Absolutely true, I was on the telly last night. It wasn’t a dream and I’m not making it up. Granted, it was only for a few seconds, but I was there, me, on Bravo’s ‘On the Screen’.
Certainly that last thing I was expecting to see at 4-something in the morning, on Canada’s premier cable arts and entertainment channel.
Let me explain. So anyway, there I wuz, lying in bed, as I am usually wont to do at fourish and then some in morning, not sleeping but channel surfing. Why? I don’t know. Because I was awake, and I could I suppose. But that’s not important right now, what is, I was flippin’ through the stations when my mid-morning cruise was abruptly arrested by a singular image I hadn’t seen in years but recognized immediately, and I might actually be one of only a handful of people on the planet who would have known it was a clip from a wickedly funny, brilliant, twisted, innovative, totally before its time, and unfortunately almost entirely forgotten Canadian cinematic gem by John Paizs called Crime Wave.
The reason why I remember it, with much fondness, is that I have the singular honour of having been in it.
Rewind time to Winnipeg 1984. I was a twenty-something sci and comic geek, only in Winnipeg a year or two, and making friends via your friendly neighbourhood comic book store. The comic connection led me to Key Con, (the subject of an earlier post), and more friends. It was through these people my new friends and I learned of this guy John Paizs who was making this movie, and he needed a bunch of people with their own costumes – not unlike the sort of people to be found at Star Trek Winnnipeg – to be extras in this film.
By happy coincidence we were young, costumed and up for it, so we said, ‘why the heck not, sounds like a fun way to kill an evening!’ So that’s what a bunch of us did that summer evening in 1984? (gah, was it REALLY that long ago?) We headed out for this really nice house with a pool in – god, I can’t even remember, I think it might have been St Vital, but it’s been a long time, yanno? Once we were there, we were introduced to the wide, wild world of film making.
Gotta tell you, based on my one, sole experience, as a non-speaking extra (laughing, yes, speaking, no. He did have us speak to each other for the ‘Steven freaks out the guests’ bits, but our dialogue wasn’t recorded. Good thing too, it wasn’t that good!) being in a movie sounds way more glamourous than it actually is. Mostly you stand around – a lot – and wait until everything is set up for the scene about to be shot. You have maybe thirty seconds, a minute, minute and a half of excitement while you’re ‘doing it’ for however many takes the director decides he needs (not many, in this case, if memory serves). Then yer done, and you go back to standing around waiting for your turn again. Oh, you can also watch everyone else being filmed, but you have to be quiet.
So, it was both boring and fun. But we were absolutely thrilled to be a part of it nevertheless, although what we were seeing at the time of filming made no sense to us at all. We felt stupid, kinda self conscious, and more than slightly puzzled about the whole thing. Let me just say when we saw the finished product – during the one and only public screening in Winnipeg in 85 – 86?, we had our socks blown off. Man, during my big ‘scene’ where Steven comes up to our group, stands there and drives us all away (me being the last, I got almost the entire screen to myself for like, a whole nano second, and I got to ACT!) what we experienced during filming did not look or feel at ALL like the final result. What the scene was REALLY about was as much a surprise to us as the audience and we were THERE for the whole thing! Seeing what he did with what we gave him that evening – it was total magic. Oh yeah.
Being in there to participate in the shoot was cool. Seeing our names in the credits, even cooler. Additional awesomeness ensued in 88 – 89 – can’t remember which. I’d left Winnipeg by then, was living with my future ex-husband and our new baby in Ontario. Through one of my friends Mr. Paizs actually sent me a CHEQUE for having appeared in the film. 75 bucks. I remember it well. How classy was that?
So, I can say with all honesty, not only was I an extra in one of the coolest films ever made, in Canada or anywhere else for that matter, but I was a PAID extra.
Yeah, we’re struttin’ now!
Like I said, I was one of the fortunate few who got to see the film, in all its glory, during it’s single theatrical showing (after it’s Toronto debut) in the cinema in the Exchange district. That was one hell of a fun evening. One of my fonder memories. I caught it a couple of times later on Superchannel, where they would run it periodically. I taped it then, but my tape got lost in one of my many subsequent moves. It was much mourned, because I love the movie very much (not simply because I’m in it, I’m not THAT shallow! Well, not any more). Apparently it’s only ever been released on VHS, so the chances of getting a copy of it – slim to none.
Then my daughter (the older one) informed me she’d caught in on The Comedy Channel on satellite one evening. And taped it! I snagged it and transferred it to DVD with my brand new (at the time) DVD recorder. The copy really is not the best, in fact there’s one section where the tape is so bad I had to sort of pause and fast forward slightly to get past the noisy bit. So while it is not the best copy, at least I do have a version of it, more or less intact, on DVD. Until they actually release it on DVD, I will guard it with my life. Believe me, I’d gladly pay for a ‘legal’ copy. Just tell me where I can get one and I’m there.
Fast Forward back to last night. It’s still fourish, going on five, and I’m taking a happy trip down memory lane, watching Mr Paizs and the other main cast members talk about their experiences on ‘On the Screen’. On Bravo. Periodically, they show clips from the film. Suddenly, there I am. Party Entrance Scene – a dark-haired twenty-something version of me wearing a long white dress and a red thing around my head forever immortalized on celluloid. On Bravo. For all of Canada to see.
That is all of Canada that’s awake and watching Bravo at four-something am Pacific Daylight Time.
Holy crap. They keep talking, show the scene a few more times. I see me maybe once or twice more. It’s so cool! Not my best scene in the movie, sure, but it’s still me!
I can’t do it right now, ’cause I really should do other stuff, like write more on my next book, but presuming I can figure out how to make the screen capture program work (I downloaded it, but I haven’t tried to use it yet), I’ll put my lousy copy in the DVD drive and see if I can get some caps of my most amazing performance. Haha. Or figure out how to copy the masquerade party sequence.
Bits of the film are probably already on youtube. I was able to google a couple of sites about it. Check em out. Seriously, it’s an amazing film, and deserves far more recognition that it has received. Not simply because I’m in it. However peripherally. Hahahahahaha.
That’s to Mr Paizs for providing me with the opportunity to be a part of something really amazing, and for giving me some equally amazing memories of that incredible night. Thanks also, to Bravo, for helping me revisit them.
And who know, at fourish tomorrow morning I might actually sleep.