On The Set of Turkey Shoot (2014)


It’s 7 o’clock on a hot, summer Melbourne morning and I’ve just pulled into the back car park of what could have once either been a school or a prison, but today serves as a location for co-writer/director Jon Hewitt’s re-imagining of cult Australian classic Turkey Shoot. The call sheet the production emails me the night before has me start shooting at 8:30am as an extra.

I follow a series of signs bearing the original production name of Turkey Shoot Reloaded, before being greeted by a production assistant who ushers me into a side building that the crew are using as their base of operations. I walk past the actors dressing rooms before coming to the costume department where I’m introduced to the films particularly friendly costume designer Theo Benton who’s preparing one of the extras who will act as a security guard. I’m given a once over before it’s decided that the shirt and jeans I’m already wearing are appropriate. Because I’m supposed to be playing a grungy protestor, I’m not entirely sure how I should take this.

Before I can think about it too long though, I’m lead to a waiting area where I have the first of many roll calls before shooting begins. I drink some truly terrible coffee as the other extras in the scene arrive and sit around as well. It becomes quickly apparent that they are either uni kids who have heard about the film through friends of friends or mates of the films production manager. It is also apparent that they are completely unfamiliar with the film on which they’re about to appear in is based so I gleefully fill them in on the awesomeness that was the 1986 version of Turkey Shoot (which I write about here).

After some more waiting, we sign our release forms (there’s a notable lacking of pens) and get our set call. An assistant director walks us around to the front car park where our scene will be shot. In the distance I can see the film’s director Jon Hewitt conferring with the two main actors in the scene, leading man Dominic Purcell and actress Leah Vandenberg, who a fellow extra immediately identifies as “that girl from Play School”.

We’re situated in a circle around the two actors as the Second Assistant Director gives us our direction. We wave around protest signs and shout the same two lines over and over until we’re instructed to mime midtake while they record the actor’s dialogue. More than one take is ruined by my fellow extras missing their cue. Roving the set is director Jon Hewitt who’s a ball of energy, he sports a smile the whole time on set and bounces around joyfully. Looking at him I’m reminded of Orson Welles’s description of a film set as a boy’s favorite train set.

We go through take after take for the first hour. As the crew changes sets ups Purcell alternates trialing the boom operators e-cigarette and gossiping with Vandenberg about a mutually disliked fellow Australian actor, while the rest of us stand around and exchange small talk. I talk to one lady whose been doing this professionally for twenty years and another guy who’s trying to break in to the business.

About two hours into the morning a fire truck arrives completely unannounced during the middle of a take. Apparently a fire alarm has been set off in one of the buildings. Never one to miss an opportunity, Hewitt quickly scrambles his crew to get some added production value as an assistant gets releases from the firemen after it’s been revealed as a false alarm. With that drama over, we get back on the set and keep going for another hour before wrapping the scene and line producer David Lightfoot leads the crew in a nice applause for our efforts.


Six Months Later…
Calvin Cropley_Trailer Trash_The Art of the Film Trailer_MG_0192 Ginnane


I’m sitting in the film’s MIFF premiere next to my wife. Ozploitation Producer extraordinaire Antony I. Ginnane introduces the film while Jon Hewitt circles him with a digital camera. Behind us somewhere sits one of the original film’s returning cast members (in a different role – and one of the best ever cameos in an Australian film), the iconic acting legend Roger Ward.  I anxiously wait the whole film for my scene to come on until finally it does in the last act. The scene itself goes for about a minute, of which I appear for maybe five seconds across two or three shots. I excitedly turn to my wife and ask if she saw me. She shakes her head: ‘No’. Such is the life of an extra. At least I can take solace in a photo with Ward, and because I appeared in a scene with Purcell, I can put myself within five degrees of Kevin Bacon. Satisfied with my one experience as an extra, I’m not sure that the next three are on the cards for me though…

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