This is the tale of our life just before COVID-19 started calling all of the shots and the carpet was swept out from under our feet.
Arriving in L.A., we planned to be staying for a couple of months — longer than usual when we come around. So we decided to renew our registration at Central Casting (Feb. 11) and try to get some film work as extras or “background” actors. Dennis did some film work in Atlanta during November, December and January (there’s also a Central office there), but since he was switching his registration to Burbank, he had to go through the process all over again, and fill out paperwork with about 75 other people. Kimberly, being SAG (union) went on a different day.
And we did indeed get work right away.
Kimberly first went to work at Disney Studios, for the TV show “Mixed-ish”, playing a homeless person. Then she was booked on the TV series “911”, so we drove to Fillmore, about 30 miles north of L.A. She worked on that series for 3 nights; the second time, when we drove by the set, a trailer park, we saw several boxcars from a crane suspended on a train. The scene involved a train wreck running through a trailer park. (There is always a strict policy in the film business against taking photos on set, but we were able to get a couple of shots from the road; and now that the episode has aired, we can show them.)
The third night seemed especially, excruciatingly long to her, because she was in a hurry to get out of there. Why? So she could get to another set to work on another project!
She booked a gig for the next day not knowing what the call time would be (but hoping it would be later in the day so she could catch a few winks) and not knowing when the “911” shoot would wrap (but hoping it would be reasonably early, so she could catch a few winks).
As it turned out, however, she got the worst of both worlds. She was one of the last extras dismissed from the set of “911” — along with another woman who also was scheduled on the same gig with her the next day. They did call Central Casting in the middle of the night (there is always someone on duty there) and explain the situation, so everyone involved at least had a heads up.
The wrap time was at 5:42 a.m. Then she was supposed to be at Universal Studios, about 30 miles away, for a 6:30 a.m. call time. Meanwhile, morning commute traffic had begun to build; and since we drive an RV, we can’t exactly hit breakneck speeds. In short, we were going to be a bit late.
She ended up reporting to the set, which was for the TV series “Superstore”, at 7:00. But everyone was really cool about her half-hour tardiness. In fact, they were really cool about everything. It’s a wonderful set to work on, and the assistants even make an effort to learn everyone’s name. Which is unheard of when you don’t have your own dressing room own set in Hollywood. And what did she do on this set? She spent a great deal of the time running around and doing yoga!
Finally, Dennis was called to work too. He was booked one day on the TV series “SWAT”, working in Santa Clarita. And then it was his turn to work on “Superstore”. He was not booked originally, but placed his name on the overnight wait list, which we’ve done a few times before. This time, Central called at 4:30 a.m., and asked if he could replace someone who was cancelling.
Again, there was a 6:30 call time. But once he got to the gate of Universal Studios, he had to wait for nearly an hour, because security didn’t have his name on the list. It took two 2 phone calls to Central Casting before he finally was admitted into the pearly gates.
On another day, or half a day, he worked on the set of the TV series “NCIS”, which shot in San Pedro. The set was an old industrial building that was supposed to be the headquarters of a taxi cab company in Washington, DC. And he was one of the cab drivers, out washing his dirty cab for a scene that involved the good guys chasing after the bad guy in cars with squealing tires and fancy stunt driving.
On another day, he had a costume fitting for a TV series the next week, “For All Mankind”. He was to play an Air Force officer at a funeral. So in addition to having his beard shaved off, he got his hair truncated really short.
But this shoot never happened because of the pandemic, which shut down the film industry and everything else (Friday, March 13th). He did do one more shoot just before all of Hollywood shut down, for the series “All Rise”, on the Warner Brothers lot (March 10). But they were very cautious, if not paranoid, on the set — everyone sat 6 feet apart in the waiting area, and the assistants came around with hand sanitizer on the set. And that was just about the last time anybody shot anything.
After hanging around L.A, for a few days, having all of our February and March Act!vated Story Theatre shows cancelled and seeing that nothing was going to be happening anytime soon, on March 25th we decided to make the best use of our time. So we pulled up stakes and headed northward to Reno, where we burrowed in to wait out the storm. And catch up on a few things like downsizing our storage unit and switching to another location, which we’d been wanting to do for years. We just never had the time…until now. Now we had nothing but time on our hands and no clue as to how we were going to earn any money.
And now we wait for the plague to pass. This supposedly visionary year 2020 has really blindsided us like everyone else, and is already, though only half gone, the strangest year in recent memory. Just about every rug that we normally stand on has been pulled from under our feet, and we’ve had to come up with innovative ways to adapt; this includes, for example, putting together a virtual program to replace our summer performances that have been canceled. And we’ve had to learn to take all kinds of precautions to avoid spreading the virus — especially since so many other people do not. We’re eager to see what the second half of the year brings.
March 20th – 28th – Photos from our trip from Los Angeles to Reno just as everything started shutting down due to COVID-19. Bottom left: social distancing visit with Kimberly’s birth mother.