Friday, 11 May 2012

Bored Clown

To Harrow yesterday, by Metropolitan Line, so beloved of John Betjeman, my destination the Harrow Campus of the University of Westminster, an entity unknown to our erstwhile Poet Laureate. I was called there by a group of second-year students making Dead Gert, an entertaining guide to the afterlife hosted by a personable schoolgirl who had been knocked over by a bus and somehow entered the afterlife blemish-free. My task? To personify two ghosts - one a painter whose death had come about as the result of a paint can falling on his head (see right - my decorator obviously had a very weak cranium), the other a sad clown the cause of whose demise was unspecified.

I had to bring the painter to (after)life in the company of a fisherman who had fallen overboard in a scene which showed the two of us lusting after a curvaceous lady in her shower. Said lady was still in the land of the living, but in the reverse logic of Dead Gert, she was personified by a mannequin. Dead painter and fisherman were using the opportunity of their invisibility - visible, of course, to the film audience - to leer and cheer and, in a move I did not quite understand, to try to seduce the lissom lass with Monopoly money. Well, they have different values in Ghostland.

The morning's shoot finished about 2pm, which seemed reasonable in Filmland, and the five of us players brought in for the day to animate the dead retired to the Green Room. At which point one of the crew (I'm sorry, crew, but I don't remember most of your names...) came in to apologise for the shouting. Shouting? we experienced thesps looked at each other. What shouting? Oh, you mean the occasionally tetchy attitude of the director and one or two others on set when not everyone understood what was happening or was in agreement as to what would happen next? How sweet. Listen, dear, if you think that was shouting, it's obvious you haven't been on a real film set, was the gist of our reply.

After lunch (one sandwich and a fizzy drink each, which is all we needed), we got into costume for Part II of the epic. These roles were less dynamic; all we had to do was pose in a costume within a mock frame as one of the Gallery of the Dead. Piece of Cake. We'll be out of here in No Time, we reassured ourselves. No Time At All. Really, It Will All Be Over Soon. Is it 4 o'clock already? Are they ready for us yet? Four thirty? Five o'clock? Quarter to Six?

We harrumphed, as minor actors will do when hanging around and nothing to do (two of us had brought Kindles and tried, with varied success, to ignore those of us who needed to pass the time in conversation), that perhaps the shoot could have been better organised and we could have been let go early. Especially when we are finally taken and our shoot takes less than two minutes per person. But we harrumphed mildly and told ourselves that these were students who still had a lot to learn about scheduling. (And later, the more astute amongst us recognised that we could only be brought on set when the previous set had been demolished, after other scenes that required the sets were used.)

Tempers were not lost but remained sleeping. Shortly after six we extras were out of there and by 6.30 we were on the platform of Northwick Park -  not pleased to learn that Metropolitan Line services were disrupted by a fire alert at Liverpool Street. I eventually got home by 7.50 and sank into a glass of wine, from which I reviewed the day. Was it worth it? Financially? No - we will be lucky if we get expenses. Careerwise? Obliquely. We are promised a dvd of the film, which will give each of us 10 seconds to put on our putative showreels. Otherwise? Yeah, why not? Life is always more interesting when you go to new places and meet new people. But, no matter how friendly and competent our hosts, I'm not sure I would rush back to Northwick Park again.

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