Sometimes through a series of happenstance encounters, life can get weird and random quickly. Who knew that an email to the embassy about volunteering in Astana would lead me to a party at the US Expo Pavilion where I would meet two people from Minnesota with whom I enjoyed a lovely day around the city the next day and who then invited me to another Expo party where I met a person that has connected me more with the city in a week than I managed to do the previous seven months I’d been here. I can’t think of another time in my life where I literally was able to trace one thing to another quite like this…
While a lot has changed for me in the past two weeks, one of the highlights of the chance events has definitely been…being an extra in a Kazakh film. How did this happen? Well, my new friend is acting in this film and sent me a message at 10:30 PM on Wednesday asking if I was available Thursday to be an extra for a scene depicting an American funeral/memorial service. Since I’ve been riding the wave of randomness the universe is throwing at me, I agreed to do it.
The film sent a car to pick up my black-cladded self the next morning and we headed to the set, which was a house in a village about 20 minutes from the city. I’ve heard that the life of an extra can be quite boring as it requires a lot of sitting and waiting. Two other non-Kazakhstani extras were there, so I at least had people to talk to and made new friends! After about an hour, we were called to get our make-up done while the arranged the set for filming (I think this make-up was pure oil and maybe glue, it took ages of intense scrubbing to remove it!). Despite this being an American memorial scene, I was the only American on set and they consulted me on a few details, which was kind of neat!
After the director sized up each of the extras, we were positioned, given a little bit of direction, and filming began. In total, we did about 12 takes, including additional close-up shots of the grieving family (I think I ended up in these since I was sitting next to them). Other than looking sad and placing a comforting hand on the shoulder of a family member, I didn’t have to do much. Fine by me! I was just there for the experience. It was a rather surreal experience and really fascinating to see how these things come together. And also, the number of people working on a project! They all looked so young too! And many people seemed to have multiple roles, like the Assistant Director of the project who drove us home after our work was done.
The project should be out in December (will definitely share details/the scene if I can find it!). I was already contacted to be an extra in another scene, so who knows, maybe I will make a name for myself in the Kazakh film industry as the token American woman.