The Shoot

Ken AshfordLocal Interest, PersonalLeave a Comment

Hellphone I didn't know what was going on.

I knew I had been cast in a very small part in "Hellphone", being shot in Madison, NC.  My original part was one line, spoken into a phone, and then I die.  But a scheduling conflict preventing that from happening.  But they put into another part.  I just had no idea what part, or when it was being shot.

So every morning, I would get by email a call sheet.  And yesterday, I was on it.  I was "John" and I was to be at Dan's Coffee Shop in Madison at 6:30 pm.  That's all I knew.

I arrived there and there were already a bunch of extras in semi-formal dress.  I was in a polo shirt and jeans.  Uh-oh.

Fortunately, Jaye Pierce was there.  I just ended a show with her — The Great American Trailer Park Musical — she played my stripper-girlfriend.  Her brother is the director of "Hellphone".  She was there, with much of her family, to be extras.  She had on a snazzy evening dress.

She got a copy of the script, and it turned out to be a scene at a dance hall.  It was a "Support The Troops" benefit where people turn in their cellphones in exchange for a bluetooth phone that fits in your ear.  This is early in the film.  Apparently, outfitting most of the fictional small town with bluetooths is important for the plot — the demon can now kill them better through the bluetooth.  Or something.

Anyway, as luck would have it, I was able to get myself dressed up, pulling from my Trailer Park costume which was still in my car.  Now it was just a matter of learning my lines.  And knowing when to say them.  One of the lines was "Well, as a vet, I seriously appreciate the community coming together to support our boys."  Dummy me — it took me a while to realize I was a veteran, and not a veterinarian.

As luck would also have it, the woman playing my wife Sharon, was unable to make the shoot, so Jaye took her place.

Our scene was basically a brief conversation with the lead, Graham (played by Nathan Moore) and Elisha (a reporter who has a crush on Graham, played by Caroline Granger, a Charlotte-based actress).  I talk to Graham about the event, but he is distracted and excuses himself from the conversation.

Shooting was fun.  It was a long process though, because it was a crowd scene.  There was a band and the extras were dancing.  Meanwhile, there's several conversations going on.  So we had to shoot wide shots from various angles.  Then we had to shoot closer shots of particular conversations (including the one I was in).  And you had to remember your movements from the wider shots to the closer ones, which sometimes were shot an hour-and-a-half later. 

Again, Jaye was a big help.  She would remind me, "…and here's where you turn around after I point at the fat lady".  Of course, we had to mime a lot when the camera wasn't on us — the boom wanted to pick up the main conversation and not all the background noise.  So there was silent talking, silent dancing, etc.

The extras were, uh, interesting.  Some of them had clearly never done it before, but they were very attentive to Jason's direction.  Others seemed to be "extra groupies" — people who apparently have nothing better to do that to be extras in movies.  Some people drove from Florida and Marylan, just to be in the background of this one 3-minute scene.

Anyway, my scene went off without a serious hitch, and I managed to remember my lines.  Nathan was a great guy and a very good actor.

Jaye had her baby with her, and the baby was acting up, so she had to leave the set shortly after our close-up scene was shot.  They still had more party scenes to shoot (reflecting later on in the evening when the party had died down a little), and since my "wife" was no longer there, it stood to reason that my charactor wouldn't be there either.  So I was done at 11:30 pm.

Nice time.  Hope to see the film itself someday (my co-actor in Rounding Third, Scott Stevens, is playing the demon).  Might even get me on IMDb.

P.S.  Forgot to mention.  My charactor, John, and Jaye's charactor, Sharon, are named after Jaye and Jason's actual parents.  Waiting around to shoot, I asked Jaye if her father had any mannerisms that I could incorporate (you know, just for fun).  Jaye's niece said the he sometimes scratches his chin.  Unfortunately, I forgot to do that on most of the takes, so I'm not sure if my chin-scratch will make the final cut.