Summer shows are in full swing and fall is just around the corner. Aside from falling leaves and a stiff breeze wafting through your cardboard box, fall also means pilot season! Being an extra in a movie or TV production is an experience like no other. If you thought you already lost all your dignity when you became poor, think again, because being an extra will suck whatever remaining shred of dignity you have left from your hungry, low blood sugar, delirious little body. Well, it’s not entirely bad. Living in a city like Los Angeles or New York affords you the experience to fill your social calendar with many a day on set. With tax breaks for filming in more non-traditional entertainment US cities, the opportunities in places like Portland and Atlanta now abound as well. Sure being an extra has got it’s downside, but the benefits to being an extra really are without number: no set hours, free food (most of the time), and an up close and personal view at your favorite celebs. I spent many days pretending USC was the Ivy league, or walking repeatedly down the same faux high school hallway mouthing nonsensical words to complete strangers – my pockets awkwardly burst with free Nature Valley granola bars - all while gawking at the likes of Lauren Graham and Emma Stone. That’s right, I put myself through college working as an extra – well that and hooking. Just kidding about the hooking part…kind of.
With a minimum daily salary guarantee even if you only work for 15 minutes (and yes, that’s happened to me) you can really make your extra work work for you. Get in good with a PA or casting director and you’ve got it made; they’ll keep calling you back for work again and again. Bring a big bag and just go to town on the craft service table. I work the Shawshank Redemption method of craft service stealing, it’s really the most inconspicuous and most effective way; like Tim Robbins steadily digging his way out of prison shaking the dust debris out of his pants in the rec yard, I slowly but steadily siphon from the table one apple, or two pop tarts at a time. I meander by the table several times more always deliberately making my way past, grabbing one or three more things covertly as I go. In one day I could have the rest of my food for the week. My lunch on the set Monday, turned into my breakfast in Intro to Anthropology on Tuesday.