I was walking through a fishing village, many years in the future. The earth had used up all of its energy and now mankind had returned to being an agrarian society.
My lady was at my side as we passed a fishmonger and a fellow cleaning the hull of his boat, which was drydocked for cleaning and repairs. In the distance I could see a horse, pulling a carriage of some sort.
A lot of folks were out and about on a sunny morning. We crossed in front of the horse, nearly stepping on two guys who were wrestling around on the ground, fighting over something. Reaching a bin, in front of a building that was not there, I reached inside and pulled out a fishing net/trap combo, while my companion, whose name I did not know, grabbed a pair or oars. We turned back to the street with our items and began walking.
The director yelled, “Cut!”
Welcome to a peek into my newest adventure. I have become a background actor.
It all started when I read a notice in an online version of the newspaper in Atlanta. “Extras wanted for TV show filming in Atlanta,” it said. I read the notice, noted the details, and responded per the instructions, never expecting a response. But, as fate would have it, I got one.
It is an interesting process. The casting companies who are hired by the producers of movie and TV shows will post notices in public places, like newspapers, and in more visible places like Facebook. Here is an example of a current request: Politicians for Wednesday! We are looking for some politician-looking types to work Wednesday on (Name of Show). Looking for both males and females, all ethnicities. Ages 20-60s. SUPER clean cut. 3 pictures, height, weight, age and contact number to (e-mail address), Subject: Politician.
Since I began doing this, I have worked more than a half-dozen days, including the scene described above, from an upcoming full-length feature film by one of the biggest producers in the business. We even signed confidentiality agreements to not reveal the name of the movie or specific details of the plot.
I’m not going to say that this is for everybody, but I am enjoying the experience immensely. I thought it would be a one-time thing but I am hooked. The days are long, the money isn’t great and at times it can be monotonous, waiting in the holding area for extras, surrounded by a lot of younger people who think that a college degree in theater arts is their ticket to a role opposite (insert big-name star here), until your scene is ready to shoot.
Then you go out, like the cattle that Alfred Hitchcock said that actors are, and you do the scene, as they tell you, over and over until you hear the words, “Print it!” or “That’s a wrap!” When you hear that, then you know your job is done.
If anyone is interested in trying their hand at being an extra, there are many places to sign up online. It is a chance to see a little of how the make-believe world of TV and cinema is created.
Jim Abbott is a native New Yorker and Jackson businessman. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.