The Untitled and Confidential Project: Exposed (Blogisode Four)

As I type this I am (again) sitting on the couch in my parent’s living room, and I am NOT singing in a benefit, which is where I am supposed to be right now. Why? Because the Cincinnati weather and allergens have rendered me speechless. Yup. I have laryngitis. I am also scheduled to sign in the Christmas Concert at my high school on Tuesday night, so a quick recovery would be appreciated, Universe.

This stupid laryngitis also prevented me from working on my current project, which is painting my parent’s laundry room. Why? Because maybe, possibly, my father may or may not have driven through the wall. Ooops. I’m happy to report that he and his gigantic tank of a Cadillac were just fine, but the wall did not fare as well. My brother-in-law rebuilt it and dry walled it, and my job is to repaint and (try to) lay the floor…which involves measuring and math and quite frankly makes me a bit nervous…but I am game to try. Part of my sickness is inflamed sinuses and tight lungs, and as Rob pointed out, breathing paint fumes isn’t actually fumes, but is breathing in tiny droplets of paint, so suddenly spending 6 hours on a ladder with my nose in paint seemed like a rotten idea.

So, I am on the couch in my pajamas.  Not singing and not painting and not really talking.

But hey! I am blogging, so all is not lost in my day!

Okay, let’s jump back into the story because I left off with a white van full of actors and production assistants arriving in Brooklyn for our first day of shooting.

Okay, let’s pause for a moment and talk about Brooklyn.  Last June, which was when I was shooting for Lifetime, Rob and I were very seriously considering a move to Brooklyn.  If you a regular of this blog you might remember that I even started a series with my realtor, John Wescott from the Corcoran Group, going into the details about why we were considering the move.  On this day, the first day of shooting, John and I had been talking about a property in a section of Brooklyn called Kensington, and despite the high price tag ($3000 a month) we were considering the apartment.  It had (in no particular order):

1) a garage

2) a tiny paved area outside to a grill and a few chairs

3) good schools

4) a relatively good commute for Charlotte to her new high school and Rob to Pace.

Okay, so ultimately we did not end up getting that apartment (ugly tile and $3000!!!!), but we did drive by it in the van on the way to set and the whole real estate in Brooklyn thing will come up again, so just put it in your back pocket for now.  I will tell you when to get it back out.

Seriously. This is in Brooklyn.

We were shooting in a part of Brooklyn called Ditmas Park and it is beautiful. Like–you are no longer in Brooklyn or in New York or in this time period–beautiful.  Wikipedia does a good job explaining it:

Ditmas Park is a neighborhood in western Flatbush in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, east of Kensington, and is one of three Flatbush neighborhoods which have been officially designated Historic Districts. Located on land formerly owned by the Ditmas family that remained rural until the early 20th century, the neighborhood consists of many large, free-standing Victorian homes built in the 1900s.

Did you catch that?  Large free-standing Victorian homes???

Uh.  Beautiful.  And one has to wonder…if we were looking at a 3 bedroom 1000 square foot apartment for $3000 a month, how much does this gigantic HOUSE cost?

So we pull up in front of one of these gigantic houses and low and behold we have arrived at our set for the day.  Now remember that they were shooting not all 6 episodes at once, but several.  I think on this day they were maybe shooting three?  Anyhoo, as soon as we got out of the van we were met by various assistants and supervisors who were telling us where to go.  For sure, being on a television set was a series of lessons and this is where I learned lesson number one.

1)  If you are a principal actress in TV or film you get to cut to the front of the line.

Allow me to explain.  It turns out that most of the people in the van had “non-speaking” lines and in TV and film there is a very big difference between talking and not talking.  Talking, even one word, gives you an express pass to a whole bunch of goodies.  This was certainly true on my Lifetime shoot, but became even more clear this fall when I shot a feature film.  But that is a story for another time.  Put it in your back pocket–we’ll get to it.

Whether I really had a speaking role is a bit of a question, but it did earn me better treatment.

Whether I really had a speaking role is a bit of a question, but it did earn me better treatment.

So what kind of express pass?  Well the obvious things like, I got hustled over to wardrobe and immediately had a fitting in an air conditioned room.  Air conditioning, by the way,  is about to play a big role in this story.

Can we talk about costume fittings for a minute?  I think most people who do not have perfect bodies will agree with me–they are horrifying.  This was particularly challenging because we needed so many changes of clothes (they call them “looks”)  and we were also using some of my own clothes (remember I showed up with a rolling suitcase).  You do not usually use your own clothes, but this shoot did not have a union affiliation (SAG-AFTRA) so the guidelines were a little more lax.  So imagine putting on your OWN clothes that you actually feel pretty good in, and then having someone look you up and down and say, Hmmmmm, ummmmmm, no.  Take them off.  And then they pull out clothes they bought for you and they are the size you told them except they bought “slims” and you have curves.  Aw-ful.  Morti-fying.

And all I was doing was trying not to sweat.

Sweat plays a big part in this story.

So it was like….June 22nd or so, and it is New York City and it was hot and humid.  One of the great “cut to the front of the line” moments came when I discovered that the people who did not have lines had to sit in folding chairs on the driveway in the beating down sun for hours while I got to wait up in the air conditioned makeup room.  Big bonus.

So let me talk you through shooting in this beautiful Victorian house.  First of all, it is a HOUSE and not a TV set.  As in, a family lives there and rents it out to Lifetime to shoot their TV show.  This house was three stories high and had two parents and four kids residing in it.  I know this because I met the mother and two of the kids during one of the breaks.  In fact, we sat on their porch and talked at great length about Brooklyn and Prospect Park and (my main interest) the local schools.  Since she had 4 kids in the public school system she was one-stop-Brooklyn-school-shopping and it was great.  It was more than a little weird that this nice family was talking to me on their porch, yet they were not allowed in their house.  Meanwhile we walked in and out, pushing aside their person property to shoot, but hey–as the family told me–they do it all the time.

Wouldn’t you LOVE to know how much they get for it?  I was so close to asking because I knew you would all want to

Me in hair and makeup.  And also in a kid's bedroom.

Me in hair and makeup. And also in a kid’s bedroom.

know, but even I can’t be that tacky.  I’m so sorry.  If anyone knows, please write in.

Anyway, I get dressed and then am sent to hair and makeup.  Mind you–I still have pretty much no idea what I am going to be doing and when.  I haven’t seen a call sheet or a scene order; and even if I did, there is no script and I didn’t know the name of my episode.  Throughout this experience, by the way, there are people running around with giant cameras and ear walkie talkies and clip boards.  It is absolutely an actors job to be–oh wait–this is lesson number 2.

2)  Be totally silent on set if you hear someone yell “ROLLING”.  I’m talking–freeze in your tracks.  Don’t even take a step, especially if you are in a Victorian house with creaky floors.  And don’t flush the toilet.  I literally froze as I was reaching to flush the toilet and had to stay like that until I heard “CUT”.

So I immediately want to write rules #3 and #4 about hair and makeup because they are on the tip of my tongue, but I also have to tell you that I just looked at the clock and it is time for my Dad’s insulin shot and I have to go and do it so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow.  Let me just tell you that on-set catering is a hotbed of rules just waiting for me to break them, but I’ll explain tomorrow because as I broke the first rule I also saw the director for the first time and I was mortified.

Tomorrow’s post is subtitled “How to win friends and influence people”.

Ugh.

(To read the next post in this series, go here)

 

About Sharon Wheatley

Mother of Charlotte and Beatrix. Sometimes an actress. Sometimes a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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