April 4, 1998
Hello. My name is Joe. . .
On this particular Saturday I was riding my bike past the Marina Green in the Marina District of San Francisco when I came across some on-location filming in progress. At first I thought it might be for Nash Bridges, but since filming for the season was probably done, I figured it must be the same project that they'd been shooting at Washington Square and other places near my home. That project is called Ed TV and its main star is Matthew McConaughey. The film's other stars apparently include Elizabeth Hurley, Woody Harrelson and Ellen DeGeneres. The director is Ron Howard. I'm told that only Ron, Matthew and Liz are present for the scene.
OK, so I've just reached the end of this long stretch of grassy ground on which they're filming and just as I stop at the corner to observe the goings-on, a guy with a walkie-talkie asks me if I'm background. I assume he means "an extra", so, being as honest as I am, I tell him I'm just passing through. So I ride to the next corner at the end of the Green, where I find a couple of women also on bicycles. To me it looks as if they're waiting for their cue, at which time they would spring into action being extras.
At this point my curiosity overpowers my shyness and I ask the blonde whether she's background. She says she is. So we get to talking and she (I never got her name, nor she mine) tells me about her experiences as an extra. She says she's worked on several productions, but she's only seen herself in the film The Rainmaker. And a polaroid of her appeared in an episode of Nash Bridges.
By now I know that she's waiting for her cue to ride her bike for a short distance until the director, Ron Howard, yells Cut! Thus far, the experience is unusual for me, but not entirely weird. The weird part comes after I ask her whether it would be a good idea for me to join her as she waits and then ride with her. She offers no objection, so I make the bold decision to do it. She even tells me I'm dressed perfectly for it because my clothes aren't brightly colored. My only worry is that the guy whom I told that I was just passing through will see me and come after me. Luckily he never says anything.
OK, so she watches another extra for her cue because Ron Howard is too far away to be seen and suddenly it's time to ride. We ride slowly until the director's Cut! and Background reset! There are people standing at the edge of the grass, watching the action. It turns out they're mostly just passers-by like myself, but because we're all so far from the camera, it doesn't even matter.
I should briefly explain the scene being filmed: Matthew McConaughey is a guy who, for some reason, has a video camera following him around. He must be Ed (Ed TV). Ed's running to catch a football someone's thrown (a stagehand on a ladder) and ends up running into Ms. Hurley. The fact that Ed's a TV star explains why it's OK for the crowd to stand looking from a distance.
Cut to several takes later. . .
That part of this filming day is apparently done. My fellow extra (I didn't get paid!) says the cast and crew will now relocate to a nearby school where she'll be joined by about 150 additional extras for another scene. I guess it's about 5:30 in the afternoon now. During the break I decide to race home to grab my 35mm camera in case a photo opportunity comes up. (Luckily I remembered to take my bike with me.)
Cut to me returning with my camera. . .
I'm loitering on the Marina Green set, hoping Matthew or Liz or Ron will still be around. Just when I think I'm out of luck, Ron Howard walks out to the food tent. I roll my bike up to him and ask if I could take just one picture. He kindly says "sure" and poses with a smile while I snap the photo, still astride my bicycle.
Satisfied that I wouldn't go home empty-handed, I figured I'd finish my bike ride and return home.
I wasn't going to press my luck as an extra at the other location, was I? Of course not.
But I soon decided to go and get a look. It was only a couple of blocks from the last location, anyway.
And I did have my camera with me.
But how much film remained?
So, did I get any decent pictures of Matthew McConaughey? Of Elizabeth Hurley?
Did I at least get a close-up look at any fabulous stars?