Last night, I left my office, joined up with a few friends and headed out to New Haven, CT looking for our own Lost Arc, our own Holy Grail, hoping we didn't end up in a Temple of Doom!
We arrived in New Haven at approximately 6:50pm and drove down a main street, flanked by bars such as Temple Grill and The Playwright on one side and the mighty Omni Hotel on the other. Lining the sidewalk, leaning against the Omni, as if holding it up from falling, was an enormous line of people, looking for the same sacred prize as we were.
We park our Saturn a few blocks away, make our way through the rain drops and past the historic Shubert Theater, (which has housed many Broadway premieres before heading to New York such as "Oklahoma!", "The King & I" and "The Sound of Music") to take our place along the sidewalk outside a Stone Cold Creamery. At 7pm EST, we have officially reached the beginning of our journey - to be an extra in the next installment of Indiana Jones!
No sooner do we stake our claim to this small part of sidewalk, then a new group of hopefuls fills the spot behind us. We are no longer the end of the line, but securely within in the line.
News came out a while back about this open casting call (I read about it on TheForce.net) for people interested in being included in a scene from Indiana Jones 4. The scene is going to be filmed here in the next few weeks where Indy is chased on a motorcycle through the streets of New Haven and the Yale campus. The rules are simple, you have to be over 18 years old and bring a headshot (photo). Looking up and down this line, it seems everyone has visited the one-hour photo booth at either Target, Wal-Mart, or Walgreens as we all are armed with our cardboard envelopes holding our photos.
The casting call is Monday and Tuesday from 1pm - 9pm at the Omni Hotel. The line was so long at 11am on Monday, the casting company decided to open the doors early and take the line. It never stopped.
25 people at a time, they let people in the door, off the sidewalk and into the hotel. So, every 10 minutes or so, we get to move up another large square on the sidewalk. As the rain gets heavier, we are lucky to leave our space along side the Stone Cold and make our way under the awning of the Omni's valet parking area.
Police continue to walk up and down the block, this group however is cool, calm and collected. Everyone checking their watches and wondering how long this will take. People walk to the front of the line and come back with stories of yellow forms and more time sitting around once entering that magic door into the hotel. People get out of line to look back to see how deep the line goes now. An ambulance is parked in the street, chatting with a few of the police officers. All of a sudden a familiar tune comes from the speakers of the ambulance. An EMT inside has played John Williams' Theme from Indiana Jones and the crowd lets up happy recognition salute.
We walk up again. Stopping just before the exit of the Omni driveway where a large bouncer from within the hotel has the un-envious job of keeping the throng of movie hopefuls clear of this driveway.
Our watches continue to click away the minutes as that magic hour of 9pm and its end of the casting day gets closer. The locals of New Haven parade by our line. Some stopping to ask questions about what we're doing, some showing off their fancy juggling sticks and still some others just staring at us and making us all over uncomfortable.
All the local restaurants, looking to cash in, send out waitstaff with menus, t-shirts, offers of drink specials and more to the line. As 8:30 comes and goes, a waiter from the Black Bear Bar across the street is yelling up and down the street, in the now heavy rain, looking for someone named John who had phoned in an order to be delivered on the sidewalk.
Lightning streaks across the sky and the line is now hugging the walls of the Omni, attempting to stay beneath the small overhang of the building just as a member of the casting company starts to walk up the sidewalk telling people if they are local to please go home and come back tomorrow. They will start early, at 8am tomorrow to accommodate the large lines. My two friends turn to me, one tired from a late night on Sunday and the other ready to pass out from starvation. But we are so close. The end of the block and the corner of the Omni is within 20 steps. I refuse to meet their gaze and stare at the constantly illuminated sky. I will not turn back! Others were not as strong as the line behind us starts to peel off.
8:55pm and we turn the corner. 1/4 of a block from the door leading into the hotel. Will we make it? A member of the crew comes outside and starts counting people. I fear that he'll say, "Sorry, only the next 40 people will get in, the rest of you can go home." Here comes another member of the crew, oh no... she hands me a piece of yellow paper! I felt like a contestant on Idol who gets the yellow invitation to Hollywood. I've made it, I'll at least get inside! One of my friends hands out pens and we stand up against the wall to fill out our forms for the Genre Productions company.
One section for men, one section for women. Name, address, phone, email, etc. My weight, my height, my eyes/hair colors, my inseam, my pant length, shoe size, collar size, sleeve size, jacket size, HAT SIZE! Man. I have no idea on some of these. Do you play football, what level? Ummm, YES and College Intramural and Rec League? Sounds good to me. All men will receive a 1950s haircut. No problem. My hair is long and shaggy and I have a beard, but for Indy, it can all go. Would you cut your hair if cast? YES. The line moves up some more. I can SEE the door! Do you own a dog. No. Crap. I knew I should have gotten a dog. Other comments: 15+ years acting and previous film work. Sure, sounds good to me. Are you available for the end of June/beginning of July. You bet your sweet bippy I am!
Then it happens. The girl walks by, counts us again... "All of you, inside."
WE MADE IT IN THE DOOR!!
This isn't the grand door to the Omni, this is a back fire exit. It opens up to two flights of steps. We are ushered by another member of the Genre crew into a medium sized hotel conference room where we are seated in close rows. On the other side of the middle aisle he hands a post-it note with a 1 written on it to the first row over there. Don't know what that's about. A guy with spray green hair sits in the row behind the post-it note, seemingly excited about this. My friends and I sit there and make idle chit-chat. A girl in front of me is taking 10000000s of pictures with her cell phone. I stare down at the awful printed carpet. Why do they do that in hotels? One friend, the one with the pens, announces he's 'done'. Uh oh! We can't quit now! We just can't!
Here comes the dude who rules the post-it note! He takes the first two rows on that side of the room with him. Green-haired guy is very happy. 45 minutes or so pass and the post-it finally makes it to our side of the room. We are sitting in the third row and the Genre Post-It King hands it to the first row. He comes back and takes rows 1 and 2. We are so close! The post-it now gets handed to my friend on the aisle and we are next!
Right around 10pm Captain Post-it returns and we are off! But to where? Back in the hallway and another line to stand in. Half way down the line we meet a very nice lady sitting on a chair whose job it is to staple our headshots to the yellow forms. I ask, "Would they prefer a color or black and white photo?" She says, "They will take your picture again in there, so let's give them black and white and switch it up." So we did. Pictures? What goes on in that magic room!?
We are getting closer to the next door, and out of the 2nd door is my old friend with the green hair! This is going quick. We must be close! We enter the room and it's.... another medium conference room with tables (which now look like a Walgreens Photo Envelope graveyard) that we all walk around in a big semi circle to make it into yet another side room. About 20 minutes in this cattle line and the bright glow of the side room beckons!
My two friends go through the portal first and I am standing in the doorway, awaiting my turn. I survey the room. Three Genre folks with digital cameras and enormous stacks of yellow forms all around them are set up in the room. I suddenly hear my invitation to Hollywood... "Can I have the next in line please?".
I walk across the room over to a long table. Standing behind it is the same gentleman who walked up the street earlier in the evening begging people to go home. He says to one of the other camera-men "Is there still a line in the hallway?" "Yes" "Jesus, did they at least close the door downstairs?"
Oh no, my chance to impress someone at Genre and he seems as happy to be here as the elves at the top of Santa's workshop in "A Christmas Story". I can just hear him "COME ON KID! The store is closing!"
He takes my photo/form, looks up at me and says:
"Hello, how are you today Keith?"
"I'm very well today thanks, and you?"
"I'm doing great thanks."
He writes my initials on the form, hands it back to me with a big Sharpie KP on the top and I hold it against my chest as he snaps a digital photo of me. He takes the form back and looks at it a little.
"You'd be willing to shave and cut your hair?"
"I'd do anything for this. I'll look 15 if I do."
"Perfect. You been acting for over 15 years?"
"Yes, it's a passion."
"Perfect again. Thanks for your time. We are shooting in a few weeks, so you should hear soon if we need you".
And there you go. I was back out of the room, back down the hotel hallway, down the stairs and onto the rain soaked sidewalk where the line had been cut off and sent home while we were in Post-It land. It's over at 10:20pm. 3 hours and 20 minutes later my journey is complete.
Or is it?
Who knows if I will get to watch Indy race by on his motorcycle. But it's the journey that makes it worth it, isn't it?
My two friends and I walk off into the rain for beer and wings. It was a good night.