Extra Challenge

Written by Virginia Waters |
Published on:
I was raised in isolation. This left me with a block, when performing complex tasks amongst many people. Always striving to become more complete; I hit upon working as a film extra to overcome this. This story underscores the familiar advice: be careful what you wish for --- I was one of six chosen by a lovely casting director to do a small stunt on a horror comedy show. So exciting! Couldn't sleep. We were sent to the stunt co-ordinator. To make sure we could fall over from a kneeling position. Yep -all good! The scene was an hallucination of a main character – we were heavily veiled and slitting our throats! As an extra, you are the lowest of the low and get told nothing. Just, sit, wait, wait – hurry! I practised at home: kneeling covered in a heavy curtain; drawing the knife across quickly and falling to side. Would it be through the veil or lifting it up? We were 3 days filming the whole funeral scene, and the stunt was on final day. For those days I was constantly told; no you're not one of the throat slitter's – you are just kneeling in blood – by wardrobe, make-up etc. Yes, you get a veil, that's all. Much smirking and looking down noses. Well, that didn't seem right – so I shut up. Why get sent to stunt gym? Finally, its the third day. All day we wait. Wardrobe people were pedantically fussing over keeping us clean. Must have robes over our white tops while eating!! We get our ghoul make-up done after lunch. Lunch is always fabulously tasty on this set. Wait – wait - . Getting tired, bored, sluggish. Excitement has passed. After three 12 hour days; getting up at 5am, slump time has hit. At last. 4.30p.m. Nearly wrap time when we are herded to the set. Immediately we get given sloppy sauced hot dogs, dripping onions for afternoon tea. Not a robe in sight! My nerves are up and energy down so I take one. Slurpp! Splatt! Sauce all over fingers, drips onto suit skirt I have managed to keep clean for 3 days. There is a piece of onion stuck in front teeth. This is when the AD (assistant director a.k.a extra herder) yells “O.K. In you go” As a left hander I had been pro-active, warning the director I needed to cut and fall to the left! As we scuttled onto the set, the other older lady chosen tells the director “ I have a hip replacement – I can only fall to the left” His face falls, he looks at me. “ I can try to fall right” I offer. End of day and he has to rethink whole shot. He wanted two woman in veils at the front. One each side of aisle. The rest were men! Lightening fast he's got a solution. We'll do them indivually, then cut together. Mrs Hip Replacement goes first. She was a known throat cutter with an awesome prosthetic neck cut, in place for hours. She does well, in one take but no falling over now – 'bugger' just throat slit. Now my turn. Yep! You got it no pool of blood to kneel in. Though I did get a piece of foam for knees. Director “Let's hurry it up – 10minutes to time” Great! I'm somewhere in this size 18 suit (I'm actually a size 12), can't see my hands. I know there can only be 2 takes as that's all the blouse changes there are. Suddenly, there's director over my shoulder, top cameraman 2 feet away, right in my eyeline. There's a blood prop guy handing me this huge curved serrated dagger. Dagger is connected to a clear tube that is in turn connected to a pump – connected to blood prop guy! He's giving me rapid instructions. Don't it drop down, hold here so the 'blood' doesn't release too soon! Of course I have to do it right-handed, and there's too much suit in the way. And it's heavy – actually that's the tubing dragging. There's another guy directly in front of me with a blower. (Same as I use for tidying paths) Add in: AD's, real stunties, other crew, extra's and production on monitors. Oh yeah this is the challenge. So, I'm still getting advice – mind is so fuzzed. I lift the dagger – it drags. Blood prop guy asks “ Shall I pin it to your jacket?” “Yes please” ACTION! I lift the dagger and tube etc to ear and move it – oh oh no no - It's stuck! So to release I move it forward - CUT! That's no good we could see your neck. Only one more take. Oh no I'm going to be the only one who can't do it. Pink elephants flood my mind -panic hazes in. All my prop guys are giving advice – hold it so – feel your neck with your thumb- Of course they havn't realised the real problem. I wore my best Zumi handcrafted silver long dangly feather earrings, also SERRATED. Serrated dagger tangles in serrated earrings. By now I've aquired another bloke in front of me, also giving advice. The blower isn't lifting the veil enough. New bloke's job is to wave the veil up and down. If I wasn't so stressed, terrified and panicking, I would have been rolling around laughing til tears came. So – deep breath – thought - “ only take left – if it gets stuck again I'm just going to rip earring out” Managed to block out all helpful tips from blower, waver, and blood guys. I'm even holding the dagger at the right level and ACTION Dagger up and across and CUT. Crys hit my ears “That looked amazing – you cut your throat from ear to ear” Big grin and thumbs up from real stuntie. My casting director is smiling hugely and gives me big hug. I am so relieved, I mime wiping my brow, ,giving a sickly grin while being hauled off to be deblooded.
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Author: Virginia Waters
Hi, I'm a being who has always relished words. Devouring at least 1 book per day all my life. After escaping many traumatic life experiences - I found healing relief in writing, mainly poetry. Had a varied and interesting working life, including retail, counselling, soft furnishings, landscape gardening, film extra, healer.


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