Ben Goes Undercover!

 

Researching the Next Tale…

With the screenplay of Something in the Water doing the rounds, I’ve decided to refresh my memory of film sets—after all it’s been decades since I starred in an award-winning Suntory Whisky advert that that helped launch the Japanese single-malt industry…though sadly my burgeoning acting career was not so lucky!

Well, I’ve decided it’s time to give it another go. I’ll be sliding deep undercover to research the background for my next story setting…

Setting the Scene

I needed to understand the current industry, so I read You can be a Movie Extra by Ron Martin. Then I tried to commit all the dos and don’ts in that great tomb-ette to memory. Don’t look at the camera or make eye contact with the stars. Dress quietly. Be reliable. Polite. No photos on set (ever!). No phones. At the end of the day, get your chit signed; during the day, keep your chat to a minimum.

Who Needs a Fancy Studio?

Next I required photos but with no studio nearby, I improvised: I painted a section of living room wall white and lay a sheet on the floor. Then the photographer did her thing. Shirts were ironed, ties chosen, suits pressed. My tailcoat and dinner jacket were checked for moth holes and size (though made many moons ago, they still fit!) and several boxing-themed gym kit combinations were tried out. No doubt about it: I’m aiming to be the most versatile extra ever.

Apply, Apply, Apply!

Then I applied to four agencies (not allowed for real actors or models, but for crowd casting in the UK, it is quite usual and accepted). Measurements were taken (“I never knew that measurement was that!”), forms completed, un-photoshopped photos uploaded…and within days, my first audition! More form-filling, photos, and speaking into camera. I’m so glad I joined Toastmasters, the international speech-training organisation to help me relax and project my voice (yes, it’s just conceivable I may be offered a line somewhere down the…line).

My hand now hovers over my phone, awaiting the call to set. I’m poised to grab that TV commercial (dog-walker sitting on park bench), that soap (farmer leans against bar), that blockbuster (American tourist on Champs-Élysées as Ben Affleck sprints past).

What better way to spend a couple of days a month? I’ll meet new people, learn about the film word and collect ideas for (possibly more than one) forthcoming story. Better still, I’ve discovered that we foot-soldiers, we, the very foundations of the movie industry, aren’t called extras by those in the know. We’re proud to be known as supporting artistes. How impressive will that be when dropped into a conversation in which I casually mention the time I worked with Jennifer Lawrence?

Another Upside…

Hmmm. That white section of living room wall looks so good that I may have to repaint the whole apartment!

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