Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Day in the Life of an Extra

We begin in holding, filling out paperwork so we can be paid for the unknown number of hours we are about to spent doing unknown amounts of scenes. This particular day it meant over twelve hours spent at the sound stage and one change of clothes that those of us dressed in our pajamas didn't have. Cut to wardrobe fittings, which when you are just an extra are kinda slapdash. The first pair of pants were too small to fit up my thighs and hips, while the second pair kept threatening to slide down them. But since I'm human furniture, there was no just right. Well, until Monday when I get to work again and bring my own clothes.

The work this day involved pretending an empty, awkward cardboard carried a giant TV and that I went in and out of a store about twelve different ways in different configurations. But the joy of being an extra is not in the work you do, which is often sporadic, ever-changing, tiring, and boring.
The best things about being an extra are working with other people and making new friends by the end of the day.

Because even if you know nobody there (and in this day's case, even if you do have a friend already), you will start talking to people you are near to. While you wait for shots to be set up, while you wait in holding, eventually you will start talking to someone, anybody. Most of the time it begins as comments on how tired you are or something about the set or location, but talk will come.

Another wonderful thing is watching the behind-the-scenes of (in this case) a national TV show. Some people find it ruins the magic, the mystique behind television, but I love it. I love watching the people running and sitting around and trying to figure out what they do. Or watching people who are highly paid actors, who may even have prestigious awards play around like they are a group of friends who just happen to be surrounded by crew and cameras. Sometimes, Segue Football is invented, sometimes footballs are thrown and missed and you get to toss a pigskin to an Academy-Award winning actor. Do you get to do that being IT or a receptionist? No my friend, you do not.

It's poorly paid and tiring and invisible and throwaway work most people will never see or notice. Nevertheless, I wouldn't give up the days like this where, for a moment, you are part of television magic.

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