In 1996 I was laid off from a job I did not like. I was looking for new jobs while collecting unemployment when I came acrosss an ad for an actor agency. It was seeking models and actors for commercials and films in the local area. I signed up paying a fee I thought was worth the risk I was taking. Besides, I was using money that I didn't work for.
I thought about defining moments in ones life, and I thought that this may be the defining moment in my brilliant film career. I loved the idea that I would get into acting BECAUSE I couldn't find any other work.
I thought that I had a decent shot at possibly getting into local commercials or bit parts in movies filmed in the area. I felt I had a good charater face that was maliable and that I had acting talent. The only problem arose when I took pictures and discovered I had gained a lot of weight. Still that should not be a factor in bit roles or at least extra work.
I got some extra work right away, It was for a TV pilot called "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" starring Scott Bakula and Maria Bello. The days filming took place in the downtown Seattle bus tunnel. The scene was an action sequence involving stunts. Our job as extras was to provide background for the scene. It was fascinating to see how they film these scenes especially when they switched from stuntmen to actors.
The day was fun but long, thirteen hours. The results was a brief glimpse of my silholette that can only be determined by pausing the tape. Still, the day was fun, I met some cool people and ate some pretty good food. The breaks were long which allowed for some bonding but the pay was less than I hoped. $5 an hour with overtime paid out after 8 hours. I stayed 13 hours because of the overtime.
The next call I got was for extra work for the movie "The 6th Man" It was a basketball movie about a ghost played by TV's Dwayne Wayne, Kadden Hardison who comes back to help his brother played by Marlon Wayans of TV's Wayan Brothers. The gig was a week long with each days shooting lasting about ten hours. It was filmed in the University of Washington's Hec Edmundson Arena. About 200 people showed up as extras which gave an extra a slim chance of being on camera. I discovered that there was a pecking order for being prominently displayed on camera.
This film crew was more strict with the way they kept us in one area. It was a drag because the seats were uncomfortable. It was funny how much of the time we had to either scream our heads off or groan in dramatic fashion in total silence! This was necessary so the film's dialogue could be heard. The crew was very generous with food and the director treated the extras with respect. I used the downtime to sketch away and to talk with fellow extras. The results? Somewhere in a crowd sequence I can be seen quite clearly in pause mode. I've only recently seen this but it was fun to see.
The third and last film I did extra work was for a cheaply made big studio film called "Prefontaine" It was a period film about the life of a runner from the Northwest named Steve Prefontaine. The first problem was the fact the film takes place in the early seventies. I had cut my hair to a short crop before I knew I was doing the film. My "70's" suit had got too tight for me to wear so I had an outfit that looked straight out of 1977. The problem is that the film takes place in 1972 when fashion was quite different.
This film crew was rude and right away they determined that I looked too modern to be in any close shots. However, It was more likely that I didn't have enough estrogen to get a good spot. Tis film crew made us wait for 4 hours before getting started and did not pay some of us for the waiting time. The film starred Jared Leto from TV's My So-Called Life" There was a combination of paid and unpaid extras. Let me tell you, I would not go through this for free. I took off for a few hours (Paid of course!)because I was getting sick of the process. After this film stopped being made I found another full time lousy job and quit show business.
This is not to say that extra work sucks. It great if it's a one time deal or if you are retired and need something to do. They treat older people well. But a career in extra work outside of Los Angeles and New York does not make for a good career. Maybe I might do another one but not unless I'm with friends and I get paid more than $5 an hour.
Sorry to ramble but I had to get this off my chest, besides at least it's not political.