An Extra's Night - Thanks to CGee:
The long story short of my night as an extra on State Of Play is - 6 hours in a holding tent, 2 hours in a holding room followed finally by 2 hours repeatedly crossing a street in downtown Washington DC. Even thought all this occurred between the hours of 7PM and 6AM in just above freezing temperatures thus adding a degree of difficulty to a night that already required patience, endurance and tolerance of incredibly uncomfortable chairs, it turned out to be an interesting experience!
I got the call on Friday to come in on Saturday night, arrived at the huge parking lot the production has commandeered for the trucks, trailers and equipment. About 12 of us in total checked in at the tent which was set up for the background performers. Our home for the next 6 hours thankfully had a heater, but because we were working as the “Second Unit” the usual cast amenities like access to catered food was only authorized for the “First Unit” which had been filming since noon. Exactly when we would be on set and what we would be doing once we got there was a mystery so we all hunkered down, gathering by our makeshift ‘hearth’ to keep warm and waited.
In those long hours I came to meet a close knit community of people; some did background work continually and others viewed it more as an interesting hobby that paid them some money. Several lived locally and more than a few had driven from places like Philly and NYC just to do this evening’s work and were going to turn around and drive home in the morning. It was fascinating to hear them talk about the movies they had worked on. They recounted the horror stories as well as the funny moments and they seemed inordinately interested in discussing the instances of good catering that they had sometimes enjoyed on various sets. Maybe food was on their mind because we only were permitted a small cooler with water and we were finally let go to scavenge dinner for ourselves in local restaurants at around 11PM. In the end when we eventually got onto the set we were allowed into where the crew had the food set up and managed to wrangle a bit of coffee and some snacks.
When it came to my 15 minutes of background fame, I think I acquitted myself alright. I only had one amusing bit of misunderstanding – Since we didn’t even rate a van to take us from the tent to the where they were filming, they called for ‘drivers’ to get their cars to take everyone to the set. I took that to mean everyone who had cars needed to help not realizing it was just those extras who were ‘drivers’ and who were being paid for the use of their cars. Since that wasn’t me, my car shouldn’t have been used and this cause a bit of confusion later on in the evening!
And just so you know, crossing a surprisingly busy street when the scattered production crew wasn’t exactly paying attention to the traffic signals kept me more focused on getting across the street alive and less concerned about the temperature and time. Standing on a corner for a couple of hours in the middle of the night does afford you some interesting sights. For instance you quickly realize a yellow light means ‘speed up’ before a red light ‘suggests’ you stop. I saw many car passengers with their heads hanging out the windows most likely just enjoying the brisk night air and I was passed by ladies dressed a little too scantily for the weather either heading to or coming from work. One gentleman yelled something to me as he drove by, no doubt graphically wishing me a good morning, in a language I couldn’t quite translate.
As for Russell, I never saw him but I think he was on set somewhere till the wee hours also. From what the people in the First Unit said, the earlier filming they did sounded like it would have been interesting to be involved in. There were scenes of Cal going in and out of the ‘Washington Globe’ and various car scenes. One woman said they were filming (I surmise with his car on the truck bed) through Georgetown and she had fun looking at the pedestrians and drivers as they realized just who was in the car! His name came up in the tent a few times. One gentleman who was a ‘driver’ said that he had been in a scene with him in both BOL and now this movie. He said that Russell made an effort to introduce himself and talk to those sharing the scene with him and he said that was a rare thing for an actor to do. He mentioned he was a true professional and it was a pleasure to watch him work.
So all in all, in spite of the tedium and late hours, it certainly was a novel and worthwhile experience for me. It’s something that I might peruse because I do have the time, interest and the availability of frequent filming in my area. My fellow ‘background artists’ assured me that this experience wasn’t entirely typical in that usually there is more to do in way of actual filming (not to mention better food!) but that the ‘hurry up and wait’ was certainly something that you needed expect and accept.
If nothing else, it was so cool to be driving home looking at the full moon, crystal clear on the low horizon while watching the sun begin to rise early on Easter morning!