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.