This is a post I somehow never got around to writing, so it pertains to an experience I had almost a year ago.
I spent one late afternoon and evening last March helping out as an extra on a friend’s film. I met her through a mutual friend who I knew from my acting class I was taking at the time. (This is networking people! Not just exchanging business cards at a mixer). The mutual friend was putting together a speed reel and needed another actress to be in it so she asked me. Her friend directed it and that is how we met. We loosely kept in touch and here and there and I’d get emails from her needing some help either as an assistant, PA, grip or extra. For this particular project I was free the day she needed a few extras so I agreed to do it. I am very glad I did. Since it was a low budget feature, the scene was small and there were only a handful of extras. Therefore, we were not treated like cattle (as I have been before, enough to turn me off from ever doing extra work, at which point I vowed to only do it for special occasions like this one).
I was on set for most of the day silently taking everything around me in, soaking it up like a sponge. I observed the way they ran the production- the people involved, what they were doing, how efficiently were they running their set (all things to keep in mind whenever I got around to making my own movie). I observed the two lead actors do their one scene take after take. Did they have a process? What was working? What wasn’t working? Why? I actually read for the lead role and did not get cast so I also thought ok, why was she cast? Why does her look work? Was I the right type or the wrong type? I took in how my friend directed. How did she get the necessary performances out of her actors. Was she communicating effectively. If I were in their shoes would I understand what she meant? Would I want more direction? Less direction? Would I chime in with my own opinion? Would I simply take the orders?
It was a great learning experience. To be able to soak that much up without having to endure the trial and error on your own was invaluable. Of course I think it is important to learn and try and fail yourself, it’s also great when you can get a little leg up whatever way you can. Not to mention, I helped out a friend. That is how bridges are built and in this town you want as many bridges as you can get.