Tag Archives: Filming

Filming a TV Show in NYC in a Pandemic

EMT’s jump into a vintage ambulance and speed off past NYPD Chevy Caprices. The backdrop: a spooky, mostly disused hospital on the fringes of New York City. Two menacing men in flat-top fades and thick gold chains saunter toward the entrance.

This is the world I spent yesterday in, as a background actor (also known as an extra) playing an EMT for a popular cable show. Background acting is a fun hobby I picked up in late 2019, but I hadn’t done a gig since the beginning of COVID. But now I’m fully vaccinated and back in the game.

So what’s it like to film a television show in New York City in the middle of a pandemic? First, be prepared to get COVID tested a lot, even if you’re vaccinated. I took a COVID test 10 days before the shoot, a rapid test at the fitting one week out, another test 4 days out, and yet another rapid test as soon as I arrived on set.

But that’s not all. You have to fill out an online form about symptoms and travel every day you come in. Even on the shoot day, you wear a mask at all times unless you’re on camera or eating.

Even with these changes, filming is a lot of fun! I wore an elaborate costume that had been tailored to fit me personally. The tailor even sewed “EMT New York City” patches onto the uniform. I was rather honored to have such a fuss made over me, despite being just a background actor.

I had the opportunity to ride in a 1982 Ford ambulance like this one, which was fascinating! My fellow EMT, who was also a trained stunt driver, took the wheel. I also got to see circa 1990 NYPD squad cars on the set, which is a rare opportunity.

The episode was set in 1991 and we filmed in a remote part of New York City. I can’t get into specifics on the show until it airs later this year, but I was incredibly impressed at the very real little world they had created. Two characters had Timberland boots, thick gold necklaces, and tall, fade-style Afros cut specially for the scene. The cars were picture perfect. There’s something about seeing a little world where the past has been recreated, and becoming a part of it, that’s quite thrilling.

In all, with the many tests and fitting and elaborate setup, I was only actually on camera for maybe 90 minutes. That footage will later be cut down to probably just a few seconds. The amount of work that goes into making a perfect scene that may last just an instant is incredible.

I look forward to being a part of lots of other interesting shows soon!

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Photos:

“VFS Film Production: ‘Milligan’s Stew'” by vancouverfilmschool is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“1982 Ford F-100 ambulance” by sv1ambo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

My Family in Japan Saw Me on TV!

My wife is from Japan and in our five years of marriage, I’ve become very close with her family. But, given today’s restrictions, I can’t see them any time soon.

But they saw me! My wife’s mother and sister watch New Amsterdam, a hospital drama shot in New York City. I appeared in this episode as an EMT, my first time acting. I’m only a background actor (also known as an extra), but it was a very fun experience!

I really enjoyed seeing how a TV show is made from the inside. Also, perhaps due to its high ratings, New Amsterdam has incredible food. Sushi, filet of sole, unbelievable!

The second season of New Amsterdam is now available in Japan and recently, my sister-in-law texted me to let me know her and her mother saw me pushing a stretcher and immediately knew it was me! It makes me really happy to be able to share something fun I’m doing with them. It also makes me feel closer to them since at least they’re seeing me in some way.

My in-laws had actually seen me on TV before. In my first full day ever in Japan in 2014, I happened to be on the national news. I was walking here, and a news program was filming a feature on increasing tourism in Japan. I had no idea they were there but my head wound up prominently visible in the footage. My wife was miffed that despite a lifetime in Japan, she had never been on TV! Her modest stature excluded her even from this shot. She still awaits her chance at stardom.

Interesting little tidbit from that episode of New Amsterdam: the actor on the other end of that stretcher was pushing it very quickly and the stretcher was extremely heavy. We had maybe 2 inches of clearance behind one of the main characters, a very nice lady named Janet Montgomery.

I kept trying to slow the stretcher down before we take out this very small lady. In this episode, she’s pretending to walk with a cast, and we didn’t need her to wind up in a real one!

After this episode, I did another day on New Amsterdam, an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and an episode of Netflix’s The Politician. It’s an enjoyable hobby.

Shows are still filming in NYC but only very few, and the safety situation concerns me, so it’ll probably be months before I return. But I look forward to it!