I am a fan of Nathan Barnatt. He is one of a new crop of celebrities who have made themselves famous via Internet videos of the non-Kim Kardashian variety. The character I know him best as is Keith Apicary, a classic video gaming enthusiast in the series Talking Classics....
In his series, Apicary is either having small adventures while relating his love of Nintendo, Genesis, and Dreamcast games or is creating hilarious chaos at conventions across the country, be it having a Sonic-style spin dash race or scaling a convention center to find the way in after he forgot his ticket. His unique dance talents recently starred in music videos for Kimberly Cole's "U Make Me Wanna," and Flo Rida's "Let It Roll."
A lot of you may recognize him from the below video which I've posted before.
While going through my Facebook feeds, I came across a message from Keith Apicary asking for his fans to volunteer as extras during Labor Day weekend in 2012. I haven’t been on a T.V. or movie shoot in 15 years of living in Los Angeles and thought it was an experience I would like to have. Besides, I could sit in a rocker telling my grandchildren one day about the time I was on television and they could roll their eyes as they went back to playing their 3D gaming systems 30 years from now.
So, I sent an e-mail to the address I was directed to. After getting my acceptance, I set aside time to be a Hollywood extra.
Believe it or not, this day didn’t begin well for me. The first e-mail I received said I was going to be an extra on Day 2. So, when I received an e-mail early on Day 1, I thought it was letting me know what I needed for the following day. Around 11:00 a.m., I received another e-mail from Production letting me know that shooting began at 10:00 this morning and they were wondering where I was.
After a haphazard shower and shaving my head, I jumped into clothes and apologized profusely to my wife for leaving on a day I didn’t intend think I was going anywhere. I arrived in Pasadena at a high school. According to the e-mail, today was to be shot in the gymnasium. After asking a grip where I needed to go, I found myself standing in the door of the gymnasium, with a couple of bleachers full of people suddenly looking in my direction.
Suddenly, I was being asked if I needed help by a man in a furry blue mascot outfit sans the head piece. It took only a moment for me to recognize Joe Hursley. I’d seen him in a few projects. Some people may remember him as part of milk’s White Gold ad campaign. Most will recognize him as Otto in 2007's Resident Evil: Extinction.
I told him my role in the project and he called out to a couple of people on his other side. I looked past him to see Nathan Barnatt, as well as his friend/director, Paul Cummings. Thankfully, no one dismissed me for being late. In fact, Nathan said and enthusiastic, “Cool! Jump in anywhere, man!”
I took a place in the bleachers and watched a couple of hours of shooting. It didn’t take long for things to feel warm… uncomfortably so. I didn’t complain, but someone else mentioned that they could use a few minutes outside. I agreed, but I didn’t get why it was so hot. I learned that the sound of an air conditioner can interfere with the microphones during shooting, so it’s not used.
I learned something new.
During the day, I watched Hursley do a lot in that blue mascot outfit. He was actively harassing another character for reasons that might be clearer if I was involved in all of the days of shooting. All I can say in confidence is that it involved scissors, spray paint, and an ewe.
I decided not to ask…
Nathan himself was unusually engaging with us. I wasn’t sure if it was in his nature, if he knew these were fans of his voluntarily helping out, or a combination of both. In any case, it made the day much more fun when the star of the show would often goof around with us to keep our spirits up and make the experience that much more fun. We were dismissed around 4:00 p.m. that day. However, before we got up, Nathan had asked to take a picture with us. We were all eager to say yes. We moved to one section and Nathan laid across us in the front row while someone took a picture with his phone. When he was done, he turned around, looked at us, and said, “Whoa! Hunks down front!” He thanked us for helping out before we left.
After I arrived home, I spent time pressing clothes for the next day.
Today was much more relaxed as I checked the day and time of the shoot… three times. I talked my wife into tagging along. I wasn’t sure how many people they needed, but I was fairly certain that another woman in the mix wouldn’t be a bad thing. We arrived at 2:00 p.m. at a Pasadena café. The shoot was to take place at a poetry slam. Not an environment I’m very familiar with. There were about a dozen of extras that finally showed up, and it turned out they did need another woman, so my wife’s presence was very appreciated by the staff.
We waited for pretty much all afternoon. We were still receiving random visits from Nathan between shots, Joe Hursley remembered me and said hello, and a production assistant repeatedly chatted with us on video games, comic books, tattoos, and sci-fi shows. It was the second day in a row that I was impressed that a lot of people seemed really concerned with our energy and comfort.
They used us in small amounts at first. They wanted a few of us to play certain roles (not me), but called in the remainder of us just after sunset to be the audience at the poetry slam. As we were brought inside, my wife started discussing comic books with Nathan while we entered the building and what type of Nightcrawler tattoo she wanted. It was one of those moments fans often daydream about when they are able to talk to one of their favorite stars about hobbies and normal things like it was just another day. The moment is still burned in my brain when she referred to me as the person that taught her most of what she knows about comic books, Nathan turns to me, and I had to stop myself from having a fanboy moment and embarrassing myself.
My wife was placed behind the poet, and I was invited to do a walkthrough from the bathroom. In the end, I waited most of the evening by the bathroom. They had either overlooked my cue, or decided it wasn’t necessary to the shoot. I wasn’t insulted. I figured there was always a chance that whatever they would ask an extra to do wasn’t overly necessary to the story, so I wasn’t put out. Besides, it was a lot of fun to listen to the actors playing Keith Apicary and his circle of friends harass the same character I saw yesterday. There were some odd actions regarding stink bombs in between shots of the other extras sitting around staring at a poet making no sound. It occurred to me as I stood off to the side that this was as like an independent movie; a crowd going to a poetry slam that has no poetry.
I wonder if Kevin Smith would consider making a movie like that staring Silent Bob…
I think I stood in one place for about 90 minutes. I checked my watch now and again, but didn’t keep track of time because I was entertained by the dialogue I heard.
In the latter part of shooting, I reminded the production team that I wasn’t used, not as a matter of “what about me?!” but to remind them that I probably shouldn’t be standing there for other shots. The director, Paul Cummings was nice enough to give me a walkthrough during a scene where the poet was reading his poem. I did my crossing of the room, which left me in eye contact with Joe Hursley. We traded confused, laughing looks while we tried to process what the poet was saying. I can’t remember the words, but I remember it being hilarious and it took concentration not to interrupt him with laughter. They only needed one take, so we did a good job of being silent.
I and another extra took a seat at a table by a door. It was out of the shot, and we figured we weren’t needed anymore, so we stayed inside and observed. The extra I sat with was an aspiring actor, and I don’t remember his name. Between takes, we joked about two straight guys just hanging out at a poetry slam without the wives. We were surprised when they needed to shoot the main actors rushing out the door and started dressing the table we sat at. We started to get up when the set crew told us to stay put. Neither the other extra nor I were going to deny a chance to be on camera. It was just one of those odd things that sometimes work out in your favor.
We were ushered outside to see if we were needed for a last series of takes, but were dismissed soon afterwards. Nathan again came out to thank us and was gracious enough to stop for photos. I was the happiest kid in the world in that moment, and officially became the subject of jealousy among friends.
Before driving home, I received an e-mail asking for more extras for another day of shooting in Whittier. I went over my work schedule that night and found that I could get there, but it was a night shoot starting at 8:00 p.m., and judging by the 6 to 8 hour schedules we were needed for, I had to have a co-pilot to keep me awake for the drive home. I asked a friend to come with me, and she agreed, so I made sure I had the clothes needed for one more day of shooting.
After picking up my friend, we drove for the better part of the afternoon before arriving at a parking lot in Whittier. I could see an ambulance and the production truck.
It’s odd how I was recognizing not just the stars, but the other extras I was meeting. Of the people I didn’t recognize, one started talking to myself and my friend, and he turned out to be an anime and comic book fan from the East Coast starting an acting career in Los Angeles. His name is Christopher O’ Brien, and he was a very nice person to get to know. He's already landing roles in CSU: Crime Stoppers Unit, and the play, Wonder Women.
Congrats on your success, Chris!
We were suddenly told we could take our cars to the shoot at a nearby restaurant. It was surreal to be waiting to shoot a T.V. show while people finished their dinners. When enough people were done in half of the dining room, the production staff swept in and quickly set up to shoot in a booth. The extras were placed at different tables as diners. I sat across from another person I don’t remember the name of. (I am terrible with names! Sorry!) As we talked, a make-up lady with a large application brush was walking toward us. I leaned to allow her to pass, and the tip of the brush touched my bald head. I was going to excuse myself when she suddenly leaned back and said,
“Do you mind if I powder your head?”
There was a moment when I looked at the extra across from me who just shrugged, and I said, “Sure.”
“Great,” she said. She started to apply make-up to my skull and said, “Sorry, but bald heads tend to shine,” as she worked.
I replied with, “That’s not a news flash.”
She laughed and finished.
As we waited, I was surprised to receive acknowledgement and a handshake by Paul Cummings. Joe Hursley again said hi and asked what my wife thought of the other day. Nathan said, “You again?” jokingly as he walked by. He, again, joked with us between takes. I listened to an exchange between Apicary’s circle and a waitress. I would like to talk more about what I saw and heard, but I don’t want to spoil the storyline.
The shoot didn’t take as long as the previous days. We were dismissed at midnight. I didn’t wait for pictures this evening since I didn’t want to be accused of stalking. Though it did occur to me that if I actually ended up in the shoots for all three days, someone might think I was some kind of deranged, middle-aged Keith Apicary stalker.
Maybe #baldstalker will become some kind of odd meme…
The show is supposed to debut on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup. As of this writing, I don’t know the date, but based on what I observed, the humor of the show will fit in well with the other live-action Adult Swim shows.
I’m also a big Nathan Barnatt fan, so I have high hopes for the success of this show. His videos remind me that dancing isn't always about having the sharpest moves, but about giving it your all and having fun on the dance floor. Being able to say I helped in the first episode of his show and the chance to see myself and people close to me on the television screen is just a tremendous bonus.
And, if someone has time, I know of a manager at an anime convention in Baltimore that would like Nathan to be a guest and do his best to create Apicary-style havoc.
I wish them the best.