Laura Haley-McNeil

4/26/20, Film Extra


Many years ago, I had the opportunity to work as a film extra. High energy pumps through the set because that draws the audience. Ever wonder about the director who yells at everyone and sends everyone running? That happens. When your reputation depends on accuracy and timing, perfection is the goal.

Film Extra

As a film extra, when you arrive at the studio, the guard at the gate confirms you’re allowed on the set. The registration team on the set checks you in. The assistant directors decide in an instant if you’re worth having in a scene being shot that day. If so, s/he directs you to an area where another assistant describes the scene and what you do. What do you do? Walk down a street, step inside a restaurant when could be tables and chairs inside the studio, hang out at the lockers, another fake background, and chat with friends.

Watch Those Cues

I once had an outside scene where the assistant director paired me with a guy I’d never seen before. I thought I’d stand with my friends, but instead the other background actor and I stood on a lawn and watched the main actor and actress argue. When the cue came, the extra I stood with put his arm around my shoulder and leaned his head against mine. Yikes!

And we didn’t shoot that scene just once. The main actors would flub their lines and everyone would laugh. The director wanted angles changed so technicians swarmed the set and measured the light, the distance and adjusted the floor markings so the actors and extras knew where to start, stop and turn. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. We did that until we’d achieved perfection.

Call It Love

When I wrote Call It Love, Book 3 of the Beaumont Brides Series, I drew on the set lighting experience for a studio. The director has to fire the main actress, but now he needs a fill in for the dance scene until he can recast the role. As the main actress’ stand-in, Addison Duvall fits the part. After hours in hair and makeup, she’s ready to test the scene. Standing on the set surrounded by techs and other actors, Addison is stunned when megastar Spencer Kingsley’s gentle touch fills her with unfamiliar emotions.

Next time you watch a TV show or movie, take a minute to scan the background actors. They’re not supposed to detract from the main characters, but it’s always fun to see what they’re up to.

I hope everything is going well with you and your loved ones. Take care and God bless you all!