Monday, November 22, 2010

Filming Again

Funny that 2 days after I started working at the factory I got a call from my casting agent telling me there was work on a movie coming up soon. To explain this one I have to go way back to when I first arrived in Brisbane months ago. Bre had been here ahead of me of course and so knew a casting agent that she'd registered with trying to get any kind of additional filming work she could while here. I went and had a talk with her and also sort of signed up. I had no hopes of getting any work though really. In Australia the casting agents do the usual measurements and photo or video auditioning for their records but then want you to pay a bunch of money for a membership to have priority access to the jobs. The amount varies with each agency but runs in the couple hundred dollar range which to me was not worth the risk of paying as I had no idea how long I'd be around. So, like I said, not a lot of hope of actually getting a job as I'd said I'd take my chances on the outside list and not pay.
So it was a bit of a surprise and shock when I got a call for a job several months later when I'd all but forgotten I'd even signed up for such work.
It turned out that some Spielberg-produced movie (or possibly tv series?) called Terra Nova was just about to start filming in the area and needed extras. Sweet! I actually can't tell you much about the show as I have no idea myself really. I did not recognize the actor we were working with but I think it won't be shown until 2012 anyway because it is just starting a 6 month filming period.
It was a one-day shoot and would be the first time I'd been involved in any filming since Egypt. So it was with a mix of excitement and curiosity that I showed up on a Thurday afternoon at 3:30pm to be taken to the filming location. Some things were immediately familiar to Egypt, the night filming, the long waits, that barely contained chaos of everyone running around prepping sets and people and the not knowing what exactly was happening next. Unsurprisingly there were a few positive differences too namely food, a lack of fighting and some degree of coordination.
I was one of about 100 extras, chosen because I look thin and scruffy in order to be a homeless/”down and out” person 150 years in the future. We were costumed right away and everyone had been told to not shave and bring the scruffiest clothes they had. Wow, perfect role for me! I wouldn't even have to act, haha. Actually, I'd thrown away my worst stuff not long ago so I was kind disappointed that I had to use some of the costume pieces that they gave us. Then make-uped to get dirty and sit around for the next 8 hours waiting to get on set. Anyone walking by that would've looked up to our waiting area would've believed we were having some sort of hobo convention complete with kids and everything. Some of the extras looked fantastic. There are all sorts of people that do this kind of work and some really looked perfect. Fortunately I knew what to expect with the long waits so I'd brought a book and just quietly sat off to the side and ended up reading 2/3 of it that night. I honestly don't care at all if I get on screen or not (and I'm sure I won't really be visible) but some people take the whole thing so seriously. I just hoped for continual delays so I could continue reading and getting paid for it. I am still not sure exactly what our salary is but it's about $20/hr or so less taxes and the agents' cut.
As it was we didn't get on set until about midnight, we did a bunch of scenes (I got to be on a bus, waiting in a soup kitchen line, and warming myself by a drum fire) and the whole shoot wrapped up at 4am. I am still blown away by how much money, manpower and effort is put into getting a few seconds of film. If even a fraction were thrown into humanitarian efforts.....
I would've posted this a little sooner but the truth was a few days later I was called back to be told that they wanted the extras that had been on the bus (about 25 of us) to come to another shoot a week later for continuity. At this point I was working a lot at the factory but figured since I was only allowed to work 5-6 days a week anyway I might as well do it and call that my day off. This time the shoot was on a friday in Gold Coast so I finished working a night shift at the factory, got a couple hour nap and then jumped on the train (with my next book) to get to this next shoot. It was on a much bigger scale and I was lucky to get the work as a continuity case because I normally wouldn't be there. There were upwards of 500 extras this time and we were filming in the halls of the Robina Stadium. I arrived at 6pm and we only had to sit around for a couple of hours before getting called on set. At first I was a little worried because there were not many of us continuity guys so costuming didn't at first have our stuff from the week before. We were also used for other roles in deep background as onlookers for other scenes but really didn't do much and I got to talking with a few other people to kill the time. I am not sure how many scenes were shot because I wasn't really part of many of them and they were doing quite a few takes while we tried to stay warm in front of the huge lights they were using but our continuity scene was the last one of the night after they let all the other extras go home at 4am. We were again on the bus and finally finished at 6am, after another 12 hour night. It's not hard to look like a dejected, zoned-out homeless guy on a bus when you are completely exhausted in reality. I have no idea if I'll get called again for more filming work but it is kind of fun and interesting in a way, if you don't buy into the self-importance of the industry and it's people, so I hope something else comes up down the line.
I was very kindly driven back to my hostel by one of my fellow extras, jumped in bed for another couple hour nap before heading off to work in the factory again. I have had such an irregular schedule, working night shift all week and sporadic shifts times before that that I've managed to work 10 days in a row and am not really sure what day it is or what the rest of the inside of the hostel looks like. I had a day off finally on Sunday (not that I really want any time off, work is better than my domestic situation in any case) and it was literally only Sunday off. I worked until 11pm on Saturday and started again at 1am on Monday and they still tried to call me in on Sunday but because of the mandatory 10 hour break between shifts I was unable to do it. I hope this pace continues until I leave....
I've been in the hostel for a few days, in a 10-bed dorm room, and can honestly say it's a lot harder to sleep with all the comings and goings so I need to figure something out before I get too exhausted. This hostel is the cheapest in town and the closest to work, only 5 minutes walk or so but the quality is noticeably less than the one I was at before, in terms of space, kitchen and bathrooms anyway. Milk seems to be the #1 stolen item as well in Brisbane since mine almost immediately disappeared and it was rare for me to ever finish one I'd bought at the last hostel too. I think I will start using only half of mine and then sabotaging it for the thieves that want to finish it off....

New Residence

It seems my attempts at domestic normality have failed miserably. I lasted one week and got myself kicked out of my residence by my crazy landlady. To be fair, it's not my fault but it may be a sign that I am not yet meant to truly settle and should continue to live in hostels, hotels and beach-side bungalows... Or maybe it's the family curse of horrible landlords continued in the next generation. Either way, I am no longer in my little garage room and I'm not actually very surprised. I had moved in knowing that the landlady was crazy, but I was thinking more along the lines of potentially amusing crazy as opposed to the under-medicated psycho crazy that she turned out to be. I had seen the signs coming for a while and although our initial meeting had been fine, looking back there had been problems even before I'd completely moved in.
I'd been getting notes on my table in my room from her throughout the week accusing me of one rule infraction or another, usually involving cleanliness that could not have been me in the first place. Ok, I know I'm not exactly the cleanest person in the world but how can you say that I was not cleaning up my dishes and putting them away when I'd used 2 knives all day to make some sandwiches and they were drying on the dish rack? Or that I was spitting toothpaste all over the shower (who brushes their teeth in the shower), the bathroom walls, mirror, etc when I hadn't brushed my teeth in 2 days? I rarely saw her because of my work schedule but when I did she would have some sort of comment about me needing to follow the rules or I'd be kicked out. So, a week after I moved in, just after getting a note that I was no longer allowed to use the kitchen table but would have to eat in my room at my own table because of space issues (not that I ever ate at a normal hour when other people were around) I was sitting at the kitchen table reading my book waiting for my pasta to boil when she came in a started chewing me out for 1. sitting at the table, and 2. for not turning on the stove fan while cooking. I knew I was supposed to use the fan, but the windows were open and the fan was industrial-strength loud and I didn't want to disturb anyone for a relatively harmless cooking of pasta noodles. It turned out to be the last straw, she came back a few minutes later to tell me to leave asap. I said I'd need a few days to sort stuff and she granted me a few days until a few minutes later she came back again and started telling me to leave by the following morning because I was a perverted creep spying on her through the bathroom keyhole! To say I was baffled is the understatement of the year. Up until this point I had though she was just mistaken and being anal about her rules but this was ridiculous on a few immediate grounds. 1. Nobody in their right mind, valuing their eyesight would ever spy on her, and 2. there is no keyhole in the bathroom door!
After a week of abuse I finally felt compelled to defend myself and could not even open my mouth to utter a protest before I was accused of more and my time to move out shrunk to “immediately”. As some of you know, I do like to argue and rile people up so once it became obvious that she was insane and that I wouldn't be staying any longer than the time it took to eat and then pack, I definitely tried to make the most of my opportunity to piss her off some more. I was in control emotionally, getting kicked out is not the worst event in the world and I cycled between totally baffled to amused and entertained to worried as every few minutes for the next hour or two she came in to utter new insults, accusations and threats and make sure I was packing to leave. She'd told me before she'd had to throw a few boarders out with the help of the police so I was torn between calling her bluff and having the cops show up or making a run for it before I was arrested for whatever stupid unprovable, thus undefendable crime she accused me of. I have little down how my word would look compared to hers in their eyes. Unless she actually had a psych eveluation or failed a drug test I doubt I could win, especially considering I was also beginning to suspect she wasn't actually crazy at all but coldly calculating and trying to stir me up and get me to do something stupid so she could actually bust me. Her accusations had by this time escalated to theft, threats upon her person and even assault was mentioned once or twice (this as she was actually physically hitting me in the chest and threatening to put her heel through my bare foot) and she had a couple show up as guests very conveniently just before I was actually supposed to leave and were at their most heated. I could hear her perfectly normal and entertaining them in the house and then she'd come to the back and go off on me like a total nutjob a minute later (of course where they couldn't see). She gave me back most of my money that I'd paid in advance except for about $40 that she kept after accusing me of stealing a tv remote that never existed in the first place. Had she been a taxi driver.... But I decided not to try to kill her and get out of there before she hurt herself and had me arrested for assault because I wouldn't put it past her to do something like that. It seemed like a lot of effort to go to to scam me out of $40 after a week but I can't help but think there was some sort of scam element attempt in the whole thing. I've certainly heard enough stories from other backpackers in Australia of scams from jobs and landlords all over the place to know that there is a very significant element of the population here that is taking advantage of the tourists.
My biggest regret ended up being that I had gone shopping earlier in the day for more food so I was out on the street with my backpacks full and an additional 5 shopping bags full of all sorts of other crap that I have right now. I have to do some serious culling before I leave this country. As I was standing on the street work called me and asked if I wanted to do night shift again at 11pm. I'd been doing night shift for a few days in a row and had suspected that I was going to get a call so, it being about 8pm I just walked over to work, threw all my stuff in a locker and worked until 7am and once finished staggered my way over to the closest and cheapest hostel to go start the dorm life again....


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


It's been almost nothing but eat, sleep (a little) and work since I started the job at Parmalat. My schedule is still totally crazy and I don't know what day or time it is anymore usually but I'm getting lots of hours and the management is now calling and asking for me by name to come in. This is good. very good. Not that I'm surprised. I do have a workaholic mode and I move fast. I move twice as fast at work as anyone else, not because I'm trying but I just seem to be naturally fast. It probably also has something to do with the fact that I'm maniacally optimistic at work as well. I probably freak a lot of people out, but when I make more in a day working there than I did in a month in the Phillipines (but I do miss the Phils so much still) I can practically taste the dust of future sketchy bus rides in the next set of third world countries that I'll travel to :)
I have still just continued to work in the bottling section of the place, rotating around to all the various duties within that area. It is amazing how much product and packaging waste there is though. I still can't get over seeing litres and litres of milk being dumped out of the vats to drain off the floor. There must be a lot of cows in the world....
Because we are working around machinery and wear ear plugs all day and there are no scheduled breaks such that we break together (usually you get relieved for break and it almost rotates around rather than stops all at once) there is very little socializing at work. I have obviously met a couple of people and there are quite a few foreigners in the place. Kiwis, South Africans, Canadians, Ethiopians, Samoans, etc. It's funny because I get along with them better than the Aussies most of the time I guess, particularly the Africans. I work a lot with one South African guy and it was funny that I was able to back him up on a story about South Africa to an Aussie he was talking to.
Another thing I've noticed and find a little weird is that I seem to have a little bit more patriotism left than I realized. Not that I think about Canada and "home" much anymore, but Aussies that I meet always ask me what I think of their country. To be polite I just answer that it's a lot like Canada but pleasantly warmer. But because of the similarities in the two countries I do find myself comparing the two, something I haven't done with others (I don't compare Canada to India, Ghana or Taiwan for example) and with the exception of the weather I believe Canada superior on pretty much all counts. Attitude, culture, tolerance, sport, etc just seem better in the Canada I remember compared to here. But then a lot of the Canadians I've met have said the same thing, though not publicly. I'm just surprised that I agree so easily. Maybe that comes across as exceedingly arrogant or something but it's my current thought.
Note: That doesn't mean I have rediscovered a desire to move back to Canada any time soon, I still have lots of travelling to do!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Tide has Turned

Finally good news has come my way and things are starting to settle down. I've started work at a dairy processing plant here in Brisbane so I'm finally going to get that much needed money I've been looking for lately. It's a totally erratic job with me being on call 24/7 (the place operates 24/7) but fortunately and by design I have virtually no social life to inconvenience with such a schedule anyway. I started working a week ago and I've already missed a night of sleep for work and been woken up twice to get called in immediately. I can understand how most people would hate a life of being on call and I definitely understand the purpose and need for the free coffee machine in the lunch room. More exciting is the free products fridge in the lunch room with milk, custard and yogurt to snack on. I love yogurt so it's kind of a dream come true, haha. I've also had buttermilk again for the first time in probably close to a decade.
What do I do? Well, I do whatever is needed. I am actually employed by a labour agency which has a few clients though I just go to the one factory, Parmalat. Parmalat tells them how many casual people they need based on their order load and we get called in. So far I have just been in the bottling section where all the milk, cream and custard gets bottled. There are a few different machine stations and a lot of conveyors and I just do whatever needs to be done. Honestly, it's only slightly less mindless than stick picking and a 10-year old could do it, but it pays well and I don't mind it at all, yet. I will work there as much as possible over the next 6 months before leaving Australia.
Because I've got a job, I'm now starting to settle down as well. I have left my couchsurfing host, who was great for putting up with me for so long, and just moved into my own rented room. The room itself is actually a converted detached garage so it has decent space and fulfills my biggest living requirements, not sharing, quiet and walking distance to work. I have my own "living room" in my room and own fridge as well so that is nice. The home is small, there are 2 other rooms for boarders as well as the front of the home where the landlady lives. There is a single common kitchen and bathroom and no common indoor sitting area. There is a nice little patio area in the back which will be good for the summer coming up. I suspect my room will be roasting in the heat but all I need is to be able to work and sleep anyway so it shouldn't be too bad. The landlady herself is a major "character". The house smells heavily of incense, bringing back memories of India, about which she talks constantly when not going off on some astrology and feminine energy tangent. But then, what do you expect in this neighbourhood, West End. It's where are the "characters" live anyway and definitely has a quirky, hippy vibe to it anyway.
So with gainful employment and a room to myself now I'm starting to look and act like a respectable citizen again. Well, maybe not "look" but certainly act. I have clothes hanging on hangars and even emptied my backpack (which I'd been continually living out of) and put things on shelves and in drawers for the first time in 5 1/2 years and even have a partially stocked fridge. I suppose I can survive this for 6 months.... Don't worry though because now the big travel dreams are back in the planning stages and the recruitment has already begun.
Mom and Bre, fresh off the grand European tour (they put 22000km on their rental car in less than 6 weeks) have already stated they'll be coming back for a reunion tour when I get going again. Apparently the original 4 have now all passed the 100 country mark. Congrats to the girls! But for the record, if they pass me I'm gonna kill them....

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Contrary to popular belief, I am not actually farming, nor have I been since I last wrote. My life has now become a torturefest of frustration, a dead end alley of false doors to freedom. I really am not meant to be so static...
Immediately after my last post I was replaced in my job at the hostel as I'd been telling them that I was supposed to be leaving soon (but without a set date) and they preemptively replaced me, increased my rent and told me to move out of the staff room. My response was simple, I immediately moved out and started couchsurfing, figuring I only needed to hold off for a few days until I head out to the farm. That was 3 weeks ago and I'm with my third host, but in a much nicer domestic situation even if everything else is still up in the air. I haven't done nothing but wait for the farm and have had a few interviews with factories here in Brisbane finally, one of which has actually put me on the casual staffing list though a week later I am still waiting for my first call to work.
In a way that's even worse. I'm basically sitting here with 2 jobs offered and another that is supposed to continue the interview process and yet I'm not working. A single phone call to actually do some work would do wonders for me and as the factory (a dairy processing plant) pays really well and could go full time, I would probably stay in Brisbane should it start working out. I'm running out of time though. My future master plan is based on banking money in this country and as the weeks tick by I can see my later travel plannings shrinking in scale....
I still remain ridiculously optimistic (in the long run, which is what matters most anyway) and there is still time for everything to work out but I'm not sure I need the extra greying and hair loss in the meantime. The weather is finally getting warmer and I am still working my way through a stack of books that I got from the library and I am very happy (and healthier) to have gotten out of the hostel scene finally.
Perhaps the biggest smack in the face is the fact that Bre is currently over in Europe visiting the rest of the family and they are still taking little road trips and excursions to new countries. As I understand it Bre has just broken the 100 country mark. I better get a move on soon, they are catching up. Oh well, at least someone is still travelling but I am horribly jealous. It should be me!