Our vintage dancing group was asked to provide the historical background for a Studio C skit last summer as extras decked out in our own handmade Regency robes. This skit, “One Last Dance,” aired in November. Being involved in a production like this was an interesting experience- both in good and bad ways. We learned a few things about the film industry; the adjective “ridiculous” applies to many of those discoveries:
Like most members of our dance group, I did my own hair for the shoot. I still got some time in the make-up chair though.
- The film industry takes hierarchies to ridiculous heights. The chain of command is long and inflexible. During our filming, the director would pass his instructions onto the assistant director. The assistant director would belt them out to the group. A background director was the only one that spoke to us, the lowly extras, directly. Even the meals were hierarchical. We weren’t allowed to eat lunch with the rest of the crew even though they had plenty Mediterranean fare to spare. Instead, we got to munch cold pizza by ourselves in another building. Maybe that’s normal for the film industry, but it felt pretty ridiculous to us.
- Filming is hot. Literally, hot. Cast and crew members are crammed together while bright lights blast them. It’s not overly comfortable.
- Filming gets foggy. Fog machines spewed out haze endlessly during our shoot. This was to give the setting a dreamy effect, or so we were told. It made me feel like I was in a gambling hall rather than a dancing hall.
- Filming takes a lot of people, most of which are never on camera. Our set was packed with crew doing all sorts of things with ladders, cords, lighting, cameras, wardrobes, and makeup. Plus, a whole lot of people sat around watching screens the whole time. To be honest, I have no idea what they were all watching for.
- It takes a ridiculous amount of time to shoot scenes over and over from every possible angle. The filming of this 2:55 skit took over 13 hours. Every second of material required almost five minutes of production time. Wow! That seems pretty inefficient to me, but compared to industry norms, maybe it’s amazingly productive.
Cords and crew littered the set.
The main cast members were brought water and lip gloss every few minutes.
Although this was a fascinating educational experience, I don’t think Jason and I would be too eager to stand around fanning ourselves in a stuffy, smoke-filled room for hours and hours again. This may have been our first and last dance with Studio C.
This was the only time the main director talked to us extras.
If you’d like to see how expertly we portray ball attendees from the Regency period that believe the alphabet is the most exquisite conversation topic imaginable, I’ve included a link to the correct Studio C episode. Our skit starts about 12 minutes in. You may notice that I wondrously appear on both sides of the room at the same time; that miraculous maneuver meant I didn’t get a break like almost everyone else did.
In September, we again welcomed the nerdery that is Salt Lake Comic Con like Klingons embrace an honorable death. Not everything is fantastic about comic conventions; here’s a rundown of what makes these events awesome and awful.
You make instant connections with fellow fans at cons.
My favorite thing about SLCC remains catching up with friends and discussing convention occurrences with them over meals. We had dinner with two different groups during SLCC this time and thoroughly enjoyed both.
We ate dinner with the Rowleys during the convention and caught up on their fantastic fanatic experiences.
SLCC, like other cons, suffers a bit from the-more-the-merrier and profits-at-all-costs syndromes. The Grand Nagus would be proud. The organizers and vendors want every line packed. Longer lines = more money. Photo shoots with stars often feel more like cattle chutes; these affairs are always oversold, and there is a constant push to shove people through as quickly as possible. Although some celebrities want to have a little extra time to interact with fans during photos, they too seem pressured to hurry. (I’ve actually witnessed impatient photographers tapping their toes at stars when those stars have taken a few extra seconds to talk to someone.) I’m sure the pursuit of high profits over pleasant experiences is common to every con; I think these conventions could find a better balance between the two.
John Barrowman and Catherine Tate made each of their pictures unique.
On our first day at SLCC, we went to the Jewel Staite, Thomas F. Wilson and Christopher Lloyd, and Joan and John Cusack panels. All of these sessions were entertaining. Joan Cusack was as eccentric as expected, and Tom Wilson was much funnier than expected.
Meeting Firefly cast members is always a pleasure.
The next day, we went to Catherine Tate’s and John Barrowman’s panels. They were fantastic, and our seats on the fourth row made them even better. Without ruining all of John’s panel surprises, let me just say that Wonder Man appreciates the underside of kilts.
A local fan lovingly made this vintage TARDIS set.
That evening, we experienced Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog in a con setting for the first time. Good thing I know all the words and neighs! Jason even participated in the singing along, for good or for horrible.
Joan Cusack was quirky and kind.
We didn’t go cuckoo for celebrity pictures or autographs this time; we’ve found that too many of those make cons obnoxiously packed. We did take a couple photos, however, and got autographs from the likes of John and Joan Cusack, Tom Wilson, Jewel Staite, and Catherine Tate.
I’ve gotten some ink and glue done a couple times at Salt Lake Comic Con.
Comic cons are not perfect. They test patience and politeness. Plus, they make one feel a little like a walking dollar symbol in a cosplay outfit. Yet, the memorable interactions with friends, fans, and the famous at these events usually make the waits and crowds acceptable. Best of all, these cons make being nerdy more socially acceptable.
Sometimes life doesn’t turn out exactly as imagined. Some events aren’t as dramatic or romantic as anticipated while others are more remarkable than expected. Here are a few of our fall experiences that proceeded as predicted or as unpredicted.
Activity: The Cannon Ball
It’s impossible for a steampunk pirate ball with vintage dancing not to live up to expectations.
I wouldn’t actually make a good pirate; plundering goes against my core values.
Activity: Archery Tag
Expectation: Fun and Energetic
Reality: Fun and Tragic
We invited everyone in my family to play archery tag with us one evening, including all our nieces and nephews. I learned a few things about myself and the world during this strung-out activity. It turns out, my family as a conglomerate isn’t particularly skilled with bows. We lost most of our games against another family consortium.
Our tag team was rather ragtag.
You know those wrist guards that Legolas wears? Well, I guess they are for more than just elven frills. Midway through our tag session, I wacked myself with my bowstring while shooting. It hurt, and I instantly grew a goose egg on my forearm that looked ready to hatch. A few days later, half my arm turned a sickly shade of green. My Dad walked away from the affair with a similar limb wound.
With a few insignificant differences, I am remarkably like the heroically-flawed figures of myth. Eons ago, an arrow hit Achilles’ foot, his weak point, and everything fell apart. Playing archery tag, an arrow hit my foot, my weak spot, and everything fell apart. (Sure, I didn’t slay Hector, and I wasn’t exactly a champion of the Trojan War, but I’d say those are pretty insignificant differences.) Just minutes before our time in the arena was up, a guy on the opposing team saw my foot sticking out from behind a barrier and decided to target it. This wasn’t just any of my two feet though, it was the foot I had tendon surgery on years ago. His arrow flew, hit that surgery spot spot-on, and hurt me like hell. (Sorry, I can’t edit that last comment; the pain was too real for censoring.) Jason heard a loud smack and then a wretched scream. Play stopped, and I hobbled off the field. I held back my tears though; I’m tough in my flimsiness like that. My ankle swelled up so badly I had to elevate and ice it that night. I could barely walk for a couple days, and I couldn’t run for a week and a half. D#mn puniest point!
My ankle inflated after getting shot.
Activity: Wheel-Thrown Pottery
Reality: Course and Clumsy
It’s really easy to misalign your clay blob and form a wobbly mess.
As a gift to Jason, I purchased a month of wheel-thrown-pottery classes for the two of us. He envisioned a Ghost-esque experience, but it ended up being more like a 2nd-grade art class. You know, making misshapen blobs that only your mother could pretend to love. At least that’s what Jason would tell you, but I was pretty pleased with our creations. I enjoyed the classes enough that I signed up for another month of them with my mom. She and I had a great time working clay and forming rookie pieces together.
Despite Jason’s protestations, most of our pottery pieces turned out satisfactorily.
After another month of pottery lessons, the quality of my creations… stayed about the same.
Life isn’t terribly predictable. Excitement and drama don’t always pop up in the places we envision. Yet, pop up they do.
It is a commonly-acknowledged fact that all the cool kids have birthdays during the summer. Since Jason and I hang with all the cool kids and are super cool ourselves, this time of the year is a little hectic for us but we usually manage to celebrate successfully.
Jason, being a particularly amazing sort of husband, always makes my birthdays more fun than a barrel of manatees. This year, he planned three or four consecutive days of birthday bashing. My pre-birthday activities included a hike to the Lower Falls in Bells Canyon, a spot we had never been before. Although this canyon claims hikers’ lives every year, besides one particularly grueling hill and some wickedly-slick and tilted rocks around the waterfall, it seemed fairly typical to us.
Bells Canyon is just beyond Salt Lake Valley’s mass of civilization.
On my actual birthday, I received “Birthday Breakfast by Jason,” which consisted of French toast panini with grilled bananas that Jason burned just enough to set our smoke alarms off a couple times. He also decorated our kitchen and surprised me with flowers. He did not burn the flowers.
Deaths occur regularly at the falls in Bells Canyon due to slippery stones and rock chutes. So, I sacrificed getting a better picture for staying alive.
During the afternoon, we consumed Indian food and gobbled shaved ice at Bahama Buck’s. This was followed by dinner at my sister’s, after a quick but cooling break at Tibble Fork Reservoir.
Tibble Fork Reservoir is a little too popular for my own good. Finding a quiet place in its shade required some meandering.
We decided to keep gatherings with friends kind of low-keyed this year. So, Jason arranged for a laidback evening of waffles, barbecue, and breakouts for my party. We charmed our way out of a Harry-Potter-themed room at Alcatraz Escape Games with a small collection of our chums. I got to cast a spell; it was awesome!
Have you seen these wizards?
School assignments and trips made coordinating Jason’s birthday offerings a bit difficult for me. I actually had to wrap his presents on his birthday! Nooooooooooo! I avoid last-minute devising more than chard-flavored goat milk but my rushed preparations still provided pretty good results. I cooked Jason cinnamon waffles with a cinnamon cream sauce and a dash of the dark side for breakfast using our Darth Vader waffle iron. We saw Spiderman: Homecoming in the afternoon, which turned out to be our favorite Spiderman film yet, and finished the evening with a meal at Bombay House with my family.
I’ve golfed just enough to almost look like I know what I’m doing.
Since I can never get enough of my fine man, the next day I took Jason out to dinner at Log Haven, one of our favorite spots to feast in the summer. You can’t go wrong with fine food, a fine man, and fresh mountain air.
I don’t know if our swings were good enough for Topgolf. Is there a Middlegolf?
I also arranged for a compact group of friends to join us for a get together at Topgolf in honor of Jason. The driving games and grub were supplied by me and the entertainment was supplied by… everyone. It was a raucous and amusing evening.
Happy birthday to us… and all you other cool summer kids.
These days, you may be as likely to find Jason and me in period attire than in jeans and t-shirts. Somehow, our antiquated appearances seem to be escalating. In June, we attended and assisted with the Edwardian Ball hosted by Old Glory Vintage Dancers.
Jason was the bee’s knees in his linen suit.
We demonstrated dances and guided unsure steppers while dressed in beaded couture and fine white linens. It was an enchanting evening reeling with rock steps and crossover turns.
In the 1920s, women abandoned corsets. Thank goodness!
Incidentally, Jason always looks hotsy-totsy in his 20s menswear. Anytime he wants to skip the t-shirt and go straight for the tweed that’s fine with me.