Mayhem on Ashcroft’s streets? No, it’s the set of The Twilight Zone on Feb. 8, 2020. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

The Editor’s Desk: An extra-ordinary adventure

There's a lot of fun, but a lot of hurry up and wait, on a film set

When word got out that Gravity Productions, which was coming to Ashcroft to film an episode of The Twilight Zone, was looking for local extras — sorry, background talent — to appear on screen, it took me a while (about three nanoseconds) to decide to apply.

It was a no-brainer. I’ve been a film geek ever since I can remember, with a fascination for how movies and TV shows are put together: all the behind the scenes work that goes into creating what appears on screen. And I love acting, although I realized that as background talent my inner thespian wasn’t going to have much of an opportunity to break out. Meryl Streep would have nothing to worry about.

So off went my application, and in due course back came an invitation to come to a costume fitting. I was given a fairly detailed idea of what aesthetic they were going for: anything with a 1970s vibe (bonus marks for any vintage 1970s clothing you were able to bring in).

I lived through the 1970s, and sartorial-wise it really is The Decade That Style Forgot. However, I dug through my closet and pulled out items I thought would work, and headed out to the fitting.

It turns out I had remembered the 1970s fairly accurately, and all the looks I had brought in got approval from the costume director. I was told to wait for an email letting me know when I would be needed.

The email finally came, but it was to tell me that they had enough extras. However, I could put my name on the standby list, which I duly did, not expecting much.

To my surprise, at 9:15 the next morning, as I stood in an aisle of Safety Mart pondering the coconut milk, I got a call from casting. Someone had dropped out; could I make it to costume in an hour? Without hesitation I said yes, finished my shopping in record time, and was down to the fitting room with time to spare.

I had applied full makeup; not something I do often in everyday life, as my method of makeup application is great for theatre, where more is better, but not so great for anything else. Somewhat to my amazement, the makeup woman took one look and said “Great!”, and I was taken to the holding room in the Legion basement, where two dozen other extras were waiting.

There then began two days of traipsing between the Legion and 4th Street, as we were called to the set, sent back again, recalled, did some filming, and were sent back again, in a cycle that lasted several hours each day. The ground on 4th was covered in snow and ice, and a damp, persistent snowfall necessitated the constant deployment of umbrellas — of which the production company had a plentiful supply — lest our hair and clothing get damp.

We weren’t always successful, and every now and then one of the hair stylists patrolling the set would descend, brush in hand, and fluff up someone’s hair, then apply some product; a state of affairs that startled me the first couple of times I was the recipient. Still, it was a tiny taste of the “star treatment”, and I came to appreciate someone looking out to make sure I looked my (damp, cold) best at all times.

Back in the Legion there were plentiful amounts of food and drink. One of the caterers told me that a particularly delicious concoction was made with chia seeds, coconut milk, cinnamon, and agave syrup, and when I got home I used my newly purchased coconut milk to make what I will henceforth always know as “Twilight Zone pudding” (it’s equally good with maple syrup).

All in all, it was two delightful days, the like of which I had never before experienced and might well never experience again. It was wonderful while it lasted, and I can’t wait to see if I survive into the finished product or end up on the cutting-room floor. Until then, I’ll be waiting in my trailer. I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. De Mille.

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