Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ekstra (Second Part)

Previously on L'Heure Blue

It was almost sundown when I arrived at the set. The film was being shot at a gated community north of Manila. It wasn't difficult to follow instructions posted on Facebook. With the aid of Google Map, I found my destination even without making a phone call to my friend to ask for directions.

However the distance, the long walk to the village entrance didn't dampen my spirit. The gate was three blocks away from where I disembarked from the jeep. But since it was dusk, and the cool breeze from the Sierra Madre tenderly stroked my skin, the stroll already was a pleasant experience.

The evacuation center and the outdoor morgue scenes took place inside the unused clubhouse of Neapolitan Village. When I arrived there to sign up as one of the crowd, the production team had just done filming the part where the actor learned that his parents died in the flood. I was told that the film is about a teenage boy starting his life from scratch. His home was washed away by the torrent of mud and water, and has to stay with his estranged grandfather - his sole surviving relative from then on. Cameras were being dismantled to be moved inside the gymnasium, as grime-covered and blood stained bit players rested nearby.

I came across some assistants, and was tempted to ask the names of my friends. But when I realized the production staff number in their fifties, I thought it would be best to look around and search for my contacts instead. 

To walk-ins like me, life outside the actual film shooting is more relaxed than what is being shown in the movies. Bit players, when not reading their lines, linger around the set or sleep in corners. Their handlers argue with production assistants, as they haggle their pay by the number of hours they waited for their queue to start. These, I have seen with my own eyes. I even heard some people complaining that they've been at the set since that morning.

And it was already past five in the afternoon.  

"JM!!!" I turned my head to where the voice was coming from. I saw Carlo waving his hand. 

"Buti nakarating ka. Kanina ka pa?"

"Kararating ko lang. Andami palang tao dito." Carlo chuckled. I told him about watching the film Ekstra, and how the sights I've seen so far was very similar to the film.

My friend told me to follow him inside the gymnasium. We saw his partner, Ben, talking to one of the assistant directors on our way in. The duo runs the department responsible for providing the costumes to bit players. Inside the barely-lit hall, squeaking kids ran around the court. Meanwhile, adults seated on the bleachers engage in juicy banter that - my guess - is the fodder for showbiz sections of tabloids and broadsheets the next day. Carlo and I continued walking, talked about our friends who live nearby; talked about the mass grave scene earlier that day, and how in one take - the bit players were able to bring everyone to tears. Their wailing and chest thumping as they searched for loved ones among the dead moved everyone, even my friend who's used to seeing melodramatic, close-up scenes.

"Grabe, wagas talaga ang hagugol ng mga bakla." He said in amazement. "Madali kasi mag-internalize, Ipaalala mo lang ang Ondoy at Yolanda, maiiyak ka talaga."  I could only imagine what I'd do if I was among the dead - or worse - the living, dazed survivors.

We reached a small room on the other side of the gymnasium. Inside, a dedicated staff folded shirts of various shapes and sizes. Beside them are large plastic boxes containing more old and worn-out clothes that the bit players can wear. I dropped my bag and showed them the tattered shirt and old jerseys I'd wear as a flood survivor.

"Puwede na ba?" I showed Carlo my costume.

"Oo, ako nga magsasando saka shorts eh." Ben showed up to introduce me to his staff. He then spoke to his partner about the evacuation center scene that would take place later that evening.

"Dito ka muna ha?" Carlo said to me before he was interrupted by a production assistant. "Kunin ko lang sa bahay yung dog namin para kasama mamaya sa shooting."

The "Evacuation Center" Set

With restlessness setting in, I left the room after the couple disappeared; to see up close the bit players waiting for the filming to begin. The truth is, I needed to smoke. And like in the film Ekstra, I was hoping someone from the crowd actually sell cigarettes.

An hour later, I was still looking for anyone who sells yosi. I didn't find any. Skipping dinner instead, I ended up stepping out to volunteer in a scene as one of the crowd who will run towards the evacuation center under heavy rain.

It's light, camera, action at last.




Geosef Garcia said...

Sa totoo lang, naiinggit ako. Sobra. I wanna experience that too. :)

JM said...

@Sef: I'm actually lost for words and narrative on how to write the most exciting chapter. Haha.

earl | outinmanila said...

it must have been quite an experience.