Jennifer Truelove says she still remembers the moment when she told herself there was no way she would ever want to become an AD. “I was a PA on Addicted to Love, and I heard the 2nd ask the 1st what time he wanted the pigeons to show up on set,” Truelove laughs. “I thought to myself, ‘I never want to be the person responsible for making sure the pigeons make their call times.” Over the years, Truelove’s feelings have clearly changed, given that she’s now one of the most sought-after key 2nd ADs on the East Coast. Working on everything from mega-budget studio pictures (The Bourne Ultimatum, War of the Worlds, Spider-Man 2) to offbeat independents (Synecdoche, New York; Away We Go; Rachel Getting Married), Truelove has amassed an impressive résumé, and now “loves being the person responsible for getting the pigeons to the set on time.” But it’s usually humans she’s moving. Lots of them.
“We had 200 extras for War of the Worlds screaming and running through the streets for the opening alien scene,” recalls Truelove, still amused by the memory. “And I was the one running right alongside them all, so I could shout, ‘rolling,’ ‘cut,’ and ‘back to one.’ The base rate [for extras] was $36, and it became known as ‘Mass Hysteria Pay.’ The term was actually put into use by the Screen Actors Guild on that movie.”
Truelove worked with the 1st and 2nd unit backto-back on The Bourne Ultimatum, which included a massive car chase through lower Manhattan with five other 2nd ADs and eight PAs in her charge. “I was responsible for standing behind the D-camera team and warning them of flying debris,” she says. “And when a piece of a bumper came flying through the air, I had a split second to decide what to do. It missed us by a mile, but that’s not an easy thing to figure out in a few seconds.”
Synecdoche, New York was her toughest challenge because of the narrative’s looking-glass structure. “The extras that portray the actors in the play within the play had to age,” she says. “But then it’s a Charlie Kaufman film, so you weren’t sure if they were aging or just pretending to age,” she grins. “We ended up creating this extensive chart with each individual’s name and/or what we would do to age each person. The hard thing was you could never make assumptions about real life to help you get answers.” Given the nature of the film, Truelove had other unusual tasks on Synecdoche. For one scene she had to prepare background actors to react at a funeral. “And while I’ve never actually had pigeons on the set,” she adds, “I did have to ensure the call times of trained cockroaches.”
Truelove says if there’s one legacy she wants associated with her film career, it’s her recent grassroots effort to green up her craft, converting call sheets and production reports from legal to letter size to save trees—and money. “The campaign has spread throughout NBC Universal, and we got Law & Order to convert. There’s much more to it than just making the sheets smaller, so I would urge any AD interested to call me.”