The Extra Measure of Success

I get a call last night around 8pm from my friend the director asking if I can come over around 10pm to be an extra in his movie again. Ok, no problem. So I get there at 10:05 and then have to wait 2 1/2 hours until they’re finally ready to shoot the scene. LOL.

No really, I’m not mad and I wasn’t mad last night. I don’t know much about movie making, but I know enough that I expected to be kept waiting for at least an hour and wasn’t going to get mad as long as they finished with me before 3am. Another friend of mine from high school was there as an extra and started reminiscing about the time he was an extra in the movie The Substitute which was filmed at our high school. He had to wait 6 hours for the shots he was in to even start filming.

When my friend asks me to be an extra, I understand he just needs another body to fill up space, but I also understand that he needs that extra body to behave in a certain manner. It’s a no-budget film, but I know it’s really important to the people making it. So for my role of person at a party I make sure I follow direction and don’t look at the camera. I make sure to treat the experience with respect cause I know it’s not a joke to these people, this is their art. If I ever want to be an extra in a Star Trek franchise I should get in some practice now. So then one day I can say, in reference to the famous quote, “I’m ready to be a background person in a wide angle shot, Mr. Abrams.”

But another thing I was thinking about last night was success. I was hanging out with that other extra I went to high school with and I hadn’t seen him in a few years. Of course we started talking about what we were up to. We were excited to see each other. We were excited to tell each other what we’ve been doing. And he says something to the effect of “I love hearing that my friends are successful”. Something caught in my throat. I know I go on and on about what a failure I feel like and I really think it’s time to stop. Last night, talking with him, I was so excited to tell him about rebuilding the alien, and taking photos, and how much writing I’ve been doing through the years. I didn’t feel like a failure. I was proud to tell him what I’ve been doing. And he in turn tells me about his band and how much they’ve been playing and all the different places and festivals they’ve gone to play. I was so happy for him. I measure the success of my friends by how happy they are. My lawyer friend, not so happy. My punk rocker friend, totally happy.

I remember once, years ago, when my baby daddy and I were still together and I was looking for a job. He said, it didn’t matter what I got a job doing because I was a photographer and I’d be doing my art on the side. All I needed was a dayjob to pay the bills. I remember telling him I was never going to have a career as an artist and my dayjob was just going to have to be my life so I better find one I wasn’t going to abhor. Yesterday my punk rock friend says all the things he’s been up to, and oh, yeah a dayjob. I can remember my mom telling me that I was a writer and she didn’t understand why I wasn’t sending stuff out to try and get published. I remember some crazy fanfiction I read a year ago about making the choice to be happy. And finally, as I sit here and try not to cry, I remember Wil Wheaton’s Just a Geek which I think I might be living out in my own way.

Bottom line, I think everyone I know views me as being successful except myself. So I’m going to go to a mirror and tell myself, in the immortal words of Beavis and Butthead, “Get off the ground and stop whining you wuss!”


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