Archive | September, 2012

The Doorbell

26 Sep

OR: Why My Neighbors Probably Think I’m A Bitch

I live in a great apartment. I moved there in October of 2008 and have since felt no need to move out. It’s clean, full of light, has free laundry in the basement, a HUGE attic for storage, a driveway, dishwasher, garbage disposal, big backyard, and more. I love my apartment. But, just like people, no apartment is perfect. Besides adding more outlets, if I could change something about my apartment, it would be to rip the doorbell out of the wall, take it outside, and bash it to pieces with a sledgehammer. Doesn’t that sound like fun???

I HATE the doorbell. It’s loud. It’s intrusive. It plays a song that is entirely too long. If you know me, ask me to sing the doorbell song for you. I’m very good at it.  If you push the button more than once, the song starts, stops abruptly, starts again, stops abruptly, etc. So obnoxious.

If I know that I have guests coming over, I hover by the window around the estimated time of their arrival so I can run downstairs to let them inside before they ring the bell. When I order food for delivery, I leave explicit instructions for the driver to call when he or she arrives. If I could figure out how to cut the wires for the doorbell, I totally would.

Now, because of all my precautions, I know that when the doorbell does ring, it’s probably not someone I want to talk to. Or, more likely, it’s someone visiting the apartment downstairs. Somehow, no one can seem to figure out that the “2” written on the button means “apartment 2” and the “1” is for “apartment 1”. Granted, walking up to our front door and looking at the doorbell buttons can be confusing (there is one for each apartment and one leftover from when the house was a one-family home which doesn’t make any sound when pushed), BUT THEY ARE CLEARLY LABELED.

Over the years, there have been many instances of people ringing the wrong bell. My most favorite was when the bell rang about 16 times late on a Sunday night and, when I finally went to open it, some girl I did not know was trying to bring the girl who lived downstairs-who has since moved out-home from a bar. The girl from downstairs was sitting on our front stoop, throwing up into her lap. Unpleasant. Most recently, the girls downstairs were trying to find a new roommate and had several people over one evening to see the apartment. Before anyone showed up, they had, nicely, put a clearly labeled note on their doorbell with instructions to push and hold the button. Well, both the individual doorbell labels AND the note were apparently not enough for their visitors. Every person immediately pushed our doorbell first.

After the second occurrence of this, I was fed up (it doesn’t take long for me to get fed up with something). It was 8:30. I was already in my pajamas. Both my roommate and I would be in bed soon. We didn’t need our own personal clock tower chiming throughout the evening. So, I wrote my own note, which said something along the lines of “Please do not ring our doorbell! You’re probably here for apartment 1!” with an arrow pointing down to the correct bell. I affixed this note OVER our bell so it was unpushable. Is that a word? It is now.

Bitchy move? Sure. Do I care? No. A nice person probably would have just continued answering the door (like my roommate was) and directing the guest to the correct apartment. I was not feeling like a nice person that day.

Plus, I just really, really, really hate our doorbell.

Song of the Day: My Doorbell by The White Stripes (I like this song, but please don’t ring mine)

The Girl Russell Crowe Talked To

20 Sep

Extra work is often thankless and tedious. You usually show up with a bag of your own clothes, sit around for hours on end until you’re taken to set and told to sit and pretend to talk or drink or eat or walk by ‘casually’. It’s an easy job but can be a long and dull one. Some do it for a career. Some, like myself, do it to gain experience, screen time, and just be in a movie. Somehow in the projects I’ve worked on, I’ve come away with the best experiences. Experiences I never dreamed of having. Noah was one of those experiences.

I have been working on Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky. It’s a retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. It’s very trippy (very Aronofsky) and dark. It stars Russell Crowe as Noah as well as Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson. I was cast as a refugee.

On Monday, we were shooting in the camps. They built a “tent city” of probably close to 100 tents with real and fake fires scattered about. They placed the refugees, soldiers, and other characters throughout the camps and gave us all actions. The scene was Noah walking through the camps and seeing the horrors that exist there.

I was handed a massive piece of prop meat as big as my body almost. As I was standing on my one (the place I start my action. Movie term, very fancy), Russell was on his one, looking at me. He started laughing and said to me and his stand in, “Look at that piece of meat they gave you. That’s a Flintstone piece of meat. Why would they give you that?” I panicked and tried to play it cool, the entire time thinking “Holy fuck, Russell Crowe is speaking to me.” I said something along the lines of “Well, maybe they thought I had a big appetite.” It was one of those moments where you say something and then think “No. No, that was not funny.” He smiled and we were setting up the shot for the first take when he yells “Ok, we gotta get this girl another piece of meat!” Another extra behind me said he’d trade and handed me his smaller piece for my large one. “Ok, mate, now you’re dead. I just saved your life,” he said, turning to me. He explained how in the reality of the movie, I would have never gotten far with that meat and would have been attacked and eaten. He’s very into this movie.

As they were setting up the shot for another take, he stepped up to me again. He said ‘What’s your action?” I replied it was to run. He responded, “Ok, when you run by me, turn over your shoulder. The camera is right there and we’ll see your whole face. Got it?” I said yes, again completely tingling with the fact this man was speaking to me so casually and kindly. So we did the take. I did the look. After the cut, he was coming back to one and said to me ‘Did you do the look?” I told him I did. ‘What shoulder did you use?” I turned and showed him how I did it. “Good job, girly,” he said, winking at me. Throughout the rest of that angle, every time he walked by, he would smile at me. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

Earlier that day, he had taken it upon himself to talk to the extras during a large group scene by the ark (yes, they built a REAL ark). There was a secondary camera on the group of refugees as they shot another scene with Russell and Ray Winstone. He came over and gave a speech about how we all need to stay alive on camera. He told us his character, our characters, the plot, and started to swear before he realized that there were children in the group. “I wish there weren’t kids here so I could swear and give a more passionate speech,” he joked.  He called out individuals he had been watching and corrected them on what they should be doing and thinking. He pumped the shit out of this group. It was that moment that I saw how much he loved this film and his job. I have never seen an actor, especially a huge star like Russell Crowe, speak to the extras or any one who is not the director or crew for that matter. Everyone else agreed they had never heard of this happening. It’s usually the second second assistant director and PAs that tell you what to do and give you direction. Here was the star of the movie coming over and talking to us as peers, as fellow actors, as a part of the film. It was so motivating and so special, I don’t think I’ll ever have that type of moment again on a set that huge.

After Monday, I became known as “the girl Russell Crowe talked to.” I was telling to story to a fellow extra while we waited in the woods to run out to the ark in fake rain and 5 or 6 people turned and go “Oh my God, that was YOU?!?! What did he say??!?!” The girl I was talking to told me I looked very calm and cool talking to him and several others thought I knew him for some reason the way we were speaking to each other. I felt better about it after hearing that because the whole time he was talking to me, I was having an out of body experience thinking “Be cool, don’t freak out, this is normal, this is awesome, don’t freak out.”

I am writing about this because it is totally incredible and because it was a moment I have frozen in my heart and has a personally meaning to me. When Russell Crowe won his Oscar, the Burlington Free Press wrote an article on the show, featuring a quote from Russell’s speech. I took this quote and put it in my scrapbook from high school. I almost have it memorized.

“If you grow up in the suburbs of anywhere, a dream like this seems kind of vaguely ludicrous and completely unattainable. This moment is directly connected to those childhood imaginings, and for anybody who’s on the downside of advantage, and relying purely on courage, it’s possible.” 

It was this quote that I thought of as he was speaking to me. I was standing there, on a set, in a badass costume, with Russell Crowe speaking to me, giving me direction, as a peer and helpful buddy. Yes, I had thought of turning my head as I ran by but it was him suggesting it out of nowhere that inspired me. He had no reason to speak to me at all after he had the prop meat switched. I’m not sure if he thought I was bummed I didn’t get the huge piece of plastic flesh or if he just wanted to help an aspiring actress out a little bit. Or maybe he thought it would look great in the shot. I’ll never know his motivation and I don’t need to. It was a moment that I can relive over and over again. It was a moment where I truly believed that dreams come true. If you work hard enough and find the opportunities that arise, you can pursue and achieve anything. I was on a set with Russell Crowe and he spoke to me as if I was part of it all. Not as a number, not as a body. As a performer. As an actor.

It is a crazy dream. One that many will give up on. One that maybe doesn’t turn out the way you wanted such as I don’t think I’m going to marry Leonardo DiCaprio any time soon or be the next “It” girl. But it’s moments like this one where I feel I’m on the right path. Even if it doesn’t get any bigger and better than this, I have this moment to remind me that this is what I am meant to do. That the A-list movie star that spoke to me on set was in my position once. That he dreamed of being an Oscar winner and making movies. And now he does it. So why not me? And that’s all there is to it. Why the hell not? If I keep at it, keep loving every set I work on, keep loving the costumes and running through fake rain alongside gladiators and shampooing my hair 4 times because the black grease won’t come out, and don’t stop smiling for the week post shooting because I got to be an actress, why can’t I tell this story on an Oscar podium someday?

It’s all happening….

What’s My “But”?

1 Sep

There is a brilliant episode of How I Met Your Mother,  entitled “Spoiler Alert”, where the gang (I apologize for using this term, I’ve been watching a lot of ‘Community’) tells each other about annoying habits/traits they all have. For example, the character of Lily chews incredibly loudly which is news to her husband Marshall who thought Ted called her Chewbacca because of her love of shiny belts, loyalty, and his own resemblance to a young Harrison Ford. Once it is pointed out, a lovely glass shattering sound effect is played and every one else can hear nothing but her chewing. The episode circles around the line “CHARACTER NAME is wonderful BUT…”

I bring this up because I wonder what my “but” is.  Every single person has one. You know they do. Think about when you hang out with your friends and one of them leaves. How many times do you say “God, Lisa is great but she constantly interrupts people’s stories with her own” and everyone shouts “OH MY GOD! SHE DOES! YES!” in unison. Or “I really love hanging out with Josh but he talks way too much about weight lifting” (I use this example because I dated a guy who did this and it was the worst. His name was not Josh).

Unfortunately, the episode rings true when the trait/habit is revealed. You may not have realized that Hilda corrects everyone’s grammar (*cough*Bethany*cough*). Now you can’t help but notice she does it on every single Facebook post, every sentence you utter, every blog post you write (Bethany is not a Nazi about this…ok, maybe like a baby Nazi), etc. Now you find it hard to look past this habit/trait. It’s staring you in the face every time you see Hilda. You want to scream at her, shake her. You are in utter shock you never noticed it before. But wait. If you never noticed it before, than it really can’t be that bad, can it? No, it’s not. You enter this cycle and exit it in the same fashion: loving Hilda and her deep appreciation for correct grammar because she is your friend and quirks are what make people unique.

My curiosity has taken me however. Ever since viewing this episode, I have been wondering what mine would be. I’ve asked Lincoln and he’s given good answers except he lives with me so the fact I hardly ever do dishes is not a universal issue with all the people in my life. Though my parents will probably attest it is a national issue and the main cause of world hunger or something dramatic. No one likes to do the dishes, how am I Voldemort for not wanting to? I digress.

Don’t you want to know what yours is? What people say when you leave the room and behind your back? Obviously, it is always out of love and friendship and from the people who know you best. When I’ve brought up my friends’ traits or quirks or other friends have, it’s never cruel. It’s mostly a acknowledgment that we all see, or maybe we didn’t, and it’s just another thing that makes our friend who they are. Occasionally, I suppose, there have been times when a trait is an actual issue. Someone is going through a rough breakup and can’t stop drunk texting their ex. Maybe a dear friend’s condescending nature is getting out of control and has gone from sarcastic and witty to cruel and calculating. Obviously when these are brought up, they should be addressed and I would hope that any of my friends who have noticed these factors about me have come to me. I remember when I was going through my Dark Time, Bethany didn’t know what to do. She called my parents after some scary things were  said and expressed her concern and worry. It had gone from annoying to serious. I don’t know what I would have done without her stepping forward and addressing the issue at hand. It was the first moment of clarity when I realized I had done something so off the deep end, my best friend had to call my parents on me. The glass shattered in that moment and was not followed by a laugh track.

I still want to know!!!! I’m just so curious what happens when I leave a party and “I love seeing Rachel BUT…” begins! Do I chew with my mouth open? Do I crack my knuckles loudly? Do I call people the wrong name too often? Do I act like I know everything and never admit I am wrong? What do I do!!!? Sigh. Perhaps it’s best we never know our habits that our friends talk fondly of (hopefully fondly). Then it would be a glass shattering moment and we might struggle to act normal. Like if someone told me I walked funny, I don’t know how I could keep walking normally. I actually thought about once when I was younger. I took notice of how I walked and probably looked like an idiot attempting to swing my arms properly and in a cool fashion. Now that I think about, I don’t think there is a “cool” way to walk.

I love my friends and all their traits. I just wanted to write on it because I found it so fascinating that we all see these things in each other and when we bring them up, it’s almost a universal fact and we get excited and shout “YES” when we realize we have all noticed it. It’s boggling to me how you can maintain an entire conversation about a mutual friend, discussing their quirks and habits, and never once speak of them in a malicious way. I always find that after I’ve discussed someone’s habit/trait, the next time I see them and they do it, I smile and feel the urge to giggle because I realize how thankful I am that they have that piece of them. The glass may shatter and be a little crunchy under your feet as you want to scream “Stop trying to one up me with your problems! Mine are still problems too! NOBODY IS WINNING THE LIFE SUCKS GAME! WE ALL LOSE!” I think we all are guilty of that one. But in the end, it’s just glass. It sweeps up just as easily as the dirt people leave when they don’t take off their shoes when they enter your home (This is not any one specific…or is it?)

I used a lot of parenthesis in this post. (I’m sorry)

BTW the episode of How I Met Your Mother, “Spoiler Alert”, is season 3, episode 8, for your viewing pleasure.