I loved listening to the volunteer extras mutter under their breath about the paid extras, rolling their eyes at their “special treatment.” “I’m just unlucky,” one extra complained, apparently upset at her placement. I overheard another volunteer explaining that she had been to every day of shooting, including the days in another city. She even planned on following the production to the next city. I never knew film extras were like Phish fans. Maybe if they spent less time talking and more time being quiet, they’d get on camera.
As the day dragged on, I was moved around 10 times, did a lot of clapping, and pretended to buy popcorn or Cracker Jacks. I tried to strategically place myself next to someone who had an umbrella so I could be shielded from the sun without looking ridiculous. While being an extra is pretty boring, there are worse ways to spend a day than reading a book outside in the fresh air while friendly folks with makeup bags offer you sunscreen or water. Later on, I was given a lunch with a barbecue sandwich, chips and a package of cookies, which I ate while sitting next to a mannequin that was much better at being quiet than I was. He didn’t even want any of my lunch.
By 2 p.m. I had finished my book and decided that I’d seen about all of the filmmaking I needed for that day. It seemed unlikely that I was going to meet any stars or win any prizes, and the “actress” sitting next to me seemed intent on challenging the quiet rule by talking to me about her “career.”
As the filmmakers began to set the next shot, I discreetly made my way towards the exit, dropping my borrowed tie and hat off at the door. I didn’t see the shuttle; maybe it didn’t run until the shooting was over. Maybe I just missed it. I never found out because I was still practicing my quiet skills. Instead of asking, I just donned my porkpie hat, the one that the wardrobe lady had rejected as “too modern,” and made my way, Willie Loman-style, down the sidewalk and back into obscurity.