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My Acting Résumé

As I approached my fiftieth birthday a few years ago, I started pondering the concept of bucket list items. One of the things I had always wanted to do was to be in a movie or TV show. I don’t have any particular aspirations of being an actor for a living, but I wanted to be able to point at the screen and say “Hey! That’s me!”. In the late winter of 2009, there was a news story on the local ABC affiliate regarding the filming activities in Portland of a movie starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser. The production company was looking for extras, and there was to be an event at the Doubletree Hotel near Lloyd Center to apply. I drove into town at the appointed time on a rainy Saturday morning only to discover a line around the block of aspiring extras. As I was not dressed for an extended wait in the rain, and not inclined to wait in line for a long time, I decided to bail on this opportunity. A few days later, however, I noted a story online that talked about the company that was providing the extras for the movie. A local company called Extras Only was supplying the extras, and had a website that could be used for signing up. The process was really quite easy. Once I created my account, I filled out a profile that described various attributes. Firstly, they wanted to know about physical stuff; height, weight, hair color, clothing sizes, etc. Then, they wanted to know about any specials skills, like specific sports and other activities. They also wanted to know if you had any union affiliations, though general extra work doesn’t require union membership. Additionally, they asked that you upload a current picture, and optionally, pictures of any vehicles you owned that might be available.

Once the account was created, I waited for the offers to pour in.

Well, the offers didn’t exactly pour in, but after a few weeks I got an e-mail indicating I had been selected as a potential candidate, and that I should submit availability for a date a week or so in the future. I was available (meaning I could use a vacation day), and indicated so on the website. A few days later I received an e-mail saying I was “not needed”, meaning I was not selected for the job. This process repeated for two or three more iterations, before I finally the notice: “You got the job!”.

Thus begins my acting résumé:

Extraordinary Measures

This was a film shot in the Portland metro area starring Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell. My role was “Zymagen employee”. The working title at the time was “Untitled Crowley Project”, referring to the main character’s last name (a real person by the name of John Crowley). I was issued a badge with my picture on it.

Hello. My name is Tracy Janzelli.

The photo used was the one I had uploaded to Extras Only for my profile. I was used for two weekends in May of 2009. The highlight was a scene I appeared in with Harrison Ford. I was really quite starstruck. This has been the highlight of all of my experiences so far. When Jan and I saw this scene if the theater the first time I was almost overwhelmed. It is just the coolest thing to see yourself on the movie screen with a movie icon like Mr. Ford. I still get goosebumps when I see it.

I look damn good in that suit, too.

 

Leverage – Episode 312 – “The King George Job”

In June of 2010, I was selected to be a traveler in episode 9 of season 3, “The King George Job”. This episode was filmed at the Oregon Convention Center, made up to look like Boston’s Logan airport. I am visible multiple times in this scene, but this is the closest to a “close-up”:

“What’s happening over there?”
It’s called acting, people.

My experience on this episode is detailed in blogs posts here and here.

 Gone

In May of 2011, I was called to the set of “Gone”, a feature film shot in Portland.  I was cast as a pedestrian/driver. The highlight of this experience was the food, as I was never in front of the camera. Thus, no screenshots to post. There is a possibility that Jan’s car may be visible in one of the shots though.

 Leverage – Episode 409 – “The Cross My Heart Job”

For three very long nights in June of 2011, I was once again on the set of Leverage, once again at the Oregon Covention Center, and once again in an “airport”. This time, the airport made made to look like a fictitious Cincinnati airport, and I was portraying an airline pilot. This was my first role requiring wardrobe provided by the production company.

I believe I make a very dapper pilot.

For as long as I spent on the set, I did not get much screen time, and most of that is very deep background. This is my best on screen appearance (that’s me right in the middle).

This is a flashback, hence the black & white.

 

I had spent quite a bit of effort documenting this episode in a blog post, but I lost several hours worth of work, because he drafts weren’t saving correctly.  :(

Grimm – Episode 102 – “Bears Will Be Bears”

During the summer of 2011, I noticed some activity in the building I used to work in (I had recently been moved out of that building to a location nearby). As I walked through the old parking lot on the way to lunch one day, I noticed some placards on the dashboards of the cars parked there: “Grimm”.

This was in my old parking spot.

It was also around this time that the local news stations were broadcasting stories about a new NBC series being filmed in Portland. They had moved their production office into the building I had worked in for 15 years. It was apparent Extras Only was not handling the extras casting for Grimm. A quick Google search found a link online to sign up for being an extra for Grimm, and I submitted my résumé. Since Grimm handled their own casting, the process was a little different. On August 1st, I received a phone call from one of the extras coordinators asking if I was available on August 3rd. That was very short notice, but I was available. I was informed I would be playing a cop. The shooting took place at the old Customs House in northwest Portland. I was fitted with an actual Portland Police Bureau uniform and I did my thing.

Portland Police Bureau’s finest fake cop.

This job was a little unusual in that I only worked about seven hours and they didn’t feed me. I was visible twice in the episode, however briefly.

I have mastered the art of the “awkward wave”.

That red blur is me.

 

 Grimm – Episode 109 – “Game Ogre”

On October 21st of 2011, I reprised my role as Portland cop. For this episode, we filmed on location in NW Portland at NW 29th and Savier at a “crime scene”. I felt pretty good about getting some good screen time as I was pretty close to the action for most of this scene. Turns out you didn’t get a very good look at me.

Since I was the only redheaded cop there, this has to be me.

 

I can post this behind the scenes picture now, since this episode has aired. This very nice actress portrayed the “victim”. Her tongue had been removed.

The prop people were carrying her tongue around.

After we wrapped this location (see, I’m picking up the lingo), we adjourned to the soundstage near my office in northwest Portland and worked well into the night on the Precinct set. All of that effort resulted in zero screen time.

Leverage season 5 is currently shooting in Portland, but I haven’t landed a role yet. Stand by for further adventures!

Leverage – Episode 514 “The Toy Job”

I was on the set of Leverage once again in July of 2012, and once again I was directed to the Oregon Convention Center. The twist this time is that it will be portrayed as the Oregon Convention Center (not as the Boston or Cincinnati airport).  This episode aired on December 18, 2012. Sadly, this was to be the second to last episode of Leverage, as it was announced that there will be no season six. I was disappointed in my on screen time in this episode. At the time of shooting, I felt like I would be easily visible. As the screenshot blow indicates, I barely made it into the frame. Also of note: this episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes, of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame.

That's me on the left edge of the frame.

That’s me on the left edge of the frame.

Bad Signs

Through some connections on Facebook, I was able to score a “featured extra” job on “Bad Signs“. The pay? Zero. But, an IMDB credit was held out as a carrot. IMDB credit was something I have been wanting for quite some time, so I jumped at the chance. The film is being shot with a low budget, but with a professional crew. I reported for duty at the ultra classy Taboo Adult Video store in SE Portland at 10:00 AM. I am glad we were shooting during the daylight, because that is a pretty sketchy neighborhood. No release date has been set yet. I believe shooting started just days ago. Very nice crew; I’d love to work with them again.

Grimm – Episode 214 – “Natural Born Wesen”

I was concerned I might not make an appearance in season 2 of Grimm, but my opportunity finally came in October. I spent a very rainy morning on location in the Pearl as a “Crime Scene Unit Tech”. I was soaking wet by the end of the day, but I think you’ll get a look at me. I am surrounded by the lead characters, though I am kneeling down for much of it. This was a very exciting scene involving automatic weapons. This will air after the first of the year.

*UPDATE* – Didn’t get as much screentime as I thought, but here I am.

Grimm.S02E14.720p.HDTV.X264-DIMENSION.mkv_snapshot_29.25_[2013.03.15_22.32.41]

Evidence marker #5 is next to my left foot.

 

Grimm – Episode  222 – “Goodnight, Sweet Grimm”

For the season finale of season 2, I was employed as a hotel bellman. In April of 2013, I was in a scene in front of “The Gregory” condos in the Pearl District of NW Portland. The camera is on me as I load some bags into the trunk of a very nice black Mercedes. As I closed the trunk, it reveals Captain Renard’s brother (James Frain) and his bodyguard emerging from the “hotel”. They get in the car and speed away as Captain Renard observes unseen.

This was a lot of fun to shoot. The residents of The Gregory were very curious and wanted to hear all about being an extra. They had us posing for pictures, too. The jacket and hat were handmade for me me overnight by the wardrobe department. I stopped in their production Office the afternoon before to get fitted for the costume. As it happens, their office is in a building that I worked in for 15 years. The former server room is now filled with racks of wardrobe

WP_20130403_001

It turns out through the magic of editing, I was not visible while loading the bags into the car. I was visible briefly in the “establishing shot” at the very beggining of the episode, so all is not lost.

Bellman-ing it up outside The Gregory.

Bellman-ing it up outside The Gregory.

Portlandia – Episode 410 – “Getting Away”

Can’t say much about it now, but I spent a day on the set of Portlandia on October 8 as a participant of a “walking tour”. Lots of screen time on this one. I expect high visibility when this episode airs, sometime after the first of the year. The Portlandia set is very relaxed, and Fred and Carrie were both very nice. I will update with more details after the show airs.

*UPDATE* – This is episode 10 of season 4, “Getting Away“. I am in the “New Beavertown” segment.

*UPDATE* – Yes – I got some pretty good screen time in this episode. It didn’t really feel the like story we understood we were working on was what ended up in the episode. There were a set of extras (at least two of whom were Portlandia crew) involved in a scene where Fred and Carrie (Peter and Nance) came upon a re-enactment of the founders of New Beavertown interacting with a beaver. They were dressed in 80’s (1980’s) clothing, as that is when the city was founded. I didn’t really get what they were going for, so I’m not surprised it didn’t make the cut.

This very nice young lady was in this beaver suit ALL DAY, and didn't make the cut.

This very nice young lady was in this beaver suit ALL DAY, and didn’t make the cut.

I was in the middle of the action.

I was in the middle of the action.

Pretending to be interested.

Pretending to be interested.

Grimm – Episode 313 – “Revelation”

Spent a cold day on the set of Grimm on December 2nd for what will likely result in zero screen time. I got a call for “Precinct Detective” for this episode. Call time was 7:18 AM, and I had already had a vacation day planned. This was the first Grimm episode I’ve done that required my own wardrobe. “Precinct Detective” equals “sports coat/slacks/tie” so that was easy. Seemed pretty obvious they had more detectives (and cops) than needed, so a few of us didn’t get much work. There were quite a few “Desk Detectives” there, meaning regulars that had “spot” at a desk. You may get a glimpse of may tan jacket from Captain Renard’s office (through his blinds, across the precinct and in the back hallway), or perhaps a flash of red hair with grey jacket as “Nick” completes a phone call and leaves the precinct. Extras holding was outside under a canopy with 3-1/2 sides and a non-functional heater. It hovered around 40 degrees for most of the morning, along with some rain. No idea when the episode will air, nor any inkling as to the storyline. Still, it was fun, and met some nice folks.

*UPDATE* – This episode  will air Friday, February 28, 2014.

*UPDATE* – No screen time for me in this episode. You’ll just have to take my word for it. :-)

Beech Knoll Road

“Beech Knoll Road” is a locally produced feature film, apparently shot as a “mockumentary”. I spent the evening of December 10th at Kelly’s Olympian in downtown Portland, The NDA prevents me from sharing too much, but I can say I had a blast at this shoot. It is being directed by Luis Garcia, a very talented young man, and the cast a crew were all great to work with. I think I’ll get some good screen time in the scene I worked in. This job was vetted outside the auspices of Extras Only. I’m building up a nice Facebook network of film/TV contacts, so I expect to see more of this activity.

Grimm – Episode 318 – “The Law of Sacrifice”

This was a very similar experience as my last Grimm appearance. Very rainy and cold again, but the heater worked this time! Perhaps too well. It was pretty stuffy in the tent. There were about 40 extras crammed into an 18′ x 18′ tent. Hopefully, this picture of our “home away from set” doesn’t violate any NDAs:

Extras Holding

Extras Holding

I was a precinct detective again this week. Hopefully I can get in with the regulars and get more work. This turned out to be a very long day – 13-1/2 hours. We had some snowy weather in Portland the week before, so I think they were trying to make up some time. I got to stand near one of the Grimm regulars that I had not been in a scene with before. I can’t reveal who that is because it’s kind of a spoiler right now. I’ll update my fanboyishness after the episode airs. David Giuntoli said hello to a small group of us near his desk between takes, so that was a nice treat.  I didn’t get any work at all until after (a very nice) lunch. There are two opportunities to see me in this episode. One, when a character rushes into the hall in the precinct to confront Captain Renard. You might see me from the angle behind Renard coming out of the “bullpen” on the left, reacting to the confrontation. Another is when Nick and Hank are reacting to a mysterious visitor that has come into the precinct. There is a shot of Nick and Hank looking toward the back of the bullpen. I’m standing near a large TV display, interacting with other officers and detectives. It looks like this episode will air April 4th, 2014.

*UPDATE* This episode aired April 11th, 2014. You didn’t see me when Adalind confronted Captain Renard (just missed me, thanks for nothing, editors), but I was visible during the prince’s visit to the precinct:

You can see Russell Hornsby's enthusiasm for working in a scene with me.

You can see Russell Hornsby’s enthusiasm for working in a scene with me.

This seems worthy of note; the Grimm twitter account (@NBCGrimm) posted a picture with me (barely) in the background.

https://twitter.com/NBCGrimm/status/456941545321955329

The Librarians – Episiode 102

A new series is being shot in Portland by Dean Devlin, the producer of “Leverage”. Shooting began the week of April 14, 2014 and I received a notice for, and was booked for, “Fundraiser Patron”. Wardrobe called for “upscale attire” in dark colors, so I brought my nice blue “wedding suit” (yes, it still fits), and also bought a new black suit on sale at Kohl’s for $100. I can’t really say much at all about what this episode is all about, and I’m not really positive if this is episode 101 or 102 (the call sheet said both). I can say that I believe I got some very good screen time. The series stars Noah Wyle, Rebecca Romijn, and Christian Kane (of Leverage). There is another young actor named “John”* that I am not familiar with, but he is Australian. He was a very pleasant young man and chatted with a few of us between takes. I must say Rebecca Romijn, is the most attractive woman I’ve ever been in the same room with (next to Jan, of course).

This was definitely a Dean Devlin production, as it had “Leverage” stamped all over it. Quite literally, as a matter of fact. My parking receipt was validated with a “Leverage” stamp. I recognized many of the crew as folks I had worked with in the Leverage days (including Christian Kane). There was also the signature smoke, and I heard talk of a “Ninja Zoom”, though not in a scene I was in. Another Leverage indicator was the very long day. The call time was 8:30 AM, and I wrapped at 12:42 AM.

There was a very new and different experience in this episode. There was a requirement that several of us know how to waltz. Yes, like the Dancing With The Stars thing. There were perhaps a dozen extras that had some experience, but more were required. One of the Assistant Directors came up to me in extras holding and asked if I knew how to waltz. My response was “not a step”. His response? “You will learn”. So – an additional ten or so of us were taken to a different room and were given a crash course in the waltz by a very nice young man who is a professional dance instructor. I cannot say I am now a dancer, but I think I pulled off something approximating a waltz. As long as the camera angle stays off my feet, I think I’ll be OK. I spent most of my day dancing. I am grateful I had a partner that had some experience and was also very patient with me. I was very near Rebecca Romijn and Noah Wyle during these scenes, so I think you’ll see me quite a bit. Did I mention Rebecca Romijn is gorgeous? Holy cow. I am very curious to see how this looks on camera.

I think that’s all I can say about this episode for now. It sounds like the series will not air until the fall of 2014 sometime.

* The actor’s name is John Kim. That is apparently a pretty old picture on the IMDB page.

Portlandia

In August of 2014, I was able to participate in another episode of Portlandia. I got a text from the extras coordinator, Cam, on a Saturday. He asked for availability for the following Friday. It happened I already had a day off scheduled, so I eagerly accepted. On Thursday evening, I received the e-mail with call time and location instructions. I can’t share the location and other details right now, but the shoot was to be outdoors, and I was to dress casually.

The location was very casual, so I elected shorts and a golf shirt, but brought some options, just in case. The call time was 7:00 AM, so that meant I would get up at my normal time for a workday. I wasn’t sure about traffic for part of the trip, so I gave myself extra time. The additional time was not needed, so I arrived quite early. I used the extra time to stop at a nearby 7-11 to pick up some snacks.

Once I arrived, I found the base camp and got checked in. Cam recognized me and handed me the NDA and pay voucher to fill out and sign. This was a particularly “fun” location, so we all had a great time filming. Part of the theme was a father/son day, so I was paired with a 15 year old fellow ginger, who was to be my “son”.

Meet "Truman". A very nice young man.

Meet “Truman”. A very nice young man.

Truman’s real dad was there as well, but I apparently looked more like his dad than his dad did. The were 3 sets of “father-son” extras, none of whom were related.

I’ll share more details when the episode airs, but suffice it to say I had a lot of fun on this one. It was only a 3-1/2 hour shoot, but I think I will have plenty of screen time again in this episode.

Emerald City Comicon 2012

Having drawn Jan into the dark and sometimes scary world of Comicon last year (lured by the attraction of William Shatner), it was a no brainer to make plans for the 2012 con. Tickets went on sale on September 29th, and I secured ours the next day. $50 per person for a 3-day pass was well worth the price of admission. In December, 4 media guests were announced: Summer Glau, Eddie McClintock, Tia Carrere and George Takei. I was not familiar with Eddie McClintock’s work on Warehouse 13, as I had never watched the show, though it looks like something I would enjoy. I was definitely a fan of Summer Glau and Tia Carrere, they are, let’s face it, smoking hot. Of course George Takei is a science fiction icon, and after having met William Shatner in last year’s con, Takei would be a natural progression in geekdom. I had been following Mr. Takei on Twitter for some time, and it was apparent that he is just a very nice human being. Having already purchased the tickets to the con, I booked two nights at the Paramount hotel (where we had stayed the previous year). The Paramount had served us well the previous year as it is very close and well appointed.

About the middle of December, it was announced that special “VIP” passes would be made available at a premium price.  These VIP passes offered the following benefits:

  • 3-Day Adult Pass
  • Express Entry
  • Front of the Line privileges for all Autograph sessions with Media Guests (during their scheduled times)
  • Front of the Line privileges for all Photo Ops with Media Guests (during their scheduled times)
  • Premium and guaranteed seating at all panels in Room 4A (our large panel room)
  • Souvenir ECCC Lanyard
  • Exclusive 4×6 VIP Badge & wristband (used to identify you as a VIP)
  • Exclusive VIP Show T-shirt
  • Access to onsite VIP break room (for leaving coats/merch)

The cost? $200. I checked my Slush Fund®. Money was available. Seemed expensive, but just the front of the line privileges made it very tempting. I had already secured my “normal” tickets. How easy would it be to swap the normal ticket for the VIP? A question posed to the con’s Twitter account quickly answered the question. They would happily and quickly refund the cost of the original ticket. So the upgrade to VIP status was purchased.

One of the few folks to comment on my 2011 Comicon blog entry was a very nice lady named Jasmine, and we had since struck up a friendship on Twitter (follow her: @RocketJaz). She is a Seattle resident and fellow nerd, and she too was planning on attending the 2012 con. We made a plan to meet for dinner the first night of the con (Friday night). We also both followed Anne Wheaton (@AnneWheaton on Twitter, and Nerd Prime Wil Wheaton’s wife).  Anne occasionally responded to our tweets and indicated she would be accompanying Wil to this year’s con. Jasmine and I made a plan to try and meet Anne. Anne just seemed like an extraordinarily nice person, and who doesn’t want to meet more of that kind of person? We were concerned Anne might be a little skittish about meeting nerdy strangers IRL (in real life), so we tried to be careful about being too pushy. She must be bombarded with all manner of requests on Twitter and other channels, so her reticence would be understandable.

As the weekend approached, Jasmine and I firmed up plans for our initial meeting. I had shared Jasmine’s tweets with Jan, and we were both stoked to finally meet in person. We would meet at the Elephant and Castle, a pub a few blocks from the Convention Center. Jan and I planned to leave Portland around 11:30 AM, hoping to arrive in Seattle around 3:00 PM. Best laid plans, and all of that, but we didn’t get out of the house until about 12:45. Driving to Seattle from Portland can be a little dicey this time of year, but the weather was decent for most of the trip. We encountered quite a bit of slow traffic at Tacoma, which lasted most of the remainder of the drive, and finally arrived at the Paramount at about 4:00.

We were meeting Jasmine’s crew at 6:00, but I wanted to hit the con real quick to pick up our badges and VIP swag before dinner. We settled in at the hotel, and then walked the short distance to the Convention Center. We went to the area where prepaid tickets are usually picked up on level 4, but were told to go back down to room 206 to get our stuff. Room 206 was not marked in any conspicuous way, so I don’t know how they would have expected us to go there.  Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly, and our bags of swag were waiting for us. **EDIT: It turns out they had sent an e-mail about the VIP room on March 22, but I only just now discovered that message in my spam folder**

I'm a VIP!

We trundled back to the hotel with our goodies to relax for a bit before heading to dinner. It wasn’t long before we were ready for a beer. I texted Jaz to let her know we would head over early to have a drink. As we walked the few blocks to the pub, Jaz replied they were on their way too. Somewhat surprisingly, the pub was not too busy for a Friday night, even if it as a little early. We got a table and ordered a couple of beers. I don’t remember the brand, we both got an IPA of some kind. We were sitting by a window, and could see folks coming into the pub. It wasn’t long before I saw three figures approach that roughly resembled my mind’s eye impression of what Jaz and her family should look like. I had texted her to let her know our location in the restaurant. It was obvious she hadn’t seen that text yet, but she stepped back into the lobby and checked her phone. She looked up, turned directly to me and I waved. First contact had been achieved! They came over to our table and we made our introductions. There was Jaz, her husband Ian, and daughter McKenzie. I must say I think McKenzie is a very cool name for a young lady. We hit it off immediately; Jaz and her family are just great people. We enjoyed a nice dinner and agreed to find each other on the con floor the next day. We made a short detour to the Hard Rock Café on the way back to the hotel so I could satisfy my pin collection cravings. The Hard Rock had a pair of ECCC exclusive pins I needed to add to my collection.

The ECCC Hard Rock Cafe pins

The next morning we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Our VIP privileges allowed us early entry to the con, but by the time we got our VIP bracelets (pink, for Saturday), they were already allowing the general populace in. And there were a lot of folks. Our first order of business was to secure the Jason Palmer ECCC media guest poster for autographs. We had purchased his poster in 2011, and were able to get quite a few autographs. Jason himself sold us the poster and signed and numbered it for us. He was very nice.

The Jason Palmer ECCC poster

Tickets for the Photo Ops were next on the docket. In the weeks leading up to the con, some media guest changes were made. Christopher Lloyd was no longer attending, but Lea Thompson would attend as his “Back to the Future” replacement. Tia Carrere was no longer attending. Some Harry Potter dweebs were replaced by other Harry Potter dweebs (sorry, just not into Harry Potter). Edward James Olmos was originally set to attend Friday only, but was now appearing all weekend. We got into the already fairly long line, but thanks to an attentive “Minion” we were instructed to use the VIP line, and went to the front of the line. Our first use of a perk! We decided to get photos with George Takei, Lea Thompson, Jason Momoa and Edward James Olmos. $170 later, we were on our way. The photo ops were staggered throughout the rest of the day. The first photo op was at 1:00 with Jason Momoa.

The Wil Wheaton panel was at 11:30 in the large panel room. I had never been to a panel because of the long lines, but wanted to use my VIP perk to see Wil. We had a little time to kill before Wil’s panel, so we set to wandering the con. Some of the media guests had already started signing so we took our Jason Palmer poster on a tour. We decided to try our VIP perk on the already long George Takei line first. We showed our pass to the Minion for the Takei line and were escorted to the front of the line. Mr. Takei had not yet arrived, and just a couple of other VIPs were ahead of us. Mr. Takei arrived shortly. A dapper gentleman named Brad took our money for the autograph. I looked at his badge. “Brad Takei”. Yes, that Brad! I said “Oh – you’re Brad!”, and expressed my pleasure in meeting him. We moved over to Mr. Takei for our turn for the signing. As I expected, Mr. Takei was very gracious and engaging. He took the time to write a personal note on our poster. Jan remarked on how beautiful his handwriting was. Our experience with Mr. Takei was very gratifying.

Jason Momoa was in the next line over and our VIP badge took us to the front his his line. He was a very charming guy and signed the poster while engaging in a little chit-chat. Jan very much enjoyed meeting Jason.

The next stop was Adam Baldwin. His VIP line was shared with Summer Glau, and the Minion there wasn’t particularly well organized. We were able to get Adam’s autograph fairly quickly, and he seemed nice enough to us. Apparently, later in the con, he and Wil Wheaton got into some kind of conflict, the details to which I am not privy. It seems Mr. Baldwin was being disrespectful in some way. If anyone reading this blog knows the details, I’d like to hear about it. We were able to jump over into Summer Glau’s VIP line fairly easily, but there were a few folks ahead of us. I didn’t think it possible, but Summer is prettier in person. She was just gorgeous, and very nice. Our poster was the first she had seen at the con, and she commented on Jason Palmer’s skill as an artist. Many of the other celebrities also commented on Jason’ poster. Summer’s photo ops were taking place at her table, unlike most of the other celebrities. I had my fancy (mostly new) Canon EOS 60D DSLR camera, and a competent Minion was stationed at the table to take photos. We were able to get a very nice photo with Summer.

Photo Op with Summer Glau

We then headed over to the Edward James Olmos table. The VIP line got us right to the front, and we got the autograph in short order. Mr. Olmos was also very engaging. Our experience with all the celebrities was very positive.

By now, it was readily apparent the extra money we spent on VIP tickets was well worth it. In the space of about an hour we were able to get autographs from 5 celebrities. That would have easily taken 3 hours otherwise. It was time to head to the large panel room to see Wil Wheaton’s Awesome Hour. Without the VIP pass, we would have had to have been in line at least an hour previous. The path to the panel room was not easily navigated, now that the con was in full force, and there was a sea of nerds as far as the eye could see. Fun fact: not all nerds are well versed in personal hygiene. We found our way to the panel room, and quite accidentally discovered the VIP entrance. We were led to the front row where the VIP seats were cordoned off with orange tape and found two seats together. We hadn’t been seated for more than two minutes when Wil was introduced to thunderous applause. We nerds really like this Wheaton guy. Wil explained that his “Awesome Hour” was really scheduled for ninety minutes, and he would try to allow time for questions at the end. Wil spoke of some of his upcoming projects, including the new Geek & Sundry YouTube channel which holds lots of promise for cool nerdy entertainment. My favorite part of his presentation though was when he shared how his friendship with his wife Anne has enriched his life. He explained that Anne is his best friend, and that they really “get” each other. That struck a note with me, as that is how I feel about Jan. He read some excerpts from a collection of works he is putting together to serve as a sequel to “Memories of the Future“, a collection of stories and behind the scenes insights relating to his days as a young ensign aboard the Enterprise. Wil’s ninety minutes were soon up, and the Q&A period was rather brief.

Wil Wheaton during his panel

We found ourselves in a hurry to make it to our first scheduled photo op with Jason Momoa. Nerd traffic was still very heavy, so by the time we made it downstairs to the photo area, Momoa’s photo op was nearly done. As VIPs, were were hustled to the front of the line (Olmos’ line had already started forming). Our bags were secured by the Minions, and we taken behind the curtain. Jason was seated when we had him sign our poster, so I had no real sense of his size. The guy is just huge. I’m almost six feet tall, and he dwarfed me. We quickly got into our poses, smiled for the camera *click* and were hustled away.  In Jan’s words, she nearly swooned from the experience.

He is just one big dude.

We had just a few minutes to kill before our photo with Edward James Olmos, so we stuck pretty close to the photo area. The 501st Stormtrooper Legion was near the exit of the photo area, so we wandered around there briefly, the got in line for Olmos’s photo. Again, the VIP pass served us well. We went straight to the front of the line and waited for a few minutes for Mr. Olmos to arrive. Once he was set, we were whisked in and had our photo. He greeted us warmly and put his arms around us for the photo. Unfortunately, Jan had a bit of an “eyelid malfunction”  during the photo that displeased her greatly.

It all happened so fast... "in the blink of an eye"

Our next photo op with Lea Thompson would be in an hour, so we decided to see if we could get her autograph prior to the signing. She was at her table signing when we got there, so we took the VIP express to the front of the line. As we waited our turn I noticed Anne Wheaton was seated next to Wil at his table next to Lea’s. I figured this might be my only chance to say hello, so I called her name and introduced myself with my real and Twitter name. She was very nice but I didn’t want to take too much of her time, and it was our turn to sign, so the encounter was brief. Lea Thompson (@LeaKThompson) was very very sweet. There was a couple ahead of us with what looked to be about a five year old boy. He was a little restless and lamented the fact that he was thirsty. Lea had an unopened bottle of water on her table and gave it to the boy. Lea commented on how many signatures we had already collected on our poster. Lea is still a very attractive woman. She holds up to close encounters very well.

We still had a little time to kill, and were ready for some food. The concession stand on the exhibitors floor was pretty busy as expected. We went down to the first floor of the convention center to a pizza joint that sold by the slice. Their line was pretty long, but seemed to be moving fairly quickly. Jan and I each got a couple of slices, and we retired to the VIP room to eat. This is another prime example of how valuable the VIP pass was. There several large table set up with chairs with perhaps half a dozen other VIPs enjoying a break. The ability to get away from the crowds and even just sit down was a tremendous benefit. We chatted with some of the other VIPs while we finished our lunch. By this time, we need to get moving for our Lea Thompson photo.

We arrived in plenty of time for Lea’s photo. She had a shorter line than some of the other celebrities, and when our turn came, Lea had remembered us from the signing, and thanked us for coming back. Again, she was just very nice. And pretty.

We liked Lea Thompson a lot.

We had an hour and a half until our last photo op with George Takei. I realized I had not yet had Wil sign our poster, so we VIP’d our way to the front of his line. I also realized in the 3 years I had been going to the con, I had not had Wil sign anything, since his line is always so long. I did get him to sign his ECCC 2010 pic at the W00tstock in Portland.  A question I had meant to ask at his panel had to do with the fact he does not charge for autographs. I was able to ask him on Twitter later. My question was: since you do not charge for autographs, is there a favorite charity I might donate to on your behalf? Amazingly, Wil replied. He recommended the ACLU or EFF. So, if Wil has ever done anything nice for you, might you consider donating to one of these important causes? By the way, that is the first and only time Wil has ever responded to one of my tweets, so it’s kind of a big deal. :-) Also, Anne was nowhere in sight. Curses.

We went back up to the main floor and headed to Artist Alley. I had purchased the “Monsters and Dames” hardcover book, which had illustrations by many of the artists present at the show. It was $30, with proceeds benefiting the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Our mission was to find as many of the artists as possible and have them sign their page for us. The artists would all happily sign the book for free. They were usually sketching commissions at their tables. I find their artistic process fascinating and wish I had even a small percentage of their talent.

With our scheduled time with George Takei approaching, we found our way back to back to the photo area. Mr. Takei’s line was quite long, and there were several VIPs ahead of us in line. A gentleman came into the line behind us and we chatted while waiting for Mr. Takei to arrive. He was attending without his wife and child this year, which seemed to suit him fine. We also chatted about the premiere the following night of Game of Thrones. He had read the books, and we we told him we had not, he asked our opinion of the events that had transpired during season one. I, for one, was blown away by the killing off of one of the main characters and threatened to stop watching in a very puerile way. But of course, Game of Thrones is just so good, I can’t stop watching it. Our turn with Mr. Takei came up and he, too, recognized us from the autograph session. He greeted us with “It’s nice to see you again!”. With that, we were done with the photo ops.

The warm and wonderful George Takei

Back upstairs on the main floor we found ourselves at the Night Zero booth. They were hawking the collection of photographic novels, which I found compelling. We chatted with one of their reps for a bit and I bought “Night Zero: Origins”. They also had a photo area where they take a photo with props from their series and work it up into the same look and feel as their novels.

Night Zero's photo area

Night Zero's booth

The picture from the Dark Zero booth. Word on the street is that Jan is more bad-ass than me. Cannot disagree.

We wandered around the vendor area for a while, and picked up some T-shirts, and looked around, then went back over to Artist Alley get get a few more pages signed in my Monsters and Dames book. We were successful in obtaining several more artist autographs. It was now about 6:00 PM and Jan and I were both pretty tired, so we decided to call it a night. We rested in our room for a bit, then went down to the Dragonfish Cafe for a bite to eat and some cocktails. We enjoyed a couple of sushi rolls and a few of their signature drinks. I found their soy sauce dispensers Dalek-like.

EXTERMNATE!

Our original pan was to meet Jaz and her family at Lowell’s restaurant for breakfast on Sunday morning, but hey had other commitments, and it turned out that Jan had an upset stomach Sunday morning, so that paln was scratched. I procured some bagels and pastries from the nearby Starbucks as an alternative.

We made our way back to the convention center. I was still hoping to meet Anne Wheaton, so I sent out this tweet:

Unfortunately, my cell reception was very poor in most areas of the convention center, and was unaware she sent this tweet in reply:

My nerd radar must have been active, because we chose to go down the escalator very short after that tweet. I was completely surpised to see Anne and Liz Smith (@Dammit_Liz) waiting at the bottom. At the time, I had no idea they were waiting. It was a real treat to meet Anne. She is very warm and gracious and friendly. Add Liz as a special bonus to get this tweet from me:

Anne Wheaton and Liz Smith

I decided I wanted to get a picture over at the 501st Legion’s booth, and the line was quite short. I jumped in line (no VIP privileges here, I was a commoner) and pondered my options. I wanted to get a picture with Chewbacca, but he wandered away just as I got into line. My backup plan was Han Solo and Leia. After a few minutes, my turn came and I got my photo. I’m pretty sure this guy was not the real Harrison Ford, as  I consider myself something of an expert on that. I have actually been in a movie (as an extra) with Mr. Ford, and can be seen in the same frame as him.

I know Harrison Ford, and you, sir, are no Harrison Ford.

Now my task was to get as many photos with my camera as possible before we left. I had been carrying the 60D around all weekend, but not taking many pictures. We also had not been in touch with Jaz, so we wanted to make sure we caught up with them before we left. I texted her to let her know we were looking for them. We wandered through the vendor area towards Artist Alley, taking pics of as many interesting things as possible. One thing I hadn’t noticed until just then was that the banners hanging from the ceiling denoting the rows all depicted the theme from each of the ten years of the Emerald City Comicon. You can see an album of my photos here. We also got a few more artists to sign our Monster and Dames book as we passed through. Our last stop was in the skybridge area where a lot of the cosplayers gathered to show off their costumes. I got quite a few good photos there, and found Jaz and Ian and McKenzie out there. We chatted for a bit, and promised to invite them down to Portland for a cookout this summer. They are good people, and I feel like we started a lasting friendship.

Jasmine, McKenzie & Ian. Ridiculously photogenic.

We said our goodbyes, and went back to the hotel to pack up our bounty of swag and make the long drive home back to Portland. It started raining pretty hard as we got on the freeway, and rained most of the way home. We will return next year? You betcha. Will we get the VIP passes? Abso-frickin-lutely.

Addendum

Forgot to mention this in the original post. An odd aspect of wearing the VIP badge was that many people thought we were actually famous for something or another. We got several comments or questions along the lines of “What are you in?” or “How are you a VIP?”. At first I thought it was a reference to my work as an extra on Leverage or Grimm (yes, I’m really that self-centered), but then I realized people were noticing my VIP badge and assuming I was actually somebody important. Very odd sensation when people think you’re a celebrity. Even George Takei mentioned that he thought he had met me before.

My Nerd Résumé

I recently attended a reading of “The Nerdist Way” presented by Chris Hardwick at Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland. It was a very enjoyable evening, with a couple hundred of fellow nerds, geeks and dweebs absorbing the awesomeness that is Chris. While waiting for the reading to begin, I surveyed the room. There were nerds of every physical type: older, younger, hipster, professional, black, white, Asian, male, female, you name it. I suppose there may have been a few “nerd-curious” lurkers that happened upon the reading by mistake. I wondered as I examined each of them, “what makes that person a nerd”? With some, their fashion choices made them easy to pick out in a crowd. A lot of us looked “normal”.

Normal. What does that mean in the nerd context?

There is certainly some degree of controversy as to what makes a nerd a nerd. Many of us that consider ourselves nerds may regard someone who publicly declares themself a nerd with a healthy dose of skepticism. It is, after all, de rigueur (may I use that phrase? Seems rather “hipster-y” to me) to claim nerd status these days. I am certainly one of those individuals. When someone claims nerd status, I feel like I need to see qualifications to support that claim. I admit some skepticism when Chris coined the Nerdist term. Chris’ credentials are, of course, impeccable. Aisha Tyler is another celebrity that initially had doubts about when she “outed” herself as a nerd. She is, after all, insanely hot, by any reasonable person’s standard. Again, Aisha’s credentials support her claim. When I listened to Aisha’s outstanding “Girl on Guy” podcast with Chris, I couldn’t help but wonder if their coupling could only produce the perfect proto-nerd; “Nerd Prime”, if you will.

Turn the perspective the other way now. Others in the audience might look at me and wonder: “what’s that old dude doing here”? I was probably out in the third standard deviation of the bell curve in terms of age. I was dressed semi-nicely; button down shirt, nice slacks and a dressy leather jacket (not how I always dress, by any stretch of the imagination, though). Hence my thoughts on a “Nerd Résumé”.

Creating said Nerd Résumé certainly requires a high degree of introspection. In my younger years, being a nerd didn’t carry the same “glamor” it now does. I strove (unsuccessfully) to divest myself of the nerd “stigma”. Today, I embrace it, as many do.

So- let’s lay it out, line by line. What is John’s NerdCred©?

  • I was lousy at sports as a kid. I still am. I participated. I was not good. I was on the JV basketball team in junior high. I scored exactly 2 points the entire season, and I played almost every game. I was on the track team my senior year in high school. I didn’t set any records ther either. Having said that, if I had started track in junior high, I’ll bet I could have achieved some proficiency. My father was an excellent athlete in his younger days, but I inherited none of his skill.
  • I enjoy comic books. I enjoy in moderation, though. The strength of my conviction in comics is not strong enough to claim nerd-dom in itself, but I still like comics as an adult. In a semi-related note. We made a tidy sum of money by investing in Marvel stock back in 2003. Disney’s buyout of Marvel was very good to us.
  • I was the vice-president of the Latin club in high school. This is a cornerstone of my NerdCred©. I do not remember much of it now, as my vocation has not required much use.
  • I was the Student Body Secretary in high school. This was an appointed position, so I didn’t have to win any “popularity contests”. It was basically a bookkeeping position (accounting NerdCred©)
  • I hold 4 Microsoft certifications. I am a Microsoft Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist, Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician and a Microsoft Certified IT Professional. I got my first certification in 1998. Another NerdCred© cornerstone.
  • I do IT support for a living. I do it because I’m very good at it. I do it because I love technology. I’ve been making a career of IT for almost 25 years. I still hand build my home PCs.
  • I love video games. I played games on my TRS-80 back in 1979. I have owned a ColecoVision, Nintendo 64, PlayStation 1 & 2, and Xbox. I now own 3 Xbox 360s (2 with Kinect). In the past few years I have stayed pretty close to the first person shooter category, but like all kinds of genres. I have attended the midnight launch of the last 2 midnight launches for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series. I used vacation days on the launch day so I could stay home and play. Another NerdCred© cornerstone.
  • I love gadgets. I had a Zune for a while. I had an iPhone for a couple of years, even though I am staunchly anti-Apple. I know have a Windows 7 Phone that I love (even though I have still not received the Mango update which I am quite peeved about thank you very much).
  • I have an offbeat sense of humor. Most of my friends think I am least semi-funny. I’m not a stand-up comedian type of guy, nor do I want to be.  I am pretty quick with a witty (in my estimation) remark or a snarky comment.
  • I’m nice. I am courteous and polite. I respect other people’s beliefs. People generally like me. I don’t know that necessarily is NerdCred©, but I think it should be. I try to live by Wil Wheaton’s motto: “Don’t be a dick”.
  • I am not particularly “fashion-forward”. I can dress nicely, but I generally dress like someone half my age. I don’t have to dress nicely for my job, so a lot of the time I wear jeans and a T-shirt. Usually the T-shirt has some kind of nerdy reference (Star Wars/Star Trek/Video game).

There are a few things that may detract from my NerdCred©. I’ll list a few of those:

  • I’m not a huge fan of Doctor Who. There. I said it. I started to get into it during the Eccleston/Tennant years, but I just do not care for Matt Smith. He just doesn’t have the charm of previous Doctors.
  • I absolutely hate Torchwood. I started watching it, thinking it looked promising. John Barrowman really just makes that show unwatchable to me.
  • It’s OK to be a fan of Star Trek and Star Wars. Geez, people, no need to be so polar. I also liked Star Trek: Enterprise. A lot. It’s OK to like all the Star Trek series and I do.
  • I forgive George Lucas for fucking up Star Wars. It’s his baby; he can do what he wants. I don’t like it, but I’ve gotten over it.

I invite your comments. Call me out on my credentials. Add your own.

My Stupid Human Trick

My dad used to (and still does) amaze young and old with a trick whereby he would flip a coin on his wrist. I, too, was confounded by his prestidigitation and for many years could not perform the feat myself. Finally he showed me how it worked. But knowing how it worked and actually being able to do it are two very different things. It involves causing one tendon in your wrist to slide under another, then making it suddenly (and with sufficient force) pop out, causing the coin to flip. It took weeks of practice to finally get it to work. And when I did get it to work, my wrist was so sore I could barely get it to move.

I can do it with a quarter, Dad can do it with a silver dollar. The video below is using a token for a laundromat in Mons, Belgium (yes, I washed my skivvies in Belgium once upon a time). I get one of two reactions: “Ooh, how did you do that?” or “Eww, that’s gross”.

Now, I submit to you, The Wrist Coin Flip:

Emerald City Comicon 2011

This past weekend, Jan and I attended the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. I went last year by myself, as Jan was out of town visiting a friend. It was my first comicon, and I had a blast. I thought it may have been a bit too nerdy for Jan’s tastes, and certainly more people than she likes to endure. But after seeing the pictures I took and hearing about the experience, her interest was piqued. I had driven to Seattle just for the day, so it made for a very long day. When we found out that William Shatner was to be one of the media guests, it was decided that we would both attend, come hell or high water. Jan is a huge Shatner fan, and meeting him in person was something she had always wanted to do.

So, we made plans to attend. Logistically, a trip to Seattle is not a huge deal, but there are considerations. First and foremost are the dogs. Somebody has to be available to take care of them. Luckily, Jan’s cousin Mike has a teenage daughter that is available for dog/cat/house-sitting duties. We arranged for Stephanie to come to the house Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday afternoon. She is low maintenance and trustworthy, so she is an ideal solution. Next, I booked the hotel. The Paramount was nearby, had decent rates, and was available. Tickets for the Con itself were easily purchased on-line.

The only remaining issue was the timing of the Con. The first weekend of a month is not usually a good time for someone in the accounting biz, as Jan is. Luckily, her current situation is pretty flexible in that regard, so that obstacle was easily averted.

Our plan was to try and be on the road by 5:00 PM on Friday, but due to some delays it was about 5:20 before we were on our way. As such, the trek from Beaverton through Portland was fraught with traffic. By the time we hit the Washington state line it was 6:25 and getting pretty dark. Not only dark, but very rainy. I’m not a huge fan of driving in the rain, especially when it’s dark, so the combination of traffic and weather led to a stressful drive. After passing through Vancouver, the traffic lightened up, but the rain continued until Kelso. Once the rain subsided, I was able to relax a bit, and the rest of the drive to Seattle was fairly smooth.

It was after 9:00 when we finally rolled into Seattle, and of course I made a couple of wrong turns when getting off the freeway, which resulted in a bit of looping around to get to the Paramount hotel. We left the Caddy with the valet, checked in without incident, and flopped onto the bed in our room. Our rest was short-lived, though, as we were both pretty hungry. We decided to try out the Happy Hour at the hotel restaurant, the Dragonfish Asian Cafe. There was a fairly short wait to get a table, and you could tell the nerdy crowd there was in town for the Con. We settled on some sushi, chicken potstickers and the Dragonfish lager. With Happy Hour prices, the tab came to about 20 bucks. Not too bad!

Back to the room to decompress after the long drive, and catch a little TV. But, we were both pretty tired so it was lights out fairly soon. The show didn’t open until 10:00, so we didn’t have to get up too early. I’ve got to say, the beds at the Paramount are very comfortable, so I slept very well.

The next morning, we were up and moving by 7:30, so coffee was consumed, followed by a nice shower (the water pressure at the hotel was very good). Low water pressure at hotels is a pet peeve of mine, but the Paramount delivered very nicely. We went down to the Dragonfish for a quick breakfast (ham and eggs for me), then took the short walk to the convention center.

After taking seemingly endless escalators we made it to the level of the Con. We were prepaid, so we just had to just exchange our tickets for badges. The line for badge pickup was fairly short. We picked up and affixed them and headed to the show. The show was due to open at 10:00 AM, and we arrived at about 9:45, but people were being let in already. I thought it prudent to get our tickets for the celebrity photo ops as our first order of business, so we headed downstairs to take care of that. The main reason Jan wanted to come this year was to meet and get a picture taken with William Shatner, so I wanted to make sure that happened.

We decided for a picture with Shatner, Jonathan Frakes/Brent Spiner, and John Noble/Jasika Nicole. My presumption is that if you’re reading this blog, you probably know who those people are. That set us back a cool 200 bucks, but we felt it was worth it. At that time, the line was longish, but probably only took 20-30 minutes. Having secured our tickets for the photo ops, we set out to explore the show floor.

Jan was particularly interested in seeing some of the artists at work, as was I. The ability of these men and women to express on paper what they see in their mind’s eye is truly amazing to me. I wish I had even a thimbleful of that kind of creative talent. We wandered through the “Artist Alley” area for a while, pausing to chat with some of the very friendly folks there, and buying some comics and other media.

Our first photo op was with William Shatner at noon, so we headed back downstairs at 11:30 to get in line. There were quite a few people there already, but they started with the pictures early, around 11:45. The line moved fairly quickly, as there were no “Hi, glad to meet you” moments. You got up to the area, stood by Mr. Shatner, got the picture, and were hustled away. He did say hello, at least, and seemed friendly enough. I must say the organizers at the con did a much better job of line management this year, especially for the photo ops. Last year was really something of a kluge in that regard.

William Shatner

After the photo op, we went back upstairs to check out some of the other exhibitors. Somewhere along the way, we found ourselves at the Jason Palmer Studios booth. They were selling a very cool ECCC poster with all the media guests depicted. It had the ECCC logo, as well as the Seattle skyline in the background. Jan and I agreed it would be a nice memento of our experience, so we decided to buy one. The only problem is that they had sold out. But, they were expecting another shipment at 1:00. So – we prepaid for the poster (as well as a protective cover). They took my cell number and promised to text me when it was available for pickup.

This is the poster (image "borrowed" from JasonPalmer.net)

 

By this time, it was getting close to the time for the next photo op with Frakes and Spiner, so we went back downstairs. The line had started forming outside the room for the photo op, as Shatner’s photo op was still in progress. As we waited, another celebrity got in line behind us:

It's Futurama star Zapp Brannigan!

Shortly before 1:00, they let us into the photo op room for the next picture. The line wasn’t quite as long this time, but the did bring the folks forward that were getting pictures with just Frakes or Spiner. The line moved fairly quickly again, and when our turn came, we received a very warm welcome from the two gentlemen. They pulled us in close (Frakes put his arm around Jan), and the deal was done. They were both very cordial and engaging. A very pleasant experience.

Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner

When we finished the Frakes/Spiner photo op, we checked out what needed to happen to get Shatner’s autograph. He was the only media guest that you had to pre-purchase an autograph ticket for. The line to buy the ticket was pretty short so we took care of that. The next signing was to be at 2:00, so we headed back upstairs to see if the poster was ready for pick up. As we were going up the stairs, I got the text that the poster was in fact ready. When we got to the booth they had it all ready to pick up. We decided we would have as many of the celebrities sign the poster as possible.

We knew that Shatner’s line for autographs would be pretty long, so we went downstairs yet again to get in line. The was already pretty long, so we settled in for the wait. We started chatting with a guy in front of us. It turns out his step-father was a big Shatner fan, and had a lot of  Star Trek memorabilia in his collection. He sneaked out a porcelain plate from the collection without his step-father’s knowledge, and brought it to the con to get signed. I thought that was a pretty cool gift. After half an hour or so of standing in line, we finally made it to the front. I had the poster out of its protective sleeve and ready to sign, and Mr. Shatner gladly did his part. We expressed our delight in meeting him and told what big fans we were. He thanked us for that, and we went on our way.

Achievement unlocked: William Shatner's autograph

After the “Shatner Experience®” we went to see if our Shatner photo was ready for pick up. We found our picture in the stack fairly quickly, then moved back upstairs for more wandering. By this time, were getting pretty hungry, so we hit the concession stand for a couple of pricey hot dogs and sodas. It was fun to just sit and people watch for a few minutes while we ate. The 2 guys in full Klingon makeup that stood in line behind me for last year’s Leonard Nimoy photo op were getting food at the same time. Seemed surreal to to have these guys in such authentic makeup and costume to be doing something so “normal”.  We finished our hot dogs and commenced to wandering again, this time in the artists area at the back of the hall. We stopped and chatted with a couple guys at BrainMachine Comix. They were very friendly, and gave us some very good insight to the comics world. I bought their “The Unforgivable” graphic novel which they signed for us. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it looks awesome.

We also chatted briefly with guy at the “Bob the Angry Flower” booth. Two regrets there: I didn’t get the gentleman’s name, and I didn’t buy any of his stuff. He was very friendly in an “angry flower” kind of way. He was a hoot to talk to.

We had a little time to kill before our last photo op of the day, with John Noble and Jasika Nicole from “Fringe”. It turned out they were currently signing autographs, and the line wasn’t too long. This is one of our favorite shows, and we’re big fans of both of them. It’s a crime John hasn’t won an Emmy for his portrayal of Walter. He is really that good. On the way, we stopped to pick up the Frakes/Spiner picture. We got in line and waited our turn. Frakes and Spiner were in the booths to the left, and Bruce Boxleitner was to the right. As we moved up the line, Frakes was constantly getting out of his chair and harassing Spiner, then Boxleitner, while doing the same for Noble/Nicole. He was having a lot of fun. It was nice to see he wasn’t just there as a “job”. When our turn came up John was very friendly and shook both our hands and chatted with us a bit. While we were standing in line, we decided we wanted to ask him if there was really a planned “food element” to Walter’s character, because it seemed to us there was. When we asked him, he chuckled and said “not really”. He apparently gets that question a lot. He says it is kind of a “go-to” device for him when they need a little something extra for a scene. It seemed a little strange to hear him speak in his native Aussie accent. We were very pleased with our encounter with Mr. Noble.

Jasika Nicole was in the chair next to him, and she was an absolute delight. She was very sweet and friendly and wrote a nice personalized note on our poster. It was fun to see her as we waited in line; a young man had just gotten her to sign something for him, and he turned and left. Jasika realized he had left something behind, and she called him by name to come back and retrieve it. You could see how pleased he was that she said his name out loud. When we left, we told them they would see us again soon, as we had the photo op coming.

 

Noble and Nicole

It was getting fairly close to the time for the Noble/Nicole photo op, so we headed that way to get in line. There was already a line forming for he following photo op, so we had to sort of insert ourselves into the proper point of the line. As we waited, we had a celebrity “close encounter”. Our place in line happened to be near the entrance to the men’s room. None other than Wil Wheaton stepped through line to use the facility. I am a big fan of Wil’s. He’s a very smart guy, and seems like a cool guy to hang out and have a beer with. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to to get a photo or signing with Wil this year, so this awkward encounter near the men’s room will have to suffice. I got a photo op with Wil last year, but the prints were not available to be signed before I had to leave. I was able to track him down at W00tstock on Portland later that year, and he was gracious enough to sign it then. It appeared that Wil had to excuse himself in the middle of his photo op to take a bathroom break.

Soon enough, Wil’s photo op was completed, and we were shuffled in for our next picture. As in the previous session, they took care of the individual photos first. When our turn came, Jasika exclaimed “You again!”. That was very gratifying for her to recognize us again. It can be said I have a bit of a crush for Jasika, even though she “plays for the other team”. John put his arm around Jan, and I got to give Jasika a little hug as we got the photo.

 

John Noble and Jasika Nicole

Sometime during the day (I don’t recall where it fits in the timeline), I saw a celebrity “in the wild”. We were in the area downstairs where the autographs and photo ops were taken. Standing with a couple of young gentlemen was YouTube sensation Molly Lewis (who, by the way is no relation, despite sharing the same last name). I first saw her at W00tstock in Portland last year, and have been a fan of hers since. She was gracious enough to allow me to take a photo, and gave me one of her “Geek of the Week” cards.

 

Shazbot! It's Molly Lewis!

A credit to which I can only aspire some day.

We still had some autographs we wanted to get for our poster, so we went and got into Jonathan Frakes’ line. His line wasn’t too long, but his proclivity to get up and wander around slowed things down a bit. But he was very friendly when we got the poster signed. As a Leverage “cast member” (see my posts here and here), I asked him if he would be directing any episodes this upcoming season. He said he would be directing several. I told him I hoped to see him on set. Wil Wheaton and I are “connected” via Leverage as well.

 

This is my "Number One" autograph

Next was Brent Spiner’s line. He turned out to be a wanderer as well. We had been in line for ten minutes or so when we realized he wasn’t actually sitting up there. Suddenly, he re-appeared from behind the curtain. We’re guessing he had taken a bathroom break. The line started moving, and then stopped when he got up and left again, though just for a few minutes. When we got to the front of the line, Brent was friendly and chatted briefly, and signed a personal note to us.

 

I would expect an android to have better handwriting

After Frakes/Spiner, we checked on our Noble/Nicole picture. It wasn’t ready, but as we waited, we noticed Bruce Boxleitner’s autograph line had no one in it. We stood and chatted with him for a few minutes,  and got him to sign our poster.

 

He is much better looking in person

Disappointingly, the autograph lines for Felicia Day/Amy Okuda/Wil Wheaton had all closed by now, so we were unable to have them sign our poster. It was starting to get late, and we were just waiting for our last photo to be ready. There were just a handful of John Noble pictures out, and others were being brought out (seemingly randomly) 10-20 at a time. We waited patiently and checked each batch as they came out, but they seemed to not be forthcoming. Jan and I were both pretty tired, having been on our feet all day. I had Jan head back to the hotel while I waited, so she could get some rest. About 20 minutes after Jan left one of the “Minions” made an ominous announcement:

If you are not going to be here tomorrow to pick up your photo, come with me.

Well, that certainly didn’t sound too promising. A fairly large group of us were led away to the area near the photo op area. I was hoping that maybe we were just going to get the first look at pictures as they came off the printer, but they started handing out paper and pencils to record our contact information:

Please write down, your name, mailing address, e-mail address, who you had photos with and a description of what you were wearing.

So, they were planning to mail us our photos. That’s all well and good, but I had the same thing happen last year. And I never got my prints. After several e-mails last year, I was finally able to get some JPGs of my pictures, but never the prints that I paid for. I told one of the employees this and his response was “That’s not good”. Um. Yeah. Thanks. Just then another person came out with another stack of pictures. I cornered him and asked to look. Sure enough, mine was second from the bottom. I snagged mine and took off for my hotel. It’s too bad Froggy’s Photos has the monopoly on photo ops. Perhaps some healthy competition might drive better customer service.

Anyway, I made it back to the hotel to find Jan snoozing on the bed. I was very tired too, so I layed down for a rest. I was hungry, so I wanted to go out to eat, and I had some screening passes to see Super at the theater a block from the hotel at 11:00. But, the longer I layed there, the less inclined I was to leave the hotel. So, dinner that night was a bag of Doritos and a can of Sprite.

I will conclude this post with some photographic documentation of the event:

 

Dark Helmet from Spaceballs

Bruce Boxleitner hamming it up for the camera.

Cutie pie Jasika Nicole

John Noble signing our poster

Jasika signing our poster

Felicia Day (and Amy Okuda). Would have loved to have met them.

Jonathan Frakes signing our poster.

A crappy picture of Brent Spiner.

The Joker (and daughter?)

A nicely done Darth Maul.

Teen Titans!

Revoke my nerd card. I'm not sure who these guys are...

Halo. It's nice to meet you.

An authentic 60s Batman and Batgirl and a boobalicious Robin.

My Television debut!

My previous blog post detailed my experience working as an extra for the TNT series “Leverage”. About 2 months after my long day at the Oregon Convention Center, my episode “The King George Job” aired. The date was August 29th, 2010, to be exact. At the end of episode 11 the previous week, I got a taste of stardom. I was clearly visible in the preview clip!

Yep - that's me on the far left.

Charged with this exciting tidbit, I felt confident I would get some decent on-screen time. Now I just had to countdown the hours until the episode aired the following Sunday night.

When 6:00 PM Sunday finally rolled around, we were firmly ensconced in our chairs as the episode began. There would be no Tivo-now, watch-later for this! We didn’t have to wait long for my scene to appear, it was the very first of the episode. Fifty-eight seconds into the broadcast you get your first glimpse of my background acting prowess.

That's me on the far left bending over.

 

Twenty-nine seconds later, here I am again:

 

They say actors have big heads. It's true! James Frain is taking up the whole frame! He's almost covering me up.

Damn that Christian Kane stealing my scene!

OK – now six seconds after the previous shot, I’m now at the front at the customs booth:

I guess I had an Express Pass to jump to the front of the line.

Whoops – I’ve gone back to the end of the line again.

Of course no one else would notice this lack of continuity but me. I found it amusing.

Here I am at the center of he action again:

Mr. Hutton ann Ms. Bellman were both very nice.

Skip ahead about a minute, and I’m at the Customs inspection table:

I'm ready for my closeup!

Exit, stage left.

I was not visible in the 2 other scenes that I worked on that day. Here are some pics of those scenes:

 

This is the Pendulum Lobby scene.

This is the scene at the top of the escalators.

All in all, I was very pleased with my screen time. I can now list “TV Star” on my resume. For the 13 hours and 45 minutes I spent on the set, my net paycheck was $110.91. I probably would have paid $100 to be in  TV show, but don’t tell anyone. ;-)

Extra, Extra!

I suppose an interesting (to me, at least) topic to inaugurate my shiny new WordPress blog is my recent experience working as a background actor (extra) on the set of “Leverage”. Back on June 18th of this year, I was called to perform my nondescript duties to film a few scenes at the Oregon Convention Center. The call time was 9:30 AM, and I was there and checked in in plenty of time. It was apparent from my paperwork that I would be working on episode 12 of season 3 (later to be known as “The King George Job”). The convention center was made up to look like an airport, specifically Boston Logan airport. By 10:00 or so, the PA’s started rounding up batches of us and taking us to the set.

They had most of us set up as travelers with baggage, and I had brought one of our rolling bags containing a few different clothing options. We were taken to an area on the east side of the convention center, at the bottom of the escalators. It was soon apparent the real “action” was at the top of the escalators, as that’s where the lights and cameras were set up.

Looking up the stairs and escalator

A gruff, but likable man was charged with placing the extras and directing our movement. My first directive was to walk across the floor below the stairs, and meet up with 2 other gentlemen. We did a couple of takes, then the scene reset slightly. My next job was to walk up the escalator and continue down the hall. Before we could film that scene, an electrical problem with some of the lights had to be resolved. That resolution took about half an hour. On my first run through (after the lighting issue had been fixed) I could see that the group of main characters (Hutton, et al) were all congregated near the top of the escalators being filmed by a Steadicam rig that circled them as they spoke. I walked right past them on several takes. That was my first view of the stars, and got a little thrill to see them all up close.

Another view up the stairs - you can see them working on the lights

By about noon, we finished this scene and were herded back to the extras holding area. After a short break, we were all led into a large meeting room in the lowest level of the convention center. This room was made to look like the customs area of the airport, with roped off areas for line management and customs booths and inspection tables. The first order of business was the distribution of props to most of us. I was given an airline ticket and passport.

Hmmm... Flying from Iraq to Boston through London

A British subject? OK - I can pull that off.

Umm... OK - I look just like Kate Winslet!

It appears the prop passport I was given was used by Kate Winslet in the movie “The Holiday”. That’s pretty cool. There’s a good chance a major celebrity has actually held this in her hands. Seemed kind of surreal.

The PA pairs me with a woman about my age, and we become “travel companions”. Her name was Patty, and seemed to be a very nice lady. That was good, because there is lots of downtime between takes, and its good to have someone to talk to. It was fun chatting with the other extras, because they all had cool stories to tell about the previous work they had done. The first scene we shot in this area had Patty and I standing at a Customs Booth showing our papers to the agent sitting there. They did several takes from behind us. We pantomimed our interactions with the Customs agent, with him pretending to go down a checklist, and we responded. With each take though, a “FREEZE” command was issued by the director. We, of course, froze in whatever position, while the camera operator with the steadicam rig moved quickly from the back of the room to the Customs booth next to us, manned by Aldis Hodge (Alec, in the series). If you’ve ever seen an episode of Leverage, you’ll see this “zoom” effect used quite a bit. It should also be noted (for the lady readers) the camera operator was quite a hunky dude. Think Viggo Mortensen-y.

After several takes they released us for lunch/dinner. In my previous experience as an extra, my meal experience was very favorable, and I was not disappointed this time. They had set up a very nice hot buffet with a nice array of options. I had some beef stroganoff, scalloped potatoes, rice pilaf and a green salad. It was 5:00 by the time they released us for our meal, so we were all pretty hungry. Luckily, I had stashed some homemade bacon chocolate chip cookies (yes, you read that right) in my roller bag, so I wasn’t ready to pass out. After half an hour, we trundled back to the “Customs area” and set up for new camera angles.

This time, my “travel companion” and I were directed to sit along the side of the room next a pile of baggage. As we sat there, Beth Riesgraf (Parker) came over to man a cart of more luggage right next to us. As we waited for the scene to start, she chatted with us briefly. She was very nice, and seemed cognizant and appreciative of the long hours we had already put in. We shot a few takes from this angle and set up for the next shot.

The view from the "Baggage Area".

We then were moved to the front of the Customs area, the next logical step from the Customs booth we were at earlier in the day. There were 4 tables set up, each manned by 2 uniformed Customs agents. We could see the table next us (literally just 2 steps away) was going to see some focus, as the performers there were getting some very specific direction for the next shot. The crux of the action was that an unescorted young girl (9 or 10 years old?) arrives at the inspection area carrying a small backpack. When the agent searches the backpack she discovers what is determined to be a smuggled art object and raises an alarm. When the alarm is sounded, several uniformed (and armed) ICE officers rush forward and escort the girl off for arrest. We are told to react to the alarm with surprise as all this is happening. Except there is no actual alarm, just the director shouting “ALARM”! I had to dig deep for my acting instincts, but I think I pulled it off. It should be noted my only previous acting experience was on the set of Extraordinary Measures, and as a shepherd in the 1965 production of my Bible school’s Christmas play. Yes. 1965. Get over it. While resetting the cameras for another angle, the actress portraying the young girl sat on “our” Customs table and we chatted with her a bit. She was very sweet and told us about the audition process and how she got the part. I didn’t find out until later she was portraying an Iraqi refugee, though she didn’t seem particularly Middle Eastern in appearance. She had a couple of lines in (ostensibly) Arabic. We finished the scene with me walking off camera as the girl is shuffled off by the ICE agents.

Behind the scenes with James Frain & Oliver Trevena

It was now about 9:00 and we were all pretty tired, so there was a short break while the cameras were reset. I think we were all hoping that we close to wrapping but were disappointed  when we were called back to the customs area. We spent another hour shooting from different angles. The highlight was when several of us (including Christian Kane) were standing off camera waiting for the take when Christian asked “Isn’t it beer-fucking-thirty yet?”. All of us in earshot heartily agreed.

We broke again to the holding fairly certain that we done for the night as it was now about 11:00 PM. We were wrong. Some of the uniformed extras were let go, but the rest of us got to stick around for one more scene. Timothy Hutton and Gina Bellman were sitting in a common area (under a very cool pendulum in the Convention Center). It was our job to look busy in the background for another hour. Finally, at 12:15 AM, we wrapped for the day. It was long day, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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