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How drastic measures kept me working alongside Scarlett Johansson

November 21, 2022

I walked onto the $150,000,000 Hollywood movie set Ghost in the Shell wearing five pairs of sandals stacked together and strapped on a pair of black sneakers with silver duct tape. 

Everyone cried their eyes out in laughter and gave me a thumbs-up.

How I got this crazy job is a story for another time but how I kept my job after almost getting fired on the first day is on the menu for today.

A week prior it was my first day on the movie set. I limboed under the front gate and sat for fifteen minutes in the security booth waiting to get the clearance before getting picked up by an assistant armed with a hands-free.

“So you’re job is to be a stand-in for Batou.”

“A stand what?”

“You essentially do exactly what the actors do in each scene so the crew can use you as a live mannequin to get the lights and camera rig set up for that very shot. So when the actors come in, everything is ready for them to perform without having to stand and wait.”

“Oh okay, I can do that.” 

“Here’s your side (part of the script). Read it and learn your lines by heart.”

Gulp.

We hopped past the trailers, past the giant outdoor green screen and into the four-story tall windowless block of concrete known as sound stage one. 

The Stone Street Studio complex in Miramar Wellington was built by Peter Jackson with the money he made from the Lord of the Rings.

My assistant walked me into the set through a Japanese-styled corridor lit from below into a massive scifi sushi restaurant buzzing with people. 

There was broken glass all over the floor, a futuristic version of a SWAT team rehearsing their entrance, and robots that looked like Geishas dressed in red kimonos.

“You there! Grab a gun, point it over there and look at her.” yelled the first assistant director.

The armorer gave me a replica of a real handgun weighing a good half a kilo. I picked it up with one hand and turned to look over my shoulder just to realize the woman looking back into my soul looked deceivingly like one of the biggest female movie stars in the world Scarlett Johansson.

My knees buckled and my jaw decided to go say hello to the floor.

For the next hour and a half, I stood there holding the gun (my hand shaking profusely) and trying to remember the first assistant director’s words whether he said to lock eye contact or just look in her general direction.

And then the director of photography Jess Hall yelled at me. “You, stand-in, you’re a foot too short.”

At that moment I realized this would be the first and last day on the movie set. I was sure to be fired for being too short.

Apparently, I was much shorter than the legendary Game of Thrones actor Pilou Asbaek I was standing in for.

I went home happy and sad and told my girlfriend all about it.

Three days later just after losing all hope of getting back to the set, I got a call out of the blue. 

The caller was the extras casting director asking if I could come back the next morning. I was over the moon and said of course. But then he dropped the bomb. 

“Jussi, any chance you could grow a bit taller overnight?”

“Uhm how much taller?”

“About two inches.”

“Yeah. 

Sure. 

I can do that.”

With no clue how my better half and I rushed to the local equivalent of Target and headed to the women’s shoe department.

I picket the skin color stiletto high heels that gave me about 3-inch raise and tried walking in them.

Two seconds later I knew I was either going to break my ankles or my knees if I wore these all day. Probably both.

We slipped to the other side of the shoe rack dedicated to sandals, and my girl had a brilliant idea. We could buy a bunch of sandals, cut off the straps, stack and glue them together, and then duct tape them into a pair of sneakers.

With my head held high, I had taken drastic measures to keep my job, get some laughs out of the crew and make myself look like a fool. 

But a happy fool who got to live my dream for three months longer.

Never underestimate the power of creativity and duct tape.

Now, what area in your life could benefit from taking drastic measures? 

What can you jury-rig together to get things done and make a difference?

A black and white photo of the author Jussi's smiling face with shortcut hair and a short beardJussi Tarvainen

Former pro snowboarder. Author at night. Multi(failed)-entrepreneur. And mostly an awesome designer (said, my five-year-old son).

plenty more loot in the vault

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