My Birthday With The BBC

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For my 32nd birthday, I did something a bit different. 

I agreed to help out Jeannie my producer friend, by becoming an extra on a BBC 3 TV pilot, for a new comedy series called 'Five Years', which she was producing.

DAVID BOWIE - Five Years

I have not done any acting since drama lessons at school, which was many years ago. 

Jeannie asked me if some of my friends wanted to be extras too. Some agreed to do it, but then most of them bottled out, or other things came up, so they couldn’t come. 

My friend Jeannie 

Angela agreed to go. I knew her because she invited me to go to the Ultimate Characters talent agency launch party at the HeyJo Club, which was back in November last year, as she used to work for this agency.

Angela has made some great videos, including a few dressed as Catwoman from Batman. I guess Angela's Catwoman is a bit more kinky than the TV and film versions. I have included a video of Angela as Catwoman below.

Angela as Catwoman in her video

The scene I was to be in, was filmed in the Piccadilly area of London, inside a pub called The Captains Cabin

The Captains Cabin 

I caught the train from Guildford to Waterloo, and then used the London Underground to get to Piccadilly Circus. I had to take a bit of a detour to get there, as some of the underground trains lines were closed. 

I managed to find the Captains Cabin pub ok. I saw one of the main actors standing outside of the place smoking a cigarette, he was a dark haired middle aged man who I have seen on TV, which was a big clue that I was at the right place. 

I went inside and was greeted by one of the ladies from the film crew, who checked my name on the list. I also met one of the other main actors called Ben, a young blond haired guy, who introduced himself to me. 

The filming was taking place on the second floor of the pub, so I followed them upstairs. 

Some of the crew were up there setting up cameras, lighting and various other filming equipment. 

Angela called me on my mobile, and I headed outside of the pub to meet her. She had brought along a birthday gift for me. It was Kenneth Williams DVD, which was very sweet of her. 

We both then headed to the upstairs of the pub, and had a drink together. 

I saw Jeannie inside and she wished me a happy birthday, gave me a hug, and thanked me for coming. 

Two other extras then arrived, which was two young girls. 

Angela spotted an actress from the ITV soap Emmerdale working on set, she was there because her boyfriend could not make it to the filming. The Emmerdale actress boyfriend was a production manager for the filming. I recognised her face from the show. 

We then had to sign our contracts with the BBC for the filming. 

My contract 

The comedy series pilot Five Years is about struggling actors trying to make it. 

The three main actors sat at a table, which was the dark haired middle aged man, Ben the young blonde guy, and another man who was fairly young who had long black hair. I recognised their faces from TV too. 

Two of the actors and one of the film crew at the table getting ready to film the scene

The film crew were filming one scene of the three actors talking to each other about acting and the theatre. 

Jeannie told me and Angela what our acting roles would be. I was to walk behind where the three actors were sat, and head towards the gents, whilst Angela was to act like she worked in the pub, picking up empty glasses from a nearby table. 

There was a big white screen used for lighting, plus lots of wires and stuff on the floor, right where I had to walk past, making it awkward not to look like I was not stepping over the cables and equipment for my bit infront of the cameras. I missed my cue timing a few times, and accidently knocked against the lighting screen, which made a noise. 

I hope I won’t be used as an outtake in one of those funny clip shows on TV! 

A few other things messed up filming, such as actors fluffing their lines, people making noise in the pub on the floor below, noisy motorbikes, and the sun shinning through the window into the actors eyes. 

We had a break for dinner, and were given cooked meals and soft drinks. 

Angela and I headed outside of the pub, to visit the shops during lunch break. 

I enjoyed Angela’s company, as she was very nice, friendly and polite. Angela has done quite a lot of acting, dancing, and working as an agent before. She’s useful to know for when me and Ian look into setting up our own film company in the future, and as a new friend. 

We arrived back at the pub, and Jeannie had been worrying where we had got to, but it was ok.  

The filming started up again. 

They filmed the same four minute scene from 12pm until 6.30pm. I was surprised it took so long just for one scene. But then they filmed it at different angles, lenses, lighting, and different seating positions. 

As the three actors had pints of beer and Guinness on their tables, Jeannie and her production assistant had to throw away the drink and re-fill the glasses each time the scene was re-shot. This was because the drinks needed a head on them. If the actors would have drunk it, they would have been very drunk, as it must have been filmed about thirty times, or more! 

I was included in another scene, which was a tracking shot. I stood at the bar drinking, and they filming me both from the front, and the back, and also walking to the gents again. They used some of the crew as extras for this scene, as they were short of extras. 

The lights made it really hot inside the pub. It was not as glamorous and as fun as I thought it would be. But, at least now I know a bit more about what is involved with filming and being on set with a BBC production. 

The filming ended around 6.30pm, and the Emmerdale actress handed me my expenses. 

Jeannie gave me another hug and thanked me for coming. 

I then left the pub with Angela, and we walked together towards Leicester Square underground station. 

I enjoyed being an extra on my birthday.

I don’t know if I got what it takes to be an extra, or an actor, as I’m a bit clumsy. I might give it another go though in the future!

Five Years - Spot me at around 2.50 walking behind the actor who says 'My arse!'

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