Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 06:14PM
I get a little thrill when I see these yellow signs around our neighborhood. It means "Friday Night Lights" is shooting nearby. For 10 years living in New York City, it was no big surprise to find a crew shooting on my street. Somehow, it feels different in Austin, which is just as cool as New York but not as frequently portrayed in TV and film. I love this town, and I love the way FNL brings it to the screen (albeit as a fictional small town).
Chris and I fell for the show hard when we moved back to Texas; we sucked down the first three seasons like iced tea in July. So I was over-the-moon thrilled when I got called to be an extra on the show, fulfilling #49 on my Life List.
I spent eight hours yesterday as an extra on the FNL TV show set in South Austin. (I managed to get all of the adorable fan-girl squeeeeee-ing out of my system before I showed up for work.) This particular Life List item came from my constant desire to go behind the scenes and see how things work, especially my favorite things. The possibility that I might actually be seen on screen in an episode is just icing on the cake.
No cameras were allowed on the closed set, but I won't need photos to remember the experience. Everyone I met was friendly and clearly great at their jobs. I'm dazzled but not surprised by how many talented people it takes to make a television show; from directors to production assistants to wardrobe assistants and on, these crew members bust their butts every day to create the simple, beautiful experience that I love watching.
The extras wranglers placed me in a few different scenes, including one that placed me close enough to the principal actors to get a sense of how the show's distinct style is created by the camera team. I got to peek at "video village," which is where the director, producer, script supervisor, and other people watch the monitors to see what's being captured by the cameras, and I saw what the footage from the two Super 16mm cameras looks like before it's edited and processed. (Hint: it looks fantastic.)
I won't lie: it was also utterly thrilling to stand so close to Kyle Chandler in character as Coach Taylor. It's a rich pleasure to watch talented people work, especially when they're also so handsome.
What? A girl can't get a little starstruck?
I was also lucky enough to be there for a particularly poignant moment -- it was one principal actor's final day on set. (I won't risk any spoilers by naming him.) He smiled at me and my fellow extras as he left, and I waved goodbye to both the actor and the character he created.
I'm a writer and business owner now, but I grew up in the theater, so I recognized the bittersweet casualness with which the actor saluted us and walked away. You work closely with a team of creative people, you become like a family, and you create an alternate world together. You invite other people into that world, that story, and then it's time for it to end, for you to move on. It feels like a sped-up version of a life, and even though that sting at the end of a project is vivid, the high is so delicious that you do it over and over again.
Season four of Friday Night Lights is currently airing on NBC on Fridays (episodes are also available on Hulu), and you can watch seasons 1-3 on Netflix View Instantly. And by "you can" I mean "you should." You don't even need to like football. I'm still shaky on the basic rules of the game -- but it doesn't matter, because this show is about love, community, family, marriage, and beautiful people.