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Central casting and extra work

March 4, 2012
By KATHRYN SPIRA , For The Leader Herald

I was watching CBS Sunday Morning on Feb. 26 when they were doing an Oscar special prior to the Academy Awards Show that night.

There was a segment on the show about Central Casting, an agency that finds work for actors and actresses in movies with a specialty in crowds and extras for mostly non-speaking parts.

I never went through Central Casting for my scenes in movies as an extra, though there was a trade paper back then called "Backstage," which in the back part listed upcoming extra work.

I remember pouring through the paper looking for extra work.

I got my first job as an extra in the movie "Ghostbusters" while I was still living in New York City.

In the scene, there were hundreds of extras running down Central Park West being chased by the "Stay Puft" marshmallow man. We were paid at the then-rate of about $100 per day and that scene only provided one day's work.

But I did get to put "Ghostbusters" on my theatrical resume, just as I later got to put "The Doors" on my resume out in L.A. I got to be a waitress in "The Doors." The difference being I was "featured" as a waitress in the scene where The Doors were playing at the "Whiskey A Go Go" which was on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Since most of my actual paying work at the time was as a waitress or bartender, playing a waitress in "The Doors" was ironic. I guess you could say I had plenty of practice.

One of the difficulties that CBS Sunday stated about being an extra was how difficult it could be to look natural just walking, running or making "conversation" as an extra.

One regular extra they interviewed said she would silently mouth "peas and carrots, peas and carrots" to other extras to look natural.

The next level of acting work was called "under five work," which was a step above that of an extra because you had five or less words spoken in a scene.

I got to say my "under five" in the soap, "One Life to Live" while I was still back in NYC. That got me my AFTRA card (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) so I could, presumably, get more TV work. That was my plan anyway.

Bottom line is, those were my humble beginnings in the movie business.

And as they showed on CBS Sunday, that's where actors like Jack Nicholson and Brad Pitt got started too.

So as they say, "Hey, you never know."

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at www.kathrynskorner.com

 
 
 

 

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