Rain machines on a cold night with a forecast of heavy precipitation do not bode well for actors. So when I waltzed onto the set of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water,” I turned to my friends from Day One of shooting (Tom, Lou and Chris) and said simply, “I have a bad feeling about this.” Sure enough, my statement would ring true.
That said, this did not stop me from immediately breaking the rules and sneaking on the set. At 3:35 p.m., I walked confidently onto the set (as though I had been working on the production for months and not hours) and was successful in getting into a scene. The prop man gave me a Heineken bottle and I remember breathing a sigh of relief. Day One had me drinking from a cup of Cherry Coke that actually congealed by the end of shooting. Needless to say, I have avoided Cherry Coke ever since.
At 4 p.m., the take parade began. While I was not directly in any shots, I will be in the background. Eventually, the rest of the extras were herded onto the set. Just as we seemed ready to set up a big shot, the rain began.
The assistant directors (ADs) and production assistants (PAs) chose to move us to the second and third story of the hotel set. This delay was the shortest of the night, as we were back in action by 6:05 p.m. However, it took us nearly a half an hour to set up the next shot, and with the rain still trickling down on us, we slowly began to soak.
For the next shot, I was placed against a railing in the background. As fate would have it, I once again faced the camera along with Tom and Lou. Behind us was Freddy Rodriguez of “Six Feet Under” fame. What is amusing about this shot is that Freddy was only done up with makeup on one side of his body, so his left arm and leg are made to look incredibly muscular. Think “Looney Tunes” muscles. Several girls swarmed him between takes to talk to him. Just as I was settling into my spot, an AD informed me to move as I was apparently, for the first time in my life, too tall. Two minutes later, I decided to be sneaky and threw myself in with a trio of extras who walked across the shot. Am I camera hog? Probably. Do I care? Noooope.
The fun was short lived, though. The rain gods conspired against the shoot on Day Two as the skies opened up in a torrential downpour. All attempts to dry off props and actors failed utterly and I began to wonder why Shyamalan was bothering to push this. The prop balloons were popping and twisting in the wind and rain. The food plates were blowing away. And anyone who had makeup on was beginning to resemble a troupe of sad clowns. Finally, Shyamalan called temporary quits and we were allowed to go back to the tent. The temperature began to drop rapidly and as soon as the call for dinner went out, all 250 extras swarmed the food line. Mashed potatoes and hot tea never tasted so good.
Now, we were told to do our own makeup and wardrobe. No special treatment. However, due to the rain, several of us were given just that. Since I was in the background of an important shot, I was escorted to a back room of the set where I had my hair blow-dried and teased into looking the way it did when I first walked in. My shirt, meanwhile, had been thrown in a dryer and was quite toasty by this point. All I needed now was my trailer. Get my agent on the line!
Around 11 p.m., all extras were kicked off the set. Me? Nope. Sitting in a lawn chair and looking preoccupied, I proceeded to talk to several crew members, including Michael from Props who revealed an important tidbit about film work in the tri-state area. Apparently Philly, Jersey and Maryland are in for a lot more work. Why? As sad as it is, the disaster in New Orleans (a hotspot in the film industry) will result in more productions near the College. I never would have figured.
By 1:15 a.m., the silly-ha-ha began to set in. The temperature was close to 40 degrees and many people were still getting dripped on. An older extra, Len, continually ripped on me between moments of imparting wisdom. So many of the takes of a shot from across the pool featured Tom, Lou and I doubled over in laughter. While some people pretended to be laughing, we looked amused to the point of appearing fake.
Sadly, my time with Tom and Lou on screen came to an end and we were separated. It worked out in my favor however, as I found myself standing three feet away from Shyamalan himself during his once-a-movie-cameo. That’s right – I’m a part of movie history. However, this was still not enough for the extras to start wondering why we shot the same thing 15 times. As 3 a.m. rolled by . a quarter after . 3:30 a.m .. finally, Shyamalan checked the footage and a silence hung in the air.
“That’s a wrap people! Excellent work!”
Maybe Hollywood isn’t as glamorous as everyone expects, eh? Check Day Three’s set report next issue .