The Mindy Project's homebase was twenty minutes from my apartment, the L.A. design studio or something: a monstrous building full of immaculately decorated bedrooms and living rooms trapped in glass viewing rooms.
So here are a few lessons I would like to share with you from the day.
Lesson #1: Listen to the tapes with extreme focus.
Let's say, perhaps you are in line at the costume trailer for the costume staff to review the options of "New York night club" you have been instructed to bring. The extras wrangler stood at the front of the line. One poor chap had brought the single outfit the was wearing, an awkwardly large, dark suit, and you watch the costume lady was having none of it:
"Okay. Hate it. What are your other options?"
"um...I didn't bring any other options."
"You didn't? Your tape specifically told you to bring options."
"Well...I didn't see that, I listened to it three times...."
"Well how come all of these other people have other clothes then? Did they all just make it up?"
"I listened to it three times."
The extras wrangler stepped in, "Okay, why don't you go to the end of the line and we'll deal with you later?"
The costumer turned to the wrangler, "I don't want to deal with this shit today. Just dismiss him. Dismiss."
Lesson #2: Don't Waste Time Being Friends with the Mean Girl
You don't remember her name, but she was short, skinny with olive skin and dark hair Her iPhone case was abnormally large, in the shape of a 3-dimensional gummy bear. Every time someone asked her about the case she would say, "If it's large, it's harder to steal. I've had my iPhone and other shit stolen twice on set. Bitches."
Earlier, we had all seen one other extra who had on near-clown make-up, a 70's style dress and unkempt hair. Later, someone else was complaining to Mean Girl about the wait in the hair line. "Well. It's probably because they had to give that one girl a shower." She cackled.
You don't have to spend time with this person. Extra friendships are ephemeral. Instead hang out with the really sweet girl who reminds you of your freshman year roommate and is hilarious and just does this to pay the bills.
Lesson #3: Look Up the Guest Stars
Because when a seven-foot-tall guy on set gives you the head nod, and you don't realize he's a famous basketball player from New York guest starring, you will feel silly later.
Lesson #4: Have Thick Skin
Sometimes on set, the people in charge of coordinating how the scene looks will vocalize that they want "someone very attractive to stand near Mindy." They will point to a slender Black girl behind you. "no we already used to her." the other coordinator will reply. You will make eye contact with them. They will shake their head and walk away. You still have to keep dancing and having fun.
Lesson #5: Don't Stare at Mindy
Even when she's so close, like five feet away from you, and you are the extra behind her in the shot (because apparently you're attractive enough to be out of focus), and she looks so annoyed, and all you want to do is reach out and tell her "don't worry! you're almost done filming, and you're living a dream anyway!"...you must also try to pretend like Mindy is just another person, that you are an extra daily and have extraed for all the big stars.
Lesson #6: Be Observant
After 6 hours on set, you might realize that Peter Hegel, recent Northwestern graduate, is also on the set of Mindy Project, and you could have been chilling with him the entire time.
|we were even love interests in a student film my freshman year. How did I not feel his presence?|
Lesson #7: Learn from the Extra Coordinator
They are the ones who wear t-shirts, jeans, sneakers, headsets and beards on, and they usually have all of life figured out. when you ask the set coordinator if filming a 24 minute show a week was less stressful than a 44 minute show, he replies, "I figure there is no reason to ever get stressed. Whoever is yelling at me is just getting yelled at by someone else. I don't need to yell at anyone myself. No. No reason to stress." And if you're nice, when they order pizza for all of the extras at 11 p.m. because if they don't feed you every 6 hours they get penalized, and you say to someone "hey, man. Great set." They might reward you and say "what a nice kid." and give you a pizza to take home.....(and in this case you are Peter J. Hegel, not me.)
So...be nice, listen hard, and most of all, if you can do another line of work that pays better than $8 an hour, even it isn't in front of a camera...probably do that. Because once you've been an extra once, you've kinda been an extra a million times.