My experiences as an extra in the Chicago film and television industry
When I took some time off from teaching, I needed something to do. Something interesting. Something fun. And definitely not something ordinary. A friend told me about her work as a background actor (extra) and I thought I'd give it a try. Now, a few months later, I am starting to have experiences that I want to remember. I also want to give advice to and receive advice from others who are also in this industry. I'm still pretty new so you'll be learning along with me.
I was starting to wonder why I haven’t been called for the new season of Chicago Med yet. I have applied and applied and nothing. Well guess what, the phone number I gave them was incorrect. Just a little typo but I had been copying and pasting the same info. Luckily, Bre from Joan Philo Casting sent me an email today to tell me she hadn’t been able to get a hold of me. Duh! I can’t believe myself. So lesson learned background friends. If you want the job, make sure you give the right phone number!
I am happy to report that I will be working this Wednesday as a PICU nurse!
Hey there! Time for an update. Had a great experience on an American Greed shoot yesterday that I just had to tell you about.
To be honest, I have never really watched this show but must have seen it in passing because I had a good idea what it was. But now that I’ve worked on it, I for sure will be watching. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a CNBC show narrated by Stacy Keach. Check out their website by clicking here.
This episode was about Warren and Lyle Jeffs, those polygamist cult guys. I must say, it was pretty creepy playing an FLDS faithful wife. I remember all of that happening in the news but never really paid too much attention. So I was kind of in awe, and not in a good way, about all these two brothers did. You can see in the picture above all of the faithful wives I worked with.
Other than it being a slimy subject to film, it sure was a great day. The shoot was out in the suburbs, close to my house, so no traffic issues getting there. There were only a small number of extras and actors so we had all kinds of personal attention. I met new friends and worked with some previous ones. The producer, Heidi, was super nice and even hugged me when I left. Uhm, that never happens to a background actor! But yes, she couldn’t have been more accommodating. We didn’t arrive until 11 am and were told we would be out by 2 pm. Usually, I have no idea how long of a day I will have so it was awesome knowing it would be a short day. But then, I was having a good time and they needed two of the wives to stay a bit longer. I’m sure you can guess that I, of course, volunteered along with my new friend Lisa. Take a look at our picture here on our diet coke break. And guess what, we still wrapped at 4 pm. So definitely an easy day!
Two weeks ago I worked a commercial with this guy, Bob. And here he was on this shoot too! We filmed a commercial at the Gary, Indiana airport. This small airport is no longer being used for passenger flights which is why the gate could be used for filming. The commercial was for a meditation app. Basically, the flight was delayed and this guy was sitting between one guy sneezing all over him on one side and a grandma loudly face timing her grand baby on the other side. The ten or so extras that were there were busily occupied behind and around the scene. Bob and I had to pretend to run into each other and we had that choreography down pretty well indeed. Then, the guy puts in his ear buds and turns on the app and, magically, we all disappear.
You would be surprised if you knew how long it takes to shoot one 30 second commercial. We arrived at 7 am and didn’t leave until 4 pm. And of course that is the worse possible time to leave that location on a Friday afternoon to return to the northwest suburbs. It had taken me about 50 minutes to drive there and took me over two hours to drive home. Yuck! But that was also a fun work day so my last two jobs in the background have been very positive. I love it!
If you’ve followed this blog, you might remember how upset I was when I wrote this post. I thought I had a short term teaching job covering a maternity leave and it didn’t happen due to the reason of which I am no longer speaking. Well, guess what. I had totally given up on returning to teaching at all, short term or long term. Then I received a call and long story short, I will be working at St. Patrick Catholic High School teaching levels one through four French starting in August. I had kind of thought maybe God was telling me it was time for me to move on to something else beside teaching. Now I’m not so sure. One positive thing, since I will be at a Catholic school, I will be able to profess my faith freely and it won’t be politically incorrect. Amen to that!
It is still a short term gig but I think it will be perfect for me to see whether or not I want to continue my teaching career. I may decide to continue what I’m doing now; working in the background and freelance writing. My freelance business is doing well and I am beginning to make some good money. We’ll have to wait and see what the future brings. But I have to say I am very happy to at least have a chance to change the end of my teaching career to something more positive than what happened to end my last job.
I am a bit sad to be out of the background for a couple of months this fall. I am really going to miss it. I don’t know what it is but once you start doing this, it’s addictive. Maybe it’s the food. I always eat way too well when working in the background. Right now, I’m waiting to hear if I’ll be booked for one of the Chicago shows which begin filming next week. I thought maybe not because I haven’t heard anything but neither had the people I worked with yesterday so I think they just haven’t scheduled all of the background yet. I don’t want to miss the next few weeks because I’ll be busy once school starts!
Thanks for reading about my American Greed shoot, my airport commercial shoot, and my exciting new teaching news. I’ll see you next time–in the background!
Hey there everyone! I have been so busy with my new freelance writing career that I haven’t had a ton of time to write about my life in the background. So I am taking a few minutes to tell you about a couple of recent experiences this summertime as an extra. If you happen to know anyone looking for a content and copy writer, check out my profile on Upwork. If you want to work as an extra, you are going to need an additional source of income and this is mine.
Summertime as an Extra
To be honest, things are kind of slow right now. Many shows are on summer hiatus. This means there are a lot of extras competing for a limited number of jobs. Luckily, I have worked a couple of times in the past two weeks and have had some great experiences.
The first one was working on an overnight shoot for Utopia, the upcoming Amazon series I talked about before in this post. I was wary about working all night for sure. But you know what? It ended up being a really good experience. The director and assistant
director were awesome to work with. They consistently told us not only what to do, but why we were doing it. For example, they were very clear on what our motivation was supposed to be during the scene. Not only that, but they were super complimentary and kept telling us how important we were for the scene. It’s great receiving that recognition because it doesn’t always happen. Thanks 4 Star Casting for scheduling me for this valuable experience. I am a night owl and hence, am never up to see the sun rise. But as I was driving home watching the beautiful colors of the sun coming up, I had a smile on my face as I thought about my excellent night.
In The Movies
I was lucky that Extraordinary Casting cast me for a movie scene. There were only nine extras this evening and I love it when the background group is so small. It was a fun night talking with some friends I had previously worked with. The night itself was super easy. All I did was sit on a bus the whole time from 4:00 pm until 10:00 pm. Even our holding was on this nice comfy coach bus since there were only nine of us. We had plenty of room to spread out. The scene with a famous actor, don’t think I can say yet who, was also on the bus. All we did was ride around while they were filming. It was pretty easy money, that’s for sure. Finished a lot of my current novel too as we could read while filming.
So that’s about it lately. Hopefully, I’ll become a bit busier in the summertime as an extra. Shows will begin filming again next month and there are some new projects coming to Chicago so stay tuned. Hope to see you soon in the background!
Wow! It’s been a while. I’ve been neglecting my blog lately. But here I am, back with pictures from the Proven Innocent Jury plus Redline Dancing pictures. I have to say, it’s pretty fun seeing yourself on TV. I’m wearing three or four different outfits because the trial was supposed to be taking place over a few days. Actually, we did it in two separate days. Do you see Sam, sitting in the jury box right in front of me? Or check out this picture with my friend Marla in the front row. I wrote about both of
them when we were filming this episode. You can see that post by clicking here. This is also when I was lucky enough to work with my Bama Mom friend, Ana. So here are some more pics from my jury duty!
Now, let’s get to Redline. Redline airs two episodes each week and in episode 2, you can find me dancing away. This is the time when I had to go to wardrobe the day before and they dressed me in a long gold dress. You can also read about that job by clicking the link in the previous paragraph. Did you know that
when you see people dancing on TV, there is probably not any music playing? Nope, they give you a few seconds of the song and then turn it off. It’s kind of weird dancing with out music but I am such a crazy wild dancer and I will dance anywhere, any time. I just love to dance. They add in the soundtrack later. It’s pretty cool. Sorry for the bad photo. I’m just not great at getting good screen shots. I’m trying though so hopefully will improve soon. At the end of the gala, you can find me again with my
friend Ahnree. We sure didn’t get much screen time with the amount they were filming us but you can see us if you really look.
Since the last time I wrote, I’ve done a few more things. I’ve worked on Utopia, a new show for Amazon starring John Cusack. The first time I worked as an extra but the second time I worked as a stand it. Stand ins are paid a little more and are also considered part of the crew so the benefits that come with that are pretty nice. When the crew is setting up the lighting, camera angles, etc., they need someone about the same size and coloring as the main actress to stand in for her. Literally, all you do is stand around the set all day and when they call, “second team,” you get over there and remain still in the actresses’ position. How did I like it? Hmmm, well I think the stand ins are definitely better treated than the extras but I like the work of being an extra better. But if the opportunity comes up, I sure will do it again.
I should be working again soon for Utopia but most of the shows are on hiatus now so there won’t be a whole lot of time in the background for me. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date. One last thing. A very special lady I know who reads this blog is going on her first audition tomorrow for a commercial. I won’t say who because I don’t want to embarrass her but I do want her to know I’m thinking of her and wish her the absolute best. Love you!
See you next time my friends! Thanks for reading my Proven Innocent Jury plus Redline Dancing post. The Finale episode of Chicago Med aired last night. I haven’t watched it yet but hopefully, I’ll get another glimpse of myself in the background!
Have I talked about how I really, really wanted to play a nurse on the actual hospital set of Med? Well, finally, on the season Finale of Chicago Med I did. And it was the very last day of filming for the season too so I made it just in time.
Nurse on Med
I’ve played a nurse before but on Chicago PD, not Med. So when I found out they wanted me for a two day booking on Chicago Med as a PICU nurse, I was pretty excited. I really wanted to be on the emergency room set but this was the next best thing. I was booked for a Friday and a Monday, the last day of filming for the season.
So on the Friday, guess what, we weren’t in the PICU but the Atrium. I’ve already been in the atrium (that’s the set with the loud steps I previously wrote about) and I was bummed because it wasn’t an inside hospital set. They sure did keep us busy however. My Apple watch said that I completed 15,721 steps for a distance of 6.93 miles and also 16 flights of stairs. Definitely worked hard that day. Which I love because time flies when you’re occupied and busy.
Then Monday came and our call time was 11:30 for this season finale of Chicago Med. I began my day with these awesome tacos. Sometimes the food is just so good I wonder if that’s part of the reason I love doing this work. And then guess what, we were off to the PICU and I was finally on a real inside hospital set. Yay!!!!! It’s about time. And with it being the absolute last day of filming for the season, it was also my last chance. I was quite a happy camper after that day.
Season Finale of Chicago Med
I worked eight days this season on Chicago Med, more than any other show I’ve worked on. To tell the truth, I was a little sad when we were wrapped this last Monday. But it won’t be long. If I remember correctly, Mom and I worked the first episode of the season last July so it will only be about three months or so before I can work again on this show. Since hospital shows are my favorite things to watch on TV, I really do want to spend more time in the background of Chicago Med.
It’s about time I updated this blog about my background experiences. I think I’ve been a little down lately and not in the mood to write. But here I am, ready to work and ready for my close up.
I recently had my third booking for Mixtape. This was originally a pilot for Fox and Netflix picked it up. Click here to see a video about this. Out of my three bookings for this show, I’ve only really liked one of them. That was the one I wrote about where I was in the conference room. This last one had us meeting in a parking lot and then going to a restaurant. It was a 4:30 pm call time which I do like because I am kind of a night owl. But my evening did not start out very well at all.
As I was turning in to the parking lot, I hit a curb pretty hard and blew out my tire. Well, actually my mom’s tire as I was borrowing her car. My husband had to fight rush hour traffic to come and put on the spare and he was not happy about it at all. So I was already upset about it but this made it even more upsetting. Ugh!
They took some extras over to the restaurant but left a few of us in the parking lot with a production assistant and someone from the casting agency. There were trucks with bathrooms and changing rooms but still, we were in a parking lot. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you just never know what you’ll get so be prepared for anything. Finally, after three hours or so, they took us over and I was used for one scene. Yes, only one and it was with my back to the action. So not really very fun.
Another thing that kind of annoyed me was that I was told to bring outfits for an upscale, business like, after work type of restaurant/bar. Since I’ve been on this show before, I know that they’re particular about wardrobe so I brought a ton of options. But no, we get there and find out it’s a barbecue place and very casual–the kind where you order at the counter and the food comes out in those red plastic baskets. So my choices really didn’t fit the location at all. Gathering and packing all of your clothes for a booking can be kind of a pain as you’re never sure what they are going to want. I try and be super prepared because I don’t want to be that extra, the one who shows up with nothing good. Most of the time, I have found that they like my first choice that I am already wearing but I’ve had to change quite often as well. So it’s important to bring great options.
I hope I haven’t discouraged you from trying to be an extra. While this booking was not the best, some of them are just so fun that it makes it worth it. And that’s just life in the background.
Hey there background friends. I have good news and bad news. First let’s go with the good news. I received some major screen time on episode 7 of Proven Innocent. Click here for a link to check out this video! It was pretty awesome seeing more than a fleeting image of myself on TV. The only sad part is that I also worked with my mom that day but I couldn’t find her in the episode. How about you Mom? Did you see yourself? I truly looked but maybe my fascination with seeing myself caused me to miss it. Anyway, it was such a fun thing when I saw how much time I was on screen. If you haven’t checked out Proven Innocent on Fox, please do. You won’t see me again until episode 13 when I am on the jury.
And Now Major Bad News
I guess I won’t be taking a break from background work for the next two months as that job I told you about last time fell through. Yep, it’s true. I had a great interview with the principal and the job was mine as soon as he checked my references. Knowing my references were great, I thought it was a sure thing. But nothing in this life is a sure thing, my friends. I guess the superintendent of the school district did not feel comfortable with hiring me due to the false accusation I told you about before. This situation is going to haunt me forever it seems. If you click here, you can read a letter I wrote to this superintendent. I know it won’t get me the job but maybe she will realize the impact her decision has had on me. I even asked her for advice. I am pretty sure I will never receive a response but if I do, you will be the first to know.
I’m sad. I am very sad about this whole thing. I’m still hanging in there and having faith that God will show me the way. Maybe it is time for my teaching career to be over. Maybe my talents are needed somewhere else. Who knows? But, in all honesty, my faith is wavering today and I ask for your prayers in helping me recover from this recent set back. Looking on the bright side, if I have to be sad, it might as well be as fun of a place as is Key West. With this view from my balcony, it’s hard to not notice God’s wondrous world.