UT School of Visual & Performing Arts

Archive for August, 2011

UT Department of Theatre & Film grads enjoy a little “Fun Size” work this summer as movie extras and crew

I worked as an extra this summer on the movie "Fun Size." What did you do?

I worked as an extra this summer on the movie “Fun Size.” What did you do?

Fellow 2011 University of Toledo Theatre & Film graduates, Shane Monaco and Nate Elias, spent part of the summer working on the upcoming Paramount Pictures film, “Fun Size.” The film centers on a girl who loses her little brother on Halloween night and endures a series of comedic misadventures trying to find him. “Fun Size” will appear in theaters in 2012.

Here’s Shane’s experience in his own words.

My Fun Size Experience

I recently got the chance to work as an extra for Paramount Pictures’ Fun Size. It started when fellow UT grad Nate Elias, who was already doing work as a stand-in, let me know they were looking for more extras. I immediately emailed them with a picture of me and all my information. A few days later I got a call asking if I could start work the following night, I agreed, and they advised me to get some rest. It was good advice.

The scene I would be working on for the next four days took place at night, so my call time was 6:30 PM and my shift was scheduled to end at 6 AM. Needless to say, any interaction with people not involved with the production was minimal during my time on the movie.

I was instructed to drive my car to Cleveland and park in a church parking lot that the production had acquired for its use. A shuttle arrived around 6:30 to drive all the extras to the set. Through the window I saw something that I mistook for a new fast food restaurant called Captain Chicken. After a second I realized that what I was looking at was actually the set. The crew had turned an abandoned Popeye’s Chicken into this bizarre pirate-themed restaurant that looked far too new for this part of town.

The shuttle dropped us off at the auditorium of another church. This area was dubbed “Extras Holding.” Inside we got signed in and got the Halloween costumes we were asked to bring approved by wardrobe. If they weren’t satisfied with what people brought, wardrobe suited them up with one of their costumes. Next, if any makeup was required, people lined up to have it applied. After that we were taken down to the prop room to be assigned various props that would accent our costumes. The costume I brought consisted of a hat with dreadlocks and an island shirt, so I was given blue-tinted hippie glasses and a peace sign necklace.

After this we were taken by shuttle to another building where we were served “breakfast.” It was 9 PM, but they were actually serving us breakfast foods. This is when I really understood how long of a shift I was in for.

When we were done, we were taken back to holding. For a good three hours I chatted with the other extras waiting to be called to set. I watched nearly everyone get called out and return with the latest news of what was happening in the scene. Word was that they were going to drop a giant chicken statue on a Volvo. Everyone had hopes of it happening when they were out there, but so far it hadn’t.

Finally, I was called and followed the other extras out to the Captain Chicken patio. It was amazing to see the crew busting around to make things happen. The director, Josh Schwartz, was sitting in “video village” with the producers. This is a collection of chairs set up in front of the video monitors that show what the different cameras were seeing.

I saw Nate and his fellow stand-ins doing their job inside the Volvo. Light meters were being shoved in their faces and the lights and cameras were being positioned for the shot. The actors were off to the side, waiting to do their job.

Jason Roberts, the second assistant director, was in charge of the background actors (aka the extras). He explained loudly to the group what was going to be happening in the scene and how we should react.

The actors took their places in the car and the assistant director, Mark Anthony Little, yelled the necessary commands (rolling, action, etc.) The actors delivered their lines in the car and then when given the signal from the AD, we reacted as if the giant chicken statue on the roof fell onto the car.

This went on for multiple takes. The extras were sometimes told to make noise, sometimes we were told to pantomime. They repositioned the cameras a couple of times and the process was repeated.

After a brief stint back in holding and being served lunch, we were brought back onto the set. The chicken had been rigged to actually fall onto the car this time. We were told to react like we had been, only it was really happening. The cameras rolled and after a small explosion (like a firecracker) from under the chicken, it tipped off the roof and smashed down onto the car. Right in front of our eyes! Even more amazing was the fact that a second take was ordered. A crane pulled the giant chicken back up to the roof, and a team of men ran in hammer the smashed car back to its original condition!

That was my first day. The second was primarily spent in holding due to a rain delay and we were eventually sent home early. However, during my time in holding, I had time to talk with Nate and the other stand-ins, as well as the gaffer, Jack English. Jack had graduated with George Lucas, John Carpenter, and a slew of others. He claimed he was the least successful person in his class, yet he has worked on dozens of well-known films like Sherlock Holmes, Big Fish, and Interview with the Vampire.

The next couple of days I spent doing more of the same kind of thing I had been doing on the first day, until they asked me to drive my car up and down the street in the background of the scene. A production assistant named Katie was in charge of this. She equipped all of us car people with walkie talkies. With these she was able to communicate to us when to start and stop and where to drive. Between takes I talked to her a little and found out that she and that other PAs aspired to ultimately become assistant directors. The others did things like manage the extras in holding and stand at the borders of the set to keep it locked down from civilians.

When the final night finally came to an end, the director and second AD brought us back to holding and thanked everyone. I was sad to see it come to an end. In only four days I had already become addicted to the lifestyle. What really fascinated me about the whole thing was how the production operated like a tiny confined city; multiple buildings, multiple jobs, transportation and communication between all, and at the hub was the set, around which it all revolved. It was an amazing experience, seeing what we did as students done on a grand scale, efficiently, and taken very seriously by everyone involved. This little taste of the business was enough to confirm the fact that I made the right career choice and I can’t wait to get myself back onto a set, hopefully for a lot longer than four days.