My ten-hour career as a movie extra

Parts of the movie 50 to 1 are being filmed at Churchill Downs.  The film is about Mine That Bird, which won the 2009 Kentucky Derby as a long shot. I thought the film could use my help, so I signed on as an extra. This is the story of my day, most of it true. 

8:20 a.m. An email from a production assistant last night tells me to show up at the race at ten-thirty, but I get a call asking me if I can come in early. Probably, I say, but I don’t commit. Is Hollywood already rubbing off on me? I’m wondering if they need me for a love scene. If so, I’ll do my best.

8:50  I arrive at the track and fill out my non-union voucher. I’ll be paid eight dollars an hour. I thought a love scene would pay better. Should I be hurt that they don’t check the box that says I have a special talent?

9:15  The wait begins. What I’m wearing (blazer, pink shirt, pink tie) gets blessed by the wardrobe woman, but she asks me to ditch the argyle sweater vest. I thought that was my signature piece.

9:23  That was quick. I’m not in a love scene, but I’m not too heartbroken. Along with a hundred other extras, I’m put in the grandstand, where I’ll play the very important part of First Guy in Fourth Row.

9: 25 Wait. Is that William Devane just a few feet from me? He’s like my co-star now.  Uh oh. They’ve positioned me behind a sweet woman wearing what must be the largest hat in the history of Derby-dom. No one will see my face in this movie. Perhaps that was by design. 

9:35  Wait a minute. This is a singing scene? I didn’t sign up for this. We have to sing My Old Kentucky Home in entirety. I do my best, but I think Second Woman in Third Row is little off tune. Still, we do just one take, and the director is  happy.

9:59  Second Guy in Eighth Row is getting on my nerves. He thinks he’s hot stuff because he played the part of Third Decapitated Man  in a Stallone movie.

10:23  Three takes so far on this shot. The only thing the camera can possibly see is my midsection. Need to do some ab crunches. I also realize I forgot to put on a belt. We’re in the box behind Bill (I can call him that now) Devane and his “family.” A crew member has given me a beer to hold in this shot. Sorry, Mom.

10:40  My most important job is making sure the Bud Light label doesn’t show on my bottle. We’ve been repeating the last three lines of My Old Kentucky Home in this shot. We’ve done five takes, so far. I’ll be hearing the song in my sleep.

12:23  It has now been explained to the extras in my box that we have bet on the wrong horse in this race, but we still believe he can win. I hope I have the acting chops to express the proper disappointment when the time arrives. Again, because my face will not be visible thanks to the large hat in front of me, I will  have to rely on my hands to pull off this feat. I’m also excited for the attention the beer bottle will receive.

12:30 p.m.  Bill D. seems like an affable chap. So are the extras around me. There must be something about being an extra in a movie that attracts companionable people. I’m sitting among extras veterans, who have appeared in other movies, plus some “what the heck” types like me. 

1:59  Lunch time. I asked where I could find my trailer. Someone pointed me to a horse trailer. I only used seven dollars of my ten-dollar voucher for lunch. The three dollars left over make me a paid actor.

2:55  Bill just dropped the f-bomb at the end of the scene. We’re pretending to be watching the end of the Derby race, tracking a sign that is matching the horse’s pace. Bill, who plays Mine That Bird’s owner, said his horse was too #!@$& slow.  Everybody laughed. Bill and I may share a beer later, but not the one I’ve been holding in my hand all day.

4:00 I just nailed my big scene, the one that will put my name on the lips of casting directors everywhere. I walked up a set of stairs just as the winning owners of Mine That Bird were walking down. I’m sure they’ll cut the scene before they get to my part, but I’m okay with that. I’m a professional.

4:10 Wardrobe change. I’m switching the pink shirt and tie for a blue shirt and tie. I’m sure that’s enough to make me look like an entirely different person.

4;53  My second bag of Cracker Jacks. Do I even like Cracker Jacks?

6:00  This isn’t fun anymore. Lance, a young guy I had just shared a shot with, had a seizure and fell a couple of steps onto the walkway. It scared everyone, including the crew. They have paramedics at the track, so he got help quickly. It was also nice that some of the extras were nurses. Lance is lucid now, but he says he has no medical problems that he knows of. They’re taking him to the hospital. Everyone cheers as he’s carted away.

6:45  One last shot and it’s a wrap. I check out at the desk, and I’ve made about eighty dollars including some overtime. It was fun, but I’ve scratched that itch. Here’s praying for Lance.

aka Third Guy Walking Up Steps

And if you thought that was good, check out this.

6 thoughts on “My ten-hour career as a movie extra

  1. I just want to let you know this is an awesome timeline and well written. I was the one you gave you the bud light bottle and thank you for hiding the label. I was one of the first people to get to lance and yes that was scary all of a sudden life was very real and we were in make believe any more. Again well written and very entertaining.


  2. I enjoyed your timeline. It is very well written and entertaining. Good luck on your other writings. Your mom gave me this link.


  3. I loved your timeline and story. I willl be looking for the man in the pink shirt and pink tie sitting behind a woman with a big hat. Glad you got experience and even got to sit behind Devane the Man but did you get to at least taste the Bud Light.


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