Being a Film Extra in France

By | 28 Nov 2014

Filming is not allowed on set, so I have no photos to offer for this post.

I signed up to work as a film extra locally.  It not only gets me out of the house but allows me to earn some money whilst meeting people.

And meeting people you do have time for as most of the day is waiting around.  If on set you’re not supposed to talk but you’re not on set all day and these people were a friendly, chatty bunch.  All my goals were reached.

The start time was early as usual, although not as early as many crew have to be, so that we can all be counted in, sign contracts, let make-up, costume and the hairdresser check we are suitable or make alterations, and generally be ready in time for when the director wants to shoot.

I’ve done this in the UK too and it’s interesting to see the differences.  Mostly it’s the same except the general atmosphere seemed a bit more relaxed and appreciative here, even when time was running over and everyone was getting desperate to finish the filming on their last day in the region.

Refreshments consisted of real coffee from stay fresh capsules (no instant granules) and croissants for breakfast on location, whereas back home there would always be the option of a full English and, of course, tea, which I did miss.  But where it differed significantly, and this may just be this particular shoot although I doubt that, was at lunch time.

We were in tents on a car park due to the location, with the background artists being in a separate tent to the crew (which is the same as in UK).  However, there was no queuing up at a mobile kitchen that always has steps nowhere near high enough to reach the serving hatch comfortably, trestle tables were already laid up with plastic cutlery, plastic plates and cups, and the entrée was already set out on a platter with enough for the people on that table.

Yes, that’s right, I did write ‘entrée’  – a fish mousse with a tomato coulis on this occasion.  Followed by another platter brought out to us of some excellent and plentiful beef and dauphinoise.  Then a cheese course and finally a type of panna cotta with a berry coulis.

A four course meal, finished off with another real coffee from freshly ground beans.

It was a highly efficient and satisfying lunch.  If you wanted choice or were vegetarian, it wouldn’t have been your lucky day, but for me it was great.

And now I get to the best part… there were two bottles of wine on the table for eight, one red, one white, with more available on request.  I was astonished and wondered if this was due to some special event and a girl I got talking to later on, and who was part of the organisation, said that wine on the table was required by law!

Of course, here, people don’t go mad with it, they have a glass or two with the meal as part of the food.  I can’t imagine that working in the same way in the UK.  Probably helped that we were mostly middle aged and older with a reduced drinking capacity.

Even so, God bless France.

I understand we also all get invited to a local premiere of the film when it comes out.  That definitely never happened in the UK.

Makes me wonder whether this is another sign of how people treat each other with a little more respect in France, much in the same way that people say greet each other in the street far more here and also in places like hospital waiting rooms.  Especially after living in cities, one gets so used to being treated and treating people in a different way, that it takes a fair bit of thought to remember to make those greetings in some situations, but I’m glad for the push to make it permanently automatic.

 

6 thoughts on “Being a Film Extra in France

  1. M21230

    I had never heard the “required by law” reasoning behind wine on the table, but seems plausible! How did you find out about filming and sign up?

    Reply
    1. missioncontrol Post author

      I searched online, but can’t remember what I put in to get it. So far, I think the best bet is to register online with your local film commission. You can find the appropriate website by going to filmfrance.net and selecting your region. Once on the regional site, you need the Base TAF and Inscription TAF. As an extra, you register as a ‘Figurant’. They’ll email you when there is a casting in your region and you can add secondary regions to your profile if you want to.

      Reply
  2. Frances Strong

    Hi, I have been thinking about doing this and I wondered if you needed a good command of French? Mine is so-so..
    Also I am retired so what would the position be about being paid – any idea? Any advice appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Back to Burgundy Post author

      You won’t need to speak French as the role is to literally just fill the background and 99.9% of the time that will be silently. You will need to be able to understand what they’re telling you to do though, such as to walk from one place to another at a certain time, etc.
      But part of the joy of being there for me is to be able to talk to my fellow workers, so I’d suggest you’d need some conversational French.
      To be paid you’ll need to give them your social security number as a minimum. I’ve needed to give some other details, but can’t remember specifically what they were, but they weren’t difficult to find. They will take care of all payments and charges but you obviously have to declare it on your income tax return.
      Hope that helps.

      Reply
      1. Frances Strong

        Thanks very much for the advice. I’m not sure how I would get a social security no as I am retired but I guess that’s for me to investigate!

        Reply

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