It was 6:30am, I would have been forgiven for thinking I had burst into the wrong tent! I flung open the flap to find a huddle of dishevelled and vacant looking faces fighting for a spot near a tiny gas-powered heater. The atmosphere felt like a miserable tundra based work camp. However this wasn’t a team building bridges for the good of the country, pioneering new lands or any of that kind of stuff, nope, it’s was all for entertainment folks. Many had been there since their 5:15 call time and had been more or less doing nothing but staving off the cold and overdosing on caffeine. That was last Tuesday, a cold morning in the Auckland suburbs.
Wait, wait, wait, hurry to set, walk here, sit there, mime chat, go back to the tent, change, and then repeat about sums up a day in the life of a Extra. Mix that with the often early mornings and long hours and you really have to ask yourself why anyone in this world would ever bother?
Despite the boredom, tiredness, often low-wage and inconsistency of jobs, the work is really fun. I don’t know if I can quite put my finger on it but being an Extra is like being part of a special club. You become one of the nameless faces that fills the imaginary worlds we send through the airwaves and burn to discs. You get to mingle shoulder to shoulder with stars, or at least peak at them from afar! You get to see how it all works behind the camera and how long it takes to get just a few minutes of screen time. You get to try and convince your friends that a blurry shoulder is yours and maybe, just maybe you’ll be called up for a monumental speaking part, something like “Good God”, “No, Sorry” or “Thanks, have a good day”.
When I arrived in New Zealand, inspired by the fact the Hobbit was filming, I decided I would see what it takes to get Extra (more professionally known as Background Artist) work. Luckily it didn’t take me too long to find a decent agency as friends here were already a little involved. New Zealand has a pretty sizable local TV and show industry plus since Peter Jackson filmed LOTR’s here people have been bringing productions over here in droves! Spartacus is just one of the shows filmed here and pays great money if you are prepared to leave your clothes on the floor of the wardrobe bus!