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The Extras Strike Back

January 31, 1988

I could not believe my eyes when I read the letter by Marguerite Cravatt of Creative Casting (Calendar Letters, Jan. 24). She states "most people who work as extras have flexible, full-time jobs . . . most do not depend on extra work as permanent income. . . ."

She must not be aware of the hundreds and hundreds of extras that I see day after day.

Many of us are using extra work as our sole source of income while we persue careers as actors. Perhaps we full-timers do not work often with her agency precisely because of her attitude towards us. Since she is hired by the producers, of course she would take their side. Her unwillingness to stand behind her extras to see that they are treated fairly is typical of most casting agencies.

As for bad treatment, I think most people would be surprised at which shows are famous to us (extras) for their shabby treatment of waiver extras.

"Moonlighting," for example, with its very expensive stars, was recently highlighted in the weekday Calendar for the amount of money it was spending to re-create "Casablanca" in an upcoming episode.

This program is the most notorious for its treatment of extras and its cheap approach to compensation. During the "Casablanca" shoot, extras were required to work without a lunch break for 8 hours, then we were refused a meal penalty payment (required by union extras after 6 hours).

Also, there was little in the way of snacks or beverages other than cold coffee or water. Many extras refused a second or third day of work under those conditions. I wish I had a nickel for every time a craft service man has refused an extra's request for a cold soda because the "sodas are for cast and crew only."

Other shows that fall into the category of abusive or cheap treatment are "Houston Knights," "Buck James" and Emmy-award winning "Cagney & Lacey." Many of us refuse to subject ourselves to this treatment and will not work these shows anymore.

I sincerely hope that Gene Poe and the Screen Extras Guild come to their senses. Until all background playres are represented and protected, producers will continue to cut costs at the level which already represents the lowest expenditure to them . . . the extra.

After several years of doing extra work, the only show that consistently treats all people fairly is "Highway to Heaven." Thank you, Michael Landon.

As for those directors and producers who, Cravatt says, "Say hello and thanks for doing a good job," all I can say to them is, "Thanks, but words are cheap! How about paying extras mileage like everyone else working on the production?"

DEAN BROOKS

Hollywood

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