I may have given a very poor impression of the job of Background Artiste in Parts I and II. This was deliberate. Despite what you may think, it is not a job for everyone.
For every short day in a studio on an advert, there’s one location day having the infamous fish and chip incident.
Walking through an empty forest with a bow and arrow only just makes up for queueing for two hours for wardrobe, armoury, hair and make-up, knowing you have to do it all again to go home. And try not to fall asleep in the fast lane of the M3.
Getting a laugh out of the mercurial Russell Crowe just about gets you past the week of night shoots and the plague hospital that is the catering tent in the days after. Continue Reading
Ah, the trials of being a Scenic Artiste – that’s ‘Extra’ to the uninitiated. Think of this as a tribute to the men, women and sometimes children who fill out the cafes, castles, supermarkets and streets of everything you see on film and TV. Often including ‘unreality TV.’
Did I mention the business is completely random?
It’s how I ended up in the press-pack for Hugo, but edited out of the final cut. And how one lucky lass taking a couple of days off from her primary school job got a full-on snog from a playful Robert Pattinson (don’t worry, that bit isn’t mandatory, chaps).
Maximise your employability, make sure you detail in your profile any special skills, uniforms or clothing (police, chefs, medics, historical). If you’re especially tall, short, fat, thin, ugly, deformed, an amputee, exotically foreign-looking, can dance or have a military background, you can at least double your chance of working. Continue Reading
They used to be called ‘extras’ or, at the posh end of the business,’scenic artistes’ and you will often see the term ‘SA’ used. On set, everyone refers to the ‘Background’ – that’s not part of the painted set, but the people who do the (usually) thankless job of populating the imagined worlds of TV and film. The passers-by, the shoppers, visitors, patients, passengers, peasants, cadavers or, at lowest common denominator: ‘crowd’.
And yes, being an SA or Background Artiste is still, for now, a paid job of work.
Gone are the days the old-timers on Harry Potter described to me, when it was a wholly unionised ‘closed shop’, when you needed sixpence for the payphone to ring the agent at the end of the day for the next day’s job, or know the pubs in Charing Cross to go on spec for that day’s filming work.
Now, it’s all via Interweb and text messaging; digital head-shots and the luck of the draw. Continue Reading