Do As I Do, Not As I Say

An AD by the name of Jason Roberts recently commented on a post from a couple months ago:

I would like to think that you didn’t actually call background artists “untalented actors”.

Maybe I am misreading your sense of humor.

Just in case it wasn’t in jest, I would like to point out how very important background artists are to production, especially Assistant Directors. Without a background artist ( or background actor, I am sure we can agree that’s a better term than “extras” which makes them seem superfluous) there is no human atmosphere to a scene. They provide the reality in which the actors can be believed. In every show, period.

While there are many tasks to being an Assistant Director, one of the most rewarding creative ones is being able to direct action that ends up on screen and impacting the show (good or bad). The PA’s that I hire to run background are essential to my team. I find that they are some of the smartest on the rise PA’s that are on a fast track to becoming AD’s.

There is a lot more to the job than you said. In a previous comment, SeanW managed to get more information to Jay which I am sure helped him.

While I haven’t read a lot of your blog, I do think you have had some excellent things to say in the past.

On a final note, I think it’s important to impart on your readers good form, like respecting everyone on set from the top to the bottom.

I would be happy to discuss further with you anytime.

PS: For your edification some of those untalented actors that started out as background artists were: Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Clint Eastwood, Michael Caine, Megan Fox and Rene Zellweger.

Jason is obviously much wiser and more tactful than I. Thanks for the helpful comment.

Okay, guys, this is a good time to talk about my tone.

I am definitely trying to help the young and inexperienced with my advice and stories from the trenches. But that is not my entire motivation. Usually, I’m trying to entertain the reader, too. Sometimes, I’m writing just to vent.

But please, oh please, if you are one of those young and inexperienced readers, do not repeat the prejudices and vitriol I often spew on this blog. First of all, what’s true for me may not by true for you. Sure, I don’t get along with camera guys, but you might.

And half the time, I’m kidding about those prejudices. I’ve met plenty of nice, intelligent, talented background actors and stand-ins. Most of them are, in fact, aspiring actors, but I’m an aspiring writer, so I probably shouldn’t be throwing stones at aspiring glass houses.1

Take everything I say with a grain of salt. If you think to yourself, “My, that sounds a bit harsh,” it probably is.

But even if you agree with my nonsense, don’t, for the love of God, say so. Don’t tell the AD he’s an asshole, or call the sound guy a weirdo. You should be respectful and professional with everyone, at all times.

You don’t know what it takes to do their job, and you sure as hell don’t know what’s going on in their personal lives. Maybe that extra is an untalented actor; or maybe he’s the next George Clooney, and just hasn’t had his big break. Maybe the AD is a dick, or maybe his wife left him and took his kids and dog and pickup truck.

I can say these things on the blog, because there are no repercussions, for either me or the subject of my ire. The same cannot be said for you.

Like Jason says, respect everyone from top to bottom. Or start an anonymous blog.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Any aspiring agents out there, take note: I’m not currently repped!
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5 Responses

  1. Background is often called a lot worse on set, especially when they’re wandering around, trying to pull focus in a shot.

    Besides, this is YOUR blog — you can say whatever you want however you want!

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