Monday, November 10, 2008

Extra Work

When you’ve had the same job for as long as I have (seven years) it’s likely the novelty of being a grown up has worn off. What used to be exciting and just as enjoyable as your “non working” hours becomes nothing more than work. And that’s when you start to wonder whether it’s time for a new job or maybe you’ve just been doing this so long you take it for granted. I ask myself these questions all the time.

When I’m feeling down on my job I’ve learned the best thing to do is not necessarily look for another job, but rather add extra “little jobs” that make me feel like I’m doing something different. I’ve been through this exercise a few times in the past four years; the most recent being my work as a culinary assistant at Sur la Table. I love to cook and I love discounts on kitchen stuff so it perked up my regular work funk like a charm. Extra jobs can be fun.

But my first moonlighting gig was working as an extra for Knightstar Media. It began about 4 years ago. This guy in my ward was in Napoleon Dynamite and probably got a bunch of commission for getting several of us to pay $30 and sign up as an on-call extra. It was exciting because I love movies and television and being around film crews energizes me.

I think I only worked a total of four jobs for them. It’s hard when they need you to dedicate a full day to be on call and you already have a full time job. I only did the Saturday jobs or the ones when the call time started after 3 PM. That was the only way extra work could outpay my regular work. But I had to turn down a lot of requests. They kept calling me because I was a good extra. What makes a good extra? It’s simple: if you’re reliable they think you’re a godsend. Apparently a lot of people out there don’t keep their word, they’re chronically late and they don’t do what they’re asked. Crazy.

My first job was for a drive-in movie scene in the WB’s Everwood. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Everwood, it was a WB show filmed in Utah. They needed teenagers or people who could get away with looking like a teenager. My friend Jon and I went together. I got paid an extra $10 for allowing them to use my car. Just like people, they’re picky about their cars; it had to be a midsize and it couldn’t be white, black or red. It was kind of cold that night, but we all stood out in the cold for about 3 or 4 hours while they shot the scene. That was an easy $75.

I also did a scene at an office. I had to drive up to Ogden for this one. It was in an old building – that’s all I remember. It was only a two hour commitment so that was another easy $75.

The most fun to shoot was a scene where I was actually on camera. I was a nurse at a hospital and I was instructed to walk past the actors with my clipboard. I did it a few times, each time I did it a little different. On the third take the assistant director yelled, “Laura, you’re a genius!” I’m not sure what I did different that time, but I felt like I really earned my $75 that day.

At some point, I stopped opening the email requests from Knightstar and began turning down every request from my agent. Being an extra became less and less appealing. With the exception of the guy who said I was a genius, they treat you like crap. It’s pretty humbling actually. It doesn’t matter how important you are or how much respect you’re entitled to at your day job. On an extra set you are not a hardworking, intelligent college grad who actually has better places to be. It doesn’t matter what your name is, how hungry you are or how cold it is outside. While the actors sit in their heated trailers you’re standing outside in 40 degree weather wearing a linen skirt and short sleeves because in TV land it’s supposed to be July.

Would I do it again? Probably not – because when you’re actually treated with respect and consideration by people in other aspects of your life, it’s hard to go back and allow someone to squash you without even caring to glance back (literally, in some cases).

Or maybe it’s because the show was canceled.


SRA said...

True. Can't say I've ever been an extra, but it certainly sounds better than being a plasma whore...though Sur La Table takes the cake, of course. That is a glorious "extra job"!

Average Joe said...


I love my extra jobs. I like working for the Blaze. I enjoy getting cash when I wait tables. And I like writing for USA Team Handball or joining a play. I think if we do these things, our full-time jobs don't become so drab. Plus if they are part-time, we can leave them whenever we get the itch

Kelly D. said...

Yes, I have to agree Hollywood is MUCH less glamorous than it seems. But man, to be paid for being an extra! I've only ever done it for Carter's movies where the pay was nil, but at least they treated me nicely because I was the producer's girlfriend/wife.

Ilene said...

That last line is so true.

C'mon, you would be doing it if the show was still around.

My job gets monotonous too. Poopy diapers day in and day out... maybe I should start selling candles.

Wouldn't Dan just love that?

abel said...

As a writer, my extra jobs are called freelancing. The nice thing about that is that I can turn down a job if I don't have the time or energy or simply don't like working with the client. It fits into my schedule nicely. And it pays good too.