Extras Sometimes Really Are Actors

I made a rule a while back to stop doing extra work – it was boring, it wasn’t acting, it wasn’t directing, it wasn’t writing and sometimes the other extras were, well, scary crazy. I’ve been unemployed for a while now and a paid extra opportunity came up with Denise Gibbs of ForegroundBackground. Denise is well known in Seattle as a professional who takes care of her peeps and her clients, plus she is providing extras for Greenspoke, so I thought, why not give it another try?

The shoot was at El Gaucho, a nice restaurant in Belltown. They had a green room set up for the extras to camp out (and stay out of the way) and there was even food. I thought they were shooting a comedy special there – it seemed weird that they were paying us to be extras. Turns out we were just shooting the opening and closing segments of a stand-up comedian’s (Ron White) comedy special that would be shot later that evening in front of a sold out crowd. Duh – that makes way more sense.

While we were waiting in the green room, I learned that most of the other extras were struggling actors. Lots of musical theatre people looking to get a free meal and $50. There also was the Anna Nicole Smith-lookalike, a nice young stunt man, the beautiful young singer/costume designer and a few people I hadn’t quite figured out by the time they called us in.

We gathered around the bar as the director planned out his shots and arranged us so it all looked spontaneous. Accomplished actor Phillip Mitchell (soon to be seen in Greenspoke) was selected to stand in for Ron White – I think he enjoyed his center stage time. The director seemed to know what he wanted and was flexible enough to allow the comedians (Ron and his sidekick Alex) room to do what they do best. Once it got started both scenes were done pretty quickly. They asked us to fake laugh as the scenes opened and were surprised at how well we could do that. They actually liked the fake laughing better than the real thing, which I thought was funny. Made the fake laughing even easier.

When we finished, Ron White made the unfortunate statement that he was surprised at how well we did with the fake laughter because we were not actors. Ouch. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it (he was pretty nice) but there was a brief moment of awkward silence. There is that line we are trying to cross, between people describing our passion as a hobby to being taken seriously for the creative work we do.

All in all, a good experience.


2 Responses to “Extras Sometimes Really Are Actors”

  1. “Ouch” is right! I didn’t respond to that notice because I don’t care much for Ron White; now I’m even less of a fan.

  2. Thanks for the shout out Tom!! I know what you mean by ouch. The reason why our extras are so good here in town is because most of them are struggling actors. I have to keep reminding production companies of that fact. Also that this isn’t LA. Those of us who work in the film industry wear many different hats to keep the industry going.
    I so appreciate all the folks that come out to these gigs. They make my job fun and very fulfilling.

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