Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Day Trip to Birmingham

Yesterday, I traveled to Birmingham for a location shoot, for a feature film. Not Alabama, Birmingham, England, you muppet. The film is called, "What Ever Happened to Pete Blaggit." I was cast as an armed police officer and although I don't have any dialogue, I got to hold a gun and pose in some Jack Bauer-like ways. I will receive a feature film first. In the two, previous feature films I have been in, I was an un-credited extra. I am sort of a media whore, at the moment, and will do almost anything for screen/air time.
Given the price of petrol and that my car isn't running so well, I decided to take the train up, given that I found a very inexpensive fare with Virgin Trains ( ). The round trip only cost me £28. That's not bad, considering that it's 114 miles from here, by car. It's only double the price of going to London, off peak, while it's about four times the distance. It was also my first chance to ride Virgin's new Pendolino trains. The only other time I traveled with Virgin Trains, back in 2003, I ended up on the older rolling stock, as the Pendolinos hadn't been rolled out over the entire network, yet. The Pendolinos tilt on curves and can travel at 125 miles per hour. Virgin Trains arranged a connection for me, from my local station, using Southwest Trains to Reading, where I would join the Virgin service.
For once, I got to the station in plenty of time. At Reading, I boarded the Virgin train, which was waiting there. This train originated in Reading, so I was able to take my seat and relax, while waiting for the departure time. On the outside, it looked nice and modern. Inside, I was a bit underwhelmed. It seemed narrower than the old Virign carriages (cars, for Americanos) had been. The seats didn't feel as roomy. To be fair, I had traveled first class, the previous time I was on Virgin Trains, while this was economy. The engine seemed to make a lot of noise. Oh well, at the end of the day, it' a train and it got me where I was going.
As I was tired, I dozed for most of the journey. Once I was at Birmingham's New Street Station, I set off for the address where the filming would take place. It was 3.3 miles from the station to the location. I had decided to walk it, to save money. I had allowed an hour and 47 minutes to walk the distance and I made it with ten minutes to spare. I had never been to central Birmingham, before. Previously, Birmingham was just someplace I drove through, on the motorway, on my way to Liverpool, or rode through on the train, on my way to Glasgow, Scotland. Birmingham is Britain's second largest city, with a population of 976,400. London,Britain'ss largest, in comparison, has over 7 million. That's quite a gap. This was a chance for me to look around, as I pounded the pavement toward my destination.
When I arrived at the location, things were running a bit late. There had been some problem with the camera and a replacement was being procured. I was pleased to be able to sit down and have a drink of water, after my long walk. Subsequently, I was joined by couple of other fellows, who would be playing cops, with me. One was named Dave, a 25 year old aspiring actor, who resembles British comedian, Jack Dees. The other was Chris, a former policeman, turned private detective. As a former cop, he was acting as a technical adviser for the scene, although he'd never been an armed police officer, as most British cops still don't carry guns. So, as things turned out, I was the only one of the three of us who had ever fired a pistol before.
While we waited for the crew to finish getting everything ready, we went through wardrobe and makeup. I chatted to the makeup artist and, later, the wardrobe woman, in my lightly flirty, joking sort of way, as is my habit. After makeup, I entertained my fellow actors with stories of my adventures on UK talk radio and Opal Bonfante's, Calling London show. The Executive Producer, Gabrielle, is also one of the stars of the film and would be doing the scene with us. While she was being made up, she was listening to my stories. She ended up interjecting a comment and I realized I had a wider audience.
We did a couple of rehearsals of the scene, so the Director and Director of Photography could get things just right. One of the three of us was to shoot a bad guy. I deferred to young Dave, as it was his first film. Besides, it was spontaneously decided that he would shout, "armed police," and that wouldn't go down too well in my American accent. After all, we were supposed to be British police. Then it was time to shoot the scene. We did three or four takes, and then it was a wrap for us. I managed to find some food left over from lunch and enjoyed a jacket potato (baked potato for American readers) with chilii filling. Chris agreed to give me a ride back to the train station and I will be eternally grateful to him, as it got me there in 15 minutes of comfort, rather than another two hour walk. I said goodbye to the rest of the cast and crew. Gabrielle said to keep trying to get on "big Brother," as I had entertained her, that day. Chris drove a Chrysler, PT Cruiser, so I ended up riding in an American car through a British city. It was my first time in a PT Cruiser. It has a retro style that I don't particularly go for, but so long as Chris was happy with it, I was just pleased to be riding instead of walking.
Because of the ride and the fact that we finished filming slightly ahead of schedule, I ended up an hour and 50 minutes early for my train home. Above the station is a mall, called Palasades. I wandered through it, but as this is Britain, not America, the shops had almost all closed, as it was after 5PM. I walked outside and around the corner, finding an area closed to traffic. I parked myself on a bench opposite a cinema, and watched the life of Birmingham walk by I had toyed with the idea of going to see a film, but there were none starting then. The next ones started at 8PM and my train was at 9:03PM...not enough time. The Birmingham area has a large population of Indians and Pakistanis, and this was reflected in the people passing by. I observed couples going into the cinema and families coming out. There were blacks, whites, Orientals...a real mix of people going to and fro, before my eyes. I was struck by the thought that, out of all these people, each individual looks a bit different. There were all shapes, sizes, and colors. Well, no blue, green, or purple people, but all the colors you find people come in. I didn't see any albinos, though. It seemedd a bit chilly and I was grateful I had decided to bring my leather jacket.
Soon, it was getting to be time to start making my way back to the station. I found the platform from which my train was supposed to depart. Another, local, train company's train was there, but I figured it would leave soon and be replaced by the Virgin train. While waiting, I stood watching the trains rolling in and out of the station, while listening to the announcements over the public address system. An EWS (England, Wales and Scotland) mail train rolled to a slow stop at a red signal, waiting for a passenger train departing the station to clear the junction of a couple of tracks. Eventually, it received a green signal and it thundered off into the British midlands' dusk. I thought about my friend, Tim, back home in New York, who loves trains. He has a model railroad setup in his garage. He would love this.
It was getting cose to departure time and still no Virgin train. I saw a couple of guys in Virgin staff uniforms looking concerned. They chatted between themselves and reassured the occasional passenger who approached them, enquiring about our train. The shorter of the two had a walkie-talkie and he commenced talking into that. In the distance, I could see the lights of a train stopped, waiting to come into the station. The local train was still at the platform, in the way, and there was no driver in the cab. After much discussion, it was decided to bring our train in at a different platform. All of the passengers who had gathered, by then, had to race upstairs and walk over to the next set of platforms. Our train was scheduled to depart in less than ten minutes. We all clambered aboard. I ended up sitting across the aisle from a hunchback. I looked him over in fascination. I don't remember ever seeing someone with such a pronounced hunchback, in real life, before. We left, on time, rolling off into the growing darkness. I dozed, again, on the way home.
Arriving home at close to midnight, I realized I had missed "Eastenders." I cooked a late dinner, while listening to the lovely Opal Bonfante, on the Big L, 1395 AM, London (Sky Channel 0190 or via the net at: ). When I finished eating, I called Opal, as I had encouraged Chris from the film cast to listen to the show. Opal informed me that my former co-worker, Russell, had been listening, but had gone to bed. The night before, Russell had fallen asleep listening, so this was the second night in a row that he would miss me on air. Opal is on 10PM to 2AM, London time, Sunday through Thursdays. Don't you miss out, tune in, turn on, then drop out. I usually speak to her, on air, every night, at some point. Call yourself, or send her an email, if you are too far away to call, and let her know you are listening because I recommended you. Also tell her you enjoy hearing me on air. She's hot and funny...a great combination. She and I work well together.


Blogger beethoven writes said...


sounds like a long hard day.

1:13 PM  
Blogger JosephintheBracknell said...

You just wanted to use the words, "long" and "hard," in a sentence, didn't you?

6:42 PM  

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