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Lights, camera, action! What is it really like working as a film extra?

PUBLISHED: 14:18 10 April 2017 | UPDATED: 14:18 10 April 2017

Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.

Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.

Archant

There’s no business like show business so reporter DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP decided to try her hand at being an extra for the day as part of filming for local indie film Soldiers of Embers.

Reporter Donna-Louise Bishop joins (left to right) Adam Sturman, Matt Long, and director Danny Cotton, on set at Club VuDu for Soldiers of Embers filming. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.Reporter Donna-Louise Bishop joins (left to right) Adam Sturman, Matt Long, and director Danny Cotton, on set at Club VuDu for Soldiers of Embers filming. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.

It is not unusual to spend ages getting ready for a glam night out on the tiles, but when you are getting into your best clubbing gear at six in the morning – that is a bit peculiar.

But that is exactly how I started this particular Saturday morning.

Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.

An hour or so later I was stumbling down Prince of Wales Road in Norwich in my best heels and was greeted outside Club VuDu, joined by a handful of fellow ‘clubbers’.

If you didn’t know the venue had been transformed into a film set for local Indie film Soldiers of Embers (SOE), then it might have been a bizarre sight, but for those of us ‘in the know’ it was time to get to work as film extras.

I was introduced to Matt Long, who has written, produced and also features in the film. Then I met first assistant director, Adam Sturman, and director, Danny Cotton, and was instantly welcomed into the SOE family. There was even time for a quick celebesque-selfie together.

Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.

I was briefly taken through what would be happening during the morning’s filming session before being introduced to the other extras. Then I made myself comfortable while preparation for the shoot went ahead.

The first thing I learnt is that you have to be patient. Drinking lots of tea certainly helps keep the clock ticking while you wait.

Even for just a five minute recording, there is a lot of work happening behind the scenes - from equipment preparation, to costume and make-up decisions, and even rehearsal time for actors to nail their lines before the camera starts rolling. I had been on set for the best part of an hour before I was needed for any real work.

Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.

As I sat relaxing with my brew I watched the principal actors doing their thing. That was an experience in itself as I got to appreciate the hard work these folk do (many of the SOE actors are fitting in filming around their day jobs).

Then things started to get busy.

Music was playing in the background for the extras to soak up the ambience and tempo because when the camera started rolling we would be plunged into silence. I wasn’t quite sure how I would pull off authentic dancing, considering my own is something to be ridiculed at on a YouTube fail video, but I was excited to try.

Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.Stills from the scene in Soldiers of Embers, where reporter Donna-Louise Bishop tried her hand at being an extra for the day. Picture: BULLDOG FILMS.

More people appeared and half-empty alcopop and beer bottles filled with water were placed randomly into the hands of extras and on empty tables. Some were lucky enough (or just looked a damn sight classier than me) to be handed wine glasses of apple juice and cherryade.

Soon I found myself standing with a friendly blonde and a good natured redhead. We genuinely looked like mates on a night out in the city.

And then came the bit I was dreading.

Not only did I have to try and sway to the silence but I also had to mime conversation. I’m not going to lie, a crisis of confidence kicked in and I felt as stupid as fish in a bikini. When the director shouted “cut” I breathed a massive sigh of relief.

By the third or forth time though, I started to relax and enjoyed it. When one extra was scolded for daring to stare straight into the camera, I was just thankful I wasn’t the one to make the faux pas.

I had to sneak away before filming ended but during my time there I could see that a good sense of humour, patience, and a lot of caffeine is needed if you embark on a career as an extra.

It might not be as glamorous as one would hope but it’s certainly different and rewarding to feel part of a team and achieve a final product - in this case, an exciting Indie production with enough heart for it to deserve to do well.

Lights, camera, action! What is Soldiers of Embers about?

In 2015, Norwich actor, writer, and producer, Matt Long, wrote the original feature film script for Soldiers of Embers.

Filming began on the main feature in October last year and is due to wrap at the end of the month.

The aim was to work with as many local businesses as possible to bring the film making spotlight firmly on Norfolk. Matt has also extended his thanks to everybody who has supported Bulldog Films so far.

Matt Long is put under our spotlight to answer 10 important questions.

The film is directed by local multi-award winning Danny Cotton. His other feature film trailer, No More Lights in the Sky, recently won a film festival award.

Soldiers of Embers follows the story of Jack Bishop, (performed by Matt), a retired Para Trooper who is trying to reconnect with his family, in particular his daughter.

Interest recently gained momentum after an article appeared in a Los Angeles Indie film magazine.

- More information at www.bulldogfilms.net.

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