I recently spent a day as an extra on Mike Judge’s new untitled movie starring Luke Wilson. Luke portrays a man who takes part in some government experiment and wakes up in the future where he finds he is the smartest person on Earth because we’ve all been dumbed down so much while he was asleep.
I showed up bright and early at 5:45 a.m. (otherwise known as stupid o’clock) with several changes of clothes for wardrobe to choose from (I was told to bring 4 different outfits). I went and checked in, then began the time-honored movie making tradition of…waiting. As always some good snacks were provided, and I wished I had brought something to read. While we were waiting they picked about 15 people to stay on for a later scene as prisoners in the future. I wasn’t picked, despite my stunning aura of charisma. After a good while we went and met with wardrobe who looked over our clothing choices. From my clothes, they had me wear one of my favorite funky patterned shirts, my converse with flames on them, and some cargo pants with the legs zipped off to convert them into “shorts” mode. They seemed particularly enamored of my bitchin’ flaming Chucks. We went back to “holding” as they call it (thus reiterating how extras are much like cattle, only we’re not butchered and made into meat products…well most of us anyway), and one of the hair/makeup ladies came to check us out. She decided to gel up my hair a bit. Mike Judge, the director and writer, came in to scope us all out and make sure he liked what he saw. This was way cool, as it was Mike Judge! Beavis and Butthead! King of the Hill! Office Space (a true classic)!
For this first scene, we were supposed to be white trash people waiting in line at a traveling carnival in front a fun house type exhibit called “Future Town”. The props department came by and loaded us all up with huge fanny packs, balloons, popcorn buckets, admission tickets, stuffed animals, and various other white trash carnival accoutrements. I was then put with a group of people who walk by in the shot instead of being in line. During this scene they recruited some more people for the later prisoner scene, and this time they obviously recognized my potential, as I was picked! Fame was just a step away! A very large, size 157663 EEEEEEEEE step away. We shot the scene a few times, and that was that. Whether or not I’m visible, we shall see.
They released the extras who weren’t sticking around for the later scene, and the rest of us then went to wardrobe again. We were issued shiny orange futuristic prison clothes and shoes. Everyone knows clothes will be shiny and synthetic in the future. They’ve known this since sci-fi movies in the 50’s. I’m still waiting for the days when we all get to wear comfy silver jump suits.
We then stood in line to get make up to stamp our wrists with bar codes, and then it was off to the hair people. They put many extras in wigs if they had short hair, and they left most long hairs alone. My hair they gelled up into a pseudo Mohawk style. I found it peculiar that they didn’t allow any facial hair in the future, but tended towards longer messed up hair.
After more waiting, then lunch, and some more waiting, we went to the futuristic prison set. Way cool. We stood in line to have the props department put big shackles on us, and then proceeded onto the set. I started out towards the front of the line, and as Mike Judge and some crew members planned the shot, it looked like I would be right next to Luke Wislon! Then they rearranged us all and hand picked some other prisoners to come up front. Me and several others were relegated to the back. No further back. Keep going. Don’t worry that you’re completely off the set, the line of prisoners will be moving. Then they needed shackles for some of the guys up front. I was de-shackled. I never thought I would be sad to be “set free”. So now, shackleless and off the set, my prospects for being seen were pretty much nil. Those of us not being used in the line were then put into the prison cells, which looked through a plexiglass wall into where the line of prisoners was. I’m right up against the glass, in the very last cell, furthest away from the camera. Chance of being seen? Next to nil. However, between takes, Mike and another guy are looking into the cells and talking about something. As they scan over into my cell, I’m standing with a completely crazed, maniacal expression on my face, which causes them both to laugh. Score. I made Mike Judge laugh. At least I think it was me. However this does not prompt them to “discover” me and put me in the movie. Oh well, maybe next time. Later, after a few takes, they changed angles and some of the closer cells might be seen, but we weren’t even needed because we were totally out of shot. We wait around for about another 2 or 3 hours without being used before they wrap and we are released for the day.
As usual, it was both an exciting, and somewhat depressing experience all at once. It was great to be on a 20th Century Fox movie with Mike Judge and Luke Wilson, but it’s also a bit taunting to get this tiniest taste of the world you want to live in, but can only visit as an alien. I’m going back for a second day of shooting as a prisoner. We shall see if this day bears more fruit!
*update*
No fruit. The night before I was supposed to go back, I called to get my call time. There was a recording saying to call back after 9:00 p.m to make sure no times had changed. I called back at 10:30, and it still said to show up at 9 a.m. When I showed up I was told that at 9 p.m. the night before, they were informed that they only needed about 30 of the 100+ people booked. I of course silently wondered why the hell they didn’t change the recording then, but maintained my cooperative nonchalant facade. So they sent me home, but still paid me 2/3 of what I would have made had I actually worked. Ahh, my glamorous Hollywood lifestyle!