Have you ever wanted to work on the set of a movie or TV show as a extra (“background actors” for the sensitive types)? Well, from the past twelve years of experience I can say it’s not all that glamorous. Depending on which production you’re working on, whether your in the Union or not (people in SAG obviously get treated better/more benefits – duh I’m in it) and your working conditions can all set the standard for your experience that day.
For example, a fun job I worked on was a Jenny Craig Commercial in Hawaii. I was paid to sit on the beach in a bathing suit and chill for a few hours. A shitty job is when I had to stand outside while it’s snowing February on Death to Smoochy pretending like I was part of a really excited crowd when I wasn’t really at all because of the weather conditions. It’s called acting, ha. I’ve had a sixteen hour work day on Sex and The City 2. Working on How To Make It In America was the best show I’ve ever worked on because the crew was the shit and every shoot was a party with cool young kids.
Today I’m working on Gossip Girl. It’s filmed at Silvercup Studios, which for some reason (the sound stages) are kept at below freezing temperatures. I’ve been wearing high heels for 12 hours now (probably going to be here longer than that though because you never know when your day is going to end)! Does this sound fun yet?
The reason I’m writing this whole thing is because the WORST part is being around the other extras. A lot of extras are “actors” that really want to be noticed and think that if they try to seem funny or valuable around the crew they will be discovered. Some try to be stand-up comedians when no one even asked for a bit to begin with. Most are just really annoying and make terrible conversationalists. They talk a lot about other projects they’ve recently worked on while simultaneously submitting on Casting Networks for the next days prospective shoot. Extras also love to announce when they’ve been booked on another job to everyone around them to make them jealous, because it’s such a pathetic rat race with these people. Example: “Did you get called by Amy from Background for the 2-day weekend commercial?! Oh…maybe you will!”
I hate the extras that are always really excited to be there at 5am. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at a table exhausted, just arriving to work with minimal sleep and adjusting my eyes to the fluorescent lighting in holding (which is the room they pack everyone into when you’re not needed on set), when some random guy will start asking me my life story and making random chatter as if it’s appropriate at this hour. I often try to ignore people because these days are long and no one generally has anything that great to offer except for asking you about your ‘other real job,’ if your SAG, and to complain about the way PA’s are treating us.
PA’s (production assistants) often treat extras like shit. They order them around in a tone which makes you think they never got asked to prom in high school. One time I was checking in to a commercial and upon my arrival a PA said, “Ha, Chelsea SKIDMORE? I bet you had a hard time growing up with that name!” I looked at this fat loser with glasses and his trusty clip board, imagining him the night before jacking off to The Secret Life of an American Teenager after enjoying a Dominoes 5-for-5-Deal and replied, “Uh, not really.” It’s like they belittle you because they ‘can’.
But back to the extras…… I guess it depends on your tolerance for other humans over a long period of time. Some are cool but most are theatrical old men that love to make references to someone you remind them of.
There’s also way too much food here and everyone is always eating. Say we all just had a very filling buffet-style lunch with every food group you could imagine; people will go to the craft service table 10 minutes later, and continue to feed themselves until we’re wrapped simply because its there. The amount of chocolate present in this room makes a chocoholic like myself feel uneasy (I’ve already had 3 mini Hershey nuggets AND a mini Twix).
My ass hurts from sitting on a folding chair. Now everyone is sleeping. The only fun part about working is being on set. Then every extra is hoping to get upgraded, which means seen on camera or given a line, which ultimately has you paid A LOT more money. On the real though, where’s the casting couch at these days?

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2 Responses to Extras

  1. Tom Murphy says:

    Yep…that’s accurate!

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