Experience as a movie extra? Been there, done that?


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I had the pleasure of experiencing my one and only role as a movie extra. The movie was "Prefontaine", starring Jared Leto and R. Lee Ermey, to name a few.
While sitting with a group of potential extras, most of us military personnel, I was summoned to meet someone. I was lead out of that room to meet what happened to be director Steve James. What a shock! Mr. James introduced himself, and asked "Do you think you can do this?", then proceeded to have me watch the well-known and actual footage taken of the masked and armed Palestinian terrorist on a balcony during the 1972 attack on Israeli Olympians in Munich.
Overwhelmed at the situation and after watching the video, I told him that I'd gladly give it my best try. Steve gave me the head's up to play the role. He was a very pleasant man.
The entire experience was quite a learning experience. So much goes into the most simplistic looking scenes. I felt like I was letting the crew down with the several "takes" they did to have me do everything to their liking, and told them so. But I was later told it was completely normal, and that I has less "takes" done than most.
Steve wanted me to enter the scene a certain way, hold my weapon a certain way, look a specific direction, move at a specific pace, and cut the flag down with a specific aggression.
I found that making movies involves a LOT of down time, and doesn't have the grandeur some might think. Just a lot of talented people with many jobs working hard.
I'll never forget talking and joking with the late R. Lee Ermey. That man was a common Joe, friendly and as nice a person as can be. There was no ego working in that man. A group of us military folks had a grand time with him. We all became so close that he invited us to eat with him, and also gave us his personal address and phone number in CA. Told us to come visit him anytime. I miss that man!
Then there was the perk all of the extras had before the movie came out. We went for a private, premier showing at the Seattle Cinerama theatre before it went to the general public.
All in all, a great time in all regards.

If anyone has been a movie extra, please share your experience!

I was an extra (one of a TON of extras) in the football stadium sequence in The Dark Knight Rises.

Main memory: it was August, but we had to pretend it was winter so I spent all day in a heavy coat even though it was easily in the mid-to-upper 80s.

I was an extra (one of a TON of extras) in the football stadium sequence in The Dark Knight Rises.
Oh, neat, do you live near Pittsburgh, or were you just visiting?

Oh, neat, do you live near Pittsburgh, or were you just visiting?
I lived close enough that it was worth the drive for an interesting day.

We got free hot dogs.

At one point, Nolan walked along the perimeter of the field and one of the extras near me started heckling him. NOOOOOOLLLLAAAAAAANNNNN! Explain the ending of Inception!!!!

They did a lottery to decide on 10 people who would get a bigger role and people were really sassy when the numbers they pulled were too similar.

It took the little boy singing the Anthem many, many takes. We did a lot of sitting down and standing up.

When the filmed a certain sequence, they cut all of the audio and filmed in a corner where we could barely see them.

The actors playing the soldiers were a little too into their roles, and one of them pointed one of the (fake) guns at me really aggressively and it was kind of scary!

Before they set of the explosives, we got like a 5 minute lecture about how we all had to act terrified when the explosions happened and if we didn't then they would edit our whole section out of the movie.

They came out and rode around in those armored vehicles for a long while.

It was neat seeing how they did the practical part of the effect where the football player runs into the hole.

Very cool. What I'm hearing is it was for the free hot dogs and the movie stuff was just gravy. Not that you'd put gravy on your hot dogs. Although...

My wife worked downtown at the time and her building was in the background of some of the car chase sequences. She had a cardboard cutout of Han Solo she put in the window to try to get into the film. Alas, nothing visible.

Back in the day, I was an extra on “24” season three, which was an awesome experience. Never got into it much more past that. A lot of waiting around for not a lot of money, if you’re not union, but Keifer was a really nice guy.

Registered User
I was on Bozo the clown when I was a kid.

Very cool. What I'm hearing is it was for the free hot dogs and the movie stuff was just gravy.
Would I drive several hours for a free hot dog? Nah.

But two free hot dogs? And a petite bottle of water? *fires up GPS*

My one claim to fame was decades ago when I worked at a restaurant - at one point the management decided to make a TV commercial (to be aired on local stations). The staff was invited to serve as clientele (along with a lot of regulars to the restaurant) in the commercial.

The shooting was kind of like a big work party since it was all the staff (many of whom rarely saw each other if they worked different shifts - some only worked lunch & some only dinner) & some favorite customers - which was kind of special as the place had stopped throwing annual Christmas parties for the staff.

So I got to play a patron. I think I was in a clip that made the final cut as someone sitting at the bar! (I think I saw the commercial maybe once on TV... on a UHF channel!)

Also, my brother got to act in a movie (maybe made for TV or direct-to-video or for a local channel?) that was made on our street. He played one of several kids at a birthday party. I was SO JEALOUS! (I was like 9 and he was like 7). And when I asked him about it later he was just sort of annoyed by how they wanted him and the other boys to act. He was especially incensed by one direction to "Do something fun! Throw some cake at the girls!!". He was like "Who would go to someone's party and throw cake at them?!".

I got a chance to sit and talk to the girl who was starring in the thing (again, SO JEALOUS!), but she actually seemed kind of depressed?

GF claims she is in Major League but I'm not pausing every crowd scene to verify. I'll let her have her little fantasy. Now, my HS baseball coach was in Major league, briefly and you can see him and we did tease him a bit when it came out.

I have a whole post about it somewhere on the site including some behind-the-scenes pics I snapped, but I am an extra in the Bill Murray movie St. Vincent (2014). I did not go about this because I am an actor and answered a cattle call. My best friend is a Los Angeles-based storyboard artist and worked on the film. He visited the New York set for a couple days of the filming and I tagged along. The writer/director Ted Melfi asked us if we would like to be extras in one of the scenes set at Belmont. We accepted and we made it into the movie. It is the first racetrack scene, about 14 minutes in.

That's me, out of focus, over Bill's right shoulder. I'm wearing a black T-shirt.

The bald white fella over his shoulder in this shot is my buddy.

You get the best glimpse of me after he pours out his beer.

That was a fun morning.

There I be.

I did not make the trailer and have yet to see a residual check.

And HERE is that earlier thread.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

I was an extra in Leap of Faith, a Steve Martin movie from the early '90s. He plays an itinerant con artist preacher stranded in a drought-stricken impoverished Kansas town when one of his caravan's trucks breaks down. Highlights/lowights/random notes of the experience:

The movie is set in Kansas, but the scenes I'm in--big tent revivals--were actually in large studios in Las Colinas, a suburb of Dallas. The outdoor elements were also shot in other parts of Texas.

I was what they called a "continuity extra," which meant I had to wear the same clothes and be in the same place each day we shot a scene. The good news was this meant I got an hourly wage, and time-and-a-half for overtime, and double time when we went over (I think) 11 hours. We only got to double time once or twice, but we got overtime every day. I think I cleared about 500 bucks after taxes. As a relatively broke college student at the time this was a good deal for me.

The long hours were really long. We had to drive out to a parking lot in Las Colinas at something like 7am, where buses would take us to the studio. And then back to the parking lot when the day ended. I had a lot of sympathy for the PA herding our group--she appeared to be in a constant state of frazzle.

We only got one full meal a day, which I thought was strange. However, that meal was always very nice, and there were long craft tables always stocked with snacks, including fresh fruits and vegetable. So it's not like we ever went hungry. The only name actor in the movie who I ever saw grazing the craft tables was Philip Seymour Hoffman (this was one of his first movies and of course I had no idea who he was at the time).

As someone mentioned above, there is a lot of down time while shooting. Our scenes were blocked into groups, so you'd only go in to shoot when they called your group number. But then you'd frequently sit for a couple of hours waiting while they worked on lighting or blocking or sound or god knows what. Anyway, they told us not to bring anything in with us because they didn't want anything to show up on screen that shouldn't be there, but I can assure you that that stuck for about a day and if you watch this movie there are all kinds of books, magazines, newspapers, Walkmans (I am old) under our chairs in the revival scenes.

We were asked (well, told) not to speak to the actors. Given the dozens of extras there this made sense. It was fun to watch them work, though. Steve Martin would occasionally tell jokes. Debra Winger would get irritated if shooting went too long and start growling "lunch" into her mic (she had a lot of support among the extras on this). Meat Loaf once did one of Steve Martin's character's speeches in the manner of a fire-and-brimstone preacher. Liam Neeson ... is a very large man. So a lot of that was pretty entertaining. Oh, and the choir in the film was, I heard, an all-star gospel choir. I could believe it--the film doesn't really do justice to how great they sounded live. They would do a lot of singing in down times, which kept the mood up.

Steve Martin wears a disco-ball jacket at one point--the screen also doesn't do justice to how awesome this looked in person.

I do show up in the movie, sitting next to a girl and her mom--the girl is supposedly pregnant. She had long blonde hair that someone would periodically come over and comb. I don't think I've ever seen hair that silky before or since.

It was worth it for the money.