Friday, December 4, 2009
Extra Life Lessons Learned
I’d like to talk about life lessons my kids and I have learned from being film industry extras.
For our work in the film industry, our agent will call and say they need me as an adult female for a particular day. Or the agent will say she needs a female teen, or a teenage boy, etc. Sometimes they’re very specific and want someone of a certain ethnic background. If you look at the above still, you don’t see any Caucasians. That’s not an accident. I haven’t seen the movie but I believe they’re trying to portray the neighborhood Michael Oher grew up in.
Here's a still from the 2001 movie, The Princess Diaries. You can see Anne Hathaway as Mia Thermopolis with her hands raised. She stands out because everyone else (all the extras) are in dowdy black. Their job is to fill the space but be invisible. And most of them are older adults.
The third life lesson I wanted to mention was that my kids learn they aren’t special. Yes, I know this goes against 2 paragraphs ago when I said they were unique but let me explain. A movie set is very regulated where everyone has a specific job. We are the extras. We are expendable. We are taken onto the set and left in a corner, usually in a metal folding chair to await our turn. While we’re sitting there, we see a table filled with plates of goodies, like donuts, muffins and cookies. Lots of fresh fruit. And there’s a selection of drinks from water and juice to coffee, tea and hot chocolate. That is the Craft Table. But it’s not ours. The Craft Table for the extras is much smaller. Ours holds a canister of pretzels, another of wrapped candy, and we can chose water or coffee to drink. Period.
Mealtimes on the set are strictly controlled. Many times we’ve finished our scene and are sitting back in the holding room where everyone will eat lunch or supper. We can see the caterer setting up. We can smell the food. Our tummies are growling as we’ve been on set for 6 hrs and all we’ve had to eat are pretzels and candy. But we can’t eat. The extras have to wait for the cast and crew to eat first. Once they’ve all gone through and are seated, then our wrangler will let us go and get ours. Seconds are up for grabs. Despite the wait for our food, we are usually well fed.
So here’s where the life lesson comes in… the kids have learned to wait even though the food is available and they’re hungry. They accept the fact others are more important and get to eat first. And they accept the mini Craft Table too. I have yet to see one kid sneak food from the wrong table. It’s just not acceptable and the kids know if they did try it, they probably wouldn’t be called back to work again. Even at their ages, they know it’s not worth the risk.
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