My life as a movie extra

Jadie Troy-Pryde
25 May 2012

Ever wondered what it's like to walk around a movie set, chatting to directors and acting in a film alongside some famous names? Growing up I was lucky enough to do exactly that. As an extra, you're not always given the opportunity to pull out all the stops for that Oscar winning performance, but it's a fantastic way to get to know what it feels like behind the scenes. And it's a pretty big deal when Steven Spielberg introduces himself to you …

If you think you have what it takes, take a look at what you can expect from life as a movie extra.

Big names

When I was 11, I was an extra in the BBC series, 'Band of Brothers'. I was told that David Schwimmer and the casting agents had chosen me specifically from my agency for a scene at a beautiful location in Hertfordshire. Once I had finished in hair, make-up and costume, I was taken to the set. I remember a man with glasses coming over to me and shaking my hand. 'Hello, I'm Steven,' he said. 'I'm Jadie,' I replied nonchalantly, and turned away. It was only later when my Dad told me who it was that I realised - I had met Steven Spielberg, and I didn't even know it! I've met tonnes of celebrities from working as an extra, from Helen Mirren to Paul Whitehouse. Being an extra is a fantastic way to meet some of the biggest names in film and it's a great way to make yourself known by directors, producers and casting agents. Just make sure you know who you're talking to!

Looking the part

Perhaps it's not everyone's idea of fun, but one of my favourite things about being on set was getting ready for filming. You may be under the impression that as an extra it doesn't really matter what you wear or how your hair looks - WRONG! The director is trying to create a whole scene, and you are a part of that. I once filmed a scene for a movie called Sam's Circus which was set in the 40's, and everything from the bobbles in my hair to the socks on my feet was chosen specifically by the styling and wardrobe teams. It's a great way to experiment with different looks, too - and it provides you with access to a vast number of outfits!

Meeting people

The most rewarding part of being a movie extra is talking to exciting people. Shooting scenes often takes much longer than you'd imagine, and when you're on set for up to twelve hours you start to realise how much time is spent getting to know other extras and actors. Don't disregard the people who are doing the same job as you just because you'd rather try and network with the film crew. Between takes is the perfect time to get chatting to 'Man 6' who is standing next to you because you never know how much experience they have had and you can always learn from other people. He may be 'Man 6' now, but in two years he could be the next Russell Crowe.

Last but not least… eating!

Shooting could start at 6:00 a.m. and finish at 10:00 p.m. It's a tiring job, and you're often feeling rather hungry once you've walked through the same hallway for the 78th time. Luckily, being a movie extra means that you'll never go hungry on set. Often there are several tables, pop-up tents and food vans not too far away that are always happy to provide you with a decent, hot and the best part - complimentary! - meal. You're sure to find something to eat whether it is morning, noon or night and you will always be well looked after. If you're filming a scene in a kitchen or food hall, your plates will be topped up at the beginning of each take for consistency. I remember filming a dinner scene where my 'family' and I were eating a roast dinner. Every time we started filming, I went straight for the chicken, and every time we started the scene again fresh chicken was put on my plate! After the third take, however, I was so stuffed that I stuck to nibbling at the vegetables ...

Getting extra work

There are so many agencies around that it's often difficult to decide who to go with. Look at an agency's client book to see what kind of people they represent and enquire about how much work is on offer for you with regards to your age, gender and 'look'. As an extra, I could earn anything from £100+ for a few hours work. You may not have the lead role, but always be the three P's: professional, punctual and a pleasure to work with.

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