I arrive early. I’m excited, I can’t help it. I waited in my car for as long as I could, but I can’t wait any longer to step into my favorite world away from home.
I walk into the gated fence. I’m quickly greeted by Ted, 2nd AD. He always looks and sounds happy to be there. A hand shake, and he sends me into the building.
I walk past racks and racks of clothing. Hangers, jackets, shirts, dresses. Hello’s and hugs from cast and crew as I pass through. I love these people.
The energy is palpable and positive. Like everyone knows how awesome this is, and everyone’s glad to be here.
Mr. Connor Trinneer sits on a black couch, eyes buried in his script, mumbling in ancient Egyptian. Half dressed in his costume, the other half in street clothes. I can’t help but smile.
Nearby voices discuss contracts, availabilities, times, and contingencies. Always polite, always professional.
Ellie Gall walks in. She’s smiling ear to ear, carrying Tupperware, a shoulder bag, and a script. She greets me with a hug.
“Connor, they’re ready for you in makeup,” He stands with his script, glancing at me with a smile, still speaking Egyptian.
It’s my turn to get dressed. Pants, shirt, boots, belt. Laura ties a scarf around my neck as Kit checks the rest of my gear. I wish I had waited longer to put on my boots — mental note for tomorrow.
Tia takes me to Stacy to have my hair done. Connor sits in the makeup chair, back to me, quietly undergoing his transformation.
I sit in a director’s chair like you see in the movies. Stacy puts so much product in my hair I know I’ll be able to smell it for hours. It’s my fault. I have floppy hair. And it’s a good smell.
“Can we get first team in for blocking rehearsal?”
Tia escorts us onto set — myself with Aylam, Sarah, Justin, and Connor. We walk through winding passageways; people everywhere milling past with headsets and walkie-talkies.
As we approach the set, hard concrete gives way to gritty sand as we truly walk into another world.
On set, the air is popping. There’s an odd reverence. The cast scans the new set, almost speechless.
The Stargate, rises above us, majestic. Magical. I know it’s just a prop, but somehow it’s also not just a prop.
It’s hard not to have the occasional ‘Galaxy Quest’ moment of “what if this is all real?” And for glimpses, when the camera’s rolling, even though I know I’m an actor, and it’s a movie set, it is real.
There are dozens of people around, each focused on a different essential job. Props, wardrobe, production design, script, camera, hair, lighting, grips, electrical… all crammed into a small shooting area.
We rehearse the scene with director, Mercedes, and director of Photography, Nico. Matt Miller, producer, is always nearby, ready to lend a hand or weigh in.
We rehearse some more.
The actors take this very seriously. Setting blocking movements, and experimenting with different choices.
There’s the occasional joke that shifts the mood back to reality for a short time. These people are funny! (More on these hilariously amazing people in a later post).
There are questions. Answers given. Adjustments made; and improvements I know the fans will appreciate.
Rehearsal is finished. We’re sent back to wardrobe, hair and makeup, while the rest of the crew prepares everything else to shoot.
I grab a package of almonds from craft services. I’m trying to avoid sugar, and these things are good!
I arrive back at the holding area. The cast chats. About the scene, other projects, our families.
I notice now, Connor Trinneer has been fully transformed into an older man. Mustache, spectacles, grey hair. The difference is striking.
In fact, my whole team looks like they’ve been taken back to the late 1930’s. Hair, makeup, clothing — everything screams that we’ve been taken back in time. It’s made even clearer by our sharp visual contrast to the crew, with their jeans, sneaks, cell phones, and robot cameras.
Tia returns to bring us back to set. Everything is ready.
There’s a question about the timeline. The writer and producer discuss in hushed tones with the director. The question is resolved, timeline intact. Everyone just a little closer to the magic.
“Last looks” is called, and hair, wardrobe and makeup people run on to set, to quickly make sure everyone is camera ready for the shot. They move quickly, knowing the camera is almost ready to roll.
Powder and sometimes dirt is applied, hair pushed out of faces, and shirts tugged and straightened. And then they move off almost as quickly as they arrived. Backing up as they go, making sure everything looks right even from a distance.
Aylam makes a joke, that only I could possibly hear. I laugh quietly and smile as I make sure for the 3rd time my prop is in place.
Voices chatter, but quietly. Intent.
Then… “Picture’s up!” And almost like the ringing of a bell, the loose chaos is quickly replaced with disciplined order.
The response comes quickly: “Rolling!”
A beep and response, “A cam set!”
Another second and, “B cam set!”
The slate snaps in front of the camera, marking the scene and take for the editor.
Then there is a moment. A brief pause. Complete stillness. I can’t describe it. Everyone, 40 – 50 people waiting in excitement and anticipation to hear that word. That magic word…
And we’re off. Suddenly we’re completely immersed in the world. The Stargate is real. The timeline is real. The characters are real.
The actors and their imagination lead the way, but I can tell that sometimes the crew is drawn in too. On that beautiful set, it seems too hard not to believe.
And then before you know it…
The crew moves again, making adjustments, and we repeat the whole process until we hear…
“Golden. Moving on.”
Hours later, the day is over.
I change out of my boots and shirt, back into my jeans and t-shirt. Put my keys in my pocket.
I say my goodbyes. I love these people. I love working here.
I’m tired, and ready for sleep, but also sad to go. I sign out with Ted, pat him on the back, and walk to my car in the dark of the California night.
And I’m so glad knowing: I’ll be back tomorrow.
Lincoln Hoppe is an actor, writer, and filmmaker in Los Angeles, CA.
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