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Do not wear white, do not talk to celebrities: how I acted in the American TV series



The idea of ​​playing in the crowd attracted her for a long time. Some of the girl's favorite TV shows are filmed in New York - Younger, Jessica Jones, Orange is a new black ... She even agreed to Law & Order, just to see with her own eyes how cinema is created. Blogger Alisa Ksenevich told about this for the portal Next - from the first person.

Photo: Shutterstock

Registration on the site of the casting agency cost $ 25 and took about forty minutes. It was necessary to upload a few professional photos, detail and honestly indicate the physical characteristics (down to the size of the gloves), as well as all the skills available - from playing the piano to the ability to skate.

Every day I received about 5 − 10 sentences (series, movies, commercials, independent short films). The parameters of the types were clearly indicated - age, hair color and length, race, visible tattoos, own car, business suit ... I sent applications for interesting projects, regularly paid contributions (6 dollars per month), but I never received a month for 3 not a single response.

I would probably have abandoned the idea of ​​acting in a movie (losing money even on trifles is unpleasant), if not for meeting a man who works as a location scout (a person who selects locations for filming scenes in a movie). After a couple of dates, I honestly admitted that I don't feel anything romantic about him, but we can remain friends on Facebook. A couple of weeks ago a message came from him: “Do you remember when you said that you wanted to try yourself as an extra actress? We're shooting the pilot episodes of the series in New York, starring Naomi Watts, are you free this Wednesday? I showed the casting director your photos, she can approve you for two scenes. "

White - do not wear!

Half an hour later I was called by the casting director and brought up to date:

- So, so. The first scene is filmed in a trendy restaurant. There go models, celebrities, in general, elite. You should look like a girl from Soho - makeup, styling, posture, a stylish, but not too open dress. White - do not wear! No ornaments, bright prints. The colors of the clothes are muffled. It is clear that November is on the street, but I do not want to see any winter coats on the court. We have a plot - the beginning of October. Trench, I hope you can find?

For the second scene, which was filmed on the street, a youth hipster bow was required - denim, T-shirt, trousers, sneakers ...

Exactly at 8:30 in the morning I was at the building of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, where the extras were placed during the filming. The second assistant director twirled my green card in his hands, entered the data into the database, issued a voucher with the name, surname and start time of the working day and sent it to the queue to the costume designers who approved the outfits of the extras.

It was the most beautiful line in which I had the opportunity to stand. Well-groomed, tall, purebred men, women with faces created for close-ups. Beautifully dressed, mannered, fashionable - seeing any of these people on the street, I probably would have thought that this, they say, was the personification of a successful Manhattan resident. But in fact, most of them live where the devil knows where they are interrupted by irregular earnings in the crowd and mainly feed on hopes that one day the director will notice and grab them from the crowd, give a cameo a couple of lines, and there ...

My new colleagues prepared for style control seriously: suitcases with clothes, several pairs of shoes, glasses in different frames, accessories ... I looked like an orphan with my plastic bag. The costume designers liked the dress immediately, but at the sight of a blue denim shirt the women grimaced: “We already have four in denim shirts. Have you conspired? Take this black jacket and put it over your shirt. And ... what's wrong with your hair? "

The hair gathered in a bun, apparently, went against the image of “the girl from Soho”. I was transferred into the hands of a hairdresser, who, with a sympathetic look at me, in twenty minutes made the impossible out of my hair — a mane of shiny, luxurious curls. Makeup artist flushed cheekbones, touched eyelashes with mascara. When they finished, Bridget Bardo looked at me from the mirror, be she a brunette. It is a pity, but it was strictly forbidden to photograph the process of filming (whether it be the details of the interior or the images of the actors), for which you can instantly fly out of the project and get into the black list. Moreover, production companies' employees watch accounts for extras on social networks and instagram, so that God forbid some of them not to boast a photo from a shooting in a television series. Paranoid, of course, but the rule is the rule.

Don't talk to celebrities!

Novices extras warn: no attempt to talk to the actors, especially the stars, should not be undertaken. For this - immediate dismissal. The same goes for team members. You can speak only with those who directly supervise the extras. If you decide to get close to a personal assistant of a Hollywood star or an assistant director to hand over your business card / photo / resume, you will not only be put out of the door, but you will never again be hired to work in the cinema.

The team members look at the actors of the crowd, as an empty space. There is definitely a hierarchy here. When it took me to the bathroom, a girl of about twenty with a headset and a walkie-talkie jumped out to meet her and in a tone that did not require objections, said: “You can use the toilet only between shootings. Here the drain is too loud. ”

Sometimes extras actors do not even engage in the frame. They may 12 hours to wait for their “high point”, but never be called to the set. Paid in any case, but people who dream of breaking into the movie, still hurt.

“We are the most educated, attractive, talented and punctual toilers in the United States who work for minimal wages,” one of the actresses remarks with an ironic smile. “To arrive here at eight from Brooklyn, I got up at six. If I was five minutes late, I would have been turned home and no longer hired. Healthy hair, clear skin, 42 size clothing. And all this needs to be maintained for 10 dollars per hour. We are no better than those guys who make coffee in Starbucks. Unless we eat better.

What do you want?

The second assistant director instructed to move to the set. Part of the crowd, involved in the first scene in the restaurant, went down to the basement, where the shooting took place, the rest remained on the street for breakfast.

Frankly, I had no idea how well the actors of the extras and the crew were fed. Meals are organized according to the type of buffet - there are tables at the side of the road, and then there is nothing there: several types of coffee, tea, croissants, cookies, cakes, nuts, yogurts, fruits, oatmeal, cheeses, ham, cereals, a fridge with coke, energy drinks, milk, including skim, soy and almond ...

All this is in the open round-the-clock access, plus every two hours, people engaged in catering, carry snacks: steaming soup in paper cups, yogurt parfaits, boxes of Belgian chocolate ...

It's a mystery to me, as actors working in the crowd five days a week, manage to hold onto weight. After all, there is absolutely nothing to do between sets (the waiting time is stretched for hours). How to entertain yourself? Food and talk (phones remained in the church).

- Is it always so well fed? - I ask an experienced actress of crowd scenes, whose face seemed familiar (later it became clear why - she starred in three seasons of the series Orange is a new black).

“Usually better,” the woman shrugs. - But once I was filming a scene on the street at minus ten, and all we were fed were bagels (something between a roll and a bagel. - A. K.) and coffee. Then I was not yet a member of the union of film actors, so even these unfortunate bagels had to wait, like the second coming.

The actors of the extras, members of the union, have many privileges. First, they are paid twice as much per hour of work (20, not 10 dollars) than non-union actors. During the lunch break, the latter are forced to wait for the first to satisfy their hunger, and then all the members of the film crew.

For some reason I remembered the story of Marilyn Monroe, who, as a teenager and living in a foster family, was forced to wash in the bathroom last - in the already cooled and dirty water. Having become a world celebrity, Marilyn could be late for shooting on the 2 − 3 hours due to the fact that she was in the bathroom. Few knew what was behind this bohemian habit.

On the subject: We walked around New York and starred in a film with Keanu Reeves: how to participate in the USA film show

Dinner was scheduled for 2 pm. Of all the extras, only two (me and the girl from Washington) were not unionized. We waited an hour and a half for everyone to have lunch, although there was plenty of food - steak, chicken, salads, all kinds of side dishes. And it's not that we were hungry (as I already wrote, access to food is constant on the set), but the very fact that you are sitting at a common table with people who are allowed what is forbidden to you is unpleasant.

The girl from Washington across the street is stunningly beautiful. Something similar to Natalie Portman - proportional features, fragile body, brown eyes, long eyelashes, thick brown hair, styled in the style of the late eighties.

Admiring her non-stop, I do what America taught me - I say a spontaneous, sincere compliment:

“Patricia, how beautiful you are!”

He smiles, looks for a long time, answers flirtatiously:

- My teeth turned yellow from this job in the casino. Free carbonated drinks, night shifts, I got hooked on Coke and here's the result.

- Listen, did you really come to New York from Washington for a hundred dollars?

“I came to visit my stepsister, okay?” She 22, sleeps until noon, the father provides everything, but I have something to do myself, until she overslept.

Connections decide

To get into a union of film actors, you need to have three roles in the extras of a "union" project or one "speaking" role, and they are distributed among the actors who are already in the union. It turns out a vicious circle. If you don't have acquaintances in the production company, then the chances of getting a role in the crowd are reduced to zero. Sometimes, in the event of a shortage of extras from among the members of the trade union, casting directors can turn to the database of people who are not registered in it. Of course, there are many more people who want to do it than roles. That is why I have not received a single response on applications in three months. It's like winning the lottery. And they take a lot of money from naive applicants - $ 25 for registering in the database, a dollar for considering an application, six for each month of being in it.

A non-union actor must be lucky 3 (!) Times to be taken into the crowd and provided with the appropriate vouchers. Jackpot is when the director decides to give him a line to make the scene better. In this case, the production company pays a fine to the agency for the selection of extras for using a non-union member on the site, and the lucky crowd actor automatically gets into the union. Then he will pay an initial payment of $ 3000, and quarterly installments of $ 100.

A union crowd actor working three to four days a week earns about a thousand dollars a week. This is the perfect deal. We should not forget that the number of TV shows is limited. Having starred in several scenes of one of them, you are no longer of interest to the casting director, who ensures that the same people do not flash in the frame from season to season.

People's shadows

The second assistant director finally calls us to the shooting. In the restaurant, they sit me down at the table alone, in the bright ray of the searchlight.

- You guys are lit! - the amateur crowd actor playing the role of the bartender enviously clattering his tongue. “You're sitting right behind Naomi Watts, all the attention will be on her ... well, and then on to you!”

A suitable director says what to do:

- When I say "Camera!" Motor! ”, Depict a conversation with someone opposite. The camera is at such an angle that your interlocutor is not visible. So just talk to the wall and gesture, okay?

Now I will tell you something. Perhaps it will forever change the way you watch movies and TV shows. So if you don't want to ruin the magic, don't read on, okay?

Well, for those who continue to read, I will explain: the actors of the crowd, all these men and women who are surrounded by the main characters, speak SOUNDLESSLY. And complete nonsense, a set of words that are not related to each other. The main thing is to portray interest in the words of the interlocutor, in some places to round your eyes, in some places to frown ... And this PROOF in the way the actors of the crowd listen to each other, in the way they gesture, is now visible to me with the naked eye. I can no longer watch TV shows normally - I closely follow how the actor's mouth opens in the background, what his interlocutor does and how they do their best to portray a casual conversation. But, excuse me, in our time, a couple sitting in a restaurant will not be distracted by their phones? Wouldn't they, at some point, gobble up the second dish on both cheeks? Have you ever seen extras in a movie chewing with their mouths full? Take a closer look.

In front of me they put a salad not of the first freshness and a glass of pink wine. On the eighth duplicate, looking at how the avocado slices gradually turned black on the edge of a porcelain plate, I decided to start drinking wine because I was not sure about the aesthetics of my chewing movements. Wine turned grape juice. But it is fine.

Naomi Watts looked amazing. I watched her up close, in the spotlight, and I could see all the wrinkles, dimples, cracks, all imperfections. The age of the actress (48 years old) occasionally slipped in the jawline, an unsuccessful turn of the head. In general and in general, Naomi was beautiful: a beautiful fragile woman in her thirties, with facial expressions so charming that I wanted to admire her, no matter what she said there. I looked at her and thought about Mulholland Drive, how much this film influenced me in its time. And how bizarrely the archetypes of youth and reality are intertwined in New York.

After a couple of hours, I, with my new companions on the set, again short the time in the church. The man depicting the bartender, laments:

- Do you know what is the filthiest thing in our work? We are not involved either physically or intellectually. We are not at all! In the next scene we are going to portray what? Shadows of people walking down the street outside the restaurant window. Shadows of people! You understand?

He has the face of a man who often drank (I, as a cosmetologist, have dilated capillaries, puffiness, etc.), and he is right. By the eighth hour of filming, I feel like a piece of furniture, a pattern on the wallpaper, which matters only in the context of the overall picture.

- The director once said to one of my friends: the main character will pass by and you will exclaim with a breath: "Oh my God!" So she demanded an additional hundred dollars from the employers after filming. After all, she had a "speaking" role!

- And my friend during the filming of the series Orange is a new black they offered double payment if she undressed to a sporty top and shorts ... They have a riot in the fourth season, so they generally need to run naked through the prison. But no, I will not subscribe to this.

- And I was once asked to smoke. You know, those horrible herbal cigarettes. They still make my throat hurt so much. Basically, I said that I was a union member and that I wouldn’t lift a finger if they didn’t pay $ 50 extra for smoking.

The third scene was filmed at nine o'clock in the evening. The main characters leave the restaurant and walk down the street kissing on the go. I portrayed one of the passers-by walking towards them.

- Camera! Motor! Shot!

And so ten times. We return to our original positions, wait for the director's team, and at the agreed moment (from the corner a guy in a green jacket should appear) go towards Naomi Watts and her partner. Shooting a single scene can take 3 − 4 hours, depending on how many angles the director wants to capture.

I am shyly interested in the second assistant, when will the working day end. The thirteenth hour has gone ... Tired and annoyed, it does not give a clear answer.

The "experienced" actress says that they usually don't keep them on set for more than 14 hours.

- You should be happy, because after eight hours of work we have overtime, double pay per hour. Of course, it's better when you come to the shooting, and there work for two hours. They let you go, but they pay you like for a whole day.

Finally, the director stands back and we return to the church. We are lining up to the first assistant, who signs our vouchers and issues a copy. Within a week, a receipt with a salary should come to my address.

The catering guy puts out a stack of plastic containers - the rest of the food can be taken home. What the actors do not take away, donate the church, to help the homeless.

Going outside and breathing in the night air, I felt a huge relief. Freedom of movement, lack of supervision and ... as the "Degrees" sung there: "I am the main actor in my life, I am the scriptwriter in it, I am the director." I walk all so well lit, and it's up to me whether to blend in with the crowd or stand out from it.

On the subject: Lady in red: fatal red dresses in movies


The state of New York is attractive for film producers, not only for their views, but also for low cinema release taxes. The contribution of the film industry to the economy of New York is about 9 billion dollars a year.

The film industry employs tens of thousands of people a year. Hundreds of interns receiving film education at universities in New York are ready to work for free.

The remuneration of the non-union actor is 100 dollars for an eight-hour working day.

Central casting Is the world's top extras casting agency. The agency's American base has more than 96 people.

Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Megan Fox, Matt Damon, Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Brad Pitt, Clark Gable began their film career with extras.

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