Films: CBGB

I live in Savannah, where they come to film a few movies a year.  I know some people who have been “extras” in some of these films and wondered how they got to do it.  It turns out, it is pretty easy.  I have done a few films for students who go to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) this year, I will be posting about those experiences too.  I just thought I would start with the most recent and go backwards.

Anyway, my friend Amanda, who I worked with on my first SCAD film sent me a casting call notice about a certain type CBGB was looking for.  I sent in all the info they wanted as well as a couple of photos.  Unfortunately, they wanted to cast me as a “thirsty fellow”.  It didn’t matter to me though, I was just hoping to be part of the experience.  I got called in a total of 3 times.  I was a “thirsty fellow” for two and for one I was a “Bowery Bum”.  For the “Bowery Bum’ day,(my second day)  although I was on the set and got to see what was going on, they didn’t use me.

On the first day though, when I got to the set, it was like old home week.  I saw a lot of people I knew and it was pretty exciting.   It was a hot day and about 150 or so people were standing/sitting under a tent.  There is a lot of waiting around but it didn’t matter to me.  It was a paying “extras”  job plus there was a chance to be seen in the film,  plus we got to see the actors while they worked and see how everything goes “behind the scenes”, it was just amazing.  Alan Rickman, who I didn’t actually get to talk to, was amazing on set. Of course, he will always be Hans Gruber to me!  He (well, they all were from what I could see) was the consummate professional.  Estelle Harris was just a blast to watch while she was working.  She is funny, flirtatious and a spitfire.  It was such a joy to watch her interact with the cast and crew.  I didn’t recognize Donal Logue until someone told me it was him.  Earlier in the day, I had asked him for prop cigarettes thinking he was on the crew.  He didn’t have them, but he was super cool in his response. I was a little embarrassed when I found that out.   He actually talked to the “extras” in between shoots and kinda mentored them though the whole thing.  I ended up at his table for lunch.  He is an intelligent man and just an all around good guy to talk to.    That was very cool!  Shortly after lunch, I was cut for that day.

On the third day, I only saw a couple people I knew, but made several new acqauintences.  It was the longest of all the days too, over 13 hours.  It was by far though, the most fun.  Again Alan Rickman, Donal Logue and this time Johnny Galecki were there and they were great.  There were a lot of scenes we got to be in that day.  Whether on not we make it to the screen all depends on the angle.  I can tell you I know I will see a lot of familiar faces on the screen when the movie is released.  I also think when the movie ends,  I will be one of the two “thirsty fellows” shown closing the bar at the end of the night when the credits start.  Again, it all depends on the camera angle.

Also, at the end of the third day, when I saw Johnny Galecki, I said “Now that we are no longer working, I want to say hello” and I introduced myself.  As he was going to the cooler for a water, he said to me “Don’t be ridiculous, you could have talked to me anytime you wanted”  He was so sincere when he said that.  I just told I didn’t want to disturb him while he was working.  I found him and Donal Logue to be really sweet and genuine.  I know they are people just like us, but I also know, sometimes ego takes hold.  It was really cool to see that hadn’t happened here.

Unfortunately, pictures weren’t allowed to be taken on set so this is all I have from the entire three days.  The overall experience of being an “extra” in a feature film, to me, was just amazing.   I found only one minor thing that bothered me and it was just a communication problem during chow time on the last day.  Aside from that, I had the best time.  Watching the process of how they do things, the attention to the smallest detail and how everyone interacts with everyone else is simply amazing.  It is wild to be sitting there in a room filled with people pretending to be talking and listening to punk rock,  while the actors are the only ones doing the talking.

A big thank you to the people who called me in to be a part of that!  I hope to be an “extra” in other films.

1 comment
  1. Great article James! I’ve always wanted to be an “extra” but never knew how to go about it. Sounds like a lot of fun, and interesting from a “behind the scenes” perspective on movie making. And if you get paid for it that’s even better! 🙂

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