Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Crashing" the 100 Million Dollar Movie

Beneath the green hills of LMU, development has started on a massive housing project. Called Playa Vista, the once wetland area will serve as a huge upper class mecca. Already baseball fields are being watered, shops are being populated and a city within a city has emerged. However, should you glance eastward from Playa Vista, you would see two gargantuan buildings emerge from the flattened landscape. Amid the piles of dirt, in these two buildings a tentpole film is being shot. I won't say which one, but curious minds can put two and two together.

One Sunday morning, my friend Warren and I decided to "crash" the movie set. Wearing our college gear- shorts, flip flops, shirt, sunglasses- our initial idea was to just simply get as far as we could as fast as we could. It ended up being a lot more fun.

Our first obstacle was obvious- how do we get onto the set? As we turned our car toward an imposing guard tower, we were more than aware that this trip could end quickly. How could a guard not guess that two twenty-somethings in a Jeep Cherokee were probably trying to bullshit their way onto the location. But as we slowed to the tower, getting our stories straight, to our shock, she simply waved us through. Maybe it was our stylish shades- who knows?

With little effort we parked the car in a dirt parking, checked to make sure we had our cell phones (people on cell phones are never questioned) and walked towards the production. As we approached, no one took any notice. Two production offices (looking a lot like regular trailers) were on either side of us. Huge signs warned us against taking any pictures. We grabbed a seat next to a guy decked out in Army officer gear on a bench and pretended to be waiting for someone. A man dressed as a pilot walked by talking loudly to someone on his cell phone. Warren and I exchanged glances, stunned we had made it this far.

Quickly we hatched a second and more convincing cover story. We were extras called down by a friend (luckily Warren knew a few casting agencies to add some credence to our story) who said to be on set this afternoon. We were also lucky in knowing the production name of the film. (Quick side note: to keep unwanted people away from big film sets, producers will come up with a fake name for the film). If we dropped the real name of the film being shot, the game would be up. So we wandered for a bit, saw a massive structure being built on a dirt lot and also took in an Army helicopter, which was poised to take off. Then we moseyed on back to the production office area. Having been around for a good half hour we were about to try a massive sneak to see some actual filming when a woman, aged about 50, came up to us and quietly asked if we needed help.

DAMMIT. We were so close. I quickly pulled out our cover story, fully expecting to be thrown off the set by a burly man who benchpresses my weight. Instead she apologized for the confusion and brought us into the production office and called over to the costume department. And THEN on top of that, she informed us we would be escorted to the costume department to talk with a casting assistant personally.

A cordial young woman motioned for us to follow her. As we stepped inside the gargantuan building, my mind wandered to a moment in Fellowship of the Ring, when the heroes enter the underground cave and pause in wonder at sheer scale of the place. I looked up and at least for a moment, there didn't seem to be a ceiling.

I snapped back into reality rather quickly as we walked into the costume department. There a woman introduced herself and apologized saying they had no record of any extras with our names. However, she handed us her number and told us to call her and send in our headshots so she could use us later in production. Unreal.

Our meeting over, we were walked back to the production office, where once again someone apologized for having to ask us to leave ("security reasons you see"). Back in our car, Warren and I were admittedly excited. When should we call her? Do you think we'll get a cool extra part? etc. etc.

In retrospect, it is entirely possible that the crew knew exactly what we were up to and was just being kind to us. I like to think however, that our sly plan just happened to work on that particular day. If nothing else, it was an impressive display.

Maybe I'll give her a ring one of these days.


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