"Love, Daisies and Troubadours"
Working on the first season finale

When I arrived on set several days after I had worked the last episode of GG, there was a new Director but that was about all that had changed.  Steven was there, a whole bunch of extras were milling around, and it seemed to be business as usual in Stars Hollow.  Except that as we gathered on the sidewalk across from Miss Patty's Dance Studio I noticed that the crew was setting up to shoot INSIDE Miss Patty's.  Sure enough, after he had passed out vouchers Steven told us that the entire day's shoot would be taking place there and that it would be a town meeting.  Most of the principle actors on the show would be present and that we were all to be on our best behavior.  Well, this should be interesting!

This time Raquel the wardrobe lady didn't care for the shirt I was wearing, so she fetched a flannel over shirt for me to put on and she took my voucher so that she could hold it hostage until she got the shirt back at the end of the day.  I slipped her tasteless green plaid flannel nightmare over my regular shirt and promptly relieved the craft services table of some coffee and a couple of bananas.

Someone commented recently that I seem to eat a lot of bananas, but I don't really!
  It's just better than jelly donuts and when a shoot is on a studio lot such as Warner Brothers where Gilmore Girls is shot, they don't typically cater in lunch for everyone. There is a commissary on the lot and they expect you to go eat there, but I can't afford the six dollar sandwiches and four dollar pasta salads. So, like most of the poor, broke extras working a show on a studio lot, I raid the craft service table all day long. It mainly consists of fruit, donuts, bread, bagels and assorted drinks including coffee, but you can fill up on it and not need lunch. Now a location shoot is a different story.. not only do they provide craft services, but they cater in a fantastic lunch for everyone, also free!  The location shoots for feature films are especially dangerous.. one could eat so much one would end up looking like Marlon Brando if one isn't careful.

Marlon Brando.. walking testimony of the
great food served on film shoots.

After the crew had set up, it was time for Chip and Steven to herd us all into Miss Patty's and figure out where everyone was going to sit.  Two cameras were set up already at the podium area looking into the audience and a few of the seats that the principles were going to be sitting in were already occupied by their stand-ins.  As I entered I saw that my friend Paul had already taken a seat in the fourth row, so I grabbed the empty chair next to him.  The next half hour consisted of lighting guys tinkering with lights, sound guys tinkering with sound, and cameramen tinkering with cameras while everybody just sort of talked in a low murmur and Chip continued to shush everyone so that the crew could tinker in peace.

Eventually a few of the principle actors had trickled in and they were getting close to shooting, so the first AD (Carla) came in and made a nice speech for us.  She let us know what the scene was and what would be required of us.  Turned out it was going to be one long continuous scene and they were going to run it about a zillion times, getting different camera angles and going tight on particular actors who had a line here or there.  What she wanted us to do was simply to react to whatever was said.. to show surprise at something surprising, laugh at funny things and applaud when necessary.  Then she excused the second team from the set and asked for first team, which meant all of the stand-ins could leave and the actors would take their places.  Then she called for a rehearsal of the scene and just asked that they run it from beginning to end, then they'd fix anything that needed fixing.

Keep in mind we don't see scripts prior to a shoot, so we were all seeing the scene for the first time as the actors rehearsed it.  It was hilarious!  The town troubadour (played by Grant Lee of the band "Grant Lee Buffalo") had a speech to give, asking the mayor to have the citizens vote on who would be the official town troubadour, him or the
guy who had recently shown up with guitar in hand and was giving Grant a bit of competition.  Everyone voted for Grant of course, just as the first AD Carla told us too!  By the way, the actor playing the other troubadour is named DAVE, and it turns out he lives in my neighborhood.  I've run into him a few times at the local supermarket and just walking down the sidewalk and we've stopped to talk each time.  Dave has had some nice acting roles in the past, including a Frasier episode and a spot as a regular character on the hour long comedy/drama "Freaks and Geeks" that got cancelled a few years ago.  Ok, so just prior to the troubadour/vote bit in the scene, Lorelai and Rory had arrived, and after being scolded by the mayor for being late they settled into their chairs and of course Lorelai had the appropriate wisecracks and comments throughout the meeting.  After Grant gave his speech and just before the town voted on the troubadour situation, Rory had a little speech of her own to give.  She got through it nicely, and earned a round of applause from the extras during the rehearsal. 

After rehearsal, the Director came in and tweaked a few things for about ten minutes or so, then it was time to roll.  The Director and Carla, plus crew who weren't absolutely necessary had to leave because the building interior is so small, and there was very little room to stand behind the cameras in order to stay out of the shot.  They were all going to watch it on a console of monitors set up on the lawn just outside of Miss Patty's.  This first shot would just be a wide master shot from the podium that would film EVERYBODY in the room, while a second camera was going to go tight on one of the actors.  So, they ran the scene that way and got it in about eight takes.  THEN they did some adjustments, putting one of the cameras on another actor and the other one on someone else and got it in about another eight takes.

After that, they decided to go tight on a few of the actors who had special lines or things, like Rory's speech, so they had to readjust lighting and set cameras for that.  When they did film tight on Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, our side of the room was excused because we wouldn't even be in the shot.  We just went and hung around the area across the street from Miss Patty's for about the next hour or more.  (when they film something tight like that, they don't have to do the whole scene.. Alexis just stands up when the Director yells "action!" and gives her speech.)

After that was completed, our side of the room was called back in and they excused the side that Lauren and Alexis were sitting on because now THEY wouldn't be in the shot.  We weren't in there very long though, there were only a couple of short things to get down on film.  First of all, I had ended up sitting behind the town nerd, "Kirk", and he had one line.. so they got a tight shot of that.  Then there was a part of the scene where Rory looks back at her ex-boyfriend Dean (played by Jared Padalecki), and Dean looks at her in turn.  It seems simple, but Jared was sitting on our side of the room towards the rear and they had to move out the chairs where Rory had been and put a camera there.. so of course, Alexis was long gone and Dean's not really looking at anything in that shot.  That's the standard method used in those types of scenes and it shows why film and TV acting is so different from stage.. often there is nothing for the actor to play off of.. just air.  (Occasionally the Director will give an actor a "focal point" to look at, so it will help them pretend the other actor they are talking to or looking at is really there.  Usually the focal point is a stand-in, but sometimes they grab one of the extras and say "ok, sit here while Jared stares at you".

They got those shots and broke us all for lunch.  But they weren't done yet, after lunch they were going to "turn it all around" and shoot from the REAR, looking towards the podium this time.. and do the scene again.  and again..  and again... and again....

When we arrived back on set after lunch they had the cameras set up in the rear, looking over our heads and towards the podium.  Up on the stage were several of the principles including the guy who plays the mayor, and several extras that were "the town council".  They shot the scene again, doing a master shot looking in that direction and then they dismissed the last two rows and moved the cameras in closer.  After that, they moved in even closer and dismissed our row.  So we went and hung out across the street and never did get back inside.  We were wrapped several hours later, and when I had Steven sign my voucher so I could leave, they were STILL shooting.  It was about eight pm.


Steven had asked me the day before if I was married, and when I told him I was he requested that I bring my wife (Dorian) to the shoot the next day because they were going to be doing street scenes again.  He liked getting actual couples to stroll down the sidewalk holding hands.  Dorian and I arrived at about eight am, and I must say she was a bit thrilled to find herself suddenly walking around the streets of "Stars Hollow."  It was understandable, she's a fan of the show as are her Mother and Sister.  They tape every episode and tend to discuss plotlines with each other fairly often.

After the usual sidewalk voucher/wardrobe/speech ritual, Dorian and I chatted with other extras, had bagels from craft services and basically just sat around for the next five hours.  They were shooting something at Miss Patty's, and it was taking a long time.. then the crew moved over to Luke's Diner and shot a scene there which brought us up to lunch.  Poor Dorian didn't even get on camera!  But Steven made it up to her afterward.. when we returned from lunch it was time to shoot a sidewalk scene and it turned out we'd be walking right by Loralei.

The scene had Loralei walking from Miss Patty's with Rachel and they're having a talk.  They stop in front of Luke's and Rachel says goodbye and goes inside while Lorelai continues down the sidewalk.  The camera pans from her to Grant Lee, playing his guitar and THEN over to the troublesome troubadour who has just arrived in town and is standing across the street playing HIS guitar.  During that whole thing, Dorian and I are walking (hand in hand!) from the bank to Luke's and we walk by Loralei just before the camera pans to Grant.. so we got pretty well featured in that shot.  Months later when that episode was aired as a rerun, Dorian and I had missed it and didn't even know it was on that particular evening.  A friend that lives out of town who we haven't seen in a long time called us out of the blue and said "Hey, I saw you guys walking down the street in Stars Hollow this evening!"

By the way, all of this scene we were shooting out on the Midwest Street set is the day of that meeting in Miss Patty's.  In the story, the meeting will be "tonight" even though we were actually shooting all of this the next day.  They always shoot out of continuity.  For that matter, the next scene they shot was everybody going into Miss Patty's for the meeting.. but of course there wasn't any meeting really taking place.  Lots of people were going down the street to attend the meeting, including Lorelai, Rory and Max.. I'm placed WAY down the street so that I'm just a figure in the crowd and you can't tell who I am.  This is called "cheating", because I'm supposed to already be in the meeting when Lorelai, Rory and Max enter.  Dorian was placed up near the entrance because she wasn't in the crowd that was inside the day before.

We wrapped at about seven pm and went home, carrying some happy memories with us.

GILMORE GIRLS question and answer session

A while back, I asked the members of  THE FANS OF GILMORE GIRLS on Yahoo groups to ask some questions about working on the show.  I received a great response (thanks guys!) and will attempt to answer them here.  If you have a question about the show that you don't see here, feel free to email me.  But keep in mind that I'm just an extra and I don't know a darned thing about scheduling and I certainly don't know any of the lead actors personally and don't hang out with them.  I saw Lauren Graham going into the Mayfair market on Franklin Ave. in Hollywood one evening and that's the only time I've encountered her off the set.

Who are the coolest and who are the sweetest (or most down to earth)
actors or actresses you've worked with?

I'm not sure if you mean just on Gilmore Girls, or anywhere, so I'll talk about both..
As far as anything I've done, I worked on a film called "Clockstoppers", which was directed by Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek (you'll remember him as Commander Ryker) He was very jovial and nice on the set.  He joked around with cast, crew and extras, and seemed to always have a smile on his face.  He was the first Director I had come across that showed NO stress whatsoever.. amazing!

Most of THE WEST WING cast is pretty cordial and Martin Sheen is amazingly nice.  A couple of more people that deserve mention are Krista Allen and Kurt Russell.  Krista isn't that well known yet, but I hope she does well and her career takes off soon. (See her WEBSITE for a bio)  Some time ago, I was booked on a film she was shooting called "Totally Blonde" and at one point she came over to the craft services table and introduced herself to all of the extras hanging out there.  As she did, she shook hands with each one and got their names.. I was amazed because she's the lead in the film and they pretty much NEVER do that!  Now everyone knows Kurt Russell of course, and I was just impressed while on the set of a film he's shooting called "Dark Blue".  He was just really friendly, outgoing and jovial, and at the end of the second day of shooting (we had all been there for two LONG fourteen hour days) he made it a point to grab a microphone and thank all of the extras involved for their hard work.  It was a nice touch to the end of a long and hard shoot.

On GILMORE GIRLS, I'd say Sally Struthers (Babette) wins the prize.  Those of you around my age know that she's been in TV for years and will remember her role in "All In The Family" from the early seventies.  She's somewhat of a cut up on set, cracking jokes and just having LOTS of fun.  She's quite a bit like her character of Babette, actually!  A close second to her would be Liz Torres, who plays Miss Patty.  I commented to her in passing one day that I had enjoyed her character when she was on the John Larroquette show a few years ago, to which she smiled and cracked "So YOU'RE the one?"   Oh, and I don't want to leave out Melissa McCarthy who plays Sookie on the show.. whatta doll!  She's really a sweetheart.

Is Lauren Graham as cool as she seems?

Lauren is an actor and she's a good one, so if you're using her character of Lorelai as a reference then keep in mind that Lorelai is a creation of the writer (Amy Sherman-Palladino) and Lauren.  I don't know her personally and have had very little contact with her on the set, so I honestly don't know at all what she's like as a person.  I have seen her in interviews, particularly on Craig Kilborne's show and she comes across a LOT like Loralei.. very witty, charming and funny.

 What I observed of her on the set is that she's very focused, and that she works hard and doesn't goof off very much if at all.  At one point I was walking back to our holding area and she was hunched over in a chair, the script spread about at her feet and she was drilling herself on the lines that she'd need to know for the next scene they were going to shoot.

A lot of principle actors on these shows are more than aware it's television (as opposed to live theatre) and that if they blow a line then there's always the next take.  Producers HATE that attitude because then the shoot takes longer and it costs them more money.  But Lauren seems to want to get her lines and character down completely before she steps in front of the camera.  That's another reason she's so darn good as Lorelai, she's not concentrating so hard on what her next line is when the camera is rolling and so she can give herself over more to her character.

What is the funniest thing you've ever seen happen on the Gilmore Girls set?

That's an easy one!  The day we were shooting the town meeting inside Miss Patty's for the first season finale, Sally Struthers PICKED UP one of the AD's (Chip) and started spinning him around like a WWF wrestler.  Everybody broke out into applause and cheers, but what earned the biggest laugh is when one of the extras shouted out "Looks like Sally's got a chip on her shoulder!"  at which point she just lost it and almost dropped the poor guy.

Is Alexis as shy as she comes across?

Yet another one that I don't know personally, so I can't really say.  She's pretty young AND she's the lead in a hit show, which is a combination that usually results in a fairly snooty attitude, but I saw nothing like that in her at all which is refreshing.  She just focuses on what she has to do to make the scene work and she's very good at it.  Between scenes she's conversational with people she knows but otherwise just sits and studies her script.

Is Luke as macho?

Scott Patterson (Luke) is a lot like Lauren in his approach to acting.  They both stay very focused and seem to work pretty hard at what they are doing while on set.

Does Scott Cohen dress as nice as Max did in the season finale in real life?
What ARE the main actors like in real life?
Are they all fashionable in real life (esp. Lauren Graham, she's so, well, fashionable on the show, is she like that in real life?)

Again, I don't know any of them personally so I can't say how they are off the set or how they dress, since they all show up to do their scenes in the town plaza or at Luke's diner already dressed as their character.  Extras just simply don't hang out with the actors on a show, and don't even talk to them unless the actor speaks to them first which is rare.  So all I can tell you about is how they are on the set while working.

Have you ever been in a scene with Melissa McCarthy,
 has she ever done anything as funny as Sookie?

I was in the episode called "Sadie, Sadie" and got to be in a scene at the Inn, AND at the big engagement party for Max and Lorelai.  Melissa was in those too, and she's just amazing.  She's cute, witty, charming, funny AND talented!  (No, she didn't pay me anything to say that, it's all true!)

Melissa in the party scene from "Sadie, Sadie".
I was standing about ten feet over when this
was filmed, just OUT of the camera frame,
of course!

Was there ever talk around the set of cancellation,
did that make people worried and they worked harder?

I don't know if there was ever any such talk, I had only worked the last two episodes of the first season and so by the time I'd gotten there it had already been picked up for another season and everyone was pretty upbeat because of it.  I know that just prior to Gilmore Girls, Lauren had been cast in some short lived roles.  To quote E-Online.. "Then came the barrage of bit parts and near breaks: A recurring role as Richard's annoyingly perky girlfriend in Caroline in the City, guest spots on News Radio and Law & Order and full-time roles in short-lived shows--Good Company, Townies, Conrad Bloom, M.Y.O.B."  So I'm sure she wouldn't be crazy about a cancellation of Gilmore Girls.  But I can't see that ever affecting the work of any professional actor, they go into a series determined to work hard at it and do their best no matter WHAT.  In the film and TV business, the work you do on your current project will be remembered by somebody out there for a long time to come (by "somebody", I mean somebody in the business who may cast you in a future project).. and if that isn't incentive to make you do your best then I don't know what would be.

Are Jared and Alexis dating in real life?

I haven't the slightest idea who those two are dating in their private lives.  If anyone on the show IS dating a fellow cast member, then I wish them luck since it's a really tough thing to date  someone you work with, especially in acting.

Have you ever spoken to any of the townies, 
such as Miss Patty, Babette, Morey, Lane, Mrs. Kim, Taylor?

No, not really.  Extras don't speak to cast members on the set unless they are spoken to first, it's just a rule on all film and tv shoots.  It's not because they are big stars and are too good to speak with you or anything like that, it's just that it's a work environment and the actor is trying to do their job.  It's very distracting to have extras coming up always telling the person how much they enjoy their work (or hate it!) and asking them questions.. so the rule exists to protect the actors so they can concentrate and do a good job.

Does Gilmore Girls have unusually long hours for an hour long drama,
because of the dialogue?

No, it's pretty average.  TV shoots tend to run 10-12 hours a day and film shoots about 14 hours.

Have you ever eaten real food at Luke's Diner when you were in a scene?

It's real food alright, but it's cold and not really a lot of fun to eat.  When you're in the background you can just pretend to eat it and nobody will notice because they are really looking at Lauren's radiant beauty, er, uh.. I mean they are really looking at the actors doing the scene.  Also if the scene takes ten takes to get it down and you have eaten your hamburger in five takes so the prop guy has to run out to get you another one, I'd think they wouldn't be too happy about that.

It's different for the actors in the scene.  If they're eating something in a scene they can't get away with pretending to eat it since the camera can see them so well.  They have to actually eat it, so the crew makes sure they have enough on hand to get them through a possible ten takes or so.  If the scene calls for Lauren to come in and take a bite of a hamburger when she sits down at the counter, they'll give her a fresh burger each time they do a new take.  She might end up having to eat the equivalent of two or three burgers if things don't go well!  Oftentimes, food is substituted, so Lauren may be eating a veggie burger in the scene when you think it's real beef and generally mashed potatoes are substituted for ice cream to eliminate that pesky melting problem.

What is your juiciest unknown tidbit about the set of Gilmore Girls?

Nice try!  But you'll never see anything like that on my website.. I'd like to work there again!  I'm afraid you'll have to consult the tabloids for that kind of thing.

Did Luke's Diner really get painted?  Because I didn't see a difference before and after Lorelai supposedly painted it!! I watched that episode over and over and compared it with before episodes and I didn't see any difference whatsoever!!!!!

I don't know anything about it, but my wife noticed that Lorelai said she was going to paint it the same colors.. so it should just be brighter and spiffed up more but not that drastically different.  However I don't think the crew actually painted it at all.  "Theatrical License"!

Are Lauren and Alexis as pretty in real life as they are on screen?

It's funny you should ask that.. that was one of the first things I noticed when I started doing this work.  The good looking people are better looking in real life, and the ugly ones are uglier!  I guess it has something to do with the two dimensional nature of a film or television screen.  So yes, Lauren and Alexis are both pretty darn cute in person!  DON'T even ask me about Jared, ok?? :-)

Did you see any of the cast members hanging out together outside a shoot?

Nope.. only on the set.

How many days does GG film? Do they film different scenes each day, or do they try to squeeze filming into a day or two at the end of the week, like Friends?

Friends is a sitcom, and as such is filmed in an entirely different way.  Almost everything is shot on a single soundstage, four cameras at once are used and an audience is present for a big part of it.  On a one hour comedy/drama like Gilmore Girls they work at a slower and more meticulous pace, and NO audience is present with the exception of a few invited guests who were lucky enough to know someone.  Usually on days they're shooting the town then that's all they do (including Luke's or the grocery store, because they're IN the town.)  Days they shoot on the soundstages, then that's all they do too.  The soundstages for Gilmore Girls are about a ten minute walk from the Midwest Street set, and contain the interiors of Lorelei's house and the Inn.  The interior of Luke's is actually the interior of the diner on Midwest Street and isn't on a soundstage, as is the market.  Sometimes some of the other shop interiors that are actually ON Midwest Street are dressed up and used for a scene.

How many takes does it usually take to complete a scene without screw-ups, particularly cast members forgetting their lines? On the days you were on the GG set, did anyone forget his/her lines? What happened then? What do actors usually say when they forget their lines?

An average of three to ten takes.. it's different depending on hard the scene is.  Usually an actor will flub a line and the Director just keeps rolling, saying "That's okay, just back up and take it from (a few words back)"

Lauren Graham was wearing a particular dress in one of the episodes and I was wondering if I could buy it somewhere. It was a flowery pink long sleeve dress with a low neck and it looked like lace on the sleeves and around the neck. She was wearing it last night in the scene at work and when she was walking thru town with a white hat on.

For ANYTHING that you'd like to know, write to the Gilmore Girls at this address..

Gilmore Girls
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522

You can write to anyone who works on this show (including the actors) by using this address, but in your case you need to specify "Wardrobe Department" on the envelope and they'll forward it to them. Tell them the name of the episode you are referring to and describe the dress. They'll probably jot you a note back telling you who designed it and how to get it. There's no guarantee you'll get an answer, but I understand that a lot of these designers provide clothing so that it'll be seen and so requests of this nature are common place.

How did you manage to become an extra on GG?
I would be very interested to know.

I have a section of this website that tells how to be an extra, and answers questions on working in the film and television industry.  To see it, click HERE.

 Regarding the Gilmore Girls in particular, I'm registered with Central Casting here in Los Angeles, which is the largest and oldest extras casting agency in town.  They handle the extras for the majority of film and television projects shooting in the area, and Gilmore Girls is one of them.  They operate a hotline for registered members and each day I call up to see what work is available for the next day.  If Gilmore Girls is shooting, the Casting Director in charge will have put a notice on the line saying that Gilmore Girls is shooting tomorrow and what their needs are.  Sometimes they won't need my type, they'll just be looking for high school age to be extras at Rory's school or a party.  But if they need my type they will say so, at which time I call that Casting Director's line.  He'll answer and then bring up my picture on his computer and hopefully book me for the shoot the next day.  Sometimes I'll call in response to Gilmore Girls townspeople needed, and he'll book me on another show as something else instead, either because the need is too urgent or I've been on Gilmore Girls too much recently.  They like to mix it up and try to have different people walking around "Stars Hollow" so that the town doesn't look so small.

If you want to give the hotline a call just for kicks, so that you can hear what it sounds like, call 818.260.6120  You will get a recording, not a live person, and you don't have to be a registered member to call the hotline.. you just have to be registered to book something.

If you have any questions about working Gilmore Girls, or extra work in general, just EMAIL ME.


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