Category Archives: Film

The Extra

 

Sitting across from 157B, waiting for my shot.

Sounds fabulous. Sounds glamorous.

Haven’t been in a film since N.Y.,

Close to thirty years ago.

Last Exit to Brooklyn, or was it the one

That I dragged my brother to?

 

He thought it would be cool.

So I took him along.

We spent twelve hours in a smoky bar,

Atmosphere created by six fog machines,

Filling the space and making it hard to breathe.

Drinking colored water,

And waiting until,

The shot was ready,

And the lights were turned on,

And the cameras rolled,

And the stars walked by,

And that was it.

 

Then the crew and the extras spent another three hours

Getting background shots

As the stars were in their trailers

Doing whatever stars did in their trailers

And my brother and I

Sat and waited and talked.

 

We hadn’t been close for a few years.

We grew apart as brothers often do.

I don’t know why he wanted to do this.

It was my tenth extra gig.

I was used to the boredom,

The waiting for those few moments of excitement.

 

Maybe he wanted just to hang out with his younger brother.

Maybe he had something to tell me.

If he did, I don’t remember.

I remember he was sick by the end of the shot.

Sick of the fake smoke.

Sick of the fake drinks.

Sick of the deadly repetition

And the deadly silence in between.

We ran out of things to say after the third hour.

The shoot lasted twelve.

 

The director approached me,

Bringing me back to the present.

She asked me if I smoked.

I told her, if she needed me to smoke, I’ll smoke.

I hadn’t touched a cigarette in over twenty years.

Gave it up before my daughter was born.

She said if I didn’t mind.

I said I didn’t.

 

So I stood with my back turned to the camera,

With a cigarette in my hand,

Waiting for “Action”,

Taking a puff

And walking away from the camera

And out of the frame.

 

We filmed it again and again, and again.

Waiting for “Action”

The cigarette in my hand.

I took a puff between shots to keep it lit.

And then it was gone.

I asked for another.

 

After the third cigarette

They gave me a lighter

So I could put the cig out between takes.

 

After the sixth cigarette,

They gave me a pack

So I didn’t have to ask again.

 

I thought of my brother.

I thought of my daughter.

I thought of my own life

A bit actor in my own story.

 

And then the director called “Action”

And I took a drag,

And walked away from the camera.

And out of the shot.

 

Ten seconds later,

I was once again standing where

I was standing a moment before,

Having done nothing

Accomplished nothing

Again standing where I began.

 

I lit another cigarette

And took another long drag.

And stood on my mark

Because that is where I needed to be.

Again with a cigarette in my hand,

Waiting for action.

 

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