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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Friday, 21 June 2013

And...ACTION! Life as a new film extra (the sequel!)

The Oscars: film, fame and frocks; nips, tucks and tuxes.

A glamorous, champagne fuelled celebration of success in this multi billion dollar industry.


Rewind a few thousand frames to a cold car park at dawn...somewhere in the suburbs.

Kicking their heels...waiting for the er....`action`...a dozen or so `supporting artistes`..sipping tepid coffee from a polystyrene cup.

That`s never going to be glamorous. But do you *feels* it? Just to be a tiny part of a micro section of a real movie that people will pay to go and see in the cinema? Even if you end up on the cutting room`ve been there...seen the cameras, been part of the action.

I`m no expert. It only started this year really. But since then, the work`s come in pretty regularly and I`m loving it.

I`ve been to Manchester for Corrie (walking down a hospital corridor in the recent baby storyline,) and to Leeds quite a few times now, for Emmerdale. I got booked for a children`s feature film and a French movie , both in London, and `sent to Coventry` for a few days on  ITV`s fabulous new drama series Love and Marriage. It was Liverpool for a children`s drama programme on Nickelodeon--and back to Manchester to be a face in the crowd in a soft drinks commercial.The crime drama `Prey`, starring John Simm was a brilliant series to be involved with--working with the same group of fellow police `detectives` for a few days at a time (in fact quite a few of them were ex coppers and had some great stories to share). And airports have been the exciting locations for two television programmes--it`s always great to have lots going on around you while you`re waiting for your `turn`. Next week? London and Oxford probably, and possibly Manchester the week after that. As you`ll have gathered, having your own transport helps--especially if it`s a 7 am call.

My 18 months of `credits` is nothing, of course, compared with the old timers, and the people who`ve been on the extras lists for years. But I`m with three agencies now, in London and the Midlands.

So because a few people have asked me how you land this kind of gig,or what happens when you get there are my favourite few movie morsels from the past few months as an extras newbie. No secrets, mind. What goes on set...etc....

1) They really do say `...rolling...and....ACTION....` And directors really do stress about `losing light`. . yes...sometimes pacing up and down with their fingers on their temples.

2) Want to try? Google `film extras` ,then look at the work they do, and the areas covered.Check out if they charge for taking your pic, and how much of a `cut` they`ll take from your wages.

3) There`s time to talk. I`ve met a Russian interpreter, a bloke who plays poker for a living, and a lady who wears a face mask when her husband has a cold. There was the extra who got *that close* to Russell Crowe, the one who played the role of a prostitute...and another signed up to sit with a duck on her knee. Top of my list is still Pauline Obi, who mixes extras work with life on dialysis while she waits for a transplant. Catch the link to her story below.

4) You might be needed at the crack of dawn, or on overnight shoots. And you need to be patient. Take a book, a smartphone; and some music.

5) You`re sometimes (only once, so far, ) asked to take a packed lunch, but on other days the catering truck`s ready with a feast. Sometimes a choice of feasts, and three courses!

6) You won`t always make it to the big screen. It could be a commercial, a TV period drama, a crime thriller, or a soap.You might sit around all day, and never be used. Don`t worry, you`ll still get paid. Just watch and learn!

7) Talking of pay; it varies enormously.Sometimes they pay more if you`re able to show off a special skill, like football, for example. There`s usually more for `walk on` roles, than faces in crowds. Some commercials pay big bucks, especially if the brand is high profile, or if your face fits. For guidance, I`ve earned between £75 and £140 a day so far, with the chance to double that. Remember it`s not regular employment--you could be waiting many months for a call--so don`t ever bank on it to pay your bills.

8) If you stay quiet and watch, you can learn loads about the army of people involved in a production, and the incredible skills needed to put the simplest production together. You`ll see the technical, lighting and camera crews, the make up and hair teams with their `tool belts` packed with all kinds of delicious cosmetics, clips, brushes and fasteners; how the catering squad prepare and serve up--stars and directors first--and how many guys are needed to transport, install and clean the trailers for the stars, and  run the double decker buses where the crew and extras hang out. Helping you will be assistant directors or runners--making sure you`re in the right place at the right time.

9) You might be star struck, but no, you don`t approach the `stars` for a chat or a pic. They`re working hard, going over their lines, or being directed. Know your place!

10) Yes, it *is* quite exciting to see yourself on the telly. Yes, even for a nano-second. Better still when it features stars you`ve raved about for years, like Alison Steadman and Celia Imrie (true for me in ITV`s ace `Love and Marriage`series.) The camera can be a bit cruel though...(I haven`t eaten much since seeing my bottom on Corrie, tbh....!).

11) You`re told what clothes you need to take along for your role. They usually ask for several options, and choose what`s best when you get there.So keep a little stock of `extras` clothes in your wardrobe--such as formal office wear if you don`t normally own that kind of stuff. Charity shops can be helpful! And invest in thermals for winter jobs!

12) No matter who you think you are, and how you like the world to see you *in real life*`re there on set, to be who THEY want you to be. Just for one day. I learnt this the other week when...arriving `made up`, found myself being marched into the make up trailer, and assessed (a little scathingly, I felt....) by a make up man...who after one glance at my signature red lippie hissed at his junior to `take it down`.

So yes, Mr Make Up Man. As far as life on set lips are smiling, and sealed.

But still red.


Here`s that story about Pauline Obi--one of the wonderful people I`ve met along the way doing extras work:

Once a journalist...: Corrie, courage and a kidney transplant.

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