In 2009, my last extra gig that I did for actual money I needed to live was on Mad Men. I’d just signed up to be a “regular extra,” which meant they’d tailored three suits for me and, like those suits, my fedora, shoes, ties, period glasses – everything – were to be dedicated to me. When I got a call and showed up, I wouldn’t just be another extra in a new suit combination. I’d have a look. My look. But I had to weigh the possibility of some minimum-wage extra work with a full-time job, something that would make me less homeless and considerably more financially stable. I did maybe two jobs in my own suits.
Cut to 10 years later. Due to circumstances I’m not comfortable getting into, I had to leave this industry that took a chance on me but that, frankly, I hated. It was very difficult quitting, mostly because in those ten years I’d managed to triple my original salary and start to save a little. Even then, due to some other circumstances, I was kind of just starting to break even.
Three weeks in to my return to the blurry part of the screen, and I’m headed to my fourth job. I’ve probably submitted to a hundred or so. Today is my second pilot. When I stopped doing extra work a decade ago, finding out the information i wanted about the shows I was working was not exactly impossible, but I’m fortunate that now the names of the actors starring in the show I’m about to work on are just moments away, when I need them. It’s one of those things that helps me get excited to do these shoots.
It actually doesn’t take a great deal to get me excited to do extra work, even in the face of 12-plus-hour workdays, but these little things do help. Today I’m working on a show with someone I’ve “worked with,” which is to say “sidled nearby,” in my past, on a big show. That’s my only point of reference. This is the second court show I’ve worked on this year, so I already need something to keep my interest going. There’s not much to learn on set while you’re doing background work unless you’re new, so it’s very helpful in that circumstance, but for me I’m stuck trying to figure out who I’m on set with and what the hell this show might become.
Pilots are fun like that. Especially when someone you admire is on it. In my last go-round, I was on yet another court show, but since this one starred Alfred Molina, I, as a massive fan of The Impostors, kept the energy up while waiting to see him. When I finally did, it was a jolt, but of course the rest of the day is either a letdown because you’ve hit the peak, or, you know, actual work, so you almost forget one of your heroes is nearby.
That’s not true, but you do want to get the job done without being distracted. There are times I’ve been distracted. There are times I’ve caused the production to halt. I’m not proud of them, but they are hilarious in hindsight. More on those later.
– Jason Klamm
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