An imaginary journal entry for the What a Character contest.
| AN EXTRA VIKING Well, it's the first day of my working vacation and I don't think I've ever reported to any job this early in the morning. What am I doing? I was surprised to see other people out and about at 4:00a.m. They probably left their comfy beds reluctantly, too. Maybe I'll grow accustomed to this god-awful time. So far, my new career as a movie extra isn't very glamorous. Yawning and sipping a paper cup of caffeine courage, I suddenly find myself choking in disbelief. It was like a scene from an eerie film. Out of the pre-dawn mist, a crowd of men appeared. They were all Viking'ish like me; burly, hairy, and bearded. WOW! Cindy the casting agent struck gold. Obviously, she'd used that line, "Have you ever considered being in a movie?", to reel in a lot of men. Since we were to be Viking extras the words 'crowd' or 'a lot' didn't seem special or Hollywood enough. Perhaps we were more a 'horde' of Vikings or a 'vitality' of Vikings. Yeah, I prefer that; vital, virile Vikings. There was no spectacular carved ship waiting to ferry us to our destination. Our two-hour voyage into dense forest would be aboard an ordinary school bus. While I gratefully accepted that I did not have to row a big boat, I felt certain that sailing had to be smoother than the bone-jarring, teeth-rattling trip I endured. A few of my fellow adventurers shrugged their shoulders, winced, and rubbed their heads. "It's an old logging road." Sleep-deprived and battered, I was realizing that movie-making is a rough business. As a diesel mechanic, the toughness of the old bus amazed me. It's not an all-terrain vehicle and more than a few times I was certain it had lost a vital piece. I expected to be asked to fix it, out in the middle of nowhere. I wondered how the crew and their gear managed to drive on this rutted route. I'll probably have some major repair work to do when I return to the dealership. Cindy and a site-location team arranged to lease a fleet of trucks and vans from my boss. She looked past my grease and coveralls to discover a Viking. My kidneys were ready to explode when the bucking bus finally shuddered to a stop in a clearing. Wow, again! I'm impressed. Set builders have been very busy. The carpenters erected an immense log structure that I soon learn is the Viking hall/lodge. A glorious sun rise crowned it in a well-timed opening scene. My Viking playground is a meadow circled by towering green giants. This could be a wild forest anywhere in the world. Movie viewers may never know this is Vancouver Island. I'm more than surprised to find a thriving, bustling, make-shift community here. I expected to see the trucks and vans, but there are several trailers, too. Some house throbbing generators. Some seem to be equipped with construction equipment, while others hold movie-making gear like cameras and cables. A few trailers are actually luxury accommodations for the stars. I note that a couple of catering trucks are easy to spot. They have lines of people trailing to them. Snaking through the still damp grass are thick cables. I'll have to watch my step. A cluster of blue, yellow-roofed port-a-potties stand alone. Big, white canvas tents billow and beckon. I'm impressed, again. Someone hauled all of this out here and set it up. The aroma of strong coffee wafts invitingly through the air, and we weary Vikings are directed to help ourselves to it and fresh doughnuts. I don't have to be told twice. Refreshed and curious, I listen to a tiny woman with a megaphone introduce herself as Jen. She welcomes us and then warns us it will be a long day. After we have changed into our costumes, we can expect to sit and wait. We will be promised our own holding tent. We are cautioned not to wander off or get too close to filming. One of the tents shelters the wardrobe department. It's a busy place with whirring sewing machines, piles of fabric, and an army of bantering bodies. These behind-the-scenes warriors are wizards with needle and thread. I'm assigned a number to memorize. It corresponds to my custom-made costume and my employee designation. Someone has already created a Viking ensemble for me, Viking 73. Actually, I have three outfits. One will be worn for most of my two week stint. One has been carefully pre-stained with dirt, blood, grass, and sweat. It's intended for the fight scenes; huh, no effort on my part. The third set is a back-up kit, something the wardrobe mistress doubts I'll ever need. All this planning boggles my mind. Again, I am impressed. My clothing fits me perfectly. Now I understand the significance of Cindy's casting questions re my measurements. This is so cool, I have a tailored Viking look. I've been threatened with bodily harm if I lose or misplace any piece of my gear. Every night, I must return everything to my numbered hanger, ready for the next day. It's called continuity. I, for one, don't want to mess with these ladies. They have sharp shears and sharp tongues. At first, I felt a little awkward and self-conscious. The tunic is looser than my regular shirts and it's tied with a rope belt. My leggings are foreign too; knee length and tied. They're sort of like britches/breeches, but still better than a kilt. I'd probably flash somebody in that. Skivvies are not authentic. My footwear is going to take time to accept. It's either made of leather or more likely cost effective 'pleather' like all of our clothes. It resembles real animal hides. I can only think to describe this as moccasin-like, but with laces that I must criss-cross around my shins and tie. This takes time and effort, plus I snag the abundant hair on my legs. Oh, all of us extras had to be told to remove watches and jewellery. This stuff is such a part of us. Apparently, true Vikings aren't obsessed with time. I don't have a tattoo to camouflage, so I'm not subjected to a make-up session. In my animal skins, I resemble an 'authentic' Viking. For fourteen days, I don't have to trim my beard or my bushy eyebrows. I won't have to brush my hair or cut it. I am a gloriously hairy, unkempt Viking. I can get used to this; no fussing, no primping. Once I passed inspection, I meandered to the holding tent to wait with my fellow Vikings. We are quite the sight; blondes, brunettes, fiery red-heads. We joked about adopting new names. I'm no Eric the Red, but Mark the Mauler has a nice ring to it. We passed the time playing cards, sipping coffee, and getting to know each other. We swatted mosquitoes, too. Those blood-thirsty buggers couldn't be denied. I suppose their presence makes sense. Actual Vikings must've been greeted and swarmed by mosquitoes when they explored the New World. The biting bastards kept our experience real. I must say the food is plentiful and excellent, no Viking fare here. I'm not going to be a starving actor. I'm going to be spoiled by this catering. It's a good thing there's a seamstress or two on site, I'll probably burst a seam. I can't believe I'm being paid to dress up, eat constantly, and shoot the breeze. There'll more than likely be times when I think I should be doing something, but I can handle this. This sure will be a very different kind of holiday! After idling away a few hours in the heat, I was called to action. A big scene was to be filmed at a banquet in the great lodge. I was instructed to pretend to eat, drink, and be merry. I was astonished to see dogs, big wolfhounds I think. Where had they been hiding? Everything is choreographed. Lighting is checked. Sound is checked. The main actors are coached and re-positioned. The dogs are coaxed and rewarded to do their tricks. Make-up handlers remain on stand-by for touch-ups. Props are replaced. This is exacting work; detail is important. I was invited to a Viking party and loving it! I could raise a tin mug in a hearty toast. I could appear to be in a festive mood because this was fascinating. Before I left the Viking camp in the evening, I witnessed the filming of an outdoor's action scene. The star of the movie was supposed to ride his horse to a river and be thrown in by his rearing stallion. It was kind of funny in reality. In repeated takes, he rode up to the edge of the river and that was it, the director yelled, "Cut!" Several assistants carefully helped him dismount and he retreated. Another rider took his place and the real action began. Over and over, this person was filmed falling into the water. Once again, the movie-making business shocked me. This tenacious stunt double was a woman. I wasn't relishing my jostling journey back into town, especially after I learned that the star of the movie was pampered with a helicopter ride. I suppose it's a small price to pay for front seat tickets to a movie. The behind-the-scene preparations are so fascinating; not all the action makes it to the big screen. For the next thirteen days, I'll be a part of this make-believe world created so close to home. Tomorrow, this mechanic may see the Viking ships sail into the secluded site. I wonder if I will be a crew member? (1610 words)