I got the call.
It was from my close friend Rick Davis. “I am helping with a film being shot at the Fox Theater and I am hoping you will be the bass guitar player for the band in the movie.” The working title of the movie is “Oildale.”
He went on to explain that “playing”” actually meant “pretending” to be playing my guitar to prerecorded music. There would be other musicians “pretending” to be playing drums, guitars, violin, steel guitar, keyboards and other instruments on the stage of the Majestic Fox Theater. Since I am now a seasoned veteran of one movie, I won’t use the word “pretend” anymore. I am substituting “acting” in its place.
This was a real deal movie with wardrobe, make-up, catering, sound, lighting, multiple cameras, script supervisor and other Hollywood necessities.
Call time was 9 a.m. and I went directly to check to make sure my wardrobe was appropriate. Then I went to make up. Edwina Davis, a local video production legend, was one of several make-up artists. Edwina looked up at me and sadly said, “Steve, I can’t help you!” Then she gave her endearing Edwina smile and laugh. She had me sit and made me feel like the star I thought I was. Then it was off to the set where all the “acting” musicians were already in their places on stage.
We even had a “good cop bad cop element” to every shot filmed. We had an assistant director, whose name escapes me, who was remarkable in so many ways including her correctional guard tone and mannerisms to all stage instructions. She never simply stated the instructions; they were all shouted. Not that she needed one, but the only thing missing was her megaphone. I feared her at first, than came to really appreciate her. I think it was the same psychological relationship where a hostage develops positive feelings for their captor. By the end of the day, I really grew to respect her.
David Mueller, the director, was the “good cop”. His gentle voice commanded obedience to every suggestion. He definitely was the boss on the set but the assistant director was the stage muscle making sure it was all perfect.
I heard all the clichés: “quiet on the set,” “stand-by” and “action.” I even learned a new one, “back to the one.” That meant going back to your exact stage position when the shot first started.
The day was filled with multiple repeats while being filmed from different angles. Even though we were “acting” like we were playing the songs, all the musicians learned the songs for authenticity.
Late in the afternoon, the Bakersfield audience was let in for filming. The energy level of the “acting band” notched up considerably. The stars of the movie came out to do their scenes with the band. Make-up was on hand and walked right pass the band during breaks to freshen up the main stars.
I whispered to one of the make-up artists that I had several friends in the audience who I wanted to impress. Would she do me a favor and the next time she came out on stage if would she fuss over me and freshen me up too? She was a good sport and laughed the whole time she brushed powder onto my balding forehead.
There are so many more stories to tell, so many things I learned and so many memories I will take away from this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Thank you to my band mates, the film crew and especially my friend Rick who could have chosen any one of his famously talented bass players to be in “Oildale.” But instead he chose me. Rick, my brother from another mother.
But for now it’s “back to one” in my real life. There is still make-up, wardrobe and catering but I have to do it myself now.
I hear Clint Eastwood is looking for a bass player in his next film “Herb Benham, the man, the myth, the legend.” Think I have a shot?
Anyone have connections with Clint or Herb? If you do, please put in a good word for me.
See you at the movies.
Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at email@example.com. His work normally appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.