Wednesday, February 6, 2013

a moment in the day: movie star

The camera is aimed at the back of my head. I stand next to Stephen, posed casually, or what I hope looks casually, staring at the cellists while the crew rolls film. The location is the Blue Sky Gallery, and Stephen and I are working as extras for Northern Flicker Films' first full length feature, The Black Sea.

It's scene seventy. I know this because every time the woman claps that clapper thing she says it's scene seventy.

Stephen and I were the first extras called into the scene, a fact that to me feels very important. Our job has been to step across the gallery with the camera following us and then stop here and watch the cellists while the camera continues on. Between takes, Stephen lifts the back of my hair out from where it's fallen down the neck of my jacket.

Does every kid want to be a movie star?

I was eleven and on a camping trip at a place called Campland on the Bay, and a small film crew was taking shots of the beach for a commercial. I guess we kids were bugging the film crew a little too much, because they gave us a job building a pile of sand for "Friendly the Wolf" to sit on. I was so excited. People watching the commercial were going to see a mound of sand touched and shaped by my own hands. My life was complete. I was a TV star. A little.

I was thirteen and I received an envelope in the mail addressed to me by Steven Spielberg. I was so excited. I'd written a fan letter in hopes of starting up a dialogue with the famous director since I was writing a script for the sequel to the film E.T. When Mr. Spielberg accepted my query, I hoped to star in the film. Inside the envelope was a form response and an invitation to join the E. T. fan club.

I was twenty-two and in Tokyo, Japan, performing as a clown with the circus - well, sort of performing. We were supposed to do a firehouse gag, but the little fire truck hadn't arrived, so Tim was doing a clown number with his trumpet and I was mostly selling programs in the seats and then joining the cast in the ring for finale. I wanted to be in the trumpet number too, but Tim said he didn't need me. After a while, the director of the show came to our little dressing room and asked, hey, why isn't she working? The director spoke to Tim and not to me. My face went hot with shame and hope. So Tim agreed to put me in his trumpet number, where I tromped around the ring and clapped my hands as he played. At some point during the month-long Tokyo run, the entire program was filmed for Japanese television. I was so excited. When we watched the show, I saw a tiny glimpse of myself taking a bow during finale.

The camera is on my back as I pose, staring at the cellists. What is my motivation in this scene? Are my hands clasped behind my back in a way that conveys just the right amount of art-patron-enjoying-music? Has my hair fallen back inside the neck of my jacket? I act casual and pretend I'm not excited. In front of me, facing the camera, the cellists pantomime playing a piece that will be dubbed in later, the touch of their bows soft against the strings, making only a whisper of music.


Find out more about The Black Sea movie and Northern Flicker Films here

There's a funny article about the marketing of Friendly the Wolf here

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