I can’t express, HOW MUCH I LOVE being an extra. Seriously. It’s the perfect sidejob for me and I swear to you, if you are like me, happy with sitting down and eating and waiting for hours doing nothing for money, you would love it!
I have been lucky with my experiences, as a lot of other Background workers would let me know over and over again, as they complain, they have seen harsh times, but I, I cannot remember a single incident that was negative, and if there was one, I have obviously forgotten, and it has been outweighed by my pleasant experiences.
My first real experience was in London when I did extra work on two small films. I did it for free for the experience, being on a real set, and the awesome catering. It was great. After that my first “big time” extra (not counting student films, and small time shows and stuff) was at Paramount. I have already posted about how much I LOVE being at Paramount, and it was during my first job there that I fell in love.
A typical day of a background artist goes like this;
- Get up, and check your call time, in case it has changed, and you dress according to the costume description they gave you, and pick out two extra outfits, sometimes three, so that the costume department has alternatives.
- Pack your bag, prepared for everything, Iphone, Ipad, extra battery or chargers, a book, a journal, anything to entertain yourself with, a bottle of water, allergy tablets, ibuprofen (You don’t wanna work with a headache) an extra layer of warmth in case the set is cold, HEADPHONES, a snack, and anything you might need.
- Map out the journey to get there (probably already did this the night before) And leave in good time as to not be late.
- The call time means you should be there and already checked in.
- Get to the area where you were supposed to meet, and ask around where background checkin is. Sometimes they haven’t set it up yet, and sometimes they are already there with a line of people waiting to get their paperwork. This is a smart time to find a chair, put your extra clothes on (you wanna have a good place to sit as you will sit there for most of the day) and then get in line.
- Get your paperwork filled out and your voucher, this voucher is your ticket of the day, it will say how much you are getting paid, and all other details, and you fill in your name and address and stuff and hold on to it to the end of the day. Always bring it with you around in case someone asks, it’s like an ID.
- Sit down in what is called Background holding area, which is where you hopefully got yourself a seat. And chill and wait for instructions. It might take ten minutes, it might take over an hour.
- The PA will announce a few things and welcome everybody to the set, and will let you know where costume is, and when to go.
- Go to Wardrobe, and show off your outfit and the alternatives, the costume people will either approve, get you to change or get you something else. It’s important to please them in order to keep your reputation.
- Go back to holding, wait for further instructions and sniff around to see i you can spot a coffee corner with drinks or if you can see Crafty, which is the area where they have food, drinks and snacks, and sometimes catering. Also good to see where the toilets are.
- Get out your book, ipad or phone and chill out, just keep an eye and an ear out incase the PA comes to call.
- Maybe an hour, maybe four hours later, they will get you on set, and you get told what to do. Sit in a cafe and mime talk to people, stand at a bus stop, run screaming from an explosion, walk by, anything, from extremely normal and boring to crazy and exhausting. But for a film buff, FUN!
- You’ll see a star. Big or small. Whatever, usually you won’t care, (it’s not Gary Oldman) you will get into such close proximity of the person, and they will acknowledge you as just another moving piece of the set, as a part of the crew, a part of the magic, it’s great. Some are super cool, some are insecure, and some are quiet. Never met an asshole. Yet.
- Look at the crew, how they work, the equipment, learn the terminology, follow instructions, bring energy, but also conserve it, might have to do it over and over and over again.
- Break. Either a small break or lunch time, lunchtime means, lots and lots of good food! Actors go first, then crew, then background.
- Back to holding. Sit. Don’t get bored. Watch a movie. Read. Talk to people.
- Back to set, do your thing.
- And you are wrapped! Run and get your stuff, and try and make it to the check out as soon as you can, because the lines grow super fast and it takes time, and by now you probably can’t wait to get home!
I absolutely love doing this. I don’t get bored easily, and I enjoy having a wide selection of foods and snacks and drinks, and I can not stress this enough: the food is usually SO GOOD! Ahhhhh….
being in that atmosphere, watching movie magic happen, or seeing the tv show actors stretch their muscles, everyone working, long hard hours, and I for the most of it, sitting on my ass, not working very hard, for minimum wage, or way better, depending on the job, either way, at least I am not slaving in a restaurant, smiling on the sales floor, cleaning or doing hard manual labor.