I spent Saturday as an extra on a Dutch TV show called "Divorce."
The wife of the artist couple that I interviewed with last week gave me the lead. She sent me an email with an email address to send an inquiry. I sent them an email. It said, "Greetings, I heard a rumor that you are looking for extras on Saturday. Photo attached." Simplest damn cover letter I've ever written. It worked. They hired me.
I've never done this kind of thing before. In college I acted onstage for a friend's play. I only did it because he begged me and badgered me relentlessly. After seeing me act, he regretted his begging and badgering. I can't act. All the time that I lived in New York, I never considered trying to pick up extra work. That's what actors do. All of the struggling actors spend their days trying to get work as am extra, then hopefully get a line our two. They hope to eventually be given a role with at least three lines, cause that's the cutoff for membership in SAG. In New York, there's competition for extra work. I never tried it, and never even thought about trying.
But, I knew rule one for being an extra. Don't look at the fucking camera. Simple.
I was the first to arrive. The shoot was at a hospital in Amsterdam. I was supposed to ask reception for Daycare. They pointed me in the right direction. I met an obvious techie in the hall. I told him I was an extra, and he started rambling on in Dutch, as the Dutch are wont to do. I told him I only spoke English, and he rolled his eyes. He told me to wait in some room. I did, wondering if it was the room for extras, or if he decided to get rid of the funny talking American. It didn't look like a daycare. There were no toys.
Turns out it wasn't daycare daycare, but what the Dutch call daycare, but we call outpatient. The second extra to arrive clued me into that. He was an older gent, been doing the extra thing for a few years now. He told me that on his first job that he got in trouble for looking at the camera. He told me to don't do that. I didn't tell him that I already knew rule one. I just chuckled at his story.
He and I were the only two to show on time. The others filtered in ten, fifteen, twenty, eighty-two minutes late. One didn't show at all. They were an older lady, two women wise enough to bring nurses uniforms, a younger guy missing a tooth, a middle aged guy, a woman who was eighty-two minutes late, and a family of three, mom, dad, and daughter. The daughter was about thirteen and spent her off time reading magazines. The mom appeared to be a stage mom, and she spent most of her downtime talking about her daughter. I could tell because she kept pointing to her with her thumb. Daughter never looked up from her magazines.
Extras provide their own costumes, unless it's a period piece or a zombie movie. Police and nurse uniforms are provided by extras, as are construction workers gear and formal wear. For this shoot, I was told to bring three different casual outfits. Good. All I own is casual. Some lady came in and looked at everybody's clothes. She told us what to wear for our first and second scenes.
Eventually some guy, I think the assistant director, came in, selected a few extras, and left with them. I waited. I looked at pictures in Dutch magazines. I waited some more. I got bored. I looked at more magazines. I waited even more. The chosen extras came back. I kept waiting.
The AD returned, and selected me and the woman who was eighty-two minutes late. He led us down a hall to the set. He pointed some while jibberjabbing in Dutch. I apologized and told him I only spoke English. Dutch murmurs all around as the AD explained my chore. Just walk down the hall with the woman, past the star and another actor doing a scene. He asked if I've done this before. I told him I hadn't. "Oh, okay. Whatever you do, don't look at the camera." I didn't tell him I already knew rule one.
It was easy enough. On "Action," we took our stroll. No one told us where to stop, so I just followed the woman who was eighty-two minutes late, and we walked right back to the extraa room. We were called back to do it again. And again. Six or seven times altogether. At one point, the star gave me a thumbs up and said, "Don't worry, American. It's not you. You're doing fine."
Apparently he's a big star in Holland, doing TV and film. He seemed rather decent and not the least bit diva-ish. He even had his picture taken with the woman who was eighty-two minutes late.
I was in a total of four scenes, slight costume change for each. Since no one really sees the extras, that's common. In one, I sat on a bench talking to the older lady while the star walked by. The next, I left the lobby just after the star entered. Finally, I pushed the older lady around in a wheelchair.
I hope the show is available on the internet at some point. I know my mom will want to see it.
I was paid €40 for a ten hour day. They provided lunch and snacks throughout the day. The woman who was eighty-two minutes late got the same pay.