After weeks of dialing and dialing, I got my first gig in November of 2009: Bar Patron on the NBC summer season sitcom “100 Questions” (note: this episode will air on Friday. I will try to update with a screencap if I can get one). Since this was going to be my first time on a big television set, I was really excited for the job. That is… until someone not only took the wind out of my sails, but shot a canon through the side of my enthusiasm ship by informing me that you haven’t really arrived on the extras scene unless you’re in a summer blockbuster and THEY call YOU. Dually noted.
From my new perspective on the bottom of the “T’ain’t-nothin’” Ocean, I prepared myself for my experience. I was told to come “hair-and-makeup-ready” (this industry is filled with terms spawned from bad English, more on that later), which required the purchase of makeup. I ended up spending about $50 to make my $8/hour. I took one stealthy picture of my costume in the bathroom because I was terrified of being sued or killed. I also respect the “No Spoilers” rule and the concept of “sensitive information,” so it’s not just a matter of self preservation. I’ve since learned that a picture of myself in a business suit does not count as “sensitive information.” In fact, how do you know this is not just a picture of me from some office job in 2002?
As a girl who once made television sets in her desk at school, it was surreal to finally be on the set and stare at all of the toys. It was all I imagined it to be and more! Lights, camera, lots of inaction mixed with frenzied moments of action, baseball caps, gaffing tape! There were only three walls and bleachers (complete with “Applause” light). A particularly fun Hollywood moment came when we were told that in the event of an earthquake, we should run to the nearest wall. The nearest REAL wall. The director was loud and had a British accent. Only he and the first AD were either allowed to laugh at the jokes or thought they were funny (I’m leaning toward the latter- note the earlier description of “NBC summer season sitcom”). And I’m pretty sure James Cameron was the second AD. Why not? I don’t think he had anything better to do at the time…
I met people who were happy to be there and revved up about the industry, and jaded, miserable folks who should probably seek out other careers. I found myself somewhere in between. “Content” would be the best way to put it. After all was said and done, though, I’d had enough fun that I decided to try to land another gig.