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Posted on Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 8:11 p.m.

Flippin' out, part one

By Heather Heath Chapman

Hollywood was coming to Ann Arbor, the guys in the black Lexus said. I was taking out my trash on a spring evening when they stopped to ask me about the vacant lot down the street. Did I know who owned the land? Did I know what kind of tree that was, perched way in the back? Maybe, they told me, the lot would be a set location for the movie called Flipped. Perhaps, they suggested, that big, old tree would play a central role.

But, a few weeks later, Rob Reiner said no. I wasn’t there when it happened, but my friend Stephanie saw him surveying the vacant lot with his hands on his hips. She called me to say that Rob Reiner, the director of Flipped, was standing on OUR STREET, staring at OUR TREE, and that I should get over there RIGHT AWAY. I abandoned 30 hot dogs meant for a first-grade picnic and hopped into my minivan; but, by the time I got back to my neighborhood, Rob Reiner was gone.

A few days after that, we heard from someone who heard from someone that Rob Reiner had not liked the tree. Our neighborhood wouldn’t be part of Flipped after all. Most everybody on my street seemed fine with that—they hadn’t been looking forward to the trucks and the cameras and the disruption of a perfectly good summer—but I was a little disappointed. I am an enormous sucker for All Things Hollywood.

Well. A few days after Rob Reiner rejected our neighborhood, someone sent me an interesting e-mail: Castle Rock Entertainment was casting extras for Flipped. Applicants needed to be at least 11 years old and no taller than five-foot-five. Would my daughter be interested?

“Definitely, yes,” she said, and so did I.

A movie set! It sounded like the coolest summer camp ever. My daughter could get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at filmmaking, and I might get a glimpse of Rob Reiner, who would (maybe, hopefully) be the first famous person I’d ever seen up close (besides Jeff, the purple Wiggle). I sent the casting company two pictures of my girl: a headshot, as they say in the business, and an entire-kid shot.

Then, a few weeks later, on a Monday night, I got the call: my daughter had been selected and was scheduled for five days of filming. How exciting! Yahoo! Except—oh darn. My daughter and my son were in Nebraska visiting their grandmother. My husband and I were alone in our own home for the first time ever, and we’d planned two weeks of kid-free fun. The woman from the casting company told me brusquely that there was a 9:00 costume fitting on Friday morning. If we couldn’t make it to the fitting, they would find another extra to take my daughter’s place.

So then I had to decide. Drive to Nebraska, pick up my girl, and drive back the next day? Or, keep everything hush-hush and enjoy a staycation with my husband?

Once-in-a-lifetime movie opportunity? Or, two weeks’ worth of uninterrupted… everything?

Tough one.

My husband stayed helpfully neutral, providing, as he often does, a blank slate on which I could scribble my thoughts. As I talked through the pros and cons, I knew I was leaning toward the driving/movie scenario; but, I didn’t trust my own judgment. The moment I’d gotten the call, I’d felt a secret rush of excitement springing up from my ardor for All Things Hollywood.

Because I love movies, and I love t.v. I love reciting my favorite lines from movies and t.v. I grew up watching way too many movies on t.v. And now I had a chance to travel to the heart of the action.

If I was willing to travel to Omaha first.

How stupid was it, exactly, to forfeit my vacation and drive 22 hours total so that my daughter and I could spend five days on a movie set? I polled my friends by phone.

“Geez, I don’t know,” said Gretchen. “That’s a lot of driving.”

“Absolutely do it,” said Laura, who believes that everything happens for a reason.

“What does she say about all of this?” asked Stephanie. And so I called my daughter.

She was thrilled when I gave her the news. “I’ll probably get to meet Rob Reiner!” she said.

“You know who Rob Reiner is?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said, slightly exasperated. “I saw him on Wizards of Waverly Place.”

Then I got practical, telling her that, no matter how many hours she spent on the movie set, she might not be in the movie at all.

“Cutting room floor,” I explained. “And also, I’ve heard that being an extra is sometimes really boring, because you have to sit around all day.”

“And I’d have to come back to Michigan right away,” she said. I agreed that she would.

She said, “I’ll call you back.”

A few hours later, she told me that she’d like to give Flipped a try. And so, the next day, I kissed my husband one last time without anyone in the background going, “Ewww!” And I started driving.

The trip wasn’t so bad. The only downer was that, every time I put gas in my car, I’d add in my head to the total of What It’s Costing Me to See Rob Reiner.

Thirty-two dollars and four hours.

Sixty-seven dollars and eight hours.

Sixty-seven dollars, ten hours, and the worst heartburn of my life. (No more Big Macs for me, ever. In fact, no more Macs of any kind.)

When I got to Omaha, the kids barely registered my arrival. (They’d only been away from home for two days and hadn’t missed me much, apparently.) My mother-in-law fortified me with good food, cold beer, and a comfortable bed. The next morning, I was driving again.

Ninety-six dollars and 13 hours.

Six stops in Iowa, so that my son could work out his “poop troubles.”

Four Happy Meals, all with exactly the same toy.

Twenty-four hours and a new empathy for truckers.

Nine are-we-there-yet’s, 10 games of 20 Questions, and, inexplicably, one really angry argument over who saw which cow first.

Thankfully, the total cost of gas had gone beyond my math skills.

We were home. And, we were ready for our close-up, Mr. Rob Reiner.

Next week: Flippin’ Out, Part Two.


Jason W

Sun, Aug 9, 2009 : 10:18 p.m.

Here's to the blank slates everywhere - always part of a successful adventure!

Ann Arbor mom

Sun, Aug 9, 2009 : 5:28 p.m.

Having just driven 8 hours in one day with one child, I cannot even fathom the possibility of 24 hours of driving with 2 children. The depth of your attachment to your children and/or Hollywood is shining through!


Sun, Aug 9, 2009 : 5:27 p.m.

Wonderful story, can't wait for part two...

Sam Nead

Fri, Aug 7, 2009 : 2:14 p.m.

Great story! I love the "it's the price you pay" angle. Looking forward to Part Deux.

Original Ann Arborite

Fri, Aug 7, 2009 : 10:46 a.m.

Can't wait to hear the rest! :-) I am a sucker for 'all things hollywood', let me tell ya-each day I search for whats up on hollywood news and goings on (I always hear it first my friens say), I should be a 'hollywood writer' LOL If it were my son or daughter I would have contemplated just as u did and then made the trip also-u have my support :-) Looking forward to part 2.


Fri, Aug 7, 2009 : 7:23 a.m.

So many hot dogs left for Hollywood glamour How can this end well? Can't wait for part two!!


Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 10:26 p.m.

You met Jeff the Wiggle??!! You get cooler by the minute. When is part 2?


Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 7:32 p.m.

Let me be the first to say I Flippin' love this.