Byron Bay in Australia has this reputation for being a hip little beach town for surfers, hippies, and other alternative folk. You would think I loved it when I first got there, but I didn’t.
I had embarked on a road trip with a guy I had met in a hostel in Melbourne and eventually we arrived in Byron Bay. Instead of instantly getting a good vibe, we just saw a town full of backpackers, and that wasn’t what we had come for, so after one night, we left and carried on.
We went up the coast, made it to Cape Tribulation, and came back down again. For some reason we ended up back in Byron Bay. My road trip friend and I parted ways – he went to relax for a while before heading back to Melbourne and I met up with Loz, because we wanted to see if the thing we had going on since our first encounter a few months ago was worth sticking to, and we thought we’d best find out by spending time together for a while.
Since we didn’t have transportation of our own, we decided to stay in Byron and found ourselves a shared house a couple of kilometres out of town.
And then it turned out that Byron Bay is pretty darn nice!
The shared house had room for around ten to fifteen people. Someone was always about, and we played games, went to the beach or downtown, cooked together a few times, and were relaxed as hell.
It’s amazing how you do not get tired of days that are not filled with anything much when you’ve got a good bunch of people to hang out with.
Then again, they weren’t all the lazy bastards we were, but had jobs or were busy trying to find one.
Cassie, for instance, always had something going on – I quickly lost track. But one afternoon she came back from town and asked if Loz and I were interested in being extras in a movie project on the next day. We would be in two scenes – one was a car crash and the other one was a low-key beach party. We would get a few bucks and also beers and snacks at the beach party scene.
We looked at our schedules, only to find that we could probably postpone hanging out and going to the beach or to the market for another day, and decided it was time to start the movie star career with all the fame and fortune and maybe eventually some plastic surgery – maybe.
The next day we met up with the other extras and the producer of the film and his crew in downtown Byron Bay, hopped in a mini bus and drove a bit to the place where the car crash scene was to be filmed.
Now this is where the fun started: we all got covered in fake blood by a talented and super-nice make-up artist, and some of us were really lucky and even had bits of metal seemingly stuck out of them. Turns out that the fake blood was made from a corn syrup base, which at least is nice when it needs to be dripping out of your mouth while you’re hanging out of a car wreck, unconscious or moaning a bit.
We quickly learned that being an actor extra is not for sissies. We had to hang out of this car wreck or lie around it without moving for quite a while. I had wisely chosen a fairly comfortable position but others put more effort in it, stretching out in awkward poses, which is admittedly more realistic, but also much more painful once your limbs fall asleep or worse, get cramped…
Our director was a fascinating character – I’m serious! Unbelievably he was from far-away Germany, and had come to shoot a low budget feature film that was loosely based on his own travels in Australia. He was truly enthuisiastic and definitely interesting to listen to. We didn’t quite get why we were all supposed to die in a car accident, but he said that it was for a dream sequence within the movie.
We nodded very professionally, trying to delay the cleaning-up part. Fat chance that we would look this awesome anytime soon again! But finally the corn-syrup had to go, and because we all still looked pretty blood-stained, we were sent home to clean up and mentally prepare for the beach party scene later on.
For said scene we were again driven to a remote spot, and it was a beautiful location: big rocks and white sand, the forest behind us… But we weren’t here to have fun, right, so we grabbed beer and chips and worked hard to look like we were having the time of our lives. Okay, so it wasn’t that hard.
Unfortunately all our efforts were in vain, because something terrible happened: Patrick, the camera man, had wanted to get a good shot of the incoming tide, so he had put his camera on a tripod in the sand. I don’t know if the sea had a bad wave day or didn’t want to be a movie star on that particular afternoon, but it sent a gigantic wave that just went over the camera, briefly covering it in water, then retreated, leaving everyone in shock, including the camera.
For a moment Patrick didn’t seem to understand. Then he flipped. I will spare you the swearing (I think it was mostly in German, anyway), although I could completely understand why he was so upset – I mean, we’re talking serious equipment here! He was so upset that he just grabbed the camera and stormed off.
We felt this was probably the end for the shooting of this day, and, a bit confused as to how the situation had turned so quickly, we collected our stuff and went back to Byron Bay. Andreas, the director, asked if we minded to re-do the scene once the camera was sorted out again. Was he serious? This had been the most exciting thing that had happened in days, so damn right we wouldn’t miss out on the continuation!
So a couple of days later we were back in the same spot, accompanied also by Patrick and his camera, which had thankfully made it without damage through its unexpected cleansing. This time everything went well and we could drink our beer – er, I mean: work very professionally in peace and quiet.
Well, and that’s the end of it. If you’re desperately trying to remember now if there ever was a hitch-hiker movie about Australia, directed by this German guy: no, there wasn’t. In fact, only now that I’m telling the story of our very brief actor extra careers, I made an effort to find out whatever happened to the project.
It seems to really have been made into a movie, called “Sunset Star”, but I don’t think it was ever officially released. I did find a trailer that seems to be loosely connected to it, although it’s called “Everywhere But Home”. And it doesn’t have us in it. I mean: seriously: who’s gonna be interested in that, folks?! …I’m just kidding.
I do hope that one day I see Andreas’ movie, whatever final version that would be. He was so dedicated; he even sold his house to be able to finance making it! It was great meeting him and a lot of fun being an extra for a day.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I might just go and smear some corn syrup on my face, for purely sentimental reasons.
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