Being Extra Special

Posted by on January 16, 2018 at 7:38 pm :: No Comments

Our vintage dancing group was asked to provide the historical background for a Studio C skit last summer as extras decked out in our own handmade Regency robes. This skit, “One Last Dance,” aired in November. Being involved in a production like this was an interesting experience- both in good and bad ways. We learned a few things about the film industry; the adjective “ridiculous” applies to many of those discoveries:

Like most members of our dance group, I did my own hair for the shoot. I still got some time in the make-up chair though.

Like most members of our dance group, I did my own hair for the shoot. I still got some time in the make-up chair though.

  1. The film industry takes hierarchies to ridiculous heights. The chain of command is long and inflexible. During our filming, the director would pass his instructions onto the assistant director. The assistant director would belt them out to the group. A background director was the only one that spoke to us, the lowly extras, directly. Even the meals were hierarchical. We weren’t allowed to eat lunch with the rest of the crew even though they had plenty Mediterranean fare to spare. Instead, we got to munch cold pizza by ourselves in another building. Maybe that’s normal for the film industry, but it felt pretty ridiculous to us.
  2. Filming is hot. Literally, hot. Cast and crew members are crammed together while bright lights blast them. It’s not overly comfortable.
  3. Filming gets foggy. Fog machines spewed out haze endlessly during our shoot. This was to give the setting a dreamy effect, or so we were told. It made me feel like I was in a gambling hall rather than a dancing hall.
  4. Filming takes a lot of people, most of which are never on camera. Our set was packed with crew doing all sorts of things with ladders, cords, lighting, cameras, wardrobes, and makeup. Plus, a whole lot of people sat around watching screens the whole time. To be honest, I have no idea what they were all watching for.
  5. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to shoot scenes over and over from every possible angle. The filming of this 2:55 skit took over 13 hours. Every second of material required almost five minutes of production time. Wow! That seems pretty inefficient to me, but compared to industry norms, maybe it’s amazingly productive.
Cords and crew littered the set.

Cords and crew littered the set.

The main cast members were brought water and lip gloss every few minutes.

The main cast members were brought water and lip gloss every few minutes.

Although this was a fascinating educational experience, I don’t think Jason and I would be too eager to stand around fanning ourselves in a stuffy, smoke-filled room for hours and hours again. This may have been our first and last dance with Studio C.

This was the only time the main director talked to us extras.

This was the only time the main director talked to us extras.

If you’d like to see how expertly we portray ball attendees from the Regency period that believe the alphabet is the most exquisite conversation topic imaginable, I’ve included a link to the correct Studio C episode. Our skit starts about 12 minutes in. You may notice that I wondrously appear on both sides of the room at the same time; that miraculous maneuver meant I didn’t get a break like almost everyone else did.

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