Thursday, August 17, 2006

Anti "Big Brother" Snobs

Yesterday, I was on location, shooting a short film, "Traffic Warden." I needed to be there at 8:20AM. As I was doing another night of stand up, at the Wibbley Wobbley Boat, in the evening, I decided to drive. The last time I appeared at the Wibbely Wobbley, I had to rush to make the last train back to Bracknell and only just made it. Because of that, I had to leave the place early and didn't get to hang out and network with the other comics. This time, I would be able to stay.
The location of the shoot was in Greenwich, which isn't far from Surrey Quays, where the Wibbley Wobbley is and where my friend, Tom, the Injured Cyclist ( ), lives. The plan was to park my car at Tom's flat, then take a bus over to Greenwich, spend the day filming, then come back to Tom's. Later in the evening, I could walk to the Wibbely Wobbley, from Tom's. There was only one hitch: the congestion charge. Surrey Quays and Greenwich are on the other side of London from me. Between us is the central London congestion charge area and there is no way I am paying £8 to go through there. The charge only applies between 7AM and 6:30PM, so I figured I would drive through before 7AM, thus avoiding the charge. Sounds like a plan, right?
My tendency to leave late intervened. I originally planned to leave at 6AM, thus giving me an hour to get to and transit the congestion charge zone, before 7AM. Unfortunately, I didn't get out of the house until 6:30AM. Could I make it through before 7? No way. As I was approaching from the west, I calculated that I would just be hitting the zone by 7AM. Time for plan B. I figured that if I diverted at the North Circular, I could go around the zone,travelingg in a clockwise direction, then cross the Thames using the Blackwall Tunnel and come up to Greenwich and Surrey Quays from the east. The only drawback was that taking this circular route would take a lot more time and it was rush hour, so traffic could be a problem.
Progress seemed slow. For a time, all the heavy traffic seemed to be going in the other direction, but I eventually ran into bumper to bumper cars as I neared the junction with the M11. As it got later and later, I worried that I wasn't going to make my 8:20AM call time. Improvisation being the key, I figured I could skip going to Tom's and just park on some side street in Greenwich, as the way I was going, I would reach Greenwich first. Arriving in Greenwich, I began looking for parking. All the side streets had signs for resident only permits or pay and display. I settled on a space and checked the Pay and Display for charges. It would cost me £5.50 for just four hours and I needed to be there for eleven hours. I drove off again and tried a car park (parking lot). Same rates! It was now past 8:20 and I still didn't have a parking space. I pulled up at a vacant meter just outside the building I was supposed to be reporting to. Someone had left the space with an hour still showing on the meter. Maybe I could go in, report, then, if they weren't filming right away, drive over to Tom's and take the bus back.
I walked in 20 minutes late. I checked in with the 2nd Assistant Director. He didn't say anything about me being late. Maybe he was grateful, as a number of others hadn't shown up yet. I asked him when we would begin. "We're starting now," he said, with a camp affect. Well, I had an hour on the meter, so maybe I could stay till the first break, then move my car. I sat with the other extras who were already there and waited. I waited and waited. Then I waited some more. I checked the time and almost an hour had passed already, but we still hadn't done anything but sign release forms. If the 2nd AD had just given me a realistic assessment of how long it would be, I could have driven to Tom's and been back already. The film we were making is about hostility toward Traffic Wardens, (who are the folks who write parking tickets, here, for those of you not in Britain). We were filming several street scenes, during the day. All of a sudden, I heard someone tell the Production Manager that a real traffic warden was writing a ticket for one of the cars parked outside, for use in our street scene. How ironic was that? She raced outside and I followed, as my car was also outside and my meter would be almost expired. This is a prime example of the type of mentality that UK Traffic Wardens display. Across the street, three curbside spaces had been sign posted as temporarily out of use, because the film company was using them, The crew had three cars parked in these spaces, which were props for our filming. Meanwhile, some prat of a Traffic Warden had walked up to these film cars and was trying to ticket them for parking in the out of use spaces, even though these spaces had been signed out of use specifically so the film company could park the cars there. What a moron. Some of the crew ran over to explain the facts of life to him.
I asked the 2nd AD if there was time for me to move my car, and explained my parking problem. He spoke to the Production Manager and she said she had some pre-paid parking spaces at a nearby hotel, for the production company to use. She said there was one available and I could park there, for free, all day. Result! I moved my car and relished in the knowledge that another problem had been solved. When I walkebackck over to the base, I saw the other extras being led by the 2nd AD to take first positions to begin filming the first scene we were going to do. I ran over and joined them...just in time.
During the course of filming this first scene, while waiting between takes, one of the other extras, a beautiful, young Black woman, asked me if I go on the "Big Bother" forums. I admitted that I did. She then asked me if I call in to LBC radio. I admitted that I do. She asked if I was "Joe Black," which is the name I use on the forum. "Yes," I said. She recognized my voice from the radio and she is a regular user of the forum. This was delightful. Wow, she looked much prettier than I had imagined from reading her posts on the forum. I also never had imagine that she was "Black," from her posts.
As the day progressed, I talked with most of the other extras. One was a model. Most of the others were aspiring actors and actresses. I would divide these into two groups: those with formal drama, or acting, training and those without. I, of course, am in the latter group. I was talking to one of the ones who was in the former, when I told her I had auditioned for "Big Brother" this year. She was horrified! When I told her I was intending to try again, next year, she emphatically told me not to. She was of the opinion that appearing on "Big Brother" would ruin any chances I had of an entertainment career. She added that no one who has gone on the show has ended up doing anything. I countered by mentioning Jade. She then wanted to excuse away Jade. I pointed out that a woman who runs a talent agency, whom I heard interviewed on LBC radio, a couple of months ago, had said that being on any reality show was good exposure and she recommended doing it. Little miss snooty extra disagreed. After all, what does a woman running a talent agency know, in comparison to someone working as an extra. After our little debate, she didn't seem interested in talking to me anymore.
Later, I was talking with the most beautiful extra there, a Swedish actress. I eventually mentioned auditioning for "Big Brother," again. Instantly, she said I shouldn't do the show. "If you do a reality show," she said in her sexy accent, "your career would be over." I told her what the talent agency woman had said on LBC, and pointed out that James Max, the radio presenter, had done "The Apprentice" and now he's got his own radio show. She seemed unconvinced and continued to repeat her position. This from a woman who started off talking to me by admitting that she has been unable to find a agent to take her on.
The "Black" girl who had recognized my voice, earlier, had befriended another "Black" female extra. I went back and talked with them again. Both are avid "Big Brother" watchers and neither has formal drama training. We spent some time talking about the housemates from this year's series. I told them what the snooty people had been saying about "Big Brother." "They are worried that doing reality TV will end their non-existent careers," I joked. This got a laugh from my two companions. The trained thespians like to go on and on about how they are trained to do Shakespeare. I don't have a strong desire to do theatre, I just want to make some money and be recognized by total strangers. I was doing a scene, later with another of the snooty thespian crowd. She was supposed to drop a jacket and I was supposed to help her, picking it up. For all of her training, she couldn't seem to manage dropping the jacket without it looking like she was deliberately throwing it down. "Who is she? Who is she? Where did you find her?"


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