Thursday, May 19, 2011

I quit

I've been extremely busy with house painting, working on the Quarter Rat publication and website plus graphic design work. I have to quit something so I am ending may career as a background actor. Please don't try to talk me out of it, my mind is made up. Here are the reasons that made me decide to drop that vocation.
• The pay. Right now the average rate is $80 for ten hours of time. Just about minimum wage. In those same ten hours I can make much more as a house painter. My graphic design fee is $400 for ten hours. Not a hard choice.

• The co-workers. This is the main reason, the recent production that I have worked on and from what I hear from friends who are background actors is that the casting companies are desperate to fill space with anyone they can. One buddy was working a shoot a few weeks ago and said the van ride to the location was unbearable. The van was packed with extras most of which hadn't bathed in weeks. "You know those guys we see under the over pass holding the cardboard signs asking for money? THEY were hired as background. I thought I was going to vomit from the odor. Every other word out of their mouths was a profanity."

• Food. One of the perks that compensated for the low wage was that they used to feed you pretty good. PROFESSIONAL background actors would take reasonable helpings and be happy. The barrel scrapings that have been getting hired lately, they pile the food onto their plates like they haven't eaton in weeks and go back for seconds. I have witnesses an obese old lady stuffing food into her purse from the crafty table. Gee, and I wonder why the next day all we get served is red beans and rice with a slice of watermelon.

• Double standard. Those of us who treat this as a profession and try to do our best dress as we were instructed, stand where instructed and conduct ourselves professionally. However the casting companies just want to meet the numbers required and bring in anyone who answers an E-mail. 

If the scene being shot requires "Casual dinning" street thugs come in with logo em-blazed t-shirts and jeans hanging off of their asses. The wardrobe people don't say shit because they are too scared to. Those extras are placed in deep background out of focus or frame just because no one wants to be the one to tell them to go home because they obviously can't read or don't bother to read the requirements. Meanwhile I just lugged 40 pounds of clothing with me to the holding tent just in case they didn't like my first choice. For $80.

I'll be standing on my mark doing exactly what I am told in the hot sun to look over and see a group of guys sitting in the shade enjoying the bounty they just looted from the crafty table. The Production Assistants eyeball them, but say nothing. 

Now the casting companies whine that they can't get background actors to come in to work. How about this, next time you need bodies, just go down to Poydras and Claiborne with the van, wake up the people sleeping with the cardboard signs and say "Want to be in a movie?"

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