Recently I worked as (intermittent) Wardrobe Assistant on the film Child of God which was filmed in Lewisburg, West Virginia (Budget Travel’s ‘Coolest Small Town in America 2011‘) by Rabbit Bandini Productions.
I drove six hours to West Virginia to help with two separate crowd scenes – one an auction, and one a scene at a fair. You may think I’m crazy to drive so far for only a few days, but when I got the request from costume designer Malgosia Turzanska (with whom I’d worked on “Edge of the Woods”), I jumped at the chance. This would be an incredible opportunity for me – to work on a feature-length film by a well-known production company (Rabbit Bandini is comprised of director/producer duo James Franco and Vince Jolivette) for any length of time would be a giant leap in the right direction.
When I arrived, I was nervous – what would these people think of me? But after my first day on set, I got used to everything and had no trouble settling in. The crew members were extremely nice and it didn’t take long for me to get over working around a celebrity.
The first day went smoothly, and in no time at all day 2 had arrived along with about 35 extras for the opening auction scene. Jen Lou, our PA Laura, and I ran around like madwomen, fitting extras in costumes, dealing with the one or two divas whose costumes “just weren’t right.” One man who claimed he was “always cast as the lead” (presumably why he was cast as a background actor) showed up on set wearing pants that were clearly 4 sizes too small. I handed him a size 34, and he said, “There is no way these will fit me. I am a size 30.” When he finally put them on, they were too small. I have news for you buddy, the pant size you wore when you were 19 is not going to be the same size you wear at 41.
Once we had the actors dressed and approved by the director, the rest of the day passed uneventfully. It started to drizzle around midday, and by the time we started breaking down camp, it was raining off and on pretty steadily. Set was moved to the middle of the woods a few minutes down the long dirt driveway, and Jen Lou went with the crew to help the actors with their changes. I stayed behind to pack the van in order to make the transition to our next location smoother.
The van was parked in a tight space between two other large vehicles, and with the doors swung wide, it was impossible to see anyone coming or going. After packing a few more bins stuffed with men’s boots, jean overalls, and undergarments, I lugged them to the van, umbrella perched precariously under my chin.
After organizing the bins, I turned, umbrella out in front of me, and leaped from the van (because that’s what I do…leap from vans). Straight into a yellow poncho-clad person coming around the corner. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” I said, without looking up. When I composed myself and met the eyes of the person I’d nearly impaled with my umbrella, I completely lost my ability to speak. It was James Franco. He gave me a startled half smile, but in my head there was a little King Arthur yelling “Run Away, Run Awaaayyy”, and it didn’t take long for me to heed the warning. I quit the scene faster than the Knights of the Round Table ran from the Rabbit of Caerbannog.
Later, I relayed my story to another crew member. “Well, hey,” she said, “at least it’s a good story.” I laughed, “I suppose so. Next time I hear someone say, ‘this one time I saw such-and-such celebrity’, I’ll say, ‘well this one time I almost poked out James Franco’s eye with an umbrella’…”
Somehow, I made it through the rest of the weekend and the following one, without much event. In the fair scene, a lot of the crew was put in the film as extras. At lunch before our night shoot, Malgosia, Jen Lou, Julie (line producer) and I ate at The Wild Bean (try the loaded bean burger. It is delish!). Jen Lou and Malgosia discussed a costume they were particularly excited about. It was a cheerleading mini-dress from a local high school from the 50′s or 60′s, and they wanted to use it as a majorette outfit in the fair scene.
“It’s going to be hard to find someone for that costume,” Malgosia said. “Yeah, we’ll need to find someone small,” Jen Lou added. They were silent for a second, then their glances met as both reached the same conclusion at once. The two of them looked at me, then looked back at each other, “So Hayley…”
Later that evening, I was wearing a majorette mini-dress, Malgosia a fortune teller’s costume, and Jen Lou the colorful garb of a clown’s assistant. How could I not love my job?
Film images courtesy Jennifer Tillery.