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I Was An Extra on Mare of Easton: Here’s What it was Like

           In the Fall of 2019, my sister sent me a link about a show that was going to be filmed in the Delco area and that they were looking to cast extras. That show ended up being Mare of Easttown, staring Kate Winslet as a small-town cop in Pennsylvania. As someone whose dream it is to one day work in the tv and film industry, it felt like an amazing and rare opportunity that I had to try to be a part of. For anyone who has ever been curious about being an extra and maybe looking to make a little cash while in school, here is my experience.

 

How I Applied:

            Extra jobs seem like something that mostly occur in New York or LA. But these types of projects can actually be filmed just about anywhere. In fact, the Philadelphia area has been used for several films and tv shows in recent years. The most prominent examples include the Rocky and Creed movies. Other noteworthy works include Silver Linings Playbook, Shazam, 21 Bridges, The Lovely Bones and many of M. Night Shyamalan’s productions such as the Unbreakable Trilogy and Apple TV’s Servant. Maybe you have heard of Backstage and Actors Access where various acting and production jobs are posted. Those are good places but the one I used to get on Mare of Easttown was Heery Loftus Casting, a company with 30 years of providing casting services on the east coast. You can sign up and create a profile to access their database for free. You also will never be charged for using their services and your information will not be accessed by third parties. Depending on the job you can earn up to $100 or more for an 8 or 12 hour day.

           Here you can see what projects have open availability for casting and you can choose which gigs you are able to work based on availability or their job descriptions. They have a mix of both Union and non-union jobs so be sure to check if you have the credentials for said job. I actually applied for multiple positions but got messaged to be a sports fan in a school gym scene. [bf_image id="q7k2ke-24lo8g-dc40bk"]

The Day of:

           Once I confirmed I was available they sent me forms to fill out (for taxes and confidentiality) along with a time to be at the designated parking lot in Coatesville to take a shuttle to the holding/processing area for extras. They also requested that you try to dress for the part you are playing with clothes that fit the scene as well as bring two extra outfits. The scene was a basketball game in the ‘90s. I wore a cute but basic sweater, jeans and boots combo and packed some flannel shirts in my travel bag that gave off 90s grunge vibes.

            It was a cold fall day the morning of the shoot. I remember it felt like a long time waiting for the shuttle to come pick us up, but little did I know that with this process there was going to be a lot of waiting time. It was in the parking lot that I met a woman (who I shall refer to as Stella) who had a lot of experience with being an extra/model and she took me under her wing. She shared stories with me about her time on the set of films such as Creed, 21 Bridges and a couple M. Night Shyamalan projects. I was in awe of her and extremely grateful for what she was preparing me for. Because here is the thing: with production it is maybe about 2 to 3 hours of actual filming and about 7 to 8 hours of waiting to film the scene. From the moment I arrived on the lot I probably had to wait like 1 to 2 hours for the shuttles to come pick us up and take us to the holding area. The holding area was an abandoned K-Mart that was converted to process, prepare, and hold the extras until they were required for the scene. It might have been meant to be secretive, but the hundreds of trailers and trucks in the parking lot kind of made it clear that something was going on (two old ladies somehow were able to drive into the lot and tried to figure out what was going on to my amusement).

             Once inside you had to show proof that you were there to work before they sent you off to one of the waiting areas. One of the main things that stood out to me from that day was how a lot of the people seemed to recognize each other from previous projects. “Hey! I know you from 21 Bridges!” someone would say, or they’d talk about just filming for Dispatchers from Elsewhere. Stella confirmed that all the professional extras basically know each other because there’s only a handful of projects that get filmed in the area around the same time. I also found out that many of the people here also had regular jobs, school, or were retired and looking for something fun to do. It was easy to tell who was used to doing this and who was not. The ones who were not used to it were usually complaining about the long waits and that they had to get out in time for work or some other prior commitment. So, if you are interested in looking into extra work, try not to schedule it on a day where you have other commitments or must go to bed early that night.

             The next thing that I remember happening was going to wardrobe. Even though they encourage you to dress for the scene and bring your own clothes; they still have people who assess if fits the scene or you will have to change into the extra clothes and costumes they have on hand. Even though I thought my outfit was good they had me change into what they thought was more appropriate for the scene, a chunky unisex blue hoodie and bootcut jeans. An outfit that I saw on plenty of other extras to represent the school colors of the team we were supposed to be rooting for at the basketball game. From there I was sent to hair and makeup, once again you were encouraged to do your own hair and make up but just in case it did not go with the theme, they could help you out. They deemed the makeup I put on myself good enough and the hairdresser just ran a brush through my hair deciding that hair as thick and long as mine would be better shown off naturally. Once they got everyone through hair and makeup, they provided us with lunch before we had to endure another couple hours of waiting. It was at this time that I wished I had brought my phone charger.

            After what felt like endless waiting, we were finally put back on the shuttles and driven to the set, Coatesville Area High School! Because of the confidentiality agreement I signed, I am not sure how much I can say about the scene in question other than Kate Winslet herself was not there. But what I can say is that we had to act as though a big game was happening. All the extras sat on one side of the gym while the other side was lined with lights, cameras, and the crewmen. A woman who was part of production directed us on how we should be acting during the scene. When to clap, when to jump up and separated which of us would be happy the team won based on the months we were born (ex: Jan- April cheered and jumped up for the winning team). Regardless of whether or not the winning shot was made, we all had to cheer even if it missed the net. The excitement of the room was so palpable that it felt like I was at a real basketball game, and it was easy to get into the right mood for the scene. If I remember correctly, I was probably done around 10pm and home by 11pm.

 

          So that was my day as an extra! I wanted to do more but sadly my plans were put off because of the eventual covid pandemic and shut down. In the meantime, though, I was grateful to have gotten to experience it and share it with my family, friends, and all of you readers. If my story has inspired you to give it a shot, just remember:

  • It is going to be a long day. So do not have any other plans or prior commitments.
  • Be sure to bring a phone charger and something to keep you occupied while you wait. Maybe a book, magazine, or cross word puzzle.
  • Not everyone there is going to be a professional actor/extra. Stella told me stories about people who would show up drunk and were kicked off set because of inappropriate behavior.
  • Do not expect to meet the actors, you will be highly disappointed if that is all you want to get out of it. I am sure many people were hoping for a chance to see Kate Winslet or Evan Peters but did not.
  • Just because you are an extra it does not mean you are guaranteed to get screen time. Many times, scenes that are filmed end up being cut for time or are deemed unnecessary in post-production. I do not know if I will even be seen on screen because I was in a stadium scene with lots of people crowded together.
  • If you are an aspiring actor, know that extra work will not be counted towards acting credit. It is a great way to get insight into production and what it is like to be on set, but it will not be considered an acting credit unless you have lines. In fact, many people can make a living off being a professional extra and do not do acting jobs. If you are looking into being an actor, it does not necessarily start with being an extra. Try looking into auditions for student films, plays, commercials or independent productions. They may not always pay but you can get experience, credit, and footage for an acting reel to showcase your talent for bigger projects.

Hopefully, this article has inspired you or at least gave you insight into what it is like to be an extra!

 

 

Nicole Azzara

West Chester '19

A recent graduate of West Chester University who is ready to put herself out there and live life to the fullest! I love to write a variety topics from new, entertainment, life, style and career.
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