- Alyssa Rachelle For the AJC
If you're dreaming of becoming an actor in the midst of Atlanta's booming film industry, you might want to consider starting out as an extra. Want to know what it's like to be on set? Read on to get the inside scoop from three Atlanta-based actors.
"Find a place to keep belongings and then wait for instructions by the casting director," said Aaron-Toy Scott, who started as an extra in the Whitney Houston biopic Whitney.
Betsy Marra Jorgensen, who was an extra for the television show The Vampire Diaries, agreed. "Sometimes you wait and wait and wait in holding also known as the green room," she said.
Extras do not get their hair or makeup done by the professionals on set, so you have to come camera-ready, said Gabriela Rowland, whose first extra gig was through an open call for television shows Necessary Roughness and Dead Drop Diva.
Jorgensen suggested that actors come prepared. "Bring a book, comfy shoes and your phone charger," she said.
"Mind your own business. Do not talk or bother the actors. Do not go to the crew craft table. There's a table for extras," Rowland said. "Do not ask too many questions or complain, or you won't get invited back."
"Listen, listen, listen. Don't over-exaggerate facial expressions! Don't ever look or search for the camera. Know your mark and where to stand," Jorgensen said.
"Have you ever been in a 5-year-old pantry? That is how it looks," Rowland said while laughing. "This is why productions encouraged extras to bring their own snacks in case you can't eat any of the food provided by them."
Jorgensen has experienced horrible craft service as well as lavish meals. "We've been served a box lunch of warm and wilted lettuce salad and steamed hot dogs that I wouldn't feed to my dog," she said. "I remember dining like kings and queens on the set of Prisoners with grilled shrimp, prime rib and more! There's no consistency."
"Sometimes the actor approaches the extras, because they are simply friendly," Jorgensen recalled. She said she has had the opportunity to talk with Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise, Woody Harrelson and Jim Carrey.
"It was cool. I felt like I was talking to a wise and knowledgeable aunt," Scott said of his encounter with Angela Bassett on the set of Whitney.
Rowland remembered a short encounter with Dennis Quaid. "He brought his son to set and started a conversation with the group about him liking the set life. It was very short and sweet," she said.
While becoming an extra is a great way to get your foot in the door, please note that it doesn't always pay well. "Some movies do not pay extras, and some movies will pay extras a day rate of $112 to $150." Scott said.
"Learning what goes on behind the scenes and on set is fascinating. I've also learned a lot about myself and what thick skin it takes to make it in this business," Jorgensen said.
"You create friendships after working 12 to 16 hours a day with the same people," Rowland said. "When you are born to be and do something, you will never find a bad thing."View full experience