Well, perhaps not a star, but you can work as an extra on movie and television productions – and possibly with your Triumph…

For several years now, Georgia has developed into somewhat of the “Hollywood South”. This is due to several factors, among them are favorable tax benefits and being a right to work state. A new huge production facility in Fayette County will open next year creating even more opportunities. To help fill some of the expected behind-the-scene jobs, Clayton State University is starting a program devoted to those careers.

Earlier this year my wife, Beverly, happened to be watching Fox 5 morning news and heard a story that a film was being shot in Atlanta and they needed cars from the 1970’s as background. We have two Triumph TR-6’s, a ‘72 & ‘73, so I submitted photos. Shortly thereafter I was contacted by the casting company and next thing you know, I’m in the movies. so to speak.

The production was “Anchorman 2”, and I worked about ten times alternating between the two Triumphs. In addition to several different around town locations, for two days the TR was used in a film sequence shot at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. That scene utilizes a motor home that rolls over and explodes. The inside of the motor home is an amazing piece of technology. It is driven by remote control and has a hydraulic plunger in the middle to make it roll over on command! The shot was filmed from the back of a special designed truck as everyone is rolling. All of the background car drivers had walkie-talkies to get our direction, placement, etc. The assistant director, a self-admitted dummy when it comes to cars, kept calling my TR-6 a “TVR”.

A few weeks after that I was contacted to see if I wanted to drive a 1970’s era N.Y. City taxi for the production as well – which I did for a week.

The “Anchorman 2” experience was especially fun as in addition to the featured actors, many stars did cameo appearances. Among them were Liam Neeson (who stuck his head into one of our cabs and said he use to ride in these in New York), Harrison Ford, Kirsten Dunst, John C. Riley ( I was next to him in the urinal and he was dressed in an elaborate somewhat Confederate General uniform), Will Smith, and many others. One day we were shooting at a park next to Martin Luther King Middle School, and Will Smith was on set. In a lull between takes Will made a surprise unannounced visit to the school and the students thought he was the greatest – which I believe was a character he once portrayed as Mohamed Ali.

“Anchorman 2” premieres in Atlanta December 20th and it will be interesting to see how much of our extra work makes the movie and how much as they say ends up on the cutting room floor.

Since then I have been fortunate enough to have worked multiple times on fourteen different productions. I won’t go into each one, but here are a few interesting moments:

Shortly after “Anchorman 2” I noticed a call for ex military men to be extras on a CBS pilot called “Surgeon General”. Being a former Army officer I submitted and surprisingly enough was called. However, due to my age of at the time 67, I was a bit too old to still be in uniform as it were. Instead I worked as a civilian office employee in the surgeon general’s office. Two interesting events on the set were that one day I accidentally tripped Sean Astin, one of the stars, as he was walking behind me during a scene. It really wasn’t my fault as the assistant director placed me in the wrong spot. But Sean was understanding and apologetic. A very nice fellow.

The other incident on “Surgeon General” was that one day we worked straight through lunch and by 2:00 P.M., I was famished. The next day it looked to be another long morning shoot, so I was able to sneak to the “Crafty” (this is what the snack area is referred to) and grab a quick bite. However, as soon as I had eaten, shooting broke for lunch. This was being filmed in a Marietta office building, and food service set up in the basement. Since I wasn’t especially hungry, I went to the back of the line down a hallway. Behind me was a service elevator that opened and the female lead, Kathryn Morris (cute blond from Cold Case Files) emerged. Rather than heading to the front of the line, she took her place behind me. We started a conversation and I said that since she was the star, shouldn’t she be up front. She said one of her pet peeves was people who break in line, and she would just wait her turn – and that spoke volumes about her character. Of course, quickly one of the P.A.’s (production assistants) spotted her and said she had to go to the head of the line so she could be ready for the next scene. Her attitude still impressed me. Unfortunately “Surgeon General” failed to be picked up, in spite of the hundreds of thousands invested.

One scene for a movie called “Let’s Be Cops” staring Damon Wayans, Jr. had many extras in a small theater and after Damon spoke his lines we were to applaud and take photos with our cell cameras. After several takes and the scene was finished, we were all instructed to delete the photos as everyone signs a confidentiality agreement when you check in. Productions don’t want unauthorized photos circulating the net (although it frequently happens). At first the P.A.’s were checking to insure all photos were removed, but there were so many of us it became unwieldy to check every phone. Finally in frustration we were told to remove all pictures on our own and they would trust us. However one of the extras not only didn’t remove the photo, but sold it to the T.V. program “TMZ” along with a bogus story! With the illicit picture, he said that Damon bought shots for the extras – something that never happened. As I understand it, the production company was diligently searching to discover the culprit and make an example of him by prosecuting him to the fullest extent of the law and insuring he never again works as an extra in this market!

Working as an extra has a code of conduct as to what is expected. These include but aren’t limited to:
Be on time – and frequently call times can be very early!
Don’t talk with the actors / actresses unless they speak to you first.

Don’t stare at them, ask for autographs or photos.
Don’t take photos (although some productions are O.K. with it). Some productions I’ve worked such as “Hunger Games – Mockingjay” even went so far as to confiscate everyone’s cell phone giving us a receipt to retrieve it as day’s end. We were even required to pass by a metal detector to be sure nothing reached the set.
Don’t follow the cast to the bathroom – although you may sometimes end up there if we all share facilities. My first day on “Anchorman 2” I accidentally used one of the stars bathroom – and my error was hastily pointed out to me. (Incidentally, the bathroom is called the “honey pot”).
Being quiet is important, even when cameras aren’t rolling. When asked to pantomime, do just that. Don’t speak, but also don’t “over act” as it were.
Sometimes you are asked to bring your own wardrobe; other times it will be provided. Don’t lose your wardrobe number as there are many similar outfits.. After hair & make-up, don’t go to the bathroom and change your look to something more pleasing to you. This is how they want you and there is a reason.
Don’t fall asleep in extras holding and especially on the set. You would be surprised how many times I see this, particularly on a very early shoot which continued until late in the afternoon or evening.
There is a great deal of “hurry up and wait”. I have a book or check my phone when allowed or use ear pods listen to “You Tube”. You also have opportunities to meet your fellow extras and eventually get to know and make friends with many of them. I am amazed at how many folks actually do extra work as a full-time job. I don’t know how they manage to live on the pay.

And that leads me to compensation, which is minimal. Generally pay is around $8.00 per hour with time and a half for overtime – and there is frequently overtime. You can receive a “bump” for special situations. For example, when I used my Triumphs, the bump was $50 per day. Some bumps are worthwhile. I also have a Maserati that has been used in seven productions. It was the “picture car” for the season opener of “Drop Dead Diva”, and that bump was a little over $500 for the day. The Lifetime show “Devious Maids” paid about the same for it, but the others were less generous. Since I usually drive it to the set, any bump should it be used is “extra” – pardon the pun.

Food is provided on the set, and even as a picky eater, I’ve found the quality to be excellent – and plentiful. Chicken and pastas are mainstays, but some caterers have served wonderful steaks. Good food helps compensate for minimal wages.

So now that you have an insight into the business of being an extra, how do you get called? There are several extras casting companies in town and most list postings on Facebook. Once you “friend” them you will see casting calls and search for ones where you fit. As a somewhat “older” gentleman, I see fewer calls for folks like me than say for a 25 yearold – but all kinds of extras are needed.

In addition to checking Fox 5’s casting calls each Wednesday (available on their site as well), the casting companies I generally use are:

CL Casting
Bill Marinella Casting
Tammy Smith Casting
Extra Casting Atlanta.
Good luck and happy submitting! Hope to see some of my fellow Triumph owners on the set!

Best wishes,

Mike Shaw