Hooray for Hollywood

Guest post from Gaetano LePoer

May 5
Throughout my life my passions have been sports, American history and the movies. This past week, in “
Wizard of Oz”-like fashion, I got to see behind the proverbial curtain of Hollywood.

My bucket list includes being in a Hollywood movie. With that in mind, I went to an open casting call for background actors for the upcoming HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce,” a remake of the original starring Joan Crawford who won an Academy Award for her role. Amazingly I was selected. The five part miniseries stars Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce and is a 1930s period piece that takes place in Los Angeles. Part of the movie, however, was being filmed in Peekskill, New York.  

As I prepared for the shoot, I knew the days would be long. After an initial report for wardrobe fitting and a 1930s era haircut, I had a 5:30 a.m. report for my first day on set. The folks who manage the background actors prepared us by running through our cues and pointing out where we needed to walk, stop, talk, etc. Their job is to synch the movements of the background actors to the main scene inside. My scene took place in a restaurant and my role was to walk outside on the street. During the eight to 10 takes for each scene, we’d repeatedly hear, “Cut!” “Reset!” “Let's do it again!” And then came my big break. The production team requested a “Lawrence Tierney” type – an old school, tough guy – to  stop near the front door of the restaurant while smoking a cigarette and talking to a friend. After a few hours of shooting, it happens. If you are a background actor and they are sure that you are going to be seen in a particular scene, you are finished. They don't want the same background characters showing up in later shot. 

While the directors, principal actors, wardrobe team, makeup people and set designers are true artists, I was shocked at the number of ne’er-do-well’s that were all over the set. The grips, best boys and gaffers are like a group of renegades from the used car business. As Howard Cosell would say, “they were the sleazy underpinnings” of a Hollywood movie. It really broke my expectation of the beauty of the Hollywood set. It was fun, but if there ever is a next time I will be prepared for the “Dark Side” of the business. In a sense, a movie is sort of like a hot dog – I still love them but I don’t ever want to see how they are made

5 thoughts on “Hooray for Hollywood

  1. Speaking of Ms Cutrone, a PR Week reporter asked me the other night if I thought ‘Kelly’ belonged on the publication’s annual ‘most influential people in PR’ rankings. I nearly choked on my sauvignon blanc. I told the reporter the only list Cutrone belongs on should be entitled, ‘most detrimental to PR’s image.’ Her abusive managerial style and party planning business model reinforce all of the negative stereotypes about our industry.

  2. It’s no more a “glamour job” than working for Kelly Cutrone… The glamour is in everyone’s imagination…

  3. Right on Lunch…I didn’t mean to disparage anyone. Just an observation that the Hollywood set is NOT a glamourous place. I’m sure all the major directors earned their stripes working those grunt jobs. In my mind I wanted it to be a “glamour profession”

  4. top-notch insight, Gaetano. I do know that most of these grunts put in the long hours in order to make it up the chain – just like any job in any industry. one of my personal friends just became an assistant director of a CSI Los Angeles. After years of doing whatever was asked and working under 1930s like conditions, he’s made it – he quadrupled his salary and shrunk his hours in half. So, one of those grips or best boys might become the next Brian De Palma.