“My family, my future; it means too much to me. I can’t risk it, it’s not worth the risk; I’m done.” — Eric Lopez in Game’s Over

I previously blogged about my adventures as an extra on Star Trek Beyond in 2015, but in July 2017 I beamed up to a starring role as Eric Lopez in “Game’s Over,” a short film by students at SAE Institute Dubai. We shot the film during the evening on July 18 and 19 in Dubai and it premiered at a student showcase at SAE on August 20.

I was invited to participate in this film noir project by Natalie Aji, the film’s producer, Melissa Urresti, the director, via my profile on Mixfame (an online platform connecting talented individuals with production houses, casting directors and producers for projects in UAE and the Middle East).

A description of the film follows:

“Three men are involved in the Los Angeles underground scene. When Eric wants to quit in order to save his family, John and Matthew must figure out a way to make him stay in order to sustain their social status and not expose the crimes they have committed.”

After participating in a student film and two promotional videos at the American University in the Emirates (where I have taught management and marketing courses since 2015) in addition to my past appearances on game shows from 2000 to 2008 I was thrilled to be a part of this project. Acting in this film was challenging, yet rewarding; it pushed me to expand my abilities creatively and professionally.

I also appreciated the opportunity to expand my acting experience with such a dramatic role in a project that helped students complete a project for their degree program. I was thoroughly impressed with their dedication and determination. Although it is slightly less than 8 minutes in length, we spent at least 10 hours shooting on location; I am sure at least that many hours were spent editing the final film.

You can watch “Game’s Over” below or view it directly on YouTube.

Bravo to the crew and my fellow cast members for a job well done!

Are you a connector — or looking to connect?

malcolm-gladwellIn his 2000 book “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” author Malcolm Gladwell argues that ideas, products, messages, and behaviors “spread just like viruses do.”

He then explains how “word-of-mouth epidemics” and trends are triggered through “The Law of the Few” by three pivotal personality types:

  • Connectors: people who know large numbers of people across a wide array of social cicles who enjoy making introductions between individuals in those different circles; a connector is the social equivalent of a computer network hub.
  • Mavens: a subject matter expert expert who connects us with new information; they gather knowledge and understand how to share it. Gladwell explains that mavens are the people who start “word-of-mouth epidemics”  because of their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate.
  • Salespeople: charismatic persuaders with powerful negotiation skills responsible for advertisements and marketing through which they strive to convince others of “needs” (which may or may not exist). They are masters of “The Stickiness Factor,” and know how to make ideas and products simpler and more attractive. Notably, Salesmen are often paid for their skill, while Mavens use their skills for the simple pleasure of sharing knowledge and and helping others

On Wednesday, March 1 from 6 to 9 pm at Dusty’s in Dubai you can discover if you are a Connector, Maven, or Salesperson at “My Friends Your Friends,” is a social gathering where everyone is connected through mutual friends.

mfyfExpect great conversations, new relationships and an environment where luck feels at home. Visit the event’s website to learn more and to register at https://myfriendsyourfriends.com; you can also explore the gathering’s Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/755312037978472/.
Attendees are invited by the hosts (of which I am one), who will ensure you have a great time and get the most value from attending. Hosts are responsible for bringing along friends with an eclectic mix of stories, interests and goals. The hosts will ensure you always know somebody at My Friends Your Friends and make memorable connections. They include:
  • Anika Morjaria: online personality Literally Anika; content creator, brand ambassador and model.
  • Arthy Baheerathan: founder of Arthyreally and Patches & Flash; photographer and digital content creator.
  • Harshana De Silva: founder of Alliance Events, Dubai’s best kept secret for corporate events.
  • Hunter Lee Soik: head of global community at Dubai Future Foundation; tech entrepreneur and futurist.
  • Kanchan Kulkarni: founder and fashion designer at Kara, a home grown label making noise on catwalks globally.
  • Lobito Brigante: DJ; organiser and curator of cultural events; party rocker and turntablist.
  • Matthew A Gilbert: instructor at The American University In The Emirates; tech and marketing expert.
  • Omar ‘Ot’ Tom: co-founder and co-host of The Dukkan Show; established Dubai’s number one podcast; MC and strategic planner.
  • Raj Kotecha: founder of Creative Content Agency and My Friends Your Friends; co-founder of Vaynerworld; DJ.
  • Richard Boullemier: news presenter at Arabian Radio Network; head of business development at First and Ten Productions.
  • Ritesh Tilani: founder of Joi; active member Of Dubai’s entrepreneur and investor community.
  • Saana Azzam: founder and CEO of Mena Speakers, responsible for bringing incredible speakers to Dubai.
  • Shyam Savani: brand manager in lifestyle, fashion, and travel; Trendsetter of The Year, 2015
  • Sonal Kotecha: interior designer at Pallavi Dean Interiors; Young Interior Designer of The Year, 2015.
Learn more about the hosts at https://myfriendsyourfriends.com/#hosts-section. If you don’t have an invite from a host, you are still very welcome, just register now at https://myfriendsyourfriends.com/attend.
mfyf

Indicate your interest in attending this event by registering now!

On October 15, 2015 I boldly went… onto the set of Star Trek Beyond.

I first learned about the opportunity in August 2015 from the Facebook page of the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi. After auditioning, I was invited to act as an extra on the final day of filming at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. The production had been previously filming around Dubai in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) (where some set shots were captured).

First I had to get fitted for a costume.  The outfit they had planned included an alien head, but the headpiece was too tight. So we tried Costume #866: a blue heavy sweater top (with a turtleneck that I was supposed to button up, covering my whole head), a black jacket/overall combination of sorts with overall-like straps (that I held onto as I walked), black leather gloves with what appeared to be two fingers and a thumb, dark blue ski pants, and black motorcycle boots. Oh, and it had four arms!

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I arrived on set at 11 am Thursday, October 15 and left at 5 am the next morning (18 hours total with 17 of them being active on the set). By 9 am that morning I was at American University in the Emirates (AUE) teaching MKT 200, Principles of Marketing!

After I arrived and got into my costume I walked in front of a green screen and was photographed in 360 degrees for digital capture. It’s possible, that given both of these activities, I appear in the film although my head was covered by what I called the “turtleneck” of the costume. Fortunately, I was able to leave my head uncovered during the on-set filming — which is why I was able to see myself on screen!

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Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of myself in my costume (beyond my 1.5 second appearance on-screen, explained below) because we were prevented from having our phones. But, you can catch a glimpse of the set in the Instagram video below from Zachary Quinto who plays Mr. Spock; I was to the right of the person recording it:

this. maybe for the last time. maybe not.

A post shared by Zachary Quinto (@zacharyquinto) on

Despite the futuristic world in which Star Trek is set, I felt “Amish  adjacent.” Being accustomed to regularly checking my phone, I felt awkward, but eventually the digital detox was a welcome change. We had nothing else to do but talk with each other! This actually wasn’t my first time on a set though; I’ve been on three game shows.

However, this was my first time on a major motion picture set: everything was impressively overwhelming. There was an army of friendly assistants wiping sweat from our faces, squirting shaving cream down our necks to cool us off, and giving us water. It was simultaneously invigorating and exhausting; I was energized yet tired at the same time by the activity and excitement that surrounded me. Some random memories of my “extra experience” include:

  • Costume designers fixed costumes with thread, tape, and glue.
  • Countless people with clipboards stood at the ready.
  • Extras moved about the set like a sea of bustling humanity.
  • Grips with duct tape swinging from their belts scurried about.
  • Production assistants wrestled with film equipment.

The set where I worked appears in the first 10 minutes of the film as the USS Enterprise arrives at the Yorktown Starbase. When I first saw the movie in the theater (and when I first wrote this post, which I have since updated) I didn’t see myself. I assumed I had been lost to the cutting room floor.

However, at a Dmitry Masleev piano concert I ran into Koenraad Gys who was also an extra. He said he clearly saw me about 10 minutes in while watching a DVD of the movie! Ironically, almost exactly a year earlier (a month after filming) I bumped into Koenraad in Dubai. He was with his brother-in-law Nabeel, and another friend Dean — all of whom were extras.

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I planned to watch the DVD, but that turned out to be unnecessary. On Monday, November 7, just as I logged into YouTube for my MGT 100, Principles of Management class at American University in the Emirates (AUE), I saw a suggested clip titled “Star Trek Beyond: Starbase Yorktown Introduction Sequence.”

I watched the video with my students, who were delighted and excited. It was special sharing that moment with them, especially since I first received a text confirming my casting while I was teaching another class! And, sure enough at 1:31 to 1:32 — 1 second of movie magic — spotted myself in my dark blue costume on the left hand side of the frame! You can somewhat see my extra two arms near my thighs, but you can very clearly see my face.

I took three screen shots from the YouTube clip and enhanced them, circling myself in red. You can also two of the friends I made on set: Alissar Nasrallah  to my right wearing a yellow jacket and Shah Qhan in the middle of the shot facing the other way with his hand on another extra’s back.

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When I first began my actual on-set activity I was paired with another man named Amir in the same four-armed costume. His 8 to 10-year-old son was an extra dressed as a Vulcan child and his wife was there in an ornate dress with a large white hat. For most of that experience he and I walked together, but he left with his son around midnight or 1 am. The fact that I am walking alone here tells me that this was shot between 1 and 4 am; it might have been one of the last scenes filmed in the entire movie.

It was a long day (and night), but it was an exceptionally unique experience that I would definitely do again. I made many new friends and got to be a part of something memorable and meaningful. My mind is filled with a multitude of memories I will forever remember:

  • A Walk to Remember: I quite literally I walked for 12 hours straight (more or less). For most of the takes I walked with a similarly costumed character — either side by side or single file. As the My feet ached for a week and I wore sneakers to work!
  • Green Screen: I walked in front of a green screen alongside two other extras with my face covered by an extended knit turtleneck part of my costume (this made it nearly impossible to see). The crew also took a series of digital capture photographs of me and did a 360 degree 3-dimensional body capture.
  • Meet and Greet: I shook hands with Simon Pegg after his scenes in the film concluded. I had just seen another film of his, Man Up, and shared with him how much I enjoyed it. At one point during a break I also used the bathroom at the same time as Zachary Quinto (but I didn’t shake his hand).
  • Social Experiment: One of the most interesting aspects to the experience was that people grouped themselves together with others in similar costumes; even people in different Star Fleet uniforms and different ranks segmented themselves together.
  • Well Armed: The costume I wore was alien-esque (I had four arms), but I did not have an alien head.  I was able to wear my costume with my face showing during my work on set and got to walk in front of, behind, and alongside several of the main characters including Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock.

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After the movie was released I appeared for the third time on Ben Olmos’ “The Satisfactionist Podcast” with Shah Qhan — a friend I made on set. Shah and I discussed our experiences as extras; there is a great amount of detail in the recording if you’re curious to learn more. We also shared our thoughts about other entertainment topics. However, I edited those segments out and only kept the Star Trek Beyond commentary. If you’d like to listen to the full podcast you can do so here.

Live long and prosper.