Filming in Schenectady
by Spencer Birt

The "Time Machine" crew turned the clock back in Schenectady NY last week and created a nineteen hundreds winter park in the middle of the city. Location shooting for this H.G.Wells remake was taking place complete with sets, actors, and extras.

The call had gone out weeks earlier for seven hundred extras to work, and I quote, "All night, in February, in the cold." They were telling the truth. Our days ran from dusk to dawn.

Those of us selected were called to a costume fitting about a week before the shoot. Vintage costumes, flown in from various European countries, were fitted to our bodies, in most cases two to three sizes larger than usual because of the amount of warming garments already worn. These costumes were really very complete from head to toe for men and ladies alike. Corsets for the ladies, button shoes for the men. It will be worth seeing the movie to view the costumes!

On the first night of shooting a large touring bus taxied us from the parking lot to the "Holding Area." There we received our instructions on paper work, house keeping, do's and don'ts. The organization and procedure was masterful. Lots of people but always under control. Those guiding us through this period were most gracious and always polite. Now off to the costume department.

Sure enough the costumes previously fit were there and for the most part complete. Button collars and corsets you don't do alone so we had "dressers" there to help. My size nine shoes became eleven's because of the extra sox and the narrow shoe styles of that day. Some of us walked like we had swim fins on! Donning the costumes was done in two large open rooms, one for ladies, one for men.

Once in costume, it was off to makeup: hair sets for the ladies and facial hair for the men. Some men had great beards and mustaches already. A large "walrus" mustache was applied to my upper lip with spirit gum. The ladies with there new hair buns looked especially regal in there lovely feathered hats set at jaunty angles.

Ready as we were, the bus took us to the set. Here those appearing as ice skaters headed for the ice. These are the real heroes of the extra cast. They did a fantastic job for four long nights on very uneven ice and with horrible weather conditions. The balance of us were lined up and selected, by assistant directors, to be placed in specific areas of a scene. Some walked, some sat, some "sold popcorn." The band sat in the Gazebo in their sharp blue uniforms. The above was about the same for the four nights of shooting.

"Ready---Rolling----Background----Action." Take after take. Twenty degrees with wind. Fingers cold, feet colder. Most of us were too excited to notice and were having too much fun. The crew was the tops and kept us supplied with coffee, hot chocolate, and hot cider. They also were very complimentary about our work. Hand warmers were applied to all parts of the body and large football style parkas helped during the down times. The night it rained the crew took all the parkas to the Laundromat and dried them for us while we were having dinner.. You can see why we liked them!

From the first contact at the interview to the final good-bye most of us found this experience thrilling and positive. They told us what to expect, and what they would ask of us. There were no suprises. They delivered for us and I think we delivered for them. My only suggestion: Never try to eat ice cream in twenty degree weather with a "walrus" mustache unless it is your own.

Spencer W. Birt


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The Time Machine Project 1998 Don Coleman
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