THE IRREGULARS OF FILMDOM
Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)
The "extra" is such an important individual that no producing company can get along without his or her assistance. And why are these players to be so essential, you might ask.
Some photoplays demand so many minor roles that the regular company's players are totally insufficient. This often occurs when a big drawing room or restaurant scene is staged. Dancing couples and diners are needed to dress in the scenes.
Extras of a different kind are those who figure in mob scenes.
It must not be assumed that they merely "walk in." Their acting can make or mar a play. The director is the man who drills them into proper form -- a no mean task, I can assure you.
The Italian and French producers easily excel in handling crowds of a thousand upwards in the big spectacular productions, for which they are noted. But their American brothers can best manage fifty or so in a modern drama. I am dubous about the ability of the average British producer because more than once I have seen pictures from them in which the members of the mob were running all directions as though uncertain what they had to do.
Practically every company experiences great difficulties in obtaining really qualified "extras."
If you imagine that all "extras" play for an income -- and an uncertain one at that -- you are wrong. Some play for nothing -- for one reason or another. Personal vanity is one reason. Such persons gratify their pride since they are able to prove to their friends that they have played in a film.
Others do it for the sake of getting near their picture "idol." You should see how they all scramble to be nearest him, and the rivalry that exists to perform some little personal service called for in the scenario. It's a sight for the gods!
A no small number are prompted by ambition. They have a hankering to become picture "stars," but first of all have to start at the bottom of the ladder. It is hard to display one's individuality when in the "extra" class, but to do it is the only way in which to attract the director's notice.
When an extra applies for work he leaves his card giving personal information on the back and also a photograph. Then when the producer is in want of one or more supers, he just runs through the cards and photographs. He selects the types he needs. They then are told when to report for work.
Their payment for a day's work varies from $2.50 to $10.
A player such as a maid or butler is not an "extra," for all big film companies have artists on their regular pay roll to undertake small parts like these.
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