What it's like to be a supporting artist or extra...
On the one hand, being an extra is great. You get to be in interesting places, meet interesting people, maybe the odd celebrity, work on set and learn all about how filming and the entertainment industry works. You get to say you were in James Bond Quantum of Solace, or the opening scene to Kick Ass two (although you are, in fact, invisible). It's not an office job, pay is ok, as long as you are busy, and apart from the early rises it seems like a pretty cool and interesting job. I did meet Dustin Hothman, Emma Thompson, James Brolin and one or two others when I was "bumped" up from a regular extra to a "featured artist" and spent the week with the latter on "Last Chance Harvey." It's also one of the few things you can see me in, albeit, obscured and right at the end! I did get to wear some cool costumes and see some cool things and locations. I've worked with a pig in "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People", rode a roller coaster in the freezing London Januray night, all night long, in "Dr Parnassus," done a bollywood dance in "House Full", done a french film in "Mes Amis Mes Amor," worked abroad and had a featured roll that was cut from "Desert Rose"!
There's more funny stories that I'll spare you but you can see a full list at the very bottom of the page if you're interested. For now the point is that, yeah it's pretty cool, it has its upsides and I'm kind of proud of it. I think if someone wanted to be an actor (even though this is supposedly against what agents think) or work in that industry, it's a great, easy way to start and to at least be around and get experience. I'm not sure if I ever wanted to be an actor, I just fell into the extra world as it filled a gap so even though I have definitely been a professional actor, I would still call myself an extra. I don't really mind the negative connotations and I'm just fond of the memories I have. It helped in my life and my teaching too. But I never really cared about that celebrity thing and eventually it all starts to annoy you. If you're into that celebrity thing, it is cool, you can meet the odd one, but then again, if you are into that you probably won't make it to meet any. You are generally not very well treated or regarded or respected. Often the food is dire, the conditions appalling and if you have to keep filming that scene over and over wearing a kilt and no top, outside in the cold and rain; you jolly well have to keep filming it.
(Continues after advert...)
Getting up at 4am or earlier is a pain. There's mostly a lot of waiting around doing nothing (you can't even read your phone on set sometimes) and to be honest the pay isn't worth it which is why you will stop once the thrill wears off. There's a lot of wierd people in the industry, particularly other extras. There's also the "old boys" who remember a lost world, one when they were treated well. One such gent told me that he had been the guy in the scene with Basil Fawlty and the Germans, the scene they show all the time when they ever talk about Fawlty Towers, and he had made enough money from the royalties to put his kids through private school. Those days are definitely gone with Assistant Directors trying to limit what they pay as much as possible. That's another thing about the work, the end of the day thing when you are dredding the argument with the AD about whether you said a word in that scene and whether your hair was cut etc and knowing that if you push it too hard, even if you are right, they just won't ask you back and your agency will stop giving you jobs. It's a bit of a minefield.
Having said all that, if you are looking for a job that you can put a bit of energy in but also not rely on and be relaxed with and just enjoy what's going on, then being an extra is a good stop gap. It's easy, fun, exciting and has its perks. And when, or if, its starts to annoy you, you can just stop. And you get to say "I'm in this!" excitedly at the cinema sometimes (even if you're not really in it!) or "I'm in this!" occassionally when watching the tv! For me, it's what I learned about it all, that whole world of acting, film, production and entertainment, which will be what was worth it for me. I also have my own IMDB page, which I think is pretty cool too :)!
Check out some funny and interesting photos from my time as an extra below...I also collect other media related to this sort of creativity on my facebook page here...
Supporting Artiste photos: Click on the arrows to scroll, or on the image for a larger version (in a pop-up)
Did you like our article or photos, let us know by liking, tweeting or sharing this page using the links... Follow us for more great content! (mobile users scroll down...)