I just got a call, and I get to work as an actor next week! I am to be an extra in a major that’s beginning filming. Cool, huh?
I’ll be circumspect and not give the name of the movie or details. Some people let you talk about ongoing projects, and some want privacy, so I try to err on the side of caution. But, I am to play a customer at a store, and I am to be “camera ready”.
So…that’s a relief. That means I get to wear my own clothing. I have chemical sensitivities, so sometimes you get into chemical situations that are hard to handle. But, I always relax more when I get to wear my own clothes…because I know I have used hypoallergenic laundry soap, etc.
So, when you get these calls, you really don’t have much info to go on. I will wear jeans and boots (my own personal favorite thing to wear), and take multiple options. I know from experience, not to wear anything with a wildly patterned print, and not to wear solid white. You also NEVER EVER want to wear anything with a logo. [Even as a director/producer of our own projects, when I am explaining this to people who will go on camera for us, somehow these words don’t really sink in. You can say them to people, but they don’t hear you. I remember telling an actress, “Don’t wear solid white”, and she shows up in a solid white suit jacket that she’d bought new, just for the project.] Additional instructions for this specific project were: no solid black and no solid red.
Black is my go-to color. So much of my wardrobe centers around black. So, what else is left?
I go to the closet and start pulling “possibilities”:
If you wear some basic shell, of some neutral color, then you can easily switch jackets or top shirts. Add in 3 or 4 scarves, to be worn over the shoulders, or as a basic neck wrap and you can have multiple “looks” that change out with ease. Normally I’d wear black slacks or a black skirt, and switch out tops. But with black not an option, I’ll probably go basic navy??? As an extra, you don’t want to go with too much “flash”. They will want things that blend into the background, and don’t stand out and make too much “noise”.
But, I went and pulled these shoes out of my closet and tried them on. I bought them in Branson a couple of years ago, and they were so fabulous, I couldn’t NOT buy them. But they are a size too big. I can handle the height. Can I handle the slipping? I haven’t worn them yet, but this may be the opportunity.
Or, you plan for backups:
My mom is a designer, and she has made me several “statement” necklaces. I have worn several on camera, for various projects, so I will have jewelry at the ready in my bag.
What else do you take?
Snacks. Bottled water. They usually provide things on set, but just in case, or if someone might happen to be late delivering supplies, I want to have everything I need to be able to spend the day there.
I put 2 books in my bag and a sudoku book. I grabbed a deck of cards. [You never know. When I was on Pearl, we were in the green room a lot. One extra, who happened to live there in town called her husband to bring down a deck of cards, and we played cards all afternoon. It was fun!]
I’ll put some ebooks on my tablet computer and take it along. MP3 player. I have a battery radio walkman, so it’s nice to have. You never know how much down time you’ll be needing to fill, so it’s nice to have things to do. Sometimes the holding area is far away from the set, so you can talk to people. It’s nice to be around other creative types, you know? Sometimes you are close by and you need to be quiet all day, so it is essential to have “quiet” things to do to fill the time.
Anyway, I enjoy acting so much. I’ve said it before, but when you are a director or producer of your own project, the weight of responsibility sits on your shoulders. You are making decisions and more decisions, any one of which can be the wrong decision and tank the project. To be hired as an actor, and to go and have ONE job to do–it’s almost like a vacation. The ‘heavy lifting’ rests on someone else’s shoulders. Someone else is making all the hard decisions.
Of course, when you are there, once you are on set, it’s fascinating. I am never bored. There is so much to see and learn. I try to learn as much as I can, by osmosis. Now, the first priority is to do my job, obey instructions, etc. Sometimes you are facing a direction and you can’t see anything that’s going on, and that’s fine. But, in the down times, you can see how they set up lights, camera angles, props, costumes, set design, etc. Sometimes, the principals are rehearsing right in front of you. How do they approach their character?
Part of being an extra is deciphering the mystery of what’s going on. You don’t get to see a script. You have no inside knowledge of the story or plans or production. So, you keep your eyes and ears open for clues, so you’ll know more about this movie that’s being made. You may only know a tiny slice of what’s happening in front of you on your work day, but it’s fun to see how much info you can glean and guess what the final movie might be.
After that, it’s back to wearing my own “producer” hat. We are working on that 30 second commercial for our own production, and I want to finish principal photography by the end of next week. That gives us several days to edit and submit. I don’t want to wait until deadline, in case there is any issue. I like to have some buffer room, at least a couple of days, in case the upload fails, or if we do get the upload to work, but maybe there might be some technical issue that we need to fix, etc.
So, things in the filmmaking world are happening, and it’s fun to be able to “feel” things happening.
Acting has always been a dream to me. For years, it seemed too far away to reach. I didn’t even try. I was in my 30s before I even attempted the impossible. And look what happened! I’ve made many, many major motion pictures; I’ve worked with amazing people; I’ve played opposite and danced with Oscar and Emmy winning actors.
If there is some dream you have, something that seems too big, or too far away, or too impossible….
…grab for the brass ring and take a leap of faith. You never know where you’ll land. It’s totally worth the risk. And who knows? Maybe you’ll make that dream of yours come true!