You know how I love to share both movie wisdom, and advanced movie wisdom? Well, today I would like to share some advanced, advanced movie wisdom:
Movies ain't real, peeps. They're staged.
I know this because last week I made my acting debut in a commercial.
I didn't mean to do it, I happen to know a filmmaker who needed an extra "extra" because the original "extra" bailed at the last minute. He probably figured that since I was an adjunct faculty for 12 years I had a lot of experience being an "extra."
"Alls you have to do is open a fridge door, and maybe sit at a table," he told me.
He probably figured that since I've been a mom for 17 years I've had a lot of experience opening fridge doors and sitting at tables.
When I arrived on set, I introduced myself to the director as the "extra."
"Great," he said. "You'll be playing the mom, today."
"The mom? But I was hired to be the extra," I said. "Mom's aren't extra. Moms are the star."
He smiled. "Around here the product is the star, and the mom is the extra."
Another example of the media objectifying objects and deobjectifying moms.
While the film crew set up the room and staged the dinner table, and the producer ran to pick up Chinese food for everyone, the make-up artist fixed my hair and face and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the role.
But then the director began dishing up and serving me and my extra family dinner, so I had to speak up.
"Shouldn't the mom be serving the food?" I said. "I mean to get into character."
"You're just an 'extra" mom," said the director. "Your role is to look pretty and do what we ask you to do."
"But I usually don't look pretty at the dinner table," I said. I wasn't complaining, I was just saying. "Just worried that we might be sending the wrong message that's all, " I added. "And perpetuating stereotypes, and creating unrealistic expectations . . ."
My extra husband, who was played by a professional, raised one eyebrow, so I put a lid on it. Not only did he play in Oceans Eleven and 21, he was a CHiP in real life (California Highway Patrol).
"Is Eric Estrada as sexy in person as he looks on t.v?" I asked, while we waited for the crew to set up the lighting. He raised the other eyebrow.
Then he told me that George Clooney is way nice, Brad Pitt is pretty cool, Matt Damen is okay, and Julia Roberts is short and snooty.
"She also has a body double, so Julia Roberts isn't Julia Roberts at all," he said, wrinkling his nose up.
"Maybe that's why she looks so tall and friendly in the movies," I added.
My extra son was in the 8th grade and scored a 30 on the ACT the first time he took it. He wanted to be a brain surgeon and his favorite book was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. When the camera started rolling he smiled a lot and said he was excited to clean his room. My part wasn't to judge, but to look pretty and make dinner conversation so I pouted my lips and asked him how his basketball practice went.
"GRRRREEEEAT!" he said, as if he were Tony the Tiger.
"Why?" I asked. Then I turned to my extra husband and asked him how his day went.
He also said, "GRRRREEEEAT!" (Like fake father, like fake son, I guess.)
"Why?" I asked again.
"Cut!" called the director. "Dummy, can you not interrogate your fake family please, unless you're smiling."
"It just doesn't seem very realistic is all." I said. "Why is everyone GRRRREEEEAT? This isn't a breakfast commercial."
On the next take I asked my fake daughter if she had her homework done, and she said, "YES, I've had it done since 1995."
"And monkeys fly," I said.
"Cut!" called the director.
Next my extra husband asked our extra son what he'd been reading, and he said Harry Potter.
"I read the whole series in four days. 34 times."
"CUT!" I called. "Seriously! Who reads Harry Potter 34 times? I mean, someone is going to call social services on us."
"Dummy, you don't get to call cut, you're the extra."
"But shouldn't this kid be burping, or insulting my cooking, or telling me my waistband is too high? And shouldn't I be telling him to stop slurping or to get his elbows off the table, or that money doesn't grow on trees?"
"Dummy can I speak to you for a minute. In private," said the director.
I was just keepin' it real, you know. For the betterment of mankind. But I learned a valuable lesson that day: The extra doesn't get to keep it real.
And the only thing real about movies is the wisdom.