So, I posted here that a couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to perform as “background” on a pilot that was shooting in NYC! Here’s what I learned:
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve been cast as WOMAN AT BAR in the exciting pilot production of UNTITLED PILOT TBA !!! You’ve got a call time just after dawn, and you’ve brought 2-3 solid-colour outfits for Wardrobe to choose from, but what are you forgetting?
YOUR CELL PHONE CHARGER (and extra battery) because you may actually be there for a full twelve hours, and you’ll want to constantly re-read the initial email for any clues hinting at a) when this thing will end? or b) will I seriously be here for twelve full hours? of c) this video of a cute dachshund I just found. A charger would be great, or you’ll find that cell phone battery dying after just six hours on I Can Haz Hotdog Tumblr. Hold on! What if all the outlets are being used for, like, actual cameras and stuff?? Good thing you have an extra battery for your cell phone! And if you don’t have one yet, invest in one now. They are paying you for the day, aren’t they??
A SWEATSHIRT BIG ENOUGH TO FIT YOUR ENTIRE BODY INSIDE because the holding area may be air conditioned, and when I say “may be,” I mean it’s probably going to be a walk-in freezer. The crew like it cold, and can you blame them? Doing moving and lifting and holding microphones above their head? You’re just getting paid to sit there, so don’t be the jerk who complains about the temperature. Curl up in the hoodie of a much larger person and Tumblr quietly and gratefully. This, too, shall pass.
A BOOK so the casting director knows you can read, of course! If they happen to need someone to deliver an extra line of dialogue, who are they going to pick? Somebody literate, probably! That literate person who just got upgraded to a speaking part could be you!
A KNITTING PROJECT to show the crew how deep and multi-talented you are. This business is all about sucking up, so while you’re there, you might as well knit some mittens for the casting director, who is also probably freezing in that air-conditioned
hellhole hallway! Slip your personal business card in there while you’re at it, and you’ll glide to the front of the line next time she wants someone to sit on the far end of the scene while other actors are talking!
TAMPONS AND ADVIL because the worst place to get your period is on network television. In fact, people don’t even get periods on network television! All those women are pure, smoothed-over Barbie dolls in that region. Here’s how to check if this is a network TV project: is the number of minorities around you equal or less than 2? Don’t count the crew, silly! That’s how you know you’re on network TV, and you’re disgusting, so stuff a wad in it, pop some pills and get back to work before anyone realizes how filthy you are!
SNACKS YOU CAN STUFF IN YOUR FACE IN TWO BITES one of the
reasons your pay is so low perks of doing background work is the craft services table! You’re getting a free meal out of this deal! Of course, as background, you are the lowest on the totem pole, so you automatically go to the back of the buffet line, meaning you’ll likely get steamed vegetables and a salad, and maybe some olives. So what happens when you start to feel weak and dizzy? You can’t leave your appointed spot for a SECOND. Bring some granola bars you can cram in your maw quicker than they can shout “quiet on set!” and you’ll be good to go!
These helpful hints will keep you afloat as you navigate the murky waters of almost-acting! Remember: there are no small parts, except for yours. Yours isn’t even really a part. But it’s all worth it for the someday that your left hand may be on television for a split second! That’s called living the dream! And the dream can be yours…if they don’t cut your scene.