Movies are not exclusively filmed in Hollywood these days. I live in Atlanta, “Hollywood South” and got the opportunity to be a walk-on actor in a major movie production, and to do some thinking about the idea of a mission plan.
In real life, I am a Client Advisor for Afterburner, I consult with my clients on their current business struggles and how Afterburner will help them. My day is filled with client calls, emails and meetings.
A few weeks ago, a Hollywood producer contacted Murph, Afterburner’s Founder and CEO and asked if a couple of Afterburner guys could play members of the LAPD. Since most of us are retired military, he thought we might look the part. I thought this would be an interesting opportunity and I would get to do something I’ve never done before
I had no idea what to expect – so I called my friend who is currently shooting a big budget television series to get some ideas on what to expect.
After getting a few tips from my friend, it had me thinking about mission planning and how to navigate a movie set as an extra or walk-on. You will want to know your mission, identify any resources and threats, plan your course of action and have your contingency plan ready.
Here’s my list of the 23 things that can help you develop a mission plan for your role as an extra or walk-on actor:
What are you Resources?
- You’re going to get paid! If you are a day player you only get paid if they call you in to shoot that day. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) rate is $1500 a day for 12 hours.
- Be sure to read the contract so you know exactly what is expected of you. If your first job is a SAG agreement, make sure you receive a copy and you can join SAG.
- Once you get to base camp find your point of contact and they will sign you in, confirm your time for hair and makeup and tell you where to go. There were yellow signs all over the Atlanta with the letters DoT to direct to base camp and the set.
- Talk to the extras. They change out daily and they typically know the unspoken rules of each set. They have invaluable information on “set-life” and what’s shooting next in the area.
- Remember the names of the director, assistant directors and the production assistants, they will take care of you.
- Find the stand-ins (the people who stand-in for lead actors) they are likely to provide the most situation awareness of the set.
- You will get fed. Depending on the shooting schedule they will provide you main meals and snacks in between. Extras and crew have different eating lines but the lines have similar food. You can also bring your own food if needed.
- Clear concise directions are rarely given, don’t’ be afraid to ask follow-up questions.
- Ask before you take pictures and no social media posts until the project is being promoted.
- Don’t be a know-it-all. I witnessed well intentioned background folks get replaced because they tried to teach what should happen versus listen to what the director/assistant director wanted to happen.
- Don’t crowd the video village, this is where the video monitors are during recording for the director and assistant director to view playback and sound.
Plan Your COAs (Courses of Action)
- Be sure to read the call sheet for your start time and hair and makeup time. I was late the first 2 days because I didn’t see my hair and makeup time at the bottom of the call sheet. Get there early so you can enjoy craft services beforehand.
- When you get to base camp, be sure to park in the right spot, usually in crew parking. You don’t want to be the person who parks outside of the crew’s parking area and get towed.
- Network! Everyone from actors, production assistants and assistant directors know of other projects that will be casting soon.
- Turn off your cell phone and if you have a prop watch make sure there’s no alarm set. You don’t want to be that person that has their cell phone or watch go off during shooting.
- If you get an opportunity, talk to the stars of the movie. They are often open to normal conversations about life.
- If you are playing the part of law enforcement (like I was), turn in your prop gun at lunch! Return all props once shooting has wrapped for the day (impersonating a police officer is a felony).
- Invite a friend. Set visitors are welcome, all you have to do is ask.
Strategic Planning for Contingencies
- The location of shooting could change daily or weekly. You will go to the movie’s “base camp” first for wardrobe and makeup and then you will take a shuttle to the set.
- No day is the same, be flexible with your time and have contingencies for downtime or lack thereof. Bring workout bands, you may have time for a quick 30-minute workout. If you need to relax, you get your own space in a trailer (you might even get your own star).
- Be prepared for anything in hair and makeup., you could end up sitting next to an A-list movie star. The makeup trailer is lively place with jokes flying around like a comedy club.
- It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. Dress for the occasion and ask for sunscreen in the makeup trailer if filming outside. We started shooting at 8 AM, so there were a lot of cold people standing around waiting for the sun to warm up.
- Protect your feet. There’s a lot of standing.
Strategic business planning is key to the success of any mission, even being on a movie set. If you haven’t done this before, find someone who has and get some situation awareness from them. Plan but be prepared. Anything can happen in Hollywood.