Feature
So, you wanna be in pictures...


By Bill Johnson aka Le Fantome
(February 25, 2001)

Recently a friend on the net who has been in the movies invited Le Fantome to participate in being an extra on the set of a major motion picture "Servicing Sara" directed by Reginald Hudlin which was filming in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex at Will Rogers Coliseum. I asked her how one goes about being an extra? She forwarded me a letter from an e-mail list on the net for film casting for the movie where I was asked to submit a "head shot" along with routine info such as name, address, phone, fax and availability to film. No experience required.

A few days before the filming I received a call from the casting director of Servicing Sara and was asked if I was still interested to which I responded in the positive. The filming was over a period of 5 days and was the final scenes in the production. My friend came up from Austin and joined me in attendance. Casting call was 7:00 a.m. in the morning where we entered a holding area and received W2 forms for the day along with a lavish buffet for breakfast. 500 folks showed up for the shoot which was a crowd scene at a fictional Monster Truck Show. The compensation was about $85 a day plus breakfast and lunch buffets and all the snacks at the snack bar we could carry back to the stands.

The movie starred Matthew Perry from "Friends" who played a process server, Elizabeth Hurley playing a wife suing for divorce and her husband played by Bruce Campbell. Our heroes Matthew and Elizabeth have chased her husband, Bruce across the country and now into the midst of a Monster truck show where he tries to get lost in the crowd. They have a deadline to service him with the papers and time is running out. The director asks the crowd to do specific behaviors -- looking up at the DiamondVision Trinitron, standing, cheering on their favorite truck, booing the opponent, waving flags, signs and foam cowboys hats. Sometimes doing this in pantomime and other time in voice. We cheered on the antics of El Toro Diablo...known in the Monster Truck World as The Terminator and the aerobatics of the West Hollywood Motorcycle stunt team. Along with pyrotechnics and exciting jumps and Monster trucks demolishing cars and chasing our heroes over a period of 5 days shooting over 50 separate scenes vital to the final 5 minutes of the climax of the movie.

Contact personally with the stars was forbidden but camera were allowed and were used when not filming. We were ably directed by the 1st and 2nd Assistant Directors and got a real feel on how movies were made. Today's movies use 4 or more cameras and the stunts were dangerous and well orchestrated. One accident nearly did occur however, in our shoot as a truck barely missed the stunt double running in front of a truck, when the truck lost control and slammed into a wall. I found great respect for these doubles and editors who put what seems like endless pieces of film together to bring it to the screen for you. It was far more technical than just Lights-Camera-Action...in reality. The stars are just that - stars, treated like fine china and all the perks,.the directors chair--the crew bringing them snacks---but working hard, take after take after take of the same scene. The final love scene had over 25 takes....such a life!

So how do you become an extra in the movies or TV? First thing is to go to your local or state film commission and check out this site also. Movies are filmed in all 50 states from time to time. In many states movie extras are hired that are not members of the union. The principal Union is the Screen Actor's Guild. Texas is a non-union state. In the Dallas/Austin/Houston area alone over 4 feature films are in progress right now, doing filming that calls for extras. No experience required. We also understand that Chuck Norris of "Walker, Texas Ranger" fame will soon open a studio for movies in Dallas. Many people don't know that most of the movies are filmed outside of the Hollywood lots of Los Angeles. In addition yahoo groups have some listing for film casting in specific areas of the country with email lists to inform members of upcoming events.

One example locally is Dallas Film Casting which has sublists of Austin and Midland areas of Texas. The Texas Film Commission and AustinActors.net is another source locally. For those really serious, get an agent - they contact agencies when seeking talent for auditions. Get a great head shot taken and mass produced - it is your calling card. Create a resume based on your experience and training so far. Take acting and auditioning classes in your area. Join actor support groups to gain knowledge from other actors. Find other ways to network with people in the business.

Getting an agent

Marketing materials

Training

Networking

A website with other info about being a extra along with additional pictures of the shoot has been put up on WebTV.

Many years ago my late wife was called to do a dance scene in Sally Field's tv miniseries "Woman of Independent Means" which was a 1 day shoot for 30 seconds in the film. She was a dancer and had been referred to the casting director. She was lucky...but I have found out even "just plain folks" can have a part in the movies and get paid for doing it!