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Almost famous

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Almost famous

Post by Blamhappy on Sun Apr 01, 2012 3:18 pm

Hi everyone  Very Happy


I really enjoy writing (as you've probably noticed from my lengthy posts on the boards). To date, I have written:





  • A sitcom


 

  • A series of children's books


 

  • Erotic fiction


 

  • An idea for a second sitcom


 

  • A book about my experiences of the film and television industry


 
 
 
It's not a long list, but I am proud of it nonetheless. None of the above has been produced or published, despite attempts. Getting a book published is virtually impossible. Getting a TV programme made is even harder! So... why not pick one of the above and post it on this forum in the form of a blog?


I know what you're all thinking: that the obvious choice is the erotic fiction! Ha! No such luck!


I've decided to serialise the last on the list: the book about my "extra" work. It was sent to four publishers about a year ago. If you search for books about extra work, there are very few, and all are short manuals. Therefore, I thought there was a chance that I would at least capture the interest of a publisher, even if they told me that the legal implications of revealing confidential information from film and television sets would be too risky. There's certainly a gap in the market, but maybe there's a good reason for that! Who knows? They don't give reasons when they turn you down.


So, this blog is the serialisation of ALMOST FAMOUS: THE GLAMOROUS LIFE OF FILM & TV EXTRAS


I won't be copying the entire book over because some sections really do work only as a book. It won't entertain everyone - indeed, it might be that no one on this forum is sufficiently interested to read it - but it's nice that it won't be stuck here on my laptop for eternity!
 
 
 
 
 

If you do read this blog, I hope you enjoy! Helen x
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ALMOST FAMOUS: THE GLAMOROUS LIFE OF FILM & TV EXTRAS. PROLOGUE.

Post by Blamhappy on Sun Apr 01, 2012 3:32 pm

PROLOGUE
(or, “WHAT THIS BOOK’S ABOUT”, because “prologue” sounds boring)




By the way, this book, as well as being for my family who are always proud of me whatever part-time, minimum wage job I’m doing at any given moment, is for all the SAs I’ve met on the most boring, coldest, wettest, sweatiest, most interesting, most bizarre, funniest and most awe-inspiring of film and TV sets. SAs are fabulous people - by their very nature, they’re interesting, friendly, up for anything and slightly more insane than the average person.

The book might also entertain (or upset)
some of the crew members and stars I have encountered.



I was told by a wise person that I ought to state fairly early on what this book actually is because you’ll see from the “Contents” that it’s a tad topsy turvy. Is it an instruction manual for newbie extras? Is it my autobiography? Is it stories about famous people? Is it an insight into the wonderful world of showbusiness? Well, it’s all of the above really....



  • An extras’ instruction manual would be less of a book and more of a pamphlet, so there’s some informative stuff here, but only a necessary amount.

  • My complete autobiography would be boring to everyone except my mum, so only the good bits are here.

  • There are, indeed, lots of anecdotal stories about famous people.

  • I believe that the book, read as a whole, gives a pretty good insight into the strange world of showbusiness.



…and, even though I’ve split it into two clear sections (“how-to” type-thing, and “all about my journey” type-thing), there’s no rule as to the order in which you should read it. So, there you have it - this book is just about the right amount of everything you could possibly want to know about real-life extras, and as fast-paced as I could possibly make it without inducing dizziness.


It’s weird being an extra. It’s sort of a job, but not really; it doesn’t feel like work, yet it can be very tiring and require lots of effort; we’re often privy to gossip on celebs, but can’t really do anything with it, so it’s sort of pointless knowing it; we get a bit star struck quite frequently, yet at the same time, realise over and over that the stars are actually pretty normal and not as pretty (or tall) in real life; many of us have absolutely no intention of becoming famous, yet get a rush of excitement when the camera’s right in front of us for a few seconds or, even better, we get to say a word in a television drama; we often complain to each other about being treated badly, yet rave about the fact that we’re extras to anyone who’ll listen..


Lots of paradoxes, and lots of oddities in our world of limbo. Perhaps what fascinates people so much about the concept of extras is that we’re sort of the non-famous, but deeply embedded, elements of the glamorous world of showbiz and there’s a buzz about us. I suppose some might say that we get to have all the fun without the hassle. Ricky Gervais exploited this conundrum to great effect in Extras (BBC). You’ll be hearing more about that later.


I have no gripes with being called an "extra", by the way. Some do, but I don't, so the term will be used, non-disparagingly, a few times in this book. I’ll refer to us as “SA”s mostly though (mainly because reading “extra” a million times over would be irritating and confusing). This stands for “Supporting Artiste”, which is the posh, official name for an extra, and the term that you will see on the agency websites should you decide that you want to be one or fancy having a nosy.


The origins of the term “extra" are something of which to be proud. Back in the days when it was out-of-work actors who fulfilled the passers-by requirements, they would refer to the work as "extra" work. As is the way of the English language, the people doing it became known as "extras", and it stuck.


These days, most actors wouldn't dream of stepping onto a set as a lowly extra! My goodness, no! It's not really their fault; it's an affliction of the industry as a whole, and it's basically trained into actors that they are a more important species than extras. It’s almost a lesson in its own right at the top pedigree acting classes. Fraternising with that lot is a big NO-NO. Being one is an even bigger NO-NO. Those who decide to break this rule (extra work is more fun than promo work, and they have to supplement their acting work income somehow) do so discreetly and use alternative names so as not to upset their "proper” agent/s. Barmy, isn’t it? But, as you'll discover while reading this book, not all actors maintain the air of self-importance that has been bred into them, and it's often the most talented who remain the most down to Earth.


The filming industry has the most incredibly archaic hierarchical system that I have known, and I can't see it changing because it suits the industry to remain that way: what it boils down to is that it’s all about keeping the general public in awe of big stars. Without that awe, there’s nothing special to buy into. It overlaps into crew as well, strangely. To cut a long story short, higher-up crew members don’t lift things.


I’m generalising, of course: my last SA job didn’t have a hint of the above (in fact, they reimbursed my extortionate car park fee, but not that of the crew! Blimey!). However, it doesn’t take long to discover that the British film industry as a whole is set in its hierarchical ways. I always say that, if bizarrely one day I suddenly find myself to be successful and famous, I won’t become one of those people who don’t lift things. I just hope that I don’t get cunningly brainwashed into this state. (It’s such a strange industry that I could believe that film set brainwashing is an established and recognised problem.)


I’ve probably made the industry sound quite unappealing by now (if you’ve read this section, that is, and you probably didn’t read it first anyway). Well, it’s best to enter the industry with your eyes wide open because it’s quite brutal out there. However, I should stress though that, while the industry is deeply flawed, it is also the most dynamic, diverse and exciting of all, and that’s why people (including me) love working in it. It is full of interesting and gifted people. I recommend that anyone considering working in the filming industry at least gives it a go, whether that be via the SA route (probably the easiest way) or working as a runner. You’ll know very quickly whether it’s for you.

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CHAPTER 1, PART 1: SOME TIPS TO HELP YOU NOT GET SCREWED OVER.

Post by Blamhappy on Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:18 pm

SOME TIPS TO HELP YOU NOT GET SCREWED OVER.


Hey, I have a great business proposition for you. Let’s get permission from a bar to hold a recruitment event. We’ll put an advert in the paper saying “Recruiting extras and actors for television and film”. Loads will turn up. We’ll charge each person £97 (it sounds better than £100, doesn't it?) to try to get them work. We don’t actually need to get them any work, do we? After all, it’s common knowledge that actors work about 10% of the time if they’re lucky. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Whoopee.


I don’t want to scare you, but I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t unscrupulous agencies out there hoping to get your money without providing a good service, or a service at all. However, there are generally signs that an agency isn’t right. If they hold recruitment days in public places, they’re not a proper agency. If they claim that they will make you famous, don’t go there (not because you shouldn’t want fame – that’s up to you – but because they won’t achieve that for you). If the bosses seem a bit shifty and unprofessional, don’t touch ‘em with a bargepole. (Hit ’em with it if you like though.)


Quite a few years back, my friend Terry (you’ll hear a bit more about him through the book) saw an advert in his local Hertfordshire paper about a recruitment event for an extras agency. Knowing virtually nothing about the industry at that point, we both toddled along to sign up. As soon as they mentioned £75 up-front, I was out. I was too skint to part with that amount of money, and the man was slurring and slimy when I questioned it. Terry, though, was very keen to get into the industry and handed over the cash. The guys interviewing us were shifty as Hell. Needless to say, Terry got no work from them.


Remember that programme on a little-watched Sky channel about an extras agency? It was called The Casting Suite and featured wannabe extras taking part in auditions. Most of us SAs were too embarrassed to watch it. The uncomfortable thought that people would watch it and believe that this is how the industry works – and worse, sign up to the featured agency - was too much to bear.


People at my work at the time (the office job) exclaimed to me, “Oh, I watched that programme about the work you do! Fascinating!” I had to educate them in the inaccuracies in the programme. I didn’t want people thinking that, on my days off from the office, I was humiliating myself for fun. (Although, there might be some truth to that statement… Hmmm…)


The programme purported to represent what it’s like for a top extras agency sending SAs to auditions. It was wrong on a lot of levels. 1, We don’t audition for SA agencies or for SA work. 2, The agency featured isn’t considered a true SA agency. 3, The legitimate agencies won’t send you to filmed auditions with the sole intention of humiliating you. The Daily Mirror exposed “agency” The Casting Suite in 2009 (http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2009/04/different-namesame-people-the.html). They went bust and probably operate under a new name now.


I could go on because there are lots of things that shouldn’t happen when you apply to the extras agencies, but avoiding the unscrupulous agencies is actually fairly straight forward. The most important tip to remember is that you generally won’t be charged an up-front fee by the legitimate agencies. There are exceptions – the most notable one being Ugly Agency – but if you follow this rule until you understand the industry and have got chatting to other SAs, then you probably won’t go wrong.


(If you do, for some reason, just want to be famous, I’d suggest walking around London nude or hanging out where the Premiership footballers drink late at night.)










NB You might have noticed that this is "Part 1". Although parts 2 and 3 exist, they're not suitable for this blog (they'll be boring!), so I will be skipping to Chapter 2.
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CHAPTER 2: HOW TO SURVIVE AS AN SA. PART 1: RULES TO FOLLOW SO YOU DON'T GET SACKED

Post by Blamhappy on Fri May 18, 2012 9:27 am

RULES TO FOLLOW SO YOU DON'T GET SACKED


You’ve decided to become an SA. (YAY!) So, soon you’ll be self-employed, yet working for very powerful companies. It’s not like holding down any other job; there are certain strange expectations placed upon us, and lots of rules - both official and unofficial - and it is best to try to comply no matter how silly they seem because it’s quite easy to get sacked really. Have you ever heard of an extra taking Warner Brothers to an employment tribunal?


[size=24]SA LEGISLATION TO MEMORISE OR FRAME


1. REMEMBER THAT YOU’RE NOT IMPORTANT.

This rule comes first because it impacts on everything. In fact, throughout this book, you might find me a bit repetitive. Sorry. You’re a human being, so of course you’re important out there in the real world. But this is the filming industry and, when you step onto unit base or set, you’re not. If you bear in mind the whole time that you’re the lowest in the food chain, then you’ll probably be fine. Probably.

The first thing to look out for when you walk into base is the “Crowd dining” bus. If you don’t see that label anywhere, check with someone, because you don’t want to be walking onto the “Crew dining” bus by accident. We’ve all been there and done it, so don’t worry if you mess up once or twice. Just try not to.
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2. BUY A LOUD ALARM. OR TWO.
I hate getting up early, so don’t worry if this is an issue for you because I’ve lasted in the industry despite this affliction. However, you will have to for nearly every SA job you get, so all I’m saying is be prepared to start getting up unnaturally early. Your “call time” (the time you are expected on set) will commonly be 7am. As you will need to give yourself extra time for getting lost (it will happen), I suggest aiming for half an hour to an hour before this. Add on the amount of time needed for getting ready, and the latest you can be expected to be setting your alarm is 5am. Ouch. Yup. Make sure it’s loud.
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3. DON’T BE LATE.
I know we’ve just talked about this, but the “late” issue needs its own entry. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you aren’t late. In fact, aim to be about an hour early. While many ADs are understanding when you turn up all flustered ten minutes post-call time, there are some who, well… aren’t… and will call your agent to report your misconduct. As soon as you’re seen to be misrepresenting the agency, you’re done for. If you’re running late, the official line is call the agency. Most SAs weigh up grassing themselves up (which is essentially what it is, eh?) against taking the risk of getting a nice AD, and decide that the latter’s more appealing. Best thing is to just not be late.
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4. LEARN TO DEAL WITH BOREDOM.
Much of this book might leave you feeling like extra work is the most exciting thing ever! Well, it is when stuff happens. But stuff often doesn’t happen. You might find yourself sitting on a bus all day long – I’m talking 7am to 7pm. I mean, that is unlucky, and won’t happen that often, granted, but a few hours on a bus doing nothing is definitely not unusual. So be prepared – start reading or something. Maybe take up knitting? Or meditation. The ideas are endless, in fact. But just remember that whatever hobby you pick ought not involve carrying anything heavy around because, with most jobs, there’s no parking for extras so you’ll walking and using public transport.
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5. PUT YOUR MOBILE PHONE ON SILENT.
If you’re an SA and your mobile goes off during a take, you could well be threatened with being chucked off the job, and you will at least be ticked off loudly in front of everyone to cause maximum embarrassment. If you’re a crew member, you’ll get a tut, possibly a snigger and possibly a reminder that mobiles should be off. If you’re an actor, everyone will laugh their heads off and the show will go on.

So your relative importance on set determines whether, and how harshly, you will be dealt with when your mobile goes off at the wrong moment. Of course, we all know that it’s always a mistake – that no one aims to ruin a take and embarrass him/herself. Even the ADs know that, but they have to be seen to be incredibly angry that someone should dare to attempt the sabotage of the day’s filming. We’re told not to have the mobile phone on set at all at all because of interference with the sound system, but you’ll find that virtually everyone keeps their mobiles on them, and switched on, but on silent mode to be able to accept jobs between takes. I would advise this approach. Just don’t go taking photos with it.
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6. DON’T TRY TO TALK TO ACTORS, ESPECIALLY REALLY FAMOUS ONES.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I’d suggest this approach until you’re more experienced. The official line is don't talk to them unless they talk to you first. It does depend a bit on the actors and the general mood of the set, though. As you'll read later, Ricky Gervais isn't particularly bothered if you speak to him. Others, meanwhile, would prefer it if you left them to it. I don't like to risk it, so I generally don't talk to any actors. It can be a bit embarrassing at times though, to the point where I wonder if the actors think that we're being snooty towards them.

Once, I was standing in a corridor with Jaye Jacobs (Holby City) and we were in fairly close proximity to each other but she seemed to be half looking at her mobile and she didn't speak, and I thought I'd better not speak just in case. It got more and more awkward and got to the stage where it would be even more even awkward if one of us did suddenly say something. I was running out of things to look at and had to pretend to daydream until, finally, we heard the command “stand by!” Phew!

In all honesty, the ADs are more concerned about us being seen and not heard than the actors are. They get ever so worried that we'll put a foot wrong and they'll have a dissatisfied big star on their hands. A fellow SA once told me that they were all told by an AD not to even make eye contact with Tom Cruise because he doesn't like it, yet when Cruise himself approached a few SAs on set and asked them a question, he was baffled when they reported what they'd been told. So, who made up the rule? Cruise, who then changed his mind, or didn't mind interaction as long as it was on his terms, or the AD, who was concerned that Cruise would be annoyed by SAs attempting to get chummy with him? Who knows? You can understand how and why it happens, but it doesn't make it any less strange.
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7. LEARN HOW THE FOOD WORKS.
Film and TV catering is proper chef-food and is often the highlight of the SA’s day. Unfortunately, we SAs (and sometimes everyone else) have to queue for it outside and we are the lowest priority. What it means is that, even if you get to the front of the queue, you’ll be gradually pushed back by the crew, and it’s a bit like a carrot being dangled in front of a donkey... but you will get the choice of all meal options. So you need to weigh up the pros and cons. If you end up at the back of the queue, you will probably wait around 20 – 40 minutes (obviously depending on how many SAs are employed that day) and they may well have run out of at least one option.

Breakfast is another ball game. What often happens is you queue briefly, collect your yummy hot fry-up, sit down with it, go to insert the first mouthful, and the AD needs you in costume right now. (Then you generally wait outside the Costume truck for ten minutes.) To avoid this, I recommend being extremely early to jobs. (See rule number 3.)

In terms of snacks on set, if you see a box of biscuits, they’re not for you! That is all.
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8. DON’T MOAN AUDIBLY.
You’re standing in the drizzle on a London street outside the set waiting while the crew sets up the next shot. The last shot you were in was exactly the same scene and all you did was sit at a table pretending to drink from an empty cup. The camera is now pointing the other way. You ask the AD if you’re needed (i.e. you might as well sit down in the warm green room while they shoot this bit). The AD says that you need to wait there on the street “just in case” they decide they need you. This continues through the next four set-ups. My advice - bite your tongue from this point onwards. Your logic will be seen as whinging.
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9. TAKE A FEW OPTIONS OF COLOURFUL CLOTHES.
This is a tricky one because different people have different views. When you’re booked on a job, you’re usually told to bring changes of clothes for Costume to inspect and choose from. Some experienced SAs advise not to bother because, if you take options, chances are they’ll use them, and messing around with clothing is a pain because there’s never sufficient room or privacy. However, others who dislike being told off (that’s me) will tell you to always take options because Costume get very upset when you don’t provide them with a choice.

You do often find that you can’t win whatever you do, to be honest. They nearly always say “smart casual”, so if you want to have a chance of not looking silly by bringing unsuitable attire, you have to try to interpret the brief scene description to see what they will actually want. However, interpretation is, by definition, an inexact science. The times when I’ve worked really hard at getting exactly the right look, they’ve changed me into something from their truck because my clothes are no good, and the times when I’ve not bothered, they’ve told me I look perfect. Sigh.


If you remember number 1 only, you should be just about okay. You’re not important.

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CHAPTER 2: HOW TO SURVIVE AS AN SA. PART 2: EXTRA WORK FOR EXTRAS

Post by Blamhappy on Sun May 20, 2012 1:14 pm

PART 2 – EXTRA WORK FOR EXTRAS



I used the word “survive” and not “succeed” in the title of this chapter for a good reason. Unless you’re unusually lucky, you can’t regard SA work as a full time job. In fact, it can’t really be regarded even as a part time job. You can probably expect a day every two to four weeks. (It depends on so many factors - especially how many agencies you’re with - that it’s impossible to say really.) This is becoming increasingly the case.

My friend Terry got lucky – he was asked back to Holby City to do his nursing thing over and over until, eventually, he realised that he was a full-blown regular. The Holby regulars (like the EastEnders ones) are protective of their regular status, and one can’t blame them. It’s their bread and butter. He doesn’t earn a massive amount, but it covers the bills and he enjoys it.

The problem is that the agencies seek people who have lashings of free time and can commit to days (often multiple days), sometimes at the drop of a hat. So, it’s okay if you’re a youngster living at home and being supported financially by your parents, or a pensioner, but what about everyone in between?

Unfortunately, the unions (Equity and BECTU) don’t yield enough power to force the industry into paying sufficient wages and ensuring that production companies employ people fairly. How many times have you seen adverts in newspapers and on websites requesting people to work either for nothing, claiming that it’s a great opportunity to participate in a big film, or for a small amount of money? The truth is, for many people, the opportunity to be in a film is the main draw and they don’t even realise that it’s actually a job to some people.

So, basically, SA work alone can’t pay the bills (unless you’re Terry). So what do you do?




PROMO WORK

It’s become the norm for SAs to have a back-up income from an equally flexible job. The most common form of additional income that you will hear about if you enter the SA world is “promo work”. Promo work involves standing on street corners handing out leaflets, preparing samples of consumable products for members of the public to try, and more interesting brand-awareness activities, such as dressing up in silly costumes to promote products and events. As is the way with extra work, the more exciting forms of promo work are hard to come by, and most newbie promo workers do the standing-on-street-corners lark. If you’re doing it alongside a friend, it’s not too bad, but it can be depressing and demoralising work when you’re alone or working with someone you’ve never met before. No one actually wants these leaflets, after all.

Getting paid can be a bit weird too. With the SA agencies, even though you’re self-employed, they pay you directly into your bank within a week of receiving the funds from the production company. With promo agencies (well, at least the ones that I worked for), you have to invoice them in a set way. I suppose, on the plus side, the delay in payment is a little shorter, but it’s a lot of hassle for a fairly menial job.

I didn’t last long at promo work. I still get calls from the main company I worked for. I always ignore the calls, and yet the voicemails I receive from them indicate that they don’t realise this. I think, basically, you’re just a number; a faceless entity who fulfils a requirement. If you’re willing to get on with it and take on whatever’s offered, you can do well and I expect you do eventually develop a good relationship with the agencies. I met a fellow extra who got so into it that he made good money and ended up setting up his own promo company. So, if it’s your kind of thing, then it can be an excellent way of making money in a flexible job.



Pros
It’s easy; pay’s not bad; you can meet other like-minded people because actors, SAs and models do it to supplement their income
Cons
Demoralising; lonely; boring; lots of talking; can take a while to be paid.




MYSTERY SHOPPING

This job’s more fun (hence this section’s longer), but it’s not really a job at all, so this chapter isn’t getting any better (sorry). Mystery shopping is essentially spying. I hadn’t even considered it this way until recently, when an acquaintance declared that he’d be uncomfortable with such a role on moral grounds. It’s hardly MI5 though.

I was used to the concept of it because, as an employee of JD Wetherspoon, I was a spyee (I made that word up) and, in fact, our (teeny tiny) bonuses depended on performing well when serving mystery shoppers. Of course, the point is that they are mystery shoppers so you don’t know until after the event and have no control of the outcome unless you keep the pub in perfect condition every minute of every day, and serve every customer perfectly. I didn’t particularly like being judged in this way, but it was just a part of the job and we accepted it. We certainly never had anything against the individual doing the mystery shop.

So what is it exactly? Well, companies ask mystery shopping companies to send people (“mystery shoppers”) to use their service and then report back on the level of service. It can be retail outlets, takeaways, pubs, restaurants, gyms… anything that offers some kind of customer service. The mystery shopper is reimbursed for all, or some, of the purchase, and is usually paid a small fee as well. Essentially, it is more of a way of getting freebies.

I became a mystery shopper a few years back after a fellow SA on set told me all about it. I did only a couple of visits back then, and then abandoned it for ages. I’ve recently got back into it and I think I’m becoming addicted. What happens (with the company I work for at least) is that you set up an account with the website. Mystery shops appear on the site and you download the job notes –these are details of what you have to do for the given job. If you like the look of it, you accept the job and are then officially allocated it. Then you do the job and take photos. You return to the site, answer questions (this is the “report”) and upload your photos.

The first few times it seems like more hassle than its worth, but these days I really enjoy it and refresh the page through the day to see what jobs I can sign up for. (That’s what I mean about being addicted.) It can feel like hard slog at times. I recently did four jobs in one day and almost came to regret it when the report for the first one took me an hour to fill in. The fee I received was £5, so was it worth it? Well, I got a freebie out of it, so I guess so.

It can be hard remembering all the details. Some companies want you to remember the following: the exact time you entered the establishment; whether you received an acknowledgement from a member of staff when you entered; the description of said member of staff and whether he/she was in full uniform; what offers were visible on POS around the establishment, and which offers were the most attractive and why; how clean and tidy certain areas were; exactly what was said during any interactions with stuff; how long it took you to be served; how many people were waiting to be served; names of staff if displayed on a name badge or on the till; the exact time you left.

To give an idea of what you can find yourself doing, I’ve recently enquired about Play Station 3 for my non-existent boyfriend; asked for help finding a travel guide for my non-existent cousin’s non-existent gap year trip to Canada; enquired about travel sickness remedies for my non-existent son to take on our non-existent ferry ride to France; and called a stationary company for quotations on supplies for my non-existent company, using fake company contact details. It’s almost as bonkers as extra work, isn’t it?

I mean, it can be a full-on memory test and you do find yourself making some stuff up. On the whole, though, it’s quite good fun, and what I always bear in mind is that these staff are probably on minimum wage, so I always err on the side of positive feedback when I fill in reports.


Pros
It’s fun; you get freebies.
Cons
It’s not really a job - £8.50 is the highest fee I’ve been paid thus far; online reports take ages to complete.



BAR WORK

This, surprisingly, isn’t a job I hear much about from other SAs, but I worked for JD Wetherspoon alongside doing SA work for two years, ten months and found it to be a near-perfect marriage. Wetherspoon really is a strange world and I have a lot of crazy memories. I wouldn’t know where to start with describing it all (that would be a book in itself), but all I will say is that you get very good at turning potentially difficult situations into funny moments. If you don’t, you end up with tense 12-hour-shifts!

Although managers are supposed to draw up rotas three weeks in advance, this is rare (I worked in four different pubs over my time with the company and it didn’t happen in any). You will generally find that you’re committed to only one week’s worth of shifts, and even then, there’s the chance to do shift swaps or get cover from another staff member. Basically, it’s a pretty flexible job. It’s also hard work. And low paid. (Yep, a theme ran through this chapter.)



Pros
It’s confidence-building; you work with lots of nice, sociable people; you serve a lot of crazy people, which makes every day different and interesting.
Cons
It’s hard work; virtually minimum wage unless you’re promoted.





In conclusion, enter the SA world if either A, you’re happy to be skint and you don’t mind doing equally unreliable/flexible and equally low paid jobs or B, you’re a rich person.

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Re: Almost famous

Post by oftenwrong on Sun May 20, 2012 5:44 pm

Blamhappy. EXTRA WORK FOR EXTRAS
As regards the latter, which was shot over an entire weekend in and around Marbella, the Unit's money-man had visited the Casino on Saturday night and blown the lot! As a result, there was nothing for anyone to eat on the Sunday shoot except for lots of chocolate wafers all the way from Britain that had come with the camera equipment. Enthusiasm waned by lunchtime even for delicious Blue Riband chocy-bars not helped by the fact that we locals were prepared with picnic meals of our own.



Accidental edit by Blamhappy:

oftenwrong, I hope you can remember what you typed here... And check PMs.


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Re: Almost famous

Post by Blamhappy on Sun May 20, 2012 11:36 pm

I just clicked "edit" instead of "quote" on oftenwrong's post.

I typed "Haha! Brilliant. Actually, advert shoots are always extremely well catered for. Far too much money is poured into advertising, although they're comparatively low-paying for the extras." in response to oftenwrong's comment on the filming of adverts in Spain.

Oops.
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Re: Almost famous

Post by Shirina on Sun May 20, 2012 11:51 pm

If that happens again, you can always just click the "back" button on your browser. Sorry I couldn't help you sooner but I wasn't at my computer. Crying or Very sad

Don't worry though, just clicking the "edit" button won't actually edit his post. I also think there's a "cancel" button too.

I've accidentally made the same mistake a few times myself.
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Re: Almost famous

Post by Blamhappy on Sun May 20, 2012 11:55 pm

I didn't notice until I'd done it, and then I panicked!

I have fixed it in terms of the bit I typed, but his second paragraph - the bit to which I was responding - is gone forever. Oops! I feel a bit guilty but I hope oftenwrong sees the funny side.

I can't help being a ditz Embarassed
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Re: Almost famous

Post by Shirina on Mon May 21, 2012 12:00 am

LOL! Don't worry. I'm sure OW will understand. Accidents happen. Very Happy
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Re: Almost famous

Post by Blamhappy on Mon May 21, 2012 12:07 am

Shirina wrote:
Don't worry though, just clicking the "edit" button won't actually edit his post.

(I just nearly did it again, this time to your post! Agghhhrrr!)

No, but you see, because I didn't know I'd clicked "edit", I deleted the bits I didn't want to quote and then typed my reply. It wasn't until I'd clicked "post" and seen it that I realised what I'd done! I really hope I don't do it again. I think clicking the button is an autopilot action and my brain doesn't take into account that there's an extra button there now.

Ah well, anyway... Sorted now... kind of.
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Re: Almost famous

Post by oftenwrong on Mon May 21, 2012 7:32 am

Cutting Edge has been deprived of my deathless prose. Gloria was sick on the train last Monday
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Re: Almost famous

Post by Blamhappy on Mon May 21, 2012 11:17 am

LOL

I just realised that what I said doesn't make sense. I should have been deleting the first paragraph, not the second. I totally messed up. Oh dear. Baby brain?

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Feedback on 'Almost Famous'

Post by astra on Mon May 21, 2012 1:48 pm

Careful Blamhappy, you'll be joining us with our "Senior Moments!!"

Very Happy Shocked
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CHAPTER 5: FUN FACTS

Post by Blamhappy on Sun Jul 08, 2012 12:41 pm


CHAPTER 5

SA FUN-FACTS



• Even though you’ll often see the same actors popping up in a drama as different characters, there are strict rules on the time lapse between stints on certain programmes. For example, six weeks is the minimum time allowed between stints as a Holby City patient (you, know, the ones who lie in beds unnoticed and unrecognisable) because it wouldn’t be realistic to have the same patient returning or the same SA playing different patients.

• There are five topics of conversation that always come up on the dining bus: 1, where you came from to get there today, 2, what time lunch is, 3, what time wrap will probably be, 4, how many agencies you are with, 5, whether SA work is your only job.

• There is a group of fans in Bristol who get together each week to score the Holby City nursey SAs. There was a feature on them once on Points of View (BBC).

• You will need a sat nav and an A-Z. Luckily, most productions make use of “unit signs” (those luminous, arrow-shaped, signs with nondescript bits of text on them that you see on posts and roundabouts), but you’ll still need some kind of system to help you’ll find places because you’ll be sent all over the world (ish), often in obscure middle-of-nowhere locations. Great fun finding ‘em!

• We extras are self-employed and had to register with the Inland Revenue as such within three months of starting work (for me, that was November 2004). A lot of our expenses are tax deductible. Union membership, agency “book” fees, car fuel, some self-grooming expenses (e.g. hair cuts), and anything we use for our work, can be entered in the “expenses” box on the tax return. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a rebate of some of the tax you’ve paid through PAYE.

• When you tell people you do extra work, they’ll frown and ask what that means. When you say you’re in the background of TV and films, they’ll get extremely excited and ask what you’ve been in. At that point you’ll go blank. Then, once you get into it, the titles will start flowing. Then they’ll cut you off and want to know who you’ve met. And you’ll go blank again.

• If you ever get asked to use your car in a film, driving will suddenly feel like a new skill and you’ll get all nervous doing a simple thing like driving 20 metres and pulling up next to a curb.
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CHAPTER 6 - THE PRE-SA DAYS - SEEKING FAME.

Post by Blamhappy on Sun Jul 08, 2012 12:58 pm

PART 1 - MY ATTEMPTS AT BECOMING A CHILD STAR


Let me get something straight before I say anything else: I don’t seek fame anymore! In fact, one of the things you’d hear me say relatively frequently if you hung around with me is “I wouldn’t wish fame on anyone.” I see it more of a curse and a punishment than a blessing. I think what tends to happen is there are so many attractive aspects of fame that people seek it and then find that they can’t quite find the urge to shake it once they have it, even if it brings with it so many horrible side effects. It’s a drug, basically. If I were to become famous now, I probably would end up clinging to it to some extent, even though I don’t particularly want it.


But, as the title of this chapter suggests, there was a time when I thought it would be great fun to be famous, and I was pretty convinced that it would happen too. Funny thing was, this all came from me. My parents have never shown any inclination towards showbiz or fame – in fact, my mum positively tried to sway my thoughts away from it, believing that it was far too brutal for a nice girl like me. My sister never developed the urge, talented at acting though she was (“A” for drama, I believe). The first time I decided that I wanted to do something in showbusiness was straight after watching “Home Alone” at the cinema with my family. We arrived home and decided that I wanted to do what Macaulay Culkin does. So I pestered my mum sporadically, and loudly, for months about joining a drama school. (With Guides and Gymnastics classes, and constructive hobbies like that, there was no issue whatsoever, but Mum was slightly more reluctant with this particular and sudden interest of mine. She’s wise.)


Eventually, she relented and sent me off to Greasepaint. I lasted about a year there I think. I don’t remember it terribly well – I was only about 11 at the time, so we’re going back 20 years or so – but I do remember that I quickly built a reputation for being whatever the 1990s equivalent of “ditzy” was. In fact, it was probably the first time that I realised this was my overriding trait. Not an awful lot went on at Greasepaint. It was very much a place to build self-awareness and theatrical skills. What I was really after was something that felt a bit more showbiz.


I kept hearing about a drama school called Boden’s. Some children from my school went there, and some got into Grange Hill (BBC) through it. Wahey! So, I went back to pestering my mum and she sent me there. I didn’t even tell Greasepaint that I was leaving – I wasn’t the most organised or streetwise of people, and it didn’t occur to me that I ought to tell the drama school that I wouldn’t be returning for the new term. They told me off a bit for it, and I felt guilty, but I soon got over it. The late and great Tony Boden was in charge of my class, which was the teenage class. I was only just a teenager, so I was surrounded by proper grown ups, and it was fairly intimidating. I also looked like a total geek with zero fashion sense and a full set of braces. Luckily, it was mostly blokes, and blokes don’t care.


It was a fantastic experience for me. Suddenly, I began to grow in confidence. It almost happened over night. As opposed to drama class at school, where it was possible to pale into the background, in Tony’s class, we were pretty much forced to have our moments in the spotlight. Others in my class talked about their various jobs on TV and I pretended to take it all in my stride. Inside, of course, I was incredibly impressed and increasingly excitable about the prospect of being on TV. We did sessions with video cameras. We had to make short films, interview each other, present skits to the class. We covered pretty much everything, and it was all geared to TV. I felt at home at Boden’s even though I was the most unlikely celebrity going!


Then I was invited to join the Boden Agency – well, everyone was; it was how Boden’s made their money. I think I managed to be invited to four auditions in the three years that I was with the agency. (I really did look geeky.) There were a couple of commercials (one of which I won a part in - discussed later), Grange Hill and Boot Street Band. For Grange Hill, it was purely a line-up for the choosing of extras. It ought to have been easy to win that “part”, but I was lumped in with kids who barely reached my belly button because I couldn’t make the audition for my age group. I looked a bit ridiculous, truth be told.


Then came the bit in said audition where we got the chance to make our mark. The lady asked us as a group what we wanted to do when we were older. I just wanted to speak and be noticed, and the first thing that popped into my head was, “I want to be a nursery nurse!” The response “Really?”, paired with a frown, told me that what I’d just said was the wrong answer. Very cringey. The other kids interjected the brief awkward silence with cries of “I want to be an actor!” and then one kid declared that his older brother was already in the show. She quite liked their responses. Her frown disappeared as soon as she looked away from me.


So, I didn’t get to be in Grange Hill. A girl from my year at school did. Dominique Pike. She played the leader of the football team during the storyline in which the girls were pushing for equal rights. I was a tiny bit jealous.


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