The Japanese film Andalucia opened last month, on June 25th. It’s the sequel to Amalfi, a cop drama set in Italy, released in 2009. The cast includes Meisa Kuroki, Yuji Oda, Hideaki Ito, and — if you squint hard enough — my dumb face.
This requires a little bit of setup. Last Summer, after two years of attempting open mics and performing a few stand-up shows for friends around the city, I decided to put comedy on hold to focus on podcasting. As a last ditch effort, I signed up with a local talent agency based in Nagoya. Then I forgot I did. This led to an unnerving phone call the following November.
“We want you to be Santa.”
Though I ended up not filling the position of chief elf (the agent was dismayed at my most recent photos, complaining that I looked thinner than before), I received another call in February from the same man, asking if I’d be interested in being an extra on the set of a film shooting in Nagoya. He guaranteed at least two days of work, as well as transportation to and from the set. All I had to do was show up in a suit and be willing to sit at a desk for hours on end, pretending to work. No stretch for an ALT.
The scene was a G20 summit, and I was to be the Australian minister of finance. The agent picked me up from Kanayama station and we arrived on set (The Nagoya Congress Center) at 6:00. They gave each of us (around 80 foreign extras in total) a meager breakfast bento before fitting us for shoes and different clothes (if necessary) and taking us upstairs in groups for hair check (I later overheard a man on a cell phone sheepishly explaining to someone, “No, it was just a joke… No, I-… Yes, I’m sorry… No! No, hair check has nothing to do with head lice”). The process takes maybe half an hour; the other three hours were spent sitting at a table in the cafeteria reading John Hodgman‘s More Information Than You Require.
For the rest of the day I was Michael Anderson, Australian Minister of Finance. I sat at a desk with a laptop and a notebook, taking notes and reacting to the exchanges happening on the floor. About a half hour before filming, they asked us to read through the packet of information on the desks (which seemed like surprisingly detailed reproductions of legitimate financial documents) and take notes about the contents using the pen and pad on the desk. This was mostly done for set dressing; if the camera gets close enough to someone’s desk, they want to see something believable. This is the HD generation!
But I was so nervous about messing something up that I just scrawled whatever onto the pad after barely skimming the pages. Shooting began around 9:30, after which point I was too wrapped up in pretending to be engrossed in the Italian delegate’s tirade to worry about taking notes. But my natural knack for character acting and my vast and innate knowledge of all matters financial led to this, which I discovered I had written after returning from lunch break: “Buy low, sell high.” A tight shot of that would make someone’s day, I’m sure (or enrage any actual financiers who happen to be watching the movie). By the second day I said “to hell with it,” and just wrote whatever. My final page of notes was a comprehensive list entitled “Five Kinds of Salmon.”
The guy next to me was a seasoned ex-pat actor in Japan, which made it all the more hilarious when he, in his magnanimity, decided to take me (“the new guy”) under his wing to lecture me on extra basics (like not talking to the Japanese talent – “Trust me bro, I’ve seen guys get kicked off sets for bugging the Japanese actors”), and then proceeded to be chewed out by the AD for talking to the Japanese talent mere minutes later. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he prescribes to the “do as I say, not as I do” model.
For the sheer amount of time consumed by the process, there really isn’t a whole lot else to tell. Filming was interrupted by constant aftershocks (this was shortly after the disastrous earthquake of March 11th) and the friction between some of the extras and actor Madison Mason never bloomed into the tantrum some of us were secretly hoping for (the monotony of filming is that dire after only just two days). Mason’s actually been in a few Hollywood movies and TV series (Transformers, Red Dragon, Cougar Town?!) and seems to be the guy that you get when Donald Sutherland is busy.
I’m in the trailer for about half a second, captured here and circled in yellow by a Detective Barnholt:
Madison (seated behind the left side of the American flag) has a rousing speech somewhere in the movie, during which the cameras pan all crazy-like around the room, so it’s possible my goofy face will flash across the screen.
I haven’t seen the movie yet. Paying full price for a movie in which I appear for a maximum of a few seconds as a blinking mannequin seems like a hassle. But I’ll certainly rent it! And then you can expect a dumb Twitter icon of me resting my chin on my hand, thinking pensively on trade agreements and delicious fish.