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The Budget Book for Film and Television

The Budget Book for Film and Television

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Published by: richardkey7 on Apr 07, 2012
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Atmosphere

257

Atmosphere, Background Talent, Extra Talent—all these terms refer to the folks
who perform in the film but have no written lines. These are the crowds in crowd
scenes, the other couple at a dinner for four when only the two principals have
speaking lines, and so forth. They earn their pay by being present and by blending
into the background. There are exceptions, but the rule is that an Extra is an Actor
who has no written lines and is not directed by the Director.

3901General Extras

The great majority of Extras are General Extras. These stalwarts add flesh
to a scene without being obtrusive. They usually have the proper wardrobe for a
scene and require a minimum of makeup. The Assistant Directors direct these
folks.

3902Stand-ins

AStand-in is a person of about the same height, build, and coloring as a prin-
cipal Actor. While a set is being lit, the Director of Photography (DP) needs a body
to stand in the Actor’s position on the set. The Actor usually is in makeup, rehears-
ing, or otherwise occupied. So the DPhas this person to stand in for the Actor;
hence, Stand-in. Stand-ins, being present every day, eventually become part of the
crew. They usually make a tad more money than a regular Extra. At times, an Actor

258

The Budget Book for Film and Television

will request a particular Stand-in. It is wise to accede to the request because, gen-
erally, the Stand-in knows where the Actor is when we don’t.

3903Silent Bits

ASilent Bit takes place when an Extra acts or reacts with a principal charac-
ter, such as the desk clerk at a hotel who checks in the Actor, without dialogue. As
long as the character is silent, he or she can be an Extra. We pay a premium for
Silent Bits, and the Extras doing them will be worth it.

3904Special Ability

We used to call this a Horse, because back in the old days, horseback-riding
Extras received a premium payment for their Special Ability. Any Special Ability
that adds to a scene usually is worth something extra. Abartender who knows how
to shake a good drink, a skateboarder, an ice-skater, or a rollerblader—all these
should be paid for their ability. I have a friend who is a court stenographer. When-
ever I have to film a scene in a courtroom, I hire this fellow to sit in front of the
judge’s bench and act like a court stenographer. He brings his stenotype machine
and takes down all the dialogue. I’ve even seen Directors ask him to read back some
lines as spoken because it’s faster than winding back the tape to listen to it.
Special Ability fees are extra money paid on top of the basic Extra’s rate, much

like stunt adjustments.

3905Minors

Remember that a minor is still a minor, even if only an Extra, and still must
have a guardian and teacher present, and state law for study time and play time
must be strictly observed.

3909Interviews

We may need to interview Extras for particular situations. On the TVseries
Supercarrier we needed military types with military haircuts to play the naval offi-
cers on the show. We had the Extras casting folk send in several dozen people who
were willing to have their hair cut in regulation military length, and we chose the
best two dozen or so. They became the stock company for the show. We probably
will have to pay the interviewees a pittance for an interview.

3910Wardrobe Fittings

After we cast the Extras for Supercarrier we had to have them custom-fitted
with naval uniforms. We had to pay for their time for that also; not much, but it
was worth it.

3911Wardrobe Allowance

OnWar and Remembrance we filmed full-dress evening dances with Army,
Navy, and Army Air Corps officers and their ladies, and the scenes took place in

1943–1944. By golly, Cenex, the Extras casting people, managed to pull together
600 people who came to the set in period clothes to be in the show. We paid them
extra for the use of their special period wardrobe. Many of the ladies showed up in
1940s hairstyles as well, saving us even more time.

3912Miscellaneous Rentals

Atmosphere

259

An Extra who is asked to bring his or her own car and drive it in a shot must
be paid for the use of the car in the picture. The payment is higher if it is a special
model of car, such as an old “Woodie” station wagon or a Ferrari Testarossa,
although I know many more Extras who own Woodies than who own Ferraris. The
Screen Actors Guild has mandated prices for the rental of personal property for use
in the film.

3913Extras Casting

More than likely we will use one of the excellent casting services to cast our
Extras for us. Casting our own Extras is a very unusual move. The Extras casting
company has a vast database of people from which to choose. Central Casting is
one of the best, and has been in business for decades.

260

The Budget Book for Film and Television

When on location in a major city we will probably find someone locally who
is well versed in gathering large numbers of Extras for the film. The local film com-
mission will help us with that. In not-so-large population centers, it may be wise
to contact local theatre groups, Theatre Arts Departments of local colleges, and so
forth.

Generally speaking, Extras casting people will charge us around 9 percent of
the total cost of the Extras for the casting service and another 6 percent or so to
handle the Extras payroll. This can be a great time and money saver if we have
many Extras. The service will supply us with complete details of the hours each
Extra worked, adjustments for special business, and so forth along with the bill for
each week.

Of course the ADs are experienced not only in directing Background Talent but
also in handing out the adjustments at the end of each day.

3914Crowd Controllers

If there are many Extras, for example, during a crowd scene for the inaugura-
tion of an Egyptian Pharaoh, it may be helpful to hire people who are accustomed
to handling large numbers of Extras and their Vouchers swiftly and efficiently. In
some cases these Crowd Controllers will save us time and money. They usually will
be paid as Extras, but at a slightly higher daily rate.

Extras Voucher:Form an Extra fills out to enable the company to pay him or
her properly. It includes the hours worked and notations for any adjustments. If an
Extra claims that an adjustment is due and the AD decides against it, that too is
noted. Eventually SAG will become involved if the adjustment was really deserved.

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