Going to see a movie is on the top of my list of favorite things to do, and I have always been fascinated by television shows that take viewers “behind the scenes”. So, being an extra in a movie seemed like it would be a very exciting experience. I am definitely not interested in “breaking into show business.” However, I have always wanted to have my own peek at what goes into making a movie.
An opportunity arose when I heard about an open casting call for a major motion picture being filmed in the area. I, along with hundreds of others, stood in a very long line early one Saturday morning for our shot to be in a movie. After about an hour and a half wait, I was on my way into a room filled with casting agents and extra hopefuls. The process to apply was simple…fill out a form, attach a photo and speak briefly to the casting agent.
About three months after the casting call, I saw an e-mail appear in my inbox from the casting company. I felt like a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with a golden ticket! I was asked via e-mail if I was available to work on a certain date. This was not a confirmation of a job yet, but I was hopeful that I would be selected. I replied that I was available and patiently waited for more information to come through.
Two days later I got a phone call notifying me that I had been chosen to work. I was asked if I would be available for a wardrobe fitting. Of course I said yes and scheduled a time to go in the next day for my fitting.
Upon arrival at the movie studio the next day, I was directed to the wardrobe department. I was warmly greeted by the staff and quickly fitted for the scene I would be in. I had to fill out a bit of paperwork so that I could be paid for coming in for the fitting…this was the easiest $15 I ever made!
The next day, I received information via e-mail about the extras meeting location for the shoot the following day. This e-mail also covered some information about what to bring and what not to bring and extended an invitation to join a special Facebook group for extras on the film. Later that evening, I received a final call time…6:30 AM.
I happily woke up early and was quickly on my way to the extras’ meeting place. The signage along with pervious instructions in an e-mail allowed me to easily find the location. I parked my car, collected my wardrobe items and headed to check-in. As soon as the production assistant checked me off the list, I boarded a bus with other extras and we were transported to the base camp area. Base camp was a giant tent adjacent to a building. Upon entering the tent, I noticed a huge breakfast buffet and many tables. I was given 2 forms to complete (one was a non-disclosure agreement which is why I cannot go into too many details about events that happened on set) and took a seat with others that were eating, socializing and waiting to be called into wardrobe.
When my group was called into wardrobe, we changed into our outfits and were inspected by the wardrobe team. Then we were sent to hair and make-up to complete the look. This was a nice surprise because I was told to have my hair and make-up done before arriving.
Once everyone had been through wardrobe, hair and make-up we were all loaded into several buses and transported to the filming location. It was exciting to see the set complete with lighting, many cameras and a lot of crew members. We were told by the production assistants where to stand and what to do. I learned that a stand-in is responsible for taking the place of a major actor for the first several takes of a particular shot. This allows the crew to make sure that the shot is set up correctly before the actor comes onto the set. Therefore, each shot requires many takes to capture the action that the director desires.
Most of the day was spent moving around and pantomiming in the background while the scene was being shot. When there was down time, the extras sat around talking and watching the film crew work their magic. We were treated very professionally and food and beverages were available to snack on during the long shoot.
When the director was satisfied with the scene, he “wrapped” it and all of the extras were shuttled back to the base camp for a delicious gourmet lunch! Wardrobe checked all costumes back in, work forms were signed by the production assistant and we were all sent along our way.
Upon completion of a ten hour work day, I drove home feeling happy that I was chosen to participate in the production of a major motion picture. It was an exciting experience but not something to count on as a source of income since these opportunities are few and far between.