Excerpt from an Unwritten Autobiography: Mad Jack

Mad Jack

Mad Jack’s current hangout.

“Mad Jack” was the kindest and most accurate nickname our family could think of for my father. Although circumstances of his death remain slightly shaded in mystery, it did appear he had a stroke, or something similar, in December 2006 and died in early January 2007. His body was found in his home in late January 2007. Nobody talked to him at that point, so it is relatively surprising that his corpse was discovered as soon as it was.

It was my mother who called on that brisk January morning to give me the news. She delivered it somberly: “V, you should know your father died”, to which I responded, “about time.”

I never cried about my father dying, as I had pretty much cut him out of my life back in the 1980s, after he had drunkenly told me that he wanted to shoot my mom (his ex-wife), so by the time 2007 rolled around, he was a memory longer than he had been a father. I suspected that I would never change my line of thinking of Mad Jack being a detestable, grumpy, largely illiterate, country-music-loving schmuck, and for a few years I didn’t. However, his blood is my blood, and I cannot help but empathize with his detestable, grumpy ways (I’ve always prided myself on being literate, and I’ve never quite understood why country music never evolved like every other musical form, so I still don’t get those facets of his personality).

When I was scouring my initial memories and how they have become a substandard blueprint for my life since, I thought my plight of feeling woefully insubstantial was the result of god suggesting I just wasn’t wanted at this particular party. If that was the case, then god flat out went and shut all the lights off at his house to suggest that no party even existed for my father to attend in the first place.

Mad Jack was born in 1935 to a couple of boneheads who chucked him into foster care at a very early age. In those days, at the height of the decade’s crushing Depression, farmers would routinely tour foster facilities and adopt six, seven or eight kids at a throw in exchange for some tax breaks and, more importantly, free child labor (a/k/a chores). My father was one of eight in a third wave of kids adopted by some practical, if not outright sadistic, farmers in rural Illinois.

I know very little about my father’s childhood, although he did once tell me his favorite, and only, toy was a disused hubcap, which he would pretend was a steering wheel. He’d run around the fields, “driving” over sketchy terrain of corn and cow shit. At the time he told me that, I – who was given my first record player at 2 – laughed. I bet that hurt him just a little bit.

Mad Jack, much like his only son in later years, attempted very much to play by the rules and was often punished for it. I equate it to being on a highway where everyone is going 80 miles per hour in a 55 MPH zone and me being pulled over for going 56. School was rural and neither encouraging nor challenging; religion was thrust on him to give him rationale for constant suffering; his mother popped into his life once or twice, which only exacerbated his alienation of self. And then he joined the army. While in the armed service, something – or everything – snapped and he went nuts. Allegedly, over a dozen men were required to stop him. Stories are conflicted over whether he completed his time or was kicked out.

Back in civilian life, he got a typical job that neither encouraged nor challenged. He met a girl named Mary and married her. All according to the social contract of the day. Mary had two kids and took care of the home while Mad Jack toiled away at his factory job. It was the best he could hope for.

But things went wrong, as all things seemed to do with Mad Jack. He worked midnights for the bump in pay and the cost of that was he was fairly alienated from his wife and kids, who did not work midnights at all. When Mary opted to go back to college, he soldiered on. When Mary graduated and got a killer job, he soldiered on. And when Mary divorced him, he stopped altogether. I actually think he died in 1977 but it took 40 years for his body to agree that death was the best option.

Mad Jack moved to Joliet and bought a house with cash and didn’t go anywhere but work in those four decades. Nothing had worked for him, so he gave up even trying to try. Friends and family vanished from his social calendar, and I suspect it was because he thought himself such a failure that no one could ever love him, let alone be close. So he got angry and pushed everyone away. At the time, we all thought he was nuts, and that’s when his nickname surfaced and stuck. Now, though, I think he thought the world hated him and decided to push anyone who loved him far, far away for their own safety. It was the only compassionate thing he had left to do. And it was the only thing he could count on for success.

As the years rolled along, he got more obstinate and frequently drunk – he had two refrigerators, one for frozen dinners and one for Old Style – while continuing to be called a worthless sinner in the eyes of god every Sunday at Saint Raymond’s Church in Joliet. It was then when, during our last conversation, he threatened to kill Mary – my mom – and her second husband, who had achieved his main and biggest dream: to own a farm. He wanted that more than anything, I think, and seeing his ex-wife and Jewish husband achieve that dream was too much for him. I hung up on him, and we never spoke or wrote again.

Nobody really knows what Mad Jack got up to in the last three decades of his life, save for my sister, who would be in occasional contact (although I suspect it was mainly to twist the old man’s mind enough to give her family the majority of his eventual estate), but my sister and I rarely spoke, either. At his funeral, in addition to Mary (who was kind enough to fly in to support her kids, not to pay tribute to Mad Jack), my sister and me, there were perhaps a half dozen other people there. I didn’t know them. One guy was a cop who said Mad Jack liked to tell jokes. Not the worst legacy, but not the most ideal choice for “only” legacy, either.

It is because his blood is my blood that I worry sometimes about adopting Mad Jack-isms. Sometimes I even become very like Mad Jack. I have thrown immense temper tantrums with all of my closest lovers, including my own ex-wife (who, for the record, I do not wish to shoot) and fiancee. I’m smart enough to recognize that my emotional dizzy spells are rooted in the same fear that Mad Jack possessed, but sometimes they sneak up just cleverly enough to explode before I can adjust my thinking. I’m horrible, lousy, inconsequential, I reason at unreasonable times, and I lash out – and it’s never to hurt anyone, but it is definitely to convince them to stay far afield of me. Considering the demise of my first marriage, I know it is one of the things I can count on for success.

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Excerpt from an Unwritten Autobiography: First Memories

Vincent Truman

Vincent Truman

DISCLAIMER: This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post (at least intentionally – I will have to contact my therapist to confirm).  Rather, it is a still from a January 2017 episode of CHICAGO PD in which I played a protester outside of a church. I, and perhaps a hundred other performers, acted in very cold conditions for two full days, weathering startlingly cold food in addition to weathering the weather, and the final footage, when edited by hands steadier than mine, came up to less than a minute. So, as a tribute to my time on set, I’ve included it here.

# # #

What I find most troubling about my childhood isn’t so much the missing swaths of time, but that the moments that are clearest in my mind are annoyingly disturbing. Let me take you to my very first memory. I was 13 months old. September 1966. I did not have a concept of a calendar at that young age; instead, it was only in retrospect that I realized it was a birthday party for my Grandmother Lucy, and her birthday fell in September. Everyone in the family is gathered around a large table in what was to become our TV room, once Dad bought the obligatory huge color set with the remote that physically moved the inner workings of the TV set with a CLUNK so we could switch between the five available channels without getting up.

As I say, everyone was gathered around the table, at the center of which was a cake. I recall everyone singing “Happy Birthday” (perhaps it was this unnatural din which awoke my consciousness and created my first memory). I was, as you might imagine, very small indeed, so I had to reach way up high just to hang onto the rim of the table, which I was doing precariously, as releasing my grip would certainly make me fall on my big, fat and no doubt full diaper. In that very moment, which I can still see with my mind’s eye to this day, I realized I was peripheral to everything. I didn’t know this bizarre song or the language it was spoken in. I was unable to participate in any way. And I was one stubby finger away from falling far away from sight from everyone around the table.

Another very early memory has implanted itself in my head, but it is only because the story was regaled to me by my mother in recent years. Apparently, I was an insanely happy baby. I never cried. I was happy to sleep, happy to wake up, happy to poop, happy to hide under the kitchen sink, happy to do some exploratory work on the parents’ stereo (which, like most stereos of the time, measured about five feet long and three feet high and was made of heavy, heavy wood). At times, I think I was probably the happiest during that period compared to any other period in my life. In any event, as my mother tells it, my maternal grandfather was starting to worry about this smiling, peaceful baby, thinking that something must indeed be wrong with me. Perhaps I was retarded. So he pinched my leg hard. And I started bawling. Crisis averted for my grandpa, at least.

I even recall my first nightmare, which must have come when I was about five. In that dream, I am in our side yard on Washington Street in the Mayberry-like town of Morris, Illinois, and my mother comes running out of the back door. She’s running towards me frantically, trying to warn me about something. But whatever horrible thing it is catches up with her and turns my dear mother into a stoplight – one of those old-timey ones, painted green, which stands on street corners and has shields above the red, yellow and green, not unlike golfers’ visors. She has been transformed and the stoplight she has become bends painfully, still trying to get to me before metal envelops skin and she is stuck in the middle of the yard, blinking red.

At that point, someone unseen grabs me and throws me over their knees. I realized I was in for a spanking of some sort, and I am looking down at concrete steps. That’s all I can see. I don’t know why I’m being spanked, but some authority figure has determined it is necessary, either for them or me – but probably not for me. The whacks of the spanking, which sound like thunderclaps, come so hard and fierce that I vomit out my own tongue. It falls out of my mouth and onto the concrete step, looking like a severed bit of strawberry, surrounded by something that looks like strawberry syrup mixed with saliva, which I take to be blood from my severed tongue.

I’m sure there were days, months and years of bliss in there somewhere, but the moments which step to the fore are always the ones above. At that point, I believed wholly in Jesus Christ and God and Santa, so I was convinced for years this was their way of telling me I wasn’t wanted. Like, at all. This was no fault of my parents, although memories of both are more tainted than they are clear, but rather little moments that, for one reason or another, decided to imbed themselves in my psyche. These horrific little bits of theater follow me to this day.

The current nightmare that is jostling around in my head lately is similarly morose. In the dream, I am an extra on a film set. And at one point, I realize it’s not a film. It’s life. And I’m in extra’s holding, staring at cold food, unable to convince anyone that I shouldn’t be there. (This can connect to the photo after all!  Woo hoo!)

At times when all of these memories and dreams decide to visit, and they visit more frequently than I would like, I try to think that it’s a shame I’m not more broken. Really broken people can be really successful. I’m just the kind of broken that makes me broken.

I wish my parents had forbade me toys.

 

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Life in Limbo

Vincent Truman

Vincent Truman

It’s winter in Chicago. The heat kicks on with a ‘thwack’ sound from the furnace downstairs, followed by some mechanical grumbling, the sound of flames coming to life, and then finally warming air starts to blow up through the vents. My house was made for a family, and indeed was purchased with that in mind by my ex-wife and me back in 2010, but after the divorce in 2012, it’s been just me and Felicia, the stray cat who allegedly was born under my deck before I bought the house and decided to stick around.

Because it’s just me, I have shut off certain vents – the ones in the the middle upstairs bedroom, the bathrooms, some of the ones in the ‘rec room’ area in the basement – in order to focus the heat on the few rooms I inhabit on a regular basis. Each time the heat kicks on, I wonder and worry how many pennies or dollars are being spent every minute.

# # #

“You realize,” said the COO of my firm, “that we cannot allow emails with discriminatory content.” He said this at my involuntary exit interview last summer, and although I am certain that none of my emails could possibly be called “discriminatory” and no examples were forthcoming, the intention was clear that I was being dismissed. I didn’t fight it, as my job had become a series of soul-sucking disappointments, with supervisors being curt and mean to me one on side and then staff being non-responsive and thoroughly unprofessional on the other. My position called for a lot of direction to be doled out, but I was never given the authority to act – only the responsibility when such directions were ignored, which led to some supervisors becoming more curt and mean and staff being more non-responsive and less professional. This Catch-22 had impacted my personal life, and my fiancee and I were attending weekly meetings with a counsellor. I felt boxed in, undervalued and disrespected every single day.  So I stayed pretty quiet during the exit interview, or exit monologue, and left the building for the last time. I rode the train home with all of the other commuters, noting their weary faces revealing that they have to do the whole thing again tomorrow. I envied them their boredom.

The following day felt like a vacation day, and I spent some time writing to many of my now ex-colleagues saying farewell and offering my help in case they had any questions. I’ve been on the other side of this, when other folks were yanked out of the workplace, so I wasn’t too surprised when not a lot of people wrote back. Out of sight, out of mind. I was only a little disappointed, as I spent a lot of time helping people get other jobs, in and out of the company, and most of those folks went on radio silence when it was my turn to ask for help.

There are no mentors or colleagues when one finds oneself unemployed all of a sudden. All the things I was aware of in my periphery have come into sharp, sad focus. I watch how the toilet paper rolls diminish through each use. I notice where the sun is in the sky at noon and how it differs from the day before. I make note of how the kitchen floor changes daily due to minor traffic. The refrigerator, normally stocked full with whim and whimsy, from cheeses to fruit that I never got around to eating all of, gradually pared down to frozen pizza and beer. When I socialize, agonized stories of folks unable to stay out late because of their jobs are heard in a wholly different light. And all of these things suggest loss and diminishment in real time.

I finally get why homeless folks opt to buy booze or cigarettes when they amass their paltry street earnings: booze and cigarettes suspend anxiety, and however short-lived it may be, it is effective. The relaxation I have sought when employed – yoga, reading, writing, composing music, even watching favorite movies or TV shows – have served nothing but to make me more anxious. When watching “Breaking Bad” for the umpteenth time, for example, just put one thought in my head: these people are working and getting paid. Vodka and juice and the odd pack of Marlboros, however, give me a tangible respite.

Alcohol and carcinogens, as anyone knows, are slow-motion suicide tactics as well. Not that I want to die, but there’s a part of my head that thinks I may never be economically stable again, and if that’s the case, I’d rather perish than spend the last few months on the street during one of Chicago’s signature winters. And when I don’t think about that, my mind inevitably runs to how much more I’m worth dead than alive, and if my fiancee could get my savings, 401K and house, she’d be absolutely unlimited in what she could accomplish. As morbid as these musings are, they are at least more comforting than the idea of simply growing fainter from view, less remembered each year, like Antonio Saleri’s music in “Amadeus.”

Of course, I’m not all-spiral, all-the-time. I feel largely optimistic about what I could do now, from either finding a job in a new field (thanks to my savings, I could take any entry-level gig in a new discipline and enjoy it) or creating a new job in a new field (such as opening a theater/gallery). Additionally, the loss of our counsellor has been no loss to my fiancee and me: indeed, our last few months have been our favorite by a long shot. Without the soul-sucking job, my stress levels have changed completely and I value her more than ever. I could sing the praises of my partner endlessly, as she has been fantastic, supportive, loving, funny and kind, among so many other things. Also, my feeling of normalcy, when it occurs, is totally due to her.

At these times, not earning anything, but still sitting comfortably on a dozen years’ of savings, things ain’t bad.

# # #

But then the heat kicks on again. And I wonder what is to come.

 

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Extra Extra 4: Hot Under The Collar

Vincent Truman in The Exorcist

Vincent Truman in The Exorcist, Season 1, Episode 10

Throughout September, October, November and December of 2016, I whiled away a sizable chunk of time indulging my interest in being an extra, or as some kinder behind-the-scenes wranglers call us, background actors.

In that time, I have played a wide variety of amazingly inconsequential roles, all of which pay more than amazingly consequential roles in Chicago theater: I’ve been a doctor on Chicago Med, a protester on Chicago Fire, a news reporter on Chicago PD, a mayoral benefactor on Empire, and a coroner and juror for two shows that won’t premiere until 2017. And, for these programs and more, I also played the coveted Pedestrian With Auto role, thanks in no small part to my fiancee allowing me to drive her car to set. Thanks, honey. However, there has been no other role like playing a Fallen Priest on The Exorcist.

There’s one thing I should point out first: the folks who cast extras always make it a point to say that we should not approach the talent while on set. That’s never a problem with me for two reasons: (1) it just makes sense and (2) I don’t watch TV so I could only differentiate the talent from everyone else by their haircuts (cut, combed and styled, very obviously, in the hours before filming began = real actors). I have witnessed some yokels walking up to the talent, having a brief chat, and then being escorted off-set, never to be seen again.

But back to The Exorcist. For the role of a Fallen Priest on our first day, we filmed in the cold and unfinished basement of Trump Tower in Chicago – a fitting enough place for demonic clergy to hang out. Most of the time, there was a dozen of us regulated to some folding chairs hidden in the shadows while the amazing crew machine rushed around carrying equipment, lights, makeup bags and an assortment of other goodies. Eventually, the wrangler told us we were required on set. Twelve of us were lined up, complete with our dog collars, black suits and knee pads, and the cast began rehearsing. That’s when I noticed Geena Davis walk in and expertly deliver her lines. Wow, I thought, someone I actually recognize. I later recognized Francis Guinan, who played our evil bad priest boss Brother Simon, as a Chicago actor from “The Magic Play” at Steppenwolf (among many other things), but, hell’s bells, I was not there to stargaze. I was there to look foreboding, then, on cue from Ms. Davis, drop to my knees and slap my face on the concrete floor. The filming went on for most of the day, with the increasingly dirty (and dusty) dozen falling repeatedly to the ground. I was happy that one shot was specially set up to film my new friend Nick and I eat some Trump Tower concrete.

A couple of weeks later, the casting folks tried to pull the dirty, dusty dozen back for not one, not two, but three extra days. Seven of the background celebrities, as one director called us (a bit over the top there, I think), could not commit to that, so it was left to a mere five of us – Henry, Joe, Jim, Nick and me – to carry the proverbial cross. The five of us became fast friends for many reasons, not the least of which was we were stuck with each other for a few dozen hours sitting in the dark and eating the pretty good food Crafts and Services foisted upon us at random. When full-on meals weren’t served, we were given a selection of overly-healthy snacks and coffee, the former of which I stuffed into a pocket or two. They remain uneaten in my kitchen.

On Day Two, we shot a boatload of hours in an alley after dark, during which you can see one or two of us for a second. On Day Three, we shot an incredibly long day in Grant Park for a papal parade sequence. I must say, it was an absolute hoot hanging out on the street wearing priest garb – and not just priest garb, but prosthetic boils and cysts running up the side of our faces to signify possession or really bad acne – as people walked by en route to their jobs. Most were kind, many were deferential, some were utterly confused, and a smaller percentage were utterly dismayed to see a pox-ridden priest smoking a cigarette. I did thoroughly enjoy that day’s shooting, as I was given a lovely closeup or two, as were my fellow fallen angels, as our characters conspired to make peoples’ ears and eyes bleed in order to have our big bad boss bad priest go after the pope.

On Day Four, we shot in a warehouse, again for an amazing amount of hours. Extras are hired on a fixed fee basis of $84 for 8 hours, so the best days are those that are only three hours, for which you are paid $84 no matter what, and those that last well after ten hours, because you get a respectable $16 an hour for basically sitting in a chair and occasionally looking foreboding.

Back to Day Four. For other background artists, one can definitely see fatigue on some of our faces during some of the aired footage, as we were made to do a couple of scenes repeatedly for well over twelve hours. However, in that time, I got to watch Ben Daniels deliver a blistering speech along the lines of “I’m not dying for the bloody Church… I’m dying for Him!” I had to watch him deliver the speech a few times from my vantage point as a wicked vicar, and, after one tear-streamed take, he and I made eye contact. I could only think of doing what any other actor would do to another: I smiled and nodded with a “you nailed it” approval. He smiled back. Good lad.

I have to admit that I loved every second of it. The other four guys could not have been more different. Henry, the doctor. Jim, the rock star. Joe, the Indiana working stiff. Nick, the affable nice guy/actor. And me, the guy who was fired and was struggling to rediscover my footing in this crazy world. Despite or perhaps because of our differences, we all bonded strongly and instantly friended up on Facebook (it’s not official until it’s Facebook official).

Watching Episodes 9 and 10 of The Exorcist and remembering the work that went into it (and the friends that resulted) is a thrill for me. In a year with so few wins on so many levels, this was one of my favorites. Joy doesn’t often just show up at your door; sometimes you have to go and find the stuff.  And it was found here.

Thank you Henry, Jim, Joe and Nick for being the best bunch of guys one could be stuck in the dark with. Here’s to lighter days ahead.

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Extra Extra 3: That Guy

Vincent Truman

Vincent Truman

As anyone who has worked as extra will attest, the main thrust of the job is waiting. In the couple of months I have worked on a handful of TV shows – and even spotted myself once for a blistering one and one-half second on broadcast television – I have carried a notebook around with me, sketching various ideas and concepts. Since about my tenth go-around wearing scrubs, police uniform or just my standard blazer-and-jeans combo for which I am famous in real life, I’ve given up the notebook and instead have engaged with the varied folks with whom I share the waiting process.

This guy today was amazing. Seriously amazing. If anyone said anything, he would chime in on what he’s done in show business over the last forty years. It was incredible.

Someone: I love the older movies, like the original of The Poseidon Adventure.

Guy: I was a stunt double for Ernest Borgnine. Ernie was a great guy. His wife sold cosmetics. They earned $16 million in the first year. That was more than Ernie earned in his first twenty years in show biz.

Someone: This is fun.

Guy: I had fun when I was on Chicago Hope, which was cancelled. I got killed a lot. Cut throat, naked in the shower.

Someone: I wonder if I could really break into the biz by being an extra.

Guy: I keep getting offers to be in porn. Of course, I had open heart surgery a few years ago, so I don’t think I could. But they always send me pictures of the girls.

Someone: How long have we been waiting?

Guy: I once waited for sixteen hours to be an extra on The Untouchables. Kevin Costner. Great guy.

Someone: Christmas is coming up. I love carols.

Guy: I worked with Carroll O’Connor once. Great guy. It was before All In The Family. Great actor. He died. I had open heart surgery.

Someone: I don’t know anyone in this show. But I’ve never watched it. I’m a little green.

Guy: Loren Greene was a great guy. Did Alpo ads.

Someone: This work takes a lot of passion.

Guy: I had heart surgery.

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Extra Extra 2: Games For Background Artists

Vincent Truman

Vincent Truman on set

I am certainly enjoying living out a bit of a personal fantasy by being an extra a/k/a background artist, as it is a kick to be on set and watch the well-oiled machine of directors, assistant directors, associate producers, technicians, camera folks, people wranglers, food prep artists and even actors as they do their respective things.  It’s so exciting that I occasionally roam the job listings for production assistants and the like, as I’d love to be part of that machine. On the other hand, as an extra, there is a lot of waiting and watching.

The other day, my entire eight hours was spent on an interior lot, sitting in the dark with forty other extras between a constructed mini-building and a large painting of a cityscape. Having nothing to do and a lot of time in which to perfect it, I jotted down some fun games that I played, as well as instructions:

1. The Water Game! Drink some.
2. Eyecross Mania!  Find two similar objects near each other (a window, a stack of cups) and cross your eyes until they become one.
3. Flashback! Stare at an object until one begins to naturally hallucinate (recommended for former LSD users)
4. There’s a Donut! Eat it.
5. Hey, a Tamale!  Eat it.
6. Skyline Census! Look at a painted skyline of a city and see if you can find any actual people in the windows.
7. Bathroom Break! Take one. This will usually be the time a people wrangler will show up and ask for extras, so don’t drag this one out!
8. Smirk Attack! Make eye contact with someone and smirk. Bonus points for nodding.
9. Watch Watch! Look at the time and figure out to the second how much you’re earning.
10. iWait! Look at your iPhone and wait for a notification from any of your apps to show up. This is a complex game, as you have to keep preventing your phone from going to sleep.

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Extra, Extra

Vincent Truman on set

Vincent Truman: first day on set

Performing as an extra in a TV show is very much like taking a flight to anywhere: there is much emphasis on “hurry up”, “get there on time”, “stand in this line” and “stand in that line”, but the overall order one has to comply with is “wait.”

I’ve done a couple of TV shows in a little under a week, and it’s been a cautiously exhilarating experience: it is exhilarating because it’s just fun to be on a closed set and watch the director, talent and crew scurry around; it is cautiously so because such an experience could easily not be so exhilarating if one was an extra more than a couple of times in a little under a week. The pay encourages such thinking; I figured I could earn a living as an extra if only there were sixty to seventy days in a month.

To be candid, I confess I know nothing about these TV shows, so when my extra manager urged me not to approach or engage with the talent, I was very confident in my response of “no problem.” I couldn’t recognize these folks for anything. I only knew talent was on set because they were the ones who tended to be doing things, but without headsets or untidy hair.

I could give you an itinerary of the day, but that wouldn’t really demonstrate what the experience of being an extra is all about. So what is it like?

Being an extra is like being flung back through time to the fourth grade. There we are, all restless and anxious, with various teachers (associate producers, mainly) coming in at random and saying, “listen up, people…”, “quiet please!” and “quiet please!!” The class, shushed into silence, immediately breaks into the well-worn factions we all knew and loved back in the day.

The troublemaker: “This is BULLshit. Treating artists this way. Total waste of time.”

The suck-up: this person mainly talks about every show they’ve been in since “Dragnet” and how they talked to Vince Vaughan once on Michigan Avenue. This person also calls all of the crew by name and, when the associate producer begins a “listen up, people” speech, they snap at all the others to pay attention and then turns to the associate producer. “Go ahead, Jeremy.” (insert big smile here)

The nerd: the moment this person is seated after checking in, they’re deep into reading “Life The Universe and Everything” by Douglas Adams.

The mentor: this person can spot a newbie and advises on things to avoid (on the first day on set, I was advised to avoid “pink chicken” and “anything with mayonnaise”).

The rebel: this person, despite all warnings, walks right up to the talent and requests an autograph or selfie. Moments later, they are escorted off-set and “blacklisted” from the production.

The fearful: this person darts his/her head around frantically for the duration of the day looking for a friendly face.

The boring twat: this person recounts how much he/she would be earning if he/she wasn’t stuck here all day, even though he/she is there by choice.

However, like any group of fourth-graders stuck in detention for an especially long time, the categories above begin to blur around Hour Five and the majority of people can be seen staring into space with dulled eyes and expressions, like color representations of family portraits taken in the mid-19th century.

On set, things are a bit more lively, if a bit silly. In my two shows, I’ve (a) stood, (b) stood, (c) walked, (d) stood, (e) pretended to drink campaign and (f) stood.  Still, it is pretty exciting to watch everything come together, and it makes me think, “oh, I could do any of these jobs.”  Hopefully, that bit will come to some fruition.

At the end of the day, it feels like a fairly uninteresting LSD trip. You feel like you’ve been someplace forever, and you can’t remember the beginning of it.  But it was still cool.

 

 

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