It’s the 17th Century, London.
Traders, merchants, busy streets, spices, pearls, silks, fresh flowers….. and TAM (yours truly) winding down the cobblestone path.
Oh, and I’m fully kitted out in a very large and very white wig and an old-fashioned hooped dress.
Totally Keira Knightley of me, I know.
Well that was the scene last week as I worked on a documentary-series called “The Great British Story” for Sky1 Channel, UK!
It’s a documentary about the history of Britain, with different episodes making up the series. This was for episode 4.
What an incredible experience.
It was at The Castle monument here in Cape Town.
I was what they call a ‘featured extra’.
For those of you who don’t know, that basically means you’re slightly more important than an extra (noddy badge please)
I didn’t really know what a ‘featured extra’ meant, I must say.
I thought it would be me in amongst crowds of other randoms on a scene in a bigger film or documentary. So I was actually surprised when I got there and I was one of only 3 girls.
And let me say, we were treated like the royalty we were meant to be portraying.
People were running around getting our costumes for us, handing us water when we looked pale, following us to touch up our make-up and hair and waiting behind the cameras with towels to dry us off after shooting.
They would even randomly stop us while walking to say things like; “no…those shoes aren’t right, let’s get you better ones!”
Basically they gave us all the ego-boosting we could want in one day, and I must say I loved every second! Hehe
At lunchtime we were escorted by one of the crew to a buffet that included roast potatoes, butternut, veggies, sizzling beef, salad and roasted chicken..
I was totally impressed and would totally do this again because of it.
In fact, I am doing this again on Death Race: Inferno shooting in November… (ok, a little bit more than this so I may just die of a heart attack from the attention lol)
I can’t imagine what it must feel like to actually be a mega movie star. If it’s half as ego-boosting as this, I’m sold!
We arrived on set – what they call “call-time” – early, at about 9am.
Thanks to Kings of Leon the night before I was totally hungover.
Feeling like crap, the smell of coffee as I pulled up to base camp (I know, very cool film jargon) was heavenly.
Arriving in amidst make-up, hair and costume trailers, I was greeted by the delicious sight of a table full of food – crisps, toasted sandwiches, tea, milo, hot chocolate, juices, biscuits…
After make-up and wardrobe, we did a scene.
We had to ‘run through the rain’ as we made our way along a cobbled alleyway.
They had an uber cool rain machine (cool because it’s a rain machine….not cool because we didn’t look quite as hot as the girl from The Notebook in her rain scene afterwards).
Yip, drenched dresses and sopping wigs were the order of the day for us three -Not our sexiest moments!
After 3 takes, it was back to base camp for a change of clothes.
The production crew was so much fun and let me tell you – NOT messing around.
This was full-on-high-production stuff! I was totally intimidated
The camera was the size of my car and the amount of wires, walky-talkies, ear pieces, gadgets, gizmos and general cool-ness that went into being a member of the production crew was beyond me.
The next scene was through a crowded merchant-covered street.
And guess what? The camera followed me at one point. Me, out of everyone, was chosen!
It was very exciting having a camera in my face as I walked through the street ‘reacting’ to vendors selling me exotic stuff …. The director kept screaming things to me like; “The garlic! The garlic! You like the garlic…let’s see you smell the garlic” as he zoomed into my face with this gargantuan contraption – sound boom and dolly track in toe.
I was playing very smooth I must say, not showing an inch of nerves at having all eyes on me…
I smelt that garlic! I bought that rosemary! I smelt that turmeric! I felt that silk! And, boy, did I ever enjoy those coffee beans!
I thought I was doing so well until we got to a stall that was selling buttons (of all things).
“Ok!” The director yells, everyone taking their positions.
“The buttons! You want the buttons! Let’s go for the buttons!” he screams as he pulls in with the camera, lowers the boom mic to my head and motions to the crew to move in around me.
Feeling totally confident, having just come from what I thought was an Oscar-winning performance at the spice rack, I reach for the buttons.
“Yes! Yes! We’re tight on the buttons!”
I reach further.
“Ok! Do something! They’re yours! Let’s see the buttons!”
All eyes lean in.
Extras look on.
Guy racks focus.
I take a handful.
“Yes! Yes! Good! More!”
I pull them toward me.
I lean in.
Camera leans in.
“This is the moment! Go for it!”
I look around.
I look back.
And I smell the buttons.
I smell the buttons.
“And we’re smelling the fucking buttons!!” he yells as he cuts and the whole crew bursts out laughing.
Wow, Talk about a heated moment!!
It was honestly so hilarious…. I think my cheeks were on fire for the rest of the day.
Hmmm….maybe I’m not ready for that Oscar just yet? Lol
All in all it was a wonderful day.
We wrapped at 4pm and I was completely exhausted by the end of it.
It was a very rewarding experience and I recommend anyone to be an extra (or featured extra) on set at least once in their lifetime!
To be part of something bigger than you is awesome. Especially when you know it’s going to be of high production value and a genuinely interesting piece for the viewers.
Getting in I kicked off my shoes, took a long, hot bath, had a glass of wine and made a mental note to get the DVD out when its released next year and watch out for myself in the big posh blue dress