Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My experience being an extra on Grimm

I was scratching my head for new content on my blog last week when my weekly reminder email to write something hit my inbox. Nothing that interesting outside of normal every day life stuff had occurred since my last posting so I decided to wait until I had more to write about. That all changed last Friday around noon. I received a voice mail from one of the production assistants with the NBC TV show Grimm that is being filmed in Portland asking whether or not I was interested in being an extra. I called back within about 15 minutes and committed to doing it. This post will be about this experience.

Grimm  - airs on Friday's @ 9 pm central on NBC
I'll start off with how we got involved in this. Alethea randomly came across this opportunity a few weeks ago. She submitted her info along with pictures and was called back to be an extra. She wrote a blog post about here experience which can be found here. I was somewhat interested but didn't think there was much chance of getting called. I didn't submit my info until Alethea had already been contacted to be an extra which was only the day before she was needed. I didn't hear anything back and had forgot all about it. It was a complete surprise when they called on Friday. I jumped at the chance since I wanted to be a part of it for the experience.

1 of 2 extra photos I submitted to be an extra on Grimm - taken from our wedding last summer 
I received my email on Sunday detailing what I needed to do the following day. I was told to show up wearing jogging clothes and bring 3 changes of casual clothes for other scenes. My call time was 9:18 am. Yes, it was actually typed in the email as 9:18 am. Alethea had emailed the casting director after I had been called and mentioned we were a couple. She was then invited to come in as well but her call time wasn't until 11:18 am. To prepare for being an extra, which is something that I have never done before, I logged into a website Alethea has a membership with to learn about what to do and what not do. Most of it is common sense. It is pretty much don't bother anyone, do what they say, have a great attitude, and do what they say :-). I also went to Wikipedia and the NBC website (Grimm) to read up about the show since I had never watched an episode! The last thing I did was go to Hulu and watch an actual episode. I wanted to be somewhat familiar with the show and know who the stars were in case I interacted with them. It is definitely a different type show than I am used to but I found it interesting. I thought it was pretty neat that I recognized many of the locations here in Portland.

Second extra photo submitted for Grimm - taken at a pub in  Suzhou, China
The first part of the day turned out to actually be the most stressful part of the whole experience. Since we do not have a car I took the bus downtown to the location that I was supposed to check in at. I arrived a little more than 15 minutes early. It turns out I needed the spare time. The directions and location in the documentation that came with my email were not correct. I wandered around parking lots and buildings in downtown Portland asking people where to go. No one had a clue as to what I was talking about. The way I eventually located where I was supposed to go was because I remembered that in one of the email attachments it mentioned something about white shuttle vans shuffling people around from location to location. I happened to randomly see a white shuttle van stopped at a red light. There was no other traffic so I stepped out into the middle of the street to approach the van. As I got near it I saw a GRIMM placard in the dashboard. I knocked on the window scaring the driver half to death. She reluctantly rolled down the window and I asked her if she knew where Grimm extras were supposed to report. She at least pointed me in the general direction. I made my way over to where she said to go. It still wasn't marked clearly where to go. I ended up asking a police officer guarding some of the trailers in a parking lot. He was nice and helpful. He guided me over to a catering truck outside of a hotel that I had walked passed earlier that turned out to be the holding area where I needed to check in at. There were no signs anywhere to be seen. 

I was a little frustrated and upset because there directions weren't close to being correct and that I actually arrived pretty much right on time. All of the documentation and research that I had done said do not be late. I don't like being late for anything to begin with. The documentation for this event said you should be there 15 minutes before your call time. I was worried once I got in the room someone was going to say something or I was going to be sent home. Luckily, there was only a few of us asked to come in early and only one other extra that had arrived before me. I discovered later that I wasn't alone. Most of the other extras I talked to had the same problem. Three other people used the same technique as me by knocking on the window of a random white shuttle van asking the driver where to go.

Once I arrived I sat in a hotel meeting room for about 15 minutes before the extra's casting director gave me some paper work to fill out. A wardrobe person then came over and looked at what I was wearing which was the running clothes outfit I was asked to wear. She told me I wouldn't be wearing those clothes until evening and wanted to see what else I had brought. I opened my carry on suite case that I brought with me which happened to contain almost all of the casual clothes I own since I have donated most of my clothes to charity after losing 60 pounds over the last two years. Once she selected my outfit I immediately changed clothes in a bathroom down the hall. I then returned to the holding area where I waited around for another ten minutes before the extra's casting director grabbed me along with the other extras and told us to follow him.

When I got to the set I was able to confirm what I had learned about being an extra. I am not supposed to go into detail about the scenes or even where we filmed. We did spend the next roughly 6 hours filming just a couple scenes a few blocks from our base camp. It was the same scenes over and over again shot from different angles. I wasn't selected to be in any of the first set of scenes. I actually didn't do anything for about 3 hours. I just chatted with other extras and observed what all was going on. I wasn't put to use until after Alethea had arrived and then it was pretty basic. I just walked back and forth on a sidewalk across the street from a crime scene. We pretty much did this until dinner which was around 4 pm. I was hungry by the time dinner was served since I had breakfast around 7 am with only a few snacks to hold me over.

The second half of the day was a little bit more interesting for me at least. First the dinner they served us was pretty good. I was advised we were eating better than normal extras since there weren't too many of us and we were eating with the crew including the stars of the show who were just a couple tables away. The humiliating part is that everyone other than the extras gets to eat first. It felt kind of awkward that everyone else was eating except us. About the time Alethea and I were finishing with our dinner the extra's casting director told us to change clothes for our evening scenes. I immediately stopped eating and went over to my suite case with the clothes in it and changed behind a sheet outside the main dining area. We waited a little bit, packed up our bags, and were shuttled over to another part of town where we filmed the evening scenes.

At the second location we spent the next 4 to 5 hours shooting a few scenes and doing quite a bit of waiting. I actually may have a shot of being on TV. In one scene me and another woman jog up to a point on an overpass where we stop and stare down at a dead body. If the camera pans up then it should include me in the shot along with some of the other extras. We filmed this scene multiple times. Alethea was positioned well off from the main scene. I am not sure she'll be in this scene but you never know what they might use. Alethea was used as a I believe a jogger in one more scene while I wasn't selected. Most of the rest of the evening was spent in the holding area or just off the set by a propane heater with the other extras. We wrapped around 9:45 pm and were checked out around 10 pm. Alethea and I then walked over to a nearby bus stop to catch a ride home. It turned out we were only a couple blocks away from the bus line that runs nearly in front of our apartment so it was pretty easy to get home.  We ending up getting in around 10:45 pm. It was a long day since I had left around 8:15 am that morning.

Overall I thought it was a very interesting experience. It went pretty much as I expected. It isn't really all that glamorous. What I enjoyed most was just watching how things are done. I was little frustrated at first with how the day started but I quickly adapted and had a good time. I enjoyed interacting with some of the other extras who live here in the Portland area. One of the most amusing things I saw was during breaks many of the police officer and crime scene investigator extras were taking pictures of each other in their costumes and posting them to Facebook. They looked pretty real in their costumes. Some people on the street came up to them asking questions as if they were real police officers. One other great thing about my experience was that I will get a paycheck out of it. I was paid by the hour from the time I showed up until the time we were checked out minus 30 minutes for lunch. I even got overtime pay after 8 hours. We get paid no matter how much they used us or not so I didn't really mind waiting around doing nothing but I would have liked to have had a better shot of being in an episode or just doing more in general. By the way the episode we might make an appearance in is number 18 and is due to air some time in May. I'll keep an eye out for it and post it on here and Facebook when it airs.

Alethea and I have communicated to the casting people that we would be interested in doing additional work at least through the end of March. I'll be glad to be an extra or a stand in. It is an interesting way to earn a little money while we look for more regular types of employment. We'll see if we get called back for any additional work. If anyone has any questions or comments feel free to post them on the blog or just email me. Take care!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Random Observations from Portland

This is going to be a different type of blog post than what I typically write. Normally, I sit down and make an outline. I then write about each topic or idea that I outlined. I usually have notes but sometimes I just recall it from memory. What I have done is make notes on thoughts or observations since my post on Friday, February 3rd. I decided to do this since I really don't have any exact adventures to describe like I normally do. Also, my goal is to write at least once a week which is something that I haven't been doing. This will depend if there is enough content that warrants a post or not. I plan writing on Wednesday's or Thursday's. Anyway, here it goes. Hope you all like it. Feel free to leave comments at the bottom of the post on the blog if you like this or not. These observations are random and not organized in any way and are not everything I have been thinking about or working on.

  • Alethea and scouted out places to watch the Super Bowl and discovered there weren't that many places within a relatively short distance that had it on. We ended up going to a place only two blocks away called  Bazi Bierbrasserie to watch it on a 114 in HD screen. Bazi is a Belgian beer bar. We enjoyed it & both rooted for the Giants.

    114 inch HD screen @ Bazi's we watched the Super Bowl on
  • When I updated my cell phone address to Portland, Oregon my cell phone bill went down 10% a month due to lower taxes. Oregon charges a small percentage based tax to fund their 911 call centers where Tennessee charges a flat fee at the state and county level that is more expensive.
  • Our apartment is in a Sprint cell phone dead zone. I'm primarily using my Google Voice number on my laptop to make phone calls.
  • I am somewhat acclimating to the cooler temperatures. Being outdoors everyday helps quite a bit.

    Alethea bundling up for our morning walk to the gym
  • I often thinking about how much easier it is to eat healthier in Portland versus many other places in the US. Lost of fresh, local, organic foods in grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Oregon has a 5 cent bottle deposit recycling system. Numerous studies have shown these programs are the most effective for improving recycling rates. One change since we were here last was that you can take any bottle to any bottle recycling center whereas when we were here last you could only take bottles back to a store that sold that type of bottle. 
  • It easy to recycle here. Portland has curb side pick up of glass, plastic, paper, and composting. Garbage is only picked up every other week. If you need to have it picked up sooner you have to call and pay ~$5 per bag. Portland's recycling rate is around 70%. As a comparison the last time I saw numbers for Nashville it was around 27%. The national average is around 30%. 90% of residents participate in some form of recycling.
  • On some days it can be quite windy – 20-30 mph the whole day long.
  • Our Fred Meyer has free paper shredding.
  • The computer monitor that we purchased lasted 5 minutes. It broke when I plugged in the 3.5 mm audio jack. We decided to return it to Target and just do without.
  • Been working out at our new gym for the last two weeks. Feeling pretty good. I like the new gym which is called The Green Microgym .
  • Due to the cooler weather I had Alethea cut my hair with a 2 blade instead of a 1 but that isn't close enough. I'm switching back to 1 blade with my next cut. 
  • Met one of the people we share our building with. His name is Dirk. The other person's name is Chris but we haven't seen or met him. I know he exists because he is responsible for taking out the trash and the containers usually get taken out and eventually put back up.
  • Ordered an external USB DVD player for my laptop using leftover money from an Amazon gift card. Not sure we'll keep it. Primary reason for getting it is because it is cheaper to rent movies from Redbox than download them from Apple or other places.
  • I love Alethea's cooking but not enjoying the time it takes to wash the dishes. We don't have a dish washer. Over/under for length that I can tolerate is 20 minutes. I usually listen to podcast while I wash.

    another one of Alethea's wonderfully prepare meals (lamb, beans, & greens)
  • Excited that I weighed in at the gym at 180lbs. I am still down 51 lbs from what I weighed in March of 2009 when I got serious about losing weight. 75% of people who lose more than 20 pounds regain it back within 12 months. Not me :-).
  • Enjoy listening to podcast when working out.
  • Bough a Groupon or maybe Living Social for a Zip Car membership. We have two months to activate it. If we stay in Portland we should hardly ever need a car. The membership can be transferred to other cities that have Zip Cars. 
  • Had a lot of problems with browsers on my laptop due to issues with Shockwave which allows you to play video. Can't wait until HTML 5 becomes more mainstream.
  • Took and passed the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) test which allows me to sell or serve alcohol in the state of Oregon. Primary reason for getting this is so we can get better volunteer jobs at beer festivals. License is valid for 5 years. Alethea and I both got an 98% on the test. I was hoping to beat her but didn't :-)
  • Took the online course and passed for my Oregon Food Handler's Card. It is mandatory that you have this if you handle food. We got this to help out at the festivals. I studied and read the prep guide and got 2 questions wrong. Alethea didn't study and only got 1 question wrong :-(. This is good for 3 years.
  • In order to keep track of Happy Hour deals for food and drink we've created a shared calendar on Google. Happy hour is a big deal around here. Nearly every restaurant has some type of deal. We are only tracking the best ones and not everyone.
  • Spent a couple hours and cleaned up all my old Twitter & Facebook lists.
  • Checked out and read in one day The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. Good book. He actually lives here in Portland. His blog is interesting. He is trying to travel to every country in the world before he is 35. The last country he will go to is Norway which I've already been too. Chris's blog can be found here.
  • Toured a couple distilleries one day and bought some vodka called Portland Vodka 88 and a coffee liquor from House Spirits. Both are made here in Portland. Portland is getting noticed for its Vodka making abilities.
  • Spent some time researching living in Vancouver, Washington which is just across the river from Portland. Washington has no income tax and Portland has the 5th highest state income tax in the US but no sales tax. Public transportation via bus reaches Portland from Vancouver. Housing is also cheaper there too.
  • Went on an adventure one day to three grocery stores to research the price of bananas before buying some.
  • Saw a woman walking a cat on a leash. I didn't have my cell phone or camera out and couldn't get a picture. The only other time I have seen this before was in Oslo, Norway.
  • Alethea was selected to be an extra on the NBC show Grimm. She wrote about it in this post on her blog. I thought it was way cool. 
  • Valentine's Day dinner was at the Cha Cha Cha Mexican Restaurant during happy hour that was only a couple blocks away. Also, went to a local bar named Proof that had pints for only $2.75.

    Valentine's Day pint @ Proof, only $2.75!
  • Still trying to get our health insurance transferred to Oregon. Blue Cross Blue Shield of TN is dragging their feet.
  • Researched getting an Oregon's driver's license. I have all the documentation and I don't have to take the driver's test just the written knowledge test. Total cost is $65 cash.
  • Do not miss not having a TV. We stream TV shows and sporting events to our laptops.
  • Was nominate for Portland's Yelp Elite team which could include some freebies at various events over the course of a year. Alethea had Elite statue in 2010 (& technically 2011). We were able to go to some events only for Elite Yelpers. 
  • Signed up for Grammar Girl's weekly podcast to help improve my grammar.
That's all for now. Hope to post again in another week or so!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting Started in Portland

It has been a little over a week since we have moved to Portland so it is time for a blog post! Our time has pretty much been spent settling in to our apartment and doing some exploring. We have also incorporated visits to some of our favorite places. I'll go over what we have been up to and what some of my initial impressions have been.

1908 Triplex in Portland where we are renting a room
First, I'll highlight the move experience. Although you can call it a move it actually felt more like one of our travel adventures. We decided that we were just going to fly out to Portland with checked luggage and move any remaining items at a later date.  We each took three pieces of checked baggage plus two carry ons. Most of what we brought in our checked baggage were clothes. We brought other miscellaneous items such as bacon in one of my carry ons :-). Alethea carried her personal safe as a carry on which I thought was hilarious. She surprisingly made it through security without even having to open it although it was scanned twice at the security checkpoint in Nashville. She ended up gate checking one of her carry on bags so she could carry the safe all the way to Portland. I didn't get questions for the bacon or anything else.

Alethea carrying her safe through the DFW airport
In all our day of traveling was pretty smooth. We spent the morning running a few last minute errands. To get to the airport we had to get a ride from Alethea's neighbors since they had a van that could hold all of our luggage! Our day of traveling consisted of two flights on American Airlines. Our first flight of the day was a 2 hour flight from Nashville to Dallas-Ft. Worth that left at 2 pm. The flight was a little choppy but uneventful. We had about a 90 minute layover in DFW before our flight to Portland. Our flight to Portland was just over 4 hours. Best part about our flights is that we were in business class and we were actually served a full meal on our DFW to Portland flight. We also enjoyed the free alcohol too. It was the first time I have flown first class on American. I do like flying in first class although it rarely happens and I don't think the extra cost justifies it. Once we arrived in Portland we had to rent a couple of carts for $4 a piece to take our luggage out to the taxi queue where we boarded a taxi van. After a 10 mile $42 (with tip) taxi ride with a few twists and turns, we arrived at a our apartment. We met the daughter of the owner of our place who lives a close by. She showed us around and took our rent check.

me enjoying a meal in 1st class on our flight from DFW to PDX
As I mentioned earlier we've spent most of our time getting settled with a little bit of exploring. I'll now touch on some of things I have liked so far. The thing I like the most so far is our apartment which is a good thing since we have committed to staying here for at least 3 months. Our apartment is a triplex house built in 1908. The owner estimated the size of our unit at a little over 825 square feet. I think it may be a little bigger. We have a bedroom, living room, kitchen, kitchen area, office, bathroom with tub, and a basement with our own washer and dryer. I am relieved that it has turned out to be a place we both like since we rented it sight unseen. We viewed pictures online and Alethea spoke to the owner at length.

pic of our living room 
In addition to our apartment I really like the neighborhood we are in. It is called the Hawthorne area. We are within walking distance of two grocery stores (the 3rd, a Safeway is being remodeled). There are several restaurants, shops, a library, & a main bus line all withing a very short distance. Our place is also pretty quiet. We are located a couple blocks off the main road in a residential neighborhood.

The weather has been another aspect that I am enjoying. The Pacific Northwest has a reputation for being gray and rainy but since we've been here it has been mostly sunny with highs in the low 50's. It has only rained a couple times. The locals have been a little surprised with a few telling us that it has been unusually sunny.

Alethea walking back in the sunny Portland January weather 
I am also enjoying the public transportation which was to be expected. We've covered quite a bit of ground in our short time here. We've made a couple trips to Target and Bed, Bath, and Beyond to purchase some things for our apartment since that is where we have a few gift cards. It is nice to be able to get around without the use and expense of a car. Hopefully, we'll keep this up for awhile. 

I guess the final thing I'll mention as a favorite is all the excellent beer. Portland now has about 40 micro brews to chose from. The local super markets have so many choices of beer that it can be overwhelming at times. We have already visited some of our favorites bars from our previous stay in Portland. My favorite so far was a visit to Serratto's in NW Portland. They have by far the best hamburger in Portland that I have tasted to date.

The Painted Hills Burger from Serratto's - best in Portland
I was actually going to include a section here about some of things that I am not liking since we have arrived in Portland but I cannot really think of anything worth mentioning. Alethea has been a little banged up and under the weather which isn't fun. We have decided to purchase a few things for our apartment that I wasn't necessarily expecting but that is more about tailoring our apartment to our tastes. So far we purchased a coffee maker which I know is ironic since I recently sold one and Alethea gave one away shortly before we moved. Our apartment came with a Melitta type pot but this is something we're not accustom to. We also purchased a space heater for our room. Our room is a little cold but small. We decided to purchase a space heater for ~$30  a Target versus cranking the heat up to heat the entire apartment. It seems more efficient this way. Our room is very toasty now. We also purchased a computer monitor. Why a computer monitor? Our apartment didn't come with a TV which we knew and are completely fine with. However, if we want to stream something on TV or watch a movie together we thought it would be best if we got a monitor. One other last item we purchased was a microwave. We bought a small 700 watt used one for $20 on Craigslist from someone who lives just a few blocks away. We have a real nice gas stove for cooking but a microwave is just too handy for heating up leftovers and popcorn!

only half of the beer selection @ the local Fred Meyer's - they also sell wine at this location which is illegal in TN
That pretty wraps up this post. I think we are pretty much settled in. Before too long we will shift in to job searching mode which will probably end up being a series of blog posts. I'm grateful that we decided to save up or at least put enough money aside so we didn't have to rush to get a job after our travels. It was part of our RTW trip planning to do this. It makes things a lot less stressful. I'm looking forward to getting back to work and getting into somewhat of a routine. Speaking of a routine Alethea and I joined a gym today. Our membership actually starts Monday the 6th. Figured I would wait until after football season is over with. The gym is about a half mile from our apartment. One cool thing about it is that we can earn gift cards by working out on treadmills and elliptical machines that produce electricity and feed it back to the grid. I believe their website says they generate over 30% of their electricity this way. Should be fun! Hope everyone is doing well.

Link to a temporary album I created that has a few interior picks of our apartment: