Saturday, 3 August 2013

Extra For A Day

Yesterday, I became an extra.

A film crew were shooting a Discovery Channel docudrama at my uni and as soon as I heard about it, I jumped up and offered myself for a part. Mainly because the briefing we were given was that we were to play party-goers at karaoke bars in Nashville, Tennessee, and they required people with plaid shirts and denims. If you've ever seen my OOTDs, I unconsciously dress like a cowgirl - check shirts, denim everywhere, cowboy boots, fringed jackets. 
I've never acted before, at least not outside drama lessons in school. I loved drama, that's true, but I never considered it as a career choice because it's near impossible to become successful. But I was having a Yes Man day and accepted the extra role in the hope it would be something to brag about to the grandchildren one day, to show them when their nan was on telly. Thankfully my drama student friend Sophie was also going along, so she could help me if I was panicking too much. But when the day arrived, my legs turned to jelly, I remembered my chronic camera shyness, I panicked about my hair and makeup - what if my eyeliner's running down my face in a scene? It's too late now, I thought to myself, just get it over with.
We were all asked to bring a few changes of clothing so we could be recycled into other scenes, so for once my indecisive packing came in useful! I took two pairs of shorts, skinny jeans and a few shirts, and I was on my way to cable TV stardom. That is, if I didn't faint on camera.
The programme is one tenth of a series portraying the dramatised yet true stories of victims of stalking, and while I don't want to give it all away, ours was a very interesting story!

The crew did a fantastic job of transforming our Student Union into a 2000s country karaoke bar, smoke machine included! Our first scene involved just dancing around to the main actress' and actor's karaoke songs, which really proved I can't dance, especially not on camera. I figured keeping my hands in my pockets and jiggling my knees was a good idea - in hindsight, not. One of the assistant directors asked me to walk from a group of friends to the bar, then back again, then back to the bar. I have the appearance of a social butterfly, it seems. Either that or a fidget.
The next part of that bar required me to stand at the very front of the crowd, right in front of the camera, and hand a one dollar tip to the main actress. They don't call me Tightwad Zombie for nothin'! It was at this point the director told me 'you look just like that Kristen Stewart!'. I don't see it, do you?
The next scene was another karaoke bar, where I was asked to dance with a friend, then move to the bar, then go back to dancing. Again, social butterfly/impatient pain in the backside. At least it made for some exercise rather than standing still!
After a while, I forgot the cameras were even there, I was more intimidated by the fact I might miss the directors shouting orders at us. 
Another brief scene involved me and another extra, a guy I'd met that day, walking into the bar behind the bad guy of the programme, grabbing some valuable screen time behind the villain. To address us both, the director called us 'Twilight and Busted'... I don't think I'll ever live down a director calling me Twilight. It should be my new nickname, sod the 'Zombie', I'm Twilight.

What you don't appreciate as an observer of television and film productions is the amount of time it takes for a crew to set up a scene, and how long the actors have to wait around in between. It was a good few hours before we were called back in again to arrange the last few scenes - the two main characters having a meal together and getting engaged. 
By this point we'd been on set for 12 hours and I was flagging. I curled up on a chair as I wasn't being used for the proposal scene, but then I saw the director wagging his finger at me, asking me to take my leather jacket off and take a role in the romantic meal scene. The waitress. Oh holy mother of god.
The fantastic costume guy scuttled over to tie up a white shirt on me for my waitress role while the lovely makeup artist worked her magic on my already war-torn face and pancake-flat hair. How she applied my lipstick and blusher in the pitch-black bar set, I'll never know. I can't even do that in full sunlight. So with pinned-back ombre hair and demure pink lips and cheeks, I set to work handing the main actor his drinks and providing extras in the back of the scene with a wine list, and my fleeting moments of fame were over. Until the director wanted to stop my clomping cowboy boots from making too much noise on the floor, so I ran and retrieved alternative footwear, and re-shot the scene running around a bar floor in my socks.

The crew working with us were lovely, and it takes an awful lot of people to get things running to schedule, despite the fact we finished half an hour later than planned. They kept us well-fed, giving us a lunch bag and ordering us Domino's for dinner, which was a real surprise because I wasn't expecting them to cater for us in the slightest. Also, we had a fair amount of fellow extras running around, so I hopefully got to speak to everyone that was there, whether in scene or during our pizza break. I've made some great friends during the day and I hope to keep in touch with them, even though some aren't from the area, it's nice to know people can get along so well during the space of 13 hours.

13 hours on set and I was on my way home, aching, sore throat, but with the best memories of a day I'll never forget.

Would I do it again? Of course, in a heartbeat. So if you're tuning into Obsession: Dark Desires when it airs at the end of the year on the Discovery Channel - look out for the Zombie!

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  1. Ahh that sounds amazing.
    Looks like you caught the directors eye a lot too :)

    Id love to be extra but id be a nervous wreck and probably mess everything up haha

    Natalie xx

  2. Ooh, that sounds really fun! I'd probably be all awkward in front of the cameras, standing to one side with my arms folded looking sulky, even if I didn't mean to.

  3. That's so cool!! This sounds like a show I'd be interested in, I'm definitely going to look for you!! :D

  4. This is so awesome!


  5. That's so awesome! WHat an amazing experience,
    You're prettier than Kristen Stewart though.


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