'Film it again? I thought we'd nailed it' ... why being a movie extra is not as easy as you think
Continuing a series of features looking at different jobs, Chris Jones steps in front of the camera and becomes a film extra.
IT is 11.15am, I have just had a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive and now I am sitting down to watch a woman take off all of her clothes.
This in itself would be an unusual morning but this one is stranger still.
In front of me is a glass of "whisky" (apple juice on the rocks), in my hand is a bunch of fifties and twenties (fake props, naturally) and surrounding me are crew members, squinting through cameras or holding long, arching boom mikes, just out of shot.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
I am sweating lightly in the fierce glare of the hot lighting rigs and in front of me a young woman stands ready to whack the lip of a clapperboard down to start the scene.
And I'm not even in a strip club – we're in the Derwent Suite of the Metro Inns hotel, in Macklin Street.
But I'm surprisingly nervous. I am about to appear in my first ever film, as an extra, and I'm suddenly worried about my performance. The idea is simple: I sit on a table with a group of other blokes, dressed in our suits and slugging our apple juice. On the stage in front of us, a young women will strut before us and, to a piece of mind-blowingly loud music, will perform a strip tease.
In response, we cheer, clap and whoop like excitable apes at the zoo. Easy, right?
Except, no. Suddenly I don't even know how to sit at a table. I'm too hot, I'm too thirsty, I cross my legs then uncross them, I sit back and prop my chin up with one hand, then lean forward, resting my elbows on the table.
What do people do in strip clubs? I have no idea, never been in one. But then it occurs to me that I would, in all likelihood, actually be this nervous in real life so perhaps this is an amazing piece of method acting and – oh, just give me a Bafta already.
Then the music starts and the stripping happens and I am suddenly dealing with a new set of concerns.
The scene we are shooting is for an upcoming film called 10 Grams, written by Derby film-maker Lloyd James, together with his wife, Louise.
Lloyd has been in the business for more than eight years and the couple run their production company, Open Image Films, from their home in Granville Street, Derby.
The film, which stars Derby actors Steve King, Darren Lynch and Connor Lynch, tells the story of Charles Willis, a successful defence lawyer, husband and father who has a sideline in drug-dealing. But after one of his drug couriers is murdered, Charles is drawn into a shady network of organised crime.
Filming is currently taking place and, yesterday, was on location at the Metro Inns all day. About 30 cast and crew members were waiting about on chairs inside the suite when I first arrived.
I spot Lloyd to one side of the room and walk over to him. He looks flustered but happy.
"This is the second day filming the club scenes," he says.
"We got a fair amount done yesterday and this morning we are going to get another dance done, then some dialogue scenes this afternoon."
I ask if I can appear as an extra and he agrees enthusiastically before explaining that, because of the overnight snowfall, one of the actors was not able to make it.
"So, if you want to, you can do a dialogue scene, get kicked out of the club by that guy over there. He's playing the bouncer," says Lloyd.
He points out a gigantic man dressed in a suit at the edge of the room; he is a cross between a bowling pin and a tank.
"I think I'm busy this afternoon," I tell Lloyd. "Very, deeply busy."
Lloyd outlines the scene they are preparing to shoot – the scene I will be in.
He says: "The main character, Charles Willis, is a successful lawyer and enjoys a lavish lifestyle. He's in strip clubs a lot so these scenes will show that side to his life.
"The suite at the hotel was an ideal choice because it could be transformed to look like a busy club but also gave us the space to move cast, crew and equipment about."
Certainly, at the back of the suite, the cast have enough space to grab a seat and cup of tea and have a chat.
And, as Lloyd explains to me, filming involves a fair bit of sitting around.
"We have to get the lighting right, the sound levels right and the choice of shot right. We can't have too many takes and we want to get it right as soon as we can."
So while he heads off and starts chatting about angles and such with the cameramen, I take a seat with a couple of other extras, two men who will be on my "table" when we are shooting the strip scene: local Derby actors Mark Petty and Mark Gourlay. This is their second day of filming.
Mark Petty says: "Yesterday we were here from about 10am until 4.30pm – and only for a few scenes.
"I'm a member of a Derby drama group but I've not done any film work before, so this is my first time.
"There's more sitting around than I thought but then there's a fair amount of that in theatre too."
For Mark Gourlay, extra work is old hat. He has worked with Derby director Dominic Burns and recently appeared in his alien attack drama UFO, which was partially shot in the city, including the old Syn nightclub and Allestree.
But a strip scene is a first for him.
He said: "Yesterday we all sitting at the tables and then she came out, did her dance and we all just sat staring like we'd never seen a woman before. It was just the shock, I suppose, of actually seeing her go all the way.
"So Lloyd talked to us and got us cheering more, clapping more. Still, not a bad job to get, is it?"
With the crew now ready, we take our seats. Lloyd gave us some direction – "Right, when she goes to take her top off, really cheer for it, clap like mad" - the lights went up, the music on, and we were away. The stripper – a professional called Chantel – came out and I could only admire her ability to stand in front of a couple of dozen blokes, in the cold light of morning and the hot light of the stage and just perform the way she did.
She was, in a word, flexible.
The dance lasted about four minutes and I whooped and clapped my way through it, doing some world-championship leering and cheering and nudging my fellow extras. This is what men do at a strip club, right?
Afterwards, the lights came up and Lloyd nodded his approval.
"Right, we're going to go again and this time, I want more cheers and whistles. Bit more life," he said, disappearing to discuss things with the crew.
Suddenly, I got in one stroke the challenge in film acting. Do it all again? Seriously? But I thought we'd nailed it. I gave it everything I had – a man can't just repeat a performance like that.
Mark Gourlay explains that Lloyd will need different angles of the dance and that he would need reaction shots from the crowd (us) to edit together.
I take a steadying sip of my apple juice, clear my throat and relax into my seat once more, waiting for the lights, the camera and the action.