Saturday, April 19, 2008

Twilight: The Motion Picture Experience

When I found out they were filming the movie Twilight here in the Northwest, I wanted to be a part of it, despite not knowing much of anything about the books. I'd been an extra in one movie previously, and I was aching to be in another. Being an extra, for me, is like going to Disneyland. At first it's fun, then after a while you get tired and want to go home. Almost as soon as you get home, you want to go back. I had been wanting to "go back" for over a year and a half, and now I had the chance.

It seemed like half of Portland wanted to be in this movie, too, including lots of fans of the book. I was already a member of the extras company that was in charge of casting (I joined back in 2000) so maybe that helped get me a job, but I doubt it. Honestly, they had their freaking pick. But it seemed they did need a lot of people, so I did manage to get in on the background action anyway. They had done an "availability check" nearly a month ago, and I'd said yes, but I didn't get confirmed until the night before filming. Naturally I said yes, yes, yes!

My call time was set for 5pm. Then they changed it to 6:18pm. Finally they settled on 9:30pm. I made the drive to the set. A production guy told me where to park. All of us extras with cars were escorted to the food tent. We filled out our paperwork. I was sitting next to a woman named T*. Since one of the initial "getting to know you" questions among extras always seems to be "is this your first extra job?" we quickly discovered we'd both worked on Feast of Love at Reed College and the North Park Blocks (in August/September 2006). But we didn't meet those days... not surprising, since there were hundreds of people at those shoots. After a short while, we were told to go back to our cars and wait.

Waiting in a cold car is kind of not fun. I read People magazine by a scant sliver of light (I didn't want to kill my car's battery). I tried listening to my iPod, but I quickly realized I needed to be on the alert for announcements, so I put it away. I played games on my cell phone. After roughly an hour, we were asked to leave our cars and do a rehearsal for a scene. This involved walking along a sidewalk. After a few brief rehearsals, we went back to our cars. Not long afterward, they announced we could go to the food tent and have lunch. (It was 1 am. "Lunch"? Hello.) The meal was fantastic. I wish I felt hungrier, but I'm not used to eating at 1 am! While we were eating, T* told me one of the "vampires" was at the other end of the table, so I looked, and indeed, there was Robert Pattinson. I think Kristen Stewart may have been sitting across from him, but I didn't see her face. After T* and I ate, we were supposed to go back to our cars. T* wanted coffee first. The coffee station was set up outside the tent, so we were out there by that when Robert (British accent and all) & 2 female castmembers walked by us. Yay!

We went back to our cars and waited some more. I could hear trucks driving and stuff going on, but I couldn't see much of anything. Then another rehearsal. The first scene we did involved us walking up a sidewalk. A car with Bella and Edward (the main characters in the film, for those of you dwelling under various rocks) came down the street... I think they were having a conversation inside. The car they were in was on a truck thing. So while they're talking in the car, you can probably vaguely see some extras out the car window. After about 1 take, one of the PA's snagged about 8 of us and took us out of the scene. We sat around a corner while they filmed the scene. Apparently that side of the street was just looking too crowded. Later, we would populate the opposite sidewalk.

In the meantime, they had to film a stunt car peeling out down the street or something. All of us extras were told to stay on the sidewalk for safety... we couldn't see a darn thing. We were huddled in a group on the corner. Across the street, there was a commotion. We were all just standing there when someone yelled "incoming" and something came hurtling across the street. I thought it was a prop guy throwing foam pieces of something, but no. A young man (probably 19-24) on his newspaper route was unpleased to discover he was not allowed on the street to deliver his newspapers. There were local cops guarding that very street, and signs posted that the street was officially closed until 6am (this was about 4:45am.) So, ignoring the cops, he flung a newspaper. It hit one of the extras in the head. No injury really, but the guy that got hit really milked it. Anyway, the cops immediately pounced on the paperboy, ordering him to put his hands behind his back. The kid acted like he was on drugs or something, he was screaming and cursing and they were telling him to relax and he was like "IF YOU LET ME GET MY CELL PHONE OUT OF MY BACK POCKET TO CALL MY MOM I WILL RELAX." Baaad idea asking a cop to let you reach into your pocket, hello. So they kept ordering him to relax, telling him they'd use a taser if he didn't. Well, they used the taser. It was horrible. Let's just say, on a dark night, those things glow like neon. We were all just standing there watching because we couldn't go anywhere and it was like a scene right out of a movie, ironically. A very very bad scene. In the end, the paperboy was subdued, and for the next half hour, that's all anybody talked about.

Finally we got back to work. I got to walk on the other side of the street this time. They did a few takes. Something tells me I'm not going to be visible in the movie, not with the amount of shots I actually got to be in. But that's okay. I made new friends.:)

We wrapped just before 6 am, and had to wait to get checked out for longer than was probably necessary. Checkout always seems to take ages, unless you sort of push your way up front, which I just don't ever feel right about doing.

Just after 6 I headed for home. I was freezing cold. And tired. Made it home and got some much-needed sleep. I'm glad I got to work on this movie, even if it was just for one day.

(ETA) From the buzz I'm hearing, Twilight is going to be big. Not Dark Knight big, but still. A far cry from Feast Of Love, which didn't even crack 2 million on its first weekend, and made about 3.5 million overall. Not that a film's gross is of utmost importance to me (some of my favorite movies were flops), but let's face it, it seemed like very few people even knew about FoL. Twilight is already gracing magazine covers, and it doesn't come out for 5 months!

* * *

(Updated 9/1/2020)
Just a few clarifying notes about the post above...

*The location of this shoot was Main Street in St. Helens, Oregon.

*The scene being filmed was that of Edward and Bella driving down the street after Edward has saved Bella from the frat boys.

*I believe the frat boys scene was also shot that night, but it was down the street from us, and there were no extras involved.

*Several of the "Twilight" tie-in books about the filming include a picture that was snapped on this night. If you see a picture of Bella and Edward in a car (or stunt car) with a theater marquee behind them, that's it. In the pictures, they've edited the names of the movie currently showing, but I can attest to the fact that Alvin & The Chipmunks was, indeed, on that marquee.

*During the wide shot in which you see Edward's car racing through traffic, you can see my car parked on the left.

*Very few extras can be seen at all in these scenes. There are a few blurs. One of the blurs out the driver's-side window might have been me, but we will never know for sure.

*I'm pretty sure, in retrospect, that the "two female castmembers" mentioned above were Kristen Stewart and... someone else...? (I don't think it was her stand-in, because she was sitting down at our end of the table.)

*I neglected to mention it, but the portapotties they rented for the shoot were DELUXE. Lights and everything!