Extra Extra!

13 Nov

I had a very fun experience yesterday that I just HAD to share. 

I spent the day working as an extra on the season finale of Friday Night Lights. 

Told you it was fun!

And since most people (myself included) don’t know what it’s like to spend the day on the set of a television series, I thought I’d give y’all the rundown. 

I arrived in Austin a little before the 2:00 call time.  I didn’t know if there would be any food on the set, so I stopped to get a quick bite, which turned into a traffic nightmare, making me really nervous that I was going to be late.  And I HATE to be late.  But, I got there on time.  We met at “base camp 3” which was a large parking lot behind a movie theater.  Unfortunately we had to park in front of the movie theater, so it was probably a half-mile walk from the car to the holding tent.  (This will come into play later.)

I was hired as a “Garrity Motors Salesperson” and I was told to bring at least three options for wardrobe.  I brought three pairs of slacks and five tops, plus two pairs of shoes.  I shlepped all that stuff over to the tent and got signed in.  We filled out a work voucher, which we had to carry with us throughout the day.  Then we sat down to wait for instructions.

A few minutes later the wardrobe girl came around to choose what we would wear.  She liked what I brought (phew!) and chose my brown slacks with two different tops (we were going to be shooting two different scenes).

Then we waited.  And waited.  And waited. 

Finally we (the other salespeople and I) decided that we should go ahead and change.  So we headed over to the trailers to find a spot.  I ended up using a 4×4 bathroom and I was so nervous I dropped my pants on the nasty trailer-potty floor, but what’re ya gonna do?  Plus, now I was wearing a silk wrap-around top, so I was worried about pit stains and a gaping front if I wasn’t holding my shoulders just-so.  Nice.

Dressing trailers

Dressing trailers

At this point I made a critical error.  I should have gone on to the car and dumped the rest of my clothes and my bag (which had my make-up, hairspray, etc.)  But I didn’t, because it was such a long way and I was afraid they were going to call us and I wouldn’t be there. 

Anyhoo, we went back to the tent.  There was plenty of time for “getting to know you” amongst the extras.  We chatted, and chatted, and chatted some more.  One guy thought I looked like Melissa Gilbert.  I’ve never heard that, although I took it as a serious compliment, because you know I love me some Little House!  He called me Melissa all day.  I told them about my blog and I was all proud until one of the guys handed me his card and he’s a writer.  Dah!  I’m such a dork.  I quickly explained that what I do on my blog is not “actual” writing.  I just pretend to be a writer.  Oh the pressure!!

Do I really look like Melissa Gilbert?

Do I really look like Melissa Gilbert?

While we were chatting they were setting up food.  Lots and lots of food.  I had not planned on being fed, but you always hear about the incredible food on movie sets, right?  So by now it’s about 4:00 and a whole group of people comes in from another shoot that had just finished.  Tons of extras, plus tons of crew.  The crew ate first.  We had to move because there wasn’t enough room for them and extras are DEFINITELY the lowest of the low.  (Also, they don’t call you extras on the set.  They call you background.  Which translates to “probably won’t be seen”.)  So I stood around for awhile while they got fed. 

But then?  It was our turn.  Let me tell you I haven’t eaten that well in weeks!!  The choices!  We’re not talking barbecue brisket and potato salad.  There were risotto corn fritters, au-gratin potatoes with basil, root vegetable medley, chicken calzones, steak kabobs, fried calamari, iceberg lettuce wedges with bacon and tomato, fresh bread, and that’s not even half of it…it was unreal.  And at the end of the table was every condiment known to God and man.  All kinds of dressing, steak sauce, worcestershire, tabasco – you name it.  Very impressive. 

Be sure to check out all the condiments at the bottom of the pic

See all the condiments?

Remember I said that a bunch of other extras had come in from another shoot?  Well, probably 12 of those were the kids who play the football team.  These boys can EAT!  I know why they do this show…it’s for the food.  (‘Cause the paycheck sure isn’t worth it!)

We stand around after we eat and have just enough time for someone to tell me I’ve got something on my shirt.  Dang it!!  Right on the boob.  Good grief.  I clean it off as best I can (can’t use water because it’s silk) and try to decide whether to go to wardrobe to ask about a different shirt.  Just then our wrangler (one of the Production Assistants) calls us to load onto a van to go to the set of the car dealership.  So I put my sorries in a sack and load up.  Remember how I didn’t take all my stuff back to my car before?  Turns out I should have.  Now I have my purse, my bag, plus 7 hangers worth of clothes.  I can sense it’s going to be a problem, but what can I do?  I go with it.

We all cram into the van.  Someone was talking about getting carsick and the PA basically told them to shut up and get in.  It was a strange feeling, being squished in a van with a bunch of people I don’t know, trusting that the driver is actually going to take us to the right place.  There was plenty of nervous energy; everyone was cleverly naming the songs that we should sing on our little trip.  Ha ha ha.  See their maniacal grins?  99 bottles of beer on the wall, bwa ha ha.  Not.

I was grateful not to be in the BACK back.

I was grateful not to be in the BACK back.

We quickly arrived at the location and they unloaded the van.  Pretty much the minute our feet hit the ground they were yelling at us.  First, because we had stuff (we were supposed to have one other outfit, but not the giant armload that I and another guy had), then because they couldn’t decide who they wanted to do what.  We threw our stuff in a corner and awaited instructions. 

Pretty soon another one of the PA’s came and pulled me and another man to do a scene.  (Yay!  I finally get to do something!)  He takes us into the parking lot and tells us to walk.  But he didn’t tell us where to walk TO.    And then before we can ask they’re rolling, and we’re walking, and we get fussed at because we were supposed to walk all the way into the building.  BUT HE DIDN’T TELL US THAT!!  Ugh.  So we do it again (not for us, but for the main characters who are acting the scene right outside the front door).  This time we nail it.  Well, as much as you can nail walking across a parking lot.  Put it this way, I didn’t trip.  Can you imagine? 

So my backside made it’s big debut.  Thank God I started running this week.  I’m sure those 6 miles made a huge difference in my posterior. 

Back into the building to wait some more.  Now a bunch of us are told to go to Applebee’s for the next shoot.  I wasn’t scheduled for that one, but our PA told me I should go with it.  So they take us back to base camp, back to wardrobe, and then into our cars to drive to Applebee’s.  This time I changed in my car.  And because it was about 5:30 and I was in the parking lot of a movie theater I was just sure some sweet little old lady was going to show up for the early show and park next to me and see me changing.  But I prayed real hard the whole time and God kept the space next to me empty for at least those two minutes.  (‘Cause that’s how He rolls:  He sits around up there waiting on dorks like me to pray for empty parking spaces while they wriggle in and out of pants without banging a knee on the steering wheel.)

Clothes changed and I’m off to Applebee’s.  In traffic.  Because it’s 5:30 in Austin.  It’s not far; I can see it across the freeway.  But it takes me a good bit to get there.  And I’m nervous again because I’m all alone and what it I miss it all the action? 

 Needn’t have worried. 

I pull up and at first glance I think there’s been a fire.  There’s a fire truck and hoses everywhere, and water everywhere, and everyone is standing around outside. 

But this is Hollywood, remember? 

It’s a rain machine!  There’s a giant bar hanging from a crane in the parking lot.  The hoses are pumping the water from the city to the machine to make rain!  I’m such a geek.  This was really, really cool. 

They herd us all inside to wait some more.  The scene they were filming was a fight in the parking lot between one of the football players (real name Jeremy) and a man.  Coach (Kyle Chandler) and his wife (Connie Something) and Janine Turner were also in the scene.  (Having never actually watched FNL, I can’t give you any more information than that.  Don’t you like how I did my research?) 

My business in this scene was to walk out the back door of the restaurant with 4 other guys to “see what was going on”.  Let me tell you, I was in the moment.  I even had back story.  And a moment before.  And sense memory.  (Note:  These are hoity-toity acting terms that describe things that real actors do, and since I was really acting in this scene,  I thought you should know how really professional I was.  Are you impressed?)

It was neat to look out the windows and see the rain.  I kept forgetting it wasn’t really raining!  Of course all the people working had on rainsuits, and they had umbrellas and towels galore.  In between each scene they’d stop the rain, bring the actors in, dry them off, reset their hair and makeup and wardrobe, and then they’d do it again.  It took about 25-30 minutes between takes.  At one point they reset the cameras for an interior shot, so that took a little longer.  I think we did the scene 4 or 5 times.

Doesn't it look cold and rainy?

Doesn't it look cold and rainy?

I was lucky to be picked for my intense role (complete with REAL acting), because alot of people just sat in the Applebee’s eating, and will only be seen through the windows from the exterior.  I’ve at least got a teeny-tiny chance of being on camera, even if it’s from a camera that was way across the parking lot. 

Eventually they yelled “that’s a wrap” and we were sent back to base camp to return our wardrobe pieces …

Wardrobe truck - full of costumes

Wardrobe truck - full of costumes

…and sign out so we can get paid.  When I left to drive home it was 8:00, so we had worked for six hours.  This is a minimum wage job, so you don’t do it for the money.  But it was a great experience, and if the show gets picked up again I’ll definitely be back next season. 
Checking out...good night!

Checking out...good night!

I’ll be humming Hooray for Hollywood for a couple of days, at least.

7 Responses to “Extra Extra!”

  1. Patrick November 13, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    That is the most awesome story I’ve heard in a long time. I hate I’m traveling so much. I’ve only done one show since I left Houston a year and a half ago. I will live vicariously through you. Keep up the good work and the GREAT writing!

  2. Barb November 13, 2008 at 5:08 pm #


  3. anymommy November 14, 2008 at 6:16 am #

    How cool. I loved your tale. Keep spinning them, you ARE a writer. Plus, I love that show, so I will hope for a glimpse of your posterior!

  4. Jessica Bern November 15, 2008 at 12:25 am #

    That’s great. Good for you. Sounds like you had a fun time and in the end, that is all that matter b/c like you say, it ain’t about the money. 🙂

  5. Allison November 16, 2008 at 3:52 am #

    just found you via allmediocre 🙂 Sounds like a FUN day!! I think I might like to try out being an extra someday…hehe. Preferably on 24 or maybe LOST..I dream big 😉

  6. Julie November 17, 2008 at 3:26 pm #

    How fun!! Did you tell Abs that you need special moviestar mom treatment now? Oh, wait, that may not be such a good thing!

  7. The Introvert November 17, 2008 at 4:10 pm #

    AAAAAAAHHHHHH! I’m so jealous! Friday Night Lights is my favorite show!! I so would have gone with you on that gig! They probably would have fired me for stalking Tim Riggins though.

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