I pride myself on using clever titles, but try as I might, I couldn’t think of anything that fit the epic scope of what I did last Tuesday other than to simply say it like it is.
Last week, I crossed something off of my bucket list. I was a movie extra. And not only was I movie extra, but I was a movie extra in what will probably be one of the biggest movies of this year. And I was a movie extra in a movie starring my absolute favorite, most talented and well-deserving-of-any-kind-of-accolades-you-can-give-him actor of this generation, Matt Damon.
It’s been a few days now and I’m still grinning, well as wide as Matt himself.
(NOT MY PHOTO. Sadly. Credit: Giphy)
I can’t publicly post where I was, what I was doing, or anything having to do with the movie. And I wouldn’t. That’s not solely because of the nondisclosure agreement I signed, but also because of the respect I have for Matt, Paul Greengrass, and the production itself. I’ll be able to share a few details after the movie premieres, but until that happens, I can tell you what it was like for me to be enclosed in the same space as one of the biggest most recognizable movie stars on this planet. (And you know, Mars.)
To begin with, I did not meet Matt, speak to Matt, take photos of Matt or otherwise engage personally with Matt. Nor did I meet any principal actors or production crew involved with the movie. What I did do is get to see them work for two days. And I think that’s the greatest Blessing from this whole experience.
There were a lot of extras to deal with in this particular scene. And not once did I see any person from the Director down to the poor PA who was tasked with getting us water dismiss us or treat us with anything but respect. In fact, Paul Greengrass and his Asst Directors went out of their way to explain what shots were being filmed, pump us up for the scene and regale us with stories while the cameras were being repositioned. I can’t say what it’s like on other movie sets, but I’d bet all the money it’s taken to rescue Matt Damon in movies that it isn’t like that on every movie set. To Director Paul Greengrass, every single person in the room was just as vital to the movie as Matt Damon. And that says so much. I felt it every time he spoke to us and the crew.
And then there’s Matt. Anyone who knows me knows I have had straight up genuine respect for Matt since Good Will Hunting. (I even blogged about Matt. More than once.) Last week it was very rewarding to be able to look at the guy and KNOW that every ounce of respect, every award, everything he’s ever been given is absolutely deserved. He’s got the reputation of being the nicest, hardest working guy in Hollywood because he is the nicest, hardest working guy in Hollywood.
Again, I want to stress I had no personal interaction with him, but I was there when he walked on set and told a room full of people how absolutely important we were for this scene. And how he’d been there as long as we had (HOURS) and that he couldn’t express how much he appreciated our work and our attitude and our respect. At that moment, he went from being one of the biggest celebrities alive to just a guy wearing a black baseball cap and carrying a Starbucks cup. He was there to work. We were there to work. So we went to work.
And it was thrilling to watch him do what he does. It was just as entertaining to see the crew operate and feel the love Matt and Paul Greengrass have for each other. Their commitment, and in turn our commitment–as seemingly unimportant as it was–to the creative process gave me an experience I won’t forget. Ever.
I have no idea if my face will show up on the big screen or not. Even if I end up on the cutting room floor, I’m thankful for experience. It’s just not every day that you get to spend almost 12 hours with Matt Damon. And I have to say that Post-Damon Depression is a thing. The struggle is real, y’all. I find myself thinking, “What do I do with my life now?”
(Also not mine. Giphy again.)
Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but true nonetheless. I’ve been watching a lot of movies and tv in the past fews days and I’ve found that I’m completely fixated on the background players. Sometimes, I have to pause and watch again because I’ve missed something in the action due to focusing so hard on the extras.
This made me realize that Matt and Greengrass were right. The faceless people, the miniscule details, the minutia that encompasses “everything in the shot but Matt Damon” give authenticity. They add to credibility of the characters and ground them in reality so we can sit in the theatres and root for them. They build the world that we’ve shown up to see.
I’m going to apply that concept to my writing. And I’m going to notice it in movies. And I’m going to do my best to honor it, because I truly felt honored by having the experience of being one of them.