February 15, 2008
Last week, my friend, Megan, and I went to be extras in the new Gus Van Sant movie about Harvey Milk. The movie’s been filming in San Francisco, especially in the Castro. They’ve redone some of the storefronts so the neighborhood sort of looks like it did in the 70’s. As an extra, we had to dress as if we were from the 70’s, or more accurately dress like we weren’t from now. I wore jeans, plain sweatshirt, a henley shirt (I didn’t know what it was until I before this extra thing), and red converses (that technically belonged to Megan but somehow has been in my possession in the last few years).
Extras were supposed to meet in front of the Castro Theatre at 6:30pm. They told us to go to the parking lot of the theatre. There was a bunch of herded into this deserted alley like parking lot. There were all these huge, empty moving trucks, with the back opened. At first, it seemed like a nefarious plot to entrap us into those trucks and dispose of us queers. I wasn’t the only one who had that thought. While we were waiting for instructions, we started chatting with this older gentleman who was actually here for all the marches and protests for Harvey Milk. That would be so crazy!!! To have been in the actual march for Harvey Milk, and now you’re in the movie version. Weirdly cathartic, and meta all at the same time. He had moved here from LA in the 70’s. He said it was kind of weird how the movie changed the Castro to look like in the 70’s, but didn’t get it exactly right, like this store isn’t located here and what not. Apparently, he had been at work during the riots, and almost decided to go get a drink in the Castro when it was over, but decided against it because there probably would have still been a lot of cops left.
In the scenes we filmed, we aka “the background action”, had to be angry protesters, and this is when Harvey Milk is still alive. It’s supposed to be a rally in the Castro, our direction was to “mill around, be anti-establishment, and have unfocused anger”, then Harvey Milk speaks and we’re like “who’s this?….wow my anger is now focused on battling homophobia”, and then he starts marching and we follow him chanting “Gay Rights Now”. We got to see Sean Penn during this part, and as Harvey Milk, he looks like a cross between a gay pixie and a used car salesman.
The next scene was similar, but instead of us listening to a Harvey Milk speech, we’re listening to a Cleve Jones speech. Cleve Jones is a major queer activist, who originally conceived of the AIDS Quilt Project. The real Cleve Jones was there and told us about the historical context of the scene. Since the crowd was noisy and tall, I didn’t get to really hear or see him. Gay rights had just hit a blow in Germany, and a gay rights bill was rejected in Wichita, and Anita Bryant is being a real bitch. Our direction was to listen to Cleve Jones’ speech, and when he mentions Wichita, he loses control of us, and we angrily march towards City Hall. I learned that I’m not very good at being an extra because it’s too easy to make me laugh. A few guys behind me would always angrily yell “WICHITA!!!! WIIIIICCHIIIIITAAAAWWWWWWWW!!”, obviously not knowing the historical context but just yelling that because that’s the last thing that was said. That never failed to make me laugh. But i’m so short that i doubt you could see me anyway. It kind of sounded like they were at a rock concert for their favorite band whose name is Wichita.
There were two kinds of extras, us the unpaid folks who signed up on the MilkMarch website, and special PAID extras, who got to wear cool clothes. Oh man, did I feel lecherous. There were so many young pretty boys (and by boys I mean late teens to twenties), with 70’s facial hair (so many handlebar mustaches!) , in fun 70’s clothes, what fun eye candy. I wish I could have a handlebar mustache. Maybe I’d get a speaking role in the film. The film has a pretty mancentric view of queerness and SF. What else was fabulous? There was this guy is a black sweat suit that had colorful sparkles all over that lit up.
After awhile, me and Megan got tired, got some food and decided to head home. Much to the chagrin and inconvenience of everyone, BART closes at midnight, so like Cinderella I must hurry home before the clock strikes 12. As we were leaving, we decide to sit and watch for awhile. We sit on the platform that people were giving speeches on earlier that evening. There were all this loogies that were spat on it. Megan said it was probably Sean Penn’s spit. It was pretty gross. At first I thought she meant that was incidental spit, you know the accidental stuff that sprays when you talk, and I was absolutely horrified. But then she said he probably cleared his throat by hocking a loogy, which was a much more reasonable explanation, and probably spat on the platform to avoid spitting on people. After finding a big enough, spit free space, we sat down. Suddenly this guy affiliated with the shoot comes towards us. We assume he’s going to tell us to get off the platform. Instead he yells to the crowd and tells everyone to look at him (which means looking at us). Suddenly hundreds of people are looking right at me and Megan. This older woman is behind him. He introduces her, telling the crowd they should be excited because Princess Leia has come to visit them. Yep, it was Carrie Fisher, the woman who played Princess Leia. She first said that speech about “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi”, and then said stuff about how great it is that they’re doing this movie, that these volunteers are participating, how awesome the gay community is, and that everyone should go see her one-woman play (ok it was more the guy who was pimping out her play then she). Very awkward. Princess Leia was two feet away from us. She moved towards the platform, and I had to skooch over a few inches, skooch over for Princess Leia in front of hundreds of people, all by accident. Awkward turtle!!
This is a photo from that instance, that Megan found on someone’s flickr account:
(writing on the photos = me not copying perez hilton, but a color homage?)