Back Lot Magic with Johnny Stand-In
Pilots here. Pilots there. Pilots Pilots everywhere. Yes folks it is Pilot Season again. I’ve been Standing-In for an unknown actor who is a Regular in this script. If the show sells he may become a Big Star & I may become his Stand-In for the run of the show. Of course everyone working on this script has highly unrealistic expectations. Or as I call it …Tuesday. Welcome to Hollywood Maybe Baby. Maybe this Situation Comedy will be picked up and make it onto the Fall Season Network Schedule. Hey Baby maybe it means a real job for Johnny Stand-In. Maybe I should hold my breath. Oh baby.
Last season I shot a Pilot & all the Studio Execs told the Cast & Crew that it would be a “definite go” (see archive “Closed Set” https://iget2work.com/2010/04/closed-set/ ). However several dozen hard knocks in Tinselville have taught me the only sure thing out here is waking up in bed with a horse head. Maybe yes maybe naaaay. Maybe. The Execs were wrong & that Pilot died. Even though they spend a fortune on it and some folks (aka me) believed their happily ever afters. Liars.
But this week’s Pilot has a great script and Big Stars. I know what that means. This is a definite go. A sure thing. Or maybe horsey head baby. Build me up. Crash me down. Cue tears in the Porta-Pottie weeping “Why Lord why or why?” Would it be such a crime for me to shoot one of this season’s 90 Pilots and actually win the jackpot and have it be one of the 15 shows that sells & makes it to broadcast? Luckily all my fellow Stand-Ins spend every single second, this week, talking about nothing else but this running for 10 years. Maybe. Breathe John. Yes this is an extremely delightful possibility. The-Powers-That-Be have even thrown me a gigantic curve ball. The Studio where this is shooting is only 5 minutes from my house. Impossible. I am working on a show that might sell, would be an easy commute & I like everyone I’m working with. Damn my bad luck. The entire experience is taunting & mocking me in a most delicious manner. Ah fate thee is an unkind yummy mistress. Oh … and the Overtime is fabulous so I’m making great money & I have friends at this Studio that I meet daily during our lunch breaks. Damn Damn Damn. Is that a huge fall off the cliffs of disappointment ahead? Do I see a rolling horse head yonder?
Besides Standing-In for a Regular I am also doubling on this Pilot for an 85 year old Guest Star funny short bald Jewish man (how dare you go there). I am playing his dead body on a gurney covered with a sheet in a morgue. Yes really. The cast keeps trying to make me “corpse” (laughing on camera while you are supposed to be dead). I am an easy mark. One Lead Actor grabs a large test tube & suggests an experiment that includes removing my testicles. I cannot stop giggling. Also in this scene is our Lead Actress Star (I’ve heard for eons that she is a piece of work & she turns out to be wonderfully friendly to everyone & fabulously generous and sweet). Yay the tabloids are sometime wrong people. She wonders if being still on cold metal is a speciality of mine and I politely answer “Madam I am much more than a dead body” & I do my famous pulling my finger off trick. She gasps (always works with the ladies). She flubbed a line & after “CUT” she asks the Director “Can we start over?” He replies “Yes, but be better this time.” He gets a big laugh and she is suddenly part of the team. I like her & she talks to me all week during breaks. When this show sells we will become best friends forever. Will too.
At the end of every day during Pilot Rehearsals we have a Run-Through in front of The Exec Big Wigs (some are very generous but we already know many are also big fat liars). We Stand-Ins read all the small parts that will later be replaced on camera with Actors who won the roles by auditioning. Unless we luckily get upgraded with the part. Which has happened to me and all the other Stand-Ins. Three of us play Waiters in a scene that is hilarious & we get a few big laughs. On shoot day they will give our parts to someone else. Which is for the best because I don’t speak well with a knife in my back.
Someone with a checkbook believes in this Pilot because the Craft Service budget is incredible. Amazing food and a terrific catering team. Until the fire breaks out. Yep, Mr. Crafty accidentally sets fire, this afternoon, to his huge Old-Timey-Popcorn-Maker that looks like it was bought in the late 60s. Fortunately for the entertainment value Mr. Crafty freaks out and gives us all a frightening few minutes of laughing at his expense as he does everything wrong to douse the rising flames (note to junior fireman … do not throw a bucket of ice tea on large electric equipment…sparks ensue). The explosion knocks him down and gets applause. No one was hurt and later we learned this was the third time this guy has set fire to his own stuff. His infamy is well earned and his food is delicious. Why complain?
This is the 6th Pilot I’ve shot this season (so far, touch wood). Four have already been passed on (damn) so I am down to a couple more chances until next year. Now if just one could pretty pretty please with residuals on top be a smash I might have an actual job for a while. I’m asking for one lousy stinking little Pilot to get the go-ahead. And by lousy I mean great, really. I promise that success will not make me become any more of a stuck up Hollywood phony than I already am. Maybe baby? Feel free to put baby in the corner. Next to me waiting by the phone. For a change.