Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Movie Career

When I first moved to Toronto, it took me a while to find a job. I flailed around for a bit, trying out several different things: a door-to-door sales job (one day), a job in a shady paralegal "divorce factory" (one week), and a stint as a telemarketer (several months) before chucking it all, getting my LL.M., and (eventually) getting hired on at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Sometime during this work-hunting period, I hit upon the idea of being a movie extra. There were always several advertisements in the newspaper, and it seemed like an easy way to make some cash. So I walked into an agency one day and signed up ("Do you have any special talents?" "No." "Could you dance, like, in the background of a nightclub scene?" "I . . . guess."). The idea was that they would find me roles, in return for getting a percentage of whatever the production company paid me. I'm sure many of these "talent agencies" are legit, but this one was a one-woman operation that, I'm guessing, survived primarily on the $ 75 "application fee" that was required when someone signed up . . .

I only ever got called in once to actually be an extra, and it was to play a Neo-Nazi skinhead.

After being bussed out to some small town a couple hours outside of Toronto, the costume designer put me in a ripped Metallica t-shirt, gave me a bunch of fake tattoos (cheesy ones, like spiders and lightning bolts), and sent me to hang out with some other Faux-Neo-Nazis. It was a pretty easy gig. I hung out for several hours, read an entire Stephen King novel, had some lunch, and then got called on set.

The movie that was being filmed was Jasper, Texas (based on a horrific real-life murder), and starred Jon Voight and Lou Gossett, Jr. I was in two scenes: (1) Me and my Faux-Neo-Nazi friends walk across some train tracks, trying to look tough; (2) Every single extra they had the budget for joined a big "protestors outside the courthouse" scene, in which we were supposed to chant and yell as if furious. I realized during the protest scene that I could never be an actor, because I can't help smiling when asked to pretend to be upset and angry. During the frequent pauses to allow cameras to be set up and so forth, one of the extras helped pass the time by telling several quite funny dirty jokes about Jon Voight and his daughter, Angelina Jolie . . .

When I finally made it back to Toronto that night, I was starving and didn't want to waste time washing off the fake tattoos. As I walked down Church on the way to the pub, a young woman stopped me on the sidewalk and asked if I wanted to donate to some charity or another. I shook my head and said no thanks, and then she became very agitated. "Is it because I'm Asian?" she said, before walking quickly across the street. I was mortified, of course, but gained a newfound respect for the costume people and what I had thought were their very cheesy ideas of what Neo-Nazis looked like . . .

And the kicker to the whole story is that I never did get paid. My talent agency soon went out of business, and never passed along my cheque from the production company. And thus ended my movie career.

No comments: