Column: I was a movie extra: An insider glimpse from filming of George Clooney's 'Ides of March' in Ann Arbor
Filming for the movie "The Ides of March" is taking place in Ann Arbor this week. Ever wonder what it’s like behind the scenes? Ever consider taking a day off from your everyday life to spend it in close quarters with film star and director George Clooney?
Yeah, me too! And apparently I am not the only one. Hundreds people showed up to spend their days as unpaid extras for the film’s big political assembly scene shot at the Power Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday.
Here’s the play by play of my day:
Scene 1: 10 p.m. on the eve of the Ides of March
I got an email confirming that I'd been selected as an extra for filming. Details like where, when and what to wear were included:
“The scenes we are filming are set at a university in OH in late Winter. You are attending a Democratic Party presidential primary event.
"No logo stuff from U-M because this is in Dayton/Kent. Just bring choices nice casual to dressy suits sport coats shirts ties woman suits dresses just nice good-looking smart wear"
Too late for shopping, I frantically search my wardrobe for what could be considered smart wear. Red blazer, a couple of slacks, a few tops. All set.
Scene 2: 6:45 a.m. on the Ides of March
My day begins with the sunrise to get all of my ducks in a row so I can report to extras holding by 8 a.m. Oh the price of glamour!
Scene 3: 8:30 a.m. Extras Holding
My cohorts and I arrive at Extras Holding — a fancy name for big unheated white tent. Wardrobe glances at what we are wearing and tells us to change. We make our way to a curtained off area and modify our wardrobes: “No red, you’ll stand out.” (Yeah, that was my goal.) “No black, you’ll blend in.” We put on the professionally chosen outfits and are sent to the set.
Scene 4: 9:30 a.m. The Set
We are ushered in to the Power Center, where filming will take place for the day.
9:38 a.m .
I think I just spotted George!
The director comes on to stage and introduces himself to us, the audience of roughly 700 extras. Who is directing this film? Why, none other than George Clooney.
Most of us had no idea if we would even see the superstar today, so cheers and excitement erupted throughout the theater. The captive audience has no problem following direction and enjoying Mr. Clooney’s humorous quips and light banter.
We enjoyed every minute of his attention, and he ours. During the day he tells us about his dinner last night at Ann Arbor’s Pacific Rim, joked with us the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State, and had the crowds cheering for a University of Michigan film student named Yuri.
There is a lot of waiting but the crew and cast are personable and friendly.
We, the extras, are rearranged throughout the theater to shoot and reshoot a scene where George’s presidential candidate character is giving a speech about the importance of changing the world and the science of global warming. We are the enthralled supporters. We cheer and wave flags.
Though I long for a bathroom break, I don’t dare get up, as I just got moved to the front of the auditorium. Some university art students tell us about working on set pieces the day before. One student refers to Clooney as "an elusive butterfly."
12:05 p.m .
Cheer some more.
Stay quiet. One precocious extra gathers up the nerve to walk up to the set stage and ask George for his autograph. He smiles and charmingly obliges.
Anyone else getting hungry? Waiting for some camera repositioning. We overhear that a lunch break may be in our future. Some extras lament that they reported for duty at 6:30 a.m.
1:55 p.m .
Stay quiet some more. Filming has moved to the theater foyer, and I have a new understanding of the term captive audience. We’re happy to be waiting indoors, but five hours seated in an auditorium has yet to feel glamorous.
We alternately cheer, look attentive, and wait as a gospel choir preform a song in harmony, and then again in lip synch.
We are released, thanked and given boxed lunches on our way out.
Movie making turns out it’s a lot of waiting. Will the scenes filmed today even make it into the final cut of the movie? And if they do might I even be able to find myself in the crowd? I guess I’ll wait and see.
On my way out, I am offered a chance to come back again as a paid extra the following day. I think about having a second day to take a stab at stardom and decide to wait.
Angie Smith is a freelancer for AnnArbor.com, where she usually covers retail and shopping.