A reader writes in to share some stories and tips from her years of extra work!
I have been doing extra work for years and years and the first movie I worked on was the original Carrie – the one
with Sissy Spacek. I was in the prom scene when they spill the blood all over Carrie when she becomes prom queen. John Travolta had just become pretty popular because he was on the series Welcome Back Kotter. He was so nice to everyone – he took time to talk to us and never made us feel like we were bothering him. When you watch a movie, you never
think about what goes into it to make it. I really respect Sissy Spacek for what she had to go through that day. When they dumped the “blood” on her, it was actually something like red colored Karo syrup. I guess because it was so thick, the camera could film it better. Well, of course, they never get it in one take, and I think they ended up doing four takes. Each time, Sissy had to go shower, wash her hair, get her hair done exactly the way it was the first time and get into an identical dress. I wonder how many of those dresses they had? It was a great first experience.
I just want to warn people that when you do extra work, you have to be really careful about what you bring to the set. You are going to have to leave your things behind when you’re on the set, and your things will be left unguarded. I am saying this because I brought a Kindle to the set of Rules Don’t Apply and it was stolen. The people making the movie were really nice about it but couldn’t do anything. I hope this helps. Since then, I just take thrift shop paperbacks that no one wants!
The first three movies I worked on as an extra, I felt that we were being treated like second-hand citizens, because all of the cast and crew got to eat before us. Someone finally explained why that is, and I thought I’d share it with ReelGuru.com members, because once you know, it makes a lot of sense. When the cast and crew take their lunch break, they have to be back at work usually half an hour after the last crew member goes through the line. They all have to get back to re-light and do whatever they have to do – but the extras are the last ones they need. That’s why the cast and crew go through the lunch line first. It’s really not because they don’t like us!
My very best day working as an extra was when I was playing a waitress in a diner and I was going around filling up coffee cups of the customers. We did one rehearsal, and one of the tables I served was the star of the movie: Samuel L. Jackson. When we got done with the rehearsal, I saw the director talking to the assistant director and before long, he told me that when I went to the table next time, I was supposed to ask Mr. Jackson if he wanted more coffee before I poured it. We filmed it and right afterwards, they brought me a SAG contract to sign, because I had been given a line to say. So for the rest of that day, I was considered to be an actor, and I got paid a lot more money. I’ve heard that I can now join SAG any time I want!
– Beth K.
Catrine’s note: Yes, under many SAG contracts, that is the case. The film must be made through a SAG signatory, and not all SAG contracts will give you the ability to join SAG. If you are not sure of whether or not you are eligible to join SAG, you can call their LA offices: 323 954-1600.
Tips for extras!
Tip #1: Don’t speak during a take when working as an extra, but if you are singled out to say a specific word on line, call your agent. You may be eligible for a SAG contract (and much better pay).
Tip #2: Never ask actors on the set for autographs.
Tip #3: Figure out exactly where you are going before you leave the house. There are NO excuses for being late.
Join the newsletter
Last modified: June 2, 2017