My Experiences as a TV and Film Extra
Over the years I have acted in a number of things, from short films, to theatre productions, to music videos to TV series and even to feature films.
That sounds much better than it is of course, the short films were just local amateur projects, most of my own making, the theatre productions were local and small scale, the music videos were also local and small-scale, the TV series was extra work as was the feature film.
All the same, it sounds very cool saying the above sentence. In terms of the experiences, the majority have been great ones, and a lot of fun and I would highly recommend acting whether it be in local projects or as an extra in the TV series of feature film.
For today though I’m going to talk about specifically my experiences as an extra. Firstly, you don’t have to be skilled in acting to be an extra, anybody can do it, and that means literally anybody. On the TV show Vera, for one scene I literally just had to walk across a road. Of course that means that your shining moment of glory will most likely be of the blink and you’ve missed it kind, but not always.
For example, I am in the last ever episode of George Gently, and I get a solid close-up:
I am also seen briefly at other points throughout the episode, and you can even see my face in the pictures on the police board from this clip which is available on the BBC website.
To say the least, seeing yourself on TV is very cool. Though I will say that for that very short clip of me, it was an entire day and nights work, and not a well-paid one at that. It was also exceptionally cold at night and I am pretty certain the second director was afraid that due to how inappropriately dressed I was for the freezing conditions in the costume I had been given, that the production could have been brought to a grinding halt if it had to be stopped due to me get hypothermia.
Fortunately I did not get hypothermia, but for the entire evening which continued until the early hours of the morning there was much fuss about making sure that between takes in an effort to keep warm I stood in front of the burning oil canisters which were part of the set.
In terms of the scene itself, it was a protest scene and myself along with the other extras spent the whole night protesting, which involved waving a sign above our heads and later on cheering on the lead protester. There was also a bit of violence, which saw me having to repeatedly stop the fall of one of the lead characters after he was pushed into the crowd. I must have caught him no less than twenty times.
But it was definitely a good experience, even just to see how TV shows are made, and let me tell you a lot and I mean a lot goes into making even just one short scene. So much so that even if you think you have an idea of the amount that might go into it, until you see it up close you don’t. From location managers, to production managers, to catering, to security, to make up, and the list goes on and on before we even get to the actors and TV crew.
And feature films, Hollywood feature films like The Current War, which I was an extra on, are on another level to even TV series. The sheer size of the production crews is beyond belief. Though I have to say despite feature films paying a lot better it is a far superior experience being an extra on a TV show than a Hollywood feature film, or at least that was what I found.
The majority of the time on the Hollywood feature I found myself sat in a tent along with the other extras doing nothing, and one day I did nothing but sit in a tent. That meant a forty minute drive to the location to sit in a tent all day.
That is a risk of being an extra, there is a chance that you may end up not being used which means you will be paid a pittance of an amount to sit around all day doing nothing, or if an Hollywood feature film a good amount to sit around all day doing nothing.
Thankfully though for me that has happened rarely. Which is why I highly recommend extra work to anyone, even if you only do it once it is worth doing just for the experience of being on a production set to see just what goes into making the TV shows and films that we all love and watch.
In terms of how to be an extra, as I live in the north-east NE14 comes highly recommended, but the best bet is to just Google how to be an extra and top of the search results should be the best options for you based on your locale.
Anyhow, that’s all from me today. Thanks for reading and remember to stay safe.