Being George Bailey

Remembering What’s Important At This Time Of Year

(This is an article I wrote last year on another blog. I thought it was appropriate to repost it. I hope you enjoy it!)

While walking my crazy dog Skittles this morning, I was struck by the character of George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life”. As I’m sure you know, the character of George Bailey was played by the master of understatement, Jimmy Stewart. What I thought about this morning was that George Bailey was a man who always did the selfless, generous thing, and he resented it.

George throws a couple of “Fits” during the movie. The first one is when he confronts his bride-to-be, Mary. He loves her but realizes that life with her will be the end of many of his goals and dreams. This conflict within him results in a rather rough treatment of Mary before he finally breaks down and confesses his love for her.

George’s initial bad attitude that evening stems from the fact that his brother Harry, who George was counting on to take over the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan, has come home from college with a wife, and a job. That, in addition to an embarrassing conversation with Violet Bick, has gotten him into a foul mood before he stops by to see Mary.

George gives up his dreams for others’ benefit. While this results in George wedding Mary and living an exemplary life, it also increases George’s frustration that he was meant for “Bigger Things”. Mr. Potter catches George in a weak moment and offers him a job as his “Right Hand Man”. George considers the idea for a minute, thinking about the money, travel, and fantastic lifestyle that he and Mary would have if he was working for Potter. Then reality hits him and he realizes that “his ship would come in” but everyone else in Bedford Falls, who depend on him, would be destroyed by Potter. This results in George calling Potter a “Scurvy Spider” as he storms out of his office.

As the years go by, George becomes resigned to the fact that he will never see his big dreams come true. He is happy that God has blessed him with a beautiful wife, and four beautiful children. He isn’t happy with his job at the Building & Loan, but he realizes how important it is to the citizens of Bedford Falls.

Everything comes to a head when Uncle Billy accidentally gives Potter $8,000 that was meant for a bank deposit. Uncle Billy and George retrace his steps but to no avail. Even though Uncle Billy was the one who lost the money, George is facing prison, because he is the Executive Secretary of the Building & Loan. He could have tried to throw Uncle Billy under the bus, but he wouldn’t do it. Instead, after hearing Potter say, “You’re worth more dead than alive!” George loses it when he gets home from work. He yells at Mary and the kids and storms out of the house. Then, George is standing on the bridge contemplating suicide. Why was this happening to him? Hasn’t he been selfless and generous his whole life? This is his reward? Realizing the economic and social catastrophe he was about to inflict on his family, George utters the immortal words, “I wish I’d never been born!”

It is only after this statement, that George sees the positive impact that he has made on the lives of his family and friends. This realization hits home as the whole town shows up to rescue him and Uncle Billy from financial ruin and jail. Up until the moment when George has this epiphany, he still has a massive chip on his shoulder. “Why me, God? I’ve lived a good life, put others needs before my own, why am I being tortured like this?” What George had never realized was that God had a different plan for his life. If he embraced that plan, instead of fighting it his whole life, he would have been a whole lot happier.

I guess for me, what it all comes down to is that George was doing the right thing by living a generous, selfless life, but he was resentful of the life that he could have had. Living your life by putting others needs before your own isn’t just a noble pursuit, it is the key to happiness in your own life. This article is entitled, “Being George Bailey”. Not the George Bailey who feels cheated by life, but the George Bailey who realizes that by putting others needs first, he truly has had “A Wonderful Life”.

This Christmas Season, I resolve to be more like George Bailey. How about you? I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

[I am taking off a couple of weeks for the Holidays. My next post will be Monday, January 9.]

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Side Hustle: Movie and TV Extra

Do You Wanna Be In Pictures?

Thank you for joining me for this week’s Brown Parachute Club. Today, I have decided to change things up a bit. I am going to interview someone who is experienced with the Side Hustle: Movie & TV Extra.

I know that sounds crazy. How can I be in a Movie or TV Commercial? Where would I begin? How does it work? How do I get paid? Do I get to meet the star of the movie? These were all of the questions that I thought of, so I decided to talk to someone who is an expert in this field.

Jakey Staley has been a Movie and TV Extra for 10 years. She has been in Transformers: Dark of the Moon and more recently Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She has been in many other movies as well. I sat down with Jakey to pick her brain on how it all works.

TBPC: Hello Jakey, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. I wanted to talk to you about your career as a Movie and TV Extra. Since I know you have done this for a while, you seemed like the perfect person to talk to about this subject.

TBPC: How did you get started becoming a Movie and TV Extra?

Jakey: Thanks, Jerry. A friend of mine talked me into doing a free movie. She had seen it advertised in the paper. It was when the movie scene was first getting big in Detroit, so we showed up and got to be in a parade. It was for a Made-For-TV movie starring Sigourney Weaver, called “Prayers For Bobby”.

TBPC: Which company or companies do you work for?

Jakey: At the filming of Prayers for Bobby, we saw cards on a table for an agency called “Real Style”. My friend and I both signed up for Real Style, posted our pictures, and met the ladies who started the company. They knew the industry was going to start to get big in Detroit. They saw a need for Extras in the movies and all of the Producers who come to town know which agency to call when they need Extras. Real Style is how I got started in all of this. Your name and picture go into a database and they send you emails on everything that’s coming out.

TBPC: How long have you been doing it?

Jakey: I’ve been doing it for about 10 years. Prayers for Bobby (filmed in Royal Oak, MI) was the first time, so it has been about 10 years.

TBPC: Do you work with Real Style exclusively?

Jakey: Yes, I work exclusively with Real Style. They are THE agency for Movie Extra and Commercial work in the Detroit area. They work primarily in Michigan. I recently got an email for a commercial for a furniture company in Grand Rapids.

TBPC: How much do you get paid and how do you get paid?

Jakey: You get paid minimum wage. It’s mostly an hourly wage ($7.40/hour in MI). It can be a set dollar amount, say $300 for the day, or something like that. It’s always right around minimum wage. You are paid directly by the Production Company and receive your tax forms from them as well.

TBPC: How many times do you “Extra” per month?

Jakey: I’ve always had a full-time job, so I’ve had to take vacation days. I’ve never been able to do a week or longer shoot. Sometimes the Production Company will ask for 2 or 3 days, with “Whip It”, I did 3 days altogether. It’s normally a string of days in a row for the bigger movies. The smaller movies usually get their shooting done in one day.

TBPC: Is it difficult to get jobs?

Jakey: It’s all first-come, first served. When you get the email, if you have the date available, you respond to the agency. They are very organized. They will respond to you with all the details. Sometimes you click on the link and it says, “Sorry, we’re full”. When I first started it was a lot easier to get into the movies. I had more time available back then.

TBPC: If I was going to get started, how would I do it? Just contact Real Style and let them know I want to do it? Would I need a headshot and all of that?

Jakey: Yep, they do them right there. They’re a great company, I’ll plug Real Style!

TBPC: To me, it sounds like something that would be fun and interesting to do. Something out of the “norm”. When you’re in my situation, suddenly you’re open to trying something different.

Jakey: Yeah, it is. There were a lot of retired people, who had days available, they just need bodies in the background for movement. They can’t focus on your face. They need as many bodies as they can get.

TBPC: So when you’re talking to someone, your lips are moving, but that’s it, right?

Jakey: Yep, always quiet on the set, you feel like a Mime.

TPBC: Are there any costs for the Extra?

Jakey: The only cost is $25-$50 to get into the database and add your headshot. You can have up to 5 pictures in the database. You should always keep them updated because the Producers do look for Extras by age, height, weight, and so on. You don’t do any speaking roles, because if you speak on camera, you have to join the Union (Screen Actors Guild). That’s expensive! However, I do know someone who joined and has had a featured role in a movie, so you never know. I have heard that Shia LaBeouf started as an Extra.

TBPC: How long is the average Shooting Day?

Jakey: Well, on “Whip It”, one of the shooting days was 16 hours! There’s a funny story. I had taken the day off work, I did a 16 hour day on “Whip It”, got home, showered, and went back to work! That was a long day! Most shooting days are 8-12 hours. Not everyone gets picked. There was one movie where there were about 50 of us and they only needed 20, we all got paid for an 8 hour day. We sat in a big tent and played Euchre all day.

TBPC: Based on the amount of time spent, what do you figure is your hourly wage?

Jakey: You get paid the minimum wage. If you get paid in a lump sum, that is generally for commercials. These Producers have been doing this for a long time, so they know how to watch every dime and are very strict when it comes to the budget for the movie.

TBPC: Do you get to meet the stars of the production you are working on?

Jakey: Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

TBPC: Do you have any interesting or funny stories from filming?

Jakey: “Whip It” was cool, even on the 16 hour day, it was about 100 degrees in there. Drew Barrymore was on skates and a bundle of energy even though it was, like 3 a.m. and we were all dead tired. She picks me and my friend Karen out of the crowd for a scene and says, “You two look cool!” She sets us up at the edge of the roller derby rink. There’s a part in the movie when Ellen Page, one of the stars of the movie skates by, and grabs a poster that Drew Barrymore had given my friend Karen. Ellen Page grabs the poster and tears it up and throws it. The camera was aimed right at us, so we think, “This is it! This is our big break!” When the movie comes out, you can only see the side of my face and Karen’s hands, that’s it! Movie Magic! 

There was another time when I was doing, “Gifted Hands” (The Ben Carson Story) with Cuba Gooding, Jr. He was very nice, a friendly guy. There was a scene when he was standing in front of me. I was a nurse at a desk and he was right in front of me. After the movie was released, I saw my boss on the escalator and she said, “I just saw this movie with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and your twin must have been in it because she looked just like you!” I said, “That was me!” She thought it was great.

Also, during the filming of “Whip It”, Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore were terrific and kept all of the Extras entertained and fired up during the 16 hour night of shooting. They were great.

Well Jakey, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I’m sure your information will be a great help to our readers! We’ll certainly keep an eye out for you in those movies! Thanks for your time!

A list of Jakey’s Movies:

Whip It
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
Prayers for Bobby
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
This Must Be The Place
The Amazing Cynical Man
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

To find a movie extra casting company in your area, do a search online, or you can go to Casting 360, which has jobs all over the country. I’ll see you in the movies! Break a leg!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Giving Tuesday

Don’t Forget To Give!

Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club and the Holiday Season! By this time, you should be preparing for Christmas and had all the turkey you can handle (no, I’m not talking about Cousin Eddie).

This year, I learned about a new charity event. Have you ever heard of Giving Tuesday (#givingtuesday)? I put the title all as one word, with the hashtag for a reason. This is a campaign that was started by the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y(MCA) in New York. They use Social Media Influencers to spread the word and encourage giving at this time of year.

Giving Tuesday is the day after Cyber Monday each year. I would have scheduled it the day before Thanksgiving and called it Giving Wednesday. After blowing your bankroll on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I wouldn’t think there would be a whole lot left over for Giving Tuesday.

However, it is a reminder to take care of your charitable giving early. Before the “Christmas Steamroller” plows through December and you wind up in January with a mountain of bills, wondering what just happened!

Since Giving Tuesday is a Social Media-based event, it gives me hope for the younger generation of this country. The Selfie-Generation seems so self-obsessed, it is encouraging that a campaign like Giving Tuesday has caught fire. It is promising that this age group can count their blessings and consider giving to others, who are genuinely in need of their help!

During this extremely busy time of year, it is difficult to sit down and figure out which charity deserves your donation. The hassle of trying to figure out who should receive your hard-earned money can become more of a chore than a blessing. Also, how do you know which charity you can trust? How do you make sure the money you donate is finding its way to the people or animals who really need it?

Unfortunately, many charities make a living off the generous nature of its donors. Check out this article that details The 20 Best Charities in America: 2010. You may not be familiar with many of these charities, but they have the lowest overhead of any charities reviewed in 2010. That means that virtually every dollar donated goes directly to the people or animals that need it the most.

Here is another chart that details some of the best vs the worst charities. There are a lot of terrific military charities listed. So if you want to give to our Heroes, here is a great way!

As far as animal charities go, I have always found it is best to stay local. I avoid the national money-grubbing charities that tug at our heartstrings, with commercials of neglected and abused animals. Petfinder has a great way to find a local shelter in your area that can use your donation of money (and time).

I know what you’re thinking. “I would love to give to charity, but I don’t have two pennies to rub together. I am barely making ends meet as it is.” I know it’s a lot to ask. However, since I have started donating 10% of my income to a different charity each week, I have found that a string of blessings have been coming my way. I can only account for these blessings by my charitable giving. It’s like “Indiana Jones and the Leap of Faith” I mentioned in my last article about Goals. Sometimes, you just have to take that first step and see what happens!

I hope you decide to donate to a charity of your choice this Christmas Season. Just remember, no matter how bad things are for you right now, there is always someone else who is worse off.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!