When I first moved to Los Angeles and found myself running out of money, I decided to take a job as an extra on TV and movie sets rather than temp in some shitty office. While the work was definitely more interesting than filing or updating databases, the “coworkers” I encountered were some of the craziest people I’ve ever met. But the weird thing is that they were all crazy in the exact same ways.
1) They Insisted on Being Called “Background Actors” - Yep, these poor delusional souls actually thought of themselves as thespians, as if crossing the street or pretending to eat in a fake restaurant was the highest form of artistic expression.
2) They Stole Food - Not just granola bars and fun size Snickers either. I saw a woman put an entire pizza in her purse (She folded it in half first). There is a general rule on movie sets that extras don’t get fed lunch until the rest of the cast and crew has been served. After seeing just how much food some of these people manage to balance on one plate, I now understand why. And it was not out of the ordinary for some to sneak second helpings home in Tupperware.
3) They Knew Exactly Where the Camera Was - Whether they’re sitting in a courtroom jury box, walking documents down a hospital hallway or playing fake slot machines in a fake casino, all extras know exactly what the camera sees at all times and make sure their face is visible for as many seconds as possible.
Next time you watch TV, take notice of how easily visible every single officer’s face is in a police precinct.
4) They Changed Their Clothes a Lot - Every time an extra does a tiny something like drive a car, use a personal item as a prop, work in a scene with water or smoke or even just change into a new pair of clothes, they get a pay bump of around $6. Consequently, extras constantly change clothes without being asked, sneak their tennis racquet or 9 iron into a scene and argue that peeling an apple constitutes “hazard pay.”
5) They Brought Special Chairs - Most of your day as an extra is spent sitting on your ass so the real "pros" came prepared with their own fold out chairs complete with built in cup holders, foot rests and pillows. I have never scene sloth elevated to such a science.
6) They Kissed Ass - Union extras not only make more money than non-union extras but they’re also part of SAG, the same union that covers actual real actors. The only way to go from one to the other is to get three SAG vouchers for doing “featured” extra work like speaking a word out loud or having a pie thrown in your face. Which extras are assigned these featured tasks is at the discretion of the Assistant Director, so you can only imagine how many insincere thank you cards and homemade brownies these guys receive.
By Tim Saccardo