to get one million dollars another way. Sniff.

The stand-up comic that they had to keep up audience zeal was of the self-depreciating sort.  He picked a couple of people in the audience that really got into the show and thanked one of them for taking a drink before hand.  He sent out a sheet so people could sign up for a discount to one of his future shows.  

They let one of the audience members stand up at the end. She was the last audience member to sit down so I felt like it wasn't so random a pick--it was rigged (at least that is my opinion).

Overall the experience made me thankful for my dear friends and sweet husband that watched our child whilst I went and enjoyed the day.  Thanks Patrice and Nelta. I had a great time! Let's go again.  Any one want to come too?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview of CSI:NY Background Artists


Let us take a moment and pretend you hear some great entrance music. I walk out onto the studio stage and I introduce myself, "Welcome to the M show. We are so glad to have you in our audience today. [Big grin.]  Now I know that some of you have been wondering to yourselves, 'How do I start as an actor?' 'Why do those people do it?' 'When does it start to actually pay enough to pay the rent?' So we are are going to give you the who, what, when, where and why-ish of two types of actors."

Then I would gracefully saunter over to my chair in those high heels that look super stylish, but reminds women that pain and agony and fashion so often come hand in hand because almost as soon as I sit down the camera focuses on my face, but my shoes come off and are hidden from the audience by a random ottoman.

"To answer some of these questions for you, we have invited two guests to come and speak with us. One of them is a non-union actor, Eric. [Applause] The other is a union actor--or SAG, Screen Actors Guild Actor, Bob."

Because you cannot really see these people I will give you a brief description. These are people that you may be friends with, they are people that you may pass on the highway or give each other friendly advice on the freshness of the pumpkin  you are thinking of purchasing.  Eric is about 5'8" and around 35 years old and Bob is around 6'2" and is in his fifties.  They are wearing dapper suits and have big smiles on their faces. Slowly the audience's applause subsides. They come and sit on the modern furniture that looks stylish, but again--really not a comfortable couch--because really, on a talk show who wants the guests to fall asleep.

M: Me
E: Eric (Michael Keaton-left-loosely-closest look a-like star)
B: Bob (closest-loosely-look a-like star Ted Knight-right)

I take a moment to joggle my cue cards and get them into the order of . . . straightness--who wants sloppy looking cue cards?

M: So, you have both been in the business awhile.  How long, exactly?
E: I started as a background artist when I was 22 in a student film and my first film I was a background actor for was Stepford Wives.
B:  First, let me tell you, M. The business has really changed since I started. I was a print model when I was seven and decided when I was 22 when I started making some money in a touring show, I was on stage first before I went into film and television.

I nod. We're getting some place. . . .

M:What you do is an art.  What inspires you?
E: Growing up I watched a lot of character actors in film and television. Those actors inspire me.
B: Good material and direction are inspiring--including the story, script, and director--not a bad premise or a bad story because having good material makes you work harder.

M: Good.  When is your job the hardest?
E: Those early morning rush calls can be brutal. Seriously, some of them you have to be ready to go around 3 or 4 in the morning--just so you can get there on time.
B: Then there are those times where you go long periods without work, or you are out in the rain and you're being a pedestrian walking -- it is so important to stay hydrated.

M: What are the easiest/best days?
E: When there is good weather makes being a background artist is so much easier.
B: Being in a principal actor are the best days--being able to work right with the stars.  A little while ago I was able to work on Mildren Pierce, I was in the room with Kate Winslet and three other actors. They all had lines and I didn't but I got to work right with them. It was really great! She is really nice, but she smokes too much.

M: If someone wanted to get where you are today, what would you advise them?
E: I would tell them to start with the casting agencies and ask them about becoming a background artist.
B: Take a different career path! Become a production assistant because they make better contacts. Network consistently  If you'd like start as background and then try to work your way  up. It is really important to be on time, to have a good wardrobe, and keep wardrobe happy. Don't question anything. Be a happy idiot existing from show to show.  Be realistic about what you look like and promote yourself in that light. For example, a 4'10" person will most likely not pass as a police captain.   To be an actor, go to school, learn the craft, and never stop learning! Have fun!

As a side note: You never know what is really going to happen on set. You have to be sure what they are going to name you and your efforts in the credits, for example, in the Age of Innocence he was paid as precision dancer but the choreographer was billed as "Dance Historian" which means an enormous pay cut.  They also like to try to get non-union people to do work that should be union or other background actors for example they can ask the actors to "fight," which is normally very choreographed, but when non-union are not trained they can really end up hurting one another by accident--i.e. non-union attempting to jump a background actor police line--I had someone try to climb over me--literally when I played an officer in a police line.  Also, be careful of what you agree to do. For example if you agree to rollerblade--realize that you may be rollerblading for 16 hours straight even when it is raining--which can make rollerblading sixteen hours even more uncomfortable. Also, they may tell you that you'll be in smoke for 16 hours and it can be sitting next to an actor that ends up smoking five packs of cigarettes and you feel really lightheaded.

M: Thank you for these great ideas.  Now, where would you like to be in ten years?
E: In ten years I want to be working steady in television or film.
B: Ten years--On this side of the dirt.   I'd like more principal roles/stunt work with the residuals lasting the rest of my life.  

M:  What is the scariest or funniest experience you've ever had while working?
E: The funniest was when one of the principal characters tried again and again to get the door open during their take and it just didn't work.
B: The scariest thing that happened to me while working was when I was going to the heading in a hotel at W. 50th St.  We got into the elevator and we thought we were on the right floor so we all got off and it wasn't until we were all off and the doors had closed that we realized we'd gotten off on the wrong floor.  It was a hallway full of locked offices and the elevator would not come. We did our best not to panic to realize that were were stuck!  The elevator would not come--no cell phone reception. Nothing. We realized after an hour of trying to figure out how to get out that we had to push the elevator button for a full ten minutes for the elevator to come.

M: Now we have a question from the audience.

[Some girl with a bright pink suit complete with a cancer pin comes out--her hair is  full of pink as well--obviously a woman set on helping other women with cancer].

Random audience member: First, I have to say I love your show. [Audience cheers and whistles and fades, I nod and says thank you  only the microphone man stepped away for .5 seconds and it looks like I just mouthed the words].  When did you know you wanted to be actors?

B: I was very dramatic as a child. I drove my family crazy with my constant singing.  When I got my first paying job I knew that this is what I wanted to do.  Especially when I got my first Broadway equity contract and was traveling. I asked my dad to take care of my expenses from my paycheck.   He called me after he got my first pay check for expenses and asked if it was the paycheck for the month. The paycheck was for one week of work, about $1600 and my dad was in awe and knew it was legitimate work.
E:  I knew when I was in my first student film that this is what was right for me.

At this point in the interview with Bob we were called to set, but I'll improvise. [Bob was called to another area of the set for the game show portion, the sing-off with a few pre-selected audience members--Bob wows the crowd as they all sing together in off-off-off-Broadway production of "The Star Spangled Banner."]

Meanwhile a hamster comes running out in a ball with a message on the outside.  Eric picks it up and looks at the writing.
E: When  have you used your gut to help you in your job?  I would have to say I used my gut in the first film when I told the director something important even though it felt really intimidating.

[Eric puts the hamster down and it runs off stage, the lights clink off and on and down falls a flashing light.]
M: Eric, we're going to change things up just a little, we want  you to mime the next answer--do you think you could do that?
E: Sure, M. [He stands up and the lights begin moving very quickly giving it an old black-and-white film look]
M: What excites you most about this job?
[Eric does the Charlie Chaplin walk in tune with some 1919-type of music and goes over to M and shakes her hand, moves to the left of her and pretends to shake someone else's hand and then over again to pretend to shake someone else's hand.  Lights begin popping on above audience member's heads.  M calls on one of them.]
Random Audience Member 2: You like meeting lots of different people!
E: [Eric nods] Yes, and there are always new things to learn!

M: Thank you very much both Bob and Eric for coming on my show.  [The audience is super excited and clapping and cheering up a storm]. Join us again, next time with M.

*The links to the pictures can be found when clicking on the pictures. They are from my internet image searches and Google Images.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

CSI: NY; My Experience

Monday was the day that Autumn decided to prove that she could be briskly cold.  It was also the day I was out fr-reez-ing all. day. long.

One of the background actors I met was a stay-at-home-mom like me (Yay, SAHMs!).  Being an extra is her outlet and time to let someone else take the kids for the day so she could earn holiday moo-lah (which I pretty much thought was awesome).  She was in the ballroom scene in Enchanted.  She said they had to react to a Chinese dragon instead of the CGI dragon.  She had to go to fittings . . . I'm adding that to my bucket list. Be an extra on a show where I need to get fitted for some very modest outfit and kid-appropo show.

They had tables sitting out at holding and all the background artists were directed to sit at the tables closer to the wall (apparently interaction with the crew is . . . discouraged). The rest of the tables were for the crew when they came to refresh themselves with nutrient rich catered food.

After waiting for a couple of hours for the main people to finish up some filming we headed out to the Criminal Court House. We were directed to the prop truck for props---MY FIRST PROP-- which was . . . . a coffee cup?!

Just to set the record straight, I do not drink coffee. So if you see that cup do not think--Melanie?! What is going on with you?!  Just realize that if it were real life and you saw me with such a cup there is a 100% chance it would not be coffee, so I told every one that I was drinking cocoa (which I adore).  I had to hand over my license for that paper coffee cup--so I had to treat it well.

Now that I think of it, I would have put a note inside for future cocoa cup-bearing background artists that would have said, "It's your lucky day!  Remember to floss!" or something life-changing like that.

For the first part I was set on the side to wait with two hilarious people that kept me laughing a lot the whole time we waited. One of them was a union stage manager (the first union one I have met, I think) and a guy who works with the people from the NY equivalent of Alcatraz (I think). People are so interesting.

Then they had us walk up and down the side walk in front of the Criminal Court House.  I walked with a person named LaVar.

I decided that my character's name was . . . Betty Lou from Schnectady.  Of course, after talking with the people for five minutes they came to the conclusion I was not originally from New York.

It was a really great day. At one point I was surrounded by the camera people and standing within two feet of  Sela Ward and was close enough to almost hear what the actors were saying during their scene (I had to walk right behind them at one point, so you may see me or my very stylish bag in the background---I'm wearing black).  When they were organizing everything I felt so happy just sitting there shivering and watching.

The director eventually made me move, but I was so happy that I moved right when they implied that I should but mostly I was just so happy to be watching so close.  The gaffer asked if I was cold (my lips must have been turning blue), and I honestly answered, "Not as cold as I was before."

They asked us to move up ten feet from the last take, which would have finished my walking across the screen. But once they asked us to move back to the take, but unclear what type of take it would be.  I got to watch them at work and the actors are so amazing to watch in person, it is no wonder we like watching them on the screen. Their focus was amazing and I just sat there in awe.  No matter how many people were around them they were utterly in the zone and no ambulance siren or random pedestrian that walked exactly into the middle of the shot would stymie their focus.

I told Ms. Ward that I really enjoyed her performances on the show, when it looked like no one was looking, and she mouthed the words back "Thank you."

Then they moved us to the top of the stairs of the Criminal Court House.  It was raining pretty hard for a little while so were were grateful for any cover.

The P.A.s were really friendly and jovial.  It was refreshing to see them joking with instead of hollering in an annoyed fashion at all of the extras.  Guess what, one of them was the guy that I featured in a previous post as the "fly in the doughnut" guy.  Let's just say he seems like the fly was removed and he is a nice guy. It seems they are more friendly to people they've hired than to interfering interlopers attempting to get a look of the inside workings of the film/tv industry from the outside.  But I did not interview him--that guy was so busy and I get the feeling he will probably not be a P.A. much longer because he did not stop moving for the tv people for a second (really).

Afterward I went and dropped off my prop, the paper cup for which I exchanged my license.  I was so glad to have my license in tact. Then I walked back, checked out, hopped on the train and came home exhausted.

What a great experience--even if I was nearly-hypothermic the entire time and we ended up wet.  So many people were really nice to share their umbrellas. I wore my scarf stylishly over my head (okay, so it wasn't stylish, but it kept my hair dry-er).

At/near my table were several seasoned background artists, and Eric and Bob let me interview them. Look for those interviews shortly!

Look for me in episode eight.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Unforgettable" -- Extra Goal Accomplished.

It has almost been an entire week since it happened, but I was an extra on the new television show Unforgettable (CBS Television Studios).  It's about a crime-solver, never-forgets-a-thing woman played by  sharp as a whip, Poppy Montgomery (I got to see her do her own make-up and the other women do her hair).  They also had Michael Gaston--the man that loves to be hated in most of the successful television shows on today as a guest star.  Plus, Dylan Walsh (I made eye contact with him, but still hadn't forgiven him for his character in a show I'd seen earlier that week. . . I know I'm a little ridiculous, yeesh).

The scenes you may see me in the back of are one where people are fleeing the building because of some sort of scare.  I am one of the people staring for all I'm worth trying to figure out what is going on. Please imagine my just-kidding-snooty voice coming on, "I know, it took years of practice to do that."

I walked out from behind a fire truck with its lights on with my proverbial BFF Leslie (that's her real name), gawked like I was about to be struck dead from surprise that people are fleeing from a building in my neighborhood.  Then I walked behind another lights blaring fire truck. For my character's name during that sequence I chose Louvenia Chanticleer Swashbuckler; gorgeous hipster, from Casper, Wyoming.  

They filmed it probably about twelve times with 5-10 minutes breaks between.  It was pretty hot that day so I stayed as close to the fire truck as possible for shade, then I moved up so I could still have some shade--closer, gulp, to the crew--entirely engulfed in their crewly business.

Then we went back to the holding.  The holding is where they keep the background artists while they set up another scene and where the background (as they call us) hang out.  There was one bathroom for 160 of us, so if one really had to go then one had to trek four blocks to the honey wagon (seriously, that's what they call the bathroom in a truck) where there were two more stalls for girls and two more stalls (I'm assuming) for boys.   They also had the food tent (though I think they called it something else, I forget).  

Now, before you think I'm this amazing extra at the top of her game, I want you to understand I got a total of one hour of sleep the night before and was running completely on adrenaline.  So I didn't think to talk to the main actors--which may or may not have been a blessing.

Then after a lunch at a church about 3/4 a mile from holding/scene we went to the next scene, where I played a business woman. Ocea Clyve, was my character's name, from Hoboken, enough said.  I was a superior jay-walking rectangle walker, walking with another character BFF outside a restaurant, wherein Ms. Montgomery was acting.

It all happened in Williamsburg on Berry Street between N 7th and 9th St or Ave.  Some of the people (I'll admit it, the slender and well-built people) got to be on the roasting hot inside of the restaurant.  At first I wanted to be in there, but was afterward exceedingly grateful not to be cooked.

One of the Assistant Assistant Directors or their under-whatever had picture of the original Little Rascals, Buckwheat,  laughing on his t-shirt (which I really liked), but the guy almost had a heart attack when he saw the background artists sitting down and made us move every time--even though we weren't needed and not in the way at the moment.  I learned that if I saw that shirt peeking around any corners to immediately stand up so as to avoid the wrath of the all-background-artists-have-no-reason-to-be-resting-Buckwheat-guy.

Background actors are fed. We have two people moving us about and telling us to hush or walk faster, but to the rest of the crew--it is like we are invisible--okay, except for that Buckwheat guy, whom we clearly bother.

I went to ask some questions (like in previous posts) and the make-up lady looked at me and said in a seriously annoyed tone of voice, "Are you background?"

I answered kindly back, "Yes."

She moved her bag, like I could sit down and talk and then another lady came and the make-up lady called out, "Oh, I've been waiting for you." She didn't look at me or give me any more of the time of day, but let the lady sit in the spot she'd just cleared. Meanie.

So, from that point on, I pretty much steered clear of the crew.  Seems, not being an actor is a better advantage for getting answers out of these people.  But I did get to watch the screens for a moment until the director came out.  He had long white waspy hair. One of the crew left a few minutes before the background artists. He said he'd been fired, which left me feeling slightly hollow (but not to worry, we saw him setting up a few blocks down). Only the drivers were really willing to talk. They were really friendly.

It was so fun to talk to the other extras and to learn about their experiences and their schedules for the rest of the week.  One of them could have made the star-gossip channels look like some back woods newspaper, because she had a lot of information on the stars on the sets she'd been on. she was quite colorful.

Most of them want to be actors. Some had been background actors for quite awhile, others only three or four times.

Overall it felt like riding a ski lift for the first time--scary, exciting,exhilarating and limiting all at the same time.

There are many more details, but I'm writing a blog post, not a book, so if you want more details, leave a comment with your questions and I'll answer them if you like. I did not take any pictures because everything I read said pictures taken can mean immediate firing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Little Airplane Productions Email Interview with Josh Selig

One of the most important fields in the entertainment industry is all about preschoolers.  They are there pinpointing specific things preschoolers need to know. Things like being proud of being oneself, building and maintaining relationships, working as a team, understanding the world around, overcoming fear, sharing, learning from everything, setting and accomplishing goals, and the list goes on. . . and on.  

Parents trust the people that makes preschooler shows because we see the smiles of joy and excitement as we watch our children watching the shows and then later acting out certain scenes or make-believe their own scenes with the same good principles with their toys later. We hear them talk about the show or certain aspects of it.  We love the feeling that our children and learning and our families get to enjoy the results.

My kids sometimes go to this amazing place, Little Airplane Productions, Inc. where they make extraordinary children's shows such as The Wonder Pets; Go, Baby; and Oobi  to help with research.

After going there sporadically for the last four years for research, we were invited to come to see a sampling of their newest preschool series Small Potatoes.  My children were thrilled. The show is about four hilarious, musical potatoes with amazing hair. The music was all different kinds and all geared for child enjoyment. Chances are, if you have a preschooler or will have one in the near future you'll see this show in the next year accompanied with a lot of laughter and singing from your preschooler.

I finally got the nerve to ask the very busy president of the company some questions. I had a much longer list, but I compressed it as much as I could bear and then sent it to him. Minutes later, he answered my email and all my questions.

Ladies and gentlemen I proudly present my email interview with many awards winning, Mr. Josh Selig, founder and President of Little Airplane Productions, Inc, weekly column writer for KidScreen Magazine.
1. What got you interested in doing what you do?

I first got interested in children's television while working as a writer on "Sesame Street."

2. When did you decide that you would do what you do?

I always liked making things, but I did not start making my own shows until my thirties after I had done many other jobs in television, including writing, directing and producing.  Creating shows brought all of the skills together for me.

3. Do you want to do more in the future or would you like to change paths?

I am happy doing the work I do and I'd just like to continue making shows and films for kids.

4. How do you get your ideas?

My ideas mostly come from life.  I just try to pay attention to all that goes on around me and somehow the ideas just pop up like mushrooms.

5. When you are writing does what you write make you laugh as you write or do you at times have to stop to laugh and then write? I was laughing all through Small Potatoes so I cannot fathom your being able to write everything without stopping every now and then to have a momentary guffaw.

Yes, sometimes if I really like a joke I will laugh out loud.  But not often.  If you do that too much people think you're crazy.

6. What inspires you to action when you feel unmotivated? You do have times like that, right?!

I usually just try to do something else when I'm feeling unmotivated.  I try to never force myself to do creative work when I'm not in the mood.  Usually the mood to make things will return after a while.  Creativity is like a cat, you have to give it space and allow it to come to you.

7. Is this your dream job? If not, what is your dream job?

I think this is my dream job.  I feel very fortunate in that way.

8. What kind of hours do you and your team usually work?

My team usually works from 9:30 am - 6:30 pm.  I usually work a little longer.

9. When and how did you know you had talent in writing?
I have always loved words but I have never felt particularly talented as a writer.  I think I'm more of a hard work type than a gifted type.

Thank you Josh!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Martha Stewart and Such

Well peoples, I will be on National Television, again (thanks to a previous Martha Stewart Show and "What Would You Do?").

Today I had my second "extra" experience, if being an audience member counts as being an extra.  I was on the Martha Stewart show (raise your hands and applaud loudly, please remember your does of aspirin just before going to the show--it's helps ease the pain of the rocking headache buzzing in your head from the enthusiastic cheers of yourself and the people around you).  Technically I was Audience Member 129ish.  I know you are jealous.  Instead of a measly $79 paycheck, I spent only 4 hours in the studio AND I got a couple of free gifts beginning with pop and ending with corn.

Let me tell you of the entire experience. It is long and drawn out so you may need to go get a drink of water or something.

I arrived and met up with my friend, S.M.  We chatted, took pictures, wrote memos and laughed at all the tourists. Okay we really didn't write memos or laugh at tourists, but it sounds like a NYC thing to do, right?

We went in and we sat close to the complimentary water. It was at that moment my stomach informed me that eating beforehand would have been a dandy idea and it continued to scold me through the entire proceedings.  It may do well to mention that me and hunger--we don't get along.  Usually we put lots of food between us so that we do not have to make eye contact, but it happens on occasion.

Then Joey came out, he's the comedian that gets the crowd "pumped" for the show.  This guy did not have to prep me. I came with a goal to be so enthusiastic that I would get the free stuff--no doubt on earth it should come to me.

Note how it looks like Joey is touching a butterfly.

I let my friend know of my plan to win the extra stuff. She agreed that wild enthusiasm would be key.  So we waited, watched a show of Ms. Stewart and a guest or two. We moved to the other room in hopes of going to the filming room sooner.  It didn't work.  They take people by the color on their cards (ours was pink).  We got up there with all the other pink people.

Prior to going up they told all of us that it was vital that we stay in our seats and only take pictures sitting down.  Cha right, we're a crowd--who sits for a picture?!

Finally we made it to the filming room and were directed where to sit (third or fourth row up third or fourth seat in). We saw another Martha Stewart sign and of course I had to have a picture with that (I love taking pictures). Soooo, I took a picture of my friend.  We swapped spots and she got a picture of me.  It was when we were swapping spots they announced firmly again, please stay in your seats.  Then before we switched seats again I looked around to see if any of the headset bearing officials were watching us. I thought the coast was clear when we switched, but I think I may have been wrong.

Standing right by the front row was the official-est of the officials watching me and I am pretty sure she said into her microphone "They've switched seats twice . . ."  I couldn't hear the rest.

She's the person on the lower left hand side.  

A few moments later the security guy walked right up into our row and in front of us.  I thought for sure he was going to ask us to follow him to an office where he would proceed to interrogate us on why we were switching seats. I could imagine us crying and saying, "We only wanted a picture of the stupid sign (oops--I promised my kids I wouldn't say stupid, forgive me) can't we go home now?"

Okay, so my thoughts are super dramatic, it's a curse/blessing.

The security guy--in the suit--which makes officials seem even more official-er, came right up to us looked us in the eyes . . . [dramatic pause] . . . then he looked over our shoulders and asked a group of six people to please sit in their seats to take pictures.

S.M. and I looked at each other and cumulatively sighed with relief, he wasn't there for us.

Soon the show prep included the audience.  They practiced our cheering and tapering out.  We were awesome, especially me, {very smugly} if I do say so myself.  I wanted the free stuff.  The girl next to me also agreed that we both wanted something free and we were hollering and clapping for all we were worth.

Well, I think I must have put enthusiasm on with a trowel.  Poor Joey was like the lone celery stick with an entire can of cheese stuff. The celery is quickly overcome and does his best to ignore the overwhelming cheese (me).  Sorry, Joey--all I wanted was the free stuff you promised the most enthusiastic audience member, otherwise it would have never come to this (again, with the dramatic thinking--I know, I am a bit of a cornball and I am proud of it).

I am 92.7431 percent sure my enthusiasm got the attention of at least Elizabeth Hasselback and Martha Stewart.  The other people seemed a little to nervous to glance at the crowd for more than two seconds (I know I would have been).

At one point they asked the audience members to come up with a couple of questions for Ms. Stewart.  I gave them a question, "What is the best kind of garden to grow in a small space, like a NYC apartment?"  I knew she had to know the answer to that and that she would answer it and I was informed I could raise my hand and ask the question.

But it was not to be--people on the floor portion of the studio got to ask the question, after Ms. Stewart told Joey he often misses the floor folks, he sure didn't after that. Also this guy that I noticed hardly ever clapped behind me got some free stuff--maybe the key to getting free stuff is to act like a statue.  I was miffed, but only momentarily.  Thanks again, Joey.

Also, there were about six men in the audience. Four of them got the free stuff.  Three of them were invited to dance.  Sheesh.  There were about eight free things.  Not to complain, but that is how it was.  I was dancing. I was living it up (partly because if they show me on the screen maybe my family will see me and it will be like I was waving at them across the country with a two-day delay).

Then it was over.  I came home with a whopper headache, kettle-corn popcorn and a stove-top popcorn maker my kids are sooooo excited for me to use for them.

It was a great experience, even if I didn't get to ask my question or get the free stuff.  It's okay, Joey. I forgive you.  Did you ever take the lady to the restaurant where you know the chef? White Castle, wasn't it?  What did she get? Has she had a heart attack yet?  Only kidding. Sort of. Okay, my ultra-dramatics are now off.

It will air on January 27 on the Hallmark Channel.