The Magic of Cinema & Some Advice for Future Doctors

Yesterday I worked a 13-hour day as a Background Extra on a movie set!  That’s right, I’m gonna be in the movies!  It is a movie called “Parker,” being filmed in the New Orleans area (the scene yesterday was filmed at the St. Tammany Parish Fairgrounds in Covington, LA), and starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez.  You can read all about it here.  The scene yesterday was supposed to be taking place at the Ohio State Fair on a “cool” summer day!

Due to the fact that we were technically not supposed to have cameras on the set, I couldn’t really snap a lot of photos, but I was able to get a few on my phone.  It doesn’t really give much of anything away, so I think it’s okay to show them to you.

We were supposed to be at "The Ohio State Fair" on a "cool" Summer Day

During one scene we were playing the audience at the State Fair, watching a Rodeo!

Despite the fact that it was VERY hot yesterday, and the fact that we were up on our feet in the sun for nearly 12 hours, and the fact that it was apparently the worst kind of gig you can get as an Extra (referred to as a “cattle call”), and the fact that I was hot and sweaty and covered in sunscreen, and the fact that I got a little sunburned, I actually really enjoyed the whole experience.

I made a friend yesterday, who is an aspiring actress.  She was really nice and we hung out for much of the afternoon, just chatting and finding whatever shade we could find!  She assured me that yesterday’s shoot was the worst kind of gig you can get as an Extra.  It’s called a “cattle call” because they literally call about 300-500 people to come out and they herd us around like cattle.  Apparently at a lot of shoots, you’ll be one of only 20 extras, in which case you actually get to do a lot more, you don’t feel like you’re so disposable, and you probably are treated a little better.  So I think I’ll give it another shot.

There were a number of things that really struck me about the whole experience yesterday:

#1) Movies are REALLY expensive to make!

There were probably about 300 people working as extras, and the minimum that each was being paid was $104 (as a background extra, you get $8/hour for the first 10 hours and time and a half for each hour beyond that).  Just for yesterday’s shoot, that comes out to $31,200, minimum.  There were some extras who got paid more for various reasons (some had to change into other clothes, some were “featured” for a special talent, etc.).  On top of that there were probably about 100 people working on the crew, and they had about 10-15 special effects guys who made stuff blow up.  According to the article (link posted above) from the Times Picayune, they’re going to be shooting this movie for 7 weeks.  Suppose they shoot 5 days a week for 7 weeks, that’s over a million bucks right there, just for extras!  That doesn’t even take into account anything else but the extras!  That’s a LOT of money!

#2) Movies are also REALLY time-consuming!

Yesterday they filmed us for just one scene, probably… and it took them 13 hours, to get probably about a minute of movie!  Someone is then going to have to watch all of the footage they got and put it all together.  When you go to the movies or watch a movie at home, you hardly even notice the cuts and the breaks and whatnot, but after seeing how it’s all done, you realize how much time must be put into editing and actually making the final product that we all go see in the theaters.

#3) For all my Med School Friends, GO INTO ONCOLOGY!

I would say a good 75% of the people who were on the set yesterday were smoking, for at least 60% of the day.  Oncology is where it’s at!  Or if you don’t want to go into Oncology, go into Pulmonology!  And work in rural Louisiana!  You will make bank!

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One Response to The Magic of Cinema & Some Advice for Future Doctors

  1. sean says:

    hi. my name is sean and i live right across the street from the fairgrounds. i actually drove on set the other day ( nobody evn noticed lol). but i am an aspiring actor also like your friend you met. i was just wondering who your agency is..and what kind of tips you have about finding work. cause its really hard to find a legit acting agent in louisiana. and most of evryone i saw were not evn from louisiana. i hope u get this message

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