This past weekend Jene and I or rather our period cars were cast for some street scenes in a major motion picture. Jene has done a few movies and a TV series with his black cat (1967 Cougar), but this was my first time. Normally movies don’t like red cars because they stand out but the 1970 Cougar Xr7 made the call. Sounds like fun.
Saturday’s call a 5am check-in with visits to wardrobe, hair and make-up. They advise you of the fashion period and ask if you can dress to that which we did. Since we were in cars as background, Jene did not need the late 70’s sideburns that other guys were given. My make-up was fine and my hair just curled under so we grabbed something for breakfast and got our cars to the staging area. We are given walkie-talkies to listen for our cues and to let them know where we are after we are out of the scene. (Stuck in regular NY traffic).The cars are strategically placed and we wait for our instructions of how and where to drive. Round and round we go as they lock down the street (not an easy task and lots of horn honking). At 2 we broke for lunch and then moved to another location @ Madison Park. Passerbys stopping to catch a glimpse of the star, crowds form and have to be reminder not to use flashes on their cameras and to move out of the shot. (an even harder task for the crew). Stunt people are called in to drive some of the cars because of safety and insurance reasons and I was the passenger in my own car while this really lovely stunt woman Annie drove. We had the road block off and drove forward a bit and then backed up for numerous re-takes and different camera angles and scenarios.
Working with vintage cars has it’s own set of problems. Many cabs had issues, dead batteries, one with a hole in the gas tank that had to be made safe and pretty much abandoned for the shoot. Some didn’t have wipers (it started to rain) others no defrosters. Little things that kept the mechanics running from one block to another to keep as many cars rolling.
We wrapped up Saturday night @ 7:30 and had to check out. A 14 hour day for us and even longer for the Production Assistants and crews.
Sunday’s call was at 11:00. On the drive over, my defroster wasn’t working and then my windshield wiper blade was coming off. So I had a tough few blocks to maneuver. Wardrobe, hair, make-up and go to our cars and wait. Jene and I switched cars and I drove his black cat. Different issues were squawking over the walkie talkies for hours as we waited.
The rain was really coming down most of the day, cars were getting jumped, issues with setting up occurred and finally at 6 pm we were driving on set. The red car was parked in the live scene. At 7:00 after I turned the corner and was stopped in traffic the car died. I sent a cry for help over the radio waves and sat with angry drivers beeping behind me. Two of the other picture car drivers were in my traffic jam and they came to my rescue pushing me to the side. Then came the mechanics, Andy said that the battery was not holding a charge. Jene told me to try to make it back to a safe parking spot (permit parking for the movie) and I managed that. 8pm break for lunch. Back at 9 when Carmello jumped the car and I was to park on set and stay with the car. A flood of cars rolled past me and around the corner over and over. “It’s a wrap” was called at 1:50. After signing out, Jene started up The Cat and we managed to drive back to Jersey without having to be flatbed towed.
I realized how very lucky we were to be in cars because the swarms of extras had to stand in place in the rain (with umbrellas) and when “Rolling was called, their umbrellas were taken away. Cold and wet for hours. So this is the glamourous life of making movies… Early calls, long days and hours of waiting around.