After being in two musicals in high school — cast as an obscure background character, of course — I grew to love being on a set. I attended college with hopes of living a glamourous life of long, 14-hour days on the set of a feature film or television show. Those dreams quickly faded after realizing that to break through in the business, you must know people already in it. Growing up in a small town in New Jersey, my circle of connections did not extend into the realm of actors, directors, producers and cinematographers.
On a whim, I signed up with a casting agency to be an extra in any movies or shows filmed locally. I had to sign an NDA, so I cannot disclose too much about what I was selected for, but I can share about my experience without giving away names, locations or even dates.
The first day on set was hectic, with a 6 a.m. start. I had to park my car almost a mile away from where they were filming and sprint down the city streets to get to check-in. We were required to take two COVID tests, one a couple days before arriving on location and one the day of shooting. After the all clear, I was sent to wardrobe for the costume department to decide on what I would wear. They chose two spring-themed outfits for me with bright, pastel colors. I did a quick change into my first outfit, ate breakfast they provided and headed down to set.
Seeing the cameras, crew, props, set design and actors made my heart flutter. I’d never done this before, and everyone had such a confidence about them that made me a bit nervous. They called me over to be placed and told me to walk in a line from point A to point B. That was it. Next thing I heard was “Quiet on set! Rolling! Background! ACTION!”
I did my walk from one place to the next about 10 times as we kept resetting, and then that scene was done. We moved on and did more scenes with me in the background until 8:30 p.m. There were plenty of breaks in between with lots and lots of food. Avocado toast, pastries, fruit, candy, sandwiches, coffee, soup, chicken, steak, meatloaf, burritos … anything you can think of to eat.
We worked until the sun set, and I was asked if I was able to return the next day to work again. The continuity of the scene would be off if I didn’t return, so I said yes. I was glad they asked me to come back, though, because I loved everything about it. I worked the following day — another set of long hours — but it flew by quickly. I was sad to leave.
Not too many opportunities come around on the East Coast, so having this as my introduction to being an extra was a positive experience I am looking forward to doing again.
— Audrey Lee, assistant editor
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