Friday, February 27, 2009

First Day on the Set

Hey, thanks for coming. I guess if you are here, you are interested in what it's like to work as an extra in films and tv.
I started this blog today to report on my newest career, working in film.
It won't all be riveting, but here and there, you might find something new.

So today was my first full day as an extra or as known in 'the lingo'- 'background'.
See already I'm learning the new terminology. Thanks to my super agent Sherri, I had my first paid gig. If you are interested in working in films, tv and commercials, contact Sherri at BCast Agency

The first thing that happens is your agent contacts you about a film or tv show being filmed. Last year because of the economy, the industry has been pretty slow here in Hollywood North aka Toronto, Canada. But things are slowly improving, and hopefully like the rest of the world economic times will start to recover. For a background player wardrobe is key because no film wants to clothe 200 people for a quick scene. Today we were upscale concert goers, so that meant wearing something dressy and accessorize.

You needed to bring 2 complete outfits, in case they didn't like one, or in the case of our shoot, we needed to look different for another scene.
But I digress.
So I showed up at the 'holding' which is basically a word for a big room with chairs, tables, craft service, makeup and hairstyling stations and registration. Today the holding was in a beautiful church which was very peaceful and comfortable, which is key.
I signed in with my agency and filled out some forms for the studio and the tax dept.
Then we were to line up to see the wardrobe person.

Dressed in outfit #1 she warmly gave us the once over and suggestions and asked to see the other outfit for change 2.
I got the OK, (whew I was so nervous about this) and she said she already had too many people wearing my second outfit which was velvet, so I only had to drape a scarf over my shoulder to create the second outfit. That was good.

So now we waited. Time for me to tell you about the film. Atom Egoyan's new film working title, is Chloe starring Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried.
In the film, Julianne Moore thinks her husband (Liam Neeson) has been unfaithful. To figure this out, she employs a female escort (Amanda Seyfried) to try and make him stray. This has very negative effects on her family.

Next we are called for Makeup and Hair inspection. Yes even background people need to look good! Another long lineup I chatted with fellow extras, and just enjoyed the hubub of the scene. Then it was my turn. We were supposed to apply our normal base and makeup at home.
I sat in the makeup chair, it was a tall director style chair in front of a mirrored vanity with piles of makeup. This was really fun and unexpected. A really pleasant makeup person, I think her name was Cheryl, looked at me and then asked the woman who was directing the makeup artists what I needed. She told her to 'spice me up' which I guess is makeup talk for not enough colour. So we exchanged pleasantries as she applied a bit more blush and eye shadow, filled in my eyebrows and that's it!
I passed the inspection of the hair stylist ( luckily I needed a haircut and had done that the day before) Others were not so lucky and actually had their hair done! right there on the set. Hairspray was everywhere.

The next step was to wait, did I mention wait? But I didn't mind at all, I met some nice people, many retirees and some young people wanting to get into the industry. At other times I just sat in the church meditating and relaxing.... but still very excited and expectant. Or rather, not really knowing what to expect.

You hear about the craft services for the actors and crew. I always thought it sounded so good - like catered buffets or something. Well, if you are a member of ACTRA, the union, you get set meals. In fact they are legally obliged to offer the members food at certain times of the day. We had cookies and instant coffee and for dinner our subs were, well not subs. The PA (production assistant)kept saying don't forget to get your subs. And I'm thinking, okay , a sub would be nice. But I found out from a veteran extra, that 'subs' means subsistence. So dinner was a hot dog. The only drinks were water and instant coffee. But I didn't really care, I wasn't there for the food. Still it was good to know, and next time I will definitely bring something for myself. The ACTRA subs were somewhat more substantial,they had a granola with raisins and brown sugar for breakfast/lunch and had oranges and apples available. For dinner they had something that resembled Chili.

An announcement was made, 15 minutes to move to the set! Very exciting. Dashes to the washroom, and last minute lipstick applied we were ready.
Interestingly, as much as our appearance was crucial, we arrived on the set, took our seats in the concert hall, and were given no instructions other than to sit quietly.
We sat through 2 rehersals. An accomplished orchestra of young adults played a very exciting piece, and about 12 feet away from us, the action was taking place.
Seated in the third row from the back was uh, no one I recognized. Then just before we were to shoot a take, in walked the three principal stars, and a young male actor (I'm sorry I didn't recognize him) and took the place of the 'stand ins'. Stand ins as the name implies just step in for the actors so they don't have to waste energy waiting around for all the technical stuff to be done. They are usually chosen for their size and looking like the actors.
You could hear the techs fussing all around with the sound and lighting and finally, the director came in and chatted briefly with the stars, and the assistant director about the scene.

The orchestra tuned and people were softly chatting, and then another production assistant asked for quiet on the set.

A last minute check by the costume and makeup on the crowd, and a few seat changes here and there, we were ready to shoot. Digital photos were taken of the scene for continuity and placement if future shots were necessary.

Then we heard 'rolling', the scene number and take number and ACTION!

This was repeated 4 or 5 times, and after the 'Cut' was called, we all clapped for the orchestra.
The main violinist was playing standing in the centre of the orchestra, conductor style and was really amazing and funny.

Then the camera angle was changed and most of us, except for the people surrounding the actors, were dismissed back to holding. More waiting and then an announcement was made that for the outside scene of people entering the concert hall, they would not need most of us. A list of names was read out, and everyone else was finished.
That was it. We handed in our vouchers for our pay to be processed, and the day was done.

It was a fun day and I was tired, yet very exhilarated from the experience.
I can't wait till next time...
Special thanks to Sherri who popped in for the registration, and to say hi and help me fill out my my excitement I kinda forgot my reading glasses. :)Stay tuned and I will add a photo of me getting my makeup done, when I get the pic emailed to me....