The Movie Extra
Sande Boritz Berger
If you know me, know me well, you’ve been privy to one of my lifelong obsessions. For whatever reason, I have always had this burning desire to be an extra in a movie. I don’t care whether I show up in a café scene, as a walk-on, walk-through, or simply a blurry face pushing through the bustling crowd. So, when a poster suddenly appeared in our Bridgehampton Starbucks announcing that the producers of the film “The Nanny Diaries” were casting “Hampton’s types,” a friend called and suggested I attend the open call.
“You really do look like aHampton’s type,” she told me. “You’re always so, so…put together.”
“Gee, well thanks, I guess,” I answered, not convinced I’d received a compliment. Yet, without hesitation, two days later, on a gorgeous Saturday morning, I showed up for the one day casting in the auditorium ofSouthamptonHigh Schoolalong with at least two hundred otherEast Endhopefuls─ all well-dressedHamptonresidents seeking their five minutes of fame. Since I’d recently enrolled at what was then calledSouthamptonCollegefor my MFA in Writing, this gave me another excuse not to work on my thesis or to re-edit that unsold novel buried in the bottom drawer.
While navigating through the usual procession of weekend traffic onMontauk Highway, I enjoyed a delicious day-dream of being discovered at my ripened age much like the leggy Lana Turner, who was spotted at Schwab’s soda fountain. Lana who, you ask? Never mind. Truth is, thirty years prior, a svelte twenty-something version of myself, wearing an aqua crocheted bikini, was cast, then cruelly cut, from a major pool scene in “The Heartbreak Kid.” I don’t think I ever fully recovered and vowed to one day make it onto celluloid, even if I had to form my own production company. I eventually did exactly that but produced training films for cosmetic companies, who among other things, manufactured depilatories and camouflage creams for burn victims.
This time when the call finally came, only days before the shoot, I had already accepted failure and suffered through a familiar itchy rash of rejection. My persecution complex had risen like mercury in a thermometer. Had I looked too ethnic for the stereotypicalHampton’s type? Perhaps I was not Lilly Pulitzer enough, or too old.
I tried to pacify myself by remembering how my high school choir teacher, Mr. Thayer, had constantly scolded me for not blending whenever we sang the Messiah during the Christmas holidays. Of course, that was it! I was simply too frontline for any of this extra work. But then the efficient and pubescent casting director delivered the news. She said “they” wanted to “use me” for the beach scene that they’d be shooting that Monday.
While she recited a long list of instructions, I began lathering my thighs with the anti-cellulite cream samples I’d saved from Saks. Nervous and giddy, I told the youngster that coincidentally, I’d planned to start a serious diet on Monday morning. “Are you saying you don’t want to do this?” casting girl pried.
“No, of course, I’ll be there. Thanks so much for your call!” For final effect, I said I’d be attending a big fundraiser at theParrishMuseumthat same evening, but then came her clipped response.
“Oh and please don’t wear anything that’s red or white. And, by the way, we are, of course, looking for elegant.”
“I can do elegant,” I said, then hung up quickly before she changed her mind.
In my head I had an image of flowing chiffon and floppy straw hats−something upscale, more Ralph Lauren then Laura Ashley. I began to breathe normally once she said beach cover-ups were totally acceptable. Then, the very next day, I bought two ensembles at the St. Barts inspired shop, Calypso, in East Hamptoncosting triple the amount I would earn for one day’s work. What I should have bought instead was a down parka since on the day of the shoot (how I love that word) on May 8th, the temperature onMainBeach inEast Hampton read 42 degrees. Still, fourteen extras, which included men, women, and beautiful blonde children were stationed for many hours at an airport hangar, where it was even colder, before being shuttled like skimpily dressed mannequins in one white van for the anticipated scene.