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Archive for November 4th, 2009

Special Skills Extra Work

2009-11-04Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

When I first moved out to Vancouver from the Ottawa area back in the Fall of 1990 one of the motivating factors for the move was because I wanted to peruse work in the Film and Television Industry. Based on my years of performing and videos that I had together even back in that day I managed to get representation from a local Agent who sent me out to casting calls for commercials and other bits and pieces that they felt I was appropriate for. I also tapped into the world of working as an extra on film sets, and in particular as a ‘special skills extra.’

Now be forewarned that working as an extra on a film set usually involved hours and hours of sitting around until you’re actually needed in a shot, but people who do this sort of work on a regular basis typically bring along a book and/or some work that they need to get done or spend time texting people or networking. You don’t actually get paid all that much per hour as an extra, but then again you don’t actually do all that much either, so it’s pretty decent money for just sitting around reading a book. I’ve had days were I’d go into set, wait in the extra’s holding area and then not be needed for the shots that were being done that day. It’s usually a six hour minimum call meaning that you’ll get paid for at least six hours even if you’re only needed for two or three hours, and if you’re on a shoot where they hold you past a certain number of hours, your pay scale goes into an overtime scenario and you get even more money per hour…

Now… If you’ve got a specific skill that they want to have in a particular shot, you know how to juggle or walk on stilts or can ride a unicycle or can do a back flip or some such well then the pay scale jumps again because you’re given the designation ‘Special Skills Extra.’ I’ve had friends who are acrobats who’ve done special skills work and then progressed on to doing stunt work which pays even more… Again, the hours are long, the amount of money per hour isn’t spectacular, but it adds up quickly especially if you’re in one of these ‘specialized’ skill groups, so it’s well worth putting your name into the ring and letting casting directors know that you have these skills.

This is perhaps a fairly regionally specific sort of market. There’s a ton of Film an TV work that gets done in Vancouver, but films are being shot all over the place, so if you hear of a film being shot in your area, there may be a way to find out who the talent wrangler is and make sure they know who you are.

In Vancouver there are even agents like ‘Reel Athletes‘ who specialize in the placement of actors, athletes and special skills performers for this industry. As with any gig, if you land the job once and you show up on time, are well liked, and do a good job other opportunities will spring up which will lead to others and still more beyond that. Like Ethel Merman sang in ‘Annie Get your Gun‘ – There’s no Business like Show Business like no Business I know.

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