Friday, October 2, 2009


On Tuesday, September 29, my alarm went off (at 5 am!), scaring all the cats off the bed. Knowing that it is only the second time this year the alarm has been set, well, you can understand why they were disconcerted. Anyway, after only hitting the snooze button once (unbelievable #1), I got out of bed. Why? Because I had seen on the news the night before that they needed extras in Lexington for the movie they were filming (as I have never had any desire to act, be on stage, or anything to do with being a thespian, this would be unbelievable #2). I dressed in all my 70ish finery and headed north. Before the sun was even out of bed!

Once I got to Keeneland, I learned that the movie was a) a Disney movie and b) John Malkovich was in it (not one of my favorite actors. Not even in the top 150.). None of that mattered in the slightest to me because the movie, this movie that caused me to do any number of things I never in my life expected to do, was about Secretariat. The horse who had won the Triple Crown, set all kinds of speed and stride records, and captured my heart as a teenager. What we would be filming that day was the day he won the Triple Crown at the Belmont Racetrack in New York. How perfect!

Being an extra means ... waiting. A lot. As an unpaid extra, the motivation has to be either a desire to be seen on camera, an unbridled love for an amazing horse (groan), or flat out insanity. To keep the extras happy, the movie company hires someone to entertain them and be their liaison. We were lucky enough to have Mark Klein fill that role. Not only was he funny but the man was a walking encyclopedia on all the minutiae of horse racing.

After 4 hours of waiting, we were called down to the other end of the track for a scene. The crew came through and made sure we all appeared appropriately dressed. They also hit most of us with hairspray since it was very windy (that stuff was like shellac. My hair stayed stiff all day!) Cameras were set up on the track and we were ready.

The scene was of Secretariat as he made his appearance on the Belmont track. As he came out, we were all to cheer, "Big Red!" Kevin Connolly and one of the actors from Lost were down there with us. So were Penny Chenery's grandchildren (she was the owner of the horse in the 70's). That impressed me more than any actors ever could.

The director yelled, 'Rehearse!', we began our frenzied chant, and the horse came out of the passageway. Which is when this 'actor' began crying. I knew it wasn't really him but I still felt the emotion I had felt all those years ago.

Reset the scene, director again yells 'Rehearse", same thing. I tried to remind myself it was only a movie, and I was supposed to be excited, and if nothing else, John Malkovitch was in it for heavens sake, but I could not convince myself. Tears flowed.

As the weather had been deteriorating all morning, the director decided to call lunch instead of trying to put any of this on film. Great. It looked like my film debut was never gonna' happen.

The unpaid extras did get a free lunch as payment for their time. We had been issued a voucher for 1 hot dog, 1 bag of chips, and 1 soft drink. I thought about using my voucher but the line was incredibly long and I also wanted to keep the paper as memorabilia. I did buy a bag of chips and a cup of coffee (it was pretty cool and windy out and we were dressed for June). I had enough time to eat half the bag of chips before we were called back to the same place we had started our day from.

The clouds just kept getting thicker so it really looked like we were done for the day. We had been promised a Secretariat beanie baby and a poker chip but we had to stay until the end to get them. They would also doing a drawing of some kind.

Mark announced the first prize giveaway. A Sony Playstation. He drew a name, someone let out an excited noise, and that was it. None of us knew if that meant it was time to leave or not.

A few tired people called it a day then (it was about 2:30 and we had been in the wind all day) but I was determined not to leave until I had my stuffed animal. More sitting and waiting.

While we had been sitting, the crew had been rigging this massive cloth covered frame which they then hoisted up in front of the grandstand. This was done in an attempt to get some light reflected into the stands (there are no lights there). When everything was in place we were called back to the area where the cast was.

The actors and paid extras were in one section and we were placed in an adjoining one. More sitting while the director did whatever it is they do. While waiting, someone tapped me on the shoulder and told me I had been requested for the other section. Where the real actors were! Woo Hoo!

I was up in the back but still in line with the camera. Yeah!

The director told us our motivation for the first scene (Secretariat coming onto the track), called on us to bring all our talent to the forefront (what talent?), then called, 'Rehearse'. We yelled, we clapped, we fist pumped. Me? Uh, I cried. And there wasn't even a horse to be seen!

The director explained that he was going to do 3 takes, moving the cameras back and forth yet keeping them rolling. And then he said, "Rolling. Action. Begin."

We screamed, we applauded, and maybe, somewhere, someone might have shed a few tears. Finished the scene, director looked at it, and LOVED IT! My movie debut was happening after all!

While waiting for the next scene, the director told us that one of the extras was Penny Chenery herself! Ohmygosh I was in the same stands as royalty! That was worth the trip, believe me.

We shot several more scenes with the same boom, boom, boom format. One was actress Penny (Diane Lane) urging the jockey to let him run, another was Penny concerned because he took the lead so early, and the final scene was Penny and her trainer (Malkovitch) waving to all of us as they descended to the Winner's Circle. For each scene we were referred to as 'background'. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

At about 6 pm the director sent us back to our original area, announced that he would be doing some 'wild lines', and that we would all have to sit extremely quietly until they were done. About 45 minutes later he said those three little words that were music to my near frozen ears, "That's a wrap." Yay!

Mark let us know that he had about 4 more prizes to give away along with our beany babies and chip. An I Phone, 2 big screen tv's, and another Play Station. All I wanted to do was hit the restroom and head home but they were a little slow giving out the stuffed animals so I had to wait with everyone else.

Which was a good thing because I won a flat screen tv.

So now I am an actress with nothing but Disney on my resume. That means something to somebody. For me, my acting days are behind me. There is nothing that could entice me to do that again.

Unless they decide to do a movie about Man O' War.

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NouveauBlogger said...

That's pretty awesome! The day may have been long and drawn out, but you'll have the memory for a lifetime. And you won a TV!

Kate said...

Wow wow wow what a cool event! I love that you were crying. I can't wait to see the movie even more now that I know my blogging pal is in it! It's so cool to know a real movie actress!

And congrats on winning the flat screen! Man, my boyfriend will be so jealous when he finds out!

Cool story! And nice to see what you look like, too!

Misfit in Paradise said...

Thanks so much for your kind comments. I am very happy to know that I still have a reader or two left after disappearing for the month of September!

Aaroneous said...

That. was. incredible! What a great experience. I'm so happy you had that chance.

Violining_chic92 said...

What a fun read! Just think I have a famous neighbor!!

Lois said...

It sounds like fun to me and you won a TV! I never win anything. What a great experience.

Misfit in Paradise said...

The movie is tentatively scheduled for release October of 2010. I hope to see you all there!

annest said...

I think it's just pretty darned amazing. But then, we always knew you had special talent just waiting to come out!! Can't wait to see the movie!

bettyl said...

What a really cool thing to do!! That's a memory for a lifetime, I'm sure.

Antonio said...

Wow! What a day! Today? Flat screen TV. Tomorrow? IMDB.

Misfit in Paradise said...

Okay Antonio, that one made me laugh!