A day in the life of a Fayette movie extra

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Melissa Hill dressed as an office worker extra on the set of the Sundance drama, “Rectify.” Photo/Submitted.
Melissa Hill dressed as an office worker extra on the set of the Sundance drama, “Rectify.” Photo/Submitted.

 

On any given day in Georgia, there are numerous productions being filmed. As a matter of fact, Georgia has recently outpaced California and New York in film productions. According to industry analysts Film L.A., Georgia was the production center for more feature films released in 2016/17 than any other market in the United States.

By Melissa Hill

Special to The Citizen


Above, Melissa Hill dressed as an office worker extra on the set of the Sundance drama, “Rectify.” Photo/Submitted.


This means the time is ripe to get involved in this industry and make a little extra money. How, you ask?

You can start by being an extra.

Is being an extra right for you? If you are OK with long days but quite a bit of excitement, then this gig is for you.

There are quite a few websites and casting companies that put out casting calls daily by email and social media. If it says the pay will be $64/8, this means that you are guaranteed $64 whether you are there for an hour or eight hours. After the eight hours, you get time and a half.

Here is a glimpse into what happens in the day in the life of an extra.

I saw the casting call, “Shopper with Car,” for a TV show called “Rectify.” According to my ex-husband, I can shop, and I do have a car, so the job was perfect for me. I submitted via email and got confirmation quickly. According to the instructions, my call time was 10:42 a.m.

I was supposed to wear casual clothes, but no kelly green, red, white, black, navy, or plaid. I was told to bring two to three clothing changes and wear comfortable shoes. After sorting through my closet, I found three great shopping outfits with matching purses, shoes and jewelry. I was packed and ready to go the night before. The next morning, I set off on my journey — my first job as an extra on a TV show.

While driving, I had visions of Hollywood dancing in my head. As I got close to the address I was given, I started following the signs for the crew and extras parking. Imagine my surprise when the destination turned out to be a deserted, run-down shopping center in a not-so-great area of town.

Surely there was some kind of mistake. Where was the Neiman Marcus, the Macy’s? I spotted a few cars and a lot of equipment in the parking lot. I went in to the only door in the strip center that looked like there might be some activity behind it. There were about 10 people in the room. They were all average Joes sitting around folding tables. This was not my idea of glamourous.

I was handed some paperwork to fill out. As I was looking around hoping to catch a glimpse of someone famous, two girls walked in with a rack of clothes labeled “Wardrobe Department.”

Really? This was the Wardrobe Department? Where were the trailers and bright lights for hair and makeup? The “Wardrobe Department” called us up one by one and had us stand in front of them while they looked us over carefully. They asked me to pull out the other clothes I brought.

Apparently my wardrobe was not what they were looking for. The wardrobe person gave me an ugly seersucker light blue and white striped shirt with flowers on the pockets. It looked like something a grandma from North Dakota would wear. They took my Michael Kors purse and replaced it with a pleather bag.

At this point, I am hoping I will NOT be seen in the background. I am obviously not going to be an upscale shopper of any kind.

Once we were all changed into the chosen wardrobe, a production assistant came in to talk to us. He said that the shopping we were going to do was at a store called “Thrifty Town.” I looked around me and it all made sense — we had to look like your typical Walmart/Dollar Store shoppers.

We lined up again and the wardrobe department took a picture of us all and sent it via cell phone to the head wardrobe person. Once we were given the all clear, we were told to walk to the end of the strip center to Thrifty Town.

Walk? But I might sweat! Where was the shuttle van that the crew and actors get to take? It turned out that walking was not so bad as we passed a snack table that had bowls of fruit, candy, water, soda, and cookies that we were welcome to take.

I was feeling better about this now. Unlimited snacks!

Thrifty Town is not a real store, but all the props were there to make it look like a real store. What a tedious job the set decorator and props people must have had. I was assigned a shopping cart and told to pretend like I was looking at socks. Socks? If I had to pretend shop, I would have preferred the makeup section.

The extras were given our instructions about how to move around the store with our carts full of towels and cleaning products and how not to pay attention to the actress. This was hard to do when you are star struck like me.

When the actress came rushing in the door, I was to roll right by them as they were discussing her late arrival to work. Since the scene started with her pulling in to the parking lot and getting out of her car, I got $25 extra because my car was in the parking lot. Don’t you just love Y’allywood?

It was time, we were rolling! I finally got to hear the words that I have been waiting to hear all of my life: “Action!”

We did the take seven times, and then broke for lunch. That was easy. Lunch was a catered affair with shepherd’s pie, fish and chips and a citrus basil chicken. There were fresh vegetables, sautéed mushrooms, rice, black-eyed peas, and French fries. There was a salad bar and a huge fruit bar as well. For dessert, there was apple pie with vanilla ice cream and all sorts of toppings to make a sundae. There was also red velvet cake and hot chocolate chip cookies.

As I waited in the buffet line, the main actor for the show walked right by me and said hello. This job is growing on me!

After the 30-minute lunch, we walked back to Thrifty Town and did the same scene eight or nine times from different camera angles. It was a wrap at 4:30. I went home with my first “extra” job under my belt and a paycheck on the way.

Right away I submitted for another gig on a different show filming the following week in Buckhead. They are looking for country club types, so I doubt I will get a call. However, the next time I see an extra part for a Walmart Woman, I am IN!

[The author, Melissa Hill of Tyrone, says she has been doing “extra” work for three years and writes: “I am still doing background in the local movie and TV productions, but I am now also the Fayette County Film Locations Coordinator, (which goes along with my real estate agent career).” “Rectify,” the Peabody Award-winning series, was set in Georgia and aired for four seasons beginning in 2013. It is available on Netflix.]