It’s a good thing I didn’t blink, or I would have missed my four-second big screen debut in the independent film, “fling*,” which is making the rounds of film festivals around the country. This past weekend it was introduced to Kansas City, where it was filmed.
We invited some friends to see it with us at the Screenland Theater. All I knew about it was that it involved twenty-somethings entangled in relationships. We’d forgotten how complicated that can get…(trailer video is at the bottom.)
There were about 500 extras, who didn’t get much, if any, screen time. That’s why we’re called extras. Now I pay special attention to the people in the background in movies. When Rhett and Scarlett are emoting in “Gone With The Wind,” for example, I’m checking out the people loitering behind them.
You know you’re going to see this film, so watch for me at about 1 hour and 45 minutes into it (but don’t keep checking your watch!) When you see a shot of the store “Hemline,” get ready or you might miss me. I’m wearing a pale green jacket and carrying a striped straw handbag. You can only see my back.
Director John Stewart Muller is from Kansas City, so he was happy to return to his hometown to shoot the tale of modern mixed up relationships at area locations such as Crown Center, the Crossroads Art District, the Country Club Plaza and the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. He wrote the screenplay with producer Laura Boersma. The two own Steele Films, based in Los Angeles.
My movie career started in May 2007 with an ad in the Kansas City Star looking for extras to donate their time for the movie that was then called, “Lie to Me.” Hundreds volunteered, including a guy who flew his airplane from Colorado so he could appear in a scene or two. I think he got also four seconds, but at least you could see his face.
I grabbed my son Matt just home from college to join me for the two scenes in the clothing boutique, “Hemline,” on the Country Club Plaza shopping center.
Most of the two dozen extras in my scenes were in their 20s. Many had acting aspirations. Others, like me, were just curious about the process. We had plenty of time to get to know one another as we waited around. Joe was heading off to film school in a few months. Apple Miller had already been an extra in some locally filmed movies, including an earlier scene in “fling,” and was hoping to get more film work. Natalie W. had been a part of several earlier “fling*” scenes, and the crew was happy to see her again. Lisa, another extra, had tagged along with a friend. She got a plum spot next to some of the secondary players.
Our “call” that night was 6 p.m. We waited in a nearby vacant store, its bare walls a dingy lavender. We sat on a row of folding chairs, where the wardrobe crew inspected us to make sure we looked stylish enough. Some people brought spare outfits. One of the assistants asked my son to follow him, and they both disappeared. Soon Matt returned, wearing a plain white shirt. Why the switch? He shrugged. His black shirt with thin white stripes was certainly more appealing, I thought, but what did I know?
Assistant Director Jim Whitworth gave us the rundown on what it took to be a good extra: Don’t look at the camera, stay out of the way and take off your shoes so you don’t make noise.
This is harder than it sounds, especially the “don’t look at the camera” part.
Whitworth warned us several times not to take photographs or talk to the “talent.” One wrong move, and out we’d go!
“I don’t even know who’s in this movie,” Lisa mumbled, expressing what many of were already thinking. Most of us didn’t know anything about the cast or the plot.
“Superman is in the movie,” Apple said.
“Brandon Routh of ‘Superman Returns’.”
You can’t have fans fawning over the stars when they’re supposed to be focused on their work.
Three hours passed in what Joe called “lavender hell.”
“If something doesn’t happen soon, I think we should form a union,” Joe suggested.
Finally, we were called into “Hemline.” Crew members handed out glasses of real wine and plates of real appetizers for this scene of an opening reception at a new boutique.
An assistant handed me a glass of wine.
“You look like a red wine drinker,” he said.
Hmmmmmm. Was this typecasting?
Most of the action in the first of the two scenes took place in front of the boutique, while the extras pretended to shop inside. We’d be background through the windows. Some of the extras actually did shop.
We went through our paces several times. Some maneuvered to get closer to the window, where they might be filmed through the glass.
After that scene was wrapped, half of the extras jumped ship when they discovered the next scene wouldn’t be filmed until after a midnight meal. Those of us who remained got sub sandwiches, which we took outside to eat standing on the sidewalk in the hot, muggy night.
A mass of equipment was set up in front of “Hemline,” so cars of people drove by slowly to see what was happening. “Are you extras?” someone shouted.
“Yeah,” Joe said. “Looks glamorous, doesn’t it?”
We saw the cast and crew eating at a long candle-lit table inside the vacant store.
After the midnight “lunch,” Whitworth counted noses. “Is this all I have left?”
By 1 a.m., we were back in “Hemline.” We were handed more wine and plates of food for us to carry, none of which seemed appealing at this point, not that we were supposed to consume anything. Even with the desertions, there were enough people to make the boutique seem crowded, especially since all of the main actors had joined us. They looked a lot fresher than we did. I saw then why my son had to change his shirt. Brandon Routh wore a black shirt with thin white stripes.
The noisy air conditioner was turned off. The atmosphere was hot and thick. The extras practiced a route through the racks. No one wanted to be the one who spilled wine or food on the clothing. Problems — dropped hangers, missed lines, a car honking outside, a boom in the shot — ruined the first three takes. The fourth seemed flawless. We looked at the director. By this time it was almost 2:30 a.m.”That was awesome,” Muller said. Before we had a chance to rejoice, he said. “Let’s do it again.”We sagged a little.
“I need your ‘A’ game,” Whitworth barked. “We need high energy. Pretend this is 7 p.m., not 2:30 a.m.”
We regrouped. The makeup and hair crew dabbed and patted again. This time a few frizzled, frazzled extras got some attention. One hair technician smoothed the flyaway hair on my forehead.
Whitworth called everyone to order. “Background! Action!” The cameraman carrying the heavy film camera on his shoulder marched through the boutique.
The scene played out. We waited for the verdict.
“That’s a wrap,” Muller said.
Joy! Relief! The cast and crew immediately began discussing plans for the next day’s shoot while the extras stood in the store, feeling like…..extras. Matt and I chased down his own shirt in the wardrobe trailer and then we headed home.
Now, having seen my two scenes in the finished movie, I have to laugh at how the scene appears on the screen. Let’s just say we didn’t have to worry about dropped hangers or flubbed lines….
Was I surprised that the finished product turned out much differently from what I expected? Or that the extras did a lot of work that never appeared. Not really. In the summer of 1999, friends Jacki, Nancy and Karissa and my daughter Laura and I stumbled onto a scene being filmed for Sandra Bullock’s movie, “28 Days.” An intersection in the Soho part of Manhattan was blocked off for the shoot. Many extras — both pedestrians and bicyclists — repeatedly went through their paces for several takes, as Bullock walked up some stairs from a subway and around the corner to a newspaper stand. After we had shopped for an hour, we saw that the extras were still hard at work. That scene never made the final cut of the movie.
The dvd of “fling*” will be available in the spring. You can be sure plenty of the extras will be going through the movie slooooooowly to see whether they can catch a glimpse of themselves.
I got this email after the Kansas City opening. (The big party was past my bedtime……) John Stewart Muller sent a message to the members of Fling – The Movie.
Subject: Additional “Fling” Screenings in K.C.
Just wanted to give you an update on the opening weekend of “Fling” in KC. The film did great and we all had such a blast!! Thanks so much to everyone who made it out!! The movie sold out on both Friday and Saturday night and did strong for the rest of the showings all weekend. We had amazing after parties at The Czar Bar with Dylan Trees, Dri, and The Republic Tigers
performing. It was a great weekend!
Because of how well the film performed, Screenland Theater is holding it for another week! Help us spread the word to anyone in KC who missed it because they have one more chance to see it on the big screen! There were people who even drove in from St. Louis just to see the movie!
If you go to the theater, don’t forget to check out the concrete handprints and signatures for “Fling”!
Also, check out the great reviews the film has been receiving. Bob Butler of the KC Star gave the film three out of four stars and compared it to “Bob & Carol, Ted & Alice” and “sex, lies, and videotape”. Everyone also loves how KC looks on film!
Next stop after this is the Bahamas Film Festival! We’re also still trying to look into more theatrical runs before the DVD release in May.
We’re very excited about all of this and appreciate everyone’s help in spreading the word! Let us know if you have any questions or concerns about anything! Hope this finds you well and thanks again!!
John and Laura