Kind of a cool opportunity presented itself today as I traveled down to Richmond, VA to be a part in the AMC tv show TURN: Washington's Spies. Unfortunately what I thought was going to be a day-player audition, turned out to be a "featured-extra" opportunity. However, this experience provided me some new perspective.
Extras truly are treated as sub-human by the majority of the film industry. Don't get me wrong, there are always pleasant people who intentionally are positive...but...basically, extras are viewed as set pieces that need to be fed--and honestly, I can see why. With all due respect to some of the people that I was surrounded by, a majority of them where not even within the realm of what I would call and artist pursuing a career. This one guy kept asking if someone knew what time it was, because he just "couldn't wait for lunch," and in doing so would often miss some important instruction. "DUDE...we're making movies" I think to myself, and then I realized...some people are more interested in taking an Instagram pick in some period dress clothes to just say they were there and grab a paid-for meal. During another day--we had to do some marching together--like--guys--it's stylized walking. That's it. Just walk in time. And sure, if you're rhythmically challenged, I get it, it may be tougher. And you know what, that's cool--but just match up with the guy in front of you. It really shouldn't have been as difficult as the over two hours of rehearsal we took for the two seconds we are going to be kind of a blurry mob in the background of the shot.
In spite of this, it was a great experience. I got to pick the ears of some guys who have been in the industry much longer than I have; from some guest stars and stuntmen, as well as Jamie Bell who is one of the leads of the show. I know I bashed Instagram a little bit...and well...here:
Jamie was very pleasant and kind while chatting for a minute on a lunch break with some guy he probably won't recall. Jamie's performance in Billy Elliot was one of the reasons I got into theatre/acting as a kid. I was a 8 year old hockey player at the time the film came out, and saw the story of Billy, and it inspired me to study ballet pretty intensely for the next 5-6 years. So, I got the chance to just tell that to Jamie, and if nothing else, I hope he was encouraged that day--because I know how draining some days can be. This particular day, he had been out in cold water for extended periods of time. Even if it didn't do anything for him, it was super cool for me.
This was one of a handful of shoot days where there were only 5 extras, we were treated a little more responsibility. We had worked on the show for a few of days and were kept on to do some extra stuff at a different location, I was paid a stand-in rate and put up in a hotel. Just like normal film shoots, there was plenty of "hurry up and wait," but on one of these days, I got to wait all day to do nothing but watch. During this part of the shoot, there was some of the most ridiculous weather and it was really amazing to see this film crew in action up close and personal--not held at an arms length as I had been earlier in the week. The first day it was 70 and gorgeous, and then the next day it was extremely windy off the Potomac where we were shooting-and towards the end of the day this random snow came out of nowhere! It was crazy!
So that kind of rambly story to say--I don't plan on doing any more extra work as it really isn't an advancement in my craft or career. However, if nothing else, these few days of experience granted me perspective. I would recommend to anybody do it once, if you've got nothing else going on, but it certainly shouldn't be something to get in the habit doing--because anyone in the industry can see you've obviously got nothing else going on and just want some spare change ;). Also, definetly do NOT put it on your resume.