What if Japan and Germany won WWII?What if Japan and Germany won WWII?
Trailers for the stars to change clothes and chill in. They also had trailers on set. Wardrobe was several miles from the sets.Trailers for the stars to change clothes and chill in. They also had trailers on set. Wardrobe was several miles from the sets.
I wish.I wish.
Arrival at WardrobeArrival at Wardrobe
Every extra received expert selection and fitting.Every extra received expert selection and fitting.
Tent after tent of wardrobe. And lots of trucks loaded with more.Tent after tent of wardrobe. And lots of trucks loaded with more.
Ross is coming to get me!Ross is coming to get me!
Ross mugging for the cameraRoss mugging for the camera
My friend, Ross, filled me in on what to expect that day.My friend, Ross, filled me in on what to expect that day.
Yours truly, ready for a 1962 dive bar.Yours truly, ready for a 1962 dive bar.
Very cool. I expected to see JFK being shuttled in this.Very cool. I expected to see JFK being shuttled in this.
TV and everything!TV and everything!
Amazing!Amazing!
An interesting street character wandered near us at craft service.An interesting street character wandered near us at craft service.
Security is closing in. Nice job with the finger on the lens Phil.Security is closing in. Nice job with the finger on the lens Phil.
  • What if Japan and Germany won WWII?
  • Trailers for the stars to change clothes and chill in. They also had trailers on set. Wardrobe was several miles from the sets.
  • I wish.
  • Arrival at Wardrobe
  • Every extra received expert selection and fitting.
  • Tent after tent of wardrobe. And lots of trucks loaded with more.
  • Ross is coming to get me!
  • Ross mugging for the camera
  • My friend, Ross, filled me in on what to expect that day.
  • Yours truly, ready for a 1962 dive bar.
  • Very cool. I expected to see JFK being shuttled in this.
  • TV and everything!
  • Amazing!
  • An interesting street character wandered near us at craft service.
  • Security is closing in. Nice job with the finger on the lens Phil.

Yesterday I got to do something I haven’t done… in almost forever! I went in front of the camera as a background extra for a TV Pilot being shot right now in and around Seattle. The Pilot is an Amazon.com venture and they are pouring big money into it. What’s “‘it” you ask? I’ll tell you. It’s an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Man In The High Castle—a story about daily life under totalitarian Fascist imperialism, set in 1962, fifteen years after the end of a longer Second World War (1939–1947 in this version). The victorious Axis Powers—Imperial Japan, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany—are conducting intrigues against each other in North America, specifically in the former U.S.

The scene I was in, shot at the Quarter Lounge, 909 Madison Street on Capital Hill, was all decked out with images of Japanese baseball heroes. I was with a group of about 10 other actors filling out the background of the bar, decked out in perfect period costume. They gave us clove cigarettes and a glass of beer they told us not to drink. The clove cigarettes burnt through fast, in about three puffs, so we had to keep getting fresh ones from the prop department as we went through take after take.

In the scene I appear in (at least I hope I appear), DJ Qualls, Alexa Davelos, and Rupert Evans appeared. They each have some pretty cool credits. But the only one I recognized in the moment was DJ Qualls. I loved him in The New Guy (2002) and in particular, his line as “Taz ‘Rat’ Finch” from The Core (2003) is a gem, “You want me to hack the planet? He wants me to hack the planet… Ok, *if* I decide to do this, I’ll need an unlimited supply of Xena tapes and Hotpockets.” Yup, I was workin’ with that guy.

But wait, the connections get even cooler. The production is connected to Ridley Scott’s company, Scott Free Productions. Ridley is often my favorite director and always in my top ten.

What fun!

The production is seriously well heeled (lots of money flowing!). The massive wardrobe trucks and tents were the first clue. Finally arriving on set after driving by huge quantities of grip and light trucks, walking through security and the crew, there had to be 100 people in the crew. They were shooting on RED Epic cameras, utilizing two at a time, at different angels and focal lengths for each scene. The craft and skill involved was staggering. But it all came down to people management. It was the second day of shooting and they really hadn’t found their groove as a team, yet. When the director finally got fed up with waiting for the crew to give him the set, he took it over and then asserted his primacy by asking everyone to stop talking. He was very specific, shouting that he didn’t say be quiet, he said stop talking. He wanted to be able to talk with his actors and he couldn’t with everyone jammed into the close, small space of this tiny bar. He didn’t mind if people made the noise of their work, he just didn’t want anymore talking. He had to do that a couple more times over the hours of shooting that scene.

It was a blast. Everyone was helpful and into it. And focused. Hanging around the set was supposedly Philip K. Dick’s daughter and other high-powered producers and Amazon people, etc. At lunch, we got a clue about the pecking order of background extras, one of handlers told us that we needed to wait until the crew went through the line before we did. It was just protocol, because there were massive amounts of food. Massive amounts of delicious chicken, beef, salmon, side dishes, salads, desserts… on and on and more after that. The buffet line ran on forever in a garage directly west of the Paramount Theater. While we were eating, the cast for the next scene came in for lunch, about 150 to 200 extras in perfect costume for a night on the town in 1962 and every so often a man in Nazi SS uniform. They were evidently shooting exteriors and interiors at the Paramount, the marquee displayed a period movie title.

After lunch, they released us. We had worked a little over 8 hours.

I can’t wait to see the finished show. It will premiere in 2015 and if viewers of Amazon Prime vote for it, they will make more episodes. If I’m in it at all, my shoulder and/or chin will be seen behind Rupert, Alexa and DJ as they talk at the bar. Here’s some more info for the curious.

IMDB Page for The Man In The High Castle
IMDB page for the director, David Semel
IMDB page for the 2nd assistant director (my boss), Gretchen Oyster
Map for cast and crew for that day of shooting.

Info they sent us to prep with:

MIHC PILOT – BACKGROUND STYLE SHEET

Overview: Based on a Phillip K. Dick novel, our story is an alternative history of American life if Germany and Japan had won WW2. The year is 1962 and the United States are occupied on the east coast by the Nazis and on the west coast by the Japanese. There is a neutral, unoccupied region in the center of the country. The Germans are the more powerful economic force, with more technological advances; the Japanese part of the country is less advanced; the Neutral Zone is the wild west, populated by all the misfits who have escaped the occupied zones. The German, Japanese and Neutral Zones all have a color palette, style and vibe.

Palette, Style and Vibe: San Francisco: Greens, browns, neutrals, and more earthy tones. Jade green and faded aqua are the key pacific tones. The styles are more casual and slightly more dated. Some traditional Japanese influences are seen in the locals’ clothes, with some Background Extras in everyday kimonos. More of a 1950s feel, with some older folks in 1940s clothing; only a smattering of higher class Japanese elite in early 1960s looks.

Key Points:

  • Our episode is set in September, so light layers and hats can be appropriate especially in the night scenes: trench coats, car coats, windbreakers, and sweaters, but no heavy winter coats, hats or and sweaters.
  • Our leads will all be in vintage and vintage-inspired clothing. If Background Extra has period appropriate clothing (vintage pieces from the 1940’s-1960’s), they are encouraged to bring them to fittings.
  • All Background Extras are responsible for bringing their own socks, undershirts (men) and pantyhose (women).
  • All Background Extras are also responsible for bringing their own warming coats, hats, and comfort gear.
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