That one time I was a set piece

I’ve always had a serious (obsession) fascination with movies. One of my earliest memories from my childhood is dropping whatever I was doing/playing with and running to the television whenever I heard the HBO theme. I was mesmerized, and hearing this now brings back a lot of great memories. I remember being so enamored with television and movies; KIDs Incorporated, You Can’t Do That on Television, The Real Ghostbusters, Monster Squad, that was my 80’s in a nutshell. I can remember watching movies so many times that I could resite the lines beginning to end with my friends in after-school babysitting (at a day-care/kindercare). And lord-forbid my friends mess up a line. I was the kid who corrected them.

I can remember watching movies so many times that I could resite the lines beginning to end…
Child of the 80's

As my life went on, my love for movies grew. I started to write storylines and movies, and being an artist, I would draw out scenes in my notebook. The bulk of this happened at school, when I should have been paying attention to the lesson. I wish I could have (and still could) applied that attention I gave to movies, comic books and such and put it towards school, tests, and even now, work. But even now, I struggle trying to learn and remember things, while I can still quote the entire script from Goonies.

Over time, I found friends who shared this passion. John Tatarelli was one of those friends, who actually did something and created his own movie (“Spooky”, which made the local festival rounds). I was fortunate enough to have one of the supporting roles in the short film, being “tortured” by John by being Bruce Campbell to his Sam Raimi.

Sex Symbol

Fast-forward 13 years and 2400 miles, a casting call goes out on Facebook (one of those sponsored ads). It’s for the new Universal Danny Boyle film and it’s filming locally at De Anza College. Cool, but even better, it’s about one of my favorites, Steve Jobs. My fiance and I immediately answered, go out and purchase “80's” clothes from the local goodwill, and act as background for 7 hours or so for a “big hollywood movie”. I will say, I was amazed at the scale of a hollywood movie. While this wasn’t a huge budget, it was awesome to see shots come together, even if our roles were just sitting in an audience watching the 1984 Ridley Scott Macintosh commercial over and over again. It wasn’t a paid role, however, it was a new experience.

I think we are right…there
…being able to be within arms length of incredible actors like Michael Fassebender, Kate Winslet and John Ortiz and seeing them work off one another…
1984-ready

1-week later, I found a casting call online for a paid extra part, and sent in a few headshots. I was pleased to get an immediate call back and casting, saying that I had the look for 1988. I went after work and was fitted in my new 80’s wardrobe in South San Francisco. What did I shoot? Two days worth. Up at 3am and driving from the South Bay to the city, wardrobe, makeup, all that fun stuff. What can I finally say about the actual shoot? It was long. A lot of sitting and waiting for the next shot. Repetition comes to mind when we did shoot. Am I complaining? Absolutely not. It was great seeing how a Hollywood production comes to be. The set up, whether it was cameras or placement, it was all a great ordeal. The crew (mostly PAs I dealt with) all were great in helping for hitting our marks. Being able to see how the great Danny Boyle worked, along with his crew and angles were inspiring and gave me a different insight to how a movie comes together. And, of course, the fan in me, being able to be within arms length of incredible actors like Michael Fassebender, Kate Winslet and John Ortiz and seeing them work off one another, it was pretty cool and intimidating at the same time. They were focused and always working to bring something different to each take. Pros.

Now, you may be asking, what did we shoot? If you have seen the film, or even the trailers (so non-spoiler at this point), you know that it works in periods, and is the moments leading up to iconic product launches. 1984-the Mac. 1988- NeXT. 1998- the iMac. In my case, I was credited as “NeXT Launch Attendee”. The bulk of the shoot was a steady, continous shot (about 2–3 minutes), which spans from the basement of the Opera House, follows Steve, Joanna and meeting with Joel Pforzheimer. It’s a great shot, and concludes with a great deal of dialogue on the balcony overlooking the attendees. I was fortunate that our reset location was located directly behind the playback monitor, so I could see what was filmed. We shot this scene about 7 times, and each time, we “extras” had to do the same thing; walk through the crowd (and shaking hands multiple times with the same guy, fake-smiling and miming our conversation), interact with one another and finish walking into the auditorium . However, we didn’t have access that day to there, so each shot finished with us walking into the entrances of the auditorium (and quite comically, I might add!). We also shot a great deal of the auditorium scenes on a later date, this time with the volunteer extras in the crowd. This was a lot of crowd wrangling. Shots of reactions and build up, the pledge of allegiance, “we will rock you” stomping and such, but fun. And also a great reveal when Michael Fassebender walked out on stage and getting an over the top response from the crowd, which was something that he did not do during the 1984 filming.

And 1988? Two 12+ hour days? My fiance sat next to me with her fingers crossed, nudging me during the shots. And then…
1988 at it’s finest!

Over the next 6 months, I eagerly awaited the opening of the movie. I read a good deal of reviews, with tech industry insiders saying that it was a dramazation and nothing like the Steve Jobs they knew, however, it’s Hollywood. Movies need to be a stretch sometimes to keep people engaged in the story. On Friday, October 16th, my fiance and I went and saw the movie that we both put time into, even if it was small in comparison to the “real” actors and crew. What did I think when we left? It was a well-made movie and not like the previous Steve Jobs bios. Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue was intriguing and intense, with the story telling by Danny Boyle and his crew was dynamic. And what about the shots we were in? 1984; we honestly didn’t expect much since we were in the crowd shot, mostly doing the wave. And 1988? Two 12+ hour days? My fiance sat next to me with her fingers crossed, nudging me during the shots. And then…

… fade out, cut to 1998 and a white-haired Steve Jobs, and the iMac. No bearded, long-haired “NeXT Launch Attendee” in a corduroy suit, although I’m sure if you paused some of the scenes, maybe you could see the jacket I was wearing or the top of my head. But no close-up. No 15 minutes of fame. No screenshots or crappy iPhone pics. And in all honesty, I never expected it. The main reason; while many of my fellow “background actors” joked in between takes about definitely being in the cameras view, I got to see the shot first-hand each time we reset. And in that long, continuous shot, we were nothing more than a few passing bodies that the cast looked down on from the balcony while ready a screenwriters words. Yes, it would have been great to be seen, for all my friends to have said “there he is”, I was fine with being another set piece. It was fun (long, mind-you), but a great experience and another thing to cross off the bucket list.

If you get a chance, you should see Steve Jobs. You don’t need to believe in how everything is scripted, but the dialogue and shots turned out great, and I am proud to have been apart of it. ‘Til the next cameo…

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