Being a film extra

By | Children
It was an exciting day being a film extra!Credit@Natasha Cargill

By Libby Salmon, aged 10 years old

Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to be an extra in a film called ‘Draw On, Sweet Night’. The film is about the life of John Wilbye, a late Elizabethan/early Jacobean composer; who was born in 1574 and passed away in 1638. The filming took place at Kentwell Hall, a place I know really well from previous activities we’ve done there. I was new to film-making, so I was very excited about appearing on set and finding out how it all works. All the other children cast in the film (playing my brother and sisters) were used to this sort of thing and knew what to expect, so they appeared more confident and just as excited!

Before we went, my mum had to fill in some forms for a children’s performance licence. The license protects children and determines what work they are allowed to do. To be approved, the application must also have permission from the local council and prove the safety of the set. I played the role of a girl who was supposed to be 7 or 8, even though I am 10, because the regulations make this easier for the film company. My sister would have liked to have done it too if she could!

The children were only in a few scenes, so there was lots of waiting around while other people were being filmed or doing things to get the set ready. We had to leave home really early to get there by 6am! The early start allowed us to make the most of the daylight hours in November, as the days are shorter and much of the filming was done outside. We got up at about four o’clock each day of filming to ensure we were always on time. Being punctual gave us the opportunity to chat while we waited for everyone else to be ready. There were hairdressers and make-up artists to make sure everyone looked right and a costume designer who decided what everybody should wear to ensure that the overall look was right.

In one scene, one of my (film) siblings had to ride a horse into the courtyard of Kentwell Hall, while the rest of Lady Mary’s children got off a cart as though we had just arrived from a long journey. My mum was also an extra and was playing the part of our nanny, so I jumped off the cart into her arms. We did the same scene a couple of times to practice and then it took six or seven takes before the director was happy. The cart was really high and my mum had to lift me back up again each time, so by the time we finally heard the words “cut and wrap” her arms had worked very hard! Then we had to run from one part of the courtyard to another, remembering the exact order we were in so that it was exactly the same each time. This was important because they were filming from different angles, so that it could be put together at the end. A lady with a camera took pictures to help us remember.

The next scene involved us leaving the hall – we were only told the bits of the story that we needed to know for our scenes, so I will have to wait until the film comes out next year to know why! Again, my mum/nanny had to help me up into the cart, although this time on film. She was very grateful that the others climbed up by themselves, since they were all bigger than me! Fortunately that scene only took two takes.

We did a couple more scenes and by the end of the day we were ready to go home after an interesting and fun day. Hopefully all of the filming will have gone well and the film will be released on schedule next year, then we can see the whole story.

What film would you like to be an extra in?

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