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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Extra Ordinary Bites.

"Whoops, we didn't organise enough food, umm..."

Maybe he was going to declare that he'd take us all to a nearby pub and pay the tab in apology for not catering for us properly. We could have chips and pies and dips. Mmmm... dips.

"...Take half of what you'd usually eat."

That was the organisational and problem solving skills of the Assistant Extras Coordinator from a filmset I was on recently.

To be fair, he was just the spokesperson, but I feel like shooting the messenger.

I already don't like being an extra. There I said it. My problems with it are as follows:

1. I'm not the main character.
This is challenging. I want people to notice me and preferably to adore me. If I'm just one of a crowd the chances of this are significantly reduced.

2. I'm not acting.
I want to be acting. I don't understand how texturing a background is required anywhere in an actor's apprenticeship. All it proves is they can stay positive in the face of absolutely demeaning treatment. (And I failed at this aspect, just ask the Extras Coordinators that have worked with me. I feel genuine pity for them by the five hour mark- that is five hours of being onset, ready to shoot, without having a camera pointed at me yet.)

3. I don't get anything out of it.
Oh, the networking, the new friendships, the experience. Those are great. I love those aspects of production, whatever sort of production I get them from. However, if I don't have at least thirty seconds of material to choose from for my showreel, I get kind of resentful. That resentment increases if I can't even promote my involvement in the production because anyone watching wouldn't have seen me at all. Why did I spend twenty hours on your set if no one was ever going to see me there?

So it's established. I don't like being an extra. Okay, sometimes I like being an extra. If you have me on set, working, straight away then I'm just happy to get to practice my craft. Also, if I get to wear cool make-up or costumes then you've probably bought yourself another two hours of contentment from me.

Though, I must be specific, this is only relevant for those unpaid extra roles. If you're paying me to be there, I'll pack you a lunch, if you like.

For unpaid work as an extra, I usually want to convert to Christianity so I can curse God to his face. But for whatever reason, up until recently, I've been under the impression that I need the experience of being an extra to improve my craft and the networking aspect to further my career. Even knowing that I would probably be invisible in the finished product, I've tried hard to get what I can out of the immediate experience.

One of the things I got out of the experience was FOOD!

Extra: will work for food!

It's really a very simple policy: feed me well on set.

Here are three hard and fast rules to go by if you're planning on having extras on your set. Unpaid extras, remember. If you're paying them then see what the union says. They're not my problem.

1. Any shoot under three hours- you can get away without feeding us so much as a breadcrumb. Any shoot three to five hours- please provide some refreshments. Any shoot between six and eight hours- you really must provide a substantial meal. Any shoot over eight hours- you really should provide a substantial meal and refreshments throughout. At all times provide water. And for goodness' sake, cater to vegetarians!

2. If for whatever reason you have failed to organise yourself properly and catering has failed to satisfy the hunger of your dedicated team of background texturers, DO NOT DISMISS THIS PROBLEM! You deserve to be mobbed and have a full-blown riot on your hands if you think that is an acceptable managing of affairs. Call the pizza place. Call the sandwich place. Call your mum. Call anybody! Put it on Tony Abbott's tab. Tell the director it was a magwie attack! Do anything. But don't leave your extras hungry, man. That's not on.

3. If for whatever reason you suck and are NOT catering, you MUST tell the extras when they are signing up. Don't let them come unprepared. The day before the shoot you should remind them so they can get their mum or boyfriend or trained platypus to pack them the meals you should have been providing. If you aren't providing water, let them know this, too. You may have fewer extras for your honesty, sure, but on the other hand, people that volunteer to be extras are often in it out of a sense of altruism or a misguided idea that it might be fun or beneficial to them (admittedly, most of the extras I've come across have seemed happy just to be there. It kind of makes me feel bad for being such a misery guts but the chip on my shoulder is there for a reason). Exploit these characteristics to your benefit and the fact that you aren't feeding them could become a real gimmick to attract their attendance.

So that's it. You've learnt that I'm not in the slightest bit altruistic and that I like to eat. Maybe I should censor myself a bit more effectively?

Catering suggestion for your next production.

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