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Back to One

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A look into what it takes to become a background extra on screen, which could be your foray into the big league.

Synopsis

Ever had a friend asked that famous question: How do I become an Extra in Movies? This book is going to show you HOW! For Thousands beginning their journey in Hollywood, Background work as an extra has been a gateway into the industry for decades. Go beyond the basic do's and don'ts with actor Kevin Marshall Pinkney as he breakdowns the function of each particular background role, who's who on set, and the double standard of behavior between background and crew; plus some stealth secrets on how to upgrade yourself after you book your first project.

You must have read many books on how to become a star or how to bag the lead role in your favorite director’s film. This book is definitely not one of those. This book takes you in the opposite direction and gives you an inside look at how important it is to be a background performer and how you can become one.


Now, everyone wants to be the star, the protagonist, the one whose picture is on the poster and gets billed with the rest of the stellar cast. But a movie/feature is not made up of only one “star”. There are innumerable background stars and unsung protagonists who make the magic happen.


Back to One is filled with useful information about the kinds of background work, types of performers, the crew, the requirements, and tips and tricks to becoming a performer in your own right. The author provides ample examples of the work that background performers do and how important they are to making a feature more realistic.


The advice is not restricted to movies and television alone. There are also tips for commercials, talk shows, game shows, and other forms of entertainment that seek background performers.


If you aren’t serious about acting as a full-time profession and just want to test the waters, this is the perfect book for you. And even if you are looking to become the next Meryl Streep or Leonard DiCaprio, this book is a great first step.


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I got into reading quite late, but now I'm hooked on for life. I read to be happy and I write to be happy because, for me, happiness is books.

Synopsis

Ever had a friend asked that famous question: How do I become an Extra in Movies? This book is going to show you HOW! For Thousands beginning their journey in Hollywood, Background work as an extra has been a gateway into the industry for decades. Go beyond the basic do's and don'ts with actor Kevin Marshall Pinkney as he breakdowns the function of each particular background role, who's who on set, and the double standard of behavior between background and crew; plus some stealth secrets on how to upgrade yourself after you book your first project.

The Actions of Background Work

In a scene as a background actor, you’re not left to your own devices and improvisation. You will be given instruction and blocking by either Production Assistants (PAs), an Assistant Director (AD), or the Director. Your directions will help give the scene life, authenticity, or dramatic effect. Sometimes the action you’re given will relate to the role you’re playing or the “type” your aligned with. Don’t deviate from the action you’re given just because you feel it’s boring. If you are physically unable to do an action, say so. Any potentially uncomfortable actions…we’ll cover those in a later section. Let’s look at the most common types of direction/blocking you’re likely to be given. The Cross We need to feel like our main characters are in busy public places—a street corner, a train station, or a high school. But we want to focus on them, not the horde behind them. To create and control this, production will move extras in a series of crosses within the camera frame. The timing is designed to create an even flow of people. You could be by yourself, with another person, or in a group. Usually there is an intention and a specific place you are going. Wait for production to give you a cue on when to cross. Sometimes, to give the scene a busier look, you’ll cross again in the opposite direction. This is a cheat, making 20 extras look like 100. EXAMPLE: “The Pursuit of Happyness” (Sony) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZZnBoruCik

The Interaction Sometimes the cross you make is with the intention to land somewhere to talk to somebody. This could be a friend, loved one, co-worker, or consumer encounter (buying from a merchant). The interaction may be brief—you stop, encounter, then continue moving—or it could be detailed and involved with each beat directed. Any interaction you have must be done in PANTOMIME-moving your lips without speaking. Sound is very sensitive, and we have to hear the dialogue of the principal actors. Background noise such as chatter, street life, music, is added later in post-production via looping actors.

EXAMPLE: “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Paramount) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM6exo00T5I

The Reaction Mostly in comedy, action, and horror genres. You react to something a principal actor has said or done, or to something happening on set or imagined via greenscreen. Depending on the scene, it can be subtle or melodramatic (everybody stops at once). This could be your time to shine if the shots ask for single coverage of everyone’s individual reaction.

EXAMPLES: “When Harry Met Sally” (Columbia) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdJm3DVg3EM

“My Best Friend’s Wedding” (Sony Pictures) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlB-BbWBzd8

About the author

Kevin went on to study at the University of Southern California for Theatre & Cinema-Television business. He has dozens of background & stand-in credits, over 20 principal credits, and over 20 below-the-line production credits including the Academy Awards and the primetime Emmys. Kevin lives in ATL view profile

Published on December 29, 2019

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10000 words

Genre: Career Guides

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