This article is about how Spain is very quickly becoming the new center for the film industry outside Hollywood, particularly Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, and around the Marbella area. It is about how to enter the world of being a film extra, and how to work in Spain on the permanent list of extras with the companies who specialize in this field. Also, what it is like to work in films, what you can expect, and what would be expected of you.
...as a foreign resident living in Spain, they will be looking for people like you.
Have you ever wanted to be in on the silver screen? Well, as a Spanish resident, now you have a very good chance of doing just that!
Spain is very quickly becoming the new centre for the film industry outside Hollywood, particularly Alicante, Barcelona ,Madrid, and around the Marbella area. This is due to various reasons, the main one being the climate. For those who remember the so called ‘Spaghetti Westerns’, wild west flicks made by Italian producers on a cheap budget. These were mostly filmed in Spain, usually in the semi desert region around Almeria. Those wonderful scenes of Clint Eastwood riding across the empty plains of New Mexico were in fact wonderful scenes of Clint on paid vacation in Southern Spain! The climate is ideal for the film makers.
Then the industry went flat. Until now. With the construction of the Ciudad De La Luz in Alicante, Spain has come to the attention of film producers and directors from all over the world. The light here is so good for filming. Plenty of cloudless days (better average than Hollywood). And the word is spreading due to the good results using a lower budget.
It means that the film companies require ‘extras’ or figurantes to use the correct term. And as the industry here is growing, so too are the number of companies specialized in finding, contracting, and organising the figurantes. So if you want to get into the films, you need to go to the castings that these companies advertise from time to time. Look out for ads for castings in all the local papers, free rags, shop window posters, windscreen flyers, etc. When they need people, they need them quickly and will normally advertise all over the place for people to come to a casting session. Go to as many as you can, to get yourself on file with as many companies as possible.
It might surprise you to know that, as a foreign resident living in Spain, they will be looking for people like you. The film director informs the contracted company to get figurantes that fit certain characteristics for the film. If they need a Spanish looking person, they’ve already got thousands on file. But very often they need people who look north European, or American, or Asian, or African, etc. They need people with fair skin, dark skin, red heads, grey-haired middle-aged men (enter yours truly, stage left), etc. They will also be looking for people with an ‘unusual’ aspect; muscular, exceptionally long hair, very thin, etc. But tattoos are not normally welcome.
You will stand in a long queue for a long time. One of the first things you learn in this game is ‘Patience’ with a capital ‘P’. Put your car in a good parking place. You won’t be able to run back to put more money in the meter once you are in the queue. Finally it will be your turn. The Company will want you to fill out a form and take your photo. So you need the following things (apart from patience and an MP3 to pass the time):
They will give you a number which you stick on your chest. The same number will be written on your form. The photographer is very quick and professional. He will take long and close shots of you, and it will be done literally in a flash. Make a note of your number somewhere safe. You will now be given quick instructions as to the next step. It will be about a meeting to inform everyone about the projected film and the process for those selected. They will probably now give you the proposed dates and ask you to confirm availability. They will explain what they mean by that term. It could be that you have to be available for a full month, or just a week, or just odd days. At the moment, if you have had your photo taken then you are ‘pre-selected’. It is only when they call you for ‘costume fitting’ that you know you have entered into the current list.
They might ask you to use your special skill. You will be paid very well for this also.
A lot depends on if you are 'in studio', on an 'external set', or 'on location'. But be prepared for an early start in all cases. 6.00am is not unusual. The days are long, and you should bring books, newspapers, portable chess boards, cards, etc. Don't bring expensive items like portable PC's as the security of your belongings is very very low. Cameras are not recommended. You can often take photos of each other waiting to go on set, but cameras are NEVER allowed on set, and surreptitious photos of famous actors, if discovered, will be punished by having your camera wiped clean of all photos and you being barred from that company's list of figurantes forever. As you might gather, there are hours of waiting around just to appear for a few seconds in the background of one scene. Patience is required. The first step is getting your hair done, the make-up on, and costumed up. They will normally then give you breakfast, and you go to the extras waiting area, where you ... yes, you've guessed it ... wait. You will be asked to keep your appearance right, so be careful not to mess up the clothes, your hair, or your make-up. There is always a constant supply of non-alcoholic drinks, coffee, tea, water, and snacks. Lunch is also provided. Somewhere along the line, a bunch of people will come in and start hurriedly retouching your hair and make-up etc. while you are informed as to who is going on set. You troop on set and follow the instructions they give. They normally explain what is going on in Spanish and English, and expect you to translate between yourselves for anyone who isn't clear. They expect you to be quiet, although if there are a lot of Spanish extras, this means lots of reminders being given! Again, more patience while they get camera angles right and do practice runs before finally taking two or three (or more) shots of the final scene. During the shooting they expect total silence. You will be told off quite severely if you don't keep quiet at this point. Then, all of a sudden, you are told to go back to the waiting area.
It is always a good experience. Some people get hooked on it and try to appear in as many films as possible. Others, like me, like to do it now and then. Still others keep it as a once only experience. And a few leave the whole thing on the first day bored out of their minds considering that they have got better things to do. Once you are on the list of an 'extra' company, you will not have to go to any castings. They have your details and will call you if needed. Keep in touch with them to ask about up and coming projects. I know people who are doing so much work as figurantes that they are earning as much as doing a full time job each year. And keep in touch with the people you meet, as word of up and coming films runs quickly through this particular grape-vine.
Well, yes. Plenty. The film industry is very very labour intensive, which is why the huge budgets. They are always in need of SKILLED artists, set constructors, screen printers, caterers, and a whole heap more. Investigate. Seek and you will find. This industry is booming, and set to boom more. This is the start of something big.
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