Sunday, December 7, 2008

The End of 2008

December's passing quickly, and with it comes a new year with new opportunities! I want to continue doing extra work off and on. There's an open call next week for Law Abiding Citizens extras in Philadelphia, to start work in January. I hope to increase my New York work. There's a number of shows I hope to work on next year. It's also time I get new headshots, and I feel ready to get an agent in New York, so that's what direction I'm looking towards for the new year. I will be taking an early Christmas vacation in Omaha, Nebraska in time for my birthday.
Will post again after the new year. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Filming 30 Rock in New York

By Thomas M. Hagen.

December 2nd, 2008.

I was called yesterday by casting to work today on the tv show "30 Rock" in New York. Queens, actually. Long Island City, Queens. This was a call two years in the making. I've wanted to work on 30 Rock since it's pilot episode, and was quite elated when I got the call. Now I just have to do Life on Mars, Fringe, and all three Law & Orders and I'll be set!

This morning I took a train to New York and made my way over to Long Island City. There I reported to one of NYC's largest studios, Silvercup Studios. The Sopranos filmed from here. Now they have 30 Rock and Gossip Girls. Signed the visitors log and went to a holding area adjacent to the lobby. there's about thirty extras here today.

It felt hot in holding so I ventured down the hallways between studios, to craft services. Got some water, and saw Tina Fey for a second at the other end of craft services, chatting with crew. Not wanting to celeb-stare at her, I focused on my water. Coming back to holding I passed show actor Jack McBrayer as he was coming into the studio.

Back in holding, i got signed in and wardrobe will be here soon to give our clothes the once over. The p.a. went over the specifics of our scene. We're in a bar, the 'ninja bar' as bar patrons. Alec Baldwin and and a few other actors from the show will be in this ninja bar. Alec Baldwin's character is missing his girlfriend and is hanging out with the guys in this bar.

A half hour later, several ninja garbed extras reentered holding. All black, complete with ninja masks. These ninjas will be the bar's waiters. Two of the black garbed ninjas practiced exhibitionist sparring on the far side of holding. Very Matrix-like. Clearly, they knew what they're doing. And actor Fred Willard just walked by, looking in on our room for a moment before moving on.

The two ninjas continue sparring. I went to wardrobe for approval. they had me change shirts to a purple sweater, as if I wasn't hot enough. On my way back to holding, shirts changed, I had to wait off to the side as a gaggle of Gossip Girl extras carrying chairs passed through the hallway.
Went back through the studio hallways with a coupl extras to forage over craft services to kill time. They were filming inside the studio nearby, as indicated by the flashing red light, and the occasionl bell ringing at the cut of each take. I've never heard the studio bell for real before. In movies, yes, but not in person. On the east coast, most filming is outdoor locations, or another setting. There's no bell. I guess I haven't done enough studio filming! This is my second time in a studio.

But our filming set will actually be a bar elsewhere. First they'll break us for lunch, and then we start filming after. Sitting here as the cooks prepare sizzling cuisine and steaming pasta, it is smelling good! But we have to wait until the crew eats before we do, so I drifted off to sleep in my chair while waiting. Woke up when thewy called lunch for us extras.
I chose the sausages and potatoes, the alfreda pasta, and some smoked gouda cheese. Right after lunch, they vanned the sparring ninjas over to set. Twenty five minutes later, i was with the last group of extras to go to the bar set.

Went upstairs to extras holding on the second floor, with a balcony overhanging the table where the actors will sit. Great birds eye view! So far, I saw actor Judah Friedlander down below.
I was selected to be one of the first few extras to go downstairs when they're ready. Meanwhile, they're banging a gong downstairs, testing it. It's amazing (another gong) how it all looks like pandemonium down below. Like worker bees scurrying to and fro. So many departments. To the naked eye it looks like pure chaos, 15-20 crew talking at the same time, brushing to get past each other and equipment, the equipment clanking, and walkie's blaring. It's a film set!

I went downstairs and was placed at a bar table near the actors table. Suddenly I noticed Alec Baldwin sitting at a booth across the bar, studying his lines. So, Alec Baldwin, Judah Friedlander, and show actors Lonny Ross, Keith Powell, and John Lutz sit at the table and talk to each other for the scene. Soon the actors replaced their stand ins at the table, and filming was starting!
For the scene, my attention is directed at the stage, watching the ninjas spar Matrix-lite. They changed what the ninjas had to do. a few takes in the ninjas pick up weapons. One a crossbow, the other a japanes blade. Over the next couple hours, they covered the three pages of dialogue from many angles. A few of those angles with me in camera view.

Alec Baldwin is running at a mile a minute. In between takes, he's quirky, funny, full of anecdotes for his co-actors at the table. He bases some of his character's dimensions off Lorne Michaels, who created and runs Saturday Night Live. But he could turn on a dime from joking into outspoken annoyance if he perceived his performance was being wasted and it could be avoided, which he spoke up about a few takes in.

Later on, while I was pantomiming conversation with the other extra at my table, that extra was talking above a whisper. At the end of the take, Alec Baldwin looks at us and points out there was noise coming from our corner. I just looked at my partner because I was not about to look at Alec Baldwin when he's hot!

During the takes, I had to keep taking swigs from my pint glass of what must have been O'Doul's mixed with lemonade. My partner wouldn't touch it, but I drank it to sell that I was in a bar. But it was killing my throat with all it's sugar! Three-four hours downstairs filming, and I got sent back to holding, as they weren't filming my angle.

Down below, Alec is getting very audible about getting this scene finished. I was sent back down to the bar for a reverse angle shot of the scene before. I sat at the far end of the bar away from camera so I don't mess up the scene's continuity. Having not slept last night, the fatigue was coming on, so I used the scene's 'guise' of a man leaning obver his drink, staring down at it, to let myself drift off to sleep, head above the drink. They called action or cut, I just didn't move at all. Perfect placement. I drifted off for a bit.

After that, they did an overhead shot from above the actors table. 90 degree staright down view. After that, we were wrapped!

A couple town cars were parked outside waiting for the passengers. I passed Alec Baldwin as he left the set. The other actors were getting ready to go. Went upstairs above the bar and got signed out, and took a treain back to the Philadelphia area.

Alec Baldwin is one of those actors who, like Stallone, or Nicolas Cage, feel larger then life to see them in person. He was terrific in The Hunt for Red October, one of my favorite movies, and it was exciting to work in such proximity to him! I took the day in wonder, and the shoot felt magical. The same feeling I felt the first time I did the West wing eight years's still there. And I'm glad to know it is. I never want it to go away...that extra work just becomes another day, becomes stale.

The filming we did today is for Episode 13 "Goodbye, My Friend." As a regular watcher of the show, I will be sure to see it when it airs! Two buzzwords to listen for to know it's the scene if the ninjas don't do it for you, 'mozzarella tempora' and 'hot tamales'. That's my day on 30 Rock! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Blowing Up the Eastern Market”

With the recent release of the Ridley Scott film: Body of Lies, here's my journal from the day on set.


Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
Here we are. September. And coming to town is a movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Russell Crowe. "Body of Lies" about a former Iraqi reporter creating a fake CIA agent that's infiltrated al qeada to cast sucspicion and have al qeada turn against itself. And it's a Ridley Scott film starring Leo D'Prio and phone man Russell Crowe. Did I mention that?
The casting office booked me about five days ago to work in Washington. Took a night bus to D.C. and walked a few blocks to Union Station, to wait the rest of the night until my 5:30 am calltime. Restless about sitting in the very quiet Union Station, I wandered out and about the Capitol Hill area at about 1:00 in the morning, for an hour or two.
Took some time to chill, lay on cement walls and enjoy the view. The white stone of the Capitol Bldg & the Washington Monument lit up brilliantly, shine so bright and beautiful at night. I visited what I call the Lion Fountain near where North Capitol St comes to an end. A perfect view of the Capitol rotunda. Meandered over to the Capitol Bldg, past the Chinese Grotto, and sat ojn the steps on the West Side, looking at the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument lit up just as dazzling!
I didn't want to stay there too long, in case Park or Capitol Police had a problem with that, so I moved down to the Capitol Reflecting Pool for a while. The Hill is very quiet at night with the hiss of sprinklers going off in many places. Reflecting, it brought back memories of things I've done here before:
-On a field trip in '96, the whole class was dared to run around the length of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Most of us, including me, chose to walk around instead.
-Looking at the Mall and Monuments from the top off the Capitol Bldg steps, back when you were allowed to go up that far, and the right angle triangle of Constitution and Pennsylvania was noticeable from that height.
-Sitting in a studio at the CNN Bldg between Union Station and the Greyhound bus station for a now defunct show called "Burden of Proof."
-A Capitol Fourth of July. Walking back from the Capitol to Union Station with family. Literally sick from the heat. The sprinklers were going off and we all walked into them fully dressed, cooling us off fast. We were one degree from dancing in them!
-Running from the Capitol Bldg area on the day of Ronald Reagan's funeral procession down the street. While lined on the sidewalk, a terror scare occurred, and suddenly, Capitol Police was barking at everyone to just run! Not giving thought to reason, just to react, I did, along with most everyone else. False alarm. Turns out a Governer's plane's transponder was malfunctioning.
A lot of memories here. Yes. Yes. But what about the filming? Right you are! Got to extras parking at RFK Stadium by 4:30 am. Always early is always good. At 5:15, hopped on the bus over to extras holding inside Eastern Market's building. The part of it that didn't get burned in a recent fire. The set is right outside the Building, lining it's wall. A Dutch flower market. There are European vehicles and Vespa scooters parked out front. I know I just travelled a mile from the Capiutol Bldg, and that technically, I'm still in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, but I'm no longer in America. I'm in Amsterdam!
There's about a hundred extras here. Euro charcater types. I guess that includes me. Sitting at a table, and behind me, are a bunch of fake plastic bodies on the floor. Bomb victims. That's right. Fake burned corpses. Did I say bomb? Yup. The scene we're filming at this Dutch Market is a car blowing up. I've read that it's going to be a simulated explosion, not an actual explosion. That's a relief, because they didn't offer me hazard pay! The first extra I met at parking said to me within thirty seconds of meeting her "I get blown up in car." I've never had a conversation begin with that sentance before. Unique. Should be a fun day ahed. I'm looking forward to it. My charcter - a shopper.
Wardrobe had approved my choice of black leather coat & Irish cap. The leather coat, I knew would be very hot to wear today, but I've been hoping to wear it in a scene, and today I got my chance!
Placed on set soon after, as a man delivering a stack of newspapers onto the pavement. The scene is: The terrorist backs his car into a parking space. Gets out, bumping past a Japanese tourist and then her husband who's trying to take her picture. The husband gives him a look, then goes ahead with the picture, and the director yells freeze, and everyone does. This would be the moment of boom!
Originally, I was close in frame for the steadicam, one of four cameras filming the scene amidst the simulate hustle and bustle of a marketplace. But the steadicam was repositioned beyond me, so I was out of the shot. I could only stand and watch. Take after take, the director yells freeze, and crew would run in taking digital snapshots of the central extras from various angles. Probably for cgi trickery.
The camera angles changed to cover the same action from other angles. I wasn't a part of this either. Next, I saw the car was rigged mechanically to blow, and the cars on either side of it to rock or be overturned. I thought the pyrotechnics or simulated pyrotechnics were about to happen, so I watched from the opposite side of the street when they began filming again, since I wasn't in the shot. But then I decided to return to my marker in case the crew decided to film a shot in my direction. The actual explosion wasn't up yet, just another freeze shot.
On the next two takes, those within frame were told to recoil backwards at the call of "Boom!" And this was really neat to watch. "Action!" is called, the trrorist brushes past them, the husband takes apicture of his wife, and as the A.D. yells "Boom!" a crowd fifty deep go backwards, flailing with a pretend shockwave. Flowers they were holding go flying. Even with no explosion it looked pretty real. With a cgi enhanced explosion, perfect. I should also mention the dummies are now fully dressed and have makeup applied, lying in a heap across the street.
We broke for lunch. A little grotesque lunch because makeup dept had applied soot, blood, ripped clothing, and wounds to about a dozen "bomb victim" extras. Bloody faces casually eating lunch. Bizzare. This is Hollywood. After lunch, sat in a small holding hall, with the dutch flower shop right out the side door. Must be close to explosion time, because the fire marshall in a hard hat, is now on the set giving safety instructions, as opposed to sitting in the firetruck that's been on the corner all morning. I will also take the opportunity to mention that although Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe weren't on the set today, Ridley Scott was very much alive and directing all day.
Got sent back outside, where after waiting to be placed and was left standing by a tape line of onlookers, I was blocked for wealking on the set's edge past a car. The p.a. gives a 3-2-1 countdown then "Boom!" I along with everyone recoil and stumble to the ground in shock, staggering up, and stumbling away disoriented. Finally! I get to do some cool action and acting today. Even as I was aware that I was out of the four or five camera's range. Good thing too, as my first take ended very badly. I recoiled to the ground, and as I scrambled to my feet, I tripped over a firehose and went down again, unplanned this time. My shoe came off, and I landed on my back unhurt. I remember that I laughed at the sheer moronic-ness of it, and that it was something only I can do to myself.
Now we were gearing up for the big moment. The boom. They set up the extras on the street differently, and I wasn't in this, so i spent the time on the street corner a half block from the rigged car. Before going to the real thing, more than a dozen final rehearsals were done. I saw a stuntmen by the exploding car with a wire strapped to his back. On detonation, he will be yanked backward fast to approximate a shockwave. Following rehearsals, a final safety meeting was called. Than a half dozen firefighters stood nearby with water hoses pressurized, as "picture up" was called on the real thing. I had earplugs in my ears for the sound, and 3...2...1... The car emitted a fireball, and an explosive sound not as loud as I expected. Compressed air cannons blew out the doors and windows. Hydraulic contraptions on two cars on either side of the bomb car, caused them to flip over.
In addition to the four or five cameras filming the action, a helicopter with a mounted camera flew close to film an aerial view. As soon as the helicopter had arrived and was hovering overhead, picture was up, and the explosion commenced. Even as far way as I and a few other extras were, on detonation, we got rained on by a shower of little glass bits pelting down like hail. To protect myself, I spun around, dropping to one knee, leting the leather jacket and hat be my protection, as I put my back to the glass, like you might turn your back to sandy wind or a blizzard flurry, to protect face and eyes. It was over in a second or two,. Bits of glass were now scattered all over the area. So that was my first on-set explosion.
Was sent to holding where I spent the rest of the next hour while they filmed a post-bomb scene outside involving news reporters, bomb victims, and European firefightes. Was in there until we were wrapped for the day. Went through sign out, and saw many of the extras carrying flowers from the now destroyed market. Returning there from holding, I picked some flowers left over. Many spectators had swarmed in behind the the wreckage of five burnt cars and scavenged for any pretty bouquets not damaged or destroyed. I observed that now there were five vehicles burnt and destroyed, not three. They really destroyed these cars! Hollywood.
Sat down on a bench across the street from Eastern Market and watched a forklift move all the vehicles down to the end of the block, where it had rained glass on me. Two of the cars had to be pushed rightside up with the sound of metal groaning, and breaking as they flipped rightside up. Watched the forklift operator work for half an hour before heading to Union Station to meet my sister for some deep dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno. After that, back to good ol' Philly!

Hasidic Jewish Kidnapper. Must be comfortable with kidnapping. Apply here!

November is upon us now, and I'm looking towards Law Abiding Citizen to be the last movie of the year to work on. That is, if my holiday plans don't preempt that.

I was called by a casting director in New York about being a featured extra on a tv show on the Starz Network that was out from L.A. filming, called "Head Case." Never heard of the show. They wanted me to play a Hasidic, Jewish, kidnapper. Which...just sounds a degree of zany. But a few days went by without word, so I called them back. Turns out that the role had changed, and they didn't need me. How many actors on both coasts get that a day. Lots, I imagine. The nature of the biz.

Friday, October 10, 2008

October Already?

Just a quick stop in. Is it already October? I've been very busy working two jobs, about eighty hours a week, and not a lot of time to even think about extra work. Dissapointed that I didn't get to work on the Transfromers sequel. Looking forward to upcoming movie in Philly: "Law Abiding Citizen" and an HBO pilot in DC called "Washingtonienne."

Saturday, July 5, 2008

July Fourth.

It is July Fourth, and while I work tonight, and miss the regular fetivities of fireworks, I can celebrate in other ways. Today I have been watching the HBO miniseries "John Adams" on dvd. John Adams. A visionary who could only hope without any ceartainty to unify the colonies in declaring cessation from mother England, and establishing an incorruptible government of self rule rooted in law.

This while facing his own impatience pressuring him, the long days here in Philadelphia of the gentlemen who talked for the sound of their own voice, a ragtag, hungry army as their only hope, the threat of British troops marching on Philadelphia and beheading those daring to assembly in public, and the worries of a wife and family left in Massachussetts, stricken with small pox. That America could win it's independence was such a long shot. Well, thanks to his vision, including the recommendation of Colonel Washington to lead the continental army, we did.

I wanted to post an excerpt from a letter John Adams wrote two centuries back, and the leat letter Thomas Jefferson wrote before his death in 1826. Of interesting historical note, John adams and thomas Jefferson died the same day. Before he died, Adams said "Jefferson lives." Unaware that Jefferson had passed away hours earlier. Two great men who sometimes clashed angrily, but will forever be remembered for their part.

John Adams:

"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."

Thomas Jefferson:

"To Roger C. Weightman, Monticello, June 24, 1826


The kind invitation I receive from you, on the part of the citizens of the city of Washington, to be present with them at their celebration on the fiftieth anniversary of American Independence, as one of the surviving signers of an instrument pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world, is most flattering to myself, and heightened by the honorable accompaniment proposed for the comfort of such a journey. It adds sensibly to the sufferings of sickness, to be deprived by it of a personal participation in the rejoicings of that day. But acquiescence is a duty, under circumstances not placed among those we are permitted to control. I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

I will ask permission here to express the pleasure with which I should have met my ancient neighbors of the city of Washington and its vicinities, with whom I passed so many years of a pleasing social intercourse; an intercourse which so much relieved the anxieties of the public cares, and left impressions so deeply engraved in my affections, as never to be forgotten. With my regret that ill health forbids me the gratification of an acceptance, be pleased to receive for yourself, and those for whom you write, the assurance of my highest respect and friendly attachments. "

Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, July 4, 2008


I paid a visit to the South Philadelphia block where I worked two of my days on Rocky Balboa. More specifically, to Franco & Luigi's Pastaria. The best pizza in Philadelphia is here, without doubt, and it seems to be one of Philly's best kept secret. I first had their pizza when working on Rocky, and was blown away by the quality. When I decided to move to Philadelphia, truth was, it was because of this resteraunt.

I don't get to stop by that often. I've only been ther three times since 2006, but when I walk through that door, it's amazing. Known for the pizza, it also boasts the singing chef. And when I stopped in the other day, I closed my eyes and listened to the songs sung in Italian, accompanied by accordian. The song was romantic and full of a heritage. Of culture, and tradition. Listening to it, I realized, that as we go through each busy day, we forget the simple beauty that can be found around us. I had forgotten that such a world could exist.

Music in particular, takes me to another place, and it's been too long since I'd listened to true music. Thanks Franco and Luigi. I have to come back soon!