Category Archives: A day on the set of WFE
The cast on this film was A+. The young man we all know from the Twilight series, Robert Pattinson was spot on during every single emotion that was captured on camera. He is a truly talented individual and an all around nice guy. The man we all know from his inspiring role in Inglourious Basterds, Christoph Waltz was nothing shy of inhuman when he was acting, man this guy is incredible. I found myself gazing at the beautiful, Reese Witherspoon from time to time, whose work was something of perfection in every glance. The role of Kinko, played by Mark Povinelli couldn’t have been played by a kinder, more good-hearted person. The sleeper in this film is a most interesting man named Jim Norton, who played the role of Camel. I have a feeling when the film comes out people are going to really enjoy his performance. I’d have to say that with a package of actors like this how can this film not break boundaries.
The end of April was filled with excitement and very little rain. The sun grew stronger and I looked forward to a summer spent with friends and family. Even better, I was performing six days per week as the on-stage fiddle player for Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story in a 1,200 seat theater.
On Friday April 23rd, 2010 I woke up, as usual, to a warm sunny day. It had been one week since our opening show for Buddy Holly at La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts. The commute often took two hours but I was still looking forward to curtain call. I set my cup of coffee on the desk and opened up my violin case. I didn’t need to practice for the evenings’ performance – I needed to practice for an audition scheduled just two hours before my show. Two online blogs (which I now know as http://waterforelephantsfilm.com/ and http://filmwaterforelephants.wordpress.com/) shared some important and intimidating information about the project. I was told earlier in the week that I would be auditioning for the director. What I had not been told was that the director was Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend).
So far all I had done to prepare was print out the violin part to “Entrance of the Gladiators” by Julius Fucik. I didn’t know any circus music and figured this was a good bet. After reading through the piece several times, I had most of the primary melodies in my fingers but the chromaticism in several parts was still giving me trouble. I set aside the “Gladiators” for a moment and rehashed a classical piece I had learned years earlier just in case I needed to show anything more technical. After a couple hours I had three pieces prepared for the audition: “Entrance of the Gladiators”, “Bach Partita No. 3 in E Major”, and “Le” Fiddle Solo I played in Buddy Holly.
The afternoon came quickly and I packed my gear for the evening: violin, music stand, sheet music, water bottle, and protein bar. I mapped out the audition location and loaded the car. Traffic was like a thick marsh with no way around. Inch by inch I pushed through but the clock had no mercy. Deep within the Valley I found the location and was in a state of panic. “I’m late, I’m f#&$ing late to see Francis Lawrence!” I yanked my violin out of the car and slammed the door. “Suite 12_ ….? Damn! What was it!?” I came around the corner of a building and heard trumpets and trombones blaring. Loud chatter led me around another corner where I found a circus. Literally.
Clowns, stilt-walkers, jugglers, trumpeters, midgets, and coochie girls mulled around the sleek business campus. At the first table I passed three fat clowns playing a game of poker. I looked ahead and saw a line of twenty people in front of a small table — must be the check-in. I walked quickly but then realized the auditions were not running on time. They never do.
I stood in line next to an older gentleman who was also carrying a violin case. The check-in took over twenty-minutes so each shared the major highlights from our violin careers. He was currently running a private violin studio, performing in a community orchestra, and had been a professional violinist for a long-time. “Wow,” I thought. “I bet he’s really good.” I chuckled to myself. I love competing.
Robert Pattinson stood inches from me. Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz, both Oscar winners, were only feet away. Directly in front of me, and behind the camera, sat Rodrigo Prieto, an Oscar-nominated director of photography.
I should have been completely awestruck at the level of talent that surrounded me. Yet the only thing I could truly focus on was my aching feet and legs due to the flat slippers the wardrobe department had given me to wear – and having to stand on them for hours on end.
Playing the Tall Man, a non-speaking, featured-extra role in the film “Water for Elephants” proved to be equal parts fun and exhausting.
Based on the popular book of the same name by Sara Gruen, the story is about a young man who joins a Depression-era circus. I was cast as a part of a group of sideshow performers that included a midget, Wolfboy, the Fat Lady, the Strong Man and a couple of contortionists.
My job was to be present in the background and, in some cases, right up next to the lead actors. I suppose my claim to fame was the scene in which I and a few other men physically shoved Pattinson to the front of a group of circus workers so that he could be properly “initiated” into the circus life by being sprayed with water, pelted with pies and kissed by the showgirls.
But there were other scenes, too, including one on the sleeping car of the train, another when I stood with Pattinson and a few others and watched Witherspoon cavort with an elephant.
There is a chance that I will be seen on screen. But, being familiar with filmmaking, I understand that there is an even better chance that I will not be seen. Wait and see, I guess.
Here’s just a little preview of her story. You can read more at Water For Elephants.
In between each take throughout the day, various families of crew members would take pictures with Tai. It would be the last chance they get before she was done with her role as Rosie later that day. Rob, in between takes, would either hit up craft services, or talk with his costars or his assistant/bodyguard (who was with him at all times). He would also go to Tai and the other animals and pet them. He really enjoyed interacting with the animals a lot.
While waiting in the hot July sun, it was nearing lunchtime as they sent many extras back to the holding area. I was one of the lucky few that were chosen to stay for the close-up shot with Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz. This shot was awesome because I would get the chance to be inches away from Rob as he walked down the street for the parade (every Rob-lover’s dream). We were told to pantomime so the sound guys could pick up Rob and Christoph reciting their lines.
This scene was pretty intense as both the actors spat their lines with anger toward one another while trying to keep their composure for the crowd. Both Christoph and Rob did this part very well considering their strong friendship off camera.
Once again I found myself inches away from Rob (swoon). This scene had a lot of dialogue in it so I got to hear Rob’s gorgeous American accent over and over; however, right as they would yell cut, he would go back to his even more gorgeous British accent. Right after one of the shots, he was standing in front of me and flashed one of his infamous smiles at me. I had a minor freak-out but recovered fast enough to smile back. We found ourselves doing this many times because poor Tai was tired and didn’t want to listen very well (I don’t blame her! She’d been working hard all day).
Cody Wood , an extra on WFE, talk about his experience on set & Rob.
You can read more on his facebook page, I’ve just posted the part about Rob.
It sound like an amazing experience.
On my walk back across the circus floor I noticed a new excitement. There was no audible noise but something seemed different. When I came around the last large tent pole Pattinson had appeared at the end of the menagerie. I heard the start of the AD’s instructions. “Rob, we’re going to have you….” The young actor looked controlled and confident even while hundreds of Rubes tried to secretly glance in his direction. Most of the cast had arrived at their original mark but I was still walking. Fortuitously I was placed near the entrance to the tent just a few feet from where Rob was now standing.
While the cinematographer gathered lighting calculations I was instructed to wait for Rob to hit his second mark and run past him going out the menagerie. Again, the speed at which the cues came was surprising. The AD instructed, “Pictures Up, and Background”. On “background” the crowd began the stampede away from the menagerie. A third cue came for Rob and on “action” he became Jacob Jankowski. He took a slow step toward the running crowd and looked on with awe. He took another step and scanned the crowd left to right. From behind the camera I sprinted as fast as I could just past Jacob. The crowd was still screaming and running in the other direction. I hopped to my right to avoid a tent pole and stopped dead. My breath was gone and my eyes were frozen. A few feet in front of me stood an enormous buffalo. Dark thick fur covered the entire animal except for the large blood-shot eyes that looked directly at me. I methodically moved each foot backward while the stampede continued on in the tent. Finally the word “Cut” came bellowing out from the tent and gladly moved back to safety.
Rob was smiling at the director. He was obviously tickled by the intensity and size of the stampede. The entire experience was authentic. There were peanuts scattered on the ground and popcorn boxes tipped in the bleachers. Along the menagerie a host of animals did their part to make the scene possible and center ring the massive elephant stood like royalty. There was so much to take in that the twelve hour day passed like minutes.