Thursday, July 12, 2012

being an "extra" in a sizzle reel

Last week I was reading our local newspaper and something caught my eye. Some filmmakers were going to be in town shooting a "sizzle reel" and they needed extras. Not knowing what a sizzle reel was, I looked it up and here's what I found: A sizzle reel is a short film (like a trailer) that gives a funder an idea of what the film is going to feel like/look like. So when people want to make a movie, they film 6-10 minutes of key scenes and then take that sizzle reel to meetings with investors. It sparks interest to what the whole 100 minute film will look like and the investors can choose whether or not to pony up money to help the movie get made.

The scene that they were shooting was Tuesday night from 7-10:30 pm in one of our local bookstores. I had the night free and thought it would be fun so I showed up. Here's what I saw:

There were about 30-40 of us extras sitting in one section of the bookstore. The director was running around talking to everyone, the assistant director was telling us where to sit and what to do, the cinematographer was getting all the camera angles set up, the tech team was setting up lights and microphones, and the screenwriter/producer was standing there, looking at everything happening and beaming. Because this is her project.

I am not allowed to say the name of the movie because I'm posting a picture and we signed a waiver saying we wouldn't post anything on the internet until the sizzle reel comes out. Whoops. But I can tell you what it's about. It's the story of a 15 year old girl who develops a crush on a celebrity actor/poet. At first you think he's charming and he gains her trust, but then...he sexually assaults her. It of course traumatizes her, and the rest of the movie is her figuring out how to recover, heal, and empower herself (and other teenage girls) against that ever happening again.

The screenwriter based this movie on herself. She was sexually assaulted at 15 and even at 58 years old now, she will never forget it. She has spent her life learning to heal from what happened and she is committed to seeing this movie be made to encourage young women out there that they are not alone. There is help and healing and empowerment beyond that. (She told us the day before they had filmed a scene which occurs after the assault - the 15 year old goes to a self-defense class and when the teacher shows the girls what to do when they are pinned down, it's too much for her and she throws up in front of everybody. But as the movie goes on and she continues to go to her self-defense class, you see her feel stronger and more empowered and finally she learns to fight back! Yes!)

Anyway, I think this will be a powerful movie and will hopefully be a help and encouragement to many people. I really enjoyed watching the screenwriter. You could just see the joy in her face as filming went on. Beauty from pain.

They filmed two scenes that night. These scenes take place toward the beginning of the movie. This hot actor guy has shown up at a bookstore to read his poetry (You can see him in the top right of the photo behind the podium). We were told to think of him as the next Ryan Gosling. Gorgeous AND sensitive (a poet). They really wanted us to swoon. While he's talking and reading, the 15 year old girl is in the back of the room, standing against a pillar (the rest of us were sitting) and smiling shyly at him. At the very end of his poem, he looks up and catches her eye. He pauses, smiles back at her, and then finishes reading. We all stand up, whooping, clapping, and I dramatically fan my face, like "Oh my ga, he's so HOT!"

The second scene was after his poetry reading. People are filing out and others are milling around, talking. The actor/poet saunters up to the 15 year old girl and starts talking to her. She is holding a notebook and tells him she writes poetry herself. He takes her notebook and says he would be honored to read her poetry. And he leaves his friends and walks away with her, still talking.

Here's what I learned about filming. It's boring! Seriously, bring a book. It takes them an hour to set everything up to shoot a scene 5 times (5 "takes") and then another hour to set the cameras in different places to catch different angles and do the exact same scene 5 times. The second scene went much quicker. They only did 4 takes total on that scene. All in all, it took 3 and a half hours for only 30 seconds of the sizzle reel.Crazy.

But even though it was boring, I had a good time. You get to meet all the other extras because you're all just hanging out anyway. The screenwriter brought a bunch of bottles of wine and the director's wife was so sweet and passed around snacks she had made. I groaned when an extra next to me asked "Are they vegan?" Dude, you're an extra, not Brad Pitt. Take the snack and be thankful!!

My embarrassing moment of the night was during the second scene. I was supposed to be sitting on a chair, facing another extra and we had to pretend we were having a conversation in the background while the actor/poet talked to the 15 year old. I don't know what possessed me, but about halfway through the scene, I looked away from her and accidentally looked STRAIGHT into the camera! Nooooo! That is like the number one faux paus in filming. Have you ever watched a movie and seen someone in the background (an extra) look right into the camera? No. Because they got fired. You cannot look at the camera. If you do, they have to stop filming and start all over again. I froze and then quickly looked back at my conversation partner and prayed that I didn't just mess up that take. We did the scene 3 more times and the director never said anything to me, so hopefully he will use one of the other takes.

It will probably take them awhile to edit and get the sizzle reel ready. I'm hoping they post it online because then I can show it to you guys. You can see me squeal and swoon over Mr. Hottie Actor in the first scene and then look right at the camera and freeze in the second scene. Good times!


New Branch said...

i'm totally laughing at the image of you - aka 'deer in the headlights'. are these gluten free?

Smarshie said...

"Are these lactose-free?"

"Are these organic?"

"Did you use ingredients that were locally grown?"