Working Actor: Working as a Supporting Artist with NBA

4 minutes read

I had to be up at 5.30 in the morning to get up, get my face on, endeavor to look vaguely human, whilst not feeling at my best (I am not a morning person) and get to the film studio on time.  It turned out to be one of those days on which everything just seemed to go right.

I got off the bus in the village near the film studio. I was lucky this time that there was a public transport service nearby. Unfortunately this is not always the case. As was the case for my first background artist role, where we were on location in quite a remote spot. Or it was in a location where public transport was non-existent – whichever way you look at it.

Never having been to the film studio before and not knowing where to go, I decided to get my phone out and Google the directions and/or ask the local shop which way to go.

The bus driver noticed me wandering in the wrong direction and told me to hop back on. He drove me right up to the gate of the industrial estate where I needed to go to (Thank you, Sander’s Coaches)

Then the lovely people in the security box said the unit I was heading for was quite a walk and, after giving me directions, said that if anyone drove through, heading my way, they would tell them to look for my bobble hat and give me a lift. I then bumped into one of the people who had shared the same bus as me. We started chatting and she very kindly offered to walk me as far as the turning I needed to take, so I would know where to go.

The day was a little vague up until lunch. I didn’t manage to grab a schedule for the day initially. So, when we had done our little bit of supporting artist work in the morning, I thought that was all they needed us for and I was expecting that we might be told to go at any moment.

Supporting Artists sitting on their Arts

For those who have never done Supporting Artist work before or never acted on a film set… There is a lot of sitting about, waiting for the particular scene you are needed for. It is always a good idea to take along a book/kindle and phone charger or something to pass the time, just in case.

It is also a brilliant opportunity to chat with the other people sharing your trailer. There can be quite a mix of people, from different agencies and locations, supporting artists and actors, all working on different projects and it’s a good chance to meet people and learn more about the industry from many different perspectives.

Opportunity or Threat?

An actor told me recently that they had been advised not to take on Supporting Artist (SA), Background Artist, Extras work… or whatever you prefer to call it. I think that is a shortsighted and, dare I say it..? Hell yes! I can… arrogant, or even priviledged, point of view.

Working on set, in any capacity, is a brilliant insight into the industry. Especially if you haven’t worked on a professional film set before. And what is better, whilst supplementing your income between acting jobs? Working in a McJob or callcentre whilst it eats away at your creativity and soul, or working on a professional television production within the creative industries?

Fair enough, the chances are that no one is going to spot your talent and pick you to stand in for the lead, like some filmmaking fairy tale. But you will meet industry contacts, learn what it is like on set, etiquette, listen and take direction and be doing professional work in film and television.

It’s a Wrap

Anyway, I digress, as I try to get the bee out of my bonnet…

In the afternoon, we were costumed up for another scene. We moved into a massive hanger to film. Which reminds me… another thing that is a good addition to take along, is some warm underclothes. You never know quite what you might be doing on the day of a shoot or where you might be needed. If you have to sit or lay on a cold concrete floor in the middle of February,  you will be grateful for having read this if you remember to pop your thermals in your bag before you head off to film.

A Long, Satisfying Day

We had a start time of 9am but it was pushing 8pm by the time we finally wrapped up for the evening. My last bus out of the nearest village was at about 5.30pm. So, I was looking at quite an expensive taxi ride to the nearest town to catch a train to get me back home. Thankfully, one of the kind supporting artists I had worked with that day was getting a lift back with her Dad and, as they were heading the same way, offered me a lift and dropped me very close to home.

It was a long, but satisfying, day. Unfortunately I can’t contractually say what we were working on, and it takes a long time before the productions come out in any case, but I will attempt to keep a record and find the finished product, when they are released and link to it if I can.

NBA – Norfolk Background Artistes

People have been asking me how to get in touch with and register with Norfolk Background Artistes… If you are based in or close by to Norfolk (UK) and are interested in working with NBA, you can find details on how to register over on their website at:

http://www.norfolkba.com/

They do not take any fees upfront for registering or any payment for belonging to their agency. They take just just 10% commission on what you earn.

They also have a facebook group

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