Thursday, February 16, 2012

An "Extra"-ordinary Day

As many of you saw on Facebook, I was recently selected to be an extra on NBC's Grimm. I "discovered" the opportunity while researching current events in my new hometown. Grimm is a drama series set in Portland and inspired by the classic Grimm's Fairy Tales. The pilot aired on October 28, 2011 and there have been ten episodes since. The latest one (#111) aired on 10FEB.

I'm sure you're wondering if I've ever done anything like this before. The answer is yes & no. While I was living in New York City, I had headshots done and applied with a casting agency to be an extra for tv or film. Of course, the day I got the call (to be on Law & Order), was the same day I had just been offered my first post-flight attendant job (starting immediately) at Innovive Pharmaceuticals. Thus I had to turn down the opportunity to be on one of my favorite shows and that pretty much ended my chances of getting called again.
one of my headshots from 2003
In terms of acting-related skills, beyond participating in junior high school plays and other productions, I took public speaking classes in college and have done some minor modeling related to various jobs I've had in the past. I certainly don't have any technical training but, more importantly when working as an extra, am comfortable in front of a camera and know how to follow instructions!

Applying to be an extra on Grimm was very easy. I answered an emailed set of questions related to my age, measurements, experience, unique abilities, etc. and submitted two current photos of myself. Since I don't mind changing my hair color, I also sent a couple of pictures from when I was a platinum blonde. I guess I was lucky to get my submission in when I did (on 10FEB) because I was contacted on 14FEB to be an extra. Many of the extras I spoke to at the shoot yesterday had been waiting for a whole month to get called!
another pic that I submitted
Everything was communicated via emails from the Extras Casting Coordinator. I was given a "call time" of 1pm, which was eventually moved up to 12:30pm. I was also given general wardrobe guidelines along with a list of do's & don't's.

On the day of the shoot, 15FEB, I got up at 7:30am and went to the gym, then came home and showered, ate breakfast, and packed my bags. I took the bus into downtown Portland and walked to the filming location. As we were filming a restaurant scene, they had asked over 100 extras to show up at staggered times. Thus it was a bit crowded and chaotic when I got to the holding room.

First I had to fill out paperwork (in order to eventually get paid) and then was instructed to get in line for a wardrobe check, followed by another line for hair & makeup. I am proud to say that not only was the outfit & jewelry that I was wearing approved "as is" for the shoot, but my backup outfit was also approved and I was put on a list of people who could change clothes for different takes if needed. Also, I never even had to get in line for hair & makeup because they took a close look at what I had already done/applied and said it was perfect!

However there were plenty of people that had to have "work" done in multiple ways. I don't recall seeing anyone flat-out get sent home but I really question if some even bothered to read the emails & instructions! Once we were all "set-ready," it was time to wait patiently. We were packed into one holding room where there was free coffee, drinking water, and light snacks (animal crackers, pretzels, etc.). But since the room was directly above the set, we had to be very quiet any time the cameras were rolling. We were allowed to use our phones, read, write, even take pictures, as long as we were in the holding room.

It was already sometime between 2-3pm when the first people were picked to join the set. Luckily, I was one of them! We went downstairs and were assigned places & props for the particular scene they were filming. Once we were all in position and makeup & hair touched up as necessary by the crew, the principal actors came in and the cameras were rolling. I wasn't wearing a working watch, but I believe that the three minute scene took an hour & half to get just right! And that was just from one angle!

We were sent back upstairs to holding while they repositioned all of the cameras and equipment and then it was back down to our places for more of the same. Since we were just "background", we were not supposed to actually talk but just mouth words as if we were having a normal dinner conversation. Nor were we supposed to actually drink from our glasses (which contained real liquids) nor eat the real food on our plates. It's amazing how exhausting it can be to fake talk! But it did get easier with each take.

I think we shot a total of four or five less than 3-minute scenes over almost 12 hours, all with multiple camera angles. Note that when I was contacted to be an extra, there was no finish time given, just when to show up. That's standard; if you agree to be an extra or perform any type of role in this setting, you have to be available until they tell you to go home. For me, that was at 11:30pm! They did provide dinner (a make-your-own sandwich buffet with chips, potato salad, etc.) around 5:30pm as we were not allowed to leave the site. In addition, I will get paid for all of the time I was there, whether I was on camera or not.
I downloaded this photo from the Grimm Facebook page. The 2nd, 3rd & 4th actors from the right were all part of the scene I was in, plus one other.
That's about all I can divulge at this point. Watch for me in the restaurant scenes during Episode 117, which should air in the next 1-2 months. Possible sightings include: sitting at a booth near the front door when the actors enter the restaurant, standing near the bar while they're waiting for a table, and dining at a nearby table when they are seated & talking. Of course, you can never tell which shots or camera angles will be used in the actual episode and thus I have no idea when, if or for how long you might see me, but I participated in all of these shots.

Overall, I did enjoy the experience but can see how it wouldn't be fun for everyone. Since I'm currently unemployed, I figure, "why not?!" And since another tv series (TNT's Leverage) also films here, as well as the typical commercials, print ads, etc., who knows what opportunities might arise?!

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