Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Screen Debut

I wrote about the Blue Like Jazz movie a few months ago, and I wanted to give you a (long overdue) update. For a brief recap, the movie, based on one of my favorite books by Donald Miller, lost its funding when some evangelical groups found out its characters' walk with faith weren't exactly... by the book. (Among many, many other reasons, I'm sure.) Regardless, some folks from Franklin, Tenn., generated a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising $125,000 to save the movie. I gave a measly $25 and hoped for the best.

Would you believe that in less than a month, they raised a little under $346,000?! Mostly from thousands of everyday people just like me who gave their measly $10 and $25 toward something they believed in. If that isn't God doing some work in the modern age, I don't know what is.

So filming began immediately, and in Nashville, no less. The second I saw a casting call, I jumped on it, even though it called for "college-aged" kids and were mostly recruiting Belmont and Nashville students. I figured that at 28, I can pull it off. Right? I mean... I'm pretty short. I don't look toooo different from when I was in college? So I signed up and was assigned a day to show up. I ventured over to the Scarritt Bennett Center on Vandy's campus on a frosty morning, wearing "grungy Seattle" clothes (meaning for most, including me... dark plaid) and carrying a  headshot (double ha), as was asked of me, and I kept my fingers crossed the person in charge wouldn't stamp a big TOO OLD sign on my forehead.

Well, they didn't, which is why I'm here to tell you that next year I will be making my big screen debut. As an extra, yes, and in a low-budget indie film... but in a film that I am over-the-top excited about, and I hope you'll watch for.

So let me tell you something about filming a movie... it's not quite as glamorous as you imagine. It's 80% sitting around while set directors, costume and prop folks, and main actors set up the scene.. then 20% actually filming. Then resetting. Reshooting.. Reset. Reshoot. Over and over. Thrilling at first for sure, but tedious after a while. Regardless, I had a blast watching and learning a bit about the process, and I had the opportunity to chat with a bunch of college kids (oh, to be young), as well as the lead actors. The actor playing Donald Miller's character is Marshall Allman, looking quite cleaned up from his TrueBlood fame.

Marshall Allman
We shot a cafeteria scene. Lots of dialogue. I was among 150 or so students filling out the tables in the lunchroom. At times, different people walk around and pick people out to be walkers, or to be in the front of shots. Mostly to disperse demographics, but also I think they just picked out the people who fit parts best, or maybe who they thought dressed the best? I can tell  you the one black dude I was talking to at first had no clue what he'd gotten himself into, as he was among the very few minorities there. He's going to be in every scene, I think.

So as the dude walked around looking all empowered as he plucked the special ones from their seats, I tried several strategies to get him to pick me. First I ignored him. I looked off and chatted with my neighbor, ever-aware of his passing by me. And pass right by me he did. The next time, I acknowledged him, gave a smile (an Oscar-worthy smile, perhaps), and then I acted like I didn't give a care. Again, he passed by. I made an attempt to silently plea "Pick me! Pick me!" with my eyes without embarrassingly causing any scenes. Nope. I tried variations of these tactics with each pass. No dice. Then I gave up on my big screen debut and didn't even notice when he walked by the next time. I happened to look up right as he said "You.. in the plaid jacket... carry a tray." YES! So I carried a tray. And I was walking right behind the main actors in the scene as I carried said tray. (Strategy, folks.) So if the scene makes it in the film, you'll see my face, and my plaid jacket, walking to my invisible seat. Carrying some fruit and maybe a cookie (let's face it... probably a cookie). And trying my damndest not to look into the camera. They also filmed another scene set in the cafeteria, but taking place on a different day, in which we excitedly welcomed the main characters back after they'd been rescued from jail and blah blah blah... just watch the movie. Trust me, I'll let you know if I'm in it.

Here I am, with my prop (the headshot). I'll explain why if the scene makes it to the big screen.

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