This weeks Hollywood Hand-Off comes to us from Hollywood North, where a young gent by the name of Avi Phillips relates his experience as a background player in the Disney tween epic CAMP ROCK 2.
Avi is an actor in Toronto who has been biding his time in the background of films shot locally. Next year, he will appear in the foreground of Sarah Polley’s TAKE THIS WALTZ. He has been writing since he could hold a crayon, and currently contributes exclusively to his own blog, thisissic.ca
I’ve submitted to precautions prior to entering the Canadian parliament, the FBI building, and LAX, but none of these establishments compare to the gauntlet of security on a Disney production.
Initially, details were limited. A shuttle would launch from a subway station, and whisk me to an undisclosed location. “What adventure!” I imagined, until I emerged from below to a dismaying scene: a crowd of teens huddled before two classic yellow school buses. Reliving the classic field trip made me wish I had wheels.
Almost immediately, the sing-song began. A host of hits were warbled at blistering volume, with the odd choice cut from ‘back in the day’ (the late ’90s were considered oldies) garnering the most rousing tuneless renditions. My knees pressed into the back of the vinyl seat, clearly exceeding the appropriate size for a rider. I was sandwiched between a beefy poser gabbing with his girlfriend on his cell, and the unforgiving metal window frame. Still in the dark about our destination, I sleuthed our direction on my phone’s GPS.
Once we arrived, at a park an hour from the city, we disembarked and were led to a makeshift security station. Each guest was to surrender their cameras and phones, and acquire a badge. Additionally, we were to sign a form pledging to not disclose specifics of the set’s inner workings. For the rest of the shift, any visit to a port-a-potty or craft truck would require brandishing the badge to persistent security guards. Most displeasing was the confiscation of my phone, potentially a paparazzi conduit. Not only would I lose the ability to kill time, I couldn’t even tell what time it was, let alone my current global position. By the time I landed in the make-up chair, four hours had elapsed since I had shaven. My eleven o’clock shadow belied my youthful character, frustrating the lady applying foundation to my face.
“Didn’t you shave this morning?”
“Well, you’re too old for Disney.”
Humans appearing in Disney films must adhere to a strict vanilla image. Agencies warned their recruits to arrive clean cut, though the fashion righteous ignored the call. Thus, their supercool status was shed when the rebellious were forced to shave their scruff, doff the logo-laden attire, lose the piercings, and surgically remove the tattoos. This was not the happiest place on earth.
Vanilla human stars of Disney’s CAMP ROCK 2
My duty on camera was relaxing at the outset: a camper wandering aimlessly with an electric bass slung over my shoulder. Although I did possess relative musical skill, my technique would be indistinguishable as a mere blur deep in the background. I passed by a peer who was selected as a counselor, probably due to his height and inability to shave. Eventually, the energy ramped up when the soundtrack to the musical number blared through the monitors, and I was to excitedly skip towards the choreography and clap in time. For all the faked conversations and silent situations into which I’m typically thrust, this was one of the more ridiculous. With visions of dollar signs replacing the saccharine dancers, I committed to the humiliating task of cheering and waving my arms while Disney’s brightest stars lip-synched in the foreground. Since the set was situated at the edge of a lake, dialogue was often interrupted by the sounds of nature. At one point, two opposing flocks of geese had intersected midflight, causing airborne pandemonium. Unable to identify from which flying V they originated, broken letter formations circled in disarray, honking incessantly.
Luckily, filming had to cease once the sun went down, which allowed my eight o’clock shadow to become veiled by twilight. I shamefully avoided eye contact, like a werewolf whose facial hair appears with the moon.
I could ignore the sloppy Whitney Houston catalogue sing-a-long on the child-size bus once I was reunited with my phone again. I stroked my stubble, entranced by the glowing blue dot travelling homeward.
Camp Rock 2 debuts September 3rd at 8pm EST