Extras Casting

Okay, so I’ve gone back and forth about writing this blog post… but I’m going to go for it :)  I just wrapped extras casting for Daddy’s Home 2.  It was a demanding, 12 week project, but I’ve had a couple of weeks to detach myself from the chaos (although still flooded with paperwork), so this blog post will be a little better than the one I wrote when I literally had not slept more than 5 hours in 3 days!    This project was a long (in my eyes) 46 day shoot that brought me a lot of laughs, a few tears, the opportunity to make a lot of people happy, the challenge of disappointing a few and an immense lack of sleep.  But, all in all- I’m glad I did it!!

For those of you that know me, you know I have a history of handling extras casting for quite a few movies, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said “I’m never doing extras again”… but I always end up doing it.  Why?  Who knows?!  I haven’t had a child- but I equate it to that whole childbirth experience- you forget about the torture, lack of sleep, and stressful parts!  (Moms, I know I can’t compare it… but just roll with me for now).

Anywho- I figured I’d blog about extras casting as a whole, because I think it’s a really crazy process that those on the outside may not realize and understand.  Also, it's a little therapeutic to write it out ;) 

The whole process starts with a meeting with the ADs (Assistant Directors) and the producers where they outline the show and what they are looking at in terms of extras or "background".  Typically, Aaron Kahl and myself sit in those meetings and smile and nod and show as much enthusiasm as we can while we exchange small glances of panic, where I can internally hear him say “how the heck are we going to pull that off” (in stronger AK language) and “no… no… don’t say it… fittings!”.  But, we sit there and say “Yea, awesome!  No problem!  Can’t wait”.  Then we get in the car, Aaron says a few choice words that I won’t repeat here and I say “it’s okay- we got this.  It won’t be that bad”… and then we get a margarita ;)

After that, we go deep into prep mode.  We geek out over getting organized.   We have fun hosting a couple open calls and getting people excited about the project. We set up our workspace, we shop for all the office supplies we could ever need (we both have a deep down love for shopping at Staples… weird I know).  We hang up these beautiful calendars and outline how many extras and what types they need for each day and we feel PREPARED!!  Then, we get a new extras breakdown…

EVERYTHING CHANGES. 

EVERYTHING ALWAYS CHANGES.  And then extras casting really begins.

For the next 12 weeks, everything would change, every day.  This is on every show.  The numbers of extras is constantly changing, people’s schedules are constantly changing and they are no longer available for when you thought they would be working, start times are shifting and I become the multi-tasking queen.  I am on my phone and email from the moment I wake up to the moment I shut my eyes for the couple hours of sleep I manage (with a few text messages happening throughout that brief sleep time). 

Amidst the chaos, we get to work with some awesome and super talented crew members, both local and new to filming in Boston.  The 2nd AD on every project becomes an Extras Casting Director’s best friend.  It’s funny actually, someone you’ve never met before quickly becomes the center of your every day.  I sometimes feel like the crazy girlfriend to my 2nd AD, calling, emailing and texting them and checking back every 5 minutes in hopes of getting a response.  They hold all the answers to my questions but they are also super busy on set, so it’s one of those relationships ;)  I had a fantastic 2nd AD on this show- I don’t know how she did what she did in terms of organizing such a big show.  Kudos all around to her.  Aside from the 2nd AD, I got to work with some familiar faces on this show like Roger, my fav set medic, Steve- one of the best in terms of background PA’s , Nikki in accounting, Shari in the production office and many, many more. 

This show gave me an opportunity to really connect Slate with both new and familiar faces in terms of extras.  It was nice to set a precedent in how Slate works with people, both in small and large numbers.  I spent many early mornings on set greeting those hard-working, committed folks, and I am so appreciative of each and every one who made the effort to show up, on time, and put in a long day of work.  Of equal importance to the amazing crew and the fantastic extras- I have to give a huge shout out to my standins and photo doubles.  Aside from the 2nd AD, they are the people I communicate with the most, and when you get a solid crew like I did on this movie, they actually make the day a bit easier.  So Chris, Robert, Maegan, Beau, Anastasia, Kristen, Ellen, Casey, Mai, Brooke, Brody, Giovanna and Catherine- you guys rock.  I am so grateful for your commitment to the show and for being the best standin/photo double group a girl could ask for!  For all the late night text mssgs and early morning calls, please know that I appreciated each and every day you were there for me :)

Lastly, the extras casting team- it’s everything.  Not only are they the ones helping it all come together and get done, but they are the emotional, mental and pick-me-up support that is needed on a daily basis.  We drank a lot of coffee (we should have stock in Dunkin Donuts), ate probably one too many slices of pizza, consistently enjoyed Thai Take-out Tuesdays, sent a lot of text messages, laughed a ton and made Aaron Kahl smile more than he ever has ;)  So George, Marina, Floris and Kim- you are the dream team.

For the past 12 or so weeks I have completely devoted my life to extras casting.   I have sent hundreds of thousands of booking emails, my team has made thousands of phone calls, I have seen smiling faces on set at 5 in the morning, and I’ve worked with many amazing crew members!  It’s been tough but awesome all at the same time.  I have not seen any of my outside of work friends or family and I’ve been a terrible wife… but I survived it all and can go back to reality now.   I met some really awesome people through this show and I’m grateful for the experience.  Plus, it taught me new multi-tasking skills that I never thought possible!

Will it be my last time doing extras for a movie?  Who knows?!  If we’re placing bets… probably not.  See you on the next one :)

-Ashley