Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Movie Extra Work Requires Sprezzatura

   As a retired Retail Manager having worked 14 hour days (on average), 6-7 days a week since I was 25, I thought being a movie "extra" would be work, but easier than Retail work, and fun. Wow, was I ever almost not ready for a exhilarating workout!
   "Extra" work is much more physically demanding than I physically imagined. Even "extras" must remain poised, bright, smiling and "on" while appearing relaxed and enjoying themselves. Talk about Sprezzatura*! 
    Commuting downtown, parking, shuttling to the location, followed by 2 hours of costume and makeup, hair, then more waiting for the "techies" to make final tweaks for the scene to be set up, only then to stand in 3" heels for more than 10 hours with 1 (one) 1/2 hour break after 6 hours, (according to Union rules), is exhilarating and exhausting. An unforgettable happy day!
   The scaffolding for the "techies", the cords, the tape, and the amazing cameras are many, huge and complex. A bit awesome to behold. The blocking of the shots that made it to the final cut of the Harvest Ball scenes are so very "tight" (close up) showing the movie stars off nicely, but not the real local stars of the movie.
   It was a shame the Director did not pull the camera just a bit back to capture more of the beautiful clothing, and the most unusual, exotic interior of the Victorian, High Gothic, Old City Hall building and its famous bottled glass tiled floor.
   It was also a shame the Director did not light up the 15 second exterior shot of the Harvest Ball to better show off the Historic Bolling-Haxall House and its gorgeous Brownstone exterior and the original ironwork fence and foliage.
   As a 50 year old extra, running up the large old cement exterior stairs, then back down for an immediate "reset", at least 40 times in 3" heels and party dress for 2 1/2 hours was tiring. I was out of breath toward the end of the shoot. Thank goodness for years of being a runner. One never knows in "Hollywood" what natural gifts, talents, bar tricks and hobbies which may come in handy during any particular shoot.
   Richmond, the local star of the movie, is indeed fortunate to have had, in large part thanks to Elizabeth Scott Bocock, a star preservationist and philanthropist, many historic buildings and properties preserved for all to enjoy, in the here and now and on the big screen.
   Extras do have an unspoken, unwritten etiquette to observe, and with a little luck, all their hard work will not all end up on the cutting room floor. Richmond is ready for its close up, Mr. DeMille!!

Enjoy the movie Unanswered Prayers on the Lifetime Network!

*Sprezzatura is an Italian word from the Book of the Courtier (year 1528) meaning one who is " to practise in everything a certain nonchalance that shall conceal design and show that what is done and said is done without effort and almost without thought."