Acting as a Background Artist

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Day Before the Film Shoot

I was stupidly excited the night before the shooting. Despite knowing that it  would be mostly sitting about, waiting, I was really looking forward to my first day working with NBA Norfolk, a locally based background artiste’s agency. Okay, yes, I know! I am excited the first time I do anything or go anywhere. This was the first time that I had done background work on a project for such a high profile and international television network.

Actor. No car? No work.

Working in the performing arts means having very little money.  Having very little money means that I can not afford to run a car. So, it was incredibly touch and go at first as to whether I would even be able to make it to work. Film locations are often set in the middle of nowhere, not accessible by public transport and work starts early in the morning and can run well into the night.

But having been chosen to take part on the project, I was determined that I was not going to let go of the bone and I tried everywhere I could to find transport, amongst the NBA Norfolk group, Facebook, and the local liftshare service but no one seemed to be heading from my city or passing through.

Then, at the eleventh hour one of the guys working with the agency too, messaged me to say that his Dad was taking him and they could give me a lift to the location. And back if we can’t get a lift back.

I was off-the-scale happy. It’s one of the things that  I love about the acting community, well, the arts in general. The willingness of people to help each other. Taking care of each other.

We don’t get paid particularly well in the arts. There are many people chasing few jobs, so work is often uncertain. Sustainability is a struggle.

We often juggle multiple income streams alongside the associated admin and including part time work unrelated to our career. Rejection is part of life. Staying healthy, physically and mentally, is hard. We have to be incredibly resilient.

Day of the Film Shoot

Well I was excited before I went. I was super-excited when I arrived and all the details of the shoot were revealed and it turned out we were shooting for a high profile docu-series for a large American television network.

Getting Ready

I turned up thinking the clothing I had brought along was what we were wearing, but all our costumes, shoes and hats were already prepped and laid out for us. There was a selection of accessories to choose from.

Then after a quick change the lovely hair/makeup person worked superhard setting all of the background artist’s hair just right for the time period.

I wasn’t sure whether I would need makeup. I put some basic makup on, intending for it to just be a base layer, just in case. Turned out that sometimes overthinking and overprep turns out to be a useful flaw. The makeup artist had a squillion people to look after and didn’t have much time to get all us all done so a touch up of lippy was all that was required for me.

Background Artists Looked After

The production company had set out lunch for us. I was thinking that it would be a stand up buffet thing, but was delightfully surprised to find that it was a proper, hot, sit down meal.  Everyone’s dietry needs were seriously taken account of.

The Assistant Director cracked jokes, looked after us very well and seemed concerned that we might be bored. Me, being overthinking me, was thinking it was my fault because I sat there with resting bitch face on, listening to my phone. But I was perfectly content and happy running through my lines for the October play. I even managed to get a few chapters into Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

The filming of our scenes was highly efficient and we were finished about an hour and a half earlier than the stated time and much earlier than I expected considering I had been told that many film shoots run way over schedule.

Norwich Acting Community

During the day, I spoke to a few of the other people, many of whom where either fellow actors, dancers or worked in the arts in some other capacity.  It turned out that we had many people in common that we knew from the arts / acting community in Norwich. One lovely woman I met offered to take me home, along with the young man I had travelled in with that morning, saving his Dad from having to drive all the way out from Norwich again.

It’s a Wrap!

A really exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable day. I got to meet a whole new bunch of wonderful, talented people and industry professionals, got paid to act on film, (even if it is in the background, it’s still a million times better than sitting on my **** in an office being bored), the dressing up and of course the money, without which I would be hungry.

In all the excitement shenanigans last week, my son said I reminded him of Joey in Friends, when he got all excited about his getting a paid piece of extra work on a big show and then, when it came on TV, his bit had been totally cut out. In real life, I’ll have to wait an entire year or more to find out

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