Letters from the Dorm: what it's like to be an extra on a film set

By Tacye Hong, University of Toronto
By Tacye Hong, University of Toronto |

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Hong Kong Book Fair 2020 postponed

Tacye and Lavinia (left) enjoying a Hollywood perk: “craft services”.

Everyone has a bucket list and on top of mine “being a movie extra in a Hollywood-produced movie” has been sitting there since I first heard of the term “bucket list”. I am beyond pleased to say that I managed to fulfil my dream this year while in Toronto.

It’s something I never thought I would actually cross off. First of all, not a lot of Western movies are shot in Hong Kong. Secondly, I didn’t even know how to find such opportunities.

I have always known that a lot of movies are shot in Toronto, with a good number shot at the University of Toronto, for example, Mean Girls.

So after arriving in Toronto, I immediately searched for ways to be an extra. I soon found out, though, that to be hired as an extra I needed to be a member of a union, which cost a hefty fee. Disappointed, I soon let this dream go.

But in March this year, I got an email from my university saying that a movie would be shot there and they needed a lot of students to be extras. I checked with my friend Lavinia to see if she was available, and while we had a lot of tests to study for, we both jumped at the chance. After some serious schedule rearrangements, we had half a day for the shooting.

We arrived at the Convocation Hall, but it turned out that these things are rarely done on time. So we had to wait for quite a while before the actual shooting took place. Anticipation and tension rose in the hall, and everyone was buzzing with expectation. And then the shooting began.

We were given brief instructions regarding how to act and where to look before being whisked into position. While the scene was only about one minute long, it took all evening to shoot. Multiple takes were done to make sure everyone was acting his/her part and creating the atmosphere that the director wanted.

Overall, it was a surreal experience and one I would never forget. My friend and I had a blast being extras and we will certainly be going to see the movie when it comes out.

In fact, maybe we will buy the DVD so we can replay it a bajillion times; then we would possibly be able to find ourselves among the sea of people!