After several attempts, I finally made it onto a movie set last night … and I didn’t sneak in. I was there to be filmed and likely turned into a matinee idol and overnight sensation. No, it isn’t a major motion picture. It’s a short comedy film that will undoubtedly net me an Academy Award nomination for Best Background Extra Who Can Barely Be Seen.
Upon arriving on time to the movie set in a Chicago restaurant, I sat for an hour. It turns out that there’s lots of sitting around on movie sets waiting for something, anything to happen. Fortunately, there were plenty of snacks for us extras to gorge on. Sure, we are unpaid extras, but do you have any idea how many bags of fruit snacks I can cram into my pants pockets?
The set looked something like this.
In fact, it looked exactly like that … except when there was a giant 8 foot tall polar bear in the shot. Then it looked more like this.
Talk about hogging a scene. And where was the bear placed for most of the scenes I was in?
Strategically placed between me and the camera. That may not be a coincidence. Not surprisingly, I was the extra cast as Sad Old Man Sitting by Himself at End of Bar. Once again, I am the victim of typecasting. I was the token oldie in the restaurant scene in order to give the impression of a diverse crowd if I ever actually appear on camera.
I asked the Director for my character’s motivation to be sitting alone at the end of the bar. He replied, “His motivation is that if you don’t sit your ass down, I’ll replace you with a homeless person I pull from the street.” I scanned the street, didn’t see any homeless, and figured he must be kidding, just as I am. The Director seemed like a nice guy who always made sure we knew where the snacks were, besides my pants pocket.
What I found most fascinating were the stories behind the extras. The bartender is a young man who was a software engineer (cha-ching!) who didn’t like that career choice and is now trying acting. He looked like a good bartender. If acting doesn’t work out, bartending might. Another extra is an 18 year old young lady who graduated high school in May … and lives in Wisconsin … where she traveled from by bus … and took an Aibnb overnight rental just to be in this little film as an unpaid extra.
Did I mention that the Director considered me for the role of Waiter? I’m glad I was not chosen as that character gets tripped by the bear and falls. At my age, that could mean a broken hip. The actor playing the waiter is actually a professional actor, unpaid for this role, but heading to North Carolina later this week for what he called a paying gig. It made me feel a bit funny about doing this on a lark with no genuine interest in pursuing a film career. What if I bumped someone from being an extra on this film, and that person really wants to be discovered, and they would do that by peaking around the guy in the giant polar bear suit in order to mug for the camera? Oh well, too late now. I’m back for the final day of filming tonight and maybe more stories of the extraordinary extras for you.