MY 'GONE BABY GONE' EXPERIENCE!
I finally got a taste of A-list Hollywood. I was an extra last week in a scene shot at the popular Silver Spoon restaurant, in Roxbury, Massachusetts for the film Gone Baby Gone. The film is being directed and produced by Hollywood hunk, Ben Affleck in his directorial debut. For those who don’t know, Roxbury is the heart of Boston’s black community. I got a call from CP Casting. The scene would take place in the restaurant and customers were working class people. Specific instructions - don’t wear anything fancy, but take a few extra things just in case they wanted different wardrobe. Okay, I pull out the jeans, tank tap and a shirt over it, and my quiet shoes. I was trying to dress a comfortably as possible because I knew that it would be extremely hot that day.
I arrived at the Silver Slipper promptly at 7:00am as instructed only to be told that Extras were to report to the base camp a few blocks away. It was the old MBTA bus depot. So I walked over there and saw other extras. All the extras were black, I guess to reflect the neighborhood. I checked in, and was told to go to wardrobe for approval. What I was wearing was fine, one lady wearing jeans was told to wear a skirt, another lady was provided a waitress uniform. Some of the guys had to change their shorts or were given shirts from wardrobe. The extras who were pedestrians were immediately bused over to the set. Meanwhile it was early in the morning and I wasn’t sure of when we could eat or refreshments on the set. I asked if we could get some coffee or something to drink from the food table and truck set up in the lot. A crew person took us over and we got some drinks and snacks, then we were walked to the Silver Spoon.
When we got there to our amazement there was no holding area. So first they let us sit in the restaurant while they shot scenes outside. Inside we chatted with some of the crew, and I was chatting with a lighting specialist and I was fascinated by what he was saying about film lighting. Then we had to move outside while they set up the restaurant. They took down some of the photos on the wall and put up some others, all related to Black History. The wall looked great, and colorful, like Black Power wall. I was impressed. First we were hanging around on the sidewalk by the huge mural on the wall. It was interesting to see the curiosity traffic jams. Hey, it’s not everyday that movies gets shot in Roxbury or so many stars are there. And this was something positive not TV cameras covering crime.
We were then instructed to hang out the parking lot area, which had been turned into a multi-purpose area. It was small and crowded with trucks carrying generators and other stuff. So we sat on bumpers, truck steps, the hot ground, curb, whatever, but ended up standing most of the time.
On the set, one extra asked about a toilet. It turned out that the only toilet available was the one in the basement of the restaurant and to get to it, you had to go between set-ups. So people were cautious what they drank, but it was so hot and people were sweating so there was minimal need for bathroom trips. Luckily around 12:00noon two port-o-potties were delivered.
When it came time for our first call to the set we were lined up, and someone assigned us things to do. I got to sit at the counter in front of Ed Harris and John Ashton. My counter partner was an actor called Montez. Me and ‘my friend’ (as we became known during the shoot) were given bowls with Jamaican style peas and rice and bread and little saucers. They gave us drinks filled with plastic ice cubes, so they wouldn’t melt. We were told not to drink it, just pretend. The food was real though, it’s just that it had passed through so many hands. Every time they said “action”, we had to pretend to eat and drink. I tasted some of the beans and rice. They were good. I wouldn’t have minded having some of the curried goat or jerk chicken that was being served.
In the scene, Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan come in and talk to the older detectives. We did many takes, and of course the actors were flubbing their lines. Some of the flubs will probably make great outtakes. Ben Affleck kept coming over to Casey, pulling him aside and speaking to him in a low voice. It looked like he wasn’t pleased with his little bro’s acting, but finally he got it right. When they finished the first part, we had to go out mill around the equipment and wait to be called again. We were called in again and did the same thing, shot from a different angle. Michelle Monaghan talked to us, along with Casey between shots. I was like, wow, I’m talking to Michelle Monaghan! Casey even though he spoke to us seemed scared of us.
Finally we got a lunch break. Lunch was great! We were bused over to 12th Baptist Church on Warren St.. I wonder if Ben and the other crew knew that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Minister at that Church while he was a student at Boston University. We were in an historic venue. We got a hot lunch and got to choose what we wanted. There was Grilled Tilapia, Chicken Parmesan and Italian sausage, not to mention salads, fruits, desserts and other foodstuffs. Ben Affleck sat with his family and friends at a table in a section of the hall with dimmed lights. His wife Jennifer Garner got up came over to the table next to us and was chatting on her cell phone. It sounded like she was making a deal for a movie, or conditions on the future movie set for a film she’d be acting in. It was cool to see the Alias star in the flesh and she smiled at everyone. Soon lunch was over.
Ben and his wife took a photo with a lady from 12th Baptist and signed an autograph for another member. Then they were gone. Before, we went back our staff person told us to make sure we used the bathroom etc. We lined up outside and got bused back to the set. While we were waiting for the van, someone drove by and through a bag of garbage out their car window. The woman who took the photo with Ben ran into the street and picked it up and put in a garbage can.
Back at the set, this time, we had to wait until around 8:00pm to be called. So we just hung around. The sad thing was that there were no chairs, so we stood around. It was steaming hot. Luckily there was a big tube piping cool air, into the restaurant and also to certain areas of the parking. We took turns standing around it to cool off. The crew kept telling us to drink and stay hydrated so that we wouldn’t pass out. Some chairs were removed from the restaurant and some of the guys went to get them so we could sit on them, then some woman on the crew same running after them and told them to put them back. After a couple of hours people got so fed up of standing that they just took the chairs and sat.
So for our final scene, I was sitting at the counter on a stool when Ben Affleck brushed against my back and I almost spilled my fake drink. Well, the space was narrow so anything could happen. I turned and looked and he walked away without saying anything. If it had been elsewhere, I would have expected an, “excuse me.” But hey this was a Hollywood set. So I got back to the business of waiting for the cue and pretending to eat the now cold and dried out food. Someone told me I should hawk my shirt on E-bay! Ben Affleck touched it! LOL! I like my shirt, no way!
Ed Harris is the coolest guy! He came over and greeted all the extras and asked our names. On the set he addressed us by name. We were amazed that he remembered our names. During the day he asked us, how we were doing. What a nice person, I’m a fan not just as an actor but of him as a human being.
Why do I say this, because that whole day and despite seeing Ben Affleck numerous times and being physically close to us, he never spoke to us. He never said, Hello, Good-Bye, or thanks. He never asked any of us extras how we’re doing, told us good job or anything. Truth said, all that was being done by the crew and the assistants. Most of time Ben just sat behind some screen which showed what was being filmed. It was someone else telling people what to do. I guess that’s the Hollywood style of making films. As to conditions, I guess there are trade-offs, I've been on films, which had a great holding area and hardly anything to eat or drink, or worse you have to go and buy your own food. None of the extras went up to him and asked for his autograph or to take a photo with him, maybe we should have. I'm sure we'll see Ben Affleck again, Boston is a small town.
Note this film is Ben Affleck’s directorial debut. I hope it’s a hit at the Box Office and even better would be if it earns some Oscar nods. How cool, would that be to be able to say, “ I was an Extra in an Oscar nominated film!” Remember in filmmaking they may never use the scene. But hey it will be cool to see myself on the big A-list screen even if all you see is my back!
* I took some photos and will post them as soon as they are processed. Sorry none of Ben or Jen.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Me and Tim Weske after shooting our scene.
Tim played Amos Black a mean old bast*d working his farm hands to death! He even killed one guy, for not working hard enough! Sad thing is it's a true story! One of the guys joked lets get together and kill him! After we finished shooting the scene Tim was more than a gentleman and came over and apologized to each of us and gave us a hug, dirty as we were! Of course there are no grudges as we were just acting! Plus it helped knowing before hand what the script was about.
I sure am glad I wasn't living back then! Even though I was just acting, working out in that field had me imagining what the real slaves and ex-slaves endured! God made humans resilient!
The Union soldier guy is one of the actors who came from Los Angeles. I'm not sure what his name is.
Aftershock will be shown on the History Channel. I'll let you know when or you an check the website: http://www.limulusproductions.com
You can read more about the Aftershock filming at http://www.the-valves.net/ Click on 'Steve LeClaire Movie Star'. There are also more great photos.
Friday, June 09, 2006
I just acted in a Documentary film being shot for the History Channel. The name of the film is ‘Aftershock’. It’s about the chaos of the post Civil War period. I’m calling it more of the untold stories of that time. Aftershock is being made by Limulus Productions of Arlington, Massachusetts and directed by David Padrusch.
I landed the part of a lowly field hand …backstory -ex slave still living almost in slavery. In the scene Amos Black played by Tim Weske kills one of the farm hands and then threatens the others. Sadly, it’s a true story.
So I went out Sutton, Massachusetts which is about fifty miles from Boston. I arrived on the set, signed in, and went straight to wardrobe. I was dressed in a long black skirt, apron and man’s shirt! I then headed to make-up and this was no glam job. They actually put dirt make-up on me! I then headed to the set where they were filming which turned out to be a soggy field. Once there actors were assigned various farm implements. I ended up with a pitchfork, which turned out to be quite good for tilling the soggy land. The soil was dark and full of bugs and huge earthworms.
There a huge horse called Barney, he looked like a Clydesdale. He was being controlled by a white guy dressed in period clothing. Yeah we were back in 1866 alright. So the scene was blocked and we started filming. We all had to take off our shoes. The soil was soggy and I’m sure I sank at least six inches in it. Thank God I had put some bug spray on my feet before I went to the set.
David moved us around several times. I had to control my farming skills picked up from my days in Tanzania. We would spend the whole day farming with just a hoe. No tractor, no nothing. So the farming part was quite easy, in fact the other cast were teasing me that I was capable of farming the whole farm.
During one of the takes, something stung my foot and I couldn’t look back till David said, Cut. By then I had to ask for first aid. A paramedic on the set came and assisted me. First he had to wash the mud off with bottled spring water. Then he applied ice to help reduce swelling. Luckily it wasn’t too bad and I was able to continue although as I write this my foot is still irritated.
So we shot and an actor named Claude, kept having to fall after being hit by Amos Black. Amos then shoots him in the chest and the rest of us are so intimidated that we keep on working. I guess you would too if the boss cocked his shotgun at you. Amos shoots, spits, stands over the body like he just killed an animal! I think I turned numb with the thought that this really happened.
After shooting all that we moved to another angle and then Amos Black had to recite his nasty lines which included the n-word! When he was saying that all I could say was thank god we were just acting. But I thought of our ancestors who had to endure that harsh life, in the days of slavery. We were dirty all over and I imagined how awful it must have been back then without modern day conveniences. I felt awful, I felt dirty and filthy! But I kept saying to myself at the end of the day I can go home and soak in the tub, wash my clothes in a washing machine etc. What did those poor people have back then? Human beings are truly resilient.
After we finished shooting that scene we broke for lunch. I swear we did 100 takes. Tim came over and shook hands and hugged everyone one off us and apologized. We told him, that we knew he was just acting and had no grudges. We also told him the line wasn’t really a shock to us because it was used in the auditions. He said, he was wondering why people didn’t look surprised.
I felt terrible and quickly took off my costume I was going to leave until another actor told me we were still needed. So I waited until the next scene and put the dirty costume back on. This time, we got bloodied up because we were massacred. Some of the costumes were borrowed from re-enactors and they had to be careful with them. I had the luck of wearing a costume that could be dirtied and had a lot of fake blood poured on me. For this scene we had to lie on the soggy forest floor. They gave us lots of Bug Spray (OFF could use that for a commercial) and the EMT’s checked for poison ivy. We had to hold our breath and play dead.
After we were done and all the African American actors were released. I changed back to my 2006 clothes and tried to take as much of the dirt make up and fake blood off. One of the actors, Frank Shefton, told me that the other day he did a scene with the fake blood. He didn’t get it all off his face and on the way home he stopped at 7-11 and the clerk almost freaked out! Yeah that fake blood looked real and felt real. In fact, when the same EMT who assisted me earlier saw me with it he gasped.
Overall, what an experience! I’ll inform you when the film will be playing in the History Channel.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
AFTERSHOCK - A Post Civil War Documentary for the History Channel
This film is about the post-civil war period known as 'Reconstruction'. Production started June 1st, in Massachsuetts. I have a role in it. The scene I'm in will film next week. I'll definitely brief you on the shoot.
The script is based on true incidences and its atrocious how blacks were murdered and mistreated. White would hire blacks to work their land then refuse to pay them resultng in some blacks starving to death.
Black men, women and children were murdered for sport! A black woman who spoke up against the Klan was stripped naked and whipped in front of her family, then the Klan whipped her daughters!
It was an awful time for blacks and whites who felt the pain of losing their old way of life because of the Civil War. I think films like Gone With the Wind have shaped a lot of peoples thoughts on Reconstruction. Aftershock will definitely be an eye opener.
Meanwhile here is an article on the interest that the film is generating:
Crackle of rifle fire, smell of gunpowder to fill Air
By Ariel Z. Burch/ Staff Writer Thursday, June 1, 2006
Westford Police Dispatchers may receive a higher number of strange calls the weekend of June 8, but the gunshots, flames and suspicious-looking men in Civil War era-garb will all be part of a History Channel documentary.
"Aftershock," a two-hour special about the post-Civil War South, will be filmed in Sutton and in Westford on town-owned land at the end of Vine Brook Road along Nashoba Pond, also known as Kennedy Pond.
Conservation Commissioner William Turner and the Board of Selectmen have given Producer-Director David Padrusch of Limulus Productions permission to film on Thursday, June 8, Friday, June 9 and Saturday, June 10.
Padrusch said some scenes will be violent and very dramatic due to the nature of the film.
"During a period known as 'Reconstruction,' a time many consider to be one of the darkest in American history, America is supposed to be reuniting, healing its wounds and moving past civil discord. But in the post-Civil War South, one can see snapshots of a larger, more menacing picture. A picture shadowed by insurgency terrorism and chaos as 'free' black men and women remain enslaved by a South that does not completely surrender," Padrusch said.
"The truth about this era is about to become shockingly clear," Padrusch said.
Kate Hollister of the homeowners association on Vine Brook Road said the neighborhood supports the production.
"I have only talked to the women, but they all say it's great and 'can the kids go watch?'" said Hollister.
Residents are welcome to watch filming, Padrusch said, and the Police and Fire Departments will be on hand to maintain order.
There will also be opportunities for extras to appear in the production and members of the Westford Academy Theater Arts program, under the direction of Michael Towers, may also have roles.
"This is a very serious matter that is being handled with the utmost delicateness," Padrusch said.
Padrusch's last film, entitled "Bible Battles," premiered on the History Channel in December, 2005.