Throughout the three weeks “L.A. Law” and “Psych” star Corbin Bernsen was filming his new movie here in Turlock, there was one thing missing from that silver screen.
Me, of course.
Fortunately, Bernsen recognized his mistake on the last day of filming “Christian Mingle,” a family-friendly romantic comedy, and put me in front of camera.
I apologize in advance if I become an insufferable egomaniac after this brush with fame. But seeing as I am – quite officially – a full-fledged movie star now, I suppose I'm entitled.
Like they always say, Hollywood is about being in the right place at the right time.
I went to the filming on Monday intending to work, but not to play a role. After all, major motion pictures don't cover themselves for TurlockCityNews.com, do they?
I just happened to be in the production office, minding my own business, when Corbin (we're on a first-name basis, natch) let out a cry – “Are there any guys here with a beard and long hair?”
I'm not ashamed to admit I've been waiting my whole life to hear those words.
Minutes later, I was ushered to a vacant storefront on West Main Street which filmmakers had transformed into a hip gospel church.
I was seated among the many extras playing a handful of congregants, somewhere towards the back. At first, I was crestfallen. I'd be just another face in the crowd.
But then Bernsen readjusted the seating arrangement. He called my name, and pointed to a seat right up front.
“A star like me needs to be closer to the front,” I said half-jokingly.
And suddenly, there I was. Right along the aisle that the main character Gwen, portrayed by Lacey Chabert of “Mean Girls” and “Party of Five” fame, would walk down
Suddenly, nerves struck. I'm no seasoned actor. As a reporter, we're used to being behind the camera – not in front of it.
But Bernsen was congenial and easy-going, putting everyone at ease before the cameras started rolling.
We walked through a few quick rehearsals with Chabert's stand-in, cinematographers finding their marks and establishing exactly how the scene would be filmed. Then Chabert herself walked in, and quite a few of the congregants – myself not withstanding – were star-struck for the first time.
The scene we shot that day was simple. We churchgoers were standing and clapping along to an invisible chorus, while the camera focused on Chabert's inner decision whether to stay at this new church and find God, or to go on her merry way back out the front door.
In about a half-hour of filming, the roughly 30-second scene was all said and done. As I walked out the front door myself, I was puzzled how the scene would fit in to the grander scheme of the movie.
But given my outstanding performance looking like a goofball who is way too in to music, I was called back for a second day of shooting on Tuesday.
On this, the final day of filming, filmmakers shot the rest of that church scene. What was just a handful of congregants seated along the aisles was transformed into a lively, fully packed church, with a real choir of actors on stage.
There was one big difference, though – Chabert wasn't there for the final day of filming. She had to leave a day early, to attend her own wedding. A fair excuse, in my book.
Chabert's stand-in was there, though, dressed identically as Chabert had been the day before. Cinematographers carefully blocked out shots so the stand-in's face wouldn't be seen, but the wardrobe and shape of the stand-in would be enough to convey that Gwen was there.
On Tuesday we did much of the same as extras, dancing along to the now-visible choir. Filmmakers spent about an hour capturing both the choir as they performed and shots of the churchgoers clapping and dancing. Those shots will be spliced in with Monday's scenes – featuring the real Chabert – to fill out the scene.
Clearly, I was the class of the congregants. The camera followed my every move – or at least I like to think so.
In reality, I'll probably be another long-haired, beardy face in the crowd. I won't know for sure until “Christian Mingle” hits theaters this spring.
But after this experience, I think I'm ready for a headlining role. Brad Pitt had better watch his back.
Oh, and Mr. DeMille? I'm ready for my close-up.