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Saturday, November 12, 2011


In August, I went to a casting call for extras for GREAT HOPE SPRINGS, a movie being filmed in part in Stonington, Connecticut. Even though they're filming in Connecticut, the movie is set in a small town in Maine and features Steve Carell, Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Never having done anything like this before, I thought it would be interesting to even see what a casting call was like now that I'm in my sixth decade.

The crowd wasn't as large as I had anticipated at the local high school and I was in and out in just over an hour, talking briefly with the casting director and leaving my name, phone number, brief resume (including anything we felt could be used as a prop for the movie) and the all important head shot. Pretty fun, never going to get a call, but still an interesting way to spend a morning.

I was more than surprised when I did receive a call from Barbara McNamara Casting in NYC on September 22nd, asking me to email a photo of my car to them.  Not me, only my CAR, my 2000 VW Beetle, cute little BUGger that it is!  Well, I was in New Jersey but my car wasn't so my friend Doug agreed to take a picture of my car for me and I quickly emailed it to the casting company.  And then I didn't hear from them at all.  Okay, still a silly, fun adventure.

Then on September 28th, I did receive a call to see if I'd like to be an extra on September 29th.  Would I ever!!  I grabbed my friend "C" and off we went, tearing up the blacktop on 95! 

We arrived in town to find things transformed!  There was a faux movie theater, faux chocolate and hardware stores, a billboard of a map of the town with everything renamed and off-kilter, and my favorite restaurant, Noah's, had been transformed into the Nor'easter Lobster Diner!  Pretty exciting!

The next day was nothing like I expected.  I had to report to a local church at 10:00 am with my car and three changes of clothes.  We were instructed to bring dowdy clothing, nothing urban, black, designer or fancy.  They specifically asked all of us if we had any "mom" jeans.  Well, I'm a mom and I definitely own jeans, but "mom" jeans?  Who would admit to even owning MOM jeans, no matter what your age or your size?  So I put on a pair of khakis, a blue button down shirt and sneakers and off I went, in my VW, toting another two changes of clean, ironed clothes. 

I checked in and received a time sheet to fill out and took a seat at one of the folding tables, along with about thirty other people.  It was a typical church hall with fluorescent lighting which makes everyone look pretty grim.  As each of us were filling out our cards, the wardrobe crew was circulating around the room looking over our clothing.  The room quickly began to look like the end of the day at a garage sale after all the customers had ripped everything apart or like your teenager's room, minus the apple cores under the bed.  Suitcases, tote bags, duffel bags split open with shoes and clothing strewn everywhere! 

When it was my turn, the wardrobe person turned her nose up at everything I had brought with me, stating that I looked "too preppy", normally not a bad thing, right?  But for this movie they wanted us to look like we just came in from plowing the back forty and didn't have a sense of style even in our off time.  All right, fine with me, as the woman hunted around and found a very used man's fishing vest and a dirty, faded plaid flannel shirt for me to use.  Interesting that they held my time card for ransom until the end of the day when I could have it back when I returned the clothing.  Yeesh, I couldn't WAIT to give the stuff back!

Okay, I thought, we're on our way!  My clothes were approved and I was ready to get to work.   HA!  If I only knew.  I was still sitting and talking to the people around me when the 11 am people came in.  I wandered over to the snack table and was very curious because we've all heard about the "kraft food service" for movie crews.  Another big HA!  There was one folding table with a couple of boxes of Entenmann's donuts, snack size bags of chips and Cheetos, a few pieces of fruit and bottles of water.  Stacked next to the bottles of water were two large jugs and I figured they would be filled with juice or coffee, but nope, just more water. 

When the 12 noon extras arrived, someone finally spoke to us as a group, explaining what the movie was about and how we should act around the stars.  We weren't to speak to them, approach them, ask for autographs or even make eye contact; especially Tommy Lee Jones.  Also, all of female extras were instructed to tone down our makeup if we were wearing any and to remove our lipstick.  At this point, I was mentally reverting to the language of the sixties and all that came to mind was, "FAR OUT", this was like the twilight zone!  Did movie people really think that no one in Maine has any sense of style and that they all only dressed in vintage and distressed L.L.Bean clothing with not a stitch of makeup or hair not pulled back into a sloppy ponytail?

Noon seemed to be the last check in time for extras and no one had been asked to leave the room to go anywhere yet, so we still just sat.  Just as the crew cracked open a jar of peanut butter and jelly and some standard supermarket white bread, the 9:00 am people were asked to stand up and about a dozen were chosen for a scene.  Almost forgot, SAG members first.  SAG being Screen Actors Guild Members, the rest of us were referred to as non-SAG.  Surprisingly, a lot of the extras in the room were SAG and had done this before.  I have to admit that I can't imagine why.  Sitting in that church basement in ratty clothing, no air conditioning on a toasty day, with body heat building up, it felt more and more like being called for jury duty or sitting in a large hospital emergency room waiting area.  That same feeling of ennui, boredom and restless leg syndrome was setting in for everyone. 

But I'm a good sport and this is a new adventure, so I went back to reading my book and waiting.  About 1:00 pm some of the 10 am SAG people were picked for a scene, and the rest of us were given some instructions about filling in our time sheets (don't really know if that's what they're called, but it's as good a choice as anything else).  Different hours and different pay for SAG versus non-SAG.  SAG members would be paid $142 for up to eight hours of work (or waiting) and non-SAG would be paid $100 for up to twelve hours of work.  If you were asked to bring a car, you'd receive extra money even if they didn't use it and you'd also receive extra money for changes of clothing you were asked to bring (even though mine were deemed inappropriate).  Then the young man explained that the 10 am people (of which I was one) would receive a waiver and would receive SAG wages.  Don't know why and didn't ask, it was okay with me. 

Around about 2:30 pm, we were all told that they weren't choosing anyone else and that we could leave as soon as we returned any borrowed clothing and handed in our time cards.  And that was it.  Even though I never got close to a movie star or camera, I could actually say I worked a day as a movie extra. 

Some of the seasoned SAG members were grumbling that they were letting us go just before the time that they would legally be required to feed us a proper meal, but I thought it was all good, and I was happy to go off with my friend for a late lunch.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my friend "C" not only got to watch a scene being filmed, but also got to see Tommy Lee Jones up close, just a few feet away.  RATS!  When I received a phone call the next day to be an extra, I just ignored it and my friend and I went to T.J. Maxx.  I received another call to be in a "featured scene", whatever that is, but I called back too late and was told that they were all filled up. 

All in all it was interesting, even if it was boring.  The only complaint I have has to do with the paycheck I received for my day of work in late October.  They added in all of the extras just like they had explained, but along with the regular deductions, they also withheld money for something called "medicare".  Now I don't know if this was because I was paid SAG rates, but I sure hope they don't think I'm old enough to be eligible for MEDICARE yet!  I wonder where in the ozone that little deduction went? 

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie when it's released late in 2012.  It will be fun to see how our little town was transformed into a small town in Maine.  I had GREAT HOPES about being a movie extra, and while it was interesting, I can definitely cross that one off my bucket list!


  1. No matter how it went, you are a paid worker of the entertainment industry! A resume builder for sure. You should lost something like "Entertainment Industry Assistant - Provided staff and transportation services to the motion picture industry"! Definitely will lead to more!!