An 'Exclusive' Experience

Diary of a Movie Extra

A few weeks ago, Daren Firestone ’96 circulated an e-mail through Harvard acting circles looking for people to volunteer as extras. The film: Exclusive, a new independent short film he wrote and produced. Directed by Scott Schwartz ’94, the plot focuses on “a young Jewish girl who must hide her religion from her friends and herself.” Seeing as the film occurs in an exclusive country club, the desired respondents needed to have that certain ritzy look. So, I parted my blonde locks, washed my boyish face and gave Daren a call.

We met for an informal audition for the part of Jimmy the pool boy, who had all of two lines. Despite my performance as the Mysterious Man in Into the Woods junior year of high school, my acting lacked serious experience and needless to say, I did not get the part. However, Daren still invited me to come as an extra. So, last Sunday I traveled to Newton to be a part of Exclusive, with the desire to see how films are created and the vain hope of being in a movie. Here is a diary of my 15, er four, minutes of fame:

6:00 AM: My alarm begins beeping incessantly.

6:10 AM: I struggle out of bed. Two nights before, I had stayed out late for a Wesley Willis concert. Then last night, I was stupid enough to attend Quad parties until 2 am in the morning. I am such moron sometimes.


6:10-6:33 AM: After showering, shaving, and generally making a racket in my Mather bathroom, (much to the chagrin of my eight suitemates), I head off to Newton for the shoot.

7:01 AM: I arrive at the Levinthal-Sidman Jewish Community Center. The irony that a Jewish girl has to hide her religion in Newton, which is largely Jewish itself (much less in a Jewish Community Center) is not lost on me.

7:05 AM: I say good morning to an already busy Daren, who tells me to meet with Sarah, the woman in charge of extras. When I introduce myself, Sarah tells me to talk with Daren. I am still groggy and very confused.

7:11 AM: I put my bathing suit on underneath my clothes. This early morning in the middle of September is a balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit. I have not jacket nor sweater. I hate myself as I shiver but the fog rising from the swimming pool creates this very cool swamp-like feel which makes me a little happier.

7:25-7:59 AM: After a hardy breakfast of coffee, a small muffin, an apple and coffee, I begin chatting with one of the other extras. It turns out that she works at the Harvard Medical School. Small world.

8:00 AM: Sarah calls us to get ready for the first scene. It is amazing the amount of technical equipment required to film a movie, even in a smaller production such as this one. There are the lighting people, the sound people, the camera people, the people to tell us extras what to do, not to mention the producers and the director. The actual actors are outnumbered 10 to one.

8:01-10:15ish AM: Shooting the first scene. “Scene 3, Take 1! Ready! Background! Action!” The commands are repeated over and over as Scott tries to get the scene exactly how he wants it. The three young actresses, aged five, seven and seven, repeat their lines; the girls bob up and down in the water, singing and playing between takes. My job is to sit by the pool and read a book. Things are looking up: I get to wear a white T-shirt so I don’t freeze to death and I have the greatest Civil War novel, The Killer Angels, to read. I pray that I don’t screw up. I don’t know how I could really, but I still have that nagging fear of messing up the one take which would have been perfect. “Take 18. Background. Action.” At least I’m not in the water.

10:30 AM: Break time. I soak my toes in the warm water to try and restore some warmth and semblance of feeling. The whole day I have chatted with the other extras. We discuss the terrorist attacks, our jobs and schools, movies and a wide range of other topics. There is even another Harvard student, a fellow Matherite. My only regret is that the extras were all normal and intelligent; there is no one to make light of in this diary.

10:45 AM: We get back into position to do the same shoot again, but this time from a few new angles. I get to read my book again.

11:07 AM: Colonel Joshua Chamberlain leads his Union troops in a desperate bayonet counterattack, crushing the Rebel attack on Little Round Top. This is one of the many key moments during the fighting at Gettysburg leading to the Northern victory.