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What I Learned as an Extra on a Major Motion Picture

It could make self-isolation extraordinary

I’ve done film extra work for a couple years now. It’s the perfect break from my life coaching business.

So, what did I learn as an extra?

  • You eat really well at breakfast, lunch & dinner. Steamed salmon, seared sea bream, delicious salads, cookies and cakes
  • Stunt doubles are bad ass and carry super cool duffle-backpacks
  • There’s lots of down-time no matter what
  • Digital and social media lockdown are…well, more on that later

What film was it?

Spiderman – Far from Home. My scenes took place on an amazing Venice fish market set with real canals and real gondolas – 30-minutes outside London.

For nine days, we boiled under crazy hot sun. Then halfway through the 10th day, the skies opened up. Picture 150 extras, aged 20 – 72, slumped at long tables in a marquee waiting for the rain to stop? Not pretty.

Some people grumbled and stomped. Others napped, read, wrote and played Sudoku. Two women created Origami swans. Only a couple chatted. But, we all watched the weather, hoping we’d be called to set. We weren’t.

Someone was Watching

Worst of all, we couldn’t distract ourselves with our phones. On major films like this, they’re locked up. If you’re lucky, you’re one of 3 people at a time, allowed 5 minutes on your phone under the watchful eye of a security guard. Needless, to say, the phone queue was endless and I was in it. I needed my social media fix.

Lots More Rain

The next day, us extras arrived at 6:30am in a torrential downpour. It was never going to stop. But an interesting thing happened inside the marquee. People had decided to have fun. There were charades, cards, and drinking games without the drinking. One group shouted out US States. The Origami women were giving lessons.

The phone queue became almost non-existent. I was about to join it when I heard, “You’re American, right?” Oh geez. I braced myself for the embarrassing “What do you think of your president?” question.

So, I was relieved to hear, “We can only remember 50 of the 52 states.” I smiled, not smugly, I hope. “I have good news. There are only 50 states.” I said, eyeing their list. But their smiles froze as I frowned and added, “Oops. Sorry, Chicago and Detroit aren’t states.”

I did get Idaho. But that last state took forever without a phone to find the answer. It was Old School. I liked it. We did get there in the end with someone’s contraband iWatch. It was Rhode Island which, I’m embarrassed to admit, I’d even forgotten.

I’m glad I didn’t go back to the phone queue because, now that day stands out as an extraordinary day. A gift. Not a sentiment the producers would share, for sure.

An Important Lesson in Digital and Social Media

The important lesson? Be open to locking down social media from time to time. You too can take a cruddy day or situation or conversation and ‘re-frame’ it. You have the power to see things differently in a positive constructive way.

The next day, we were back on set. But, instead of joining the phone queue during the break, I made a very cool Origami swan.

Is there something you always say you don’t have time to change?

Chances are, you’ve got extra time on your hands right now. Possibly, the most uninterrupted time you’re ever going to have. Now that you the time, what would you improve, adjust, re-frame if you could?

Try these ideas to get started:

  • Try a social media lockdown a couple hours each day
  • Do a brain dump of all your thoughts to get a bigger picture
  • Talk it out – just saying it out loud can makes thoughts clearer
  • Make small changes to get moving – it can make a big difference
  • Take an online course to learn how to do whatever it is
  • Work with a coach to get clear on what you want and how to get there

When you come out the other side you’ll be way ahead because you chose action over inaction and positivity over negativity.

Build in Some Fun

Friday night, we attended a virtual black-tie party. It was great. Think about it though – No cleaning, no cooking and no supplying booze for very thirsty friends. It’s the perfect way to host.

My questions is this…When all this is over and we reciprocate, can we also not clean, not cook and ask everyone to BYOB? Probably not.

My Own Mom Almost Missed Me

Oh, and in the film, I’m wearing a floral dress and pearls. I walk behind Tom Holland (Spiderman) just before the monster rises out of the Venice canal. NOTE: Don’t blink or you’ll miss me too. 😊

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