' ' Cinema Romantico: Shout-Out to the Extra: Moving Target Version

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Shout-Out to the Extra: Moving Target Version

Shout-Out to the Extra is a sporadic series in which Cinema Romantico shouts out the extras, the background actors, the bit part players, the almost out of your sight line performers who expertly round out our movies with epic blink & you’ll miss it care.

Last July I spent a throwback weekend hanging out with my friends Daryl and Rory, and I say throwback because it was the first time in eons when we got together to simply sit down, watch a bad movie and crack wise over a couple cold ones. The DVD Daryl brought along just for the occasion was not of some landmark movie, or semi-landmark movie, or cult classic. No, that it was a DVD as opposed to a blu ray should tell you everything; it was 1995’s “Moving Target”, a title straight from the rejected pile of Steven Seagal movie titles, starring Michael Dudikoff as a bounty hunter who runs afoul of the Russian mob and gains the aid and trust of Detective Don Racine, played by Billy Dee Williams who is immortal but was nevertheless well into the melancholy point of his career where every character he played was affixed with a rank – Detective, Admiral, Captain, Commander, etc.

Per custom, the point wasn’t to watch so much as watch and comment, kind of a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” situation, which is not a program I have ever really ever enjoyed all that much, because riffing is funny when you’re part of it but not so much when you’re outside of it, kind of a Talking About My Fantasy Football League situation. And that is why I will refrain from submitting any of the inside jokes the three of us cultivated that afternoon. Still, from this viewing there emerged something beyond inside baseball, something that could provide enlightenment into the mind of the extra, where the job to act like you are in the world the movie is presenting and not in a movie and on camera is often more difficult than you might presume, and can be futzed up in post-production by an editor who is likely overworked and underpaid and in rush and not in tune to every little detail outside of the foreground.

There is a scene midway through “Moving Target”, or maybe the scene was early on, or perhaps it was quite late, I have no idea, in which Michael Dudikoff’s character is purchasing a hot dog from a street vendor. The camera is street level, appearing to peer through the crowd, almost as if it was captured on the fly, and perhaps it was, but also trying to lend this spotty little thriller some authenticity. Alas, that authenticity goes up in flames when the woman playing the hot dog vendor looks right into the camera.

What’s most funny is that you can sense this coming. All three of us, Daryl, Rory, me, were on the edges of our seats, so to speak, waiting for it to happen because the extra, as you can sort of see, is playing the moment with this small smile, which does not suggest overtaxed street vendor to me so much as person too excited to be in a crappy movie. In that smile you can sense the internal strife in not wanting to look, in knowing she shouldn’t look, but being overcome with the unstoppable desire to look anyway.

It’s hard being an extra. You’re on set all day, often with scads of humdrum downtime while the camera is set and the star is primped, stuck with meager rations from the craft table, and continually forced to act in the moment when you generally know that what shows up onscreen will, more or less, or completely, remove you from that moment. And so for these extras to stay in the moment, take after take after take after take after take after take, is not something that we should take lightly, though we often do, and we often never realize how lightly we take until a comical moment like “Moving Target”.

Pour one out for the extra...no, no, no, no, no. Pour one out for all the extras, all the ones who didn’t look. Respect.

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