Being an extra on the set of Jason Bourne (part 5 in the conspiracy thriller series starring Matt Damon, coming out this Friday, July 29th) was an experience unlike any other movie set I’d ever been on. It was an escape from reality, but somehow, the darkest side of reality (from my perspective) came and crashed through the movie in a profoundly perplexing way, making me question the nature of reality and perception more than anything before, yet also confirming my evolving perceptions of reality and our roles as creators more than any experience in my lifetime.
2016, the year that had been cosmically winking at me and maybe you for “years”, entered my experience of existence with three totally unique unexpected but appropriate “real world” opportunities… one being a “normal” job that fulfilled my long-held desire to experience the biggest technology convention in the world, CES; another being something expected on some levels, discovering one “last” presidential campaign that seemed spontaneous and radical and showed legitimacy in my personal interaction with it, as short-lived as it was (the John Mcafee campaign, continuing the high-tech thread here, hmm); the third being involved as an Extra in “accidentally” deeper ways than most can think of for a cerebral sci-fi metaphysical mindbender and who knows if anyone else will get my drift of *why* this was so bizarre, beyond the simple “wtf”… but still, I must document what felt like a mystery so revealing, so true in its deception, to frame a piece of the puzzle that I will never forget, and maybe even never totally get. This is where I lose some “audience” but keep the audience that I know will stay…
Since then, this bizarre year called 2016 has driven this question of “what is real” to the forefront from the small to the enormous scale. With Donald Trump being one of the two options for the next president, and the current DNC being as politically farcical and shameful as possible (perhaps spelling the end to the two-party system), can anyone tell the difference between movies and reality anymore?
I’ll just briefly/carefully touch on the context of what I knew about the movie, so as not to give anything that seems integral to the plot (even though the director told us we were in the most important scene in the movie), enough to give some impression of why exactly the “trippy” occurrence bridging this movie and the “real world” was so mind-blowing.
An old friend who had recently reappeared in my life just before the shoot, as if a quantum particle coming back into existence by observation, shares a similar worldview of the endless possibilities of manifestation, and we shared some history of co-creating and shaping reality in ways that most people may find delusional… but we had each other’s far-out-there minds to feed off of and build upon. So we basically figured we manifested ourselves into this movie, and also being the multi-pronged activists that we are, we decided we’d manifest something truly profound and for the greater good, along with the thousands of other actors/crew/co-creators in this movie, via this movie when it is released… as if the movie is some sort of a conduit into a new step of the shift in reality… and the themes surrounding us in the form of giant lit signs, our own “badges”, logos/cryptic X’s and O’s, pieces of the script playing out in front of us, etc. made this all seem to fit into the puzzle perfectly, and ever more mysteriously and mystically.
I’ll skip the details that might possibly get me in trouble, but we *think* we were playing hacker conventioneers, and there is some kind of major program at the center of this relating to… dreams. If you look up some AI stuff and maybe “dream deeply” and stuff of that nature, you might get more of an idea, or just go see the movie. I have no idea if the movie has to do with AI (Artificial Intelligence), but considering what the series has been about so far and Matt Damon returning to this world he hasn’t been to in about decade, this would not be a surprise. So, basically, we gave a shot at hacking reality, something not that new to us, and most likely many of you… even my shirt was a trip in itself, and I don’t think I’m giving anything integral to the movie away by saying I was only one of two of the 5000-ish extras given an orange shirt to wear, with the name “Fedora” on it. I didn’t know Fedora was directly a hacking-related term until someone told me a few days later. We certainly have our dark humor, being the reality-jokesters we are, and threw in some “jokes” like “what if the shooting scene goes live”, “what if this is a false flag”, as well as further “inside jokes” and so on. No we did not want any of that to happen and decided this was all a part of a new step in our evolution, even if it just seems like another typical action movie with a bit of a conspiracy bent.
Anyway… I’ll get to the weird part now. I’ll skip the little fun anecdotes like how I kept ending up in scenes right next to Matt Damon, standing with him as he got into character (in a scene we weren’t “supposed” to be in) and trying not to bump him over, and seeing his bullet casings bounce on the floor next to me, and our group of crazy-seeming spiritual activist dancey types creating energy tornadoes waking everybody in the Holding room up and altering the course of events beyond our background roles… and get to this point. In the midst of our all-day shoots, after many very beyond-normal experiences every single day, we finally got to the big action scene, running from a public shooting taking place in the large room we were all an attentive audience in.
This was my first mass hysteria running scene ever, and as the unit directors tried to motivate us by telling us we’re running from f*cking crazed shooters basically (following a pivotal scene with a cryptic and highly conspiratorially-intriguing speech), I threw in a barely-noticed sarcasm that came straight from my activist subconscious (I’d been quite burned out from activism at the time though), “or we can act like the cops are shooting at us”… and then while running threw in a few also barely-noticeable quips like “fuck, the cops are shooting!” to help at least my motivation in running for my life.
So, we got our 7+ takes of running through many corridors done and were all pretty exhausted yet exhilarated after a few hours. In the line to check out/change out of our costumes, I heard something that was part expected, part dreaded, and huge part oh fuck this is really happening (is it?? yes it is, holy shit). A couple extras in the line next to me, in the middle of all these regular-world but offbeat colorful actor-fueled conversations, read their phone and said to the person in front of me, “did you know there was a real shooting at Bellagio?”
Bellagio is two hotels up from the hotel we were shooting (the movie) at, Aria. It is also where night scenes for the movie (I was in the day scenes) were shot, of the intense SWAT chase scene. But on this night, there happened to be no outdoors strip filming. I listened on.
“A real shooting? Not part of the movie?” the girl in front of me responded…
Someone else chimed in… something to the effect of, “yup, apparently someone really got shot in front of the Bellagio water fountains”…
And then, the lady whom I first heard the news from, reported, “it says it was an officer-involved shooting”… my reality-comfort-zone heart dropped even more at this point and I didn’t know how to handle this. I texted my friend who was already checked out, hands shaking and vision blurring in and out, hardly able to type words out.
I managed to get through the rest of the line before the conversational freak-out with my friend and our other friends on set (running into them was also a synchronicity like none other I’d ever experienced on any set), and soon after separating from the crowd, my friend and I decided to conduct our own independent investigation at the hotel scene of/by the crime. And of course, a sign displaying “Bellagio” had conveniently hung over our heads at the hotel/parking garage doors, leading us to the shuttle going from Aria to Bellagio.
On this shuttle, one of the mag-levitated rail trams the strip is known for, we were in a deeply quiet and observant state, as European tourists around us started talking about the Bourne movie and the strip being shut down for it. We couldn’t resist but to chime in.
Either I or my friend commented that we were coming from the set, and asked “do you know about the actual shooting that just happened?”
They seemed to think we were still talking about the movie, and there was some confusion in our communications. But after a while, at least some of the people around us seemed to figure out we were talking about a REAL shooting that took place in front of the Bellagio. They still were confused and surprised, and hadn’t heard anything about it. They went back to talking about the movie and asking us about the movie, rather than curiosity about the officer-involved shooting.
Also on the way, we saw video that seemed like it could’ve been straight out of a movie on its own, adding to the eeriness (another sidenote, the music played here, a song I hadn’t heard played at the fountains in years but used in their early commercial ads, Andrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partiro”- also my favorite song used there, well aside from Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady”- was also the song in the background of a police brutality clip I used in a compilation video a year before…):
As we got to the Bellagio, the place was packed, most people walking towards the inner parts of the casino as we went against the tide towards the front fountain area… and we felt a palpable energy of “business as usual” that did not align at all with the activity going on in our minds/hearts. We briefly “interviewed” a few more people, and nobody knew about the actual shooting- only about the movie shoot.
We reached the outdoors area where the fountains are and saw that the driveway entrances were blocked off and nobody could reach the front of the fountains, confirming that the shooting actually took place there. All we could really see of that stretch of sidewalk usually teeming with tourists were police lights and a blocked street.
We walked as close as we could to the barricades, manned by hotel security, not the actual police. We asked one worker if he knew what happened, and he couldn’t give us any information. I asked if he knew it was an officer-involved shooting, that the police shot someone, and he said something to the effect of “something like that, but we can’t give any details”. As my phone camera died suddenly from 10ish percent, we decided to stay by where they were redirecting pedestrian traffic, at least a few hundred feet from the sidewalk where the shooting took place, and conducted a few more interviews. People were either shocked or didn’t comprehend/believe that it was actually cops who shot someone in real life, but then one female apparently did know it was real and gave us her understanding of the story.
She told us, from what she heard, that a man was waving a gun around across the street at Bally’s, threatening people, and then cops came and after he wouldn’t lay down the weapon, they shot him. Now by this point, we had read online that it was actually a *bystander* who was shot, not anyone with a gun. And the guy going with hus gun from Bally’s to Bellagio then getting shot also sounded a bit strange, but this girl heard what she heard and it was at least a little refreshing to hear someone who knew it was real life and not a movie.
Soon, I heard that it was a juvenile bystander who got shot, and I made a darkly humored comment that “juvenile, but how old… what if it was just like a young teenager, like 12 or 13?” I thought any dark potentiality was possible by this point even though I really didn’t want to believe this was real at all. Soon, I would find out the victim was actually FOUR YEARS OLD. More on that in a bit.
Going back inside, surrounded by thousands of people who knew about a movie being shot outside, which we were in, and being two of the seemingly few people on the strip who actually knew there was an actual live shooting, by a cop, upon someone innocent, and informing people about this who mainly seemed to just want to continue about their lovely trips getting little glimpses of a movie they saw nothing of the actual insides of… really took a toll on our psyches, and was a spiritual experience like none before.
We sat side by side on a little raised stone type thing just off the floor of the indoors conservatory exhibit area (Chinese New Year-themed, where I saw the river/water theme explained which definitely felt relevant- not just from the Bellagio fountains but also a theme I later discovered to be recurring in the Bourne series), and about an hour or more passed filled mostly with silence, profound existential tears, and confirmation between each other that this was really happening and above all, or so it seemed, manifestation is a VERY powerful thing, and the universe has a really dark, twisted sense of “humor?”, or plays on reality. Not to say we created this by joking that there’d be some false flag attack or active shooting to come out of this movie, but this felt like the weight of a million crazy events suddenly thrown on us to sift through and find some kind of light. There seemed to be some kind of lesson that transcended just about all of physical reality, but what??
Now in the days and weeks that followed, when we learned more facts, shit just got even more overwhelmingly mind-freaking. It turned out that the “juvenile” who was shot because the cop missed the supposedly armed suspect was only 4 years old…. and I learned this only by reading a sentence that mentioned the two people shot, as basically a minor detail mentioned in a follow-up news story based on their press conference. They said it was not a life-threatening injury, and someone else was grazed by a bullet. Still, not one bullet hit the guy the cop was actually aiming at.
(also from that article: “Many thought they were walking past a segment of shooting for the new “Bourne” movie, which had been filming on the Strip earlier that week, but production was not scheduled for Friday night, Hadfield said on the scene.”)
And, to play into the Bourne trippyness even more, for several days the news said Metro could not figure out the identity of the suspect, and was asking the public for help. Yup. (Police: need public assistance in identifying Strip shooting suspect) Well he eventually was identified as Kahleal Black, and here is how he appeared in court (why? I have no idea either…):
We did some more private investigating into the suspect and the rabbit hole just went deeper, such as seeing his cover photo was of the Bellagio fountains since at least the year leading up to the shooting, though it was a pre-Aria picture (where the movie was shot), and the suspect was someone from Texas who apparently had a fondness with visiting Vegas… and of course, he had “mental illness”. I won’t get deep into the weird details of that arm of our “investigation” though… I think you all get the point, this was freaking weird.
So…. what the f*** did we learn?
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU JOKE ABOUT. (especially when doing it with other powerful co-creating beings)
THIS REALITY HAS BECOME MORE CARTOONISH THAN THE CRAZIEST CARTOONS. (again, just look at the election- this proved it on a personal level though)
THAT WHICH YOU OBSESS OVER WILL HIT YOU CLOSER TO HOME THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE (since then, and before then, I have pulled back from anti-police brutality activism, pretty much the cornerstone of my activist pursuits- but my care and concern has not dwindled whatsoever…. just the amount of energy I put into it, which I realize is a more delicate matter than I ever truly realized, beyond words- and has been one of the biggest inner philosophical dilemmas of my lifetime)
So, stop imagining the worst that can happen. We know how bad things can get. Don’t consume yourself with what you hate, with what you believe or know must be stopped. Have the awareness, help others in their awakenings, don’t let the light be extinguished by the dark… but try not to spend so much time trying to spread your light in the dark that you become it.
As one of my favorite philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche said (and I of course have mixed feelings on this quote, while it’s fitting that an existentialist’s quote pops into my head concerning a very existential experience)- “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
And, in my opinion, even in the darkest of times, the jokester of reality can lighten things up a bit…
Oh yeah, so what of what we “implanted” into the movie in terms of consciousness? We’ll see how things feel when the movie comes out… whether it’s the darkest of times, the best of times, the end of times or the most mundane times, you can always turn the Deep Dream into a lucid dream or wake up from the dream completely. One thing I now know is the line between illusion and reality is completely illusory. What that means in the context of this movie, I guess you’ll have to see the movie to find out. I have a feeling just the surface of this AI-ish trip has been scratched. 😉
*No I have not been paid to advertise this movie…
“Remembering everything doesn’t mean you know everything.”
“Jesus Christ, it’s Jason Bourne!”
Now, a couple images that might seem unrelated, and very well could be, but I’ll throw them out here for your subconscious/intuitive discernment…..