The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The Director Never Yelled Cut

Every now and then, through the webbysphere, you’ll hear a call going out for extras. Come and be in our film or telly show, someone will say. Be a zombie for a day, it’ll be great fun!

This is bloody disgraceful. People like Charlie Brooker should know better.

If you're making a film or telly show want a crowd scene, then you should budget for professional extras. If you can’t afford them, don’t script the scene. Every time the call goes out for amateur volunteers, professional supporting artists are being put out of work. And if you want to be a professional extra, then undermining the profession you intend to join is not a great way to start.

Oh, but that’s how film and telly work, you might say, and you’d be right. But if a problem exists that’s doesn’t mean it’s okay to collude with it. Yes, it’s nigh-impossible to get into telly or film unless you’re prepared to do hours of hard, unpaid labour, whether it be gaffertaping down cables or tapping out scripts, but that's no excuse. It’s the reason why Lenny Henry moans every few years that there are no black faces working behind the scenes in telly; it’s not due to racism, it’s because it’s prohibitively expensive to get into telly unless you have independent means, as you’ll be expected to work long hours for short return and, if you want to train to become a telly director, you’re gonna need a spare twenty grand in your pocket.

Think of that the next time you see an advert for extras. If a professional company is making a product for a financial return, everyone who works on it should get paid. Anyone who works for nothing is putting somebody else out of a job.


  1. And yet if you said that to the callow youth who wanted to spend a night freezing to death on location with Erasure he'd say:
    "That's certainly a different perspective on things and challenges my current way of thinking. I'd not really considered how the personal is the political and just what repercussions my actions might have. I clearly have much to learn and yet I truly believe I can in time become as wise as you future Jonny. You big right loser."

  2. ...and thus Jonny demonstrates a) he knows what he's talking about and b) he has the ability to change his mind about something. Just because I might be a hypocrite doesn't mean I'm wrong!

  3. I agree with you on this one actually and, as it happens, I don't think obstinately clinging to a position is a particularly great virtue. "No point engaging if you're not prepared to be swayed" is what I always say, well mainly. Even Emerson swayed on whether consistency was a hobgoblin or not now and again. I think.