Monday, August 28, 2006

The War at Home, Episode #203 "Super Dave"

The War at Home

Hey there, so I'll start off by saying that this event in my life was completely new in that I have never auditioned, been called back, and booked a gig all in the same day. Also, I have never been on a 4 camera show on the Warner Brothers lot. New experiences are always exciting!

Needless to say, I beat out a bunch of actors all from different backgrounds because I nailed the audition. For you actors, it takes a bit of luck along with a bit of talent... not to say I'm any kind of expert in any of this. But preparation is a part of luck. I was nervous but fully prepared.

My call time on-set is 11am. Relatively late for normal working standards which is great because I get to sleep in, eat a quick breakfast consisting of a granola bar and a naked juice, and not have to worry about traffic.

I make it to the WB studio about 30 minutes early. Check in with the 2nd Assistant Director, Yohanna, and is shown my dressing room by Chris, the 2nd to the 2nd Assistant Director. My dressing room is usually a "half track", which by industry terms is half of a tailer consisting of a couch, bathroom, kitchen, and make-up/desk. However, since I only worked on the show for a day (hence the term "Day Player"), my dressing room consisted of a 4x4 box in the back alley, in between sound stages 8,9,6,& 7. Don't get me wrong, the only thing missing is the bathroom and kitchen which I could do without. It means more trip to the craft service table.

So it's a standard issue day where they are running about an hour behind schedule. They are finally ready to pre-shoot my scene at 3:30 (originally scheduled at 2:30); which means we shoot it before the live audience arrives and again later that evening with the live audience. The set is like a comic book convention with about 50 extras dressed up in various costumes from aliens to old Babylon 5 uniforms. We run through the scene and Michael Rapaport is trying to get everyone on the same page. He's yelling "hit your cues" and we need to run our lines again. He can be pretty intense and for good reason, it's his show. So we shoot it a few times and have to break early because the live audience will arrive in 45 minutes.

I break for lunch at 4:15p. I get a meal ticket and head over to the commisary and eat chicken and veggies. Luckily I manage to finish before all the extras arrive as sometimes you can get caught with a bunch of questions if you look approachable which I basically have written all over my forehead.

After lunch we have what is called a speed read. I had no idea what that was. So I show up in the make-up room and basically the entire cast is there and we read through every scene that we are shooting live. But we speed through it with the dialog coach who makes sure that everyone knows their lines word for word. This technique is very similar to theater in that on Monday the cast sits down and has a table read. Tuesday & Wednesday are spent rehearsing. Thursday is spent pre-taping all the minor scenes. Friday is D-day.

So at 6pm we start the live show. They introduce the cast and everyone cheers. They start the first scenes and everyone laugh. To give you a little background, the show is similar to "Married with Children". The wrtting is funny and the scenes are shot live as you would see it if you watched the show on Sunday night, in chronological order. They did steal a few things from [Scrubs] like fantasy sequences. So what happens is when they shoot a scene live and switch to a fantasy sequence they yell "Hold"... the TV run the fantasy sequence and then they yell "and were back". They pre-shoot all that stuff on Thursday.

Anyway, my scene is the second to the last scene, which does not bode well for everyone. This means that the audience has been there for 3 hours and the pressure to get it right has to be high. The scene is Dave-Michael Rapaport trying to get an autograph from Zoltar, a fictitious hero played by Oliver Muirhead (who by the way is the nicest guy). This occurs after the signing has ended in the men's room and spills out into the convention floor.

So we start our scene and I'm paired with a background artist named Kenneth who tells me he is a "Guest Extra". I didn't know they had a hierarchy for extras but thats cool. The one thing about extras is that sometimes they can mess with your mojo. They try to do more then is necessary or they say something that they should keep to themselves. Perfect example, just before they yell action, Kenneth tells me "we are going to do this shot more then once". Thanks Kenneth, just the positive attitude I need to stay focused. Lesson one, if your backgound, speak only if spoken to.

Naturally, the first shot was wash. I came in to early because I wasn't sure of cue and I came off real tentative which garner a half-laugh from the audience. So I finally get some real direction from the director, Andy Cadiff and even a half-scolding from the Executive Producer, Rob Lotterstein, who says "you gotta hit that line like the audition". Yah, I can do WAY better. You see how the littlest thing can mess with you mojo.

So Dave and Zoltar are wrestling and the croud is taking this in and I yell "We must help Zoltar! Hootowah! (which is the battle cry of the "Galactic Sourjourn"). Kenneth and I, along with a few more extras, run in and grab Dave. At which point he yells "let go of me you freaks! I was just trying to get his autograph for my kid! He started it!" at which point I yell " You mess with Zoltar, You mess with all of us".

Okay the scene is solid up to that point. Until Larry-Kyle Sullivan comes in with his light saber on full power and yells "get off of him, leave him alone". The snag we hit is the timing of that; he makes a late entrance everytime which makes the director go beserk.
I really felt bad for Kyle. But I figure they can always cut it together. So ends my scene after about 7 or 8 takes which, by sit-com standards is 4 too many.

They shoot one more scene to wrap up the end and we asked to stick aound for a curtain call. During the curtain call we run out as we are introduced and the crown claps, not cheers, as it's nearly 10pm and they have been there for nearly four hours. I don't blame them. I would have liked to go home sooner also. After the curtain call we say our thank yous and introduce ourselves to the other cast members who we did not directly work with like the very hot Kaylee Defer. Michael Rapaport gives us a nice job-hand shake-hug and we go our seperate ways.

The one thing I was struck by was the rich history on the Warner Brother lot. Every sound stage has a plaque with a the movies and TV series that were shot there dating back the the 1930's. That was really cool. If you get a chance, take a tour. I made the mistake of getting lost trying to find the commisary and wondered on to the back lot streets. That was way cool. Overall, I had a really good time and a very memorable experience.