Thursday, 28 July 2011

Casual Coaplay: EXTRA! EXTRA! ...Or the lost art of blending in

And now for something completely different...

So the usual for my blog is some kind of update based on dressing fancy, well on this occasion I tried the opposite, being an extra on a film set!

The essence of fancy dress is taking something well known and characterising it in an outfit to get you noticed, the main objective of being an extra is to look normal, to have your presence noticed, but not enough to distract the audience from the main attraction (the star obviously!).

I have been a member of an extras recruitment agency for some time, but wasn't really offered work until I moved to Brighton, and this was my first time on the set (so to speak...).

The film shooting was a BBC production called 'Now is Good' starring Dakota Fanning (Twilight and War of the Worlds) and Kaya Scodelario (Skins) and was shooting on Brighton's famous Pier and in the North Laines area.
Dakota and Kaya being shielded from drizzle

During my day as an extra filming began on the closed pier at 5am on Tuesday the 26th of July 2011 and I was told to bring a selection of casual summer clothes.

Anyone who knows me will understand that I struggled to find something casual enough, but in the end the costume crew approved a teal dress and some cropped trousers for a few different scenes.

Approved Dressing
Swapping cardigans meant some extra scenes!

People were assigned to positions and given tasks such as 'walk this way', 'pretend to talk on the phone', 'hug someone' in an apparently random manner with the likely hood of being placed on camera based solely on proximity to the production crew.

Interestingly, my first scene involved me walking behind the stars and in the opposite direction of the camera while eating (free!) candyfloss. 

Camera Crew in Kensington Gardens

However this was the most interesting part of my morning, after that I was cast as 'deep background' for the North Laines shoot meaning I had sit so far away I couldn't see the camera (nor the apparent miniature helicopter...) and could read my book. While this was pretty dull, it did mean I got to chat with a lot of other extras and giggle at members of the public who speculated (loudly) about why we were congregated in the middle of Kensington Gardens.

After a brief lunch of slightly dubious quality sandwiches and sausage rolls half of the days extras were released and the rest kept for a brief shoot for another scene, one where I got to walk out of a cafe right in front of the camera and walk down the road. This was probably my favourite scene of the day as I spent the time between shots with my friend Didi, who got to dodge between the camera and Miss Fanning before me, and drink coffee.

Dakota doing her run-through outside Iydea Cafe

My overall impressions of the film business are that I’m surprise they ever manage to film enough to put a scene together, that a lot of the days events are very carefully planned; but hardily ever seem to go off without a hitch, that continuity is everything and that Dakota Fanning seemed nice- stopping to happily sign autographs for tweeny Twilight fans.

Now I’ve only done this once, so I'm hardly an expert, but I think there are a few things to note for anyone thinking of being an extra in the future:
1: Do take a selection of clothes, nothing too flattering or pretty
2: Wear nothing black or white!
3: Swap cardigans/layers with friend to make yourself less noticeable (Worked a treat for Didi and I!)
4: If you have any interesting features, highlights in your hair, piercings, tattoos etc. play them down, you don’t want producers to notice you
5: Do NOT wear flowers in your hair!
6: Take a book (it can be dull)
7: A bottle of water (they’re not always good at keeping you hydrated
8: Painkillers! (I had such a headache afterwards)
and 9: Don't be afraid to go a little off road, do do as the producers tell you, but you need to be a bit pushy to get air time, stand at the front, raise your hand, be enthusiastic and you’ll get chosen

If you've done this kind of think before and have any tips etc. then feel free to comment.
Hopefully I'll have something a bit whackier to share next time!

Happy Dresscapades!

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