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Step Rowe

To Be or Not To Be . . . An Extra!
by Step Rowe

May 2000

This month, I thought I'd touch on an interesting dilemna. In the spirit of the "Desperado" column, I assume you're reading this with an open mind about the kind of work that is "worthy" of your talent. Should you be an extra or not? After all, what kind of acting is really required? I didn't obtain a theatre degree from a respected university and train for 3/4 of my life to use my instrument for merely filling space with color and levels, right? Well, I won't actually answer that question for you. I'll just share a true story and let you take what you will from the information.

A Houston talent agency sent one of their own to Austin to audition for a Budweiser industrial. It was a long commute for someone who was only going to be booked as an extra. Ah, but the hook was that about 1/2 of the extras booked would end up working as a principal. Decision time. Are you "desperate" enough to take the chance? This actor did, and was called to be an extra.

The first day on the set, it was the same old situation: "wear this god-awful thing, and fill that space over there." The extra worked a six hour day and didn't get upgraded! In fact, only one person did. Bummer. I guess that was a bad decision.

The extra was needed a second day on the same shoot, but at a different location. Was it a wise decision to go back? Many people didn't come back. It just wasn't worth it. But this talent was still learning, and decided to try again -- at least for the experience. The second day on the set was a blast! Besides being incredibly fun, the talent was upgraded, spent most of the morning in a prime shot, and got two paychecks -- one for the extra work, another for the difference between extra and principal. Not only was the money a plus, but the contacts and the impressions made that day are still paying off.

If there is one thing I will give my opinion on it is the following:

Treat absolutely everyone on a set with the utmost respect, whether you are a principal, featured, or even a lowly extra. People will remember the impression you make.

Make contacts with people you encounter -- and not just other talent!!!! Get to know Austin crew members. If they are good, chances are they are working most of the projects in town. Get to know the jobs people perform on a set.

Be nice to everyone! But do not ever get in the way of someone working. A chatty actor is not usually remembered fondly. And you want to be remembered fondly. After all, you never know who might have been on a set today, and may be in a position to hire you tomorrow!

- Step

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This month, Step had the pleasure of meeting new people and renewing contact with industry professionals during recent shoots for a Tracy Byrd Video and a Sea World Commercial.

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