Stand-In the Place Where You Aren’t.

Sometimes things come out of the blue.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not.  Luckily the call I got last week was of the good variety. The phone rang at 5:30 on a Friday evening.  I had a voicemail from background casting for the new NBC series Grimm.  They were looking for a stand-in for three days.  I freaked out, called back and said yes, even though I hadn’t gotten permission from work for the time off.  I figured I’d work it out somehow, and my job has always been very accommodating.  However, this time period fell right in the middle of one of the two deadlines that I have all month.

The days I would be working would be Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, so I would go to my day job on Monday and Wednesday.  Seems pretty simple except that this show is shooting in Portland, Oregon.  I live in Seattle.  It’s a three hour and smidge drive when there isn’t traffic, and when there is, well, let’s just say it isn’t pretty.  I also have to have a place to spend the night.

Luckily for me, my girlfriend has family down in Vancouver, WA area, just across the border from Portland.  And luckily for me her cousin happened to be up visiting us, so I could ask her if I could stay at her place.  She gracefully said yes, so there was one hurdle down.  Next, getting approval for time off.

Of course I found this out on Friday at 5:30 after everyone (including me) had gone home.  My boss(es) weren’t there, although I did try calling in hopes of catching someone.  Then I thought, hey, they are workaholic types and will probably be coming in on the weekend, so I sent an email and begged for the time off.  Just as I hoped I got a reply, at 9:30 Friday night.  People, you work too much, but I appreciate it!

Unfortunately, the email said, this probably won’t be a problem, but there is this meeting on Tuesday (that no one told me about) so you have to check with the big boss to see if it’s OK.  So at this point, I’m a nervous wreck because I told the Grimm guy that I’d do it, yet what if my boss said no, which I intellectually couldn’t imagine, and yet who knows.  She is a new boss to us, only been here a little over a month.  Who knows what she is capable of.  She seems nice, but…

I’m a worrier by nature.  I try and override it, or more accurately supress it, but I spent most of the weekend freaking out, until I got an email from the big boss saying sure I can go.  Yeah!

Monday I went to work trying to get my stuff done as much as I could. The Grimm guy, whose name is Matt, called to confirm.  He’d send me the call time for the next day later.  When he said later, I thought he meant around the afternoon or so.  So when around 6:30pm I hadn’t heard anything I called to see what was up.  Matt patiently told me he’d get the schedule to me when he got it, but he was still waiting for it.

Now if the call time is 6am, and I have a three hour drive, it means I would have to leave at 3:00 in the morning to get there.  If the call is at noon, then I could leave in the morning.  So when I was supposed to be there would be helpful in my planning.  By 7:30 I still hadn’t heard anything, so I decided to drive down to Portland and spend the night at my girfriend’s cousin’s house.  That way if the call was early morning, I could just get up and go and have a much shorter drive.

When I had talked to Matt earlier, I had also tried to get wardrobe requirements out of him.  As an extra, which I have been before, you are required to bring clothes with you.  What the scene is will determine the types of clothes you bring.  If it’s in an office, you would bring work clothes, or if it is in the forest you might bring things you would wear camping.  Often there are requirements to wear certain colors, or not others. So I wanted to know what to bring, and asked him, but he said they would give me some “color cover” which, I didn’t know what that mean, but took to mean wearing my regular clothes would be fine.

So off to Portland I go.  Luckily most of rush hour traffic is done, and I only have a slight slowdown near Tacoma.  I’m cruising along, about an hour from my sleeping destination, when the phone goes off.  I have a text.  Call times are in check your email.  So I get to a rest stop, pull over and check my email.  Call time is 12:45 pm.  I could have stayed at home and slept in my own bed.  Oh well.

So in all this you might wonder about the cost-benefit analysis.  I’m going to drive three hours each way, spend a significant amount of money on gas, impose upon relatives, make some people at work follow-up on things that didn’t quite get done (through no fault of my own), and use up three days of my vacation time, which I’m pathetically low on, and this will just about clean me out.  All for $9.50 an hour.  Yep $9.50 an hour.  Welcome to the world of the non-union stand-in and extras work.  Actually this is pretty good money since the extras only make $8.50 an hour. And I’m guaranteed 8 hours whether I work it or not.

Of course I’ll be learning lots and lots of stuff.  This is a real set,  network TV.  The major leagues as it were, so for that alone it’s worth the time and effort I think.  Probably by the time I factor in my travel expenses, and subtract my wages, I’ll break about even.   But as those Mastercard commercials point out, some experiences are priceless.


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