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Geoffrey Gould
Reports from the set/s...

Matchstick Men

Saturday, July 13th, 2002
Selected
About a week earlier, my brother reported to me that he'd noticed in Backstage that Smith & Webster-Davis Casting was to hold a local-to-me Open Casting Call on Saturday, July 14th. Checking their hotline number again, sure enough, the information was there on the Open Call for a few films they had lined up on which work was being sought. One film was entitled Matchstick Men, filming of which would commence July 15th (with a then already-scheduled June 2003 release date), being directed by Ridley Scott and starring Nicolas Cage.
At that time, I was working a Wednesday to Sunday 10:00pm to 6:00am graveyard shift, so I left work Saturday morning and bussed directly to the audition site in Burbank (relatively near to where I was then domiciled). I arrived at 7:45am and was second in line, the SAG people to be seen from 10am to noon and the non-SAG people from noon onwards. The line lengthened substantially as the few hours wore on and the sun began its slow, heat bearing rise.
We were let in at 9:45am and a sign-in list was started. A lot of good it did: people who'd only just arrived (hours after I and a few others had spent standing outside as the sun began to rise and get hotter and hotter), went right in to the main area and the sign-in sheet was forgotten. I still had to wait for them to take my Polaroid. Fortunately, the casting crew was extremely efficient, and my photo was taken, as were my headshot/resume and registration paperwork. Dixie (one of the main casting people) was who took my Polaroid photo and told me she had work for me on Monday. I was given a local 818 number to call with which to get the information for the Monday call. I realized if this means if it was for Matchstick Men, it would mean I could be "working with" Nicolas Cage, which would make my having worked with three from the Coppola clan, my having already worked on with Christopher Coppola [directing] and with Roman Coppola directing the Game Show Network promo Botulism...! TV spot).
I had realized that while Monday was my day off, I still worked Sunday nights. To avoid losing those hours, I decided to ask some local friends if I could borrow one of their two conveyances; the one I generally use when I am apartment/dog-sitting for them when they go back to the mid-west to visit their families. With their conveyance, I could drive right from work (or with which to leave work early, if applicable), and go right to the shoot Monday.
Before calling them, I tried the number again and got Dixie again, who indicated that when I called back to leave the confirmation message, I was to indicate what kind of car I had. I pointed out that (at that precise moment), I did not "have" a car, which she thought "might be a problem, as they want people with cars" (a fact that at the open call inadvertently was not mentioned when giving me the number to call). I called my good friend Scott and got his okay to borrow their conveyance, then called the number Dixie provided and left my name and then pager number for my voice-mail with which to call and leave the information, et al, as well as the colour and type of conveyance I'd have with me Monday for the shoot (a maroon Hyundai Elantra).

Sunday, July 14th, 2002
Calltime
To my slight surprise at the time, I did not receive the information as of the end of Saturday, but I subscribed this to their clearly being Really Busy. They'd had a lot of people to process.
The arrangement with Scott was for me to pick up the car around 2:30pm, so I figured just before I left for there, I'd risk calling the number again, figuring it may be updated. I chose not to call it from work as, I did not want to disturb anyone in case it was to a home phone and not to an office phone.
When I called, I was given the Confirmation Call number, and there found it was not only the first day of principal photography, but the shoot was "only" in North Hollywood, on Saticoy right between Laurel Canyon and Lankershim. The call time is 6:00am, the recording of course "suggesting" we get there a bit... earlier, as I always do anyway (my rule of thumb regarding movie/TV shoots: "I'd rather be an hour early than a minute late"...). As it was, only with Scott's car would I be able to get there Monday and still work my Sunday night night-shift (as it was I still had to leave work an hour early).
Just as I arrived early at work my pager went off, Dixie indicating the possibility of being used on Tuesday as well.
I emailed Scott about this development and I was quickly informed I could retain the car through Tuesday. I had already topped its tank and after the shoot the next day I would drop by their place as both of their Thomas Guides are in the car at once.

Monday, July 15th, 2002
The car is th'star...
Working from 9:00pm (instead of starting at my regular 10:00pm shift), I left work at 5:00am and drove to the crew parking lot in the North Hollywood Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Meetinghouse, arriving approximately 5:30am for my 6:00am call. In a full shuttle van, we were transported to Datagraphics Data Center, a business building at 6829 Lankershim, "at" the corner of Lankershim and Vanowen.
I signed in with Ryan Suffern after which I had a nice scrambled eggs breakfast. Our holding area (where lunch was also served) was at a restaurant and lounge called La-Monge, at 6907 Lankershim, formerly known as The Palomino.
The other five background talent arrived, and we were brought over to wardrobe. We'd been informed to bring casual modern clothes. I was wearing my blue polo shirt I'd worn to the Saturday Open Call, along with a few regular shirts. Amusingly, wardrobe designer Michael Kaplan, selected my green tank-top, and let me keep on my badger-cap.
Around 7:00am we were shuttled back to the crew parking lot where we retrieved our conveyances and drove them to the set's location where they were "set," in this case, parked across the street.
We went back to holding as some footage was done, our conveyances sitting silently across Lankershim. Around 8:00am the shots were done and we brought our conveyances across the street into the secondary gated parking lot of the office building. Fellow background actor Nacho and I were kept readily available by Ryan but eventually, as the warmth of the day grew hotter and hotter, Second 2nd Assistant Director Steve Battaglia suggested to Nacho and I that we go inside and wait in the craft services area, maintained in a small outdoor terrace within the building.
After a while Nacho went back to main holding while I waited there until about 10:00am. Eventually I asked Steve if I should return to main holding myself, to which he agreed.
Around 11:00am, Nacho and I were retrieved again, and we brought our conveyances out onto the street. Nacho parked his grey dust-covered Chevrolet ahead of me on the shoulder, the lane safely behind a long line of traffic cones, and the road being "guarded" by a CHiP officer. The shot was described to us; Nicholas Cage (who I had seen a few times already) was to drive a car on Vanowen westbound, turning right (north) onto Lankershim, making the immediate left into the "official" (primary) parking lot of the office building.
Nacho was to go on Take One, and I would do the same thing for Take Two. The CHiP would halt regular southbound Lankershim traffic. Our task was to pull out southbound ahead of the held traffic and as Cage's car made the left "across our bow," whichever car was up for That Take would pass behind Cage's turned car, and the regular southbound flow of Lankershim traffic would be allowed to pass (and to go on their own merry way) as well.
Take One, Ryan waved on Nacho a bit too early, and he crossed ahead of Cage's left turn. As instructed, Nacho continued on around the block and returned and positioned himself behind me.
Ryan indicated he'd mistimed waving Nacho to go, and on Take Two, Ryan waved me at the proper time. Nacho and I did three takes each. The First Take "being wrong" notwithstanding, it becomes a 50-50 chance that in the finished film it could be Scott and Laura's conveyance that passes behind Nicholas Cage's left turn...
When the six takes were done, Nacho and I returned to main holding where catering was nearly ready setting up for lunch. Normally on location, the background is forced to wait until the principal cast and the entire crew has eaten. Here was suggested to us that we hit the buffet while we could, so our delicious lunch was from 11:40am to 12:40am.
Normally on a film location, time seems to fly by. For some reason, while it didn't seem to "drag," time didn't really seem to "move"... About what seemed like every 45 or more minutes, each time I would glance at my watch it'd only been a few minutes.
We were wrapped at 5:30pm, and given various pay bumps: we were each given an 18 mileage bump, the bump for the use of the conveyances, plus 2.5 hours of overtime and five out of six of us (including but not limited to myself), would be returning in the morning with a 6:30am call.
For a moment Ryan didn't realize that the SAG rate for private-sector compensation for labour had gone up $5.00 an hour only as of July first. "They'd have caught it in Accounting," he added as he politely apologized for the easy-to-make error (after all, the new rate had only just gone into effect).
Due to the use of the conveyances as picture cars, we established that the next day that we should just come to the location, not the church. Finally, a quick digital photo was taken of me by one of the wardrobe ladies.

Tuesday, July 16th, 2002
Subsequently
I arrived for my 6:30am call around 6:00 and was told to park the car on the street near the location gate. After I had breakfast, the others arrived and Ryan signed us in, and we each went over to wardrobe, which approved each of us.
Around 10am, Tom and I went to our conveyances and moved them back to the north side of the primary parking lot gate (having to go around the block to position them so). We were still being used as drivers and not as pedestrians.
The flank steak lunch began being served at noon, but this time we did have to wait until 12:30.
At one point during day the pleasant Dixie showed up to Say Hi and make sure everything was going smoothly. The lovely Shondra (Chondra?), a background talent who resembled a cross between Anne Bancroft and Ashey Judd, told Dixie how the previous day, whenever the crew turned on the air conditioning, the La-Monge owner would come in to shut it down, eventually causing a few of us to suffer heat-headaches and the like (as though the cheapskate owner was not being paid a fortune renting out the place to the film company).
It was around 3pm that I was brought by Ryan to move my friend Scott's car into the Datagraphics primary front parking lot. Ryan had me hang out just in case the higher-ups wanted it moved (over or elsewhere or whatever). The camera car's back door was removed so the camera had a clear shot; a wide "running board" was attached for the camera and photographer. They also did a reverse angle shot, replacing the driver's side back door and removing the passenger side back door for that angle.
Amusingly, the last shot of the day was called. After they filmed it, "a wrap" was called, so normally everyone of the crew "went 'at ease'," when suddenly another shout went up that they indeed needed One More Shot (or a bit more footage). Everyone comically scrambled with which to get back out of the way and back into the secondary parking lot.
We were wrapped at 6:30pm, given the same 18 mileage and conveyance bumps, plus (lunch being only a half hour today), 3.5 hours of overtime, plus Ryan added a wardrobe bump (our having brought and using our own wardrobe), that retroactively would be added to the day before.
Second A.D. Jeff Okabayashi also thanked me as I headed back to my friends' car to return it to them.

Friday, July 26th, 2002
Compensation for labour for first two days
The two payments arrived, compensating my labour to-date for Matchstick Men. One (the second day's payment) reflected the wardrobe "bump," while the other did not. Considering the two payments arrived but a day or two after the arrival of a Compensation For Labour payment for the Roman Coppola directed Game Show Network Botulism...! promo spot (renewed for another cycle), I wasn't about to complain.

Monday, August 5th, 2002
More work
My temp assignment having ended, I was pleased that the gods have looked down and smiled; Dixie paged me for three days' more work on Matchstick Men. Dixie asked about the car, which I told her I'd have to check with my friends; that I was certainly available, but it was possible (probable, actually) that my friends may not be able to spare their conveyance for three days straight.
Indeed, my friends did have to use both of their conveyances over the next few days.
My calltime for the next day, Tuesday the 6th, was 10:00am. According to the confirmation call line, they would be filming earlier in the day a Mexican restaurant scene. I had to call the line twice as the comprehensive detailed directions to the location were "for the Mexican restaurant scene," so by the time there was any reference to the Laundromat scene, suddenly it said we would be going to the same place.

Tuesday, August 6th, 2002
It all comes out in th'wash...
I got off at Washington and Pacific and the crew parking was barely a hundred feet away. From my 8:15am arrival to 9:45am there was no shuttle to the film production base camp. I'd started out waiting alone, and by the time it finally arrived there were about fifteen or more of us.
A shame those who book me rarely know and/or provide the exact base camp location for a film. Generally the info recording convey where we Are To Go to be taken somewhere. As it turned out, I'd passed the base camp, on the 108 but on Via Marina. And as it was (let alone my being able to get off the bus at the base camp itself), instead of waiting over an hour for a shuttle van, had we known the base camp location, I/we could have even walked there from crew parking.
We got to base camp and Ryan signed us in. The Mexican restaurant filming was apparently going well. Those of us in the base camp holding talked as lunch was being set up. I fell in with Chad Wolfinbarger and another friendly fellow named James; always nice to make new friends and have people with whom to talk throughout a day between working.
We lined up for wardrobe, eventually Michael Kaplan arriving to approve of what the wardrobe girls had chosen. I wore the same outfit I wore the previous time out, mostly as I was not used those days. From the first days of shooting, Nacho was also booked; he and I being the only two of the original six. With him was his mother, who Nacho informed me is ninety years old. Quite seriously, I would not have guessed her to be older than in her late sixties.
I also met Jeff, who'd brought his friendly dog Carmen, a pretty Boxer mix. She was friendly in that she did like attention, but not a jumper or frenetic type of friendly.
Lunch began, and we had access at 12:30. Sometimes I feel I should brown bag lunch, just in case. Today the meal was way "exotic" (nightmarishly over-spiced meat of some kind), and I was (at least) able to eat the honeydew melon and cantaloupe. The background for the Mexican restaurant arrived, having already been wrapped, and they were given lunch as well.
The rest of us were shuttled to the Laundromat location, in nearby Venice right near where I'd park when my former girlfriend and I went down to Venice. As lunch had been finishing, the base camp trucks were all being moved to the new location. The Laundromat was located on Main and Market. Chad and I were each selected to come inside the Laundromat. Chad and I were each placed at different washing machines. Chad was in the right back corner, near one of the main cameras while I was placed at washer #23, relatively right by the front door.
Ridley Scott smoked a massive cigar while he worked. He directed me to give a "bit of th'eye" to character Angela (young Alison Lohman) as she passed behind me. After one of the rehearsal passes, one A.D. smilingly thought I was bit "too lecherous," but I pointed out that that's what Mr. Scott himself had told me t'do, and the director never gave me an adjustment (a suggestion or direction to change something being done). As her entrance was shot, she passes right behind me, I glance at her as I take sheets and such from my white plastic hamper.
Nacho's 90 year old mother was placed in a chair at the front window next to Nicolas Cage. Nicolas was wearing an outfit and a hat that gave the appearance of a young Henry Fonda in a prequel for On Golden Pond...
Techs everywhere continued setting up lights, prop people distributed items and such. Chad and I hadn't realized at first that the ceiling fans had been brought in: and were even moved over a bit when they needed to be moved. My stack of laundry was deemed Too Dark so I was given lighter coloured items. I had removed my glasses until a pleasantly Brit-accented (A.D.?) named Vincent (almost sounding timid in asking, but I think that was just the British Kent accent), politely asked me to wear them.
Alison Lohman and Beth Grant do their dialogue, with Nicholas Cage seating as though he doesn't know Lohman's character (remember that I do not believe in providing specific storyline spoilers myself [such generally being readily available Elsewhere notwithstanding], only indications of where I can be seen.).
They shot it a few times. Eventually as Chad and later I were no longer visible in frame, we were each "stepped out."
Surprisingly, ham, Sloppy Joes and even french fries were being served up in the small parking lot. I happened to notice that Nicolas Cage took almost as many servings of fries as I, using a goodly amount of ketchup. Meanwhile, Jeff's dog Carmen was a bit beat. Jeff figured she'll be sleeping soundly tonight.
Suddenly the day's wrap was called, at 5:55pm. Ryan gave us our next-day calltime as 7:00am. Ryan signed (several of) us out at 6:15pm. Many had to return to the new base camp a couple of blocks away; those got signed out at 6:30, I later learned (but it was still well within eight hours). During our many talks throughout the day, Chad and I learned we lived relatively close to each other, so he kindly offered to drive me home and to pick me up in the morning. "It just makes sense," he pointed out.
We figured to be there a bit earlier than 7am, Chad would pick me up at 5:45am. I set my alarm for 5am so as to have time to shower, et al, and ready for Chad's arrival.

Wednesday, August 7th, 2002
Day Four
I got up at 5am, showered and checked my email, even with enough time to reply to a few, then at 5:35 headed downstairs to wait for Chad. As it was, Chad had arrived a few minutes early himself and was waiting. We zipped down and with virtually no traffic in our way, we actually arrived at the crew parking lot almost at 6am on the nose.
Thankfully this time there were shuttle vans already waiting. At the base camp, still at the high school on Main, a couple of blocks from the Laundromat, we each had a nice breakfast "before the crowd." Ryan came in at 6:55am and was signing in people as they were arriving. We got our vouchers and filled'em out while we waited.
Just before 7am Ryan fetched us to "rush" us all to the set. There we waited until about 12:15pm. Chad and I discussed arcane subjects such as SHC (spontaneous human combustion) and we traded a few true ghost stories.
We went back to holding and hung out as lunch's preparing was completed. While waiting, James and Chad began to relate a few horror stories about cops.
Hair and make-up ate first; we were officially broke for lunch from 1 to 1:30pm. This day the catered food spread was awesome: t-bone steaks, chicken, broccoli, even franks and beans, and of course much more.
The film's production manager Leigh Shanta came over and sat with our li'l group. With her neat accent, Chad suspected her to be "local" to him; Chad himself is from South Carolina (although his accent from there is all but gone). The friendly Leigh is from North Carolina. I think she was surprised (and pleased) that I confirmed her name spelling as being "Lee or Leigh," as possibly most people must "just" think "Lee" as the spelling and let it go at that.
When she was asked on what other projects she has worked (that we may have seen), it turns out she and I have "worked together" before: Leigh was also production manager on Dude, Where's My Car?
We went back to set at 1:40pm. More shots were done of Alison and Beth going to the phone booth.
Almost suddenly, at 4:30pm, Chad and I are called to go back into the Laundromat. Shots were being done of Nicolas Cage exiting the Laundromat and passing the woman and the girl Angela (his character's daughter). As it was noted Chad was "too deep" on the set to be seen, he was asked to step out. As I was so close to the door, I went back to reading the newspaper as my washing continued. They'd put out the wrong hamper and I retrieved the correct one used the day before. Ridley Scott was still using the front right corner of the Laundromat at which to watch the monitor (front right corner from the perspective of the front door: from inside looking to the outside, it was the front left corner). Either way, he was seated directly in front of me.
Nicolas Cage came in and out a few times while the shot was being set up. Dominos Pizza had been obtained, and Ridley Scott asked him if he was going to have some. Cage declined, adding with the barest hint of a dry-witted smile, "I have to watch my girlish figure."
I certainly did not want to bother him, so I stood there with my hands on top of the washer, but I did my best to avert my eyes without appearing to be averting my eyes. I guess I was hoping he might "introduce himself" as Christopher Coppola had done on his own set.
Cage popped back out, and as there was a few moments of silence, between munches on a slice of Dominos Pizza, Ridley Scott glanced up and asked me, "Is this the first film you've worked on?"
"I've been doing it for a while," I replied pleasantly.
"Have you been enjoying yourself on this?" he asked.
"Extremely," I said. "The crew is great; very efficient, and it's a great honour to work for you," I managed to add. "This actually makes my working with 'three Coppolas'," I said, figuring I was never going to be able to tell such to Nicolas Cage.
"Really?" he said, his eyebrows slightly rising.
"Roman Coppola directed me in a commercial..." was all I was able to get out when we were interrupted. When things had calmed down I did not re-initiate the conversation where I'd left off; I figured I should leave that up to Mr. Scott, and as it was, the shot was ready.
So I "went professional," and kept my focus on the job at hand, and kept my eyes on the newspaper while the shots progressed.
Later Chad told me that Matt, a long-haired young fellow who resembled Ashton Kutcher, had had the audacity to ask an otherwise relaxing Nicolas Cage for an autograph. It almost got Matt thrown off the set. What was he thinking, apart from clearing being unprofessional? As it was, I deliberately had not even brought with me a camera to this shoot, though actually I wish I had, with which to get a few shots of myself as I looked, of Chad, Jeff with Carmen, et al.
At 6:30pm we were wrapped and signed out at 6:45pm. Ryan had told us at around 2pm that as of That Time we would not be used the next day: the Laundromat scene was completed.

Sunday, September 14, 2003
Viewing
With her daughter, a friend of mine and I went to the 11:40am matinee at the AMS Century 14 in Century City. I found it extremely entertaining, my absence notwithstanding.
For the Laundromat scene, there is no shot of Alison entering, no scoping the room; she just seems to teleport in, and instantly approach Beth Grant. It's kind of a jarring edit, really.

Sunday, December 21, 2003
An unexpected meeting
On Wednesday morning, December 17, 2003, Christopher Seiter passed away after long struggling with debilitating health problems. I'd met and knew the pleasant man though his son William, my closest male friend on the west coast. By end of the week, I'd received word that the memorial service/funeral for Chris would be Sunday December 21st at 3:00pm at a church in San Gabriel, about three miles southeast of his Pasadena home, at which would be a gathering afterwards. My then-girlfriend drove me to the funeral (Chris's ashes were there, placed atop one of his producer director-type chairs). Despite missing a turn in the labyrinthal neighbourhood, and getting there a few minutes after we'd anticipated, we were still first at the gathering at Christopher Seiter's lovely Pasadena home. People began to arrive, many in the industry who had worked with Chris.
Clearly having been eyeing me, one impressively tall gentleman came up to me and, indicating my looking familiar, asked, "You're an actor, aren't you?" I replied I was and he clarified, asking if I'd done background work. Just as I was starting to figure he and I at some point must have worked on a same film or such together, he asked if I had worked on the film Matchstick Men.
"Yes I did," I said with a bit of surprise.
He asked what was it in the film I'd done.
"Well, I was cut out of the finished film," I indicated. "In the laundry scene Alison comes in and walked behind me, but it was a jarring edit from her being told to scope out the place carefully, to jump-cutting to her walking right up to Beth Grant." Other than that, I told him, I still loved the finished film, pointing out I love it when films, in which I'm convinced is Going One Way, throw me a big-time plot-twist curve-ball as did this well-written script. "Suddenly it was all Mission: Impossible," I said, referring to the original TV series, not the Tom Cruise films which puzzlingly bear the same title.
For him to remember me from that work done so long enough ago was impressive. I asked in what respect he'd worked on it.
"I wrote it," Nick Griffin replied to my surprise, introducing himself. It turned out to my greater surprise that Nick is my friend William's first cousin: Christopher Seiter's sister's son (also that his brother Ted [who I did not meet that night] had co-written Matchstick Men as well).
He remembered the laundry scene and stated how there was just enough ("dragging") pacing problems for the snippet to be removed. Nick asked me if I'd had the chance to speak with Ridley Scott. I related about Mr. Scott's and my all too brief "conversation."
Nick has no idea as to what may come of the DVD, if there would be deleted scenes or what.
He graciously took my card so he could check my website and I was able to wish him luck on the spec script on which he was working at the time.
Not without irony, my first re-airing of my The Practice episode did air that night, despite my earlier thinking it was being pushed to the following Sunday, and I had been unable to notify anyone, if anyone had missing it showing its first time around.


Matchstick Men (2003)

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