I'm sure you're just dying to know all about my evening as an extra a Hollywood film currently shooting in Prague.
Here we go.
4.30 p.m. I arrive at Zličín subway station. The casting agent has informed me that a guy named Dvořák will come get me and take me to the set. I wait outside the station for 10 minutes but there is no sign of him.
4:40 There are several other extras waiting by now.
4:45 A bus pulls up.
4:50 Dvořák has arrived - from out of nowhere it seems, or maybe he got off that bus when I wasn't looking. He's talking to someone on his mobile phone.
4:55 Me and the other extras pile on the bus. There are a couple of good looking girls, late teens, early twenties. I guess they will be used as background prostitutes. The rest of the group, including me, look kind of down and out. I guess we'll be playing down and outers.
5:00 The bus is not going anywhere. Dvořák is outside talking on his mobile again.
5:05 The last extra arrives. I can't say for certain, but it looks like he's been drinking. The bus gets going.
5:20 We arrive on location, which is somewhere on the outskirts of Prague.
5:30 First stop is the costume department. I have been classified as a "special extra". I have no idea what makes me so special, but I will be getting 900 crowns for the night, instead of the 600 that the regular extras are making.
5:45 I am being costumed. I have on some old woolen pants and a drab cotton jersey over that. I'm wearing suspenders. They give me a dark green jacket to put on. The tag on the hanger says "worker". I have no idea what my job is.
5:50 Three costume ladies are all trying to find a suitable hat for me to wear. Half a dozen hats that they have me try on are too small. I haven't even done any acting yet, and I already have a big head.
5:55 They find a hat for me.
6:00 I go upstairs to hair and make - up and sit down to wait my turn, even though two of the four make-up people aren't making anybody up.
6:20 The key make-up guy tells me that my scene won't be up until after dinner, so i should come back around nine. Eeegads, that's in three hours! What am I going to do until then?
6:25 After looking at myself in the mirror for five minutes I wander outside. A number of other extras are sitting in chairs or lolling around on the grass, looking very impoverished indeed. Apparently they arrived earlier.
6:32 I walk over to the craft tent set up at one end of a soccer court. Inside there is a table set up on which I find a number of availsable beverages. I make myself some fresh orange juice in the juicer they have sitting there.
6:35 I strike up a conversation with one of the set painters. He's a very pleasant Englishman who has accumulated enough air mile points to fly around the world three times, from all the nights he has spent in hotels. At least that's what he tells me.
6:40 A young woman comes into the tent with a big bowl of fresh fruit. I help myself to a handful of very tasty apricots.
6:45 It's too hot in my costume so I take the jacket and jersey off and hang them on a chair.
6:50 The casting agent comes over and asks me how tall I am - in centimetres. Would I be interested in working as a stand - in tomorrow? Wow, I think, my career prospects are looking up.
7:00 A ten year old boy is kicking a soccer ball around on the court. I motion to him to send me the ball. He stands in front of an old iron net and I proceed to loft gentle balls in his direction.
7:05 After shouting "tady Bergkamp", I kick the ball over my little kamarad's head and into the top corner of the net, after which I shout "goooal". A few of the other extras are watching us with some interest.
7:10 I tear the sole of my shoe, which isn't really my shoe, let's say it's my character's shoe, anyway I tear the sole of it partially away from the upper. I hope there will not be any close-ups of my right foot.
7:20 I sit down with some of the stand-ins who are hanging out next to the soccer court. A guy who has been speaking fluent Czech turns out to be an American who spent his teenage years in New York.
7:40 After talking with the American I turn my attention to the pretty Czech stand - in sitting next to me. Her name is Klára.
7:45 The Czech boy wants to play soccer with me again. I say "potom".
8:00 Dinner is served. I don't know whether to queue up with the other extras at the no-choice wagon or get into line with the crew and stand-ins for the primo stuff. My new stand-in friends invite me to join them, which I do. What the heck, I am a special extra, after all.
8:30 Dinner has been great. Grilled chicken with rice and vegetables, side salads, bread, and then water melon and pineapple for dessert. I somehow resist the tempting tray of fluffy pastries.
8:55 I put the ret of my costume back on.
9:00 I go back to make-up and this trime they're ready for me. The make-up man applies some greasy black stuff to my face and three tips of my fingers, as well as my knuckles. He dabs some sticky red stuff on my forehead and cheeks. He gently bounces this black brillo pad around on my jaw. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.
9:20 I take another peek at myself in the mirror. I look like I've spent the night sleeping in a dirty boxcar on an empty freight train. I've got several red scabs or scratches om my face. What's up with that? I wonder what kind of work I do to get my face cut up. Must be a great job.
9:30 All of the extras, maybe thirty five of us, are ushered down the road to the set. The whole village seems to have been transformed into Victorian London. Even the shop windows are filled with period goods. The only hint that it's not 1890 is a huge crane sitting about 40-metres away which is in the process of loewering some kind of giant frame onto the set.
9:35 After sending a number of the other extras off to take up various positions, an assistant director looks at me and says that I shouldn't be here, because I have some special action to perform, and they will call me back to the set later.
9:40 I'm on my way back to the holding area. Now I'm really starting to wonder what this 'special action' is going to involve. Could it be that I will be encountering the lead man on camera?
9:45 Back to the craft tent for a little snack. I make some hot chicken soup from one of those little packets.
9:50 I strike up a conversation with another Czech stand in whom I haven't met, Honza. His English is good. He tells me that I'm the first Canadian he has ever spoken to. I feel like a freak. Honza is interested in politics and law.
10:00 Honza and I are slumming it in the extras holding tent. He asks me if I have read the Czech constitution. Right. He tells me there is a long tradition of corruption in this country. Really?
10:15 The casting director comes over and tells me they won't be needing me as a stand in tomorrow night, after all. Show business can be so cruel.
10:30 I sit down to talk to Klára again. She is twenty four. She begins to tell me about her day. This morning she was very upset because she had a fight last night with her mother.
10:40 You see Klára's mother and her first father divorced when Klára was fifteen...
10:50 ...and her step father didn't treat her well, there was some problem, maybe I can imagine what it was...
11:00 ...and Klára's mother does not love her, because she is jealous of Klára, and she says that Klára doesn't treat her well...
11:15 ...and Klára's grandmother is on her mother's side, and Klára's boyfriend, I'll meet him tomorrow because he's going to be here, he told her she should get away from her mother...
11:30 I tell Klára that her mother probably does love her, and that Klára should just give the relationship some space, but in the back of my mind I'm thinking " What is the special action that they want me to perform?"
12:05 a.m. Klára stops talking. By now I know everything about her childhood and adolescence, and all the drugs she's taken, and the boyfriends that her mother didn't approve of, and just about everything that ever happened to her.
12:10 I go back to the kraft tent for another snack. They have put some leftover grilled chicken out. Why not?
12:30 A third assistant director comes over and tells me I'm wrapped. I can go home, because they won't be getting to my scene tonight. They want me to come back on Saturday.
12:35 Back in wardrobe to change to my street clothes. The wardrobe lady tells me to remember my costume number: 293
12:45 The casting agent pays me for my services. I get 900 crowns for hanging out all night, which is what I normally do for nothing.
12:50 They drive me home. Well, not right to the door, but pretty close.
- Interested in being an extra or an actor in Prague? Check out the agency Myrnyx Tyrnyx.